Eureka Seven AO Episodes 23 + 24: “The Final Frontier”/ “The Gates of Summer” [Final Impression]
“Let’s end all of this!” -Renton Thurston
(After a nearly two month break AO is back with its final two episodes. Get ready ’cause this post is going to a beast. I’m not kidding.)
Summary: Ao, Truth, Naru, Elena, Fleur (with Team Harlequin acting in a supporting role) continue their battle for control over the Quartz Gun and the truth of the world. Naru escapes with Truth, and feeds him to a giant Scub that has risen up in the shape of a monster, in some kind of mistaken move to consolidate Truths power with that of the Scub. Truth breaks free, still dead set on his idea that this world is incorrect, and he shoots down Naru (much to her surprise.) Ao is finally forced to fire the Quartz Gun, erasing Truth from history, and changing it so that the Allied Forces teamed up with Naru to steal the LFO Kanon.
Naru is hospitalized, along with the other coral carriers. Ao sees something emerging from light pillar left by the Quartz Gun, and when he goes to check it out, he sees the Nirvash spec 3 (piloted by Renton) destroying the Okinawa Coral plant, just as spectral Eureka shows up on board of the Triton. Renton and Ao meet for the first time, and Renton asks Ao to take him to see Eureka. The two are briefly reunited, and Eureka has just enough time to tell Renton Ao has what he’s been looking for before she is forced to disappear again. Renton finally introduces himself properly as Eureka’s husband, and Ao’s father.
With Ivica holding Ao back from punching his dad, Renton is able to explain what is happening to Eureka. He goes with Ao back to Iwato-Jima, and over a friendly game of soccer, continues with his explanations describing how and why the Scub first appeared in this world and how he and Eureka become separated. Renton declares that he is going back in time to destroy the very first Scub that appeared (and there by restoring this world to its original course) as he runs off to steal the Quartz Gun. Ao peruses him, but not before Dr. Fukai can tell Ao the truth about his sister. Renton and Ao fight (Truth also makes a surprising return around this part) and eventually Ao manages to take back the Quartz Gun. Using it, Ao teleports himself back in time to the Scub Burst during which Truth first emerged and his mother disappeared.
After learning exactly what his parents had to sacrifice in order for him to grow up safety, Ao decides that he will be the one saving them this time by sending them back to their home. He then turns the gun on the Secrets, who have been drawn by the Quartz, and in one swoop, erases them all. The force of the blast is too much thought, and Ao and the Nirvash get caught in it as well. Ao sees that his parents made it back to their world just before he starts to phase out just like Eureka had previously. Ao and the damaged Nirvash/Truth reappear in the year 2027 A.D (after, it’s implied, they spent a great deal of time drifting through time and space) in the same world from where they had started. Ao decides to leave the Nirvash and quite his traveling to live in this world, even though there’s the chance that no one will remember who he is. The series ends with Ao using Renton’s old ref board to surf back down to Iwato-jima island.
Impressions: I stayed up very late the night before I happened to be flying home for Thanksgiving in order to download these two episodes right as they were released. And my initial reaction was confusion, disappointment and not a small amount of anger. Now, comfortably at home, my cat curled up snoring next to me, well-rested, and having watched both episodes at least three more times each, I think I’m ready to give a more level-headed review of the final episodes and this show on the whole. So let’s dive right in.
Episode 23 starts off right where we left off waaay back in September, with Ao and Truth still fighting for control of the Quartz Gun (actually the episode starts by showing us three random scenes which hardly bear mentioning on account of the fact that in the grand scheme of things, they don’t matter at all.) Naru, being Naru, is still helping Truth, and is fighting against Team Pied Piper. She claims that since Ao’s Nirvash doesn’t have an Arcetype, he will never win against her or Truth. Naru’s character and her motives continue to remain unclear. We know she want’s to protect the Scub and Truth, but then why does she toss him into the Scub Coral to be absorbed? Because she want’s his powers for the Scub so they can fight back? How can she still be so blind to the fact that Truth is absolutely fucking crazy?
