Fans of Pacific Rim, The Terminator series, or Transformers may find an interest in mecha anime, if Japanese animation doesn’t frighten, deter, or just not stimulate their artist’s heart. To each his or her own. These movies’ common denominator is the involvement of fighting robots in a futuristic world. I never tried mecha and then discovered Eureka Seven. Giant robots were always less intersting than superheroines with magic wands, cyberpunks, ninjas or jazz-loving space bounty hunters. I knew a little of the Gundam series, Escaflowne, and Ghost in the Shell. But Eureka stands apart, wooing me to rapt viewership via Netflix marathons. Despite frequently crying children, the anime fulfilled four desirable criteria: likable characters, striking animation, humor, and a decent plot. As an introduction to this type of show (good summary here), Eureka provides a sweet and action-packed jumping-off point. Combining an endearing main character with strong story and belly laughs, Kokyo Shihen Eureka Seven (“Seven Psalms of Planets”) should be a staple for fans of any genre.
The black velvet curtains open. We have Renton Thurston, bowing beneath his gravity-fighting hairdo. He is eager, very young, curious, and not as brave as he wants to be. In the wake of Soul (Soul Eater), Usagi (Sailor Moon), and Vash the Stampede (Trigun), his adolescent charm/awkwardness gives way to dangerous, life-changing destiny. Eureka takes the stage next, delicate and pretty, the object of Renton’s enthusiastic schoolyard crush. She’s also shrouded in mystery and what viewers can perceive as alien, drawn uncannily pale, blue-haired and pink-eyed. Behind these two stand the remaining crew of rogue military spaceship, The Gekko State; rivals Anemone (Ah-nim-ah-nay), Dominique and Dewey; Renton’s cranky old grandfather; and the mechas Nirvash and The End. They all deserve a standing ovation, especially in the trio of final episodes “Ballet Mechanique,” “Shout to the Top!” and “Wish Upon A Star.” Renton is out to prove his self-worth and love for Eureka, and Eureka seeks the same.
Now that the players are set up, prepare for a few slow-moving episodes to introduce Renton’s background and his recruitment to Gekko State. This anime is set in a futuristic world away from earth, a place containing spaceships (also robots), “reffing” or riding particle waves like a surfer, and a militant police state much crueler than any government 2015 has seen. The history of Eureka Seven‘s humanity is patiently, skillfully told over the course of the series. Without spoiling much, non-human creatures harbor a secret that may destroy or ameliorate the entire universe.
One minor-turned-major detail was the appearance of Gekko State’s head pilot Talho (yes, Talho) changing to suit her emotional metamorphosis. She goes from desperate, scanty fanboy attire to strong, unique military gear that keeps her femininity. Attentive details such as that give Eureka Seven extra appeal. In addition, supporting characters are interesting enough to care for. Their look tends to match rank and personality. Throw in gorgeous humanoid machines and it helps carry the story well. A favorite visual scene takes place during Ballet Mechanique. Rival machines Nirvash and The End chase each other over rainbowed waves under clear stars and neighboring planets. Soft, haunting music is heard while the battle occurs.
Voice performances were quite good here, barring the predictable scruffiness of jaded commander, Holland Novak (Crispin Freeman). Catherine Fu (Eureka) gives her character subtle, etheral innocence. Johnny Young Bosch (Renton) has an insane amount of acting credits, memorably Artemis in all Sailor Moon dubs and afore-mentioned Vash The Stampede. His work as Renton brings the necessary and chipper, “new-kid-on-the-block” spirit.
While the dialogue is fair writing, it’s the tidy mixture of characteristics that make Eureka Seven a solid, compelling slot in the shelf. Eight out of ten jellyfish.