The Last Sacrifice; Eureka Seven: AO Episodes 23-24

No really, we promise, no more terrible fanfiction, this is the real thing.

illegenes: It’s hard to say how I really feel about the two final episodes of AO; a month ago I would have claimed that this show would end in a spectacular, massive failure, but as I write these words today, a different sort of expression comes to mind. “You reap what you sow,” is a common saying in today’s world, and I feel like these words would exactly apply to the finale of AO. Some things were beautiful, some were horrible, but in the end, it came  boiling down to how AO got the finale it had been striving to work for in the end. But because there is so much to cover, I’ll just simplify it into three phases: The Good, The Bad, and The Not Ugly/Final Verdict.

The Good:

  • The thematic wrap up. We’ve established that AO‘s themes were related to identity, the dilemma of creating ‘sides’ to choose from, the difference in opinions/views when it came to the generation gap – the parents vs the children – and the issue regarding how the truth may and will always be skewed by one party or the other for ultimate purposes. AO chose to clump all of these into one huge ending, and surprisingly, it worked. Not only did Ao confront his father on his views about how the Scubs needed to be destroyed, but he chose to believe in his own version of the truth, despite fully knowing that it was stunted and limited in perspective. The Ao who was so shaken by the fact that he was wrong realized that in the end, neither the Secrets nor the Scub were the villains. No one was. Everyone and everything he had gone through had led up to this moment, but it was Ao’s final thought process in the end that made it happen, not anyone else’s opinion. That was AO‘s answer and it was beautiful. As Ao said himself, “Just because you’re forced to choose a side doesn’t make it right!” and not only answered all the themes AO built up for the past 22 episodes, but also made that decision have a sort of ‘coming of age’ appeal.
  • The fact that plot-wise, and in terms of explanation, everything about the time loops, Scubs, Scub Bursts, universes….it all made sense.

  • The sister reveal. I was angry that Granpops knew about it all along and didn’t say anything, but I did like how it thematically served a purpose and gave Renton and Eureka an intent on why they were doing all these things that appeared to make no sense.
  • Ao’s final decision. Absolutely great – I have loved this child since Episode 1, and my love for him didn’t stop as he took it upon himself to make his parents happy – a final signal of growing up into something more than just a kid.
  • The Eureka and Renton scenes. Heartbreaking, tragic, and completely emotional, the tension and love these two had for each other was pretty well displayed. My only complaint is that there wasn’t enough of it, but we only had two episodes, so I’m not too critical.
  • The animation was definitely solid throughout, with the battles being more memorable than previous ones and some stunning shots here and there (see: preview post image above)
  • Background music for the most part (see: Notes below) was great and really accompanied the changing mood and tone of the final events.

The Bad:

  • Covering the intricate web of events that the show glossed over throughout and only to continue doing so in the end was something that hit some notes with me. I understand that the finale did make sense, but to automatically assume that your viewer has kept up with all of the information you’ve been pulling at for 22 episodes after a month of hiatus is a bit overwhelming.
  • The open ended ending. Why would Ao just part with his Nirvash and return to a world that doesn’t recognize him? What does he hope to achieve in this? He knows fully well that now he has become part Quartz, he can’t stay in the timeline for too long – a mere couple of minutes, judging by how Astral!Eureka worked in the previous episodes.
  • ….what was really the point of Episode 23???? It didn’t really function as much of a pre-climax to me.
  • The insertion of the family themes at the end, which the show didn’t build up. At all. Wendeego has talked about AO being the ‘cool’ to Eureka Seven’s ‘warmth’ by focusing more on the plot rather than the character relationships. That was inverted in the finale, which just seemed too oddly-placed for me, as it just didn’t really fit in.

  • The lack of roles Elena and Naru played, along with well, everyone. I know this is asking a bit too much, but even I expected closure for some of these characters – like Elena and Fleur for instance. It’s a horrible shame none of these characters were really looked into because they all had such great potential.
  • The idea that Truth, the main villain of the story, vanishes and becomes a friend. In one aspect, I understand that thematically this fits – Truth wanted to erase himself from existence, but to reinsert him as a helpful ‘George’ remake and Archetype was messy. In fact, the whole ‘you need an Archetype to become better’ was extremely lazy and unnecessary  in my opinion, as it did nothing much except reuse Truth and vanish his only reliable, interesting purpose: to erase the lines between “Good vs Evil”.  Now that he’s an Archetype, his entire arc is invalidated, and I feel bitter that it was his ending instead of him playing out a proper role in the series.
  • The transitioning of playing soccer with your Dad to fighting your Dad; I know this was going to happen, but I really expected a better confrontation between Ao and his father – something I had been looking forward to since Episode 1, and I feel like the show just didn’t satisfy this part on both an emotional and plot-related level. If this had been explored more, I think I would have really loved it, but time crunches messed it up.
  • The general execution of the entire episodes, in other words.