When he shot her, it was definitely a “Serves you right, you idiot” moment. She’s had so long, and so many opportunities to see that Truth is not something that she or anyone else could control, let alone understand, that when it finally dawned on her that he might in fact be evil, instead of feeling sorry for her, I was just glad. And I hate feeling glad over the misery of character, especially ones that have been as mishandled as Naru. She could have been so great, with her original ideals of not wanting Ao to support her, but being able to stand with him on equal ground. But instead they made her this indecipherable, holier-than-thow know-it-all, who can swing from being angry at Ao over his trying to stop her and Truth one minute to happy to see him the next. And then, instead of actually trying to explain a bit of her motives, or even why she seemed to give off this all-knowing air, or even just how she felt about Ao, they hospitalize her, basically putting her in a coma, and that’s the end of that. They didn’t even explain those annoying ear things!
The final confrontation between Ao and Truth was satisfying, but really only for one reason and that was the moment when Ao used the Nirvash to punch Truth in the face. Truth is yet another character who was just…frustrating throughout the show. So to see him get decked like that was very cathartic. Truth remains convinced that the powers he was given by merging with Kanon should be used to reach the correct world, a world where mankind advanced and the population grew without interference by the Scub. But judging by the looks on his face, and Elena’s observation that he’s trying to remove himself from a wold that forced him into existence in the first place, I don’t even think Truth himself really believes that he’ll be able to change the world. He even looks, dare I say, happy? when Ao finally pulls the trigger on the Quartz gun and erases him from history.
Cut to the world without Truth: The Allied Forces are the ones who, along with Naru, conspired to steal Kanon (or the coral relic, whatever you want to call it) and whom Ao has just defeated. Maybe it’s because I’ve had Evangelion on the brain lately, but when that cut happened and everyone was saying how Ao won, good job, etc. I was half expecting everyone to start saying “Congratulations!’ as they clapped for him. The other big change was in the Nirvash’s exterior, as it upgrades to the “Nirvash Neo” (cool name btw coughtnotreallycough.) If I were more of a mecha person and paid more attention to these types of things, I could tell you how exactly it looks different, but other than maybe a slight change in color here and there, it looks very much the same. Ao then ends up shooting down Naru, and (either from too much exposure to Truth’s altered form (but didn’t he just get erased? so it can’t be that) or because of the writers wished to avoid having to deal with her) next thing you know she’s in the hospital. To his credit, Ao seems just as confused by this chain of events as we are.
And so we come to our family reunion of sorts. Renton shows up, takes out the scub coral plant, and when Ao shows up, learns that by happy coincidence, Eureka has also just materialized on the Triton. At long last, Ao, Renton, and (ghost) Eureka are all in one place, but lemme tell you, it’s not really the happy family reunion I know a lot of people were hoping for. Maybe it’s because at this point, Ao doesn’t know Renton’s his dad, or maybe it’s because neither of them can touch Eureka, but I think that for a scene like that it was missing something.I felt nothing watching it, no excitement, no happiness, it just…was. According to Eureka, Ao is what called Renton to this world because he has the thing that Renton has been searching for. Eureka, who can’t stay too long in one time, disappears again, leaving Ao to finally confront the father he claims to have hated his whole life.
You’ll notice with this episode that characters who we’ve spent the entire show with have started to fade out. Fleur? Elena? Yeah, hardly in the first part of the episode, hardly did any fighting, they were barely in the second half and even then they didn’t really contribute much. That goes for the rest of Team Piped Piper, the smugglers, Stanley, and even Tanaka. They all fall to the wayside as Eureka, Renton and Ao take center stage. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s a natural move since from the start this was a show about Ao, but for a series that wanted so desperately to be separate from the original Eureka Seven, with its own characters, world, politics, etc. I find it very strange that they chose to go with an ending that depended so much on characters from the original show, instead of going with the ones they had.
With a short break for the ending theme, we move right into episode 24. We all knew it was coming. The last episode…To say that I have mixed feelings about it would be an understatement.
