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Eureka 7: AO Collection 2 Blu-ray Anime Review

11 min read
Eureka 7 AO Part 2
Eureka 7 AO Part 2

The fate of the world is at stake, if Ao and the others don’t keep rewriting its history so badly.

What They Say:
During a dangerous zero-gravity mission to keep a clash in space from colliding with Earth, Ao meets his mother for the first time since she disappeared. Chaos erupts when the vengeful enigma known as Truth learns of her return. As Ao fights to protect his mother and solve her transient state, he discovers a weapon so powerful it can alter Earth’s timeline.

Conflict elevates across the globe as this warhead and new intelligence on the hostile aliens polarizes former allies. When another pilot and his machine from the future enter the fray, Ao will finally learn his true origin – as well as his role in saving his mother, his friends, and his planet from obliteration.

Contains episodes 13-24 and the OVA The Flowers of the Jungfraujoch.

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 plus the OVA. 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:
The packaging for this release is fairly standard for second part releases in that we get a standard sized Blu-ray case with an O-card slipcover that replicates what’s inside the case itself, but with the added combo pack banner along the top. The front cover gives us a great image of Eureka with her wings that we haven’t seen much of so far while the background has one of the IFOs along with a good earthscape shot that brings in some welcome colors that blends well with both the case itself and on the slipcover. The back cover works nicely in providing some of the basics of the premise for this particular set of episodes and we get a good selection of shots from the show along the left. THe extras are all listed clearly as well, though there’s a lack of strong mention about the episode count and the inclusion of the OVA. The technical grid does lay everything out cleanly and clearly though and mentions it there, but it’d be more of a selling point elsewhere too. The case itself uses the same layout but it has artwork on the reverse side that goes for the pinks and purples as it focuses on Elena in front of her craft for the front cover while the back does a white pencil outline of her next to the episode breakdown and a listing of what extras there are.

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 couple episodes which are fun as the production team goes into the experience and what they did. Also included and very welcome is that one of the last episodes gets a full on video commentary which is just a heck of a lot of fun to experience since the cast just has a blast with it as they talk about the show and experiences. The rest is filled out with the promotional videos and the various clean versions of the multiple opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While the opening half of the series didn’t exactly sway me in a significant way from my feelings towards it after experiencing the simulcast, I did come away from Eureka 7: AO with a better appreciation for what it was trying to do. Marathoning the show allowed the various threads to be pulled together a bit more clearly and the characters felt a bit more engaged, though it is still largely focused on Ao and little else of true note. The second half of the series in this set, which includes the OVA, brings it all to something of a conclusion and for me a lot of it is all new since I dropped out of the simulcast after the broadcast delays in Japan. Similar to the first half, everything does feel like it flows better here and has a stronger narrative to it, but it also doesn’t get rid of the problems it has as a whole.

Eureka 7: AO has some grand plans to it and some great dreams that ties back to the original series, which was largely lost on many people early on. The execution of it proved to be troublesome as it had been years since I last saw the first series and remembering the connections to it – and the movie – proved elusive, making it difficult for me and problematic for new viewers as well I suspect. Those issues don’t exactly get clearer with this set, if anything it gets magnified a bit, since that show is referenced a lot more as it progresses and the ties between them are made clear. For Ao, he’s still in this stage where it’s all about doing the right thing and finding his mother, his anma. The problem for him is that he’s continually thrown about in the midst of the chaos of the world itself, which I do like, as there are so many things going on. While Generation Bleu is trying to deal with the Secrets and Scub Coral issue, there’s a global stage of politics getting into the mix, you have Truth running around trying to set things according to his own beliefs and philosophy and you have all the other little weird things that mix in throughout it.

While there’s a fair bit of politics, business and intrigue still going on here, the game changer comes with the revelation of the Quartz that we had learned about and how Generation Bleu was mining it, which has lead to Fleur’s father, the man behind Generation Bleu, coming under a lot of scrutiny for running the company in a way that the sponsors didn’t expect. He’d managed to pull together a lot of things in the last few years, often quietly acquiring them, that has them now in possession of things that other countries find to be dangerous. The biggest one, of course, is the Quartz Gun. It’s not really a weapon in a way, but it achieves a far more dangerous goal than a normal gun would. Because of how it interacts with the environment around it, we see in the first instance of it being used that it essentially rewrites history, taking entire people and situations out of existence. And because only a few are truly aware of it, it goes by unnoticed. Over the course of the set, Ao ends up being forced into using the weapon a few times and it makes some hugely radical changes to some characters, forcing them from being involved pilots for example to sidelined and then never to be seen again. It’s an interesting idea and I do like that they didn’t reset it all towards the end but rather let the changes stay, and to have Ao cope with how it affects him seeing these changes come into existence.

As the series progresses, and we get Ao and Elena changing sides a few times, it all works towards the inevitable finale as we learn more and more about the truth of the world. The turning point for me is the arrival of Renton from his world/timeline/universe as he makes it clear why all of this is happening (and again, relies on real knowledge of the previous series) and why it’s affecting so many different things and what the stakes are. I did love the way it built up into this huge thing and that there are some real losses and consequences along the way, but I’ll admit that I didn’t feel like I really had a stake in it in terms of characters and who they are. I love the whole alternate world angles and seeing Renton looking through them to find a way to make things right, but the show goes so big and in so many directions here without a solid enough foundation that it really does sink more and more as it progresses, as interesting and fascinating as it can be at times.

What the show lacked in a lot of ways was the ability to really connect with the cast, which is often done through some humor (and more clearly laid out narratives and story material). The show ends on an interesting and open-ended note, but we get to follow that up with the OVA that takes place much earlier in the series. And is largely comedy based as some of the female pilots are doing glamor style poses for a PR gig and that has Fleur and Elena dealing with it while Ao starts to feel left out. It plays up the sexy side without huge doses of nudity, which is nice, but it also just has fun, which was largely missing from the show even in much needed areas. Having it go into a kind of caper mode and even throwing Ao into crossdressing mode was a lot of fun and I’ll easily admit it made me smile a lot watching it unfold, fluff filled as it is. I generally don’t mind some fluff in a show, but Eureka 7: AO had no fluff and I think that really hurt it in terms of really humanizing the characters and showing a lighter side of them that was truly needed.

In Summary:
I desperately wanted to like this show. I wanted to love this show. While it’s been years since I saw it, Eureka 7 left an impression on me in so many ways and I wanted to reconnect with it, even if it was a new generation cast. But the series had a very, very hard time establishing itself for me based on what I knew from before, fuzzy memory that it is, and it failed to really make me connect with the characters over the course of it. When the one I felt the most connected to was dropped into the series during the last couple of episodes with Renton, that doesn’t bode well. Visually, Bones takes what they did before and ups the ante just right while keeping it in tone with what has come before. I love the action sequences, the character designs largely work for me and I completely got into the overall global style of it all. And I really, really wanted to connect with the various worlds that they brought into play more as it progressed. But I never felt like I was firmly into the world, be it in weekly simulcast form or marathon form here. And that kept it from feeling real, on top of having mostly bland characters that would often disappear for far too long. Part of me still wants to see what they can do next based on the ending here, but mostly I find myself truly craving a new viewing of the original series to see if that makes this click more.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 21 Video Commentary, Episode 24 Commentary, Promotional Videos (subtitled), Textless Opening Songs, Textless Closing Songs

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

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: October 15th, 2013
MSRP: $64.98
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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