Let me start with a rant. What the hell is it about the medium of anime and its frequent total disregard of continuity and consistency? This pissed me off with Tenchi Muyo back in the late 90's/early 00's when none of the OAVs, TV series, movies or manga shared any of the same universes. Why bother starting from the beginning every time and contradicting the previous entries in the franchise? At the risk of sounding like an old fart, Dominion: Tank Police did the same thing. Cool anime that sort of acted like a prequel to the manga (but didn’t really), a second manga volume that contradicted the first, then a second anime series that ignored both previous manga and anime! I’ve not seen the more recent cgi TV series Tank SWAT so who knows how much that ignores previous continuity. Then there’s the differences between CLAMP’s X manga, movies and TV series... You need an excel spreadsheet to keep track of the characters’ fates between competing versions of the story. This is not a rant about remakes - those are fair enough. I expect those to be different. This is about similar versions where they don’t bother to tie them together because it seems like they can’t be arsed.
Eureka Seven is a franchise that commits this major sin not once, not twice, but now three times over with the release of this abomination of a movie - Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution 1, the first of a threatened trilogy/remake of the TV series. So initially I thought this might be a high budget retelling/semi-sequel Rebuild of Evangelion-type affair, but no such luck here. Eureka Seven was a great 50-episode 2005-2006 mecha/adventure TV anime series produced by Studio Bones. It told a (mostly) coherent story with a beginning, a middle and a definite end. They should have kept that ending.
In 2009 they released the theatrical movie Eureka Seven: Pocketful of Rainbows. (Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers in the West.) This was where Bones showed they could not be trusted to leave a good thing well alone. In time-honoured anime tradition, this was a compilation movie with a few scenes of new animation. It did not attempt to condense 50 episodes of anime into 115 minutes, but instead re-purposed TV footage into an incoherent and contradictory narrative with glaring continuity errors (such as TV series antagonist Dewey being absent from the story and replaced with another character but still being visible in one particular climactic scene). The in-story reason for the differences from the TV series is that this took place in an alternative universe. This movie was pointless. See also: Escaflowne: the Movie.
Next came 2012's sort-of-sequel 24-episode TV series Eureka Seven: AO (Astral Ocean) which again was set in a parallel universe with tenuous links to the original series that became clearer only in the final few episodes where the writers proceeded to urinate all over the ending of their original series. I admit that on first watching AO, I quite enjoyed it for what it was - another colourful but empty mecha show. It did not live up to the original series and made the original ending worse, as well as more complicated. To muddy the waters even further, Bones made a further “final” episode of AO in 2017 to publicise a Pachislot machine, of all ridiculous things.
I’m not even going to bother analysing the other alternate ending they hacked together as episode 51 of the original series using a new voice recording but only spliced-together existing footage. It has thankfully been classified as “non-canon”. But what the hell even is Eureka Seven canon now anyway? By introducing alternative universes they’ve needlessly complicated a powerful, emotional story and made it meaningless. You can imagine my hopes were not high for this new, fresh insult.
So what is this new movie, and why has it irritated me so much? Firstly - it’s pretty short at 93 minutes. The first 33 minutes is all entirely new footage that acts as a prequel to the series and could have been shaved off this movie and presented as a perfectly respectable “episode zero”. We are dumped in media res with renowned scientist Adroc Thurston (father of the series’ main character Renton Thurston) attempting to reverse some kind of military action that he had apparently triggered. The movie did not coherently explain what his exact involvement was, nor exactly what the action was meant to have achieved, nor quite how Adroc had decided it wasn’t going to work. There were lots of flashy mecha fights and some heroic sacrifices that might have meant something if we’d been able to spend any time with the characters or understood what the hell it was they were trying to do (or prevent).
