This is part one of a planned two part review/analysis. Fair warning, it's a long one. This is my first blog post ever, so please be kind, but know that any criticism is welcome.
Psalms of Planets Eureka Seven is my absolute favorite anime. It has everything I want to see in a show; good character design, good music, good animation. It has an interesting setting and touches on themes of war, environmentalism, tolerance, growing up, family, friendship and love. Needless to say, I put it on a pedestal. When I heard about Eureka Seven Astral Ocean I wasn’t crazy about the idea of a sequel. In my mind, Psalms of Planets said everything it needed to in its 50 episode run. AO felt unnecessary but I gave the first episode a try.
I think it’s important to not only view AO as a standalone series, but in the context of the original program. Understand that I have not read all of the manga, played the video games or watched the movie. This review/analysis is only concerned with AO and its relationship (and lack of relationship) with the original series, referred to from now on as “PoP.” If I continue to write about this series, I will look into tightening this format, but until then, I hope to make my writings as clear as possible. Please bear with me.
We begin April, 2025 in a destroyed city. A man named Blanc walks awkwardly up some debris and finds another man, Ivaca, looking through binoculars. Both men are foreigners working for a private company that is haggling with the local government. Their nationality is giving them problems with the negotiations. What their line of work is, we don’t know, but it can be inferred from their location and conversation that their work relates in some way to the devastation around them, and they rank high in their organization. As they talk about the destruction around them, Blanc asks Ivaca if he is waiting for the woman with the turquoise hair to return, to which Ivaca replies “Who else can stop this tragedy?” In the distance of this panning shot, we can see what appears to be Tokyo Tower in the wreckage. The men have duties to attend to, most likely related to the “piedpiper” marked air vehicle seen flying over. Blanc leaves and both men agree that they have no time to wait, though Ivaca points out that it is human nature to keep waiting for a dove to return with a branch of hope in its beak.
This opening scene summarizes AO’s setting; A near future world on the verge of collapse. A desire for hope is voiced. Ivaca’s “branch of hope” is a turquoise haired woman, a person with the ability to “prevent this tragedy.” Who is this woman and how could she be the only person who could stop the destruction of cities and deaths of people?
PoP: The first E7 series date was never explicitly stated, but it is said to take place at least 10,000 years in the future. The April, 2025 setting makes it clear that AO most likely takes place before the events of PoP. This coupled with the mention of foreigners, the presence of Tokyo Tower and the presence birds clue us in that this series is very different than the series that preceded it. However, AO is referred to as a sequel, and I'll be addressing this in part 2. Like PoP, AO starts with a scene featuring the generation prior to the main characters, though, while PoP starts with a one-sided conversation between Stoner and Matthieu about the nature of memories and the relational context in which they are created, AO starts with a conversation about waiting, destruction, and hope.
We are then introduced to our main character Ao (get it?). We get an establishing shot of a Japanese island at midday and follow Ao as he flies around it in a hovercraft called an FP. After traveling, Ao lands on a beach, gets a short, unheard phone call from a girl named Naru, and promptly gets back into his FP. He turns its key and we cut to the episode’s title card: Episode: 01 deep blue, Born Slippy (if keeping up with previous traditions, the title is most likely a reference to a song title).
After the title card, we see that time has passed. It is late afternoon now and Naru is in the back seat of Ao’s vehicle. While here, we learn two components of her life. One, she has had a dream about the world changing soon, though for better or for worse, she can’t tell. This is a manifestation of Naru’s latent spiritual powers. The second component is that she is ill. After her dream announcement, she apologizes and we see her administering some sort of medication via inhaler. Ao is concerned for her safety while Naru writes it off, asking herself if her body could be anymore inconvenient.
Her dream has prompted her to rescue her pet sloth Noah, who has just recently begun living wild in a forest (a Japanese sloth?). To save him from her prophesied “change,” she has enlisted Ao and his transportation. It is now night time, and while searching for the sloth, Ao complains that it is silly for Naru to relocate Noah. Naru responds by saying that Noah is alone, with no friends and family, something that Ao can relate to. This angers Ao, who had been holding her hand prior to this statement. This is the first instance of Ao getting visibly upset at being reminded that is he has no family on the island. He is foreign. He will get flak for this later in the episode, and surely later in the series. The tension between Naru and Ao is relieved immediately when they discover Noah in some overhead branches.
Prior to picking up Naru, Ao had been poaching “sea mangoes” for a Mr. Wong. Now with Noah recovered, Ao can continue with his job. Leaving Naru to wait in his FP, Ao walks back to the beach.
PoP: I think this is a good enough time as any to compare Ao with Renton. Renton is introduced to us both internally and externally. We know from the first episode that Renton keeps an internal monologue addressed to his sister. Most of this monologue pertains to how his life “sucks.” This is further reinforced externally by showing his ref board vendor leaving town, his isolation from his fellow school children, his grades failing, his grandfather’s disappointment in him and his lifting spot being demolished. Renton believes he has potential be great, but shows little aptitude for it. All these events play out with his monologue constantly reinforcing that he believes his life sucks over and over again. We are not privy to Ao’s thoughts in AO, and instead must judge him by his actions, and I believe this episode is much stronger for it. Ao isn’t initially whiny or pathetic like Renton. He’s a dedicated worker and a reliable friend, as shown by his immediate willingness to turn around to help Naru and his need to complete his job for Mr. Wong. He also has some anger, as seen by his reaction every time he is referred to as a foreigner. Unlike Renton, Ao has a close friend at the beginning of the series, but both Renton and Ao are isolated from their peers. Renton is isolated because he doesn’t measure up to his famous father. Ao is isolated because he is not natively from the island.