The Not Ugly:

It’s been one heck of a bumpy road since I first opened up my AO file and rubbed my hands in excitement for what BONES had in store for me next. There’s no doubt AO has been consistently…inconsistent with its themes, plot twists, and character interpretations, but even after such a convoluted mess, I can’t shake off the feeling that this sequel was still something that the franchise needed. Needed, but not wanted. At most, I could say AO was a boiling pot of half – baked ideas, with some coming into fruition and most being left alone, but I will say this: the ideas it had and brought to the franchise weren’t bad. They were original, they were interesting, and more than anything, they were fun to look at and think about. It’s just a shame that AO couldn’t progress and work it’s way through this vat of endless potential, but nevertheless, I still stand firm with my opinion: AO wasn’t all bad. This finale could have been a lot worse, and it wasn’t. I’ll be the one to look at the glass half full, but ultimately, that glass is half filled. However, it’s also half empty, and it depends on the viewer to ask themselves if they’ll see it the same way, or not.

…if only you had more episodes, AO, then your future could have really shone.

wendeego: The question I wanted answered from these last two episodes of AO wasn’t “what is the purpose of the Quartz Gun,” “what role does Renton have to play,” or “how will they get Eureka back safely?” Rather, it was “did these writers make everything up as they went along, or was there really a method to the show’s madness the entire time?” Well, like so many things in this show, the answer is “yes and no.” If AO‘s finale confirmed the enormous potential of the show and provided an unexpectedly emotional climax, it was also ruined by execution so fundamentally incompetent that it’s clear the writers really were working by the seat of their pants the whole time. As tempting as it is to lionize this show as a fascinating if imperfect sequel, it’s just as easy to trash it as one of the most disappointing sequels in ages–and vice versa.

The last few minutes of AO are aces. Ao sacrificing himself for his parents, in one final act of familial compassion? That was probably the best that the series has been in a long while, and the one of the few emotional beats in the series that really came off as earned. If the series had focused on Ao’s relationship with his family from the outset, instead of burying it in a mountain of time travel, alternate dimensions and various political conspiracies, this show could have been a lot better than it was. As it stands though, it’s inexcusable how the series literally abandons its entire cast in order to provide closure to Ao’s storyline. Say what you will about the original E7, but at least it managed to sneak in emotional climaxes for every single one of its major characters. In comparison, Ao takes its sweet time introducing its cast before finally pronouncing them all irrelevant except for Ao and his family.

It’s not as if the series lacked for ideas, because AO had good ideas in spades! It would have helped, though, if those ideas were strung into something resembling a coherent plot. There are plenty of potentially interesting threads winding through the series, but in the end none of them go anywhere. Probably the most damning of all of these is the resolution of Naru’s plot arc. Early on in the series it was unclear whether she was a fascinating enigma or a badly written antagonist who changed allegiances at the drop of a hat, but I think the ending of the series made it clear the writers had no idea what to do with her. Far from somebody who hoped to become her own person, able to fly on her own without Ao’s assistance, she was instead unceremoniously shot down in an alternate timeline and spent the final episode in the hospital. Maybe her fall speaks to a fundamental nihilism running through AO, and if that’s the case then I have no problem with that! But considering what she had gone through, Naru should have been able to conclude her story arc on her own terms, rather than Ao referencing her in the last episode as a sick person he had to protect, that is, something she spent the entire show trying to avoid.

I’m sorry, am I coming off as too negative here? Let’s reaffirm that the soundtrack was excellent as always, and a lot of the animation was pretty damn good these two episodes. As seen from both AO and the more recent Zetsuen no Tempest, Studio BONES remains a visual powerhouse when they put their mind to it. Again, I’m glad that AO was it was, since a by the numbers direct sequel to the original E7 would have been terribly dull. The world lacks for thought-provoking, well-animated mecha series these days, so kudos to BONES for keeping the fires burning. That said, I’m saddened that like its protagonist, Eureka Seven AO turned out to be a show with a serious identity crisis, unsure to the very end exactly what kind of story it wanted to be. Ao’s final decision gave the series some much-needed emotional weight, but the fact that the series resolved its convoluted plot by keeping Ao’s family and jettisoning everything else left a seriously bitter taste in my mouth. AO makes for a daring sequel to a beloved series, but to this day I still can’t figure out whether or not it was any good.

NOTES:

*We both can agree the remix of Niji in the last episode was atrocious. Wendeego and I are big fans of the original song and a pretty big fans of Lama, but the repurposing of the song in that situation felt like nostalgic exploitation in the worst sense. AO’s last major scenes were  solid enough on their own, they didn’t need to blindly trust that the remix of a song from an old classic would carry them through!

**WHERE WAS NOAH IN THIS EPISODE THOUGH

***….is there a movie coming out because that’s something AO might need, if BONES can do it. Speaking of BONES – look forward to an upcoming post written by Wendeego! The details? I won’t spoil….

*** haven’t read our infamous fanfic? You can read Part 1 and Part 2 and get a little more out of the finale.

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