14-year-old Renton Thurston, son of a deceased war hero, lives what he considers a boring life with his mechanic grandfather in a boring town. The only thing which gives his life meaning is “lifting/reffing” on Trapar waves (i.e. aerial boarding) and dreaming of joining the crew of the renegade Gekkostate and its leader, the legendary lifter Holland. Just such an opportunity literally falls into his lap when a special LFO (a transforming mecha that “lifts”) called Nirvash, a member of Gekkostate, crashes into his grandfather’s shop. Thanks in part to his use of his father’s Amita Drive to power up the Nirvash in a crucial fight, Renton is invited to join Gekkostate on board their mother ship Gekko, where he quickly discovers that the behind-the-scenes life of Gekkostate is hardly so glamorous or interesting as he imagined. But one thing makes it all worthwhile for him: the presence of Eureka, the mysterious and rather cute girl who pilots Nirvash.
Although its structure is fairly ordinary for a shonen mecha series, Eureka 7 does serve up one of the oddest variations on the genre: these mecha not only transform but go airboarding, too! This is, of course, an utterly preposterous notion which vacates any degree of common sense (even moreso than normal for mecha series) in favor of tapping into the “cool” factor of extreme sports, in much the same way that Vin Diesel’s XXX movie tried to do a couple of years ago. But sometimes these crazy gimmicks actually do work, and this is one of those times.
The reason why the series works, at least in its early stages, is because it knows how to abuse its gimmick to deliver several rip-roaring action scenes. Rather than the fisticuffs, super-weapon, or guns-blazing approach most commonly seen in mecha battles, these are dynamic action sequences which emphasize mobility, graceful aerial maneuvering, and slashing or smashing enemy mecha in devastating high-speed passes when they must be fought directly. Sure, the enemy depends heavily on missile fire, but its use feels boorish compared to the elegance of the Gekkostate mecha.
The other big early selling point is Eureka, who isn’t the main character even though her name’s in the title. While Renton is a pretty normal male lead for a series like this, Eureka quickly shows that she’s more than just the Rei Ayanami clone she might initially appear to be. In many ways she breaks the mold for teenage female anime leading ladies: she’s calm, sensible, and soft-spoken but not necessarily shy, seems innocent in some respects but is also far more mature than her youthful appearance suggests, and is quite capable of showing joy, sadness, or earnestness without resorting to the exaggerated expressions and reactions so common in anime. Studio BONES’ smartest move with Eureka was not giving her much of a figure, though. The well-endowed hottie/jailbait female mecha pilot has been done to death, and there are enough other female characters in the series with significant cleavage, so not giving her any just contributes to her uniqueness. She also seems to have some odd abilities and circumstances, although these are not explored much in the first five episodes.
Supporting Renton and Eureka is a quirky cast primarily composed of Gekkostate members, of which only Holland and Talho, his sexy girlfriend and main Gekko pilot, have been well-established so far. One can almost see the channeling of Cowboy Bebop going on here as the lot of them are portrayed as a bunch of laid-back rebels and fringe-of-society elements. Although the dashing action hero, Holland’s also the kind of guy who walks around his ship in only his boxers, and Talho plays out well as the annoyed woman in his life who takes out her frustrations by ordering Renton around. Less welcome are the three brats who compose Eureka’s “kids,” who behave a little too maliciously towards Renton to be fully credible as needy orphans. Exactly why they regard Eureka as their mother, and she seems content to act as such, is a mystery to be explained in a later volume.
One of the other charms of the first volume Eureka 7 is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s more concerned at this stage with using light drama to set up its action sequences and liberally sprinkles situational humor amongst its episodes, such as Hilda’s shopping efforts in episode 5. Sometimes it tries too hard to be funny, and so frequently does this with Renton that he’s practically a buffoon by the end of the volume. There are suggestions of greater schemes and mysteries and deeper character interactions present, but this is a 50-episode series so its writing is in no hurry to explore them. While this could be just a sign of pacing, it could also indicate that it’s shorter on plot and character development than, say, Fullmetal Alchemist, a series of comparable length, target audience, and comedy/action/drama balance which was nevertheless much denser in its early episodes. Time will tell on that.
