By Kathleen Townsend
The complicated and confusing time between childhood and adulthood is often fast-forwarded in anime.
Part of this is due to format — a three-episode arc or an hour-and-a-half movie doesn’t always give creators the time to depict the nuances of growing up.
Eureka Seven, however, takes its time. With 50 episodes spanning the course of a full year, arcs are broken into sections as long or short as the pacing calls for, allowing the narrative to grow naturally.
The gravity and hardship of growing up truly shine through the show’s use of extremely human and relatable characters, culminating with protagonist Renton Thurston.
Adolescence can be a slow, confusing, sometimes torturous time of life — perfectly captured through Renton.
As the son of a man who saved the world, Renton doesn’t want to be known only for his father’s legacy. He has dreams of perfecting the sport of lifting, which is basically a form of sky surfing.
When the Gekkostate, a group of outlaws, literally crashes into his home looking for his grandfather’s assistance, Renton leaps at the chance to join them. But Renton’s childhood begins crumbling bit by bit the moment he leaves the protective shelter of his grandfather’s care.
Soon, Renton realizes the Gekkostate are nothing like what he’s imagined from his favorite magazine, and they’ll take any job in exchange for cash. Smuggling, bounty hunting, you name it. And they’re not afraid to do it, either
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The line between young Renton and teenage Renton isn’t much of a line at all, but rather a gradual process. Things grow increasingly confusing for Renton as shades of gray begin to infect the black-and-white world he’s always known, while wide-eyed idealizations of childhood slowly melt away.
It’s a lesson we all come to learn: Heroes are just regular, flawed people. In Eureka Seven, the Gekkostate aren’t always the good guys. The realities of survival mean that people can’t lift and have fun whenever they want.
Instead of the wide-eyed boy who first joined the Gekkostate, Renton now resembles a disillusioned young man — offended and enraged when those he’s idealized let him down
The brutality of growing up
Where other anime might show the emotional and physical changes of growing up, Eureka Seven displays the brutality in it — to great effect.
Renton realizes the consequences of his actions when he destroys an LFO, a bio-mechanical weaponized suit, in battle. Real people are killed and it’s simply too much to bear. He’s a teenager, and his competing needs to rebel against the legacy of his father and the need for guidance from a parental figure quickly clash. On top of that, he’s found his first love.
Renton is overwhelmed. It’s an almost claustrophobic feeling, with the unknown and incomprehensible surrounding him on all sides. Eureka Seven sorts its arcs about love, emotions, family, war, life, and death into one massive narrative.
Life lessons and stressful situations are all jumbled together, threatening to overwhelm a now-adolescent Renton. These are the creases that work out as we grow older.
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This raw, often lonely time in life is portrayed here in all its beauty and ugliness. There are no shortcuts, and no easy ways out. Like life, things get messy. Change doesn’t come quickly or easily. Events that should teach life lessons don’t always have that effect until much later. And Renton, like many of us, clings to these absolutes for as long as he can.
Renton’s common refrain of “I don’t get it” encompasses just about every emotion of the journey from childhood to adulthood and the adults trying to guide him in that journey.
His story is our story. Sure, we may not all have the same experience piloting LFOs and sky surfing, but the messy, undefined lines between adolescence and adulthood are universal.
Eureka Seven is a story that can be seen as a personification of growing up — one not afraid to depict every part of it, the good and the bad. Renton screams at those close to him and at the world, demanding his voice be heard, to matter, until he gradually realizes that won’t work.
Eventually, Renton finds the quiet strength and confidence he needs to move forward. The realities of life and the world are clear, but so are the things that truly matter: That ideals and dreams of childhood are worth holding onto, that the right words can change hearts, and more importantly, that love is something worth protecting at all costs.
It just takes a little growing up to understand why.
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