Humanity Tested in Episode 45 of Eureka Seven

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For several episodes the secondary plot of Eureka Seven, the increasing disharmony among the Federation forces around Dewey’s increasingly extreme plans, has proved more interesting than the main plot of Renton and Eureka as the emissaries to an apparently uncaring alien intelligence. This is perhaps indicative of the series’ wider difficulties; it is a particularly existential story at its heart, an expansive narrative that plays its hand very cautiously. Renton and Eureka’s non-courtship, their development, has played out over the whole series so far and now they are left in limbo, the preparations by definition inadequate. A human story – the mad genius trying to destroy the world to prove a point – is understandable. It offers a conflict that can be comprehended and fought with guns, the sort of thing a mecha anime wants. A story of metaphysical self-discovery, of discussion of the nature of humanity and of the nature of an alien deity, is alien, conceptual science-fiction. That Eureka Seven discusses this, and gives it space to grow and develop at the pace of uneasy first love as an allegory for first contact is its virtue, and yet at the same time difficult to write about on an episode-by-episode basis.

What the scenes of Renton and Eureka in the Promised Land offer is a sense of constant building to a climax that remains out of reach, and reflects the frustration that the characters feel. In my articles about Rahxephon I talked about how the uncertainty and the withholding of information from different members of the cast both felt frustrating (making the audience powerless yet knowledgeable enough about the whole plot to defuse entire conflicts) and rewarding (adding a kind of catharsis to the moments whereby characters “beat” the system). These scenes offer a similar dramatic beat; they are building to the rejection of armed conflict, and are a microcosm of the world outside. Renton and Eureka are the enlightened people, the ones who understand the situation – the children, following them and not understanding, are the population not possessed of the whole picture and not fully capable of even understanding it. Frustration at this inability to understand comes to a head in episode 45, as Maurice finally confronts Eureka – the alien, the mutant, the woman who killed his biological parents – just as Eureka has had to face her own “cowardice”. She has run away as her, ultimately, apotheosis is beginning; fearing people will not accept her changed body, and rejecting Renton’s reassurances.

That Maurice brings back an aspect of her past that has been suppressed – her inhumanity, not in the literal sense of being an extraterrestrial but her amorality that came from being a test subject and soldier – at this time when her ability to accept human contact is being tested provides a dramatic conflict that this A-plot has arguably been lacking. The story has reached a point where absolute honesty, openness and co-operation is necessary, and to a child this must mean a blunt equality. Eureka has been distant, has been too close to Renton, and so must be confronted. The episode ends with reconciliation; Eureka is able to remind the children that she can both be their mother and also be Renton’s partner. It has been, arguably, a test; Norb failed his similar test and lost his opportunity for unity. Renton and the Gekko’s children have, apparently, passed it.

So thus the A-plot has a kind of climax – the “test” of human-Coralian relations – but much of this episode remains with the plot back planetside. Dominic has been tested and found lacking in the previous episodes in a fascinating dissection (if not an actual deconstruction) of the sympathetic male villain and tragic female villain. Eureka Seven has actively, throughout, tried to challenge the gender roles that are a cliché of Gundam. Anemone and Eureka’s respective male partners Renton and Dominic – have tried to pursue the typical approaches to their character roles, Renton the typical lovestruck shounen lead, Dominic the sympathetic villain who wants to take his Four or Puru to safety. Both have failed; Renton has had to learn that there is more to love than sexual attraction and indeed that a social relationship can be deeper than a physical one. Dominic has been told that trying to “save” a woman whose abuse he has been complicit in is not enough, and is looking for ways to properly make amends. Now, he begins the episode wondering what he can do – in a scene juxtaposed with a montage of both Holland’s military action against Dewey and the spread of the Gekkostate’s message via traditional counterculture channels such as underground radio broadcasts and magazines. The message has been sold to the people as the military trying to take away a way of life and ruin the environment – a practical, easily comprehended gloss on the deeper existential issues being debated in the Promised Land. It it this, however, which works; Dominic speaks to Jurgens about how he has to be able to do something, and the solution becomes self-evident.

Much of this episode focuses on peace talks between Jurgens’ fleet and the Gekkostate – taking the honourable soldier archetype out of Dominic’s sole purview and showing that opposition to Dewey is much more widespread. Jurgens is not specifically forgiving Holland and the others for their past crimes, but instead realising that there is no point fighting to uphold laws that are being broken in far more destructive fashion by an unaccountable tyrant. He tells Dominic there will be plenty of time to protect the state and perform all the traditional military duties they both believe in after Dewey, the traitor and usurper, has been defeated. Here the mirror plot is ultimately reaching its climax; Dominic was always the standin for Renton on the enemy side, and now he is taking this role as his forebear is absent – joining the Gekko, admitting his awkward love for Anemone, and bursting with unfocused, immature idealism. In this case though that idealism – built up by a desire to be a consummate soldier – does have an authoritative outlet. He cannot save Anemone alone, and indeed she does not want to be a figurehead to salve his conscience. On the other hand, his desire for contrition – and Jurgens’ own feeling of his honour as a soldier being slighted – is enough to start open rebellion within the Federation. The “enemy” soldiers are finally realising they have been played, and taking a stand against unreasonable orders and unaccountable leaders.

That this is shown on a significantly larger scale than most such examples in mecha anime – the defection of entire ship crews rather than, say, a single ace with doubts about the cause – makes Eureka Seven feel a more complete world, and sits well within its definition of the conflict. Prior to Dewey’s coup, the military conflict at the series’ core was a nebulous one of soldiers focusing on protecting their national identity and trying to keep the peace; it was a legitimate conflict even if it was based on a faulty premise. Dewey played on nationalism and the creation of a scapegoat to gain popular support and the scene of Jurgens’ defection sees the same techniques used against him. The case for rebellion is that the Federation has fought and died to preserve a national identity against enemies, and now a new enemy has not only emerged and caused untold damage to innocent people, but has claimed it is righteous and usurped power. Not fighting him is antithetical, Jurgens argues, to the sense of duty that has driven the Federation’s actions throughout.

Arguably this episode’s A- and B-plots come together very closely; inside the Promised Land, the humans’ ability to really accept the Coralians is being tested, while outside it humanity’s dedication to the cause of humanity is called into question. The human-world conflict may be easier to understand – and Jurgens’ empassioned speech is more exciting than Renton and Eureka’s mediation with children who do not understand what is happening – but in a way both scenes show how principles are being tested. Jurgens and Dominic are being asked whether their duty is to their superiors or the purpose of soldiering. Renton is being asked how deeply he loves Eureka – can he accept her even as she loses the visual signs of her humanity. Both sides make the “right” decision, in the end.

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