Note: This article is also available at Ideas Without End here
By the time they are 12 episodes into Eureka Seven, the viewer is well-acquainted with the lead characters; they have seen Renton built up, knocked down by pranks, mocked by children and a victim of abused authority – but ultimately now, for better or worse, a member of the Gekko’s crew. They have met Eureka, the mysterious girl who was once a child soldier and now lives with a past she has given up denying and is wiling to fight against.
Most of all, they have met Holland and Talho, the authority figures on board the Gekko, and been given an insight into the society that is being presented as desirable. The majority of the Gekkostate embody the spirit of the surfer and hippy aesthetic central to the setting, but these two leaders are more complex – indeed, they apparently reject this ethos of easygoing “lifting” society. Holland does everything he can to avoid it while Talho remains distant; while she is happy to join in mocking Renton, using her maturity and sexuality to do it, all is not as it seems with her. A scene in which Renton is ironing her clothes has him come across an old military uniform, and yet rather than be annoyed when he accidentally ruins it, she almost seems pleased to finally be able to dispose of it. In this couple, and their surrogate daughter Eureka, are shown three different ways of accepting and dealing with the past.
While the focus is very closely on these central characters, most episodes also have advanced a gradually-revealed overarching story in some way. The adversarial “Federation”, initially depicted as the governmental status quo set in inherent opposition to the counterculture movements Renton idolises, have an ulterior motive – unclearly defined, but closely linked to the Nirvash and its control unit, the computer Renton gives Eureka. When the Nirvash first “activates”, it causes an immense explosion creating coral-like terrain features which define the landscape as if this, or similar explosions, have been similar; what is more, Federation LFOs sent to investigate these areas are shown to keep running into unknown opposition and ultimate defeat. Apparently in response to this, an enigmatic old man apparently knowledgeable about what is happening is released from prison – Dewey. Little is made clear about Dewey’s motives or plan, except that he is some kind of an expert on these phenomena.
In addition, alongside the main plot of Renton’s trying to fit in, a parallel story following a second young man, the prodigal Federal officer Dominic, is playing out. While Renton cannot make himself heard because he has no status, Dominic has the opposite problem; he holds a superior rank to many of his peers in military terms, but has neither the experience nor respect to make his voice properly heard. The conflict between his sound plans and the impulsive and consistently-foiled captain of his ship forms a neat parallel to Renton’s conflict with Holland. Despite being a skilled tactician and a compassionate officer who looks to avoid unnecessary death, his youth makes this seem like naivete.
Dominic comes to associate closely with Dewey, and their relationship is a complete contrast to Renton and Holland’s – it is one based on trust and a genuinely paternal closeness, which in turn sets them against the other officers. Two outsiders working closely together in a way which apparently undermines traditional command structures – including an ex-convict given his title and rank back – sets them in opposition with those who feel they have earned their rank. This sense of a group of polar opposites to the three protagonists of Holland, Renton and Eureka is made clearer when Dewey’s apparent stepdaughter Anemone is introduced – while Eureka is demure and forebearing, Anemone is demanding and wracked with pain. Dewey’s unfaltering partenal image, and the genuine warmth apparent between him and Anemone, establishes him as a curious antagonist. As soon as Anemone enters the scene, Dominic is reduced to an almost servile figure, re-established as the junior officer answering to a senior. The Federation are establishing a new command structure and the ship which has been dogging the Gekko is now its undeniable rival.
Quite what both sides are looking for, though, is not made immediately clear. A diversion into low orbit on the part of the Gekko marks a new chapter in its voyage (and an amusing moment of sexual awakening for Renton as he ends up inadvertantly intimate with Eureka during their zero-gravity flight) as its crew visit an old military base where Talho was once resident. While individual incidents prior to this, including the altercation over the woman Holland rescues from arrest, have laid out the Gekkostate’s manifesto as simple civil disobedience backed up with armed force, as the viewer learns of Holland’s history the issue becomes less clear-cut. Focus is restored, however, as the Gekko sets course for a “Coralian” – apparently a well-known phenomenon in the setting but one which the viewer – and Renton – are ignorant of. A humorous sequence where different characters try to explain the apparently undescribable Coralian further establishes the mystery, and it is also presented as something hugely significant to Dewey and Dominic.
The revelation that it is some kind of hurricane-like weather formation answers none of these questions; the plan is for Eureka and Renton to enter the eye of the storm and do something there, but Dewey has the same plan – to send Anemone there in her own LFO, The End. The scenes leading up to Anemone’s deployment bring a sudden end to the established paternal visage as Dewey has Dominic force her to pilot despite her being in great distress, to the extent of forcefully medicating her so that she will comply. The confident and outspoken girl is reduced to a crying wreck until she enters The End, at which point her true personality is revealed – she is a violent and unpredictable girl who apparently enjoys killing – but more importantly the parallel storylines have resolved as each character meets their opposite. Holland is pitted in a dogfight against Dewey’s forces, with Dominic in command, while Renton and Eureka (and the Nirvash, which has become increasingly seemingly sentient as the series progresses) fight Anemone and The End. The fight is a short one; the Nirvash is trapped and almost destroyed by its far more heavily-armed and ably-piloted opposite number, but again the mysterious computer in the Nirvash intervenes. Renton is sent into a trancelike state in which he is haunted by visions of Anemone and his own insecurities while the two LFOs are locked in combat. They both disappear within the Coralian, while the viewer is stuck watching Renton’s dream – it still remains an utter mystery to both viewer and protagonist.
By the end of episode 12, Eureka Seven has put forward more mysteries than it has solved; there are clear protagonists and antagonists, for sure, and their motivations are apparently clear (although the Federation’s more so – they want to preserve order by investigating the Coralians and suppressing dissent) – yet what a Coralian is, why the Nirvash functions as it does, and why The End and its unpredictable pilot have some empathetic reaction with it are still unclear – not to mention the unanswered questions about Renton’s absent family members, or the relationship between his grandfather and Holland. Two completely opposed trios of characters have been set against each other in this hunt for answers – the unnervingly parental yet ruthless Dewey in comparison to the irresponsible and violent Holland, the frail yet confrontational Anemone against the obedient and gradually-developing Eureka and the two outsiders Dominic and Renton. With still three quarters of the series to go, these mysteries drive the viewer to continue – as the very opening did with its establishing of a world which is perfectly acceptable to the viewer yet still alien and fantastical.
What is absolutely clear, 12 episodes in, is that Renton’s understanding of the Gekkostate was completely wrong – and this will not be a simple story about lifting.