Much happens in episode 24 of Rahxephon; the series has built to a climax and now the final act begins in earnest. Episode 23 could be seen as, in effect, the motivating force for this climax – the destruction of the heroes’ base, the loss of a much-loved character – and now, with this episode, the events of the ending begin. Yet it is a subdued episode, a fitting and mature response to the death that defined the one before – and that if anything shows how the series has progressed since Isshiki’s removal from TERRA. The characters are given a chance to grieve for a lost comrade in their own ways, and this is shown to be important. It is a restrained – at first, anyway – response to a heroic sacrifice which sets a very different, more elegaic tone to how the episode proceeds.
Further to an online conversation about the virtues of Barakamon, an interesting point was drawn to my attention about a similarly-themed (in certain ways) comedy animé airing at a similar time; Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun. Nozaki is about a girl who ends up forming an eccentric friendship with the artist of her favourite comic, a young man employed writing girls’ romance stories despite his crippling lack of knowledge of the subject (and, as the series suggests, talent outside of certain very limited spheres). It is a comedy about art and artists – as, ultimately, Barakamon is. The humour comes from the clashing of artistic temperaments and thought processes with a less whimsical outside world – in many ways it is even a fish-out-of-water comedy, as Nozaki is ill-suited to the world of girls’ fiction, and Chiyo is unsuited to the artistic, high-stress world of comics-writing.
While the A-plot of Eureka Seven episode 38 continues the story of Dewey’s coup d’etat and how it has put Stoner and Holland on the back foot, the more interesting story is the B-plot of Renton and Eureka trying to reconcile after an argument. In a recent article about Captain Earth I discussed how a real high point of the series was its treatment of the alien child Teppei’s relationship with his biological father, who he had never seen in his life. Teppei was presented as so alien he could not comprehend why it mattered that he met his father, and why this man was so attached to him. It was a strong episode, approaching a stock mecha plotline (of the alien prince, or the half-alien half-human such as Eiji from Layzner – with whom Teppei’s father shared a name) from an interesting, more human perspective. Eureka Seven 38 approaches the same plot with the benefit of almost 40 previous episodes to build up its concept of a relationship between the human and the alien; it is by now the most important theme of the story, and that finally it comes to the foreground in plain terms continues to drive on a steadily-building sense of tension.
Eureka Seven continually marries action to personal stories, both in straightforward ways with cause-and-effect conflicts (showing how careless actions can have unexpected consequences) and with longer, satisfying plot arcs such as that of Axel Thurston brought to a climax in episode 32. It also works in cycles, using more relaxed episodes to provide a relief of tension after its infrequent action peaks. What this structure does is mask, to an extent, the traditional point-to-point journey narrative that the series it draws inspiration from (perhaps most notably Mobile Suit Gundam) rely on. In those stories, action sequences come as punctuation to an always-forward progression – as part of their roots in the more episodic super-robot tradition, the emphasis is on a steady stream of enemies and problems interrupting a journey. It is a subtle difference, for it is quite possible to argue that Eureka Seven punctuates its forward progress with a series of problems that need resolving in a similar fashion, but consider an arc such as the mine where the Gekko is repaired; there, the protagonists spend significant time without the urgency of combat, recovering from a battle. The emphasis of such sequences is on showing the consequences of action on the primary characters without needing to tie this always back to an ongoing conflict.
The first half of episode 5 of Rahxephon was heavily focused on establishing Ayato’s position within TERRA – the outsider, saying the wrong thing to some people and ignored by most. It built on episode 4’s cryptic introductory scenes and made clear through implication and passing interactions not only what the other characters think of Ayato but how their own behaviours might be fronts for if not secrets but insecureties. The only characters who really emerge as sympathetic are the doctor and his sister Quan; both may have secrets but they act in a way which does not exclude or apparently set out to deceive Ayato.