A Tale of Two Episode Twos: Eureka SeveN and Neon Genesis Evangelion

evangelion-unit-01-ikari-shinji-first-angel-battle

[This post has plot discussion for the first 2 episodes, but considering them spoilers is debatable].

When an anime that I’m beginning to like does something consciously (as I perceive it) to remind me of another anime I like very much, I start paying attention. Eureka SeveN’s 2nd episode followed Neon Genesis Evangelion’s 2nd episode structurally, and it works. Perhaps I should include the first episode, but watching it won’t remind you of Evangelion, but episode two will definitely do so.

The key comparison is how the lead characters, notably Renton Thurston and Ikari Shinji (boys, both 14 years old) in the first episodes both end in a cliffhanger where the leads are in mortal danger: Evangelion’s end while Shinji is in the thick of the battle while Eureka SeveN’s end with Renton joining the fray.

Obviously, neither of them perish. What’s interesting is how the succeeding episodes delay the portrayal of the resolution of the battle until the later in the episode (In E7′s case, part of the battle is shown in the first act followed by an intermezzo). Plot exposition follows, as well as both the setting and some of the characters are further introduced and/or given more detail. It is only until later when the battle is shown, in flashback form. This exposition involves some commentary from characters other than the lead. In both cases, the characters through some mysterious source of power resolve the battle with devastating effect.

For the life of me I can’t think of a show that also uses this device, but I like it.  This is what it does for me:

  1. It actually intensifies the suspense. Remember that nobody expects the hero to die in the first episode, and yet I end up starting the episode excited about what happened.
  2. It shifts the interest from the obvious outcome (‘of course the hero survives’) to how the outcome is arrived at — which creates interest in the science fiction and/or ‘world-building’ aspects of the show.
  3. It allows more characters opportunity to say something, therefore be known; moving the narrative inexorably forward.

eureka-7-02-renton-collage

A Personal Note

I’ve tried watching Eureka SeveN a few years ago and I didn’t reach ten episodes before I lost interest and dropped it. I wonder why it didn’t make a big impression on me then. When friends with similar tastes (to a degree) in anime ask me what made me drop it, I’m actually at a loss. I really can’t figure out why really.

This is especially bewildering to me now after watching the first two episodes again. I feel that these episodes had everything — every element so relevant to my interests that I’m sure I would love the show. I felt that when BONES conceptualized Eureka SeveN, they had me in mind too:

  • A fresh, sport-based mystique to the mythology of robot pilots;
  • Sexy mecha designs, I totally forgot how the Nirvash Type Zero transforms into a car (as if for the Le Mans GP itself, only bigger!);
  • Attractive character designs;
  • An interesting premise involving extreme sports (flying with snowboard-like devices), the culture it involves, mysterious energy sources, a narrative about friendship/family/love/making dreams come true, and oh yeah war and rebellion;
  • Gorgeous, fluid animation of flying… flying robots.

I dropped this at the time when I had just seen Gunbuster which I fell in love with, and had started watching Gundam shows and dropping them left and right. I had written not too long ago about Gundam now that I’m quite its devoted fanboy, on how we will dislike some shows because we are not ready for them. This should easily explain how I managed to lose interest in Eureka SeveN.

Or does it? For Gundam there was a big case of mismatched expectations. I counted on Gundam shows to behave like FLAG practically, since I had confused ‘real robot anime’ with something much further beyond (in terms of grit and hardness in the science fiction) Macross, which was then the only non-not-that-goofy super robot show I’ve seen. But for Eureka Seven I didn’t really expect anything.

So to prevent further over-thinking, let’s just say I wasn’t that into the show to begin with. My attention wasn’t fully on the show and I missed the moments that I now find inspiring and representative of many of the shows I love.

Further Reading

Sometimes we end up not liking the shows we watch because we are not ready for them. [->]
When I mentioned FLAG, I had thought that it is the ‘realest’ real robot anime I had ever seen. [->]
An endorsement I endorse, spoiler-free even if it takes into account the whole series: (Lbrevis, 2008/09/26)
An endorsement from the perspective of someone just starting the show: (Martin, 2006/12/03)
I really like it when someone collects references, pop-culture and otherwise: (Bateszi, 2007/04/25)

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
This entry was posted in analysis, comparative, Eureka SeveN, Evangelion, fanboy and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to A Tale of Two Episode Twos: Eureka SeveN and Neon Genesis Evangelion

  1. animekritik says:

    I think a big reason for you dropping it before was probably Gunbuster. Riding on the heels of such a great show pretty much anything will look silly by comparison. And at that time, you might also have reacted negatively to the similarities with Eva.

