ReviewNov 30th 2006
Renton Thurston has had enough. He's been living his his father's shadow (which many people have started to doubt), his Grandfather is always on his case, the one person he even remotely considered a friend has left and to top it all off the military has closed his favourite "lifting" spot. Oh and a cute girl piloting a prototype mecha has crashlanded on his bedroom and torched all his stuff. It's not much but it's a start.
Production Company: Bandai Entertainment.
I see no point in causing any suspense here. I see no point in making you read this whole review just to find out if the first five episodes of Eureka 7 are any good. So I'm just going to proclaim the conclusion right here and now: if you are looking to start a collection of a new anime TV series, then it absolutely and unquestionably should be Eureka 7. Even if you don't want something with mecha in it, even if you don't want a teenage protagonist, even if you openly dislike anything futuristic, you should get Eureka 7 anyway. It excels at everything it does, it does a lot of different things, and if these early episodes are any indication, it may go on to be one of the greatest series to come out this decade.
The narrative opening is familiar territory, it contains a bored fourteen-year-old boy who is the son of a hero and has dreams of greatness, a mysterious girl, and a whole lot of cool looking mecha that are yet to be explained. The boy, Renton, is openly dissatisfied with his life and gets his only thrill whenever he ‘lifts’, the sport of flying through the air on a skyboard. He attends a ‘sucky’ school in a ‘sucky’ town, and although his father is noted as having saved the world people are frequently questioning the truth of that belief. The show tried a little too hard to question this, as it is quite eager to establish the impact that Renton's father's legacy has had on him.
When it comes down to it, this is really just a premise for what's to come – seeds being sewn that are yet to sprout and grow. Everything that happens, from Renton learning to believe in air currents to his meeting with (and becoming smitten by) the slightly odd Eureka. Building up to Renton running away to join a ship and crew he has always dreamed about, and this is all despite his Grandfather's well-meaning wishes. The end result is swiftly paced without ever feeling rushed. The show moves comfortably, starting off with a punchy rhythm and occasionally moving through more orchestrated or quiet moments, never settling into the one milieu but always directed with aptitude and confidence. The end result is a story opening that is more enjoyable that the whole sum of its immediate parts, and small techniques like having Renton give voice-over narration as if he were writing to his missing older sister make for nice touches that highlight the use of familiar convention in a way that seems misleadingly fresh.
By the general standards of a television series Eureka 7 looks absolutely amazing. It's still a long way from the theatrical standard of something like Innocence, but its ability to keep things hand-drawn while still appearing high-tech gives it a slight upper hand. The colour palate in Eureka 7 is an open embracement of everything digital, and the image on the DVD is clear and vibrant, which is only made better by the actual colour consistency choices made throughout the show. Most importantly is that even the mecha units (known as LFO's) are hand-drawn. They move with a dynamic sense of energy that 3D graphics are still some way from capturing. And there's no need to comment on how well the LFOs blend in with the rest of the 2D artwork by sheer virtue of them being an actual part of it. The added sweetener is that Shoji Kawamori has done an incredible job in designing them, further helping him to retain his reputation as a master of the field, and much like the human characters, these lithe robots surf the sky. This may seem ridiculous, but it's also an open embracement and extension of something that was always ridiculous to begin with, and this lack of restraint where restraint need not be shown allows the show energy without need for too much explanation. Finally, as if having excellent mecha wasn't enough, character designs are also are second to none. The overall visual package simply couldn't be any better for what it is, and what it is is more than just a little bit special.
Eureka 7 is a looking to be a very rare thing. It successfully opens with immediate impact but yet it never feels rushed, and the way it makes generic conventions seem new and fresh will probably lend it both mass appeal and critical respect as it continues to unfold. The DVD is no slouch either, containing a healthy five episodes and coming with a simple (reversible) cover that should allow for consistent design in upcoming volumes. The disc itself also features a interview with a very bubbly Yuko Sanpai and Kaori Nazuka (Renton and Eureka, respectively) that certainly benefits from allowing them to bounce the conversation off each other. They also provide an audio commentary for the first episode that is generally more fun than informative, despite a couple of quick observations. The dub's reasonable too – Renton's grandfather sounds a bit forced, and sometimes it moves too quickly to sound like natural English, but it's still a notch above the norm.
Dub or sub, this is an excellent show that could very easily continue to get better. It has few pretensions tying it to physical believability, and it's characters and general plotting will probably benefit from this in the long run. That such a loving production was originally broadcast in an early morning timeslot is almost a crime against humanity, and you owe it to yourselves to help rectify that by watching it.
Overall : B+
Story : B-
Animation : A-
+ Brilliantly excessive, wonderfully confidant and highly energetic.
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