Of all the franchises that crave another series - Ghost in the Shell Standalone Complex, Stellvia of the Universe (well kind of), Moyashimon (wait...) - Eureka Seven was not one of them. The hugely influential original series was Studio Bones firing on all cylinders. A tour de force of storytelling, boundless imagination, confident execution, and most critically a satisfying and conclusive ending. Say what you will about the pacing (soccer episode anyone?), it still stands as one of the best anime series ever made.
Eureka Seven Astral Ocean has a lot to live up to and does itself no favours by starting very similarly to Xam'd of the Lost Memories - an idyllic island community is attacked with terrifying force by an alien aggressor while an aged doctor tries to help. It's certainly a lot more coherent than Xam'd and has echoes Eureka Seven's original opening with the humanoid robot Nirvash careening into the Thurston's garage roof.
So far so Bones, but the lingering question from the first three episodes is how the story slots together with the first series, if at all. The options boil down to sequel, prequel or reboot. A sequel would be the least controversial with the protagonist Ao pitched as the child of Eureka and Renton; a prequel on the other hand would make more sense given identifiable geography and geopolitical factions as well as a lack of twee moon graffiti; but then a reboot is not outside of E7's grasp given the copious volumes of manga and the Pocket Full of Rainbows spin-off movie.
The answer to this question is not helped by an insistence on hiding Ao's mother's face until the closing minutes of the third episode. As a "big reveal" it only muddies the waters - is this the Eureka we know and love from the original series and the world has indeed changed unrecognisably in a few short years? Or is this her progenitor and perhaps the beginning of an explanation as to why Eureka Seven and not Eureka One?
It's largely an academic inquiry though because it in no way effects the absurd quality on display. A team must have been hired specifically to animate the explosions for they are as beautiful as they are numerous. More pedestrian elements like the iconic sky-surfing robots, flying cars and the burgeoning cast are equally superb. That is to say nothing of the music which is so brilliantly chosen it grabs your ears and sends tingles down your spine.
Any fault you can level at Eureka Seven AO then, at only three episodes into the currently projected twenty four, boil down to taste. AO is well on track to become another one of Bones' masterpieces and it brings all the studio's skill and boldness to bear in order create an utterly enthralling opening play. AO may not be the series we originally wanted then, but damned if it isn't one we can't now do without.