I’m sure you already know all the superlatives – the mecha, the animation and design, the world, the characters, pacing, story – it all works extremely well, and it certainly left room for a sequel. So imagine my horror when I discovered that they decided to change everything for Astral Ocean. All of a sudden it’s 2050. All of a sudden we are just on good old near-future Earth with Americans and Japanese and… No Eureka or Renton. Astral Ocean focuses on Ao, the son of Eureka and Renton. He is raised in Okinawa, Japan, on an Earth very different from the one we experienced in the original Eureka Seven. However, Eureka left him while he was still young, and Renton was never anywhere in sight. He accidentally comes into contact with a machine named the Mark-1, which is actually the Nirvash Eureka piloted long ago, that has been unable to be piloted until now. After a couple complications, Ao is recruited to pilot Nirvash for a company, named Generation Blue, to fight alien lifeforms known as G-monsters/Secrets.
At this point in the story, its confirmed that Ao is none other than Eureka’s and Renton’s half-human, half-Corelian love child. Using the resources provided to him, the young man hopes to find the answers surrounding his mother’s disappearance ten years prior to the show’s start while protecting the defenseless from further attacks. The tensions escalate when an immensely powerful, and equally mysterious, humanoid entity calling himself Truth makes his move. With seemingly no real allegiance to anyone or anything besides his own twisted self, he makes a heap of messes for the heroes to clean up, meanwhile strengthening Ao’s yearning to know the truth behind everything. Additionally, Ao’s childhood friend and love interest, gets dragged into the battle between the Scub, Secrets and mankind as a byproduct of his vague ambitions. It was at this point that the show began to gain some seriously needed momentum, but like a double-edged sword, along with that intensity came AO‘s biggest blunders. As I’ve said before, just as there’s nothing wrong with having a really simple narrative, the same can be said for having a detail-heavy one. It’s all about how you approach the matter; execution is key.
However I may feel about the story, I was certainly glad to see the sky-surfing glamour of mech battles in Astral Ocean. The series, overall, has always been visually appealing to me as far as non-space mecha go. They were really on to something here. AO manages to be completely fresh yet entirely familiar; it references E7 without directly copying it and it sets out to do more than just linearly continue the story told in E7. was one of the best main characters of the year, the music was excellent and while there were some inconsistences in the visuals, it delivered some glorious hand-drawn mecha animation in a way we rarely see it in this day and age. I’m very glad that the only opinion that matters when it comes to art is our own, and mine is this: Astral Ocean is one of my favorite series of 2012.
On the first TV series: quick point about Renton. Renton & Eureka are Shinji & Rei given a chance. But you get to watch Renton grow. The early parts of the series he is a whiny crybaby, but you would be to (if you weren’t a shell of a person) given his situation. But he keeps fighting and goes through one of the most thorough character progressions ever put into an anime. The most hilarious of them is Holland and Renton realizing that they’ve taken on something of a Father/Son relationship and how much they butt heads. A lot of the problem with watching Eureka 7 comes down to our expectation of character stagnation. The entire cast progresses over the course of the series. Episode 49 Renton is almost completely unlike episode 1 Renton, yet it’s still Renton. The character has progressed, grown and gone through hell and back, yet he comes out a Man at the other side. Also, I know it’s really hard getting from around 19 through 24, but you have to get to the Charles & Ray arc. It’s possibly one of the best written story arcs you’ll ever come across. It’s worth the trouble to get there. While it might be the high point of the storytelling in the series, the rest is still quite good. Especially once the World Story kicks in high-gear.