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Eureka Seven: Astral Ocean PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 19 February 2013 21:00
Eureka Seven, released in the UK back in 2008 (but now sadly out-of-print), was a damned fine series - enough so that Bones, the studio behind it, have seen fit to go and drink from that particular well one more time. And so, enter Eureka Seven AO (that's 'Astral Ocean', abbreviation fans), which attempts to recapture the same old magic. And sadly doesn't quite succeed...

April, 2025. In independent Okinawa, Ao Fukai's day started normally enough - his friend Naru's pet sloth, Noah, had gone missing, and between errands he finds himself roped into helping find it. But nearby, three men are carrying a high-value package for delivery to the Japanese military, and when a generator fault downs one of their vehicles, they nearly crash-land on Ao. In the resulting chaos, Ao picks up a glowing bracelet that had been dropped near the wreckage - and a Scub Burst erupts nearby, signalling the beginning of real problems for the island - and for Ao...

Right. Let's try and make some sense of this. Eureka Seven was set in the far future (a year measured in 5 digits, if I remember rightly); AO is set not that far from the present day. Despite that, this is a direct sequel we're dealing with - which is worth bearing in mind, as it takes a while for the story to really make that clear. Around 10 years before the start of the series, Eureka appeared in 'this' timeline, spending some time living as close to a normal life as she could and raising her young child, before disappearing in the aftermath of a scub burst. Ao is that child - and when he in turn finds himself caught in the chaos surrounding a scub burst, he gets drawn into the adventure of his short lifetime.

Unlike the original series, you see, the scub coral has a natural enemy here - Secrets, life-forms drawn to the scub and implacably hostile to it. But with the scub being used as a valuable power-source on earth, steps have been taken to defend it against the Secrets. Which brings Generation Bleu into the mix - a secretive company, whose job it is to destroy Secrets and keep the earth safe. Or at least, that's the theory. After his own scub burst experience, Ao is picked up by Pied Piper, one of Generation Bleu's three combat teams, and gets roped in to pilot the mysterious mech that he uncovered in the burst - a mech that goes by the name Nirvash.

Right, enough background. Pied Piper are the core of the show, and along with Ao (who's likeable but not what you'd call remarkable in any way) is made up of fellow teenage pilots Fleur (daugher of Generation Bleu's president) and Elena (otaku with a mysterious past); and adults-in-charge Ivica (older man with a strong sense of responsibility to the kids in his charge) and Rebecka (2nd-in-command who seems to deal in shades of grey a lot). There's a certain Shinja / Asuka / Rei dynamic going on between Ao / Fleur / Elena, but not so much that the comparison will constantly annoy you, while the adults generally stay out of the way unless the plot demands that they come to the rescue - which doesn't happen all that often. Away from Generation Bleu, we also see plenty of Ao's childhood friend Naru, who when things escalate into war quickly finds herself on the opposite side to Ao (always awkward, that); and Truth, whose unusual origins and abilities are key to the whole unfolding story - and that I'm not going to dwell on here because of spoilers.

Add in frequent appearances by Eureka, notable showings by Renton and the Gekko, liberal dashes of time paradoxes, mecha battles and a thoroughly decent soundtrack, and the recipe is here for a series that should have been just as enjoyable as its forebear. But as they say, lightning rarely strikes twice, and Eureka Seven AO, while having the same elements as the original series, misses out on a lot of the magic that made it was it was. The series is at its best when it's harking back to the original, or when it pokes fun at anime culture (usually via Elena, which makes her one of the more entertaining characters in the series). When it tries to rely on its own merits, though, it all doesn't quite hold up.

That said, it's also not the cruching disappointment that 2012's other big returning series, Last Exile, proved to be. Eureka Seven AO "fails" mainly because its predecessor was so damned good - while it got off to a slow start, by the final few volumes of the DVD release is was scoring top marks from me, and it remains one of the most enjoyable shows I've watched. This time around, it's simply a decently enjoyable action adventure - if it had been standalone with the basic story but set apart from E7, I probably would've sung its praises a lot more. When you link yourself with a successful title, though, you have to expect to be weighed down a little by the resulting baggage.

So. Not as good as it should have been, given its roots; but not as bad as it could have been, given how heavy going other shows have made of pulling off this sort of continuation. There's a lot here to like, and I would certainly recommend watching it - but temper your expectations, especially if you hold the original series in as high esteem as I do.

Rating - ****