We are then introduced to three smugglers working for the Japanese government. While flying over the ocean in individual hover vehicles called ECUs, two of the smugglers are apprehensive about working for the Japanese. However, the smuggler known as Gazelle doesn’t see an issue. When checking on his new Japanese issued “beacon controller” navigation device, we can notice a small crystalline object forming in the center of the gadget. When he messes with it, a cloud of smoke comes out and his hover vehicle malfunctions, forcing him to make an emergency landing on the beach. This happens to be the beach that Ao is currently on. After a near collision, Gazelle, illogically enough, leaps from his smoking ECU and throttles Ao for being on the beach. Ao, in a display of backbone against a man nearly twice his size, takes offense and yells right back. The smuggler named Pippo lands, and runs towards them during this exchange warning Gazelle that they don’t have time to argue with kids. He then trips, spilling the confidential contents of the brief case in his arms. While the smugglers gather up the cargo, they leave behind a luminous green bracelet, which Ao picks up (introducing the MacGuffin). We also see some of the other contents of the briefcase, namely three gray bricks labeled as property of the U.S. Army.
PoP: So again the change of setting is fairly obvious again. Ao’s FP and the smuggler’s ECUs (They throw around so many initials in this first episode that the whole thing is disorienting) all use trapar to fly. However, up until this point, we haven’t seen any skyfish, the creatures that are harvested to create the reflection film necessary to utilize trapar. Is there another method of flying in AO, because the green sparks that come from the vehicles are clearly trapar. Also, all this speak of governments and espionage further drives a wedge between this series and the centralized government of PoP. The men in uniform in this first episode are clearly not the black uniformed military that we are used to.
It is revealed that the insides of the downed ECU are coated with the same crystals that were inside Gazelle’s beacon controller. Before Gazelle can extort Ao’s FP from him (Gazelle manages to make a foreigner shot while he is at it, which angers the boy), Gazelle’s ECU explodes in a brilliance of light and color. The colorful explosion is out of place, and symbols levitating around the column further drive it into extraordinary. It is both a thing of beauty, which one cannot look away from, and harbinger of death. Something called a Scub Burst is occurring, and this causes all parties present to panic.
We cut to Switzerland, where an alert is coming through. Ivaca and Blanc are reintroduced to us in what looks like a military base. They have been alerted to the situation in Japan by a woman named Rebecca. We are told that a scub coral signal happens every day, but what makes this signal important is that there is reportedly a 98% probability that a “Secret” will emerge there (cryptic, right?). Not only that, but Ao’s little island is contested territory between the United Okinawan Archipelago and China-Japan. (I’m not sure why China-Japan has problems just taking Okinawa, but that’s not the point.)
Back at the island, Ao scrambles up the beach to reach Naru, slickly diving to save her
before she faints to the ground. Naru strangely demands from Ao that he tell her that she is ok. The light soon is extinguished and the giant, mushroom-like scub coral erupts from the ground, shocking everyone at its presence.
PoP. We are once again reintroduced to E7’s signature rainbow explosions. “This is a light that destroys and guides us to death. However…How beautiful it is…” says Axel in episode 2 of PoP. Once again this is echoed in AO, where everyone but Pippo cannot take their eyes off of something so dangerous. The Scub Burst effect looks similar to the Seventh Swell effect present in the first series, but it raises questions. Why are scubs preceded by flashing light in this series when they used to be so unpredictable in the first? Why is there such shock that it erupted? What exactly is a Secret? If you examine the scub, you can see a several pile bunkers driven into it, as well as a giant hand. Up until now, we have not seen a pile bunker in this series before. Where were they before the emergence? Does that hand belong to an Archetype?
The scub releases phosphorescent dusts, which light up the night sky. We see onlookers from across the island looking at the light show. We then see the Japanese naval cargo ship Shimokita preparing to withdraw due to the scub emergence. A man in different colored, but clearly military, uniform suggests that that they wait instead. (There is a lot of waiting in this episode. Ivaca waits for the Blanc and the woman with turquoise hair, Naru waits for Ao, the Japanese government waits for Gazelle and his gang,…) His reason for waiting? “…who would be happy with a giant that can’t be used?” More foreshadowing that will have to be addressed in upcoming episodes.
PoP: Judging by the preview, he is most likely talking about the Nirvash.
While Ao and Naru flee from the beach, we see another explosion and a giant, geometric figure falling from the direction of the scub emergence. Suddenly, Ao’s vehicle falls and crashes. Ao and Naru emerge unscathed, and hold hands, witnessing a series of explosions on the other side of the island. Not just explosions of light this time, but explosions of fire.