Ao Fukai is a thirteen year old boy living with his adopted grandfather on Okinawa’s island of Iwado. After his mother disappeared when he was young, Ao has faced constant persecution from the other islanders, his only friends being his childhood companion Naru Arata, and her pet three-toed sloth Noah. While wandering the beach one day, Ao comes across Gazelle, Pippo, and Han Juno in the process of smuggling items to the Japanese Armed Forces, including a bracelet that once belonged to Ao’s mother. Their altercation is followed by the appearance of a Scub Coral, followed by a machine-like object known as a Secret, that proceeds to devastate Iwado. Aboard the Japanese military transport ship, Ao uses his mother’s bracelet to pilot the IFO Nirvash, using it to protect the island from the Secret. After saving the island, Ao joins the international organization Generation Bleu, an IFO response team for hire that takes care of the Secrets and Scub Coral. Alongside his new teammates, the crew of Team Pied Piper and other IFO pilots Fleur Blanc and Elena Peoples, Ao begins the search for his mother and attempts to understand the connection between himself and Nirvash.
Eureka Seven Ao is the sequel to the acclaimed series Eureka Seven that was released back in 2005. Unfortunately I have not seen the show’s predecessor, and have had to conduct this review without any knowledge of it aside from what is mentioned in this sequel. As it is a sequel, Eureka Seven Ao throws a lot of names and concepts around without basic exposition to back them up, so a viewer like myself who has no knowledge of the previous series may have some trouble keeping up with the pace of the show. I mean, this sort of approach kind of works, but it balances a fine line between explaining nothing at all and letting the actions of the characters and the things happening around them do the talking. For example, I had no idea what a Scub Coral or a Secret was when they appeared during the first episode, but when the Secret starts destroying buildings and the Scub Coral blows up you understand pretty quickly why IFOs are being deployed to stop them. This backfires when it isn’t used for world building though, as there are plenty of military and political aspects to the show that would have benefited from a little more clarity.
Another aspect of the show that suffers from this hands-off approach is the characters. Ao is one of the only fully-fleshed out characters in the cast since we spend the most time with him, but most of the other characters leave a lot to be desired. The episodes start off pretty strong with characterization, as we learn about Ao, Naru, and his grandpa, but as the cast grows their personalities and desires become less fleshed-out and even change from episode to episode. Naru was a character that I was really interested in at the beginning of the series, but after a few episodes her actions become entwined with the Scub Corals and her motivations become extremely confusing. This is seems to be a theme in Eureka Seven Ao, as alongside other characters like Fleur and Elena, Naru’s motivations seem to change from episode to episode, making it difficult to from any sort of connection with a character that has no consistency. At one point a character literally admits to killing someone and no one seems to care at all. In fact, this admission just gets lost in the shuffle of later episodes and barely makes an impact at all on the following events. I am also puzzled by the lack of connection between the pilots and their IFOs, something that is especially jarring given Ao’s insistence on finding his mother and the connection Nirvash has with her.
Eureka Seven Ao has a bunch of neat extras, including episode commentaries and a segment that follows the voice actor of the smuggler Gazelle as he goes about a session of voice recording at Funimation. We get to see how voice actors operate on the job, and just how in depth the dubbing crew go in order to create their product. It’s a really interesting extra, especially for anyone keen for a peek into the industry and the details of how a dub is created. Other than that, there’s the usual textless opening and closing songs and trailers for the show to look through.
Eureka Seven Ao starts with several strong episodes, focusing on Ao, how he has been ‘othered’ by the people of Iwado, and the motivations of the people around him. Unfortunately, the series never gets to expanding upon these themes or these characters, and many of them lack any consistency. So if you’re interested in Eureka Seven Ao, be aware that the show is something of a mixed bag. It has vague and inconsistent characters and an uncompelling villain (who I have not discussed at all in this review because I don’t have the motivation), coupled with a plot that veers into ‘too complicated for its own good’ territory, but fantastic animation with great mecha action sequences, has a few good character moments, and neat extras. If you like mecha anime or something light give it a go, but if compelling characters is what interests you this might be one to skip.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.
© 2012 BONES / Project EUREKA AO. MBS. Licensed by FUNimation Productions, Ltd. All Rights Reserved