Renton proves to be a veritable spring of information. He explains what’s happening with Eureka, and what the deal is with the Scub and the Quartz. In order for the Scub to escape from the “Limit of Questions” (yeah, had to look that one up from the original series, ’cause I did not remember what that was), being as intelligent as they are, they found a means to travel between universes. That means is the Quartz. Because she is a Coralian, Eureka must have turned herself into Quartz and taken the dangerous Quartz from that Scub Burst 10 years ago with her someplace else. Renton believes that since she didn’t specify a time or place before she moved the Scub, just the wish to go anywhere else, she is now trapped, moving from time to time, universe to universe, unable to manifest her real body. What any of that has to do with the anthropic principle (which is a real thing, read more about it here) which Renton mentions at the beginning of his dialogue about the Scub is anyones guess.
I am of the opinion that absolutely none of that explanation makes a wink of sense, except maybe the idea that the Scub would want to escape from the collapse of reality (but…I was under the impression that everything worked out between humans and the Scub Coral at the end of Eureka Seven? No…? I realllly need to re-watch that show.) The Quartz is just a magical thing that can open holes not just in time but also dimensions? Are the Quartz separate from the Scub? Because sometimes when they talk about them it’s like they are two very separate things? Eureka turns herself into Quartz? She’s somehow stuck now as a ghost? Your supposed to be answering questions AO! Not posing more of them!
Renton follows that up with some more talking, specifically about how, when the Scub first arrived in the world, the Secrets came to destroy them after perceiving them as a threat to the earth. The Scub then decided to travel through time to try to find a place without Secrets (Okay, if the Secrets exist to defend the earth from invaders, wouldn’t there always be Secrets as long as there was an Earth? So…isn’t the whole trying to find a time with out Secret’s kinda pointless? Renton, did you not just finish telling me that the Scub were smart?) Anyway, because of this constant cat and mouse game, the history of the Scub Bursts started. History started to become rife with Scub Bursts as the Scub would emerge in a new time only to be followed and destroyed by the Secrets. Humanity, especially the humanity before such things as modern medicine, war, or even just the comforts of a warm house, was especially hard hit, causing the changes in history and the total globe population that were talked about in previous episodes. In the future, mankind has died out, and so the Secrets not only see the Scub as enemies but Eureka and Renton as well.
Now, why do the Secrets want to hunt down and destroy Eureka and Renton? This is probably the worst explained sequence in the whole of the episode, but the Secrets actually trace the Scub back to the original E7 universe, and attempt to destroy the Scub there. That’s the problem when you have two earths that look identical from space and/or you don’t make it clear where exactly events are taking place. For those of you who were confused like me, this also takes place when Eureka was pregnant with Ao, so they already knew about the effects of a high-trapar environment which is why Renton pushes Eureka into going to a different world. Yup, when you have to watch an episode 5 times to get that, it’s probably a bad sign.
I kinda saw the whole Truth becomes an Archetype thing coming. Other than changing the physical appearance of the Nirvash and making it quicker to react, I still am unclear as to why it would be good or bad to have one. It probably makes the IFO’s less machine and more like the LFO’s of the original, right? That’s how far I’ve come with this show, because I know I should care about that answer but I don’t. So with the Nirvash powered up (I guess?) Ao takes on his father in a battle over the Quartz Gun and the course that the future should take.
And then we get to the most depressing part of the show, because hey, guess what? We finally find out about Ao’s sister. She was born but because of the high levels of Trapar on their Earth, the human and Coralian cells inside the girl started to reject each other, and she died, turning to stone the way that dead coral does. Okay, first off, fuck you who ever though that that was an okay thing to put in. Why would you do that? Don’t the two of them deserve a little bit of happiness? That was the most emotional scene in the whole series, and also the only one were I felt any real emotion towards the characters. I won’t say I cried, or even teared up, but it was pretty fucked to see one of my favorite couples crying over the grave of their first-born child.
With that in mind it’s really, really easy to see why the two of them went to such lengths to keep Ao safe. Because they know that the same thing could happen to him. It’s the reason that Renton is trying so hard to destroy the Scub, even willing to sacrifice being with the woman he loves. The same goes for Eureka. She’s willing to endure an endless hell of not being able to touch her child, not being able to see him grow up, not being able to see Renton, just to make sure that Ao is safe. Ao, because he finally sees how much his parents love him (or because he has a martyr complex, one of the two) decides that to give something back to them, he’ll send them home. That means using the Quartz Gun to take out the Secrets, creating another light pillar thing for them to pass through.
