「ガーディアンズ・ハンマー/next phase」 (Gādianzu Hanmā)
“Guardians Hammer”

If I could have picked any series to go on a two-week hiatus, AO definitely wouldn’t have been it. But it’s surprising how quickly everything came flooding back once the episode started. I still have no idea what’s happening, but at least I know what I have no idea about.

To thine own BONES be true, I guess. It seems in many ways that Astral Ocean is the series where they’ve found their identity again – this is the first show in a few years that’s really felt like a BONES show to me. That means it’s confusing yes, sometimes maddeningly so. But it also means it’s full of the kind of adventure and energy that used to fuel a lot of classic anime (and there may be no better example than E7 itself), along with an intellectual streak that drives the show to ask a lot of questions it may not always be ready to answer. If it bites off more than it can chew occasionally, that’s classic BONES too – and the difference between AO and the original E7 in that respect is one of coherence. Both series had me scratching my head at this point, but here I believe I’m supposed to be – with E7 I often felt as if it was simply a matter of needing an editor to weed out a lot of irrelevant chaff that was confusing the issue. Soon AO is going to have to start providing answers – but I think it’s done a better job setting up a scenario for the pieces to fit together in a logical way when it does.

Of course, this being BONES, they could just leave us with an ending that basically answers nothing and leaves us hanging – but I don’t expect that to happen. We’ll see if my faith will be rewarded, but an episode like this gives me a lot of hope. Setting aside the larger questions, on its own terms the episode was superb – perfectly paced, with a gradual build of tension and an internally logical story that was perfectly easy to follow, even if we don’t know yet how it fits the bigger picture. #16 was the natural apex of the political threads that have been brewing for the entire series (it did have a “final episode” feel, as Elena says). We have GenBleu and the Americans lining up as one axis, with Japan on the other – with the issue of the Secrets the center of the conflict. It’s two competing philosophies at war – with the one side proclaiming Secrets as the greatest threat to mankind and needing to be eliminated, the other that they’re our saviors, our universe’s “immune system”. The opposing viewpoints couldn’t be more irreconcilable, or the stakes more clear.

Except for this: we have no idea which side is right, and not only that, we have no idea whether either (or both, or neither) believes they’re right, or is merely doing what they are for ulterior political motives. And internally, we have the issue of the power poles in GenBlue, with Stanley working behind Christophe’s back – what does he mean when he says GenBleu was a company “created for the quartz”, and what is the interest of “Big Blue World” (GenBleu’s financial backers) that Blanc “should have notified” before he launched Operation Polaris? As for the operation itself, here again is an example of excellent storytelling in AO that achieves a clarity E7 sometimes lacked – we know exactly what the plan is and how it’s the be carried out. Simply put, use the mass of quartz gathered on the satellite to lure the Secret to the North Pole using a descending orbit, with the IFO teams to provide support – then blow ‘em up good. Except the Japanese aren’t keen to let this happen, and either the Soviets (Soviets? In 2025? Yet more proof this isn’t our world) double-crossed the Allied forces or their missile defense systems were hacked by the Secret and their Japanese allies.

Against this backdrop we also have Ao continuing to suffer through an identity crisis of his own. Simply put, he’s a bright but naïve kid who’s seen his belief system cut out from under him. He thought he was fighting the good fight but now isn’t sure, and can’t even be sure of his own identity. Without an anchor he continues to be sleepless, relying on Gazelle’s pills – which seem to be giving him blackouts and strange dreams to boot. A secret comes to him in a dream, apparently communicating Eureka’s message that they aren’t his enemies. His mother comes to him, telling him that she – and he – were born of the scub, before transforming into Naru. She tells him she’s becoming one with it, and to “protect the scub”, before stealing his first kiss. And then, when Ao wakes, he’s expected to go and destroy the Secret. It’s no wonder Ao has trouble sleeping.

Speaking of Naru, when she isn’t rounding first base in Ao’s dreams she’s now in a Nirvash of her own, doing battle with the Secrets (all of which are taking humanoid form by now, by the way) above Iwato Island. The trump card for the episode, though, comes at the very end, after Ao jumps in to complete the Polaris operation when the Soviet missiles send the quartz capsule off course – now likely to impact in Scandinavia, where the explosions is likely to wipe out much of the population in addition to the Secrets – and Elena and Fleur have done all they can. Ao makes the decision to believe in the mission and help destroy the Secret, but as he’s carrying the satellite towards the North Pole the quartz transforms into some sort of weapon – a weapon which Nirvash (seemingly more or less autonomously, though with the boy’s blessing) uses to destroy the pursuing Secrets. All is seemingly well, assuming you believe that was the right thing to do – except that after the explosion, no one has heard of Team Goldilocks and Ao is told that no one has lived in Vester, Norway (Chloe’s home town) for centuries.

