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「リリース・ユア・セルフ/the pied piper of Hamelin」 (Rirīsu Yua Serufu)
“Release Yourself”

 

Out came the children running.

All the little boys and girls,

With rosy cheeks and flaxen curls,

And sparkling eyes and teeth like pearls,

Tripping and skipping, ran merrily after

The wonderful music with shouting and laughter.

- Robert Browning, “The Pied Piper of Hamelin”

 

As discussed in the last post on AO two long week’s ago, this chapter’s subtitle was “The Pied Piper of Hamelin”. That gave a pretty good idea what this episode was going to be about, and indeed the theme of that fairly tale were at the heart of the episode – as indeed they’re at the heart of the entire series. Generational betrayal is the main course here, but AO continues to take an interesting and challenging approach to it. I wasn’t necessarily expecting the spotlight to fall so heavily on Ivica here, but I’m glad it did – and to have a little more background on Rebecka as well. It was also great to see an episode stylishly storyboarded by the great Igarashi Takuya, who’s worked on numerous legendary series dating all the way back to the original Sailor Moon.

I wonder if one of the reasons this series is proving so divisive with the audience (the main one obviously being that it’s quite different from its beloved predecessor) is that it’s an odd combination of anime archetypes and very non-traditional anime elements. Indeed, there’s a conscious effort here to deconstruct the mecha and sci-fi genres and elements of those genres are proudly on display, but the storytelling itself is very unusual. What’s happening here is that these weekly encounters with The Secret all over the globe are being used to uncover elements of the story like peeling away the layers on an onion, surely but patiently. It’s not the encounters themselves that are ultimately most important but what they tell us – about The Secret, about the pasts of the characters and the powers that be in this world, and about the characters today and what they’re capable of. Some things are very subtle, and some the writers are going out of their way to make sure are obvious.

We’ve learned a lot via this approach – not least of which that the world we’re looking at is not a hypothetical future version of ours, but a completely different one – and this week the focus was on Ivica. As the leader of Pied Piper he seems to be the middleman in everything that happens with the team. and it’s he whose loyalties and moral standing have been hardest to pin down. If indeed this is a story of adults ruining the world for the next generation of trying to use them to fix their mistakes (as I believe it is) Ivica is critically the one adult in a position of real power whose motives are uncertain. Is he the one figure who truly cares for the children in his charge, or is he just another cog in the machine?

With this ep, I think we have what looks to be a pretty clear answer. Ivica is himself The Pied Piper – so much so that he bestowed that name on the team himself – but as a kind of macabre form of self-loathing. Not only was Ivica a soldier in a Balkan nation wiped out in a civil war in which is was isolated by the international community, but that isolation was a direct result of the parent company of Generation Bleu spreading false information about that nation’s supposed ethnic cleansing. There are hints from Ivica that there may actually have been some truth in those lies, but at the very least Ivica considers his nation no more innocent than the one that wiped it off the map. He’s joined Generation Bleu as a form of atonement for his own sins, but to what end? Perhaps in seeing the inevitability that children would be used as soldiers, he insinuated himself into the power structure to try and act as a buffer – one last line of defense to try and save children’s lives when it all hits the fan. Or perhaps I’m giving him too much credit – but if he’s not truly on the kids’ side I despair for them, because they’re truly on their own.

Then we have Rebecka, about whom we’ve already seen evidence of duplicity (she’s working with Stanley behind their boss Blanc’s back, if you recall). I suspect she’s been placed as Ivica’s assistant in Pied Piper in order to keep an eye on him and make sure of his loyalty – which would surely have been called into question this week when he and Ao went into the combat zone where a scub burst had occurred outside Phoenix (BONES seems to love depicting the American Southwest) without getting permission from the US military. Rebecka was a big part of the parent company’s power structure, it seems, using it’s long reach to destroy nations and create new ones, and her boss was the current Governor of Arizona (Sakurai Takahiro). She and Gazelle have been sent to negotiate a request for Pied Piper to intervene, but the Governor seeks to use the scub burst as an opportunity to extract conditions from GenBleu. Rebecka has her ways of dealing with old friends, but she’s clearly pretty full of self-loathing herself. She screams out as a character who’s eventually going to have to face a massive, clear-cut decision about her personal loyalties and doing the right thing.

