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Eureka Seven: Decompression

There is much I could say in praise of Eureka Seven. I have already covered it from an allegorical angle, but what about the experience? How good is it as a show?

There again, it does not disappoint.

From the very beginning, which tantalizes the viewer with important story elements without making any obviously recognizable, Eureka Seven is a story that does not plod along. It soars. The opening credits are both danceable and epic, leaving one not rooted in awe but rather wanting to catch that wave, wanting to see that sky, wanting to experience the purity of that motion.

The DVD menu is very plain, but aesthetically quite pleasing. The music excerpt that plays as it loads can be listened to repeatedly without instantly becoming aggravating, a feat that not many DVDs can claim to achive. Rather than attempt to be catchy, it is inspirational, heroic, even messianic, foreshadowing the need to save the world.

Subtitles are functional but crude, in a plain text reminiscent of the sub jobs of the 1980s. The English dub suffers from a questionable choice of voice actors: they sound immature. While this makes perfect sense for our main character, and perhaps some sense for the teenage rebels, it doesn’t lend the sense of maturity, poise, and gravitas necessary for an epic tale. The same scenes in Japanese have a certain braggadocio present in the delivery, a rumbling, rough-and-ready affectation that lends to the sense that these rebels are older than their years and have seen things that most people will never see.

The anime begins in a different place from the manga. While they both start at clear beginning points, the manga has more of an orderly progression to it, introducing the character first, then his immediate environs, then his relationships with others, culminating in meeting Eureka and leaving his mundane life behind. The anime instead begins in media res, with Holland dispatching some government cannon fodder in short order before turning his attentions to a side trip which sets up the meeting. Neither is better, precisely; in the manga the focus is on Renton from the start, explaining his choice succintly, and in the anime the first few moments give the definite impression that Holland is a cool, disinterested guy who happens to be capable of rolling over a squad of armed enemies at will.

The anime opening sets up foreshadowing for the family theme persistent throughout the show, showing a family picture with the mother’s face inked out. While this is also present in the manga, the deliberate inking is not, making a further difference in emphasis between the two stories. The anime also introduces Renton by first showing us his room, rather than his actions as in the manga. While both are valid ways to assess character, there is a marked difference in first impressions between seeing a boy who is trying to surf air when you first meet him, and one who is in his room, lying on his bed, geeking out and listening to the radio.

A great many elements are more developed in the anime than the manga – Renton’s hero worship of Holland, with him quoting from interviews and determined to emulate his feats, down to performing a cutback drop in an LFO. In the manga these elements are still present, but subdued: the cutback drop does happen; it just isn’t foreshadowed, and Renton still fanboys, but it’s not presented as such a defining aspect of his existence. This probably strengthens the anime relative to the manga, as it provides more continuity and better enables watching otaku to relate to Renton’s obsessive traits.

Insofar as Zen Buddhist references go, they permeate the anime and manga equally. One important note is that in the anime, Holland is the first on record espousing Zen concepts (notably, living in the moment and being in the present) whereas in the manga it’s overwhelmingly Eureka that is associated with this philosophy. The rebels all act in accord with this principle, to be sure, but the net effect is to turn the anime Holland into a transmitter of Buddhist doctrine. This setup is notably absent in the manga; Eureka embodies the void there, but people hardly go around quoting her, and it is Talho’s role in Ray=Out, not Holland’s, that is focused upon.

The Eureka Seven story is visually compelling, bold, and at times arresting, whether told in anime or manga format. Only the flavor, and therefore the allegorical argument, changes. Despite having seen the manga first, I prefer the anime, as its powerful musical accompaniment really serves to enhance moments of splendor, triumph, or ethereal beauty. Either or both are worth your time.

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