Alas, “Seven Crescendo” is not quite as delightfully alliterative, and anyway the Seven Swell Effect isn’t much of a crescendo, even though Eureka Seven is.
Upon my seemingly never-ending plate of “series to rewatch” that has accumulated over the past few years (and is currently almost obliterating the notion of watching “newer series” for the time being) is now Eureka Seven, a series that I’ve looked forward to rewatching since I finished watching it the first time, in 2006. Eureka Seven places high on my list of “series that had an emotional impact on me”; indeed, I remember finding it hard to watch or read anything for several days in the wake of watching the final 15 or so episodes in one go. I also remember, the Monday after, nearly breaking down in tears while driving just because “Nirvash typeZERO” from the soundtrack was playing.
Upon revising the series, even after many of the specifics have faded from memory, I now better understand the reasoning behind the Tokyo Anime Fair’s award to Eureka Seven for “Best Screenplay”. One of the most common criticisms I’ve seen launched at Eureka Seven is that, for one reason or another, the early episodes of the series are “uninteresting”. It’s easy to understand why this is held against it, as many of the early episodes are, essentially, Renton and His Comical Misadventures Aboard the Gekko. To someone promised awesome with Eureka Seven, the early episodes are frequently a letdown, it seems, depending on what the individual’s definition of “awesome” entails. Does it entail cool surfing robot fights? Well, they tend to be disappointed, as there’s not a whole lot of that; but for those with more interest in characters than cool surfing robot fights come out almost equally disappointed, for there seems to be too much of the robots and not enough of the characters. And let’s not even talk about those for whom the phrase “surfing robot fights” should never be preceded by the adjective “cool“, ever.
What happens is that in addition to the wacky antics of Maurice, Maeter, and Linck annoying the bejezus out of Renton, of Renton being hazed repeated by the other Gekkostate members are tiny bits of foreshadowing and character development. Holland throws Renton in the brig after he tries to rectify the mistake Eureka’s children mad–and Maurice, Maeter, and Linck follow him into the brig, to serve their due punishment as well as afford Renton some well-deserved respect for taking the heat they would have gotten otherwise. Most of those I knew during Eureka Seven‘s heyday had nothing but burning hatred for Eureka’s three “children” (mostly, it seems, for their habit of crying in a chain-reaction…just like real kids do); while their role might be small, they, with everyone else, demonstrate early shades of their personality beyond being a thorn in Renton’s side.
Perhaps most telling is the rather rapid decline and fall of Holland from suave, unspeakably cool counterculture figure to, well, a man who had his growth interrupted by the military. Even this early, the idolized Holland Renton has in his mind is slowly disintegrating as Holland proves himself to be…well, Holland. Even as Renton anguishes over Eureka seeing him in the elaborate hazing ritual Stoner and Hap put him through, lamenting his perceived (and false) “uncoolness”, Holland watches Renton’s escapades in his underwear in near-total darkness, drinks a beer, has a slight snicker, scratches himself, turns it off, and admits his own uncoolness. There’s a lot more at work than Holland simply being a callous bastard (his relationship with Renton’s sister Diane, for instance, the complicated interplay involving Eureka, and the lingering menace of Dewey, among many others), but the point is pretty clear: Holland might talk tough about being “mature” and “grown-up” and forcibly tries to knock sense into Renton , but it’s difficult to tell which of the two have the greater share of growing up to do.
While I doubt that scripts for every episode was written well in advance of the production, there’s a definite feeling that most of the series was planned in vague terms long before they first placed stylus to tablet. Indeed, for me, the pacing of Eureka Seven is nearly perfect for a 50-episode, four-season series: it’s a slow, gradual buildup that rewards, rather than a 50-episode sequence of instant-gratification. I was interested from the first episode, but it was only around episode 9 that my nascent taste-awareness confirmed my initial judgment. The narrative structure has more than a few echoes in Xam’d: while shorter, Xam’d was well-paced and carried the same near-mythical ethereal feeling Eureka Seven has, as well as the feeling that events in the series are on a track set by fate that the characters are simultaneously fulfilling and overcoming.
And this time, the 60s/70s counterculture references are leaping at me in full force. Maybe it was the semi-oblivious mindset I first watched the series in; I caught the Summer of Love reference but all else blew past or was noticed but forgotten in the course of the story. Indeed, with the pile bunkers, the world setup itself is a huge counterculture reference: the government literally pins down the Scub Coral to prevent them from uprising by driving the pile bunkers into the ground (although this seems to have little effect). Even the governmental logo–a hand maintaining a firm grip on a pile bunker–is more than a little reminiscent of The Man keepin’ people down.
The environmental aspect of the series even gets a kick-start early on–the Compac Drives especially, which I never really managed to (consciously) figure out or understand the first time through. They’re more or less products of the Scub Coral, manufactured by humanity, and harmonize with the Trapar flow to enable machinery to work. And they seem to run better, or at least get more active than boring green, in the presence of deep affection or love of some kind–or, more specifically, I suppose, harmony. The harmony doesn’t necessarily have to be with the planet or Scub Coral itself, but just present; feelings of dischord seem to either lower functionability or break the Drive entirely. Sounds corny and overly hippie, yes, but I highly enjoy it; you have to remember that I highly enjoyed the ending to Dan Simmon’s The Fall of Hyperion which is quite similar. And it still leaves open the question of what Desperation Disease is, although that’s a much later concern of the series.
Alas, I am only on the tenth episode of the rewatch, so I’m going to be mum for a while until I can at least find something solid to grasp upon rather than meander around the dense thematic world of Eureka Seven and trip over a root that I didn’t realize was there. There’s a lot to cover, and past trends point towards the fact that I probably won’t get anywhere near a properly scholarly treatment (or, at least, as close to a properly scholarly treatment that the Internetoblogohedron ever gets) of the variegated thematic structures of Eureka Seven, so I won’t worry too much about that, even if I’ll always feel like I’m leaving out something deeply interesting because I’m tired from investigating everything else that’s deeply interesting.