Eureka Seven, The Movie Review
There are no hard and fast rules about how to approach a movie version of a successful anime series, but the choice by writer/director Tomoki Kyoda for Psalms of Eureka Seven, The Movie (“Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers” to give it its full title) is one of the strangest, and surely not one best recommended. Rather than trying to compress fifty episodes down into under two hours – definitely not a recommended strategy either – the director chooses to more or less completely jettison the continuity and effectively reboot the story with an entirely new spin on the characters, their backgrounds and their motivations. Not going quite as far as reworking the character designs – although it seems he did once consider changing all the names – the result is however somewhat confusing and disorienting for anyone familiar with the original series. For anyone who has not seen the original Eureka Seven series, this might sound like a good jumping on point then to sample a well-liked and successful anime, but I’m not quite convinced it works on that level either.
For anyone who has watched the original series (personally, I’ve only seen the first 25 episodes that make up half the series, but I thought I had a solid grasp on the nature of the story and the characters nonetheless), the opening of Eureka Seven, The Movie is very confusing indeed. It opens with Renton and Eureka growing up together as young children, along with a baby Nirvash – the huge transforming thermal wave surfing robot that Renton will eventually pilot seemingly an organic creature in larva form here – the two infants brutally separated by soldiers who drag Eureka away only for them to be reunited dramatically as the war against the EIZO approaches a critical stage some eight years later in 2054. The enemy invaders who have devastated large sections of the Earth over 45 years, the EIZO have gained such control that the military have been forced to consider evacuating humans from Earth in order to make use of the ultimate weapon, the Hammer of the Gods.
Promising young 14 year-old military pilot Renton Thurston has joined the rebels on board the Gekkostate (now just called the Gekko, it seems), all of them bearing a strange affliction, and who have their own agenda, one espoused by the Ageha cult based on an old myth that a chosen maiden and a young boy (now, who could that possibly be?) will offer an alternative means of salvation. The recovery of Eureka, who has spent the intervening years being subjected to military experiments, and the discovery that she could be a robot agent observer for the EIZO – whose origin and purpose remains a mystery – means however that their plans to open up a wormhole carries great risks and an element of the unknown.
Theoretically, the rationale for a remix of the original series is a valid one. For anyone unfamiliar with the series, the movie works as a standalone piece that does succeed in capturing the essential tone of the original. And indeed, Eureka Seven, The Movie is kind of like the series reduced to its essence, shorn of extraneous character development or a drawn-out narrative arc, often reduced down to a concentrated form of pure imagery and action. It doesn’t quite go as far as Rintaro’s distinctive reworking of Clamp’s ‘X’ for example – where rather than try to play out numerous volumes of the as yet unfinished manga material, the director just took it into its own direction as an orgy of apocalyptic destruction – but it does take a similar remix attitude, taking all the essential successful elements of the original and reworking them to fit a new framework.
For fans of the original series it’s not only a means of revisiting the world of Eureka Seven in a new exciting incarnation, it’s also an opportunity to “fix” some of the weaker “kiddie” elements of the series. You would think that cutting back on the origins and getting straight into the action would at least reduce a lot of the adolescent whining that went along with Renton’s teen coming-of-age story, and to a certain extent it does, but somehow, it just seems to gather all those squealing hysterics into compressed form in the rather improbably over-the-top emotional scene where Renton and Eureka – who one would have imagined would have long forgotten each other having shared nothing but infant years together – are reunited. On the other hand, what is certainly most happily fixed by the reworking – and for me it almost justifies the entire reboot – is the elimination (elimination would be too good for them – they do sneak into a cameo appearance here) of Eureka’s orphans, by far the weakest element of the original series. Personally, I would have liked to see some more modern redesigns of the KLFs (which I thought were called LFOs in the original, but it seems you can’t rely on anything here) rather than the blocky old-fashioned 80s Transformers Mecha designs, but nothing has changed on that front other than their organic nature and the fact that the robot battles aren’t all that prominent a feature in the movie.
Given the confusion that abounds and the inconsistencies in the plotting, opinion is generally divided however on whether it was such a good idea to revisit the world of Eureka Seven and mess around with it at all. Certainly, the impression given by this new version is that the writers have become lost in the world they have created, that it all might make sense somehow in their heads, but over the course of numerous rewrites and remixing of the material, they just seem to have lost the ability to put the story across in an intelligible manner that anyone else would understand. On the other hand, if you’re new to the material, prepared to stick with it and maybe even rewatch it once or twice, or if you’re a fan and able to put the original out of your head and just go along with the flow, there actually is still much to enjoy in Eureka Seven, The Movie. The animation from the Bones studio (most famous for the groundbreaking Cowboy Bebop series) is excellent – a notch perhaps above the original – with strong characters and inventive situations, the story in places working purely as a purely sensory experience, but with an intriguing, fast-moving and adventurous new plot that does, in the end, hold together reasonably well.
Eureka Seven, The Movie is released in the UK by Manga Entertainment on DVD and Blu-ray. I haven’t seen how it looks in High Definition, but the DVD is of a reasonably good quality. It’s in PAL format, and has been correctly encoded rather than being converted from an NTSC source, which used to be more common with anime. The image is therefore clear, with no significant marks or artefacts, the colour clear and strong, although with a slight softness of tone. PAL speed-up could be an issue here for some, but this should be avoided on the (presumably) 1080/24p Blu-ray.
Speed-up is likely only to be an issue here on voices, and even then only on the English dub really. Both the Japanese soundtrack and the English dub are presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. I gave the English version a go, since I had watched some of the series that way, but frankly, it was unbearable. The speed-up does nothing for the squealing teeny high-pitched hysteria when Renton and Eureka are separated and reunited – it’s significantly more endurable in the Japanese version. The American way of pronouncing Eureka as “Ur-wreck-ah” throughout also confused me for a while into thinking that the names had been changed as well as the characters. As ever though, the choice is down to the individual – and if you can get by without subtitles so much the better. The quality of the sound mix is fine on both versions.
English subtitles are provided and are in a good, clean, readable white font.
Extra features consist of a fifty-minute Making Of, which consists mainly of interview footage of director, Tomoki Kyoda, explaining the writing and the thought process behind the new reboot, as well as contributions from the Japanese voice-actors who share their thoughts on the new and in some cases darker versions of characters they had been familiar with. TV Spots are also included.
Completely throwing out the continuity of the original series in favour of a new way of presenting the characters and their story is a risky enterprise, and it has to be said that Eureka Seven, The Movie doesn’t entirely succeed, managing to upset both fans of the original anime series and potentially confusing new viewers with a story that is overly complex and fast moving. On balance however – removing some of the more irritating elements of the original series, introducing a more complex adult tone to the Mecha sci-fi plotting and keeping up a high standard in the animation – it’s just about worth the extra concentration and perseverance required. And ultimately, in all honesty, I think I’d be more likely to come back to this one than ever go back to the 50 episode series again.