5 February 2007 | jiw2
Even if you don't like anime...
Most Americans are conditioned from birth to think "animation=cartoons=kidstuff." Those who know better won't even need this review, but for those who are just discovering that animation can carry dramatic and imaginative themes as well as any other medium, I'm going to make a few observations about Eureka 7 -- a somewhat underrated gem even within its own genre.
To begin with, this is no kiddie show. Yes, it's told from the standpoint of an adolescent protagonist, but then, so are Kidnapped, Catcher in the Rye and Oliver Twist. Renton's journey from naive and somewhat bratty boy to mature young man is gradual, entirely plausible, ultimately engaging and just as full of hard knocks as Real Life.
And it's certainly not kid stuff. There's deadly violence aplenty, real emotional conflict and (in the fansubbed version I saw, anyway) enough foul language to fill an army barracks. The gritty world of Eureka 7 is no jolly romp, either for Renton or for the crew of the renegade airship he falls in with.
Nor does the crew of the Gekkostate -- itself stolen from the militaristic Federation -- bear any resemblance to Robin Hood's Merry Men. They're a gang of moody misfits, all of them nursing some personal grudge against the world and all too often ready to take it out on the new kid who can't fight back.
And as if young Renton doesn't have enough trouble fitting in with this surly pirate crew, there's the enigmatic Eureka, beautiful but distant and inarticulate. She's surrounded by mystery, and as we gradually find out, it's nothing simple, either. Renton is fascinated by Eureka and utterly devoted to her, and in spite of her flaws, it's not hard to see why. She's both hard-as-nails tough and at the same time utterly vulnerable, and hence irresistible to a romantic like Renton. If any fictional heroine was worthy of the emotional and physical hard knocks that poor Renton endures, it's Eureka.
Don't expect to be pulled into Eureka 7 by watching one or two episodes, any more than you'd judge a Dickens novel by the first few pages. Give it a chance and let the epic-length (50 chapters) story weave itself around you. Once the complex characters and their interlocking motivations begin to spin themselves out, you'll be hooked. Eureka 7 is like a richly textured book that well rewards the reader for entering its world.
Oh, and don't be put off by the "giant robots," either. The mecha are roughly the equivalent of a combination tank and fighter plane in Eureka 7's world, and they have a humanoid shape for a very good reason, as you'll see.
For gorgeous animation, beautiful music (I recommend listening to it with a good pair of stereo headphones), three-dimensional characters and a genuinely moving story, you just can't beat Eureka 7. Anyone who can overcome a deep-seated prejudice against "cartoons" is going to be introduced to a whole new world with this series.
And by the way, let's also clear up the common stereotype that Japanese anime is only for the high-school set. I'm 59 and I find Princess Mononoke and Steamboy to be among the best movies ever made in any medium. And Eureka 7 hooked me from the start.
Eureka 7 is addictive, and rightfully so. Get your fix now, and find out what you're missing.