The artistry has everything you’d expect from a Studio BONES production: interesting and varied character designs, solid background art, and color and textures variations between foreground and background art which are significant enough that the artistry sometimes doesn’t have a fully-integrated look. Studio BONES also continues to have problems here with character depictions which can look clunky when seen at range. Mecha designs, while sharply-drawn, are nothing special, but the series fares much better than most when makings its character look distinct from generic anime chaff. Renton’s a very regular-looking anime 14-year-old, but he’s the exception. Eureka, again, is the brightest spot here, but Talho is effectively sexy, Holland is effectively cool and studly, and almost everyone else effectively looks the part they’re supposed to play. The animation is quality work in every aspect, whether it’s characters viewed walking from an odd angle, aerial mecha battles and “lifting” maneuvers, or the great expressiveness of characters’ faces.
Eureka 7 relies on a mix of throbbing techno beats and soaring, dramatic musical numbers to back its action scenes, while background music during the day-to-day affairs on the Gekko is often more playful. The effectiveness of its use varies. The opening theme “Days,” which is incongruous with its visuals, sound like something adopted from a late ’70s/early ’80s American TV series, while the string-backed closer is a more modern-sounding adult contemporary number.
The Bang Zoom!-produced English dub is a solid one overall, with most of the English cast members being particularly well-chosen for their roles. Although Stephanie Sheh is known more for her ADR script writing, a closer English vocal match to the seiyuu for Eureka could not be imagined, and Crispin Freeman feels like an excellent fit as Holland. The script also stays reasonably close to the original, and the original Japanese pronunciation of Eureka’s name is retained rather than switching to the way it should be pronounced in English (“ur-eh-ka” vs. “yer-ee-ka”). The one problem spot is Johnny Yong Bosch’s key performance as Renton, which unfortunately is a big problem since he has close to half the lines in this volume. Although Mr. Bosch has the tone, attitude, and delivery of the character down, he’s straining too hard to pitch his voice right to match a performance originally done by a woman, which results in a whiny sound that may grate on the nerves. His performance would have been more palatable if he’d just given up on the pitch and let Renton sound a bit older. He’s the sole reason I’m marking down the dub grade, though, so if you can tolerate him then you should find the dub to be a quite satisfying one.
Extras on this DVD include a clean opener, audio commentary for the first episode provided by the seiyuu for Renten and Eureka, and an interview with the same seiyuu. With five full episodes and a base price of only $24.98, that makes for a great value for the regular release. The Special Edition adds a brown T-shirt emblazoned with the Gekkostate logo on the front and the series name down the back, a double-disc OST with translated liner notes, and the first volume of the companion manga adaptation, which covers some of the content in the first anime volume and a bit that will be in the second volume, for an additional $35. Considering that these items would have cost an additional $45+ separately, and the T-shirt isn’t independently available, it’s still a pretty good deal for the diehard Eureka 7 fan.
Despite its silly premise, Eureka 7 gets off to a good start by offering up great action sequences, an interesting title character, a diverse cast, and excellent animation. It’s a series specifically designed to be “cool,” an emphasis it has managed to pull off so far. This is only an introductory span, however, so whether or not it can maintain that emphasis once the story development starts fully kicking in remains to be seen.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : A-
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Thrilling action sequences, interesting title character.
− Lead English vocal performance, some artwork integration issues.
Renton tries to settle in to life on the Gekkostate, but finds that he has dedicated adversaries in Eureka’s three “children,” who are merciless in their efforts to try to drive him away from their “mother.” The crew of the Gekkostate is little better, as they make Renton the subject of an elaborate gag which the oblivious Renton takes far more seriously than they expect. The crew isn’t all fun and games, though, and some of the dark and painful secrets which originally caused the Gekkostate crew to strike out on their own come up when a job to capture a supposed anti-government agent takes an odd turn. News of a big trapar wave offers hope for a fun respite, but even it may not be enough to help Holland flee from the memories he so desperately wants to forget.
