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Eureka 7: AO Collection 1 Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Eureka 7 Astral Ocean Part 1
Eureka 7 Astral Ocean Part 1
Caught up in events he can’t understand, one young boy may be the key to it all.

What They Say:
The year is 2025. Earth is engulfed in the crossfire between massive warring alien life forms that leave annihilation in their wake. While searching for clues about his past, Ao is caught in an attack and forced to fly a giant humanoid fighter craft to save himself and his island. Fragments of the teenager’s origin come to light when a hostile shape-shifter seeking revenge on Ao’s missing mother – who vanished two years after his birth – targets him instead.

Consumed with learning how his machine of war is connected to his mother and the monster that now pursues him, the young pilot will fly full throttle into combat zones without hesitation.

Contains episodes 1-12.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for the series features a fairly standard approach these days where we get the original Japanese language in stereo while the English mix gets a 5.1 bump, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TtrueHD lossless codec. The series has a good mix of action and dialogue and plenty of incidental sounds along the way that makes for a fun mix, though it’s not one that leaps off the screen. The original design being a forward soundstage one keeps things placed there pretty cleanly and it has a good mix of directionality and depth to it both in terms of some of the dialogue bits but largely when it comes to the action. With the craft flitting about, the alien monsters and the Scub Bursts themselves, it all has a pretty solid feel to it and there’s some nice bass in a few scenes to really give it some oomph. When the flying action picks up, that’s where it shines a bit more than the rest, but it’s a solid mix through and through and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2012, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes in this collection are spread across two Blu-ray discs with nine on the first and three on the second. While there are some low bit rate moments here, especially for some of the still scenes that populates the show, it also goes big where needed and a lot of the series looks striking and engaging, especially with all the IFO action and the Scub Bursts. Colors are generally strong, solid and pleasing and the line work and detail is quite visible and solid throughout. Noise is minimal overall but there are areas where it shows up as the series source has a fair number of gradients in a lot of the evening and night sky scenes which makes it stick out more. The general look of the release is quite good though and it has a very smooth look when the fast moving animation really kicks in, making for some very visually impressive scenes.

Packaging:
With this release being split into two parts, the heavy chipboard box here holds a single Blu-ray case that holds both formats inside and there’s a filler box next to it for where the next release can go. The front of the box has a great image of a serious Ao in front of the Nirvash with the trapars visible all around him that makes for a striking piece. The back of the box goes for the opposite approach with a dark image of Truth in front of his craft which is all done in dark shades that really fits him well, especially with the light blue hair. The filler piece in the box is bright and colorful as one side features Naru with Noa against her overlaid on top of the image of Okinawa with all its lushness while the other side features Ao and others from Generation Bleu with a white backdrop to it.

The Blu-ray case gives us a close-up of the Nirvash with a darker look to it while having Ao laid over it along the left which adds another touch of seriousness and a bit more color to it as well. The back cover uses the same Ao artwork but as an outline of white on a sea green where we also get the full episode breakdown by title and number (no disc representation here) as well as a clear look at the various extras on the release. The cover does have a fully reversible and more appealing side to it as that gives us Fleur with her IFO, which means lots of blue and white here and a bit of a smile, while the back cover replicates the same style as the other but comes across as easier and more appealing to the eye.

Menu:
The menu design for this release certainly is a thematic fit for the show as it’s all about the dimensional transitions and Scub Burst imagery in a way, but mostly it’s just a shaded blue menu that shifts every couple of seconds and has the logo along the upper right that does the color shift along with it. Which largely renders it unreadable a lot of the time which isn’t too swift. The navigation along the lower left is decent, but it’s another menu that uses no background for the text which makes for some difficult access times during playback when subtitles get mixed in while you’re trying to check something or navigate around. There have been a few of those from FUNimation as of late and they’re definitely not the best approach. Navigation itself is simple and easy to use from the main menu and everything loads quickly and without any problems.

Extras:
The extras for the release are quite good, though they lend themselves more to the English language side of things. We get a few new English produced commentary tracks for a few episodes which are fun as the production team goes into the experience and what they did, and plenty of humor along the way, but we also get an Inside the Booth segment. This runs about 14 minutes and goes through the process of not just getting into the booth, but signing in at FUNimation as well and other behind the scenes process stuff. More of this, please. In addition to that, we get the clean opening and closing sequences as well as the original Japanese commercials.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of the more anticipated series of the 2012 season because of it’s heritage in the previously very popular Eureka 7 series, Eureka 7; Astral Ocean is certainly a sequel of sorts to that series, but one that places us in the present day sort of real world, one that was hugely adjusted by the presence of IFO’s, trapars and more. With a lot of the returning team from the original here, there are a lot of thematic similarities and certainly a number of visual cues that hark from its predecessor and a lot of that is appealing as you see familiar faces, ideas and action sequences, such as early on when Ao really figures out how to use the Nirvash. That said, the series is one that I found hugely frustrating as a fan of the original because the execution of the story felt like it was continually pushing me away episode after episode during the simulcast run of it and I had a hell of a time trying to connect with it. So much so that I didn’t even finish it when the final episodes finally surfaced a couple of months after the main season ended.

