Review for Eureka 7 - Ultimate Edition
10 years ago, if ever there was a genre to put me off, it was the giant robot thing. I had to attune myself to it over a period of years, get used to the idea of teenagers piloting giant mecha into battle, for no good reason other than it looks cool. I still get a cold chill down my spine when a Gundam check disc shows up, and I hastily pass it on to someone who can better appreciate it. Ten years ago, Eureka Seven was the giant robot anime of choice, but giant robots, on giant surfboards, in the sky, was a concept that had me quickly moving on to the next thing. But Eureka Seven was obviously a big hit show, as it quickly spun-off movies and another TV series as well, and the duties of a reviewer meant that I eventually got around to seeing those.
The first spin-off movie, Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers was a retelling of the original 50-episode series, in much the same way that the Adolescence of Utena movie retells its original series, it’s a complete reimagining of the story, and succeeds and fails in equal measure. I then took a look at Eureka Seven AO, a sequel set in another universe, which started off strong, but due to fitting 50-odd episodes worth of story into just 25, devolves into a pretty looking, narrative mess. I haven’t yet seen any of the new movies, an Evangelion style Rebuild of the original series, the first of which, Hi Evolution recently premiered at Scotland Loves Anime, but I think I may have dodged a bullet there; especially as Anime Limited are bringing back the original series, first released in the UK by Beez, all 50 episodes in a Blu-ray Ultimate Edition (thanks to one of Funimation’s upscale masters of the original SD source). You get 7 discs, 6 Blu-rays full of episodes, plus one DVD of extra features, the Ultimate Edition packaging, a 144 page artbook, and a poster. If you want just the discs, the show will also be released in two Standard Edition parts. The spin-offs might not have been too great, but the original series must have been good to warrant those spin-offs, right?
Renton Thurston is a pretty unassuming boy given his heritage. After all, his father Adroc Thurston died saving the world. He was raised by his sister, who he adored, but she left him in the care of his grandfather. But all Renton wants to do is surf. And in a world of Scub Coral and Trapars (Transparence Light Particles), that means surfing in the sky on ref-boards. And Renton is a big fan of the criminal Holland, and his Gekkostate organisation, and he’s a committed subscriber of their Ray-out lifestyle magazine. It’s not just people that ‘lift’. Giant robots called LFOs can also been seen soaring in the sky, and Renton’s apprenticed to his grandfather Axel in the Thurston garage, repairing LFO’s. Then one day the LFO, Type-Zero Nirvash crashes into their house, piloted by a blue-haired young girl named Eureka. Eureka is part of the Gekkostate, and the Nirvash needs repairs. It’s also unique among LFOs in that it needs a co-pilot. This is Renton’s chance to join the Gekkostate that he’s long been a fan of, but there’s a lot that he has to learn about them and the world in which he lives. Not least of which is that the Gekkostate is at war with the government.
50 episodes of Eureka Seven are presented across 6 Blu-rays as follows.
1. Blue Monday
2. Blue Sky Fish
3. Motion Blue
5. Vivid Bit
7. Absolute Defeat
8. Glorious Brilliance
9. Paper Moon Shine
10. Higher than the Sun
11. Into the Nature
12. Acperience 1
13. The Beginning
14. Memory Band
15. Human Behaviour
16. Opposite View
17. Sky Rock Gate
18. Ill Communication
19. Acperience 2
20. Substance Abuse
24. Paradise Lost
25. World’s End Garden
26. Morning Glory
27. Helter Skelter
28. Memento Mori
29. Keep On Movin’
30. Change of Life
31. Animal Attack
32. Start It Up
33. Pacific State
34. Inner Flight
35. Astral Apache
37. Raise Your Hand
38. Date of Birth
39. Join the Future
40. Cosmic Trigger
41. Acperience 3
42. Star Dancer
43. The Sunshine Underground
44. It’s All in the Mind
45. Don’t You Want Me?
46. Planet Rock!
47. Acperience 4
48. Ballet Méchanique
49. Shout to the Top!
50. Wish Upon a Star
Eureka Seven gets a 4:3 pillarboxed 1080i 60Hz transfer on these discs, and given the vintage of the show and its digipaint origins, you won’t be surprised to learn that it is an upscale of an SD source. Eureka Seven is a bright, deftly animated show from Studio Bones, with memorable character designs, and some great aerial action sequences. While the show looks decidedly SD in quality, as it should, compression is absent, the animation is as smooth as interlaced transfers get, and detail levels are good. There’s been no attempt at post-processing to give it a faux HD look, or any egregious DNR applied. This is how SD shows should be scaled up on Blu-ray.
Eureka Seven offers Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese, with optional translated subtitles and a songs and signs track. The audio is fine, and I was happy enough with my usual choice of subtitled Japanese. What little I sampled of the English dub seemed strong and of high quality. The audio is good enough to give the show enough space for the action to come across well. But the highlight of Eureka Seven has to be the music, a rather eclectic but appealing selection of tracks that shies away from what you might expect from you average giant robot show. This is one cool, CD worthy soundtrack, and you might be left wishing for an eighth disc in that Ultimate Edition set. I noticed one typo in episode 23, ‘passed way’ should have been written as ‘passed away’. Other than that, the subtitles are accurately timed and free of errors.
