A Place to Call Home; Eureka Seven: AO Episode 18

Yeah, me too, Noah, me too.

illegenes: Eureka Seven: AO has been anything but an easygoing show these past few weeks. The show has been going on full adrenaline, delivering one cliffhanger after the next, with loads of information to process in between. It’s nice then, that Episode 18 gives us some time to breathe and absorb the large amounts of plot development, but only to an extent. What do I mean? Well, I could almost quote Batman (somewhat) at this point: It’s the break AO deserves, but doesn’t need. Or at least, not right now, when we have four episodes left (in which two haven’t even been given a release date yet) and a pile of things to be answered. Have we hit the panic button yet?

No, not that button. This show has been anything but easy.

Setting the horrible jokes aside, I still did enjoy this episode for all it was worth. AO has been sorely lacking in exploring its wonderful and diverse cast, and it’s about time that we take a look at Ao, Elena, and Fleur’s relationship, which has been in the background since Episode 2.

Fleur and Elena share a rather interesting relationship. They’re obviously good friends and have spent some time together in Bleu together, and I did like that we got some time to understand the nature of their relationship rather than just fanservice moments. Elena,  as we’ve seen before, is a character who is much more complex than she seems, and it only goes to show when she confronts Fleur about her Miller situation back from Episode 9. All the pressure and internal conflict that’s been bubbling inside Elena finally comes out as she yells and slaps her. Contrast this emotionally tense moment with the calm scene where Elena gazes at her toy dolphin while in the bathtub and it goes to show how unstable Elena really is. The elements of her fluctuating personality as well as her background set herself up to be a potentially interesting character, and in that way it’s a shame that Elena hasn’t gotten some proper back story yet because I’m fascinated by her and why she acts the way she does. Likewise, Fleur also gets her share of development when she finally realizes that she’s been avoiding uncomfortable subjects because she doesn’t want to face the truth. However, Elena and Fleur make up not through discussion, but by the shared action of trying to save Ao, and it’s because of it that these two become something more than just fanservice devices. There’s an actual friendship seen here.  They both may have taken a backseat in the show but this episode revealed how much they care for one another and depend on one another – whether it be in the battlefield, or at home.

But of course, it all comes back to the fact that Ao’s arc is what really drives the show, at least emotionally. Since his mother’s leave, Ao has been facing one threat after the other, pressured by nations around the world and by his own beliefs to act on his own. Ao is thirteen, and is forced to save the world. This is going to bear consequences, of course, and it does as we see that Ao is so stressed out by his situation and confusion to the point where he even begins taking sleeping pills. I myself am diagnosed with severe insomnia, so I can tell you that not getting enough sleep in a day can hurt someone more on a mental level than a physical one (He’s also thirteen, have I mentioned this enough yet?). So when Ao decides to leave Generation Bleu, it might be a haphazard mistake, but it’s also surprisingly well-reasoned and thought out considering the dilemma Ao has been in. He’s not only ridden with guilt over the fact that he changed the course of history, namely for people he was just beginning to warm up to, but he’s also as confused about what’s going on as the audience is. For someone like Ao, who has never really had a proper place to come home to, Generation Bleu is like family to him, or so I assume after 18 episodes. AO could have focused on this a little more to really make this choice hit home for us, but it’s understandable enough with Ao’s monologue.

So the fact that someone comes to Ao asking him to come home – something no one has ever really done – probably is the exact sort of relief Ao needs in a time like this. And it’s wonderful, because for weeks, Bleu has been more about sacrificing its children for the sake of the mission, but just as Christophe says here, maybe it’s the children leading the mission this time, and not the other way around. For the first time, Christophe, as well as the show, lets our kids be the center of attention. Sure, we lost our only supporter in the world, but Ao is back and safe at home, where he truly belongs. I think people forget Ao’s position and the way he was neglected as a child, and how the idea of home and the sense that he is needed and loved are two things he needs to hear regularly, from time to time. That’s not to say that Ao isn’t an independent kid, as he’s quite mature and responsible for his age, but there’s only so much a thirteen year old can bear, no?

So emotionally, this episode was satisfying. The problem with this episode then, comes back to the construction of AO so far. Whereas Eureka Seven was more of a character drama, relying on character development and relationship progress to create an emotionally compelling but enlightening story with a well-built universe, AO strays away from these ideas and instead becomes very focused on being plot-driven. It’s generally accepted that with the pacing of AO, the show had no time to spare for its characters, other than Ao. Ivica, Rebecca, Christophe and our Pied Piper team members – all of these characters, though fun to enjoy, were more of just stand ins than actual secondary protagonists. However, this only results in confusion when AO inserts an episode like this one into its story. It’s like the show is indecisive as to what to be and what decisions to make, and rushes speedily through the process in the hopes that it will make itself clear. So far that method hasn’t been going very well, and has turned AO a very inconsistent show. It’s not necessarily bad, because I do enjoy AO a lot and I think there’s a lot to be said about it in terms of being a proper sequel to a popular franchise, but at the same time there are plot holes and flaws I just can’t ignore. One of these flaws is the equal development of its characters. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that when you have a plot driven show and such a low amount of episodes, but when there’s an episode like this that focuses on relationships that aren’t even built or established from previous episodes, it does more harm than good. Especially when there are so many questions to be answered about the plot and so little time to do it.