This ep was also quite instructional about Ao himself. We know he’s a brave kid so it was no surprise that he volunteered to accompany Ivica on his unofficial foray into the scub zone where The Secret was attacking. When The Truth appeared, we saw a blind charge from a furious Ao, screaming for Naru’s return – but the interesting thing here was that he seemed to possess some resistance to The Truth’s control (though not enough to actually reach him). We saw a lot of why Ao is a strong lead in this entire sequence. For the first time he sees death graphically and first-hand – not the aftereffects of a Secret attack, but the up-close and personal loss of life. He loses it, not because he’s terrified for his safety (though he certainly is) but because he’s horrified and outraged at seeing lives taken right in front of him.

This is all illustrative of why I think Ao works so well as a MC. He’s 12 – he’s scared, he’s reckless and he exercises poor judgment. But courage isn’t never being afraid – that’s stupidity – but in being afraid and doing what has to be done anyway. Ao possesses no preternatural wisdom a child shouldn’t have, and he’s not immune to fear, but he’s an idealist who has the courage to fight for what he thinks is right, even when it’s not safe or wise to do so. He’s also clever enough to think of non-traditional strategies on the fly, such as using a tent to camouflage himself after realizing that The Secret were responding to humans as threats based on their shape. That results directly in the saving of what looks to be close to a hundred civilians who’d been trapped in a shopping complex, set up as a “noble sacrifice” by The Truth. There’s interesting new information here about The Secret – they learn quickly, identifying humans as threats after the US military (with a spectacular lack of success) tries to attack them with human fodder rather than fighter jets and IFOs. As well, they lack the sophistication to tell a human from a mannequin – it’s only shape they relate to here, not body heat or chemistry.

I can understand why some are impatient with The Truth and his seeming omnipotence, but I think he’s a sort of Pied Piper himself – leading the humans where he wants them to go, though for what purpose it’s not yet possible to say. I don’t think it’s destruction, because clearly he could have done a lot more of that if it was all he wanted – but I see a larger goal in mind with him. His comment that “The Secrets aren’t what you think they are” is obviously a relevant bit of foreshadowing, and my growing sense is that he’s not humanity’s enemy, but merely someone for whom individual lives are meaningless in pursuit of his larger goal. He seems to be out to force humanity to discover “the truth” as he sees it, and the implication is strong that the entire world in which Astral Ocean takes place is a false one, a lie. It’s somewhere down that road that the direct link to the original Eureka Seven universe is going to be reached, if I’m guessing correctly.

 

Preview

Eureka Seven AO   10   Preview 01 Eureka Seven AO   10   Preview 02 Eureka Seven AO   10   Preview 03
June 22, 2012 at 3:59 pm
34 comments »
  • June 22, 2012 at 5:16 pmNitro

    great post, although i have to point something out about the Secrets. i don’t think they learned or adapted at all in this episode, they’ve always identified the human shape as dangerous, which is why they’ve always been attacking the human-shaped IFOs. it’s only that this is the first episode where they get to attack actual humans. although, i don’t recall whether or not the IFOs were ever attacked in their flyer(?) forms.

  • June 22, 2012 at 5:20 pminfo600

    Piper-ception?

    anyway, the feeling of NGE is rather high for this episode. Especially with that face, as well as the next episode preview…

    …btw, we need a better GAR photo here…

    • June 23, 2012 at 1:59 amFrumix

      E7 was often compared to Eva, but it wasn’t really reminding me of Eva. It reminded me of Nadia. This engineer kid meets an alien girl he falls in love with and then gets onboard of a battleship operated by a bunch of rogues who know the truth about the real threat the world faces and they go on an adventure, with The Girl eventually turning out to be the key to whatever global problem they had. Also a lot of idealistic romance and personal warmth. It’s even complete with a crappy movie that reuses a lot of animation from the show!