Episodes 6-10 can be looked upon as the doldrums of the first half of Eureka 7, as the action quotient is much lower here than in earlier episodes. The aerial mecha battles which highlighted the first volume are less frequent, appearing in only two episodes and in shorter allotments when they do appear. The focus instead falls much more on the interactions and relationships between various Gekkostate crew members. Of particular note is the gradually warming relationship between the earnest Renton and mostly oblivious Eureka, which offers an interesting reversal of typical male-female dynamics for teen anime romances. Most disappointing is the very formulaic construction of the “Renton vs. the kids” episode, although the next one involving the practical joke well compensates for it.
Although these episodes give the feeling of filler, in retrospect they contain enough content relevant to the overall plot to belie such a label. The Corallion, which will become prominent in the next volume, first gets mentioned here, and Anemone, who later becomes a key character, also makes her first appearance in this block. Throughout the volume viewers are fed tiny tidbits of plot which hint at a grand storyline, enough to whet a viewer’s appetite but not enough to be at all satisfying. The character development is also not to be taken lightly, as it provides crucial (if incomplete) insight as to what some of the important characters are doing and why. A proper explanation for why the kids are on board is also offered in one episode and some of Renton’s speculations about Eureka point to mysteries yet to be solved. It may not be one of the more exciting volumes in the series, but over the long haul a viewer will probably look back at this one as a crucial set-up volume for what happens later.
As with many Studio BONES productions, this one is much more distinguished by its character designs and costuming than any other visual factor. The mecha, in humanoid or vehicle form, aren’t terribly interesting or original-looking; only their use of boards to ride the Trapar waves (which seems physically impossible, but hey, that’s never stopped mecha series before) visually distinguishes them from any of a dozen other mecha series out there. The character designs, though, are distinctive, especially in their use of facial expressions, and in most cases very pleasing to the eye. This is also one of the better examples you’ll find of an anime where character personalities match physical appearances. The only disappointing design is the silly and too-angular look of Anemone, but the next volume will show that even her appearance is a good match for her personality.
Background art and use of a wide palette of sensible colors is generally quite good, contributing to an overall visual look that’s just a step shy of being top-tier. A little more fan service is shown in these episodes than the previous block, including a couple of scenes that were altered for the TV broadcast but can now be seen uncut here. As with the last volume, the animation is quite good, although it has fewer truly good opportunities to show off and still uses the occasional shortcut, such as having characters talk with their mouths out of sight.
The reduced amount of action also reduces the use of the highlight soaring musical numbers, but the mix of techno beats and more playful numbers remains. Again, the score’s effectiveness varies. The caliber of the English dub entirely comes down to what you think of Johnny Yong Bosch’s take on Renton. Those who can grow accustomed to the somewhat strained style of his delivery should find this to be a satisfying dub overall, as all other roles are well-cast and, at worst, reasonably well-performed. It’s less irritating than it was in the first volume, which may just be a matter of getting used to that voice. In any case it’s the reason for the upgrade in dub grade since last volume.
Extras this time around include a clean closer and an audio commentary for episode 7 featuring three key seiyuu, which can also be accessed from the Audio options button on a DVD player’s remote. Also present is a 16-minute Voice Actor Interview session with Stephanie Sheh, the English voice for Eureka. The questions are not only the typical inane fare one would expect from such an interview but are so obviously stock questions that she struggles to answer some of them given that she doesn’t know any more about the series than someone who has just finished viewing this volume. Even so, it’s an interesting interview because of how physically distinctive Ms. Sheh is; she’s tiny (only 4′ 9”) but has a big and very expressive face, very unlike the character she voices.
When it comes right down to it, Eureka 7 is still basically an action series about airboarding mecha with a bit of romance thrown in, one that feeds on thrills and isn’t above having a little fun with its characters. References to a darker side to the backgrounds of Holland, Talho, Eureka, and possibly the others do start popping up here, though, which shades the series towards a more dramatic structure than the pure action format it’s used so far.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : A-
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Good artistry and technical merits, good development of character relationships.
− Anemone’s design, less exciting than the first volume.
When a Coralion – a giant sphere of wind that generates powerful trapar waves – forms, the crew of the Gekkostate jumps at the chance to investigate it, even as Renton is trying to clarify what it is. Eureka, still not feeling well, forays out with Renton to try to penetrate the phenomenon. In the process they encounter Anemone, a half-crazed brat of a girl who has suspicious parallels to Eureka and, even more suspiciously, pilots an LFO which greatly resembles the Nirvash. Their meeting sends all three on a wild mind-trip that ultimately leaves both of the girls in a bad way, which forces Renton and Dominic Sorel to make an uneasy truce while they search for the medicine necessary to help both.
