Reviewby Carlo Santos,
The ruthless Colonel Dewey is on the move, ready to establish dominion over the planet by violent force. His plan involves awakening the monstrous Antibody Coralians, a deadly form of the indigenous Scub Coral. Holland, Renton, Eureka and the rest of the Gekkostate crew are determined to stop such terror—but Renton's sky-surfing mecha, the Nirvash, is still undergoing remodeling. It's a race against time for Gekkostate, and along the way, Renton will learn many things about himself, Eureka, and even Holland. Meanwhile, an eccentric scientist joins up with the crew, hoping to give them some information on the Coralians, but the real key may lie with a religious leader who is trapped deep within enemy lines.
It can be hard to find a true turning point in Eureka Seven when the series itself seems to be a whole string of dramatic turning points. But this block of episodes has one that looks pretty critical: The Bad Guys Actually Start Doing Stuff. Up until now, our young hero Renton has been striving to understand his role in the world while Dewey and his sinister cadre lurked in the background. However, all it takes is one physical attack—the first Coralian rampage—to take things in a totally new direction. This shift in the plot promises plenty of action, yet it also covers some emotional ground that adds new dimensions to the story and its characters.
The first episode on the disc ("Animal Attack") is an unusual start, focusing heavily on Dewey's side of the story—but it's a good way to put the villains in the spotlight and show that they are, indeed, doing stuff. The Coralian attack itself makes for some great horror viewing, with trippy monsters floating about and terrorizing civilians. The real excitement, however, comes in the next episode ("Start It Up") with Renton and his remodeled Nirvash facing off against enemy counterpart Anemone. If you're into Eureka Seven because sky-surfing robots are cool, then that's the episode to watch, with its jaw-dropping chase sequences and one-on-one battle. Even Renton's grandpa (long time no see!) has an act of heroism up his sleeve, so there's a touching family moment to go with the action.
Compared to the outward thrills of the first two episodes, the latter half of this volume shifts moods dramatically, but is no less compelling. "Pacific State" is all about Renton trying to build a romantic memory with Eureka, while Talho tries to salvage what she once had with Holland. Yes, it's true that Eureka over-emotes, and Renton whines and cries like a baby, but the relationship shown here still has a more human quality than most sci-fi adventures. Meanwhile, the darker side of humanity comes out in "Inner Flight," where Holland's back story is fully revealed at last, albeit in an unbalanced manner—there's just too much narration to absorb at once, but it ultimately leads to the introduction of Norb, the "super monk" who will presumably become the story's focus in Volume 9.
But what makes the series even more remarkable is that there are so many things going on outside of the main character arcs. The science of the Coralians is still not fully understood, and solving that mystery is part of what drives the plot. Side characters continue to have their own ups and downs as well—who doesn't love the eccentric Dr. "Bear" Egan?—and even Gekkostate bench-warmer Moondoggie gets a chance to shine.
Fanciful, multi-colored visuals are another part of Eureka Seven's appeal, and these episodes feature plenty of eye-catching scenes. Action fans can salivate over the airborne mecha duel in "Start It Up," with its sequence of breakneck maneuvers and a finale that proves even hot pink can be a stylish color scheme. On the more avant-garde side is the arrival of the Coralian monsters—whether these bizarre beasts were drug-influenced, we may never know, but it does make for unforgettable viewing. Even quiet moments of day-to-day life stand out, thanks to the characters' expressions and mannerisms. If there are any slip-ups in the animation it's that the mid- and long-distance shots take the usual shortcuts—watch carefully and you might see a far-off character slide funnily across the screen—and that slight inconsistencies of character design show up from time to time. (Incidentally, the Nirvash isn't the only thing getting a new look in these episodes—Talho's makeover definitely has a stylish touch.)
With the plot taking a dramatic turn, the music also ramps up accordingly. Listen for the evocative orchestral scoring in this one, especially in Holland's flashback—a somber reflection on the horrors of war. The contemporary side of the soundtrack isn't quite as prevalent, although a couple of key scenes rely on the traditional-but-still-effective gimmick of playing the theme song when something heroic happens. As for the actual theme songs in this set of episodes, the hard-rock opener is probably the weakest and most forgettable in the series so far, but the dreamy, lilting closer is a sweet reminder that, despite its sci-fi edge, Eureka Seven has a soft side too.
Dub fans should find little to complain about on this disc; the English voice acting has been solid throughout the series, and in fact, tones down some of the hysterics on the Japanese track. It's often said that Japanese voice acting is "more emotional," but in this case, that can sometimes mean "too emotional." Where the English dub falls short is among some of the secondary characters (Dr. Bear is woefully miscast, turning him from oddball scientist into regular Joe) and in long lines of dialogue, which become run-on paragraphs as the actors try to keep up. Still, the dub script helps to smooth out some awkwardly translated phrases, especially during Holland's lengthy flashback narration.
The main bonus content on this disc is a Japanese audio commentary on the "Start It Up" episode, and while it's a lively discussion, most of it revolves around goofy observations like Eureka's lack of make-up—clearly, the voice actresses who sat in for this commentary (Renton's, Eureka's, and Anemone's) just came to have fun. For a more serious approach, American VA Crispin Freeman (Holland) offers his thoughts in an interview, although he kind of overdoes it with ramblings on Buddhist symbolism and the philosophy of acting. For more neutral content, try the creditless ending sequence.
Even at this transitional point in the series, Eureka Seven is still a step above other shows of its kind. Every character has a story to tell and a move to make; every thread of plot is headed in some kind of direction. Can Dewey carry out his brutal plan? Will Renton and Eureka come to understand each other? What are the Coralians, and can humanity co-exist with them? With such tough questions in the air, the only thing to do is to keep on watching and enjoy this vivid, thrilling epic.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : A
Music : B
+ A well-balanced story arc with adventure, tragedy, romance and humor, plus plenty of visual treats.
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