      AO on the other hand is Evangelion. Angels, I mean, Secrets; attempt to tackle more serious issues and the kind of “everyone’s an asshole” attitude.

      Is it just me?

      • June 23, 2012 at 7:17 pmAgron

        I loved Nadia i watched it a few months back.

  • June 22, 2012 at 5:22 pmThe Story You Don’t Know

    While I love the animation, what I don’t like is that they are always always able to end the battle in the last 5 minutes of each episode. So far, the pattern for every episode is:

    Present new Secret > Some Character development/side story > Solve/defeat them all in the final 5 minutes.

    The battle scenes are good, I just wish something even lasts longer than 5 minutes or something.

    • June 22, 2012 at 5:50 pmPtolemaios00

      Sounds like an episode of House.

  • June 22, 2012 at 5:24 pmGenesis

    I love reading these summaries every week; Astral Ocean is my favorite anime this season. I loved the original Eureka Seven enough to watch it over twenty times in full, and it’s great to read your analysis and positive outlook on a series which is getting put down so often. Keep up the great work Enzo!

    • June 22, 2012 at 5:52 pmGuardian Enzo

      Thanks, Genesis. I really appreciate hearing from viewers who love this show, as we’re being mostly drowned out.

  • June 22, 2012 at 5:26 pmClick

    Interesting episode. Ao panicking isn’t something which has been seen so far, and it certainly adds another dimension to his character. To Ao, the Nirvash seems to be a source of comfort and fearlessness and without the robot, we see that he’s afraid and not in control of his emotions when in the face of danger. However, he’s still able to face his fears and pull through. So essentially, he’s brave inside the Nirvash, but courageous outside of it. Very cool.

    • June 22, 2012 at 5:55 pmGuardian Enzo

      Good point about courage and the Nirvash. In addition to the obvious security it provides as a matter of practicality, there’s the womb aspect – Nirvash is his link to Eureka. It’s another link to NGE, although the metaphor isn’t quite so literal in this case.

  • June 22, 2012 at 6:21 pmBakaMochi

    lol I’m glad to see my ears haven’t failed me! :3

    A solid episode, but I find things tend to get a little confusing whenever the Truth shows up – at least they sort of picked up the whole Naru thread again, though. I was waiting to see what they’d do with that.

    I like your point about Ao as well since up until now (barring part of the first ep)he’s only fought in Nirvash against non-human enemies; seeing real people die so close in front of him is a completely jarring experience and I love what they did with his reaction – not overplayed and not too subtle. It was perfectly characterized, so thumbs up. One of the best portrayals of twelve-year-old pilots I’ve seen.

    • June 22, 2012 at 7:43 pmClick

      YOU CAN’T HANDLE (THE) TRUTH!

      But yeah, I agree that his appearance always creates a lot of confusion, most notably in episode 7. Still though, I’m happy that Ao and Truth actually mentioned Naru, who’s presence has really faded, which is pretty unbecoming of lead character.

  • June 22, 2012 at 6:30 pmxyshtoph

    I lean toward the theory that this world is an ilusion or something like a) an artefact left from the Coralians Library and created from memories as a refuge b) the place that the second coral girl lived in c) some huge joke made by either human, coralian or whoever with reality-bending-mind ability that turned 16 and went all rebellious and ballistic. The world from E7 probably got screwed for some reason (war?).

    /rant mode ON; read on your own responsibility

    Anyway, I think I have grown up for dropping it till Eureka or Renton appears because right now it’s so dull, cliche, superficial and just plain boring that I can’t stand it. Nothing new that I haven’t seen in other series and none of what I wanted to see the most – Eureka, Renton and GekkoState crew. Not a single emotion triggered since episodes 5 apart from frustration that it’s the repeat of the massive failure of new Last Exile. Until it has anything visibly to do with the original I refuse to call it a sequel, now it’s just a mere spin-off. Truth guy with his twist pulling machine can kiss my arse if first half of the series turns out to be pointless time eating illusion that has nothing to do with reality (which it apparently may be). I don’t want it to be shocking, super creative, clever or whatever, I just want it to be engaging and fun. If anyone tells me not to compare it to the first series, I ask thee, HOW, if it has EUREKA SEVEN in the title and was declared to be sequel? Why would they make some random children mecha show if they already had great characters, world, mechanics, music, fanbase and whatever? I know the answer and why IMHO it is Bones sign on their own death warrant. Nothing hurts more than failed expectations.