I can’t judge much about next week’s episode, since AO has turned to making shorter, less informative previews (are the episodes slightly longer now?) But it does look like we get back to the plot as Truth returns to wreak havoc. Other than the rest of the things that have yet to be explained, I have to wonder how AO is going to really work itself out, because only the next four episodes have been listed despite sources stating that the show has a run for 24 episodes. Nothing has been confirmed yet, but I would really hate to wait for months for the Blu Ray/DVD release of the last two episodes to find out what happens in this show – especially when everything is hinging on the last climax. I guess we’ll just have sit tight and see if more information can be released…but until then, we still have a month of AO  to enjoy, and that’s got to be something, right?

wendeego: In theory, there was actually quite a bit of good in the most recent episode of AO. Unforced, dynamic interaction between Fleur and Elena! Elena finally confirming that yes, she did kill Miller and steal her identity! Awkward emotional tension between almost the entire cast! Not to mention confirmation that the IFOs and their love-powered Third Engine might be closer in form and function to the Nirvash than initially apparent. Add that to the fact that this was the first episode in a long time to spend time on character reactions rather than hopping from one plot point to another, and it becomes clear the ingredients were there for an unexpectedly good episode of AO.

Here’s the problem:  while each of this episode’s small details and emotional climaxes might have been great ideas on their own, there was absolutely no connective tissue tying it all together. Events that should have been major emotional turning points fell flat for me, either because there was almost no buildup to justify their occurrence, or because the show flat-out pulled connections between the characters out of nowhere which were in no way previously evident. For example, the spat between Fleur and Elena would have been much more affecting if we’d seen more of their interactions, or even if we were given any sense beforehand that they were best friends as well as fellow pilots. Likewise, Elena’s revealing that she had killed Miller and taken her place would have had a lot more impact if we, the viewers, had any idea how Miller was even relevant to the plot in the first place.

Even Elena isn’t sure why Miller is supposed to be relevant at this point.

It’s not just that AO is an incredibly plot-driven show, although that is certainly the case. It’s that it is also very, very rushed. The show to this point has spent so much time putting its game pieces into play, ranging from alternative timelines to the Scub vs. Secret conflict to inner circle politics, that it has had almost no time to focus on the characters. And even then, that wouldn’t be a bad thing, if it was executed properly. But AO commits the unforgivable sin of treating its characters as if they had already gone through development that they certainly did not go through on screen. By doing so, it both undermines the viewer’s sense of disbelief as well as making the anime itself incredibly disjointed. It’s not that the characters are shallow or uninteresting, because a number of them actually are very interesting! It’s just that many of their interactions in this episode ring hollow because they are in no way consistent with their previous actions.

AO could have easily avoided this by working little nuggets of character development throughout the entire show, instead of pushing each character forwards in sudden jumps. They actually did this, to an extent: witness Ivica, who might be one of the most likable and understandable characters in the series by this point. But too much of the cast, from Gazelle to Fleur and Elena to our favorite (and least favorite) avatars Naru and Truth, at this point remain either significantly undeveloped or totally confusing. To an extent this helps further the befuddling aura of mystery that gives AO some of its charm, but the fact remains that there are so many elements in play at the moment that it’s hard to tell what is relevant and what is not.

This is a pity, because in some ways this might be one of the best-directed episodes of AO yet. Its use of background details (such as Noa the Sloth) to slyly underline main points within each scene is reminiscent of something like Kunihiko Ikuhara’s work, among others. It’s too bad that while AO continues to be entertaining, there’s the creeping feeling that the writing may be beginning to give way. We’ll just have to see if AO can overcome the curse of BONES and pull together to deliver a satisfactory finish—or drown under the sheer weight of its ambitions.

ELECTRIFYING EUREKA SEVEN AO WILD MASS SPECULATION:

  • Both Fleur and Elena’s IFOs were actually cloned from Nirvash Type The End, which is locked somewhere deep under Generation Blu Headquarters.
  • At some point near the end, Naru will betray Truth, kicking his ass and ushering in the new age of scub coral.
  • The next few episode of AO will be a homage to End of Evangelion, with the Allied Forces invading Generation Blu’s headquarters.
  • Truth will deliver some kind of long philosophical monologue similar to that famous one from Hamlet. While he’s fighting.
  • The last two episodes of AO will also pay homage to Evangelion, with Ao waking up….in E7’s Universe! And everyone clapping and saying “Ometedou!!”
  • Noah is actually the villain of the show, making contracts to girls everywhere around the universe to become Scub Coral Goddesses or IFO pilots. Those jelly beans are actually Soul Gems.
  • The Quartz Weapon, when completed, will magically make everything okay and happy again!!!!! Did I hear you say Deus Ex Machina?
Advertisements

Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s