Eureka Seven – Counter culture aesthetic & the thrill of the ‘journey’

Eureka Seven is ‘back’ – both in the sense of a forthcoming Blu Ray release from Anime Ltd, but also a hotly anticipated film trilogy which will make amends for the awful film version and (in my opinion) unfairly maligned AO – Astral Ocean series.

But let’s talk awhile about OG Eureka Seven – the series that many fans of a certain age express good degrees of fondness for.

In a way, the show represents a rarity for its age, or rather, a template for what would become a norm – an ‘original’ mecha series, and one from Bones instead of Sunrise. In a time now, when mecha has become almost synonymous with just one franchise – Gundam – Eureka Seven is refreshing in its capacity as ‘different’.

For me, the central charm of the series was always its express interest in a deliberately ‘counter-culture’ aesthetic. This was a show that could only ever have emerged from the early to mid 00s – when the world seemed in love with skating and surfing and Kerrang and hard dance music. It had this blissed out surfer-boy mindset, a kind of oceanic breeziness to it that was all blues and greens and whites. The design style, from the mecha to the packaging of the show itself – was spot on.

The characters slipped easily into this – with an excellent English dub comprised of many industry faves, who over the course of 50 eps, felt like they become your best friends, or rather comrades. You were on that ship with them, sharing every weekly adventure and tribulation.

I often compare Eureka Seven – as an experience – to shows like Last Exile and Wolf’s Rain – they have that same unfolding sense of narrative comprised of singular episodic experiences matched to a broader narrative that builds an exceptionally well-realised world setting. As anime YouTuber Digibro pointed out in a recent video – one of the neatest things about Eureka Seven is how the Gecko State ship and crew have their own magazine. The detail is fantastic.

The music reflected the wide-eyed sense of wonder too. I think pretty much everyone of the Opening Themes and core instrumental tracks is fantastic, moving through a wide variety of styles – but all in service to that same aforementiond breeziness. This optimism and devil may care attitude of seeing where the wind will take you. It was trance, it was punk, it was New Wave – it was everything – it was music that loved and took delight in *being* music, in a show that felt like it belonged to a world of hip DJs, beach parties and mixtapes.

There’s a theme that re-occurs in countless anime and manga (Hunter x Hunter immediately springs to mind) that postulates that the journey is more important than the destination. The means are more important than the end goal. The experience of watching Eureka Seven – seeing its narrative slowly evolve over 50 eps, is the epitome of this feeling. I remember when I was watching this series I had just started a new job, and my time had become a lot more limited. Whereas I’d previously blow through 20 eps or so in a day, I was now limited to maybe just four eps a day – two in the morning, and two in the evening. Thus, over the space of a month, I experienced Eureka Seven with a touch of the serialised manner in which it was originally screened – a paced, measured experience in which its episodic structure and grand narrative could both function at their peak.

In today’s anime climate, shows like Eureka Seven are rare – most shows are lucky to even get to 20+ eps, and if they do, it is invariably only because the first series has been a smash success. And thus, very few anime original series ever have the luxury of 20 or even 50 eps to plan out a massive, evolving narrative of this manner.

But maybe it’s better that way. Maybe shows like Eureka Seven are better left as relics of the past – a memory and figment of a time when anime could afford this luxury. A last gasp of the 4:3 format before HD and widescreen transformed the visual style of the industry wholesale. I really do feel like the show represented a final testament to an older kind of anime – one which soon gave way to a glossier, instant thrill, But in its slow, measured stylings and washed out, laxadaisacal counter-culture aesthetic, the original Eureka Seven will remain always – a faded memory of youth.

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