I wish I could tell you I knew what to make of that, but it was a twist that caught me by surprise. It certainly supports the theory that there are alternate universes at work here and not just time travel, and what’s interesting is that as far as we can see, nothing else has changed (though that could be disproved next week). Everyone knows who Ao is, and no one else seems to have disappeared. Everyone remembers the mission, and GenBleu is still in Switzerland. Were Goldilocks and the Norwegians somehow sent by Nirvash’s quartz weapon to an alternate timeline, or universe? Being as how the weapon seems to be made of quartz that certainly seems possible, given what we know of its properties. If the AO universe is false, as Truth attests, perhaps the weapon sent Goldilocks (and maybe all of Norway) into a “real” universe – the E7 universe? Remember that Ao was close to the Vester coral plant when he used the weapon – perhaps the weapon has a some of near-field effect of neutralizing the illusion that holds this AO universe in place. Or maybe the weapon simply prevented a scub burst from ever having happened at Vester, and therefore the Goldilocks girls never became pilots at all because they weren’t “infected” by growing up near trapar. Remember Gazelle only says there’s no record of them as GenBleu employees – not that they don’t exist at all. And Chloe does show up in the preview.

One last thought on the mysteries – it’s not impossible for Truth and the Japanese to both be right. Perhaps the Secret really are antibodies protecting the AO universe against foreign agents – but as a false universe, they’re merely protecting a false reality and suppressing the truth. In which case, which POV has the moral high ground? In any event I think this was a splendid episode on dramatic terms and beautifully animated, and it was full of nice little touches like Christophe’s slam on American coffee. Or, even better, Elena’s tribute to the original E7 when she told Ao that Fleur “drew on his willy” while he was asleep (embarrassing for both even if not true, especially given what was happening in Ao’s dream just before he woke up). I’m perfectly content not to have all the answers yet both because I find AO fabulously entertaining, and because I have no sense that’s it’s screwing me around for the sake of doing so – I still sense that all the pieces are going to link up, and everything that’s happening is part of a master storytelling plan. I may be going to Hell in a bucket, but at least I’m enjoying the ride.




  1. Too much of a overcomplicated plot, it is getting annoying. I enjoyed the first one more because it had nice character development, which this one has too, but lacks decent pacing. Shame it’s only 2-cour.

    1. During the two week haitus I was rewatching Eureka 7… hate to tell you this, but E7 had JUST as convoluted of a plot, if not even more so. It’s easy to say E7 had more cohesion when it’s already over and you have all the peices to the puzzle… Right now, we’re still missing almost half of it… should be interesting to see how the rest plays out, but I have a lot of faith this series payoff is going to be huge.

      1. Considering that every other source I’ve seen (including the DVD release schedule) lists it as 24 and the time slot is already taken for Fall, I don’t think there’s any reason to hope that source is right. I think that’s just bad info that’s been out there for a while.

    1. That was my first thought as well, but I’m not sure and I don’t think we really can be. Theres just way to many possibilities. At this point I’m wondering if AO will actually end up in Eureka’s world or if Eureka and Renton will come to AO’s world, maybe both but this show just completely throws me for a loop every week.

  2. I really want Naru to mutate and turn into the Nirvash TypeZERO. (Since Naru is becoming one with the Scub)

    Then FleurXAo can happen!!! Come on, I like Fleur better than Naru a lot =3=

  3. This show is amazing. And from my understanding, there were no cyberattacks. We’re given a scene with Truth on a control station, or something like that. I thought it was obvious he was the one who launched the missiles. Which makes little sense…he and Naru are supposedly on the same team, Naru is attacking the Secret, and this plan was going to destroy them all. Perhaps Truth just did care about the quartz surviving?

    And it’s interesting with the Secret’s attitude. I understood that they were perfectly willing to continue this plan and be killed if it meant destroying the quartz. They were all for it and played along. The only onen opposing the plan was Truth and the guy who works with the president.

    1. From the Secrets’ willingness to die for the plan, and the end result being exactly what the Secrets want (that is to say, the removal of the Scub and quartz), I’d say that they succeeded and that the plan went in their favor. After all, Ao wasn’t out to destroy the Secrets so much as to save the world, and their death was an accepted price to be paid as the Secrets themselves openly admitted. Truth, attacking the quartz, then makes perfect sense because he (and Naru) are trying to protect the Scub, so letting the quartz and Ao erase the existence of a Scub is counter productive.

      There seems to be a growing distinction between quartz and Scub. Eureka of every time line or, even same Eureka appearing in various time lines, (pick you poison) has been protecting the quartz not the Scub, and stating that the Secrets are not enemies (and, honestly, they really aren’t, they don’t pose a treat to humans directly and do not attack humans unless attacked first. They inadvertently cause damage by attacking Scub but the Scub (through Truth and Naru) have been killing/responsible for the deaths of people). The only Eureka that seems to be pro-Scub is the one that morphs into/overlaps with Naru but I don’t think that Eureka, seems more like its Naru (and she seems to be getting crazier by the minute). Back to the distinction, Truth was willing to destroy the quartz even though he is Scub-assimilated. Naru doesn’t seem to ever say quartz except for the one time when she’s explaining why removing the quartz is bad but she’s interrupted and never finished the thought.

      Little by little, I think the show has been overturning the “Secrets are antagonists” idea from the early episodes, and putting them more in the light of zealous, selfless guardians.

