Reviewby Carlo Santos, Mar 11th 2010
GN 1-3 - Collection 1
Fourteen-year-old Renton Thurston has some famous relatives—his father died a war hero, and his grandfather is a legendary mechanic—yet his own life is painfully boring. Renton's only excitement comes from "lifting," a sport where one surfs through the sky on invisible waves. Things suddenly become a lot more interesting when a giant robot piloted by a mysterious girl named Eureka comes crashing into the Thurston household. Renton's lifting abilities, plus a spare part from Grandpa's workshop, help to get the robot going again, and so he joins up with Eureka and her organization—a band of rebels known as Gekkostate. Headed by charismatic leader Holland, Gekkostate is trying to stop a military project that could doom the coexistence between human beings and an alien species known as Coralians. Renton's famous lineage is the key to this struggle—but is he ready to face his destiny?
Time is not kind to most anime and manga franchises. As the years go by, people start wondering why they got into a certain series, and why everyone else did as well. But some titles have a way of aging gracefully, and so it is with Eureka Seven, which turns out to be as fresh and modern as ever in this re-issue of the manga adaptation. Even though 2005 might as well be a different geological era ("pre-Haruhi") in anime years, the iconic characters and stylish mecha in this series remain appealing, not to mention the universal themes of love and friendship, war and peace, and a young boy discovering his place in the world.
However, this bumper volume also makes the shortcomings of Eureka Seven quite evident—the manga mercifully filters out a lot of the anime filler, but in doing so it highlights all the major plot points and causes them to come crashing on top of each other. No sooner are we out of the woods with the Generic Shounen Beginning (all 14-year-old boys instinctively know how to pilot giant robots; just accept it) than the plot starts to thicken at a ridiculous rate. Here are the bad guys that Gekkostate is fighting against! Here's the mysterious alien thing that they want to blow up! Here's the mysterious old villain who was recently released from jail, and the shocking back story of how Holland founded Gekkostate, and how it all links to Renton's family lineage because his dad was involved with everything and why's Eureka acting so weird and ...
Yes, that's the first three volumes in a nutshell. The first half of the manga series. That's why no one would be blamed for thinking, "This story sounds awesome, but what the hell is going on?!" Even those familiar with the anime might walk away with their heads spinning. Yet it also captures many of the things the anime does well, particularly the intense up-and-down relationships between the characters. Holland's brashness, Renton's naïveté, and Eureka's aura of mystery all come through, and we can also thank the manga for toning down some of the more irritating personality defects like Renton breaking into tears all the time and Eureka's unnecessarily long silences. In fact, Renton's outbursts of frustration in the later chapters are handled especially well, showing the true tumult that comes with adolescence (as opposed to just running around screaming "I wanna be stronger!"), not to mention the complexity of his feelings toward Eureka.
The manga also succeeds in capturing the quality of the anime in the visuals, where flashy fight scenes and surreal futurescapes go hand in hand. Although giant robots are just one aspect of this multi-faceted story, the mecha units are worthy showpieces, conveying the ideals of speed and power with some 21st-century (or should that be 31st-century?) styling to boot. Unfortunately, artist Kazuma Kondou seems to come from the school of form over function, and so we get a lot of crisp, action-packed battles where it's hard to understand what's going on. Expect a lot of "I have no idea what just happened, but it sure looked cool!" reactions everytime the Gekkostate crew springs into action. Meanwhile, those with a more artistic eye will point to Eureka and Renton's dream sequences as the main highlights so far, where the laws of physics break down and the visuals are limited only by one's imagination. Yet even in ordinary storytelling mode, the artwork remains solid: distinctive character designs make it easy to remember the large cast, scene-to-scene transitions are smooth, page layouts are consistent and clean, and the feel of a futuristic otherworld comes across well in the backgrounds.
But while pictures do a fine job in presenting the story, the words aren't quite as effective—especially when so many of them are made-up terms specific to the series. One can't even get out of the first chapter without hearing about Trapar waves and LFOs, and after that it just gets more jargon-laced with KLFs and Coralians and Vodarack and the Ageha Project and, well, if readers are sitting around in a daze wondering what on earth is going on, this is why. We can only be thankful that the translated dialogue is as clear and conversational as possible, especially during Renton's heart-on-his-sleeve moments—the language of human emotion is one thing that shouldn't need a glossary. (Ironically, a glossary of technical terms is the one thing this book is lacking; the high-tech and alien concepts presented here are a lot trickier than plain old Japanese culture.) Glossy full-color inserts and slightly oversized page dimensions also make this a worthy purchase for those who may have skipped on the original manga volumes when they first came out.
If Eureka Seven were to be ranked against other manga adaptations of modern mecha titles, a surprising result emerges: it's probably only second to Yoshiyuki Sadamoto's oft-delayed Evangelion as far as content, clarity, and faithfulness to the original. Here we have an adaptation that understands the idea and scope of the anime series, presents the major plot points accurately (if perhaps too quickly), and gets the visual designs just about right. It's not just a recitation of giant robot battles and alien adventures, but an honest tale of love, friendship, and growing up, set against the backdrop of an epic planetary struggle. Well, maybe the epic planetary struggle part is what trips up the series, with the technical jargon and the tangled plotlines and back stories. But taken as it is, Eureka Seven is still a terrific adventure—fresh and modern as when it first came out back in 2005.
Overall : B
Story : B-
Art : A-
+ Memorable characters, a rich storyline, and dynamic visuals make this one of the few anime-to-manga adaptations that stands on its own merits.
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