    I know if the show looked like Eva after 2 episodes I might be worried it would stick by Eva throughout and turn out a total copycat, which would tick me off…

    • ghostlightning says:

      It doesn’t feel like EVA, than say, how Rahxephon can (another BONES show, quite good). Rather I enjoyed the narrative device used here, among the other things I listed. But yeah, Gunbuster messed me up so much for anime that I dropped almost everything I started then, including:

      Mai Hime
      Full Metal Panic
      Last Exile
      Victory Gundam
      Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory (a current favorite)
      Reideen (the recent one)

      That’s a lot of kills for Gunbuster lol. The next series I would complete would be Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, which led to my being a voracious consumer of otaku media at present.

  2. Ryan A says:

    Eva and E7 are quite distinct in my books. Perhaps the original turnoff was simply timing and/or tangential affairs. E7 had a nice arrival when expectations are kept to a minimum. It sort of blindsided me, and continued to do so up through Anemone’s fleshing. Naturally there were some dry spots in the 30s (I think), but up to 10 I was engrossed and wanting to know more.

    Dunno, I try to detach and segment the experience of series from one another, which is quite difficult, but advantageous in the end; of course this excludes sequels and spin-offs.

    But, I agree that this mechanism of heroic close-encounter with death early on is somewhat alluring. I see this connection between Eva and E7′s exposition indeed. ^^

    • ghostlightning says:

      I think there’s something to be explored in the relationships between decisions to watch shows and the triggers for doing so. Some triggers, then my corresponding behavior in () — incomplete examples but they serve the purpose. In any case here they are:

      a. Direct recommendation by a trusted source (RL friend) in a vaccuum (how I used to watch anime as seen in the list of shows I tried out in my response to animekritik above [->]
      b. Internet review sites — not blogs, since I haven’t discovered the sphere then (Hoshi no Koe, Millennium Actress, Ghibli films)
      c. Blog reviews|fanboying (Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Armored Trooper Votoms, Mobile Fighter G Gundam, Nana Manga, Lucky Star)
      d. Blog preview hype (RideBack, Sengoku Basara)
      e. Blogger twitter lol (Souten Kouro, Eden of the East)
      f. Blogger direct recommendation — over IRC or IM chat (K-ON!,Nana live action)
      g. Recommendations from comments in my own blog posts: (I get a lot but haven’t started watching any of the recommended shows yet)
      h. Forum/imageboard discussions (I can’t say I directly started a show from reading these)

      Let’s attempt a forced ranking of influence: (circa 2009, noting that decisions are now made by cross-referencing the above triggers)

      1. a
      2. f
      3. c
      4. d
      5. e
      6. g
      7. h
      8. b

      Shit, I realize I can’t derive the expectation levels raised using these alone. But if you can create such a model, it could be something useful for bloggers and reviewers.

  3. gaguri says:

    For me the first reason you’ve identified is the main reason why they would use a device like that. Like you say, the outcome is obvious, and most people are going to be anticipating the beginning of episode 2 to follow the episode one and show Shinji kicking the angel’s ass. And yet we are shown something else, and we ask ‘hey what the hell happened man?’. I think there is a greater interst in wanting to know the actual details behind the fight, and there is a sense that the fight wasn’t ordinary, that there was something more to it, and we should be paying attention for it.

    • ghostlightning says:

      That’s a great way to articulate it.

      I think there is a greater interst in wanting to know the actual details behind the fight, and there is a sense that the fight wasn’t ordinary, that there was something more to it, and we should be paying attention for it.

      I’m quite perplexed that it isn’t done more often. It seems tailor-fit for shows with characters that go into berserk mode, at least for the first time it happens.

  4. drmchsr0 says:

    Personally, I’d love to watch Eureka Seven.

    But Eva, 13 episodes in, I went “Fuck Anno” and proceeded to marathon ALL of Gurren Lagann.

    Let’s just say I have never regretted the decision. (I was watching both concurrently, 3 episodes of Gurren Lagann to 1 episode of Eva at the last count).

    • animekritik says:

      Eva really gets amazing from about episode 17-18 or so. I know that sounds outrageous for a 26 episode show and too much to ask, but it’s worth it. all the evil, the twisted irony, the tragic murderous pathos really gets going around then…

    • ghostlightning says:

      I was hooked on EVA on the strength of the first two episodes. I actually sensed the strong direction (though when I saw it I could care less who Anno was); I really felt the show was attempting something different and on the level of astounding.

      That said, I don’t think everyone will like it. It’s the same with TTGL, for some reason that I haven’t fully fathomed animekritik over there doesn’t like it despite being a GAINAX fanboy like me.

      • animekritik says:

        Oh, I liked Eva from about episode 4 or 5, but i could see how someone, especially someone already used to hearing about how awesome this show supposedly is, feel disappointed until the agony of despair and destruction kicks in.

        And as for TTFL, maybe it’s the egg-shaped robot thingy the kid drives that turned me off. And I don’t really care for drills so much either.

