The overwhelming theme of episode 46 of Eureka Seven is family and the ability of familial ties to overcome grief and disagreement. It is not limited to traditional familial units, picking up on the series’ emphasis on nontraditional families and family-like entities and exploring how within close-knit social and professional groups like military units a certain kind of familial piety can exist. It would be easy to say that it is examining friendship more than family, but the constant theme throughout the series has been how, for people who lack biological parents, these social groups become a new family. What matters more than blood ties is that there are dependable – even if they are flawed – people to offer advice and support if needed.
This is interesting as it is both a very countercultural message and a very institutional one in its own right, fitting a series which explores the differences and closeness between “the man” and those fighting him. Brotherhood in arms – embodied in this final arc by Jurgens and Dominic’s friendship, and the crew of the Izumo’s dedication to stopping Dewey – is arguably the epitome of the military, and by extension an Establishment framework – as pseudo-family. Yet it is not so far removed from their mortal enemies, the countercultural Gekkostate, who exist as a kind of commune aboard their ship. Both organisations are nominally hierarchical (with it hard to say that Holland’s overreliance on arbitrary violence as a method of discipline is any less authoritarian than the methods of the military) but also have deep interpersonal relationships – as shown when an entire ship’s crew willingly defects because of their leader’s commitment to a moral cause over a judicial one, or when the responsibility of looking after children is, while nominally Eureka’s, shared. The belief that the nuclear family is a limiting one, and one of only many viable methods of raising children, is not deeply considered in Eureka Seven (although it is a series that has perverted and challenged the traditional parental role via Ray and Charles and Dewey) – but it is useful as a way of reading these late-series episodes.
What has mattered is identity and acceptance; the familial units may not be traditional and the parental figures are nowhere near perfect, but they are a place that outsiders and iconoclasts want to be a part of. Renton has chased acceptance by the Gekkostate, and the respect of Eureka, for the whole series. The ability to love someone and accept them despite their flaws (be those flaws being an alien undergoing metamorphosis or simply being a soldier with a past of war crimes) has been the driving theme, this subtext written into the supertext as the way to save the world. Watching Holland mature subtextually shows that acceptance and trust are key. Watching Renton and Eureka set out, as human and alien deeply in love, to stave off the apocalypse is putting the science-fiction glaze over these themes. Within this specific episode, these themes play out via a series of vignettes beginning with the perverted familial imagery of Dewey and his child soldiers. The children say it is clear he is pleased with them because of how “relaxed” he looks – although by this stage the relationship is anything but children trying to please their father. This scene is followed straight away by the introduction of one of the episode’s recurrent themes – Eureka and the children trying to help Renton. He ended the last episode severely ill, and is nursed back to health (symbolically mirrored by the Nirvash’s return to operation) during a storm in which Eureka must confront her past. It is simple, obvious symbolism; the storm representing Renton’s illness and Eureka’s guilt and its passage coming as they both move on.
More interesting than this mirroring of the mood in the weather is the conversation between Eureka and the children as they nurse Renton. Eureka acts in her traditionally maternal fashion, as she has throughout the series – but Maeter says this reminds her of when her parents died. Eureka is forced to confront her past, and Maeter’s inability to overcome her grief is set against the optimism of the boys. Eureka has taken responsibility for the children as atonement for her crimes, and although the boys cannot properly express this (saying that she is their mother now) there is the understanding that she is doing her best to right those wrongs. This in turn is represented symbolically by her metamorphosis continuing; she gains a pair of butterfly wings. It was metamorphosis that drove Norb and Sakuya apart, resulting in their failure; however, the fact that Renton and the children are able to look past Eureka’s strange appearance and continue to love her means they are able to prevail. Their progression through the Promised Land is one of milestones; each revelation or moment of acceptance symbolically opens the next step towards the Scub Coral. As this is the plotline about a confrontation – or a dialogue – with a deity, it seems fitting that it takes the form of personal, introspective trials that force the supplicants to prove themselves mentally. Eureka’s personal fortitude, her ability to accept her physical change and selflessly care for others, is what makes her so strong a character and Renton’s tolerance of her appearance is what marks his maturation.
On the other side of the world, the relationship between Jurgens and Holland is equally interesting for different reasons; Holland is shown being beaten up by Jurgens’ pilots, a fight which Talho breaks up by asking “how come when men get together they always act so stupid?” It is understandable that the truce between the Federation and the Gekkostate would be a tense one, and it is revealed Holland is letting them take this out on him personally. While Talho opposes this, saying that apologies or recriminations will not solve anything, it sits interestingly within the readings of the series as a commentary on militarism. Military authority, the authority of violence in Holland’s eyes, has always been seen as something blunt and ineffective yet blindly held to; problems can be hashed out with fists. If one takes Eureka Seven as a modern, more countercultural take on Gundam, there is logic behind this; Gundam may be questionable in its pacifist intent (focusing as it does almost purely on the idea that a just war is the only route to peace) but behind this, and behind the petulance of a character like Kamille or Amuro (the latter claiming “even my own father never hit me!” when faced with physical discipline), there is something of a criticism of inflexible authoritarianism. It is not really committed to, whereas here, in a scene where Holland is inviting that he be the scapegoat for everything he represents, reason is called for; it takes integrity to respect one’s enemy, as Talho reminds the Federation pilots. The “respectable enemy” is something Gundam deeply loves; Char is the ultimate example. He is a soldier whose motives are not wholly in service to the “enemy”, but who nevertheless is on the wrong side – and over the course of a whole franchise the wider scope of his conflict drifts away into a personal rivalry. Holland is perhaps the series’ own Char here, someone who has a personal aim above and beyond a military conflict – but who does not have the respect of his enemy yet.
In a subsequent conversation in private, Holland admits he is scared; his actions have been to put a front of authority on. Obviously the viewer has subtextually understood this from the first flashbacks of his sordid past, but this frank admission – after a scene where he has offered himself as a target for retribution – comes with further explanation. He is not scared of losing, he is scared that if he wins he is not a suitable hero. He says “I’m afraid. I said that I would save the world; by us making a stand and fighting and winning, the planet would be saved… I don’t know what happens after that.” Eureka, the alien who nevertheless has blood on her hands from her time spent living as a human, is able to receive physical proof of her atonement via her metamorphosis; she has received feedback regarding her attempts to pay for what she has done. Holland does not have this, and cannot in his own mind square his acts of self-destructive heroism as suitable atonement for all his wrongdoing. This frank admission of insecurity is one of the many details that makes Eureka Seven‘s slow-burning characterisation so good; it is a look from a slightly different, fresher angle at the question of personal atonement.