Saturday, February 3, 2018
Anime On the Big Screen: “Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution 1”
Date: Saturday 3 February 2018
Distributor: Madman Entertainment
Format: Digital Projection, Japanese dialogue with English subtitles
Length: 93 minutes
Production Date: 2017
Currently on Home Video in English (as of writing): No
We’re only at the start of February and a second anime film is having a limited release in cinemas in this country. I still find it somewhat weird that every month or two I can rock up to the cinema to watch an anime film. A decade ago you’d be hard pressed to find a single anime film at a touring film festival, and then it’d be most likely a dubbed film print of something that had been available on video for years. Alas today’s film is a compilation film, something I’m never too keen to watch. However it was a nice day to get outside; a relatively cool 23°C, which is unusual for this time of year. I said in my previous theatrical anime review that I was no longer going to talk about the patrons who come to these screenings, but have sort of reneged on that. Only seven people showed up including me, with a couple of really talkative otaku types behind me and another couple in front who left 45 minutes into the film and never returned (with good reason…). So, on with the discussion of the film;
We are taken back a decade before the events of the first episode of “Eureka Seven”. Humanity is in the midst of an all-out battle to rid the world of Coralian threat. Military researcher Adrock Thurston decides that the plan to destroy the Coralians using a newly constructed super weapon called the Silver Box is too destructive and must be stopped as he believes both forms of life can co-exist. Adrock rebels and enlists the services of Eureka, who is a female human form of the Coralian sent to by the sentient Scub Coral to understand and communicate with humans. In the series the Scub Coral are a kind of alien race who have merged with the Earth and have caused humans to migrate as they terraform the planet. Scub Coral have various physical manifestations which are known as the Coralian. Using a robot type craft called a Light Finding Operation (LFO), Adrock and Eureka take out several missiles which are launched to kill the Coralian. Meanwhile the battle on Earth is going badly; the vast majority of Earth forces have been wiped out. As the Silver Box activates, Adrock jettisons Eureka to save her and heroically destroys the weapon, presumably dying in the process as it explodes. In his final words he wonders aloud about how his son will grow up and what he would think of him, and proclaims the event of the destruction of the Silver Box as the Summer of Love.
A decade later in the year 12,005 AD, Adrock’s son, Renton lives in the town of Bellforest. Living with his grandfather, Renton attends a military school. He is utterly bored senseless and tries to fill up his spare time by attempting to surf the trapar waves using his own board and idolising Holland Novak of the anti-government militia and counterculture collective Gekkostate. However trapar waves are a by-product of Scub Coral which are rare around that town, leaving him to be rather unsuccessful in his attempt to surf. His only link to the sport, a local seller of merchandise, packs up and leaves as no one is interested in the sport except Renton. Later the area where he surfs is fenced off by the military and destroyed by Scub Coral emerging through the surface. His life sucks even more when a LFO crashes into his house. However inside is Eureka whom he will later befriend. Not shown in the film itself and only alluded to via voiceover and a couple of scenes is Renton managing to board and be accepted onto the Gekkostate.
Renton is treated quite badly by the crew and Holland himself. Eureka later ends up nearly merging with Scub Coral in a mine and is badly injured and takes a long time to recover. Because of these events, Renton eventually runs away. However things don’t go well back on the ground for him. All of his money and possessions are stolen except for his board. He wanders around a city and eventually ends up sleeping with a group of homeless people. He is later awakened by pounding dance music and finds himself in the middle of a block party in the middle of the day. Two of the party attendees, a couple in the thirties, Ray and Charles Beams, befriend him and eventually decide to adopt him. Though a little unsure at first, Renton eventually bonds with his new adoptive parents. Renton finally feels at peace with himself. The husband and wife duo are guns for hire and take on various missions, often with Renton in tow. However two events cause Renton to rethink staying with his new parents.