    /rant mode OFF

    So, apparently, in the next episode Shinji will be fighting Touji, Asuka and Rei in their Units controlled by the Angel.

    • June 22, 2012 at 11:17 pmMike

      I certainly wouldn’t go as far as you did, but even for me this is starting to get a bit tiresome. World and character buildings are good, but you can only do it at the expense of plot movement for so long. If they wait too long to drop the proverbial carrot to draw in and really engage the audience, they may find themselves without much of one when they finally do.

      • June 24, 2012 at 8:19 pmokgo

        I wish I saw comments like these before I watched the series. Thumbs down so far..though it would change if they cam get eureka and renton to play a more integral role in the story.

        At this point, I wouldn’t mind a plot twist where this was all just a “dream” to shake things up =D

  • June 22, 2012 at 7:22 pmgrey

    really good episode! the ost really shined in this one particularly.

  • June 22, 2012 at 7:46 pmAccess

    I think this series had a really strong start, but it’s getting very stale. Basically nothing is happening and they keep the Secret-of-the-week format while withholding essential information until the later parts of the show. I cannot stand it when they do that. Do they think this makes a good story?

    At least have several reveals over the course of the whole show, the lesser ones early and the bigger ones later. But now there is basically nothing because they keep dragging it out and it really gets on my nerves.
    I loved the first few episodes and thought it was already far superior than the first series and had no idea why some people didn’t like it.

    I’m beginning to understand now.

    • June 23, 2012 at 1:24 amMrZero

      The first 3 episodes were fantastic. They’ve just lost steam every episode since, it’s really unfortunate.

      The show needs to break the format of running with these cliches. I don’t really see this show as a deconstruction of mecha series gone by but a half baked rehash of some of the more popular ones. It really needs its own style to shine through and soon. We’re getting close to half way through…

  • June 22, 2012 at 9:05 pmSherylfan

    Man Truth is one annoying character. Can’t wait to see if they reveal anything about it next eps. Right now it’s just boring. Other then that great eps.

  • June 22, 2012 at 9:10 pmDeviluke

    Nope thats it am done with Eureka Seven AO. its basically a weekly monster fest. Nothing happens we don’t even know whats the conflict since Truth appears and just says a bunch of meaningless stuff and leaves so quickly that you wonder why was he even there. I am dropping this show I cant take it anymore. My god the Eureka Seven movie was more interesting than this train wreck at least it had a decent story even though it was very different from the original. I know Renton had his whiny and emo moments but at least he matured from them and became a total badass, but AO is just such a whiny idiot Eureka adopted kids from the original are less of a pain to watch than him. I really like how they never mention Eureka now like it was a way to please fans of the series into not dropping this show since shes the only thing connecting this train wreck to the old series. I really dont know who are they trying to please with this because basically i believe that most of the people that are watching it are fans of the series and i swear I will call bullshit on any fan that says this series is even close to decent because its not. This series is missing the charm of Eureka Seven the techno music and that crazy funky style now it just talks about middle east wars and giant mushrooms that explode at random pace. The monsters are the biggest insult its like a weekly thing each week is a different type of monster that takes a different strategy to kill, This isn’t the 1980s that style has been over done so many times and Evangelion perfected it back in the 90s. Screw this show it might prove me wrong later in its cycle but I highly doubt that.

  • June 22, 2012 at 10:17 pmBlackStealth1989

    The ‘Renton’ in AO finally comes out… and Truth with yet another new power

  • June 23, 2012 at 1:23 amBoo

    Somehow when this show pisses a lot of people, it actually entertains me every week. E7AO is something that I would be expecting like a kid expecting his birthday present from his parents.

    • June 25, 2012 at 8:04 amKyoku

      same here man. its the most entertaining show this season for me… I still didnt lose faith.

