illegenes: One of the more prospective shows to air this year was Eureka Seven: AO – BONES’ new original project, a sequel to the mighty 50-episode Eureka Seven which had a place in many anime fans’ hearts, including mine. From the looks of the PV, the show seemed to be energetic, colorful and vibrant, with a seemingly awesome OST composed by the leader of LAMA, and I somehow knew we were in for something special.
Special isn’t the right word after coming all this way, but it has been a journey, and AO could be summed up as “it tried.”
Eureka Seven:AO focuses on Eureka and Renton’s son (no, this isn’t a spoiler) named Ao as he tries to understand the mysterious supernatural forces that are at conflict on his planet. There are the Scubs, which we’re well acquainted with back in the previous installment, Eureka Seven, and then there is a new species, called the Secrets. Ao must join forces with an NGO called Generation Bleu to understand what’s exactly going on, and how he and his mother are tied into the entire situation.
For starters, the show can be watched if you haven’t see Eureka Seven, though I’d highly suggest that you go and watch the first installment not because AO is very much an offshoot of Eureka Seven, but to understand the basic concepts that both series share. There is vital information that AO immediately jumps on without caring to explain for an audience that isn’t familiar with the Eureka universe, and this confusion will only get worse if you don’t understand what a Nirvash or a Coral Scub is. Secondly, while Eureka and Renton don’t really appear in the show, their character and actions are central to the main conflict in AO, so it’s better if you get a handle on the sort of people they are/were back in Eureka Seven.
That said, AO is….confusing. The first half of the show seems to follow a regular, if not systematic pace, which can be boring to some and interesting to others. After Episode 12, however, it all goes haywire. The plot becomes incredibly complex and clumsy at the same time; it almost feels like the writers are making stuff up and adding things along the way. Characters and their significance pop in and out, becoming devices than actual people. The antagonist is pretty weak and flimsy. This is all somewhat resolved with a hastily made conclusion, and after 24 episodes, you end up sitting in your chair, wondering exactly what was the point of all of this???
The thing is, AO is confusing, but it also has a lot of ideas that are half baked and never fully reach their true potential. AO is the cool to Eureka Seven‘s warm; it’s heavily plot focused, with only 24 episodes to cram in development for the plot and the cast alone. Does it do the best job? No. But it does try very, very hard, and it does succeed on some points, which I think is worth giving credit for. Ao’s growth is wonderful to see as he’s a much more well-made protagonist than Renton, for instance! Characters like Fleur and Elena spark some life into rather dull episodes! The animation is also consistent and fluid, and the soundtrack is nothing short of amazing. And so, AO isn’t a complete disaster, as many would have it, but it does fail on a lot of parts (not all) of trying to be a proper sequel. If you’re a heavy Eureka Seven fan, chances are you won’t be impressed by AO. If you enjoyed Eureka Seven and you’re willing to give AO some time without getting too serious, then I’d recommend it. AO is a glass half full, half empty, and ultimately, it lies up to the viewer as to see which half matters the most.
wendeego: There was a moment around episode 12 of AO when, for one fleeting moment, it looked like the show had its shit together. The Gekko-go rose from its prison of scub coral, the old Nirvash ascended from its depths and in one of the most electrifying moments of the year, Ao saw his mother in the flesh for the first time. After eleven or so episodes of monster-of-the-week shenanigans, Ao was finally going somewhere, and no matter what path it took it was going to be amazing. For two or three weeks it kept energy levels up with a series of plot twists, action scenes and character development. Then the Quartz Gun showed up and everything fell to pieces.
My problem with Ao wasn’t that it was a “bad sequel” to the original Eureka Seven, whatever that means. Eureka and Renton’s story was already wrapped up in the previous series, and any attempt to create further adventures probably would have ended in failure. My problem with Ao was that as soon as the Quartz Gun appeared, it became more and more clear that the staff had no idea what kind of story they were telling. Politics, sci-fi, alternate dimensions, time travel, sequel or spin-off–Ao continuously waffled between all of these categories without ever cohering into something that made sense. Eureka Seven had a similarly messy plot, but at least it was able to work in satisfying climaxes for just about every important character in the show. Ao’s focus was almost entirely on plot, so once it became clear that the writers might as well have been making things up as they went along there was nothing keeping the show together outside of Ao’s relatively well-handled character arc. By the end of the series, just about every member of the cast had been shafted in favor of Ao, Eureka and Renton. Even Naru, a character who told Ao herself that she wanted to fly with Ao rather than be embraced by him, was literally thrown into the hospital for the last few episodes, her hard-fought agency snatched from her clutches by a staff that obviously had no idea what to do with her.
That’s not saying that Ao is without merit, though! The soundtrack was great, the visuals were very good throughout and the show should be given at least some credit for gambling dangerously with a remarkably ambitious premise. Had the show a better and more consistent cast of writers, it could have really made something of itself. As it stands, though, Ao is a near miss: fascinating and certainly watchable, but no less frustrating for it.