So more than a decade after the original broadcast of “Eureka Seven”, for some reason a decision was made to create a trilogy of compilation movies and release them into cinemas. Stranger yet there has been a real push to release the films into cinemas outside Japan, including the US, the UK, France, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and here in Australia. The press release from Bandai Visual loudly trumpets that the previous series “Eureka Seven AO” sold over 800,000 units on home video in Japan, which is probably why they’ve decided to make and release these films now. However as far as I'm aware the “Eureka Seven AO” series was received rather lukewarmly in the west. Regardless, the original cast and staff from the TV series have all pretty much returned for these compilations films.
As I mentioned before, this film started off with the “Summer of Love” event which was only hinted at in the original story. The first 25 minutes or so of the film are dedicated this this event in the form of a newly animated battle between the Earth forces and the Coralians. I must say it’s quite an amazing spectacle. However I did feel it did run a bit too long. After that we are treated to excepts of a memorial service held a decade after the event and a sequence showing Renton being chased by a pack of dogs, apparently which is meant to occur between episode 24 and 25. Unfortunately this is where the the most interesting elements of this film ends. From this point onwards the film shrinks from a cinemascope format (16:9) to the 4:3 TV format the original TV series was shot in. Yes, it’s pretty much all TV footage for the rest of the film. I really don’t understand why this was done. The “Zeta Gundam” movies for example, have the TV footage cropped to cinemascope even though they too were shot in 4:3 format. Why have they chosen not to crop the 4:3 TV footage for this compilation film?
Now in a normal compilation film, the vast majority of it is usually edited in a coherent, linear, in sequence kind of way. Not with this film however. For some reason, the director has decided to tell Renton’s story completely out of sequence. We are constantly thrown forward and back in time with title cards reading “Playback” or “Rewind” in between scenes and the only point of reference being the amount of days or hours before or after Renton is chased by the dogs. But at times it seems the original point of reference changes. Adding to the confusion is the completely unnecessary amount of on screen text which does give some useful information such as place names, but includes increasingly trivial amounts of data such as character’s biometrics, absurdly detailed information about various mecha and bizarrely information on why Renton is not wearing a helmet while riding a bike in one short shot, and text labeling a meal of tacos at a dinner table. There has to be several hundreds of separate on screen text blurbs during the film. Little of it adds to the story. The vast majority of the time it just piles on the confusion of the way the film is being told; an out of sequence, schizophrenic retelling of Renton’s story.
The most puzzling thing about this film is the almost complete absence of the Gekkostate and its crew. I think the total amount of screen time dedicated to them amounts to less than five minutes, though it's possibly less than three. It’s a really bizarre and odd omission, as in the original TV series the Gekkostate is key to the plot of the show and the reason why Renton wants to get out of the town he is stuck in. Also conspicuous in its absence is the magazine that the Gekkostate publishes; ray=out. There is not a single mention of the publication in the film, at all, which is strange as it played a key role in the TV series. Instead the main focus of the film is on Renton’s relationship with Ray and Charles Beams which mostly takes place in the episodes from 19 to 24. Secondary to that is Renton’s relationship with Eureka, however not much of that material is presented in the film. We can see that he has a deep connection with her, but little is shown how this relationship developed.
It’s plain to see why that couple left the cinema only half way through the film. The film recounts the story of “Eureka Seven” in a bizarre and unnecessarily confusing manner that is neither entertaining nor gives new insight to the series. The copious amounts of on screen text do not help, nor does the fact that key parts of the story are missing or the jarring leap from cinemascope to old pre-digital TV sized format. If you’re a diehard fan of the series and wanted to see what the “Summer of Love” was about, it’d be great film to watch. But for viewers new to the franchise and hadn’t seen the over decade old series it was cut from, you’d be absolutely lost and have no idea what was going on. There is a preview for the second film in the series after the end credits, which is due for release sometime in 2018. The couple behind me said they wouldn’t be going to see it. It's easy to understand why. Apart from the newly animated 25 minute opening sequence, there’s little here of any value in this film. 4.5 out of 10.