Note: this article is also available at Ideas Without End here
Throughout the first section of Eureka Seven, the tension between the selfish and delusional Renton and the paternal Holland is presented as a key source of conflict; a child without discipline who has never had the benefit of a strong parental unit is brought into line through punishment for his failings by someone who takes on that role and is eager to distance himself from any possible way in which he could be considered Renton’s friend or peer. The power relationship is a complex one; Holland sees himself as a father figure but also has to fulfil his duties as a ship’s captain – a pseudo-military command position – which means that he has powers beyond the usual means of showing parental discipline and, as the conclusion to episode 6 shows, he combines the two roles. Renton is punished both as a rebellious child but also as an insubordinate soldier, and so he is imprisoned.
While this treatment seems harsh, it is apparently well-justified – both because the power hierachies of the Gekko demand order, and because Renton’s actions present him as an unlikeable character who needs to be taught humility. However, episode 10 presents a flashpoint in which this, too, is shown to be an illusion – the viewer is seeing what they have been led to believe is a justifiable response to Renton, who their opinion of has been shaped by the incongruity between his actions and his own opinions of himself, but this is suddenly shown to have equally been a carefully shaped and distorted picture as Holland’s past is brought to light – and he is found lacking.
In episode 7, the crew of the Gekko pull an elaborate prank on Renton, sending him on a nonsensical errand and filming the embarrassing situations he ends up in; he is led to believe he has been properly accepted by them, and is being sent on his first proper assignment as a respected crew member. At the end of this amusing sequence of events, his first reaction is to lash out childishly at the people he sees as having been “unfair,” and it is only when he is reassured by Moondoggie, another junior member of the crew, that it is simply a rite of passage, he is prepared to settle down. However, it is Holland’s response to these events that presents the first cracks in the tough-but-fair persona that has been built up so far – while the majority of the crew turn this ridiculous initiation into a social affair, Holland remains distant until the end and the final scene of the episode is him in a slovenly state watching the film alone while drinking; a simple shorthand for parental irresponsibility from the character who has come to embody rational, cold discipline.
If this is the first sign that Holland is not what he seems, the events of episodes 8 and 9 complete the change of perspective the viewer is likely to have. The two episodes form an approximate two-part story – in the first, Holland double-crosses the authorities to both save a wanted woman while stealing the reward for her capture, and in the second the characters visit her hometown. The conflict is laid out from the start – Holland’s need for keeping the details of his plan secret from Renton mean that his apparent betrayal of the woman (presented as a member of a wrongfully oppressed religious group) brings the pair into confrontation which is only resolved when the affair is set straight and the full details of the plan made clear. The fact that Renton is not even informed that the plan exists, and ends up caught up in the fighting alongside Eureka when Holland raids the woman’s home, undermines the conclusion of the previous episode, where it looks like he has finally been accepted. This, though, still keeps intact the idea that Holland is not actively malicious or misguided, but simply unable to easily reconcile his twin roles as an officer and a parent – the conflict is avoidable in theoretical terms but justified as practically unavoidable.
Episode 9, however, completely shatters the illusion that Holland is in any way acting as a responsible parent. The Gekko lands to drop the woman off at a religious retreat in the ruins of a city, and while it refuels and takes on supplies Renton goes off to practice lifting. This is the first time in some episodes that the viewer is reminded that the Gekkostate (the rough society living on the Gekko) are supposed to be experts at this sport, but again Holland remains distant. When he sees Renton relaxing, he loses his temper and hits him, refusing to explain why and simply resorting again to violence to end the debate. Any semblance of parental responsibility – or even the duties of a rational commander – is gone, and this time it seems unjustifiable. Renton has done nothing wrong and been hit, and unsurprisingly he runs. When the viewer finds out why Holland is unable to accept Renton’s behaviour, it is through the complete destruction of the persona that they have become used to – Holland and Eureka used to be soldiers who personally destroyed the city in the persecution of the religious group. Suddenly the arching storyline has opened up from what have previously been cryptic hints and the truth is revealed – but it is Eureka who has the courage to tell Renton.
The conflict now is whether Holland’s past, and what appears to be remorse for his past crimes, justifies his loss of control – he has been found lacking and can no longer reasonably fulfil the parental role. However, while these two episodes have reflected poorly on Holland, they have done the opposite in depicting Renton; he has become decisive and principled and by the end of episode 9 has talked Eureka into fighting her past and stopping further atrocities. It has taken not strict discipline and harsh parental justice to do this, but instead self-discovery and Renton becoming more selfless through witnessing injustice and taking responsibility for his actions rather than trying to shift the blame. The episode ends with what was apparently shown two episodes before – Renton’s true induction into the Gekkostate and an act of contrition from Holland. He does not receive an apology, but instead some respect which he has earned by his actions. His position is still clearly a subordinate one, as the closing scene has Talho remind him, but it is an official one – the power relationship is no longer that of a stepfather to a child, but instead a commander to a junior and it is this relationship that Holland is more comfortable with. No apology is required in such a relationship; an officer can exert control without consequence and demand respect even when they overstep the line.
To conclude, episode 9 marks a turning point for Eureka Seven – the two main characters, Holland and Renton, starkly shift in the viewer’s estimation. The supposed voice of authority and reason has been shown to be unable to accept his past or even provide any explanation for his actions (while demanding others do just that – accept their role and be held accountable), while the naïve child has matured enough to make their own decisions and fight their corner. The episode – and the plot arc – is even brought full circle with Holland offering Renton a new part for his ref-board (the hover-board used for lifting), an almost implicit act of humility and concession to Renton’s own ideal of him.