  • June 23, 2012 at 1:54 amFrumix

    Gonna agree with people ranting about MotW. Not only the MotWs themselves are rather dull and absolutely character-less, the way they fight them is the same every episode: find an obvious weak point and shoot it for MASSIVE DAMAGE. It’s like Bones don’t even want to make these battles but are obligated to like they’re making a season of Power Rangers or something.

    And Truth exhibits yet another superpower! This time it’s the power of teleporting entire objects. Wait he can do teleport? Why didn’t he do that back when he was making an assault on GenBlue HQ? Maybe he was bored though and wanted to blow up some walls.

    I think it wouldn’t be far too farfetched to call Kyoda a George Lucas of Eureka Seven. By some coincidence the original work happened to posses a lot of quality and charm and then an attempt to replicate the success gets drown in an inability to properly present the ideas (hence why so many people are plainly confused with AO even more than they were with E7 at this point) and misunderstanding of what made the original so good.

    I’m not saying AO is a bad anime or a bad sequel, hell, I’m giving it a benefit of the doubt because I remember myself dropping the original show at episode 8 or so before going back to it and falling in love with it, but at the moment it does feel somewhat uninspired.

  • June 23, 2012 at 3:23 amAnishuma

    Ao had me worried for a second there, he almost went Full Renton, never go Full Renton.

  • June 23, 2012 at 3:34 amfragb85

    I never had problems with MoTW formats. One thing AO actually does succeed in doing such a format is that it isn’t wasted just fighting different monsters. Its used as an opportunity to expand its characters and give them development. It was nice to see some background on Ivica and see Ao as more human. Still don’t like the “America is TEH EVIL” stuff but that’s a minor complaint.

    From the complaints I hear, its mostly “Not like the original series”. That really works for me since I didn’t really enjoy the original E7 until MUCH later.

    • June 25, 2012 at 5:09 amDeviluke

      lol character development for generic mecha anime characters. I see better development in a Gundam series and that’s saying a lot. In the end the characters suck we have seen them in a dozen of animes already at least in the original E7 they were somewhat interesting they were terrorist hippies and were funny as hell here………they are a bunch of 10 year olds fighting monsters…..geeeee we have never see than before.

  • June 23, 2012 at 4:21 amDvalinn

    This episode was one of the better eps lately, and I find Ivica one of the more interesting characters anyway. He looked like a total boss when he was fighting the secret. I liked Ao this ep too, showing off both the fact that he isn’t infallible (him panicking like a kid would) but still showing off some logical thinking under those circumstances (the tent plan).

    Still, while I enjoy the worldbuilding and action as usual, my main concerns still haven’t been addressed. Despite it going through it’s story like peeling layers of an onion, as you call it, it’s not going fast enough in my opinion. We’re almost halfway through mind you, and I can’t help but feel the Monster of the Week stuff will hurt the series in the long run because they’ll start rushing it. It would be sad if this show derailed in the second half. C’mon, Eureka Seven Ao, shake things up from this routine!

    Also, Truth is still pissing me off. He kinda comes over like a pretentious asshole, because he’s not exactly doing a good job ‘learning people the truth’ if he keeps trying to murder anyone who even gets close to anything to do with it. You say he probably has some higher purpose, and that might be, but he doesn’t really seem to follow a coherent type of logic. I hope he gets his ass handed to him sometime soon, showing that he’s not so invincible after all, because he really does seem omnipotent now (he’s even got teleport powers? What’s next, he’ll start cloning himself?).

    • June 23, 2012 at 6:03 amMike

      Despite it going through it’s story like peeling layers of an onion, as you call it, it’s not going fast enough in my opinion.

      This is precisely what I’m fearing for this show atm, if they keep going at this pace, there won’t be many episodes left for them to actually work with the main plot, of which we still have little clue about, almost halfway through the series.

  • June 23, 2012 at 9:55 amfoshizzel

    Gentlemen! BEHOLD THE POWER OF SMALL TENTS!

    And lololol Noah reading a book is so hnnngggg! Who knew sloths love to read?