I only received the BD check discs for review, so I can’t comment on the packaging or the physical extras. These are the Funimation discs, Region B-ified, and boot to animated menus. One niggle is that the audio select menu is counterintuitive. The selected options are empty boxes, not full.
Disc 1 autoplays with a trailer for Aquarion EVOL.
You’ll find two commentaries on this disc, both Japanese with English subtitles. The first is on episode one and features Yuko Sanpei (Renton), and Kaori Nazuka (Eureka). The second on episode seven sees Mamoru Miyano (Moondoggie) join Yuko Sanpei and Kaori Nazuka.
Disc 2 autoplays a trailer for Dragon Ball Z Season 3.
Once more there are two commentaries on this disc. The first is on episode thirteen and features Yuko Sanpei, Kaori Nazuka and Shigenori Yamazaki (Dominic). The second is on episode 15 with Yuko Sanpei, Kaori Nazuka, Akio Nakamura (Matthieu), and Mayumi Asano (Hilda).
Disc 3 autoplays with a trailer for Robotics;Notes Part 2
It has two commentaries as well, one on episode 20 with Yuko Sanpei, Kaori Nazuka and Keiji Fujiwara (Holland), The second on episode 26 changes things up by having Yuko Sanpei moderate a discussion with two of the staff members, Kenichi Yoshida (character designer), and Masayuki Miyaji (Storyboard Artist)
You get the two textless openings and two textless closings to this point, and you also get Funimation trailers for Fairy Tail Part 9, Jormungand, and the Anime Classics label.
Disc 4 autoplays a trailer for Appleseed XIII: Tartarus and Ouranous.
Once more you have two episode commentaries, beginning with the one on episode 27 with Yuko Sanpei and Kaori Nazuka, this time hosting Jurota Kosugi (Charles), and Aya Hisakawa (Ray). The second is on episode 32 and with Yuko Sanpei and Kaori Nazuka is Ami Koshimizu (Anemone).
Disc 5 autoplays with a trailer for Wolf Children.
This time you have three audio commentaries, the one on episode 36 features Yuko Sanpei and Kaori Nazuka with Eriko Kigaura (Maeter), and Fumie Misuzawa (Gidget), the one on episode 39 has Yuko Sanpei and Kaori Nazuka again, this time with Yasunori Matsumoto (Stoner), and Taro Yamaguchi (Hap) and finally the commentary with episode 43 features Yuko Sanpei and Kaori Nazuka, this time with Koji Tsujitani (Dewey).
Disc 6 autoplays with a trailer for Dragon Ball Z.
There is more than just the audio commentary this time, although episode 50 sees Yuko Sanpei and Kaori Nazuka joined by Kazuhiro Wakabayashi (Sound Director), and Tomoko Kyoda (Director) for the final commentary in the collection.
There are voice actor interviews on this disc as well...
Keiji Fujiwara (Holland) and Michiko Neya (Talho) Part 2 (16:40).
Keiji Fujiwara (Holland) and Michiko Neya (Talho) Part 3 (9:45).
Crispin Freeman (Holland) Part 2 (15:18).
Crispin Freeman (Holland) Part 3 (14:13).
Kate Higgins (Talho) (17:46).
All are presented in 480i SD, and you may be wondering where the Part 1s are. There is also an extras DVD that comes with the collection, which I haven’t seen to review, and it should also have interviews with the English and Japanese Eureka and Renton voice actors.
You get a textless version of Episode 50 to watch, lasting 23:52, and without any of those pesky credits.
You get the 3rd set of textless credits, but not the 4th.
The US Trailer is on this disc, as well as further trailers for Shangri-La, Serial Experiments Lain, and the Anime Classics label.
I had to use an atrophied muscle to watch Eureka Seven. These days, anime series are short and sweet. The most common series length each season is 12 or 13 episodes, and if a show manages to warrant it, you might get a 24 episode run as well. But shows that run to 50 episodes are rare indeed, especially those which tell a single story over the entirety of their run, as opposed to those endless Shonen Jump shows that just stretch and stretch and stretch, full of filler and recaps. But watching a story unfold over 50 episodes requires patience and attention that I had almost forgotten I had.
Eureka Seven AO is a good point of comparison when it comes to series length though, as that was a show rich with narrative, story ideas, characters and concepts; too rich as a matter of fact, as by the end of its 24 episode run, it was crammed so tight with what it wanted to do, that it exploded in a wet mess for its finale. The original Eureka Seven really does need its 50 episodes to develop its characters and tell its story, and it really does reward those who stick with it. But there was that atrophied muscle. As I watched the show, it started off as a rather average giant robot and snotty teenager story, but one that seemed to take a long while in getting going, and one that was uncharacteristically stingy when it came to developing its story, offering revelations, and indulging in exposition. It gave you some idea of a plotline’s importance early on, but refused to pay off on it for twenty or thirty episodes. It didn’t present it all on a plate. I had to work at it. Anime shows rarely do that anymore, and I have to admit that by the midpoint of the show, I was looking forward for it to end, so I could move onto something more interesting instead.