        • ghostlightning says:

          Ah, my enjoyment of TTGL mecha and drills are due to my beginnings in anime: almost all the shows I had watched initially were old-school super robot shows. These have gone out of style up until TTGL presented the style in a fresh and audacious way.

          When people started talking about Eva while we were in college (I know how old you are now so for us this would be the mid-90s) I couldn’t afford to purchase VHS volumes since my money was spent on trading card games like Magic: the Gathering. I had seen the first two episodes which awed me, but I couldn’t get hold of any more so I tried to forget about it. It wasn’t until almost a decade later (around 2004) when I was able to get hold of a bootleg VCD set. And oh my God was I blown away. I didn’t realize how intense a show could be and how cerebral it is at the same time. It was also at that time that I had started looking up anime resources online. Eva was the anime that turned me from a unreflexive enthusiast into an otaku in full (existence with consciousness).

          • drmchsr0 says:

            Probably it has something to do with my visceral hatred for Anno.

            Then again, I was watching Gurren Lagann at the same time.

  5. otou-san says:

    Wikipedia has an even more complete list of the pop-culture references (probably rife with spoilers), many of which I was proud to have already spotted because for whatever other more useful traits I may possess, I’m also a trivia retention system. And the episode titles read like a peek into my record collection.

    But that illustrates on thing that keeps me loving the series, and wondering why you never caught on to E7 before: Bones, Dai Soto, and the whole crew throw these things in to signal how they Remember Love in a big way. For techno and rave culture, surfing, western music and film, agit-prop and anti-establishment ideals, the Earth and the environment, Macross, and just plain Love Itself. You’ll never catch me trash-talking Anno, but that feeling at the end of Eva (and the end of End of Eva especially) never had a better counterpoint than the beautiful feeling at the end of E7. One could be described as emotionally draining, the other emotionally (ful)filling.

    But I like your post because describing the differences is… probably pretty obvious, and pointing out these similarities just makes me appreciate the influence of Eva all over again. Keep up with Eureka this time, it pays off in spades!

    • ghostlightning says:

      Jesus Minci, I have two responses to your comment:

      1. Great stuff, I consider myself admonished even more… (embarrassing now, TBQH) which leads to,
      2. How well written your comment is frustrates me about the fact you haven’t written an honest-to-goodness Eureka SeveN piece. Get off your ass and work.

  6. DonKangolJones says:

    I have to say I was magnetically attracted to this post. I won’t comment on why you dropped E7, because it seems like you already figured it out. I think I have a similar reason for dropping the same show. I was probably burned out on the so called “coming of age mecha” anime. Stuff that compares like Eva, RahXephon & Eureka 7 and even Gundam (or especially Gundam). You see similarities and unfortunately, you can start thinking negatively about them. I got a slight, “I’ve seen this all before” vibe. I’m glad to say it didn’t affect me while I watched RahXephon, because it was really a great and UNIQUE show. There were just strong parrallels there that I acknowledged and need to get past. I did and gave that show a 9.

    Eureka 7 was just a concept I never fell in love with. So once I did give it enough time and an honest shot, I liked it. I didn’t love it. But I will acknowledge the show to be very well written, have excellent animation and memorable characters.

    When it comes to Eva, I was introduced to it in the perfect way, enough to whet my appetite, but not enough to spoil me or raise my expectations too high. I ran across it during my early days of looking for good anime recommendations on the web. I came across a website for Eva that gave me some introduction to most major characters and some to the plot with alot of mystery and no real spoilers(along with some fanboy hype, not too much). That got me interested. I watched the first ep and was awed.

    I think getting someone interested in the CONCEPT is the key to getting someone interested in a good anime. If they’re not readily accepting of the concept, then they may not accept the actual show itself.

    Also, the same way people couldn’t understand why you dropped E7, people I know can’t believe I’ve dropped Haruhi. In 1 episode. That’s right, I’m the one person who hasn’t fully watched that show.

    • ghostlightning says:

      I think getting someone interested in the CONCEPT is the key to getting someone interested in a good anime. If they’re not readily accepting of the concept, then they may not accept the actual show itself.

      I agree with you here, but I want you to consider how limited this condition is. Concepts are difficult to be original with and will often runs smack into what you call the ‘I’ve seen this all before vibe.’ Furthermore, at times the concept is hidden or is an important plot-twist, as is the case with Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu.

      Connecting with a show seems to be a confluence of many factors, some parts from the show and some parts from the viewer. Appeal of the concept is one, relatable characters may be another (subject to the age and state in life of the viewer), and ‘catchiness’ of the the narrative techniques used to hold the viewers attention.

      Quite a subjective list, and isn’t by any means a complete one. I’m 10 episodes deep into E7 and I’ve already found a big moment to fall in love with. Expect a post about it soon.

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