  4. AO proves time and time again to be a feast for appetites ranging from action to intrigue, and it certainly deserves all the time you’ve invested into your excellent write-up, GE. AO has always proven a pleasure to watch, and your reflections a pleasure to read afterward.

    Although perhaps none of this needs to be said, I thought I’d do so regardless. Onward! 🙂

    PS: The implications of “dream Naru” kissing Ao are… quite amusing!

  5. So, I’ve got a question about Elenas E7 tribute: If I understand you right, somebody in E7 said something along these lines, too. I have never watched the English dub, plus it’s been ages since I watched the first series and now I’m curious in which episode this has happened.

    Other than that I don’t have anything to add, so I might as well use this opportunity to thank you for your outstanding blogging of this series. Keep it up!

  6. That scene where AO fires the weapon made from quarts and whenever eureka appeared from the pillar of light, whenever I see that light it reminds me of the Seventh Swell Effect from E7

    Also Enzo “but at least I know what I ‘haven’ no idea about.” extra n?

      1. And that’s whats wrong with it. Its like what Last Exile fam The Silver Wind did to Last Exile, it tried to follow up the original but it was utterly worst than the original in comparison.

  7. My weekly dose of awesomeness came back with a bang! Thanks for pointing out the original E7 tribute, your attention to details never ceases to amaze me, Enzo. If I were to make a guess, I would say Ao’s new toy somehow weeded out the false reality and prevented the Goldilocks girls from ever becoming pilots. It’ll be interesting to see how Ao copes with all that, it seems like the poor guy is on the verge of breaking down and the sleeping pills are gonna backfire one way or another. I’m also glad that Ao x Naru is still alive and well, I’m not done shipping those two yet!

    Seishun Otoko
  8. I’m not sure I like the direction of the last two episodes. While the previous bunch have seemed to be stuck in slow motion, these feel like they are happening far too quickly. The pacing is an issue, and from watching the original, there is a very strong disconnect between the two in quality. Some scenes are beautiful, while others suffer quite a bit of quality issues. This was not so glaringly obvious in the first series, but it is here.

    I desperately want to like Ao more than I currently do, but the negatives are starting to outweigh the positives.

    1. Another side thought, I don’t know how they can possibly redeem Naru at this point. Anemone had her issues and was generally unlikeable for most of the series, but Naru doesn’t even make sense anymore. Truth makes even less sense. For being a secret, he sure seems to be running counter to what all of the others are doing.

      1. Thats one of the reasons why I find this to be bad its not clear who the hell is the enemy they keep saying this is the enemy but they act in ways that counter the problems like Naru and Truth suddenly leaving and not stopping AO from delivering the bomb.

    1. I think they wanted to broaden the audience for this by making it a weekly monster show and just show Eureka so fans of the original series would watch it aside from that I believe they really didn’t give a crap for the fans that watched the original.

      1. I wouldn’t go as far to say that. AO definitely has a different feel from the original series, but to say it has a weekly formula like isn’t fair. There’s obviously a thought-out storyline wanting to be told no matter how potentially convoluted and ridden with plot holes.

  9. I don’t think Chloe, Maeve and Maggie were necessarily written out of existence, but rather that Ao changed the timeline by erasing the Vesteralen scub coral from existence. Essentially, there never was a scub coral that appeared in Vesteralen.

    To break it down:

    Ao fires the quartz weapon very close to the Vesteralen coral plant. Afterwards, Pied Piper returns to “Vester” and Ao asks about the coral plant. Elena tells him that there has never been a coral plant there. In episode 15, Chloe tells Ao that her family moved to Vesteralen just after she was born so that her parents could work at the coral plant there.

    However, if there is no coral plant at Vesteralen, then Chloe’s family never moves there, and she and Maeve do not grow up in an environment rich in trapar particles. Therefore, they never become Generation Bleu pilots.

    Remember, when Gazelle speaks to Ao in his bedroom, Gazelle merely tells Ao that there are no Gen Bleu employees named Chloe, Maeve, or Maggie, not that he’s searched all databases and the three do not exist.

    And if you notice in the preview, Georg is connecting Ao to Chloe and Maeve on a live call, and both are dressed in civilian clothes, which supports the theory

    1. this would explain why team goldilocks’ pictures are in the preview. apparently in this universe scub coral have been in existence from the dawn of mankind’s history if i got the US President’s speech correct.

  10. Did anyone else think that Ao’s quartz turned weapon reminded them of Dewey’s Hammer of God weapon? The episode title seems to hint at it as well? Guardian’s Hammer ==> Hammer Of God?

    Awesome episode anyhow 😀

  11. Goodness, Bones snuck up behind us and just *KKRACK* snapped out necks with the end of this episode. NUUUU THE CUTENESS. T^T I miss Chloe already. img 36: reminds me of the bonus weapon “Nuclear Fission” in … oh that one silly tanks game =3=;;.

  12. Notice how Ao wakes up a few times in the course of this episode, seemingly out of sequence. This can also be a dream within a dream kind of thing, perhaps it is closer to “astral worlds” the show’s title is referring to than “hard” time travel/multiple time lines…


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