Reviewby Tim Henderson, Apr 16th 2011
Eureka Seven - Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers DVD
Renton and Eureka are childhood friends who are called out to join their teacher one cold night. It has to be night – Eureka isn't normal, no more so than Renton's pet, Nirvash (a squeaky critter that will one day grow up to be a giant mecha), and has a sever aversion to direct sunlight. Under the night sky, they are shown a thing of beauty and given a duty to hold up over the years.
Except they can't. Fate tears the two would-be lovers apart, and both go on to experience very different trials relating to the attacking aliens known as Azo. That is, until a fated military operation some eight years later.
Bursting at the seams with fluorescent colour and directorial energy to match, the original Eureka Seven television series was home to some hugely impressive opening episodes. Fully embracing its bubblegum aesthetic and matching it perfectly to a dreamlike escape from doldrums through the likes of air-boarding, chasing strange girls and idealised rebellion, it soared on its punchy soundtrack, visual panache, and the vigour of its narrative pace.
This however wasn't maintained. The show slowed dramatically around the mid point of the first season; the full-throttle narrative dug its claws violently into the ground, the world's visuals and tone became more muted, and progress slowed dramatically. That this film, Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers, opens against a night sky laced more vividly with greys than blues – backed by slow, mournful violins – is a cause for early concern. A flashback hoping to capture a sense of dreamlike nostalgia, it is blanketed by snow as more flakes flutter down, hypnotic in their ability to descend with unreal patience.
Quick plot points are indulged, and it only takes a moment to realise that the entire mythos from the television series has been scrapped. Formally first meeting as teenagers in other media, here Eureka and Renton waddle together on their stumpy kiddie legs, their combined adorableness almost tearing through the sedate colour-key. The night setting is a narrative necessity though – in this retelling Eureka is adverse to sunlight.
Behind them scampers Nirvash – an adorable critter that makes equally cute sounds that will, in the name of cross-narrative consistency, grow up to become a bad-ass mecha that can surf the sky. At the very least, this complete re-imagining of the show will make the film accessible to those who have no desire to sit through some fifty episodes of a television series first. At the very worst, it will keep those people from ever discovering that at least for a while, Eureka Seven was actually very good.
When the prelude is done and the story advances eight years, boxes of text linger on the screen to inform viewers of the significance of certain locations, characters, and their respective roles. It's a cheap trick that although sometimes justifiable, is overused throughout the movie's duration. Narrative voice overs also persists, and we are told very directly that the alien Azo are mankind's mortal enemy.
Daylight brings with it a refreshing opportunity for the vibrancy of green grass to pop from the screen, but this breezy style is swiftly gunned down by the story's desire for darker tones. Eureka, separated from Renton all those years ago, is being held as a top level military secret. Renton has become a mecha pilot on board a ship (the Gekko) that harbours mutinous intent to which he is oblivious – a reunion is inevitable. It is this fated moment, and all the angst and insecure troubles it brings with it, that serves as the main catalyst for Good Night's heavyweight emotional punches.
A lesson with regard to punching things: the harder you swing, the less accurate you're likely to be and by turn, the more likely it is that you're going to miss. Played out against the backdrop of age-accelerated fugitive children (the Gekko crew from the original series, here cast as collectively suffering an intriguingly justified Peter Pan complex) trying to re-create a myth so as to experience lasting youth while Earth deals with potential alien invasion (whew!), the pent-up romance shared by Renton and Eureka is about as hammy as it gets.
Although it's hard to pare the actual quality of native Japanese dialogue from the shackles of its translation, the tonality of Renton and Eureka near screaming out how much they care for each other – “The pounding in my heart when we're together – that's what's real.” Exclamation mark – comes across as universally cringe-worthy. Words and phrases are tossed into a blender and rearranged so that dialogues can be repeated time and again under the guise of being new or relevant to character growth.
But the biggest stinger is a lack of banter – the cast of Eureka Seven as they exist in this film, seem unable to insinuate. They only know how to tell bluntly, and with little believable reason. No character or plot point is developed through a character's defining speech characteristics or behaviour. Bones lacks either the skill, or sufficient faith in their audience to execute on this. Everything is spouted in a direct manner, with all the nuance of an instruction manual.
At least there is a lot going on. Often the source of confusion, Good Night's narrative nonetheless weaves numerous strands into a mostly cohesive whole. None of the themes tackled – think with your heart, create your own future – carry much depth, but they are numerous. Likewise, although it's painful to see the excessive aesthetic that so aptly carried Eureka Seven's punchy televised rhythm destroyed thanks to Eureka turning green when exposed to sunlight, there remain a couple of extended sequences of impressive aerial acrobatics. Similarly, although the film seems unsure as to when it's actually supposed to end, the increasingly surreal landscapes that populate the closing scenarios elicit welcome memories of more vivid visual design. It's sad that – especially considering the narrative role played by dreams and memories – these spaces only see limited use, and only at the tail end.
It's also a shame that design aside, the animation is hugely limited. The standard here, no matter what perspective you look at it from, is not what should be expected of a feature film. It'd be pushing its luck as a straight-to-video OAV release, and aside from the flight sequences mentioned above, the fluidity of character movement struggles to rise above high production television animation.
Stripped bare of its execution, Eureka Seven - good night, sleep tight, young lovers sports a few concepts that are equal parts interesting and bizarre. Much as with the television series however, early potential is aptly squandered, and what remains is a pitiful pile of could-have-beens.
Our preview DVD only contained the English language track, and no extras to speak of. Video quality was acceptable, but at the same time an effective reminder that blu-ray is increasingly becoming the standard, and is no longer the privileged treat it once was.
Overall : C+
Story : C+
Animation : C-
+ A couple of impressive aerial scenes
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