I think it would be safe to say that opinions on Eureka Seven: Astral Ocean have been very polarized. Perhaps it was inevitable with Bones reviving an extremely popular franchise as a lot of fans of the original Eureka Seven have expressed discontent with Astral Ocean. If you have read any of my weekly Anime Power Ranking picks then you will have a general idea of my thoughts on Astral Ocean. Recently, though, I have begun to lean towards the thought that Eureka Seven: Astral Ocean simply should not exist. Rather, it should simply be Astral Ocean because the Eureka Seven franchise name has been too much of a detriment to it.
When observing viewer reactions to AO I am hard pressed to find criticisms that don’t in some way involve comparing it to the original. Which is understandable considering that they are calling AO a sequel to the original story. But because of this, AO is viewed very critically (and almost unfairly) because people have their own expectations for what they think defines a sequel to Eureka Seven. Unfortunately, I don’t think there was much AO could have done to meet the massive expectations placed upon because of its status as a sequel. Even the fact that it is a sequel caused many (present company included) to view it skeptically or even with distaste. Ultimately, the problem with these expectations is that they cause people to judge AO not on its own merits, but on their nostalgia from the original series.
In addition, being disappointed about something only serves to accentuate its flaws. AO is by no means perfect, but it is nowhere near as juvenile or bad as people seem to say. Also, in its defense, the original series was also far from perfect. In fact, I remember a lot of annoying moments and mistakes in the original show, but we tend to forget the bad parts of the show looking at it through rose-tinted glasses. Unfortunately for AO if you are annoyed at the show as a whole already, then every misstep is only going to aggravate your distaste as you constantly compare it back to the original.
That said, things would be different if I felt that AO was trying to be a sequel to Eureka Seven. Overall, the show feels so disconnected from the original that at times I do feel like I’m watching an entirely different franchise (I am finding more connections to Evangelion than Eureka Seven). If anything, it feels more like AO is trying to stand on its own feet and tell its own story without riding on the original Eureka Seven’s success. Which leaves me wondering, why make a sequel if you aren’t going to utilize what the original already took the time to establish? AO is basically capable of standing on its own as a separate franchise (with some tweaking of course), and doing so would avoid much of the problems due to people’s expectations.
Even so, I still don’t find that AO is a bad show. Maybe it was a poor call to make it a sequel of a popular franchise, but when looking at the story itself, it is doing pretty good. AO has made some mistakes, but I can respect the story it is trying to tell. I only wish that AO was not under the Eureka Seven franchise so that people would judge it more off its own merits and not off their own expectations.