Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution 1 Review

When I first heard that Eureka Seven was getting a trilogy of films based on the series I thought: Great! This could be a good thing. They’ll cover the show from the start and go on, maybe deal with some of the unanswered questions from before the show started too. Well, when it finally aired at Scotland Loves Anime in 2017, we got at least one of those things, but what came after that really didn’t bode well.

For those that have yet to see Eureka Seven, there will be spoilers in this review as the film does jump around, so please be cautious if you are yet to watch the show!

For those unfamiliar with the show, Eureka Seven is a 50 episode series from 2005-2006 about Renton Thurston, a boy who has nothing going for him bar hover-boarding, until he meets with a girl called Eureka (who crashes into his house) in the KLF (the name given to the mechs of the show) called Nirvash and Gekkostate, a band of guerilla fighters run by a man named Holland, a pro hover-boarder that Renton idolises. From there his adventure begins with Gekkostate, Eureka, you get the idea…

The film starts off the way I had hoped it would, with the first 20-30 minutes being prequel content. Taking place ten years before the series begins, it focuses on the event called “The Summer of Love” – an incident caused by Renton’s father, Adroc Thurston, who tried to stop the Scub Coral (the biological entities in the middle of the planet which humans treat as being a potential threat, so they are holding them back at present) from causing any more harm on Earth, forcing them back into hibernation. This is all finally covered here, as in the series itself you only really get small snippets dotted here and there about this. We get a good glimpse into Adroc’s character and how he came to be the “hero” of mankind. We’re shown him trying to stop his weapon, the “Silver Box” from going off as it wasn’t ready, and using Nirvash Type 00 in doing so. The footage is all brand-new, with not a single bit of reused material from the series, as such, and there are small changes to the event that weren’t in the series, but I guess they did have a bit of freedom considering it’s never actually covered in full. The animation in this segment is gorgeous, combat is fast-paced and frantic as the forces of the United Federation use their KLF units to hold off the Scub Coral “Anti-bodies” which react to anything nearby and attack them as if they are a threat, protecting the Hive, so to speak.

We also get a glimpse of the relationship between Adroc, Holland and Eureka, giving you an idea as to how they come to know Renton. Ray and Charles also get screen time here as KLF pilots fighting against the anti-bodies, and you get an idea of the ordeals they had to go through between the events of The Summer of Love and when they appear in the show, although their part is rather minor in comparison to the rest. This segment is very well linked to a superb soundtrack, something that the series always had, especially with how much music is used as a weapon towards easing the attacks from the Coralians. The weapon that worked as part of the Summer of Love event also used pulses and beats through music to fight against the Scub Coral, so it’s an important element woven into the plot of the show. However, once this segment finishes, the film unfortunately goes downhill.

Fast forward to present day, and we’re presented with Renton running away from dogs, with him in monologue throughout, talking about how he’s got to this moment. The film now uses a means of “Play Forward” and “Play Back”, which is presented by the screen going black, and filling with these words as it progresses the story, but in doing so, it not only omits a thousand plot points, it still doesn’t leave you much the wiser as to why he wants to return to where it might be he’s running to. When this is first used, we’re put back 8 hours, to see Renton sitting with Charles, learning that he’s after Holland and Eureka in an operation to kill them that’s coming up the following day. Renton feels betrayed and we don’t know why. We then go forward 4 hours, to him leaving Ray and Charles (his adoptive parents), before going back again to 8 days before the present day, to him running away from Holland for reasons you never really find out in the film, nor do you ever find out why this all happened in the first place. Are you confused yet? If not, you’re doing well, it only gets worse from here. You get a point where you play back in a scene we’ve played back to, then forward again making you wonder at what point of the story are we actually at now? This final three quarters of the film is presented in this format the entire time, and it predominantly re-uses footage from the series.

However it never once shows you how Renton and Eureka meet for the first time, you never find out anything about Holland, Talho and the rest of the Gekkostate either. In fact, the film has Renton say to the audience, “I could tell you about all this, but I won’t bother.” I kid you not. For context, that’s 30 episodes of content untouched. The film instead, never refers to the rebel fighters of Gekkostate much at all, you have about a minute’s worth of footage of them from the series in here, and that’s it. You get a bit more with Eureka as she is the driving point for Renton, but I would say she’s in the film for 10 minutes at most. The only content really captured here is the time with Ray and Charles, Renton’s relationship with them as his foster parents, but no idea of the bigger picture. Why is Eureka being chased with Holland? Sure we see a bit of Holland and Eureka in the past before the present day, but it’s not exactly enough to make anything click. It’s irritating to find that you get a lot of world building one minute, then a small story of a boy with his foster parents. It might as well be two different films at this rate.