For most of episode 11 Eureka 7 muddles along like it has for the past few episodes: a bit of humor, a bit of drama, more cryptic comments, a new meteorological phenomenon first mentioned in ominous tones in the previous volume, and an odd caricature of a girl as a new character. In its last three minutes Anemone forays out in her Nirvash-like LFO called The End and strikes at the doldrums the series has been sliding into with all the force and electricity of a bolt of lightning. Within moments her up-close-and-personal encounter with the Nirvash and the manic fury she exudes rockets the intensity to incredible levels, giving the series a badly-needed jolt. Series are defined on scenes like the closing moments of episode 11, and for that scene alone this volume is well worth checking out. Anyone who is blasé about the series prior to that point is unlikely to be anymore when the closing credits roll.
The pulse-pounding peak is followed by one of the oddest episodes in the first half of the series, a bizarre trek through a dreamland that is apparently a mix of Renton and Anemone’s making. Its content may or may not ultimately mean much, although it does serve to establish a deeper connection between Renton and Eureka than has previously been revealed. Like the rest of the series so far, it and its follow-up episode continue to raise questions (How are Anemone and Eureka connected? What does Renton’s sister have to do with any of this?) without providing any answers. No answers will be found in episode 14, which marks the beginning of the series’ second season, either; although it has a bit of new content, it is primarily a recap episode.
As the series completes its first quarter it’s becoming increasingly clear that Eureka 7 is at least a bit more than the typical mecha action series it appeared to be at first. Sure, it can still deliver a nice action sequence and occasional light moments, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that this is a more complex, developed, and edgy series than the norm for mecha or shonen titles. The principle characters are all a bit deeper than they appeared at first, with the “growing up” part of Renton’s story being more involved and deliberate than the normal coming-of-age story. Anemone is a great, though not likeable, addition as a character whose attitude is as sharp-edged as her appearance but far more troubled and rotten. The series isn’t (yet) delving into the psyches of its characters in the way that Neon Genesis Evangelion did, nor does it seem to be following that series’ lead on subtly working in a message to the viewers, but the influence of NGE in the understructure is distinct enough that one wouldn’t be surprised to see some psychoanalysis in the future. (And boy, could some of the characters in this series benefit from it!)
As before, the artistry is still very solid, making Eureka 7 one of the better-looking recent mecha series. Its character designs truly distinguish it artistically from other series, but the angular-to-the-point-of-caricature design for Anemone goes a lot too far. The End, on the other hand, is the sharpest mecha design the series has yet produced. The animation has a tendency to exaggerate the motion of characters when they’re walking but is otherwise quite good, contributing to some excellent action sequences. The most interesting visual effects come in the dream sequences, where tricks with shifting perspective create several nice individual shots. The series continues to take a minimalist approach to fan service, offering up only one such scene.
Any praise for the third volume has to start with the musical score, which is at its absolute best in the meeting of The End and Nirvash at the end of episode 11 and beginning of episode 12. The massive tension achieved by that scene is more a credit to the terrific background music than anything else. The quality and effectiveness of the score is generally higher throughout the rest of the volume after that. In addition to marking the beginning of the second season, episode 14 also introduces a new jazzy hip hop-flavored opener and jazzy closing number. Whether or not these are better than the original is a matter of personal preference.
By this point you either like Johnny Yong Bosch as the English voice of Renton or you don’t, and his is pivotal performance on which the likeability of the English dub swings. The rest of the recurring English cast is fine, and Kari Wahlgreen is right on target, if not a slight improvement, in convincingly making Anemone sound like a maniacal brat. English scripting still stays reasonably close to the original.
The cast interview this time around features Mr. Bosch answering inane questions in a more entertaining fashion than normal. Those who prefer the original cast can opt for the Audio Commentary for episode 13, which features three of the key seiyuu. Other extras include a textless opener and a trailer for the Eureka 7 video game.
