Entry #21: Eureka Seven (SoA 2017)


(Recommended, once again, by a complex rodent.)

Should I ever do a [REDUX] version of my Top 10 Anime That Crashed and Burned article, this series would definitely make the list.

I’m not sure I’ve ever come across a series that outstays its welcome quite like Eureka Seven. Not that others don’t, but this is a case where its welcome stretches on far longer than most. The last fifteen episodes of its fifty-episode runtime felt like an everlasting gobstopper of suffering. I cannot stress enough how horribly this anime ends, and even its lackluster, happy-go-lucky ending feels like a spit in the face with all the good it had done prior. By itself, there isn’t too much to complain about. The real issue is that it devolves from its former state to satisfy the ultimate clichés of a world-bearing adventure flick full of action, complexity, and THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!!

Simplifying it to its core essentials, the last fifteen episodes does what three or four episodes could’ve done if it had ever just gotten to the point. Eureka Seven is filled to the brim (not just in the last fifteen episodes) with filler, episodes that pass off as something substantial in terms of character development or plot progression, but mean next to nothing to the big picture. The way it’s done is also fairly contrived, courtesy of characters never being honest with each other or themselves and lots of random side-character shenanigans. It feels like, and I type this with as much dismaying irony as possible, shounen. Because it is, very much so, a shounen. Just not the worst kind.

What makes the disaster of the finale so unbearable is that the series has good qualities to it—many good qualities to it. I would recommend this series in a heartbeat if it were, say, cut in half. Trim the series of its unnecessary fat and it could satisfy even the pickiest of consumers. The series plays favorites, unfortunately, but those who are favored certainly get the full front of development, including Renton, Eureka, Holland, and Talho (best girl). Still, many characters aren’t ever truly ignored, sharing screentime every so often if only to showcase their one-note personalities. And the animation! Oh, the animation is splendid, especially for something made in the mid-2000’s. I find the designs fascinating and fairly fresh, especially with Eureka, who looks more than meets the eye. There’s also a diversity of different characters that give something for everyone, even if all of them don’t flourish.

Again, Eureka Seven almost gained a quick recommendation from me, if not for a wavering and cliché-filled ending bunch of episodes. They take an episode to play soccer for no discernible reason, right before a hugely important showdown with the main antagonist… who appears only episodes before. Basically, this series is pretty good until it eventually becomes trash. The end. Too abrupt? I wish this series could be.

Personal Score: C

Critical Score: C+

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Entry #15: Arslan Senki (SoA 2017)

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(Recommended by Cake-o’s Bakery.)

Officially halfway through the Summer! Ensue whistle-blowing and party poppers.

However, the halfway point was plagued by a long and unfulfilling series written by the man who penned Legend of the Galactic Heroes, a common choice (especially by elitists) for the GOAT anime. One has to wonder how faithful this recent anime adaptation is to the original novel, which was written nearly thirty years before. Perhaps it’s entirely faithful and the story is just oversaturated drivel pretending to be an “epic.” Harsh as it is, Arslan Senki is an anime full of not only holes, but missed opportunities.

I’ve discussed to some degree the argument that anime can never improve from its inception, and while I don’t normally disagree with it, Arslan Senki is a case of a series that hinders itself the longer it charges forward. Initially, the series introduces a number of done-before plot developments that, while nothing extraordinary, were easy to follow and executed in an entertaining way. These events set the stage for a long and arduous journey for the crown prince, Arslan, whose demeanor is quite unlike his royal peers, to grow within his role as inevitable king and his own identity. Things occur afterwards that isolates him from his kingdom, giving him the freedom to assemble his party of “friends” to tame his untested ability as a leader. At this point, the series really begins, though to some extent, it doesn’t, and already had. And then suddenly Arslan’s growth isn’t important for the sake of the kingdom’s safety, only for the focus to venture forth to other kingdoms and… are you beginning to sense something?

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Arslan Senki is a story that reaches ambitiously for every unscrubbed corner in the fictional realm of fantasy. The spectrum through which it tries to detail is so wide, so vast that 33 episodes will simply not cut it. Legend of the Galactic Heroes had the benefit of having over a hundred episodes to elaborate on the things it wanted to do. Arslan Senki gets 33 episodes, and eight of those episodes are basically simplified build-up and no payoff. Because of the much shorter allotted space, much of what was initially hinted at in the beginning are shoved aside to get the plot moving along. Things such as genuine character development and interaction only reach a minimum of what they could be, as the emphasis is more on political relations between kingdoms and the main characters completely decimating opposing armies with their ACME plot armor. On the subject of plot armor, that is likely the series’s most prominent issue.

The major characters are immune to death because, despite constant threats of danger, no one ever dies. Some get stabbed, cut, or bruised, but quickly recover without a care in the world or any hesitation going into battle the next chance they get. This destroys tension because one knows they’ll survive and be successful, because nothing is proven otherwise. A character may be on the verge of defeat, only to have one of two things happen: A. Someone steps in and saves them at the last second (This occurs A LOT), or B. They suddenly find the strength or the strategy to topple the immediate adversity. Through most of the series’s second half, I fought against boredom as the anime decided to follow the same formula every episode, filled to the brim with what had happened just one or two episodes before.

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At first, characters gave a lot of spirit with their personalities—again, nothing great, but spirited. Their “shticks” are presented well and could’ve been used for some clever interaction and tonal shifts, but to no avail. The once art-minded strategist simply became “The strategist.” On a bit of an off-topic quip, the strategist knows everything and justifies it with “As I suspected.” You can’t just “suspect” everything without valid evidence and expect viewers to take you seriously! You’re just OP! Anyway, only one character comes to mind who exudes some of their established personality all the way through: the “traveling musician” who fancies women and tangible pleasures. There’s also the strategist’s so-called “wife,” but her only identity is that she claims to be his wife and nothing more, which hardly counts as a personality. Every character eventually swirls into the pool of blandness that wouldn’t quench the thirst of a desert wanderer.

Everything after a certain point feels so forcibly “for the plot” that the audience really has no reason to care anymore. With the introduction of every new character, new development, and new twist in the motivations of pre-existing characters, one has to wonder what it really means within the context that the anime will not be even close to finishing its story, and how basic all the characters and their moral compasses are. Arslan Senki is pretty blatant in its use of a black-and-white moral system, with good people being good because it’s good and evil people being evil because they’re evil. On occasion, people will be given time to gray out their motivations, but by that point, it’s all for naught, as they either retcon themselves soon after or no one cares because they’ve already been told off by the good guys.

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For an anime made in 2015, design and animation are pretty standard for the times. Crisp and within the setting, and nothing more. Not often did I spot any shortcuts in animation or lazy bouts of fluidity. Some designs are nice-looking, while others are simply standard. The most of what I can state is that it’s standard. Rather, a lot of what I can say about the series overall is standard, at least for a while. I found myself mentally awarding it a six, then a 5.5, then a five, then a 4.5, then a five again. It has the right tools to become something immersive and worth following, but it doesn’t seem to emphasize the things that make a truly enriching experience, most notably the characters.

Essentially, a lost cause, which is more prominently shown by its half-assed, eight-episode sequel season. There are things about it to like, especially when given such a diverse main cast and a world both like and unlike our own. Throw in some implied wizardry and it immediately sets itself up to be entertaining, at least. But it doesn’t, and it isn’t. It’s a standard series at best, with a lot of baggage dragging it to bargain-bin levels of mediocrity. More time, more freedom; whatever the issue may have been, its current state isn’t recommendable.

Personal Score: C-

Critical Score: C

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.