Because of the way the film is set up, you feel at a loss for what you just watched. Sure, you understand who Ray and Charles are to the protagonist, but even that lacks any true emotional impact. If it adds any more frustration, two particular scenes in the film are shown up to 2-3 times. Not from different angles or anything, the exact same cut. It’s not necessary, it adds nothing extra, it feels like it’s just buffering out the film. By the time we come full circle to the “start” of where Renton is telling us how he got into this situation of dogs chasing him, you are left even more confused and frustrated by it all.

At the very least, there is some positivity to be had in the film. The film does still hold on to that amazing soundtrack by Naoki Sato, with Hiroshi Watanabe’s “Get it by your Hands” getting a new remix playing at set points throughout Ray and Charles’ story segments. I cannot discredit them for that, it was something I had hoped they would keep in, and has been done fantastically well. However, I can’t give much more credit than that. There are some aspect ratio changes here and there in the film which feel a little off; however, it may be deliberate as I get the impression at times that, although this is a retelling, there is a chance it might change more as it goes on. However, depending on how you take this film, that might be a mystery never solved.

My biggest complaint here is that there is no real meat to the film, no part of this main section that makes you want to say “I want to see the second film!” you’re just left with questions such as “why does it feel like so much is missing?” And that’s because there is: a lot. I admit, I’ve come into this having watched the original series, but of those I sat with in the cinema, many hadn’t seen the show at all. Through the previews for the film, you are given the impression that it can be watched blind, without any prior knowledge of the series. However, from what I experienced, that is not the case whatsoever. Not only that, it’s a hard watch even for those that have seen the show.

There is also the issue that you can tell what’s new and what’s been lifted from the TV series in that the new scenes are done at a wider resolution whereas the older scenes are still presented in their older, smaller resolution. It can be a bit jarring when you jump between the two from new scene to old scene.

Fans of the dub from the series will be happy to know the cast is returning to the film. Johnny Yong Bosch is back as Renton and does a really good job, too; I’d say it fits just as well as the Japanese dub-track. It’s noticeable especially how good it is in the prologue segment too, which works really well all round.

While the DVD has no extras, the Blu-ray has a cross-talk in relation to the music, there are music videos for the pieces made for the film, as well as trailers, teasers and theatrical trailers for the film (I do recommend listening to the cross-talk, it gives a very good idea of what they did to design music for the film/series).

On my second watch when covering this for the Anime Limited release, I decided to take a look under the microscope for the film. What makes it tick and what really does/doesn’t work. What immediately stood out was the attention to detail with the music. Eureka Seven was always about the music when it first aired, and here it is no different. You immediately get the amount of love and care they put into the soundtrack; the timing of it is impeccable for the show, even with its lack of understandable structure. Not only did they get the theme song “Glory Days” by Hiroya Ozaki, which clearly describes what they were aiming to do with the film in the first place,  but they got HardFloor to do an original “Acperience 7” for the film too (if you don’t know them, look them up, they helped change the German music scene back in the 80s/90s with Acperience 1), and Hiroshi Watanabe did a remix of his track “Get it by Your Hands” from the original as well, which matches Ray and Charles’ characters perfectly. All are placed superbly in the film, all have immense impact. You get a far better idea of what they want to do through the music alone than you do from the storyboard, which is a shame, since if the storyboard could have matched, this would be a solid outing for the film. It’s meant to be about moving forward, going from being an immature kid to someone realising their mistakes and moving forward, and it’s clearly more recognisable in the music than the anime. They also change the story for Ray and Charles to being a “Re-union” as opposed to a first meeting, which does make for some changes in what is said, and more “How did they know each other before, why aren’t we shown their first meeting, the adoption?” You only get from Renton an idea that he’s longing to go back, but you have no idea what he’s running back to, why things transpired the way they did as “he didn’t want to cover that” for the purposes of the film.

At the very least, I’m confident to say that the music outing for all the films will be stellar, it’s just the storyboard that has to be questioned.

Eureka Seven Hi – Evolution Film 1 had the potential to be superb. With new content covering the first “Summer of Love” event that started it all off, to telling the story with some extra scenes, it could have been something great. However, what we’re left with is a joyous thirty minute prequel with the rest of the film being a trainwreck of scenes thrown together in a way that leaves you bewildered. My only hope with the release of Film 2 is that they bring in some coherency to balance out the lack of it in Film 1, but the concern now is after the trailer for Anemone – Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution, you are left to wonder whether they will come back with a similar format to this, in a 20 minute new segment of story to a play-back and play-forward of new content for Anemone and her involvement in the story. Also considering the preview feels like it has no relation to the official trailer, it’s understandable to be worried.

4 / 10