Review for Eureka Seven - Hi-Evolution 1 Collector's Combi
At what point do you give up trying to recapture lightning in a bottle? Take Highlander for instance. One awesome, distillation of eighties flair in a feature film, and it spawned dire sequels, a forgettable TV series, and a Saturday morning cartoon. Only a Yoshiaki Kawajiri anime came close to finding the magic again. It seems Eureka Seven is going in a similar direction. The 50 episode TV series is rightfully a classic of the giant robot genre, and justifiably got an Ultimate Edition from All the Anime last year. That meant I came at the show ass-backwards, only getting to see what the fuss was about after I saw the spin-offs. There was a movie first of all, an alternate reality re-telling of the story in Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers, which I kind of enjoyed, until I saw the original series. On the other hand, the Eureka Seven AO TV series started off strongly, then disappeared up its own fundament at the conclusion, but actually works a little better side by side with the original series. That’s nowhere near a Highlander level of flogging a dead horse, but there should be some hint there. Yet they’re giving the theatrical option another stab, with these Hi-Evolution feature films. And they’re going back to the original TV series to get it right.
Renton Beams is on the run. He’s being chased down by some dogs in a desert, and that barely gives him time to reflect on how he came to such a predicament. Being adopted by Charles and Ray Beams might have seemed like heaven after his misadventures on the Gekkostate. For the boy who was Renton Thurston, having grown up in the shadow of his heroic father Adroc, hemmed in by others’ expectations, the chance to have a normal family was a dream. But real life and dreams seldom coincide.
Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer... at first. The new footage is widescreen, clear and sharp with strong colours, and with excellent, action packed animation, which while in keeping with the style of the TV series, certainly levels up in terms of production value. And then we get to the flashback portion of the film, which excerpted from the TV series itself is in 4:3 regular format with black bars at the side. It could have been worse; they could have just cropped it. But really, for a big event feature film, you’d have expected them to re-animate.
They changed ‘scubs’ to ‘scabs’ in the subtitles. I kept thinking of the miner’s strike of the eighties! You have the choice between English and Japanese Dolby True HD 5.1 Surround, with subtitles or signs locked during playback. Once again, the audio excels with the new footage, immersing you in some serious action sequences, but once the flashbacks begin, it all drifts forward. There are a lot of captions in this film, with English burnt in to the print under the Japanese, and usually in a font size too small to easily read against busy backgrounds, especially at the pace the captions fly. The subtitles are accurately timed, and other than the ‘scabs’ are free of typos.
The disc autoplays a trailer for Star Blazers 2199 and looks to be authored by Funimation. It boots to an animated menu, and the film is followed by a translated English credit reel.
We’re not doing too badly for extras, with Hiroya Ozaki x Tomoku Kyoda x Dai Sato Cross Talk lasting 27:57, as some of the creative talent discuss the film.
There are five music videos on this disc, and unlike the usual definition of Japanese music videos (just 90 second teasers), this time you get full length videos at some 3½ minutes each.
You get the teaser, the theatrical trailer, and the commercials for the film.
Finally there are trailers for Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans, Planetarian, Ghost in the Shell Innocence, Evangelion 3.33, Code Geass, Akito the Exiled, and Aquarion Logos.
I haven't seen the packaging or physical extras with this Collector's Edition Combi release to comment.
You’re going to want this movie for the first 27 minutes. Hell, they could have made that first 27 minutes as an OVA and still raked it in! The film opens with a look at The First Summer of Love, which occurred 10 years before the TV series. We get to see some familiar characters in unexpected situations, and we see just what Renton’s father Adroc Thurston did to earn his reputation as the world’s greatest hero.
One problem with the film becomes apparent right at the start, the reliance on captions. There are hundreds of them, introducing situations, introducing characters, setting out locations, and later on they’re used to try and keep the chronology straight. There’s not enough time to read them all, and they’re not all that easy to read if you are so inclined. That’s what happens when you try to squeeze a 50 episode TV series and all its back-story into feature films, and then spending half an hour on new material in a 90 minute movie.
We then switch to Renton’s misadventures with the Beams. As I said, adapting such a long TV series to a movie isn’t easy, and the filmmakers have picked the one narrative arc in the show that fits into the runtime. The problem is that for me, Eureka Seven is really about Eureka’s relationship with Renton, and she’s hardly in this movie. When I finally watched the TV series, I always thought that the arc where Renton runs off and meets Charles and Ray Beams as the filler of Eureka Seven, yet they’ve crafted a whole movie around that arc.
Just to make it ‘interesting’, the whole hour long story is told in fractured narrative, jumping backwards and forwards through time, giving a disjointed account as Renton’s recollections unfold, following an emotional arc through the story if not a narrative one.
After the vocal and prodigious fan response to Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution, I actually came to it with negative expectations, anticipating suckitude of seismic proportions. Hi-Evolution isn’t that bad. Given what they have to work with, and what they are trying to accomplish, the creators managed to find an emotional thread in a fifty-episode TV series that works as 90-minute movie, giving fans something new and anticipated, as well as something emotional and effective. It’s a passable movie, although I doubt very much that it’s the movie that fans wanted to see. They’ve done the ‘start from scratch’ thing with the first feature film, and that wasn’t a resounding success, so I can see why they went for adapting from the TV series, but really those scenes should just have been reanimated for widescreen. The frame shifts in this film are hardly IMAX. As so often happens with digest movies compiled from TV series, it’s just better to watch the TV series.