Note: This article is also available at Ideas Without End HERE
Episode 27 of Eureka Seven was divided into two sections; the tense buildup to the battle which provided the exposition that will become key in the series’ latter half, and the battle between Holland and Charles itself, resulting in the latter’s death and his wife’s escape. Episode 28 seems to continue this story right from the start, but moving backwards in the narrative to contextualise what has happened. It begins with Ray in hospital, telling Charles she is infertile because of “that phenomenon” – yet this becomes the moment at which he proposes to her.
From there it cuts back to Ray as she is now, alone on board their ship surrounded by mementoes of her late husband – an image juxtaposed with Eureka on her own about to visit Renton. He is, despite what has happened, still regretting Charles’ death and seeing himself as responsible. Losing a parental figure – even a duplicitous one like Charles – and knowing that had he not acted the way he did it is likely he would never have caused the battle that has just occurred. It serves as a reminder that this is the first time the series has had Renton see the carnage his idiocy and naivete causes; he was responsible for his uncle’s arrest but was long gone by then and the LFOs he has killed have had gory fates for the pilots but all he has seen are body parts and wreckage, not the personal and emotional results. Even Eureka has no idea how to respond here; in past episodes she has been the voice of conscience, chastising Renton in her own way for his bloodlust and unwillingness to consider the consequences of his actions, but now she is faced, as he is, with genuine loss.
As the previous episode did, and as is proving to be a theme throughout the series, this moment of personal development is set alongside a moment of narrative progression; Jobs and Woz, the Gekko’s engineers, are shown talking about the Nirvash in a scene which confirms many of the implications that have previously been given. It is built around an “archetype”, some kind of semi-sentient core which does – as Holland and Eureka’s cryptic scenes have implied before – rely on the two pilots and the Amita Drive to upgrade itself and activate new systems (like the Seventh Swell). Renton is shown to be coming to understand Eureka’s position, and accepting the Nirvash is alive – talking about it not as the machine to be piloted he used to see it as but now as a living thing to be cared for. Yet while usually the scenes of communion with the dormant Nirvash are serene and neat – with its sudden action or unpredictability a major narrative point – the hangar remains a bloodied warzone, and Renton finds Charles’ wedding-ring, yet another reminder of what he has done. Eureka, too, is uncertain and in a kind of flux mimicking that of the Nirvash; she has lost her ability to empathise on a supernatural level with others just as it has lost its usual vigour.
While the Gekko’s crew, and specifically Renton and Eureka, rebuild and exist in a state of shock, Ray is shown to be faring badly; her ship is now full of junk and unkempt, save for a table set for three and left empty. It is expected imagery of grief but it drives home in a way other mecha anime might not what drives her character transformation – for the nobility and stoicism that began episode 27’s battle is nowhere to be found now.
The Gekko, too, has lost what passes for a male role-model; Holland is still recovering from being shot by Charles and the ship’s medical supplies are low. Much as after the previous grand-scale battle, the toll in material terms is high and it seems the series is to continue to mirror its previous arcs. While it was the Gekko which was damaged and incapacitated after the battle at the Coralian, now it is Holland – the ship has to carry on without its captain. Here, the series does something interesting; Ray’s apparently incoherent humming that has persisted throughout all her scenes carries over in the soundtrack to a scene in Holland’s room, becoming part of the diegetic music. It is a neat way of reiterating the parallels between the two situations of leaderless and broken ships. Holland himself is in his own kind of trance; despite his injuries he is apparently preparing for more combat, stripping down and cleaning his rifle. His conversation with Renton, who is looking for a way of coming to terms with Charles’ death, is not shown immediately; instead the viewer is shown Eureka’s reunion with her adopted children, themselves out of sorts as a result of the battle. Throughout this whole episode, lethargically-paced as it is, everything adds up to show how a personal rivalry let out of hand has shattered everyone’s usual lives; an emphasis on the consequences of war that can only happen when the action is taken out of the LFOs. The Seventh Swell, which has defined so much of the combat, disables enemies apparently bloodlessly and so creates a complacency which mirrors Renton’s own; it is the single combat of episode 27, with hostages and martyrs, that has truly had some repercussions.
While Holland’s conversation with Renton is strained, it is also the most understanding he has been portrayed yet; the upheaval the battle has caused has changed even him. The other side of the flashback from the episode’s start is given; the “phenomenon” Ray talked of also involved Eureka back when she was a child soldier serving under the three of them. In this moment of honesty, Holland entrusts Eureka’s safety to Renton should he die, throwing doubt on his previous maintaining that such a thing would never happen. While it is not a decision he made on his own, at this point in the series – where everyone’s guard is down and they are faced with the truth of their actions – his vulnerability (hinted at with his violence and cruelty) shines through. He admits that like Charles he is too violent and dedicated to fulfilling his duty to have even considered finding a different solution to their rivalry – but before any more revelations can come out the explanation of the blurring of diegetic and non-diegetic music which introduced the scene occurs; the song, Get It By Your Hands, is being played by Ray over the Gekko’s tannoy as if to punish Holland, reminding him of Charles with it. Thus the episode shifts back towards resolving the plot as she launches a second attack – its structure mimicking episode 27’s.