Of course, the power from the gun, once he finally does shoot it, proves to be too much for Ao and he ends up erasing himself as well. BOOOOOOM! Snap, I was right! Well almost right. Way back in Episode 19, I predicted that Ao would end up erasing himself from the timeline in order to set things right, and low and behold he did! Not so much on purpose, but still. He’s able to see the original E7 universe, and is embarrassed by the writing on the moon. It’s probably the first time that he gets a real sense of what his parents are actually like as people. With Eureka and Renton safe, he…fades away? The last part confused me. Ao seems to be trapped in the same situation as his mother, moving from one time to the other. But how? He’s not a full Coralian, so I doubt he changed himself in to Quartz like Eureka did. Did the Nirvash protect him? When Ao asks Truth/Nirvash where they are this time around and the length of Ao’s hair (plus the fact that he looks a bit older maybe) speak to them having been gone for a long time before they end up back in their original world. But if Eureka couldn’t leave her little time loop of doom, how can Ao? And for that matter, without the Quartz Gun, how exactly is Ao jumping through time? See, it’s that kinda thing that makes me hate stories involving time travel.
There’s a lot of things that I’m surely glossing over or not mentioning, like the fact that all of a sudden the quartz can understand human though and do whatever it wants, like take Ao to a certain point in time. Is it suddenly some kind of wish-granting magic lamp? Or the unresolved love triangle thing that I’m not even sure was really even there in the first place between Fleur, Ao and Naru. One of the things that made Eureka Seven great was its focus and commitment to Eureka and Renton’s relationship. AO…not so much, which I think is a real shame and probably works against it in the end. Or basically everything that Ao was saying about mistakes, and making things right.
I also still have a lot of unanswered questions; like why did Eureka save Elena? And how? She’s a hologram/ghost thing during that time, so how did she manage to physically touch her? Why did we spend so much time focused on Elena’s past when in the end it doesn’t really matter? What happened to all the coral carriers? What happened with all the political melodrama that was playing out in the background? How did Ao, whose parents both have straight hair, end up with wavy hair? Where does Nirvash/Truth go off to? Why does any event that happened this show matter SINCE EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED WAS ERASED FROM TIME IN THE END. YEAH THAT’S THE KICKER. It’s the ultimate slap in the face and is probably my number one problem with the ending. Screw the horrible pacing, lack of character development, and the rampant use of deus ex machina. I could almost, almost forgive that. But way to just negate all the time and effort I put into watching it and trying to understand what was happening, because hey! none of it matters in the end. All the characters have had their pasts changed, they don’t remember Ao, there probably wasn’t a Team Pied Piper, none of it. Maybe if the ride had been more enjoyable I’d feel better with this horrible variation on the “oh, it was all a dream” ending, since at least then it would have been a nice memory.
I’m going to stop now. I need someone to make me stop before I go crazy. That’s what this show has done to me. I have gone crazy. There’s shows that are a mind fuck in a good way and those that are a mind fuck in a bad way. Mind fuckery of the pleasant variety would be (for me) something like Angle’s Egg, or Neon Genisis Evangelion, or Mawaru Penguindrum. Eureka Seven AO is mind-fuckery of the unpleasant variety. It’s not deliberately done so that every viewer can draw their own conclusions from it, or discuss the meanings behind it. It doesn’t even have the emotional weight behind it to give it even the facade of being the good kind of WTF. Oh no, this is the kind of “what the fuck am I watching” that comes from bad story telling. And I don’t like it.
Let’s start a support group in the comments guys. Do you have a complaint that I didn’t address (although I think I pretty much got them all)? Leave it in the comments. Misery loves company. Do you think I’m totally wrong and that AO has what it takes to stand with those anime of near legendary statues? Please, feel free to tell me to get bent. Confused as fuck about some part? Yeah, aren’t we all. I’ll try my best to puzzle it out for ya’. Thanks for sticking with me through this very, very long write-up, I hope it was enjoyable. Either that or I hope you’re a masochist, because if you aren’t enjoying yourself from the sheer torture of reading all this, then I don’t know what you’re doing, but it probably shouldn’t be that.
