Note: This article is also available at Ideas Without End here.
What started out as a plan for a single article has turned by some process into an informal series blog; I won’t be religiously writing about each episode as I watch the series, but as and when sections of it stand out as interesting I will write about them, bringing in my views on the series as a whole.
The opening two episodes of Eureka Seven, as discussed in the previous article, work hard to provide a detailed introduction to the setting; one which is established as a living, developed world. It does this through a tight focus on character and relationships, letting the less relateable elements be introduced naturally by simple depiction rather than explanation. There is a strong viewpoint in the form of Renton, who is presented as character and narrator in a visual equivalent of the first-person narrative voice. With the introduction completed, the main plot arc begins and the viewer is launched into Renton’s story. The contrast between his confident internal monologue and awkwardness around Eureka is expanded via the blurring of the distinction between narration and spoken dialogue; what seems to be at first another lengthy digression about his insecurities around women turns out to be him thinking aloud – most of episode 3 plays on his confident facade being broken down by uncertainty about what happens next. The climax of the episode, a tense escape from an occupied airport which introduces a number of new characters, emphasises clearly how passive and naïve Renton is. It is the apparently innocent and docile Eureka who is shown to be prepared to fight to protect him and others, while despite all his arrogance he is reduced to holding on as she flies the Nirvash.
If episode 3 marks the true conclusion of the introductory section of the plot, episode 4 provides a fresh start for Renton. He has achieved his aim stated at the very start of the series – to escape boring town life and travel with Holland – but is immediately disillusioned. His introduction to the crew of Holland’s personal aircraft, the Gekko, is a humiliating one, with him known only as someone who makes Eureka laugh and fixed the Nirvash – while in his dreams he hopes to be accepted as a peer by his idols, the reality is quite different and he is seen only as a nuisance. His first conversation with Holland following his arrival on the Gekko makes this clear, as Holland reminds Renton that it is his ship and his home, and that Renton is only a guest. This provides a stark lesson which will define future plot arcs – that independence, and rejection of authority and family, is not as easy as it first seems.
As an outsider unfamiliar with the closed society which he now inhabits, Renton becomes driven by two things as a defence mechanism – trying to convince himself that Holland and his crew are as he imagined, and trying to remain close to Eureka. This unwillingness to accept reality means he does not integrate well, and creates conflict in a realistic fashion. Viewers can clearly see how this awkwardness, uncertainty and ultimately lack of respect for a new community is realistic behaviour for someone suddenly given both freedom and responsibility, and the focus of the plot becomes more about Renton’s learning process and maturing. The difference is made clear between a familial relationship and a peer relationship; while Renton opposed his grandfather and felt oppressed by him, the environment was still a supportive one. Opposing Holland and Talho, the Gekko’s first officer, leads to him being punished and further ostracised and enforces his outsider status.
The combination of this anti-authority petulance and genuine naivete as shown by his awkwardness around Eureka and Talho (who plays on his sexual frustration and inexperience) fosters a sense of resentment, and this leads to him rejecting genuine offers of kindness. The conflict is then heightened by the introduction of three children Eureka acts as a surrogate mother to, who with natural childishness tease and reject the newcomer. Renton’s own immaturity and delusions of importance immediately set him in conflict with the children as he tries increasingly hard to ingratiate himself with Eureka. A conflict is established between his imposing on the Gekko’s society, and the functional importance that Holland recognises in him; while he does not try to integrate as part of the closed society, he exists only as a tool in the form of the Nirvash’s copilot, sleeping in the hangar. Over the course of these four episodes, the viewer is thus presented with an idealised view of the world through the dreams and delusions of a self-important teenager, and then sees them shattered to make way for a truer depiction. The climax of episode 4, when Renton is told that a risky mission to ship organs for donation which he was sent on in place of attending a “lifting” tournament was likely to have involved people selling body parts to pay debts to organised criminals, provides the absolute end to his idealised world. The crew of the Gekko, and Holland their leader, will not fly the trapars to pay their way, but will aid the mafia.
To conclude, episodes 3 and 4 mark the end of Renton’s ideals and dreams, and provide a more realistic yet depiction of the world of Eureka Seven; the Gekko’s crew, and Holland, are an almost amoral and lawless society but at the same time a closed and closely-regulated one. Renton’s naïve insistance on clinging to the ideals he has built up, and unwillingness to fit in and be treated as an adult and peer, means that he remains a poor fit for them. His inability even to complete a training flight in the Nirvash without suffering from airsickness makes this especially clear; if episodes 1 and 2 showed us the world according to Renton, these episodes show the insignificance of Renton within the world.