It’s now official: Studio BONES has a winner on its hands with Eureka 7. Although the series had a dynamic start, this is the stretch where the dramatic elements turn the corner and start to get good. It deserves better TV ratings than it’s getting.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : A-
Art : B+
Music : A-
+ Musical score, solid storytelling, powerhouse mecha confrontation.
− A recap episode.
The freewheeling sky-surfers of Gekkostate embark on a newfangled health fad, which eventually leads them to an agricultural town that just happens to be Renton’s childhood home. There he meets his uncle, whose military affiliation quickly lands Renton and his friends in trouble—but the real trouble begins when Renton saves the day by piloting the Nirvash unit without Eureka’s guidance. The normally quiet Eureka becomes even more withdrawn, distancing herself from the Nirvash, Renton, and everyone else. When the Gekkostate stops in a cave for repairs, the crew becomes moody and restless; the discovery of ancient ruins and geological features still doesn’t change the fact that they’re broke and hungry. Worse yet, a prospective repairman and a digger living in the cave aren’t all they appear to be. And how much longer will Eureka’s bad mood last?
Just looking at the description, there may not be much to get excited about in this volume of Eureka 7. The high-flying intensity of the previous installment is a tough act to follow, and now we’re stuck with a block of episodes that boils down to “Gekkostate gets stuck in a cave.” Taking a break from the action opens up new possibilities, though; suddenly the crew’s got a whole lot more time to think. Maybe too much time. Young hero Renton has another one of his weird dreams, crusty old commander Holland is being even more crusty than usual, and Eureka—well, whatever’s going on with Eureka is anyone’s guess. This is a time to look inward and ask where the characters are headed, and the answers could be more complex than anyone might expect.
Before things get all gloomy, however, there’s still time for a little comedy and action. The health craze in Episode 15 brings its share of laughs: the entire crew performing Tai Chi, a sudden shortage of junk food, and misadventures in search of the nutritious puncha nut. (If that’s not a pun, I don’t know what is.) Even as the episode turns towards battle, the spirit of triumph still wins out—Renton piloting the Nirvash by himself and taking out the enemy is pure exhilaration in visual form. But Episode 16 inverts everything and becomes pure introspection in visual form: Renton, lost in the cave and mentally drained, succumbs to a dream sequence that sums up his conflicted feelings for Eureka. Of course, he wants to fly and develop his skills—but is it worth Eureka getting jealous over “her” machine? The story continues to develop on multiple levels, becoming even more mysterious when Eureka “takes a nap” and somehow enters Renton’s dream.
After such emotional hand-wringing, Episode 17 is a welcome relief as Renton and the crewmembers head out to meet a repairman and do some male bonding. Although repairing the Gekkostate is the most obvious plot theme, Renton and Eureka’s strained relationship is the real substance throughout this arc: the men of the ship tease Renton about his progress, while Hilda helps Eureka work out her feelings by putting it in concrete terms. Teen angst is truly universal, isn’t it? The episode after that goes even further, pushing Renton into a deeper slump when he discovers that cool old guys aren’t always all that cool. Confused about his world, confused about his goals, and confused about love—what these episodes lack in action, they make up for with serious character development. The only problem is that ending the disc on such a downer can feel unsatisfying for some.
No matter where the story heads, though, one can always expect strong visuals from the creative minds of Studio BONES. The climactic scenes of Episodes 15 and 16 show great versatility by way of contrast: the Nirvash maneuvering gracefully through a sunset sky—a very traditional sort of beauty—and then, one episode later, an explosion of surreal imagery in Renton’s dream. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, an attempted apology to Eureka, LFO units drifting through the ceiling—it may not match the grand scope of the Coralian incident, but this scene still holds its own as a visual experiment. But the basics of animation are also handled well: the memorable character designs are as consistent as ever, with even one-time characters having a distinctive look, while high frame rates and attention to detail keep motion and action looking smooth. A diverse color palette makes this series attractive to watch, even in the darkness of the cave, with unusual textures and surprises waiting in the ruins.
