Eureka Seven AO – Astral Ocean Part 2 (Episodes 13-24+OVA) (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 311 minutes approx.
At the end of the first volume we were treated to the long awaited appearance of the titular Eureka, now the mother of this sequel’s main protagonist Ao Fukai, who was inside the spaceship Gekko, trapped inside a large Scub Coral. The reunion is short lived as the Japanese forces are keen to get their hands on Eureka and the Type 0 Nirvash she has in her possession. But there is another setback: this Eureka is in fact an incarnation of her past self from when she was still pregnant! And the baby she is carrying is not Ao but a girl!
This is just the first of many confusing and often spurious plot twists added to the already overcrowded web of sub plots that made the first part of Astral Ocean a bit of a slog to follow. If you found this the case then the concluding twelve episodes will have you banging your head against the wall in frustration. Almost every chapter here has something new to add to the story, each new development more ridiculous and occasionally surplus to requirement as the previous one. It helps if you have a good memory as threads which begin in the early going of the first volume are resurrected without warning in this half of the tale. Case in point – Ao’s friend Naru whom we last saw in episode seven being kidnapped by nominal antagonist Truth resurfaces seven episodes later.
Upon her return it seems that Naru has now become at one with the Scub Corals and has learned that the Secrets – the aliens which appear whenever a Scub Coral is activated – are not the enemy at all. She leads a campaign to save the Scub Coral which puts her at odds with the Japanese government while Generation Bleu, the teen fighters Ao is a part of are involved in a mission to destroy a Coral Scub that has appeared over Norway. Armed with a new weapon called the Quartz Gun Ao is successful in the mission, which is jeopardised by an attack from Truth, but his actions have somehow altered the course of time, with him arriving home in an alternate history where certain events never happened and some people never existed.
From here we learn that the Scub Coral are also capable of leaping between time and dimensions, that Eureka is a key factor to all the woes despite being in another dimension herself, there is the Book Of Johannson which talks of a parallel universe to the one set in this story which is the one Ao created by using the Quartz Gun, Truth wants to destroy the world because of the revelation of his … ahem … true existence and when he goes ape and destroys Generation Bleu’s headquarters, they get the blame from everyone else and are attacked by their former comrades. And a load of other stuff happens too but it is too spoilerish not to mention baffling to go into detail here, obfuscated by the dimension hopping plot device.
Apologies for sounding glib there but the harsh reality is that there is an overload of ideas being thrown into the mix, designed for sure to create an unpredictable and hopefully gripping thrill ride for the audience, which instead serves only to leave them scratching their heads as stories start and stop, twist and turn or characters reappear from the ether with little notice or sense of cohesion or continuity. There is one major return which many fans will be clamouring for that finally occurs at the end of episode twenty-two but with so much else going on, it is more of an anti-climactic cameo than a genuine game changer. Similarly the reunion between Ao and Eureka doesn’t deliver the expected tearful moment, skipping these formalities to show the pair talking over an awkward meal onboard the Gekko; same for Ao and Naru’s frosty coming together again after their time apart.
It is hard to divine exactly what the problem is – whether there were either two many ideas that were pitched were not being filtered by a script editor; or a committee of writers none of whom were aware what the others had written; or the age old problem of an anime trying to be too clever for its own good, hoping the franchise name alone will be a sufficient enough sell. Many of the ideas are fine in isolation and had they been kept to a minimum then given sole focus along with a streamlined cast list to allow for character development, the end result would have been far more coherent and thus vastly more satisfying.
What we are left with is a mixture of sci-fi, geo political commentary, existentialist psychodrama and an underplayed coming-of-age tale that is likely to alienate some fans of the original TV show who are the obvious target audience; others might be more forgiving. On the plus side, the animation and voice acting are without fault and the battle scenes are exhilarating experiences to behold. And if this show has got anything going for it, it is the energy and steady pace at which it moves; it may be utterly confusing but it is never dull, and this is its saving grace – despite the train wreck of the script one is still compelled to keep watching.
If instinctive reservations towards a sequel to a series loved as much as Eureka Seven foretold of a show that could never live up to the high standard of its predecessor then Astral Ocean is a prophecy fulfilled. Had this been a title independent of the franchise it would have just passed as an entertaining but ersatz rip-off; carrying the Eureka Seven name merely leaves it burdened by the onus of high expectations. Rather infuriatingly it really isn’t *that* bad a show – good looking and generally well executed – but is one where the sum buckles under the weight of its unnecessarily complex parts.
English Language 5.1
Japanese Language 2.0
Episode 13 Commentary
OVA – The Flowers Of The Jungfraujoch
Episode 21 Video Commentary
Episode 24 Video Commentary
Textless Songs “Stand By Me”
English Language Trailer
Ratings – ***
Man In Black