Somewhere around the final third of the show, the story starts coming together, the revelations start paying off, and all the work you invested in watching the show starts being rewarded. Eureka Seven really does get good for its conclusion, and I have to admit that for the last ten episodes I was hooked, and grateful that the earlier episodes had indeed unfolded the way they did. It made me get to know, and invest in the characters, care about how they developed and how they interacted, and that made the show’s conclusion all the more effective and meaningful.
Eureka Seven offers a tantalising story, set in a fantastic future world, a world of Trapar Waves, of Compac Drives, where mankind lives uneasily alongside the unpredictable Scub Coral, where Lifting, surfing in the sky is a popular pastime, and of course where there are giant robots. You have to accept this world at face value, and learn about its intricacies alongside the characters. There are few moments where you can access a convenient exposition dump, and that actually makes learning about this world a more interactive and immersive experience. You have the Gekkostate, an ostensibly rebel group espousing a freer way of life, and naturally they’re up against ‘The Man’, the status quo, the military and the government. It’s a complex and engaging story that certainly holds the attention.
And Eureka Seven really isn’t about that at all. Like all the best stories, the difficult concepts and rich and vivid narrative universe overlie some really basic and accessible themes. Eureka Seven is all about growing up, about taking responsibility for one’s own actions, and choosing to embrace change and difference, or fighting against it. Renton Thurston is the obvious child on the verge of becoming a man at the start of the story. He joins the Gekkostate as he’s a fan. He loves ‘lifting’ and he idolises their free way of life. It turns out that the Gekkostate’s leader, Holland, and several of his crew were once in the military that they now stand against, and one unpalatable order too many pushed him into going his own way. They’ve become rebels and that brings them into conflict with the military on more than one occasion. They also have to support their lifestyles; fuel and supplies for the Gekko don’t come for free, and being criminals, the only jobs they tend to get are illegal ones. So the first thing that Renton has to do is reconcile the ‘Lift’ culture with what’s needed to simply survive as part of the Gekkostate.
Then there is Eureka, the blue-haired girl that Renton is instantly smitten with. She has her own growth arc through the story. She was part of Holland’s squad in the military, emotionless and efficient, but her actions as a soldier started to weigh on her. She’s now a mother, having adopted three young war orphans, although it’s Renton who really begins to bring out her emotions. And both of them together have a rapport with the LFO Nirvash that neither of them has separately, which sort of pushes them into a unit. Given that Holland responds to this with jealousy, shows that he too has some growing up to do, and it turns out that Renton’s arrival on the Gekko is a catalyst for change for all of the crew, as they begin to move away from their homeostatic pursuit of pleasure and start to take responsibility for their lives and the world around them.
It’s a bumpy road that they travel, moving one step forward in understanding each other, and one step back when their relationships hit bumps and potholes, the traditional adolescent failure to communicate. One particular plot arc sees Renton trying to return to childhood, actually running away from the Gekko and finding a family unit that can provide him some security. That security turns out to be false as the real world intrudes, but the cycle of tragedies and triumphs is believable and relatable, especially when some of the arguments turn really ugly and nasty.
You can see that I’m dancing around the plot, but as with all the good shows, Eureka Seven is a show that you have to discover for yourself, and I don’t think I could bear the scorn that would be heaped upon me if I spoiled it. It becomes clear that the nature of the world, the balance between humanity and the Scub Corals is about to shift, and as we uncover what that nature actually is, what the Scub Corals are, it becomes clear that humanity faces a tipping point. They can either act to enable the forthcoming change, or they can fight against it, and while you might think that you have the Gekkostate on one side and the military on the other, it actually turns out to be a lot more complicated than that, throwing in themes of religion, science and spirituality as well. In true storytelling tradition, it will be Renton and Eureka at the heart of the change, but the exact nature of that change winds up the cause of the conflict in the show.
Eureka Seven is the one time that it got the storytelling just right. I wish that I had started with this series, instead of encountering the first feature film, and Eureka Seven AO before it. It gets you invested in the characters first and foremost, and then develops the story, and build and builds to an emotionally charged conclusion, which if taken out of context would seem quite daft, but in terms of how you wind up feeling about the characters, couldn’t be more perfect. The Ultimate Edition comes with all manner of physical extras and packaging delights, as well as a whole DVD full of more extras, but not having seen those I can’t comment, or tell you if they justify the Ultimate Edition pricing, but the Blu-rays alone deliver good image and audio quality, while the series itself is a justifiable classic, even if it take its own languid time in grabbing your attention.