A wide-ranging music score gives Eureka 7 a feeling that’s both classic and modern—rich orchestral sounds dominate dramatic scenes, but rock and dance tracks are the genres of choice when the Nirvash takes to the sky. Either way, the results are always tuneful and fitting. The same might be said of the lively opening and ending songs: Home Made Kazoku’s “Shounen Heart” captures the adventurous coming-of-age spirit through hip-hop, and Asami Izawa’s catchy “Fly Away” says more of the same but with a soul flavor.
The many emotional scenes in these episodes are handled confidently in the English dub, with Johnny Yong Bosch leading the way as Renton. For a character that goes through several moods in each episode, he gets all of them right, while still maintaining that youthful, high-pitched tone. Stephanie Sheh’s Eureka is equally adept, although her rhythm could be more flowing. The supporting cast all turn in solid performances as well, and with a script that follows the subtitles closely (sometimes even matching word for word), this is one title that you could easily watch dubbed all the way through.
The Japanese voice cast still deserves their share of credit, though, being the main source of extras on this disc. Look forward to a full audio commentary (subtitled, of course) for Episode 15, and a 30-minute interview with Yuko Sanpei (Renton) and Kaori Nazuka (Eureka) discussing their characters and the show. Occasionally they mention episodes that haven’t shown up on DVD yet, so consider that your spoiler alert—but the segment is still worth watching for their insights and humor.
Even as it winds down from the high intensity of the previous volume, Eureka 7 continues to be an engrossing series. These episodes turn to the inner world of the Gekkostate’s crew, particularly Renton and Eureka’s states of mind, and pose new challenges that can’t be solved by simply piloting the Nirvash. In an underground cavern, history and technology are examined. In a surreal dreamworld, true feelings are discovered. In Eureka 7, a young boy’s heart still has plenty of growing up to do.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : A-
Art : A
Music : B
+ Another high-quality block of episodes with a strong focus on characters and relationships.
− Not much action; doom-and-gloom story arc ends the disc on a depressing note.
Renton, Charles, and Ray start to feel comfortable living as a family, although on one of their jobs Renton learns a hard lesson about how people feel about the Vodarac when he tries to help a Vodarac girl who is deathly ill. Both Charles and Renton have been keeping secrets from each other about their true identities and affiliations, however, and a time ultimately comes when Renton must decide where his priorities lie: staying with the people he’s coming to regard as the parents he never had, or returning to Eureka. Meanwhile Gekkostate is in turmoil as the recovering Eureka pines for the missing Renton and Holland must come to terms with the fact that Eureka has clearly chosen Renton and not him. As a showdown with the military and Charles and Ray becomes imminent, Eureka also finally decides where her priorities – and heart – really lie. In the midst of conflict two young people seek each other out.
Eureka 7 has had flashy action scenes and a certain “cool” factor going for it from the start, but what has separated it from the pack over the course of time is an Evangelion-like devotion to character development. All that set-up effort put in over the first few volumes pays big dividends in this one, as the focus of the first three episodes remains firmly on its characters and what they are thinking and feeling. These are not just your cookie-cutter stereotypes anymore, as each of the core cast members has stepped at least a bit beyond the norm. Eureka is hardly the first person in an anime series who struggles to understand and cope with an unfamiliar emotion called love, but she does it more convincingly than most, and the tension generated between Holland and Talho (and within Holland himself) over his reluctance to confront Renton’s growing importance to Eureka, instead of him, is palpable; as cool as he may be, Holland is also deeply flawed, but that makes him all the more interesting. Renton continues to struggle through his own growing pains as he tries to deal with the consequences of violence and come to a decision over where his priorities lie, while Charles and Ray make one of the neatest anime couples to come along in quite a while.
All of this character development and philosophizing about growth, finding a purpose, and discovering who you are lay the drama on pretty thick, at the cost of a complete absence of humorous elements. It also restricts nearly all of the true action to the latter half of episode 26. The payoff, however, is more than worth the wait, as the aptly-titled “Morning Glory” proves to be one of those gloriously transcendent episodes in anime, one where everything comes together so perfectly that you can’t help being swept up in the moment even when you know exactly what’s coming – in this case, the inevitable joyous reunion of Renton and Eureka. In the initial Adult Swim broadcast it was one of 2006’s best anime moments, but it also marks a major turning point in the series; all confusion and denial over who Eureka is ultimately going to connect with is now over, Holland finally settles on a new purpose that will define his character for the rest of the series, and the path towards the eventual series resolution is now set. It also throws in a couple of arcane references that do not mean much right now but will have a bigger impact later on. (Pay careful attention to what Charles and Holland are saying as the scene continues through the closing credits.) In short, the last ten minutes of episode 26 sets the stage for the entire second half of the series.