While the previous battle was fought man-to-man in the Gekko’s corridors, this one is fought initially using LFOs and here Renton hopes he and Eureka can do as they have before; while LFOs are the mechanical face of war in the setting and always have been presented as such, the Nirvash stands out in that it ends conflicts decisively. While Holland claims he, Charles and Ray are all to single-minded to avoid a bloodbath, an LFO battle seems the place for Renton to show the alternative. He tries to negotiate as the Nirvash does not move, but it seems a petulant and ineffectual gesture – and as Ray does not listen he finally comes round to Holland’s viewpoint, vowing to fight if he has to. Pacifism and a desire to avoid combat has finally proven ineffectual and in this moment of vulnerability even Renton gives up his usual idealism. Yet he continues to talk, and in so doing proves to be the decisive factor in the battle – that he is alive, and apparently showing sympathy to her, distracts Ray long enough for Holland to shoot her LFO at the point where perhaps she might have been coming round to his viewpoint.
That this turns out to have all been misdirection, and the LFO remotely-piloted, brings the battle into its final phase; Ray is trying to kill herself and the Gekko’s crew by colliding her ship, the Swan, with it. She taunts Renton as she dives towards him, playing on what seemed to be his getting through to her – claiming that they will once again be a family in death. The Gekko destroys the Swan, but Holland’s injuries force him to bail out of his LFO, drawing the focus of the episode away from the battle as the other LFO pilots move to save him. Instead, as a final recapitulation of the theme of this arc – that this is the battle whose consequences will be shown through to the bitter end – the viewer is shown Ray’s final moments. As she lies trapped in the Swan’s burning wreckage, the flashback is finally completed – what rendered her infertile was the first Seventh Swell, which also killed Renton’s father. Her actual death, as she reaches for her severed arm still bearing Charles’ wedding-ring, is lingered on to the bitter end and this sudden use of bloody violence is made all the more powerful for coming after so much bloodless combat whose consequences go ignored.
The episode, however, ends as it begun with both ships leaderless; Ray and Charles are both dead, but so apparently is Holland dying. The Gekko’s already depleted medical supplies are inadequate now his wounds have reopened and the revelation that Renton is needed for a blood transfusion opens up a brand new conflict in the resolution of the previous one; Talho apparently has some kind of grudge against Renton’s sister, who has been always in the shadows of the plot. Yet Renton is now thoroughly destroyed; he has been betrayed by everyone and lied to,and remains powerless. He saves Holland under orders, and emerges at his lowest ebb, but from this comes another revelation that will drive the story forward; finally he is honest to Eureka about his feelings, and she reciprocates. Episode 28 thus packs a lot of narrative development in an apparently slow-paced episode; the actual action, despite being the most intense and indeed violent yet, is the least important part. These two episodes, coming as they do straight after a dramatic climax, form a very different kind of narrative impetus – they dwell intently on the consequences of actions that the genre would usually take for granted.
Note: It is worth noting that Ray’s death, rather than completing the homage to Mobile Suit Gundam’s Ramba Ral plotline, quite specifically evokes two scenes from the series. The first is her suicide run in the Swan, referencing the death of Garma Zabi following his betrayal – a scene where the apparent antagonist Char backstabs his superior officer and forces him into a suicide attack on the White Base, the protagonist’s mothership. Narratively this is a good fit; while to Renton Ray and Charles have been the parallel to Ramba Ral and Hamon, the relationship established involving Holland and their past in the military unit SOF is much closer to Char and Garma’s. Char betrays his own superior to settle a personal score much as Holland forces Ray into a suicide mission to settle his own.
Yet the actual killing blow against the Swan, Holland’s LFO firing straight into the cockpit, is an even closer mirror to a scene from Gundam – Char’s killing of major villain Kycilia Zabi. The main sub-plot of Gundam is Char backstabbing his way up the enemy chain of command to redress a personal betrayal, and by the end of the series when he kills Kycilia he has almost reached the top and the loose ends are all but settled. Again, Holland is put in the role of Char – in a storyline involving unfinished business with his former comrades in the military, and the reasons for his leaving. Thus through these homages it is reasonable to assume that certain implications are being made about Holland’s future role in the plot and the truth of the gradually-revealed plotline about the SOF.