The summer of 2010 will be etched in my memory as the time I discovered Eureka 7. Having bought the Anime Legends box sets comprising the complete 50 episode series, I devoured it over the space of a fortnight, enjoying every wildly inventive, highly entertaining moment of it. Even now, it’s still one of my favourite anime series. So when I heard there was a standalone movie in the works, I was pretty much thrilled. Now it’s here, in the shape of ‘Eureka 7: Goodnight, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers’.
The exciting thing about this movie is that, rather than a direct continuation or side story of the earlier TV show, we’ve got a daring re-boot instead. Not only are there some very drastic changes made to the storyline, but most characters are entirely repurposed. The names and faces are the same, but personalities and motivations have been changed to protect the innocent. Or something like that.
In this new version of events, we’re introduced to Renton and Eureka – the central characters of the TV show – as childhood friends. Renton is the orphan child of two deceased scientists, while Eureka is afflicted with a condition that means she cannot venture out into direct sunlight. The two of them are inseparable, until one day armed men take Eureka into custody, claiming that she is a threat to global security. Unable to help his friend and feeling useless, Renton vows to find her again, no matter the cost. Some time later we see that Renton has joined the ‘303’ – an armed forces unit embroiled in a long-term operation to combat an alien invasion. Renton’s bond with the Nirvash, a giant transformable combat mecha, sees him quickly thrown into the heart of the action. Events will soon lead Renton back to Eureka, and into a whole crazy world of adventure. Apparently.
If this all sounds a bit far removed from Eureka 7 as you already know it, well… you’d be absolutely correct. It’ s abundantly clear that this is the approach from the opening scenes of the movie. Studio Bones have very obviously gone to great efforts to provide their audience with a new Eureka 7 experience.
And let me tell you… I really wish they hadn’t bothered. Because I LOVE Eureka 7 as a series, but I ain’t diggin’ it as a movie. At. All.
Naturally, I’ll elaborate as to why.
If, like me, you’re familiar with and fond of Eureka 7 as a TV series, you may find the new story and ‘reboot’ approach just too challenging. Having invested in the familiar cast of faces over the course of an expansive 50 episode arc, my inner fanboy just found the way some of them have been reworked too hard to take. Renton and Eureka feel largely familiar in spite of tweaked back stories, while the wider cast of Holland, his crew, Anemone and Dominic are all present and correct, but not as you’ll remember them. Sometimes this works nicely. Anemone and Dominic are used to good effect, for example. But the new spin on the Gekko’s crew really sticks in my craw, not least for making Holland and Hap – two interesting, likeable characters in the show – quite genuinely unpleasant. Worse, a lot of the colourful and quirky side characters, such as the bridge crew of the Gekko – are reduced to bit part players, no better than extras with a few lines of dialogue to remember them for.
This is by no means the extent of the movie’s problems, unfortunately. The whole thing just feels too ambitious, and not just with regard to the remodelling and restructuring that’s been done. As the story unfolds, new story ideas and information are pushed at the audience relentlessly, and often in a poorly explained fashion. There’s not nearly enough exposition and explanation of how these things relate to the story, which makes the movie unfriendly to newcomers and existing fans alike. It’s just too damned difficult to keep up with.
Additionally, the frequent nods to the TV show’s established lore (including not a few shots lifted from the show itself, which occasionally feel rather forced) may be fun for die-hard fans, but they don‘t sit well with the overall premise. It’s an aspect of the movie that feels decidedly wrong-footed. If it’s a new take, why reference material from a separate story? A few knowing nods in this direction would be quite good fun, but the glut of stuff that gets referenced and the low level of impact most of it has on the story being told on-screen only adds to the impression that the movie is a bit of a mess.
I applaud Bones for trying to do something genuinely different with Eureka 7 in the condensed movie format. The attempt to provide something new for fans and newbies alike is admirable, and I’d certainly rather have something like this over a compilation movie. But in the final analysis, it all feels pretty damp. So much of what made the series truly unmissable is lost here. It’s neither as compelling or as much fun to watch, saddled with a ham-fisted, unfocused storytelling style and characters who have become irritating or hard to connect with, thanks to their reinvention.
Still, there is some stuff of merit. Eureka 7 has always been a visual treat, and that trend is continued here, even if it doesn’t appear to be appreciably better animated than the TV show. But hey – it’s Bones! Quality in this department is almost always guaranteed, and it has to be said that the TV anime was astonishingly good-looking to begin with. The gnarly high-altitude fight scenes between the show’s distinctive surf-boarding mecha are still present and correct and, although brief, exciting to watch. The colourful and dynamic look of Bones’ earlier work is mercifully preserved, too. Interestingly, nothing’s been tinkered with visually, with characters kept recognisable by sight even if they act out alarmingly different roles. It’s great to see that Bang Zoom! handle the dub as well, with the familiar cast of Johnny Yong Bosch, Stephanie Sheh and Crispin Freeman et al reprising their roles with equal spirit as was shown in their previous 50 episode outing.
Ultimately, it’s unfortunate that ‘Good Night, Sleep Tight Young Lovers’ comes off badly when held up against the anime that came before it. But there it is. Comparatively, this potted, alternative remix is neither as lively nor appealing. As a (radical) retelling of the story, it’s diverting enough, and even packs a few surprises, though I suspect it’s not something you’ll want to watch more than once.
Sadly, potential has been missed, and by a long, long way.