Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Eureka Seven Ao Review (Ep23/24 focused)

Year: 2012
Studio: Bones (Sequel to Eureka Seven Ao)
# of Episodes: 24

Synopsis: [ANN: Eureka 7: Astral Ocean]
"Ao, the son of Eureka, lives on Okinawa. He comes into contact with Mark 1, which turns out to be Nirvash, his mother's mecha, which no one has been able to make it work since his mother used it. Ao ends up joining an organization called Generation Blue with Nirvash and helps fights G-Monsters/Secrets."


The amount of hate this show, and particularly this ending, is receiving is a little irrational in my opinion. Is it a perfect series? Of course not, half of the characters are not fleshed out and it was never explained just how the world is changed by the Quartz gun, we are asked to suspend our disbeliefs and just accept the outcome. It all seems rather pointless at first glance, but once you connect all the cues, the bigger picture does come through. This sequel is no where as bad as people make it out to be and I'm going to try to backup my arguments to the best of my ability, so if you don't have the patience to read through my lengthy justification, I do suggest you turn back now. Or alternatively, you are welcome to read my explanation post first if you had difficulty figuring out what transpired at the end. Well, let's get on with it. 

First of all, AO did answer how the limit of questions was resolved at the end of the E7 with a good plot twist that actually ties well into the story. But granted, if all your expectation weighed on seeing the old cast reassembled and their post-E7 life told, then you are in for a disappointing surprise. Yes, the connection is still there, but only with Eureka and Renton at the core, the rest of the cast had no spotlight. But once I stopped obsessing over how different it was from E7, I was able to appreciate it for what it is - a story about Ao, Eureka and Renton's son, embarking on a journey to discover who he is and who he can be.  

That said, I do feel conflicted about the ending and some degree of cognitive dissonance. On one hand, I find it good albeit frustratingly hard to tease apart. On the other other hand, damn....I was waiting for a forever family union. It's just bittersweet to see them stranded in different timelines after what they have been through. The thing is, if you accept what Bones is trying to do here, then there is little way to negate the ending because as things stand, someone or something needs to be sacrificed in order to keep things in relative balance. The entire show sits on the premise that Eureka and Renton's child cannot survive in trapar-heavy environment, which entails Eureka destroying her own kind. Because Renton doesn't want her to go through the pain, he takes the burden upon himself and sends her to a different timeline. Of course, the scub corals wreaking havoc across different universes – even if it is unintended and much of it driven by the emerging secrets – is another incentive for Renton to destroy them. Eureka and Renton are not glorified as heroes who saved the day, they are parents who selfishly wished to save their only child and who were willing to abandon the world they once protected so Ao could have a chance to live. It's heartwarming but also heartbreaking. Yes, it is selfish, but is it wrong? No matter the answer, I think it's a mentality most parents can empathize with, and that makes E7:Ao sincere at the interpersonal level. The part that Eureka gets stuck in a space limbo is a twist that's devised so Ao is given a chance to experience the world, see things through his own lenses and make decisions that are meaningful to him. Rather than just being Eureka and Renton's son, he's important within a much bigger picture, and I rather like how his personal growth is handled. The theme of family ultimately ties the whole show together. Renton and Eureka wanted to sacrifice everything they ever worked for so Ao can have a place in the world, and Ao returns the gesture so his parents can be together again. Like Bones series, this one is also about personal struggles and growth, sacrifice and hope. And at the center of those themes, holding the pieces together, we have love – Renton and Eureka's love for Ao, and Ao's love for his parents. I just wish there was more screen time with the three of them together. 

Again, I have enjoyed the sequel, regardless of what the majority thinks. No, it's certainly not Eureka Seven and it doesn't have the same vibe or live up to the spiritual height of its predecessor, but it was a good effort from Bones to create something new. The biggest difference that separates Ao from E7 is that it has a much more sinister take on racial-integration, revealing all the implications and limitations, which aren't that far fetched if you consider how little we know about the scub corals. The sequel questions the beliefs the characters fought for so adamantly in Eureka Seven, so it seems that in retrospect, the journey in the original series appear to lose some of its weight and purpose. However, I'm probably in the minority to think that the values in this series do not necessarily contradict with that of E7. The show never takes a side as to declare which species is "evil" and deserve to be eliminated, and it never imposes a set truth upon the audience – having Truth take on different forms is a rather symbolic and profound representation. It's not regressive in the sense that what the characters did in E7 was completely meaningless, but because they didn't know how the scubs resolved the question of limitation, they simply could not have predicted the outcome and its impact. Ao’s decision at the end of the day helps the story to reach a somewhat neutral standpoint, it foretells a future perhaps not as rosy as the one we were made to believe at the end of Eureka Seven where humans and scub corals co-exist in harmony, but it is also not as radical as what Renton intended to do. Co-existence is not a negated notion, because otherwise the union between Eureka and Renton would not have been possible, it is just something that hasn't been achieved yet in practice on a universal scale. 

Many complained the series is rushed, maybe we could have squeezed in a couple more episodes, but on the whole, I feel like Bones had this ending in mind from the very beginning if you bothered to search for cues that were dropped over the course of the series. Most questions central to the plot are answered to some degree of satisfaction, such as Elena's behavior, Ao's sister, and the nature of Truth. But there are equally many questions remain unanswered and perhaps should have been addressed, such as what happened to Naru and the rest of the Coral carriers and whether the the scubs are gone for good, even in the distant future. Also, it would have been nice to see the members of the Pied Piper once more to seal the impression. But the biting political commentary, the philosophical inquiries of right vs wrong and the well devised plot twists compensate for the occasional lack of direction and weakness in characterization;

In term of production value, I don't think anyone has anything to complain here, the animation is top notch from beginning to end, save for a few negligible off model issues. Bones doesn't deserve all the bashing, because I genuinely see the effort they devoted. If the end purpose was really to milk the franchise with no consideration for the creative process, it would have been a lot more convenient to come up with something cheesy and uninspiring rather than go the length to weave together such a cognitively demanding plot. But I guess each to their own, those who loathe the series would not be convinced otherwise just because a few people find it charming in its own way. I'm not trying to sound condescending, and I can see why people are disappointed - the cast was too large to be fleshed out and it concluded on a somewhat heartbreaking note, but maybe I've seen enough Bones shows to be less bothered how convoluted it can get and simply focus on the messages and themes that the story tries to convey.

Story: 9/10
Character: 8/10
Directing+Style: 8/10
Music: 9/10
Animation: 9/10
Enjoyment: 9/10
Overall: 9

No comments:

Post a Comment