    I was happy we learned a bit more about the origins of team Pied Piper! I knew of the story of course, but it is always nice to get some extra information thrown in <3

  • June 23, 2012 at 6:24 pmZabiLegacy

    At the end of the day, trying to fight EVA on it’s ow turf was a bad idea. Very few shows can make an impression when trying to pull a similar plot structure to that beheamoth. Bones lucked out when they did rahxephon, but trying to beat gainax at gainax’s own game is a bad idea. The sad part is that E7 had a niche to fill. Hell, I prefer the original to EVA. Watching this turn into EVA light is difficult to watch.

  • June 24, 2012 at 8:31 amMaimeDaifuku

    Blah blah blah secrets blah blah blah

    What got to me was that they were in COSTCO!!!

  • June 24, 2012 at 9:30 amJohn Titor

    Just remember that evangelion was just as formulaic if not more-so, than E7:AO has been. And that show managed to step right outside the box, and lift itself to classic status within the last 8 episodes or so. I have a feeling AO is going the same route, they’re almost done world building, and setting the rules. I predict that very soon, it’s going to get REAL, and anyone who dropped it now will regret doing so.

    • June 24, 2012 at 12:08 pmZabiLegacy

      I don’t think that point really applies. EVA was a classic because from the very beginning it was doing something radically different from what everyone else ever did. For one thing the innovative and often times truly disturbing monsters of the week made anyone else’s future attempts at trying monster of the week look decades behind the times. Notice how E7′s close cousin Rahxephon didn’t even bother trying to top EVA. It’s bad guys were innovative and interesting, but it thankfully kept them out of the limelight because it couldn’t compete. The secrets in EVA… are really really awful villains. They aren’t simplistic designs enough to really create a vibe of inhumanity and incomprehensible logic like Ramiel from EVA did, but are too geometric and inhuman to really give much of an ungodly monstrosity vibe either.

      EVA was also the first and most lauded attempts at making a hyper realistic super robot anime. Everything from the unassailable level of detail put into nerv function, to the way that the robot’s tendons snap when under attack. It also gave the combat in the show a unique and exciting feel. Another way it effected the show was that it allowed a great variety of ways of goig about action. Sniper battles, aircraft carrier leaping, five minute time limits, single defensive point, under lava, AT field competitions, tons of possible ways of going about fights. It got repetitive after awhile, but not for lack of trying to shake things up. Ao has shown very little of this. Most of the battles have gone about in similar ways with only limited variety in the shape of different powers they have had. Furthermore, it’s difference from the action in other mecha anime is weak at best. A few holdovers from the original series mark the only real point where the combat stands out. And the organizations and world created with E7 don’t have the same plausibility of those from EVA. It makes it so that even from ten or twelve episodes in, E7 is distinctly worse.

      I am loathe to admit that one of the reasons people like EVA so much is that it’s dark. I don’t think something is good because it is dark. But, it is mature. And it’s maturity allows it to handle a much greater variety of subject matter at a much more intelligent level. Trying to be both lighthearted and deep is a very hard task. But it requires subtlety. Is naming one of the cast members “the truth” a mark of subtlety? But it also meant that even when watching EVA from the very begining you got a very deep impression taht there was more here then meats the eye. The way it ran a mystery better then Another, the way it snuck symbolism and religious imagery into places you wouldn’t expect. Even in the first half, you would know that you were in for an anime unlike any other.

      What made EVA a classic was already there the whole time. Had it never ended the way it did, it still would have changed anime in huge ways. If you want to point to a seemingly not that great anime that was just putting the pieces together for a finale that was earth shattering, the original show might be a better example. But, the one thing the original show was it’s mountains and mountains of buildup emotionally, character development wise, and seemingly nonsense world building. It just once the second half rolled around it came together as though it were a beautiful tapestry. A good ending requires support from a beginning devoted to setting up the situation. No mere plot twist will save this series. It is not beyond hope, but barring something incredible it will probably fade into obscurity as a failed attempt to recapture the fire that made the original Eureka Seven so lovable, forever being walked past on the DVD shelf.