It’s taken me a few months, you could say, to get this review written up. I say a few months, I originally saw this way back during Scotland Loves Anime 2019 in October last year. Now I had started to write this at the time, but something didn’t sit right with me when doing so. However on second watch, thanks to the power of Screen Anime – I’m pretty confident I know what it was that was niggling at me this entire time.
Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution Anemone is an interesting film. At times superbly done, others, very confusing and jarring to the new viewer. I want to put a warning here, much like I did before. I will be touching on Spoilers for the film further into this, so if you do not wish to read them, you may want to look away. Now then, let’s PLAY FOR- oh wait, we’re not doing that in this film? Phew…
Let’s put one thing straight here first of all, as much as I want to suggest it, don’t look at this film as a sequel to Hi-Evolution 1, look at it as more….its own thing. This film takes all the characters you know from Eureka Seven, then tells you to ignore everything else you’ve seen before it. To set the scene, the film is based in Tokyo on Earth, where this sudden mass has started to aggressively take over Tokyo and spread across the country. The story starts with Anemone reciting the path she has now memorised to get from where she lives to the side of the runway where I assume the military planes take off, her little secret spot where she used to go with her father. Her father is preparing to leave on a mission to investigate the Eureka Seven phenomenon that has engulfed much of the city, and entrusts Anemone with an app on her phone which is the new take on Dominic, before he goes and is never heard of or seen again. Fast forward seven years and we have Anemone, now part of the military, preparing to dive into Eureka Seven using a device that causes something called “Acperience” – you may remember this name from the first film if you watched it or read my review, but the meaning of this is different here. It allows for someone to take their conscience and dive into this “being” and experience things as it sees them. This is done to try and combat it from the inside and to their hope, destroy what has begun to take over the world. You maybe asking yourself, where is the mecha in here? Well it’s still there, you see it in the Acperience scenes, but also, Eureka Seven creates its “humanoid form” which decimates the unsurprisingly weak military power of Earth, and conveniently is designed to be exactly like Nirvash, Eureka and Renton’s mech unit or L.F.O, as they are called in the series. Now as a premise, this is fascinating. It basically makes you think, is the world of Eureka Seven, AO, the manga and the 2009 film Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers – all in fact just different dimensions within Eureka Seven? Or potentially different times Eureka has gone back to to save Renton? As on every occasion that Anemone jumps in, the fight between her and Eureka is of course, shown as the mecha battles between the two from the series. However this time, the dialogue is done to suit this new story, and scenes cut to suggest Anemone continuously wins against them, each time Renton seemingly being the main casualty as Eureka gets pulled away. It’s also an interesting take to see Anemone as our protagonist and Eureka as our villain here, and fitting too, given that Eureka here is effectively destroying the world by expanding, whereas she’s committed to saving it in the series. It really does twist your understanding of who the good guys or bad guys are and for that it definitely deserves credit.
What it also deserves credit for, is its editing, and its ability to seamlessly meld the old and new scenes together. To explain: the film has three different elements to it, Anemone as a child, which is captured in CG; the present day, which is more traditionally animated with some elements of CG thrown in, and the 4:3 cuts from the series which are used to showcase when Anemone has dived into Eureka Seven. Any camera photos from her phone are also shown more in the traditional animation style too, which I think is a nice touch. It’s also a little jarring to start off as it can jump a lot, however it quickly becomes easy to adjust to, as you know that each bit is referring to something else. Now what makes this so interesting is that they cleverly use “doors” to go between present day, and when you’re in Eureka Seven. There is one particular scene which shows this off superbly, in that Dominic (who takes humanoid form within E7), is trying to get Anemone to escape one section before it all falls apart, and throws her through a door to return her conscience back to her body. When he does this, you see the 4:3 window expand to go to the 16:9 ratio the rest of the film is shown in, while falling through a psychedelic tunnel back to the real world. It’s easy to miss to start, but if you watch for it, it’s pretty fantastic to just watch this take place, and really does feel like there was more care put into this to tell a more coherent story.
Let’s talk music, as I do think it’s vitally important to what Eureka Seven is. After all, it was originally made to be about bringing that electronic music phase to Japan. It’s not really here, which makes sense in some ways, as it’s not really the “world” of Eureka Seven you all love and know. No, instead I can only think of one word to really describe about 75% of it: muted. Tonally it’s very much on the down low, it’s quieter, nowhere near as upbeat and missing that oomph you probably have come to know, and while I definitely am not keen on it, it does feel better suited for the majority of this film as a lot of this really is more bleak in its colour palette and themes. Sure the original was very much based after a disaster that impacted the whole world, but it really kept a tone that brought out more positive vibes. To me, this is where I start to wonder who this is targeted at. As an old-timey fan of E7, the music was front and centre for so much, but here, you have the title song (Ballet Mécanique covered by Yakushimaru Etsuko) and the ending theme (There’s no Ending by RUANN), and one other track that really capture what was there before (Tiger Track), the rest….it doesn’t feel like what I would expect. Again, perhaps I am a little harsh in judging it, but when the series was built around music, you would hope it would stick here as well. I genuinely am fascinated to see how they close this off with the third film, and where the soundtrack goes too, will it bring back the classic tunes from Hiroshi Watanabe? Or will we be more likely to hear something new?
