“Women, Like Autumn Winds, Change Often” – The Almost Invisible Subtlety of Eureka Seven

Note: This article is also available at Ideas Without End HERE

At its heart, Eureka Seven falls within the mecha subgenre of anime; science-fiction stories where military hardware and the weapons of the future are front and centre. It is even centred around an ostensibly military plot; the protagonists are an armed private military in command of battleships and attack craft, prepared to fight and met with open hostility wherever they go. It is therefore interesting how dehumanised the setting’s action is, and the way in which the characters acknowledge – or refuse to acknowledge – the consequences of their actions.

As has been shown in past episodes, the characters of Holland, Talho and Eureka have all seen war; they have blood on their hands to greater or lesser degrees and are trying to live with this. Similarly, by episode 17, Renton himself has seen combat and killed – and in that episode commits further violence, this time in the process of creating raw materials for the repairs to the Gekko, which require the carcases of a creature called the skyfish. Curiously though, violence against animals does not seem to phase Eureka – while she recoiled when Renton used the Nirvash to kill enemy LFO pilots while saving her, she admits the lenses made from the skyfish remains are beautiful and it is Renton who shows remorse.

It is interesting setting this final scene, in which the characters seem to have almost reversed their positions in episode 15, in the context of the episode, which is entirely about the way in which the characters present themselves and want to be known; it begins, tellingly, with Renton being questioned about why he has grown apart from Eureka – and from this a subtle detail is revealed. He still claims not to understand why she is remote – and this seems realistic. It might be frustrating to see him so oblivious, but this serves to set what changes have been seen in his personality in context – and remind the viewer that he never saw the consequences of his actions. Understandably the others – who he was trying to impress in his childish way with false modesty and personal pride at killing – don’t understand themselves, and assume it is to do with his love life. It’s the comic advice they give him, telling him to be more forward and open, that in some ways moves the plot along; in the previous episode a mysterious hallucination had him profess his genuine affection for Eureka and the advice he is given is shown to have its own effect.

However, what makes Eureka Seven notable as a series is that these life lessons are not shown to be magic bullets for personal problems; Renton does not take on platitudes and within the course of one episode fix himself. 17 episodes in he is still ignorant, largely self-centred and at times naïve – yet he is improving, as the finale of the episode suggests. Killing the LFO pilots was an impersonal act – he fought machines in his own machine – yet killing the skyfish who were drawn to him apparently by his love for Eureka came less easily.

In a parallel narrative to Renton’s, Eureka also receives advice from people concerned about her distant nature; this time, though, the problem is more easily understood – and it is a surprising revelation for the viewer. Eureka claims her concern is not so much at Renton killing (as has been implied since episode 15) but that he is the “better” pilot; she has been technically proficient and making up for Renton’s ineptitude to this point, but now he has proved he can go solo. Her companion Hilda compares this to a new boyfriend intruding on an existing friendship in an analogy largely lost on the sheltered Eureka, but the essential message is that she needs to reach out to Renton more and try for a more inclusive relationship. Her move away from concern at the end of the episode is thus contextualised in its own way – she still cannot shake her own history of violence and apparently was not distant because of the blood on Renton’s hands. Again, advice is being given in good faith but misunderstood – yet still acted on in a subtle way.

The bond between Renton and Eureka is becoming increasingly personal despite their emotional distance; twice now (once in episode 16 and again in 17) an apparent telepathic link between the two pilots of the Nirvash is hinted at. The series has consistently suggested supernatural or inexplicable phenomena are associated with the Nirvash and its opposite number The End, and now it is firmly placed as a third party in the strained relationship between Renton and Eureka. As a machine it has always had a humanlike appearance and even mannerisms of a sort, yet it can be assumed to have been inanimate. This is beginning to now be blurred; Hilda tells Eureka to consider the Nirvash “a female friend” and to think of Renton, a male intruder into what had previously been a feminine relationship, as a rival for some kind of affection the Nirvash offers. The implication that the machine is sentient has been discussed before in passing, but the viewer is now coming to see that these hypotheses are almost certainly true – and that it is facilitating the bond between Renton and Eureka.

Human fallibility is thus set as an obstacle to whatever aim the Nirvash has – the humans it has chosen are distant and the process of their reconciliation is set to be a slow one. Currently, Renton is at his best as a pilot when he feels a need to protect Eureka (as when he kills the LFO pilots in episode 15) – when he subconsciously acknowledges his feelings. Similarly, while the Gekko’s crew fail to attract any skyfish (claimed to be attracted to human happiness) by drinking and partying, Renton is able to bring them to him simply by thinking of her. Yet while he cannot even properly understand his own failings told plainly to him by his peers, there is little chance of him understanding still subtler hints from a machine.

While little appears to happen in episode 17 of Eureka Seven, it still significantly advances the viewer’s understanding of certain plot elements – and provides a benchmark for Renton’s progress as a character. It makes sense in the main plot for there to be this extended lull in the progress of the narrative for the Gekko is out of action and its crew in hiding, and so while there cannot be any real advancement all that remains is introspection. That there is no sudden epiphany, or wild personality change – yet instead development so subtle as to be imperceptible even within the setting – is entirely fitting. The characters are too well-depicted and believably flawed to make quaint TV endings work out for them.

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  1. “Women, Like Autumn Winds, Change Often” – The Almost Invisible Subtlety of Eureka Seven « Ideas Without End

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