ANIME & MANGA - Review
09:48 - 29th January 2014, by David West

Eureka Seven AO - Part 1

Ao (pronounced like the noise you make when you stub your little toe on a table leg) lives in Okinawa, where he spends his time hanging out with his friend Nura (who wears hot pants but has a nasty cough) and a tree sloth called Nao. His insular little life changes on the day he accidentally comes into possession of a bracelet that allows him to take command of a powerful mecha called Nirvash. Mechas, known as IFOs, are the frontline in the fight against G-Monsters; huge, strange creatures that threaten mankind and are drawn to Scub Coral, which is an alien substance that appears at random throughout the world. On those unhappy occasions when a G-Monster manages to come into contact with any Scub Coral, the result is a massive explosion and widespread destruction. Once in Nirvash's pilot seat, Ao is recruited by Generation Bleu, an organisation that hires itself out to destroy G-Monsters whenever and wherever they threaten mankind.

Sounds confusing? Eureka Seven AO, the sequel to the 2005 anime from BONES, has too many ideas competing for space. Ao is the son of Eureka, the heroine of the original series, who disappeared a decade ago. He longs to know more about his missing mother, and nurses a hefty grudge against his absent father, Renton. In many respects, Ao is typical of the protagonist of a mecha series - he has parental issues, and is an outsider in his local community. He seems to get to grips with piloting Nirvash awfully quickly, despite the script throwing out a gag about how it 'won't be as easy as it looks in anime'.

The screenplay is littered with unexplained acronyms and multiple names for the same thing. The hostile aliens are called G-Monsters by everyone apart from the people at Generation Bleu, who insist on calling them Secrets - apparently just to be obtuse (a giant floating monster in the sky doesn't really seem very secret). The mechas are called IFOs, and there are flying cars called FPs, but neither acronym is ever spelled out, and it's not clear why there are still conventional wheeled cars in a world technologically advanced enough to produce flying ones. All the IFOs are piloted by children, but while the screenplay notes that only kids can fly IFOs, it never says why. Nor does it address the moral implications of using children as combat pilots, which seems questionable to say the least.

For some reason, all the other IFO pilots introduced thus far are girls, a situation which sets up a harem around Ao. He is part of the team codenamed Pied Piper, alongside Fleur and Elena; then there are the three members of Goldilocks, including Chloe, who always refers to herself in the third person, like a professional boxer with pigtails - 'Chloe loves ice cream' or 'Chloe ain't never been knocked out in 16 pro bouts' (hint - only one of those things is true. Girl has a glass jaw). Both teams have support staff and a Chief who guides their missions, so that's a large roster of characters to keep track of. But then there are three Okinawans who start out as smugglers but then instantly become trusted members of Generation Bleu by just asking for a job. There is also a pop star called Miller who inexplicably works for Generation Bleu, various figures in the US and Japanese militaries, and a super-powered boy called Truth who can change shape, and fly, and make things explode at will. Oh, and Nao the sloth appears to be able to read.

There are, in short, too many characters for the vast majority of them to have time to develop any depth. When one supporting character dies in episode six, it has no emotional impact because they were barely even a plot device, never mind a compelling, developed individual. But rather than paring back as the story unfolds, more and more characters are added to the mix, until the anime is buckling under their weight.

Similarly, there are too many plotlines that are introduced and then abandoned. The early episodes set up the tension between Okinawa and Japan and the US, touching upon a populist movement for greater independence for Okinawa. But this never goes anywhere. Other plot elements feel contrived and are only introduced when it suits to make events more dramatic. In the early battles between the IFOs and the Secrets, the mecha fly merrily about the screen, but then in episode 12, all of a sudden, the IFOs start running out of fuel in the midst of battle, which was never an issue before.

Balanced against some of the lapses in the writing, the show is not without its strengths. Ao is generally a plucky lad and far less neurotic than most underage mecha pilots (Evangelion, Gundam Seed Destiny and Linebarrels of Iron, we're looking at you. That's right. You should be sorry.) He has the same disregard for obeying orders that all mecha anime heroes possess, which apparently is a job requirement. The design work is bright and colourful, with cute little personal touches on Fleur and Elena's helmets. Battle scenes tend to be briskly paced, with lots of energy and an interest in tactics rather than brute force, although they typically end with a nice, big ka-boom. This instalment ends on a cliff-hanger - not to mention with almost innumerable plot threads left unresolved - so there is a pointed hook to pull you back for part two.

Part one of Eureka Seven AO raises many more questions than it ever considers answering. The screenplay needs trimming and tightening to shed a few pounds and excess subplots, but Ao and his many, many chums deliver a brighter, less angst-ridden mecha series. Although what that sloth is doing there is anyone's guess. Go climb a tree, you weirdo.
SCORE: 3/5
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