I mentioned above, I’m curious who this is targeted at, and I’m honestly still scratching my head with this. I touched on it before, but the film’s premise suggests everything that we have seen before with the series, is in actual fact different timelines or dimensions caused by Eureka found in this anomaly, “Eureka Seven”, now that does make this more accessible to watching first over anything else. However I can’t shake the fact that a lot of the terms, world building and other elements that are put into this left me a little confused. Maybe it’s because I’ve not watched the series in a while, but even regardless of that fact, I do think you’re thrown into the deep end when characters mentioned “children of god”, the previous six girls who are only briefly mentioned for taking on E7 before (convenient Anemone is Number 7, eh), and so on. Some made sense quickly enough, but when you see giant mecha Gulliver pushing himself through a giant door, you do wonder what beat you missed. Which is a shame, as I honestly think the concept of what it wants to do is really good, the execution is just completely off-key. Though in it’s defence here, some of the themes of disbelief around what is happening do come across as very true-to-life as well. You see at points a bus of politicians pushing their agenda by suggesting that the Eureka Seven phenomenon/disaster is in fact all made up because a little girl (Anemone) has been able to destroy it by “playing a game”, and there are some clear cracks in Anemone’s cool, collected demeanour that show through when all the media propaganda starts to get her noticed. She wants to try and hide away, she’s not comfortable in front of even small families with people looking up to her.
Of course this leads us to Anemone’s character arc which is very central to the film. The film puts a lot of focus on how Anemone comes to terms with the loss of her father, as a good part of it concentrates on trying to find out what happened to him. A lot of the focus in this film, and in a sense what was shown poorly in Hi-Evolution 1, is grief and dealing with loss for both Anemone and Eureka, and this is tackled very well. Anemone is faced with the tough question of “What if I did have the power to change this, but something else would be lost?” and the genuine despair she goes through of having to make such a decision is extremely well captured. It’s quite heart-wrenching in a way, and you’re shown what that level of despair looks like when you see more of Eureka as time goes on. She’s fuelled by this to the point all she does is to try and reverse everything. Honestly this is the kind of thing I wanted to see before, so I’m glad to find it done so right here. This to me feels like they learnt from the mistakes of Hi-Evolution 1, and built something solid, with a good direction, a coherent plot-line (even if the world building leaves much to be desired), and a strong couple of lead characters (though definitely Anemone takes the cake) to see it through. Despite all the loss she’s gone through and everything falling apart around her, the quirky personality she has shines through when it needs to. Of course, her relationship with Dominic can’t be excluded from any discussion you see of Anemone too. As he is very central to her character and keeping her stable in the original, he acts as her anchor and shoulder to cry on here, even as the AI he is now portrayed as. In the “real world” Dominic provides general advice for Anemone, but also gathers intel and provide support for her and the team, however when we are experiencing the scenes within Eureka Seven, Dominic takes on his human form. Here, he has a lot more emotion and sense of feeling and acts as a guardian to Anemone to help protect her in this world. It’s never made clear why he is different, however I like to think he’s perhaps a resident of the world inside Eureka, and can somehow communicate via the app Anemone has, which in turn could at least explain a little more of what’s going on.
So where does this film really sit? That’s a good question. First of all, It is most assuredly, a better film than Hi-Evolution 1 for the story, character development, and editing. It falls flat for still not being able to build its world well enough, or use terms to help the new viewer watch for the first time. And to me of course, for the music (though I do still love the theme songs here). If you are new to the series, you still have no clue who half the characters are that they throw at you or will throw at you when Hi-Evolution: Eureka hits. What’s worse is I feel that it’s really the disaster of the first film that causes the issue here, effectively like a ripple effect. There is such a colourful cast of characters within the series that to have them show up at points, but not explain who or why they are there, feels wasted. With how this film ends, it bothers me even more.
So to come back to what I said at the start, that niggle that bothered me for so long? I think they’ve tried too hard to make a film for everyone that it has perhaps done the opposite, and I’m not sure i could recommend this to old or new audiences.. This is definitely in part, caused by the fact the first film was meant to be something you can view straight away, and it felt like this was always designed to be “a sequel”, however it’s not, it’s taking all things before and creating almost like an overview to it. And in doing so, it has meant that new viewers will be lost with a lot of the waffle here and there, and where all these characters appear from. To fans of the series, it will give a new approach to viewing the series as whole. This film is by no means bad, it’s pretty great at times. It doesn’t deserve to be called terrible, I believe, but I do think it should be said that the lack of targeting on who they want the audience to be, has potentially impacted the delivery of the film, and in turn hurt what could have been.
For now though, Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution Anemone is a far more solid film with lessons clearly learned after the first one, but with a long way to go to get to the heights the series once had. We still have one more film to go that will hopefully tie it all up nicely, but for the time being, please enjoy this story for Anemone, and try to see past the jargon they throw at you.
Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution Anemone is currently available to stream both subbed and dubbed via Screen Anime until the 25th of August. This review is based on the subbed version and the showing from Scotland Loves Anime 2019