With Eureka 7: AO, we’re introduced to an alternate world present day where many things are the same, but the world is dealing with various Scub Burst incursions that have been going on for at least sixty years or more. Taking place in 2025, we’re shown how Okinawa is trying to vie for independence but is having plenty of issues with it, even though it seems to be a place where Scub Bursts aren’t occurring. It’s here that we’re introduced to Ao, a young man who we learn relatively early on is Eureka’s son, but she’s been missing for ten years. And there’s a lot of resentment amongst people there about his heritage since he’s viewed as an alien and one of the reasons that bad things happen. This is made even more true when a group of transporters, doing some work for the military, have their mission go awry and Ao ends up with a wristband that allows him to connect to the IFO known as Nirvash. The meeting of it all changes Ao significantly as his hair color changes and he feels right at home in the Nirvash, which allows him to fight better than most. But he has a real lack of understanding of the political and strategy issues that come up in this complicated world.

What helps Ao a bit is that he does eventually end up hooking up with Generation Bleu, an independent organization that has been dealing with the Scub Bursts that hit the world for years. They have a few IFO teams of mostly younger kids around his age that handle these things, which often introduced G-Monsters that come out of the Burst and start fighting within a limited range. For Generation Bleu, they work to save people in the affected area, fight back against the monsters and also secretly acquire the Quartz that’s within the Scub Burst itself in order to keep it from getting into the wrong hands. It takes Ao some time to learn all the aspects of this, but it comes to him as he works with others on the Pied Piper team he gets assigned to, which includes Fleur – the company CEO’s daughter, and Elena. We see some other teams as well, such as the Goldilocks team, and the kinds of struggles they fall into. We also see that other nations have different approaches to dealing with the Scub Bursts, though one arc involving Arizona shows that the American’s may have the wrong approach, even if it is one that reveals some interesting ideas about the things coming out of the Scub Burst.

Eureka 7: AO wants to cover a few different ideas with what it does, but it’s the execution that falters episode after episode, and even marathon play of it really didn’t help my perception of it. There are a lot of groups and histories operating here, and a few nods towards the past such as when the Gekkostate debuts, and Eureka herself shows up, but mostly it’s the all new cast that’s carrying it and there’s just so poorly defined. It moves into the action quickly, which is expected, but I never felt like i had a really good foundation for what was truly going on and why during this half of the season. Ao’s time in Generation Bleu brings him into a lot of things, but it’s another bad situation where as the new guy, nobody really tells him anything and he has to learn it by trial and error, along with the audience. It just doesn’t click well since there are so many variables at play here, so many characters with agendas, and a world that in a way really doesn’t make sense. It’s been several years since I saw the original, so I don’t know much of it was really intended to carry over and be required to get into here, but as a fan of what came before, this series just pushed me away. And it left me wondering how someone completely new to it could get into it since it feels like a lot of back story is required to really grasp some of the ideas here that aren’t explained at all, such as the Scub Bursts, the bad guy that shows up who is a shapechanger and the larger goals of it all.

In Summary:
A big part of me had hoped that in doing a high quality presentation marathon session of Eureka 7: AO that it would all suddenly click and make sense. I’ve had a number of series I saw in simulcast that really do play better in this form and with the complicated nature and poor execution here, that seeing twelve episodes in a row would make it all come together in a way that would make me a huge fan. All it’s really done is made me want to retreat into the previous series and experience that again. There are a lot of things to like here, with some gorgeous animation, excellent action sequences and some really striking mechanical designs that play out. It has a large scale to it and I do like the villain we get who shows up later in this first collection, though his reasons are largely mysterious for it. But the world building is just poorly done and the accessbility factor really put me off when it came to grappling with what kind of story it wants to tell and how it wants to tell it. Perhaps the second collection will firm all of that out, especially with episodes I

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary Tracks, Inside the Booth, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Original Commercials

Content Grade: C-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: C
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: August 13th, 2013
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 320 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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