Title: Eureka 7
Release Type: 2 Anime Legends Complete Collection sets
After a long week of technical difficulties involving digital cameras, Photobucket refusing to upload and raging storms killing the power right as I get to work on important things, an anime review is finally getting uploaded! Blog Navigator Richard J. here, ready to fill you with my evil. Also, taking a different approach to reviews from previously, let me know if you prefer the old way or this new way.
Since Bang-Zoom! dubs may become a thing of the past, I decided to review one of their works that didn't really get the praise it deserved early on. Eureka 7 is a 50 episode opus from studio BONES, the animation company best regarded for their work on Fullmetal Alchemist and the recent Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood series. Honestly though, if you've never heard of BONES before now, you've missed out! The series director for Eureka 7 is Tomoki Kyoda, who has worked on the Halo Legends OVA. Dai Sato provides the series composition and scripts a dozen episodes. (Oh and he worked on the scripts for episodes of a very niche series called Cowboy Bebop, which I'm sure you've never heard of at all.)
The Plot Synopsis:
Eureka 7 is a series with multiple co-existing plots that are interwoven into a whole that is satisfying though at times confusing. On one level, there is the story of young love blossoming between Renton, a boy who thinks his life sucks, and Eureka, an almost emotionless member of the renegade Gecko State organization. The Gecko State as a whole is involved in a war to protect and establish contact with a species of intelligent life that the government wants to exterminate, this adding the plot of war and government conspiracy. On top of these plots there is also a solid element of philosphy questioning the meaning of life, love and what it means to be human.
You will, however, be forgiven if you don't catch all of that on the first watch through or even understand half of what characters say before 2/3rds of the episodes have been watched. Most unfortunately, in order to streamline the series early focus on young love and mecha action, the overall plot is sometimes left as unexplained as some of the character's back stories.
Eureka 7 was previously released by Bandai Entertainment USA in singles format but for this review, I watched and own the Anime Legends sets. Here's a peek at the covers!
Here ar the two sets side by side. The imagery in many ways mimics the series shifting in focus to larger issues than Renton and Eureka's bonds.
This first set's cover gives a certain laid back feeling. Don't be fooled.
The Nirvash Type 0 seems a tad imposing but really, it's just a big surfer looking for a good wave. Also a badass killing machine when necessary.
Oh look, the back covers are kinda bland.
The Reasons It Rocks:
In terms of it's English dub, Eureka 7 can be a bit uneven in places but it takes advantage of a truly talented cast of VAs. Taking the male lead role of Renton is Johnny Yong Bosch, a frequent actor in Bang-Zoom! productions though not the role originator for this series. (No, he didn't do anything nefarious to steal the role, in fact JYB had to deal with some bias against him early on due to a bad rumor about him!) His performance as Renton works surprisingly well, despite sounding quite whiny early on. There are subtle changes as the character develops, especially as he takes up his famous father's work. The female lead is played by Stephanie Sheh, who routinely proves why Hollywood's desire to cast her as "Asian Best Friend" is beyond idiotic. Eureka begins as a virtually emotionless character (and flashbacks show her even less emotional in back story) who's inability to understand her own emerging feelings towards Renton causes enormous problems for the Gecko State. She is the most important character in the entire series, for reasons that remain unexplained and unclear for far too long. The changes in her vocal performance as Eureka mirror the dynamic development of the character.
Backing up the two major leads are a group of powerhouse VAs in secondary roles that are nearly as important as the leads. Crispen Freeman brings an imposing sternness to the role of Holland, the leader of Gecko State, a man who knows all the answers but rarely shares any of them. Until his back story is explained, you will be forgiven for thinking he's a jerk at times. Supporting him is Talho, played by Kate Higgins. Talho's role in the series is Holland's support and Renton's surrogate older sister. She's filled with resentment early on and constantly pushes both Holland and Renton to be better people. She and Holland could almost be seen as the adult versions of Renton and Eureka from a certain point of view.
Acting as antagonists to Gecko State are Kim Strauss, who is simply menacing as Dewey Novac and Kari Wahlgren, who is brilliant as Anemone. Where Dewey Novac operates as the looming menace to Holland and a disturbing mastermind behind a plot that threatens the very universe in which the series takes place, Anemone serves as a twisted mirror reflection of Eureka. While both VAs perform brilliantly as villains, sometimes outshining their heroic counterparts, Wahlgren's Anemone is a performance that alone makes Eureka 7 a show worth owning in my humble opinion.
In terms of plot and production, Eureka 7 is solid overall. The animation is just beautiful, creating a unique world that is filled with unusual creatures, a unique phenomena called Trapar Waves that allow for surfing mecha and character designs that are all special in their own way. The series features a world with a surprisingly well-developed system of culture, politics and physics. The plot provides opportunities for action and intrigue as well as tender moments of love.
However, there are some weak points.
The Reasons It Sucks:
There are three major issues I have with Eureka 7. They are, I feel, issues that could be of importance to you too.
First, there are three children in the series who, once introduced, remain present and important throughout the series.
They are, frankly, very annoying. While children in everyday life can be annoying at times, generally they aren't quite as irritating as these kids. In at least one episode, their complete lack of ability to comprehend the seriousness of their actions puts the Gecko, the ship the character live on, in jeopardy. In other episodes, their pranks against Renton escalate to what might easily be called cruel levels.
If you are like me, you may be a little too pleased when Eureka slaps one of them. The series would have been better off without them or at the very least, should have removed one of them since only two get proper character development.
Second, the English dub can trigger a sense of sadness when you listen to it. Bob Papenbrook, who plays the role of Ken-Goh for most of the series died from medical complications before completing his role. His replacement, Kyle Hebert, while a fine actor, is noticeably different sounding, which also creates a tonal dissonance from the previous performance. It is easy to tell the difference, which only reminds you of why there is a difference. There are also problems with the flow of lines due to some restrictions on the translation and dubbing process.
Finally, Eureka 7's plot suffers from a lack of viewer information. In the beginning, the plot focuses on Renton's desire to protect Eureka and prove himself worthy of her, while barely hinting at the larger story. There are numerous character interactions, events and lines of dialogue that simply make no sense until much further in the series, when Holland and Eureka's full back stories become known. There are also certain characters, such as Greg "Dr. Bear" Egan, who do nothing but spout what upon first viewing may seem like utter gibberish.
This series benefits tremendously from repeat viewings but that means the first viewing can be tiresome at times as the viewer asks "okay, what did that mean?" repeatedly before being rewarded with clarity.
Graded It For You:
Despite it's flaws, Eureka 7 is a solid series that is highly entertaining. It seems to meander at times but most of those moments are actually important character developing incidents or plot-relevant events that only seem unimportant. The English dub is solidly cast and well-performed, though a few issues hurt it. This is a series that you should consider adding to your collection. My grade is. . .
Where can you buy this one? Robert's Anime Corner Store, TRSI, Amazon.com and Best Buy all carry it!
Oh, the sets actually have the same number of discs as the singles, with all the content, so you are not missing out by picking up the collections. See for yourself!
Wow, that's a lot of discs to take up so little space. That's it for this review. I hope you've enjoyed reading this and that you'll let me know if this new approach to reviews works better for you. Also, I hope you'll forgive the delays this week. Normally I'm just a lazy bum but this time, I really was having problems. At least one more review is coming soon plus several articles.