Renton Thurston is an average 14-year-old boy living a quiet life in a boring town, training as a mechanic in grandfather’s garage. And Renton couldn’t be more frustrated about it. Renton’s father Adroc is a man hailed as hero for giving his life to avert a near planet-wide disaster when Renton was a child, but Renton simply lives in the impossibly large shadow that casts on him. Renton dreams of nothing more than soaring on trapar waves with his reffboard alongside his idols, the mercenary group known as Gekkostate. All of that changes when the young and beautiful Gekkostate pilot named Eureka literally crashes into his life. Instantly captivated by the mysterious girl, Renton resolves to chase his dreams with renewed determination. However, not far behind Eureka is a platoon military pursuers, as well as the many harsh truths that Renton will have to learn.
Where do I even start with this? There’s just so much going on in this thing that it’s hard to organize my thoughts. Most stories tend to stick to one or two central themes, and explore those. E7 takes the Jack of All Trades approach, deciding it wants to talk about anything and everything. It has multiple thematic elements from coming of age, to anti-war messages, to quasi-environmentalism; several prominent romance arcs; tons of character development all around; recurring flower motifs; allusions to American counter-culture movements; and countless nods to other sci-fi and mecha franchises(my favorite of which is the backpack in the episode titled “Runaway“ being the same colors as Evangelion Unit 01. I see what you did there, Bones). I’m kind of amazed how much they managed to pack into this show without it becoming nonsensical. And I think ultimately, it does make sense. The story is thematically and logically consistent, and with the exception of a few filler episodes, is reasonably well-executed. The entire first act doubles as foreshadowing for the third, and the third act despite being totally absurd, feels surprisingly free of plot holes and deus ex machina. Any lingering questions can be chalked up to purposefully ambiguous sci-fi nonsense, rather than inadvertently bad writing.
I think what fundamentally makes E7 work as well as it does is that it feels less like a linear narrative, and more like a series of individual moments threaded to a common conclusion. Fate isn’t always determined by one catastrophic event or miracle, and life isn’t always a straight path. In that sense, E7 feels as true-to-life as an anime about sky-surfing counterculture resistance mecha pilots reasonably could be. It feels like if these were real people, and real events, things would play out exactly as the show does. In a lot of ways, E7 seems to be Bones’ answer to Evangelion. It borrows a lot of Eva’s themes, and character archetypes, but puts its own unique spin on them. While Evangelion uses post-modern existentialism and personal truth as a means to self-actualization, E7 takes the opposite path. Ultimately E7’s central philosophy seems to be that while people cannot simply rid themselves of their own failings, they can be surmounted by embracing the strengths of others. In Eureka Seven, no individual exists as a complete person.
In terms of technical merits, Bones is a name that carries a fair amount of weight in the anime world, and it might be impossible not to have a few preconceived expectations going into one of their projects. Fortunately, E7 holds up pretty well as a post-FMA pre-HiDef work. Shortcuts are taken largely where they won’t matter, and special attention is given to the frenetic action scenes and somber dramatic moments. The character designs are distinct and expressive, with many a quiet forlorn glance speaking volumes more than any line of dialogue ever could.
Use of color in E7 is all very deliberate and equally beautiful. From Eureka’s own soft feminine blues, to the gloomy grayed-out hues of a ruined cityscape, the world of E7 adopts a full range of sentiment and tone, feeling very organic and dynamic in the process. The cinematography is no slouch, either. Gorgeous sweeping landscapes and dramatic close-ups are used liberally and to great effect. With the exception of a few sporadic slips of model consistency, most egregious in the middle episodes, E7 is everything to be expected of a Bones production.
And that includes the show’s absolutely fantastic soundtrack. From the electronic techno/hip-hop to the odd steel-drum, E7’s eclectic soundtrack fuses perfectly to the sci-fi counterculture aesthetic. So much so that E7 makes it point to use several tracks in-story on certain occasions. Most of the show’s episode titles also double as references to various song titles. The use of music as a narrative device in E7, while not quite Cowboy Bebop and Princess Tutu levels, is nonetheless impressive.
The show’s greatest strength, however, and Bones’ decided strong-suit, is the character-writing. There are at least six complete character arcs in this story, and several smaller arcs for key secondary characters. Almost the entire cast is dynamic, with their own distinct personalities that color their actions, and inner demons that they struggle to overcome. The way they act, speak, and the decisions they make are all consistent with the people the story makes them out to be.
The romantic entanglements are arguably the weakest part of the show, seeming rather forced and melodramatic in a few places, but are still handled more nuanced and naturally than most other anime sporting the Romance tag. The fleshed-out and complex nature of the characters certainly helps the relationships feel overall gratifying and emotionally engaging. Renton’s frequent missteps with Eureka are especially humanizing. I think everyone can relate to that awkward moment of talking to the girl/guy you like and inadvertently saying something stupid or insensitive. Renton and Eureka have easily the most complete and dynamic character arcs in the series, as well as the most fleshed out relationship. Renton’s journey from immature classical anti-hero, somewhat overtly narrated by the other characters, is both satisfying and heartwarming, while Eureka’s humanization is both subtle and endearing. Eureka herself making the absolute most of her Rei Ayanami archetype, which may be the best I’ve ever seen it executed in a story.
Overall, Eureka Seven is a fun, and surprisingly ambitious entry in its genre. It has quite a bit to say, and articulates in a way that is equal parts simple and meaningful. Aside from some minor pacing issues(It feels like 39 episodes of content stretched to 50), a bit of overwrought drama, and a few logical inconsistencies(Eureka‘s entire existence doesn’t actually make a ton of sense in the long run), I don’t really have any major problems with this show. Much like its obvious predecessor, I’m not sure I’d call it a flawless masterstroke. I would say that it’s just about definitive proof that “fun” and “thoughtful” are not mutually exclusive. Flawless no, but certainly a remarkable example of what sci-fi action/adventure anime can strive to be.