Final Final Thought: The idea of sassy archetype Truth and Ao going on adventures through space and time sounds like something that needs to happen. Actually I take that back. They’d probably make a mess of that in some way.
Story & Plot: 3/10. That might seem harsh, but it’s for two reasons. 1. The story was all over the place at least 95% of the show, with no clear direction or even ending in mind. When I have to re-watch episodes more than three times to feel like I understand even half of what’s going on, it’s not a good sign. 2. It had a high standard to live up to. This is where being a sequel really hurts the show. Eureka Seven, while not a paradigm of a super well told story itself, was certainly a lot better than this (and even with its flaws, its charactes more than made up for it, which can’t really be said for AO), and I was expecting AO to be at least on that same level. And it just wasn’t.
Characters: 4/10. I’d be hard pressed to say that I actually liked any of the characters other than Ao (and Ivica.) We spend the most time with him, and while he doesn’t really grow a lot, he does so more than any other character. Everyone else was underdeveloped, annoying, or just plain boring. Fleur? Elena? Naru? Truth? Not to mention any other of the characters (not counting Eureka and Renton, since they’re technically from a different show.) In the end I failed to connect with any of them in any way. I’ve seen series do a lot more with a lot less.
Animation: 7/10 This is one of two areas where AO really shines. The animation is very consistent and stays beautiful throughout. There are some really nicely done backgrounds (even if some of them are overused, like that one of the outside of Generation Bleu’s headquarters.) The actions scenes looked great, the mechas were detailed and moved nicely, I liked the character designs and the over-all colors of the show. There were even a couple of actually breathtaking scenes, like the first time Ao fires the Quartz Gun, or when Eureka is returned to her home by Ao. But for all that, sometimes the faces can look really derpy, especially in medium distance shots, and there was one or two times where the CGI looked really bad (and I mean really bad.) I’m sure some of it will get cleaned up for the Blu-rays though, so fret not. While AO doesn’t have a very unique visual style, or really jaw-dropingly different animation, it is above your average anime, and that’s more than you can hope for these days.
Music: 9/10 The soundtrack is probably the best thing about Eureka Seven AO. All the music was very fitting and helped set the mood for whatever was happening on the screen. It was never annoying or detracted from what I was watching. The openings were both really good, I liked the first one maybe a little bit more? but they both get you really pumped to watch the show. I liked the second ending much more than the first, I think because it was helped by the very nice visual style of the animation that went along with it. I even liked that they threw in a couple of musical nods to the original Eureka Seven. Sadly, a good soundtrack can only go so far in making a show better.
Anything Else?: Noah was the best part of this show. Period. The end.
Overall: I’d give Eureka Seven AO 6/10 (I bumped it to a 6 for the soundtrack, let’s be real.) There’s a lot I’ve said about this show. There’s still a million little things that I want to vent about or praise. But at this point, I think I’d probably be beating a dead horse. It boils down to one simple question: Would I recommend this show to others? If I’m being perfectly honest, no. Not even to fans of the original series. Why you might ask? Simple. I went through something close to the five stages of grief watching this show. Denial that this show could turn from pretty good to bad so quickly, anger that it was slowly becoming more and more awful, depression that something I should loved was turning into something I hated, and finally acceptance.
Acceptance that AO wasn’t going to be a great show, or even a good show, but just a mediocre show. I think that’s what burns me the most, that something that had so much potential became something so terribly, horribly, unexceptional. There is so much mediocrity in the world today, and (in my opinion) anime specifically, so why waste your time with it? There are hundreds, thousands, of better shows, that are actually worth watching so why deal with something that will leave you feeling neither better nor worse? I won’t say I regret watching AO (that implies having passionate feelings about it one way or the other), but neither did I enjoy it. It just was. In a month or two, I’ll have completely forgotten it. And that is why in the end I couldn’t recommend it to anyone.