As a veteran Eureka Seven fan, I at least knew what KLFs and Trapar waves were, plus I already knew what Scub Coral was so I was at an advantage. And I was still confused. The military seemed to want to do something to the scub coral that covered the planet, plus they were somehow going to achieve this with the power of music. The series continued its very on-the-nose musical references with the action taking place at “Woodstock” culminating in a disaster called somewhat incongruously “The Summer of Love”. The military’s big WMD missile thing at one point starts throwing down sick beats with a matching, pulsing laser show. I am not kidding. During this apocalypse/rave/whatever, Adroc sacrifices his life, but not before some kind of inter-dimensional portal malarkey occurs which means he can see multiple versions of earth in the sky. Oh bugger, I thought. They’re doing the multiverse crap again. Oddly, the film makes no secret of the fact the movie takes place on a drastically altered earth. This is not revealed until towards the end of the TV series.
At least that first section progresses chronologically and makes some kind of narrative sense. After this we’re into entirely re-purposed TV footage territory, and things get frustrating. The screen ratio deliberately switches from a cinematic 16:9 to a televisual 4:3 for the film’s remaining 60 minutes. And some of that footage is itself repeated within the movie. This footage isn’t even presented in a sensible order - it’s all over the bloody shop, with frequent pauses for “Play Forward” and “Play Back” interstitial screens and far too many on-screen captions that try to fill the blanks in the plot and backstory but make for an intrusive and messy viewing experience. Scenes jump about throughout the timeline for no good structural reason. Seriously, this film would have been far more tolerable if they’d just shot whoever it was who’d structured it this way, quietly disposed of the body and then assembled the footage chronologically.
What the main body of the film amounts to is mostly a retelling of anime episodes 22-25 with a few glimpses of episodes 1 and 19 taken entirely out of context. If you know the series, episode 22 is where Renton has run away from his friends and meets up with Ray and Charles Beams, a married couple of pilots who knew his father. He lives with them for a couple of episodes, they later become tragic antagonists and they die. It was an almost completely extraneous part of the original story that I disliked and can’t think for a moment why anyone thought it would be a good idea to make this of all things the basis for a film. No context is given to Renton’s time on the Gekkostate ship, minimal details are given about his relationship with Eureka. We’re given no reason to care about his crisis of belonging as almost nothing about his other life away from Ray and Charles is explained at all.
It seems that in this version of the story, Renton was adopted as a very young child by Ray and Charles after his father died. This was not the case in the series where he was raised by his grandfather and elder sister. Ray and Charles were two randoms he bumped into who took him in and briefly played happy families with him. The only saving graces those two characters have is that they remind me of 1970s Leiji Matsumoto character designs. I dislike the way they messed with the story structure, and I wonder if *sigh* this is another sign that this takes place in yet another pointless parallel universe away from the original series.
Without context or structure this is an aggravating, frustrating and even at times excruciating film. It’s like it was structured by a child with ADHD. It can’t focus on anything for long and there is very little depth. I think you’re meant to feel something when Renton makes his final decision to leave, but any emotion would feel so unearned. I can’t imagine a newcomer to the series giving a shit, the only joy I experienced was seeing how they’d reused some scenes in a vaguely clever way to give them different meaning to their original incarnation in the TV series.
As much as I love the original Eureka Seven, I cannot possibly recommend this movie to anyone - not to established fans, nor newcomers. Who did they think they were making this for? I’ve read a review of the second Hi-Evolution film, and it sounds much more interesting, though it appears to lean even further into the alternate universe stuff. I also hear there is a much higher proportion of new footage to re-used TV scenes. Perhaps once all three films are out, this first effort will be re-contextualised as an essential part. But I doubt it.
Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution 1 Collector’s Combi
Director: Tomoki Kyoda
Languages: Japanese or English with English Subtitiles
Region: Region B/2
Number of discs: 2 (Blu-ray and DVD)
Classification: BBFC 12
Distributor: Anime Ltd
Japanese Cinematic Release: September 16th 2017
UK Blu-ray/DVD Release Date: 10 Sept. 2018
Run Time: 93 minutes