Crucial to the success of these episodes is the voice acting in both dubs, but fortunately the English acting has improved enough to be exactly on-the-mark with the original Japanese performances, especially in the more emotional moments. Some small variances between the English and Japanese scripts do alter meaning a tiny bit in a couple of scenes, but not in a significant way, and in general the English script stays pretty tight. The one place where the translation becomes slightly awkward is in one scene in episode 23 where Renton explains to Charles that he has difficulty calling him and Ray “Papa” and “Mama” instead of “Mom” and “Dad,” as the reason why Renton is saying it that way may not be entirely clear unless one listens to the original Japanese and knows common honorifics. Also notable is the way the “to be continued” statements are handled throughout this batch of episodes; only Renton’s VA voices them while he is alone, but Renton and Eureka say it together after they are reunited.
The visuals and animation are still at their best in the limited number of dynamic action sequences spread across these four episodes, which are full of movement as LFOs and characters on individual boards zip around the sky, their trapar trails flashing in their wake. The series also puts more effort than most into animating backgrounds, which becomes especially apparent in episode 26 if one watches closely. Designs for younger characters are excellent, for adults less so; Holland is a little too sharp-jawed, and Charles and Ray are both a little too angular and somewhat inconsistently drawn. Mecha designs, as usual for the series, are well-drawn but nothing spectacular until seen with their armor stripped off, while airship designs distinguish themselves much more. (Ever notice how the military airships seem to be patterned off of the series’ skyfish?) Though it does not use the bright palette of colors so common in recent digitally-colored anime series, Eureka 7 is nonetheless beautifully colorful, especially in the scenes set in the Sea of Rainbow Clouds. Quality control is a little too lax for this volume to be considered top-tier artistically, but it is nonetheless a quite good-looking series.
Musical themes used in these four episodes do not offer much that is fresh or new, although its established themes get used quite well in key dramatic and action scenes. Sometimes the music comes off as grandiose, but often that is matched by the nature of the scene playing out at the time, and the soundtrack does know when to be quiet, too. The second opener remains in use throughout this volume, while the second closer holds position for episodes 23-25; episode 26 reverts to the original opening theme, which plays in the background as the scene finishes and the credits roll.
Extras this time around include an audio commentary by Japanese staff and seiyuu for episode 26, another video game trailer, and a textless closer for episode 26. This volume’s edition of the Voice Actor Interview features the seiyuu for Holland and Talho in a dual interview. The Special Edition version also includes an exclusive T-shirt and volume four of the accompanying manga.
The drama and character development piles on heavily as the series reaches its midway point, but the end-of-season payoff is equally big as the stage is set for the second half of the series run. Even if you’ve been following the series on Adult Swim and haven’t bothered to purchase previous volumes, this one is worth getting if for no other reason than the replay value of episode 26.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : A
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ Sharp animation, good characterizations, triumphant reunion scene.
− Musical score sometimes goes a little overboard, some adult character designs are inconsistent.
Renton and Eureka are both back on the Gekkostate but under punishment for leaving without permission. Holland, finally accepting that Eureka has chosen Renton and not him, resolves to protect them at all costs and prepares for an inevitable confrontation with Charles and Ray Beam. Although they backed off during the previous climatic battle, they are intent on carrying out their original mission and also rescuing Renton from the “monster” that has claimed him, and when determined former SOF members face off against each other, it can only end in bloodshed. In the wake of that incident Renton and Eureka decide to promote a new mindset on the ship through cleaning and cooking, an endeavor which leads to the dramatic revelation of the Gekkostate’s true purpose and Eureka’s true identity. The evolving state of the Nirvash and medical problems of one crew member cause the Gekkostate to head to Tresor Laboratories, the installation originally responsible for building the Type Zero and the one most connected to Eureka’s past.
Meanwhile Dominic continues his investigation of Renton by paying a visit to Bell Forest.
Episodes 27-30, which mark the beginning of the second season, also lie at the heart of a run of episodes (begun with episode 26) which constitute the series’ peak. Although it may not include as much action as other four-episode blocks, nowhere else in the series is the pacing and plotting more fluid or devoid of the padding and overbearing “growing up” euphemisms which litter the whole of the series. In fact, so thinly-spread is the meaty content of the series that in no other place before or after this volume – not even at the end – will you find such a wealth of critical events so close together. In these four episodes you have: two significant character deaths, one key cast member who undergoes a major make-over, the beginning of a major revamping of the Nirvash, the revelation of the Gekkostate’s true purpose, the revelation of how Holland is connected to Renton’s older sister Diane (although the details won’t come out until much later), the revelation of why Ray so hates Eureka, and most importantly, the long-awaited revelation of Eureka’s true identity. Most viewers who are watching these episodes for the first time will not see that stunning truth coming, although it certainly does explain a lot of things that have transpired prior to that point.
The theme of “growing up and learning to accept responsibility” is so integral to the series that it cannot be entirely set aside, however. Up until this point Holland has, for all his seeming age and experience, been acting as immaturely as Renton has, but that changes as he get locked into his new purpose and pursues it ruthlessly. Talho also becomes convinced that it’s time for her to act more mature, while Renton proves that he has grown up a bit by not being thrown for a loop by learning what makes Eureka special. Despite essentially becoming villains for this volume, Charles and Ray continue to prove that they are the series’ best supporting characters, while most of the rest of the supporting cast just muddles along as normal.
The first two episodes of this volume also represents the most explicit and brutal violence in the series to date; parts of “Helter Skelter” (aka episode 27) in particular are not for the squeamish. They mark the development of a more consistently heavier tone that is only briefly interrupted by lighter-hearted content in episodes 29 and 30. The intense action of episode 27, somber drama and flashbacks of episode 28, and revelations and resolutions of episode 29 are all executed so well that those drawn to the series for its more high-spirited elements, humor, and thrilling mecha action may not mind, however.
As always, the series makes good use of its electronica-dominated musical score and the occasional insert songs to heighten tension, push light-hearted or dramatic scenes along, or give the series a cool-sounding groove, especially in episode 28. Episode 27 introduces both a new opener and a new closer, both of which were truncated for the [adult swim] broadcast to only include their highlights but actually sounded better that way; how either stacks up against the earlier openers and closers is purely a matter of personal taste. Curiously, the artistry for the opener looks much rougher than in the rest of the series, while the closer artistry features an unidentified female character.
The good-but-not-spectacular artistry and solid animation remain constant with the quality seen in previous volumes despite having fewer flashy battle scenes to exploit. Though less sexy, the new look for Talho by the end of the volume is a sharp one, and the stripped-down look of the Nirvash provides interesting insight as to what lies at the core of LFOs. Charles and Ray, despite their more angular looks, remain distinctive and appealing characters visually, although Holland looks a bit odd in his counterinsurgency get-up. These episodes also offer a tiny bit of fan service and quite a larger amount of blood and gore.
The English dub also maintains the level of quality seen in more recent volumes. While unlikely to blow anyone away or overly impress sub fans, it is definitely sufficient for anyone who normally tolerates dubs. The English script stays relatively tight through this stretch, avoiding any significant changes.
The regular version of the DVD release includes a clean version of the opener, another video game trailer, and an audio commentary for episode 27 done by a quartet of key seiyuu. The Voice Actor Interview this time features Kate Higgins, who voices Talho here (and has done major work elsewhere) but wears a T-shirt reminding viewers that she is probably even better-known as the English voice for Sakura in Naruto. The Special Edition version also includes volume four of the manga adaptation, the second OST, and the second T-shirt.
If you are using the DVDs to watch the series for the first time then Volume 7 gets the second season off to a strong start, a standard that it, unfortunately, does not maintain for long. If you are picking up some of the DVDs after watching the series on [adult swim] then this volume is one of a handful in the series worthy of picking up for repeat viewings.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : A-
+ Best pacing and plotting in the series, major revelations.
− Little for mecha action.