Reviewby Carl Kimlinger,
Eureka Seven: Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers
On an alternate Earth, amidst an alternate time-line, young Renton and Eureka meet. Renton is a normal boy; Eureka is something else: delicate, isolated, and deathly allergic to sunlight. When Eureka is kidnapped by brutal military scientists, Renton is helpless and subsequently vows that he will find and rescue her. 8 years later, Renton is a spitfire pilot in the army, assigned to the ship of oddball commander Holland Novak to battle alien invaders known collectively as EIZO. As the stars will, his path eventually crosses that of his grown childhood love, and as the stars also will, the reunion sets off a chain reaction that will strip all truths bare and change the world, and the young lovers, forever.
Like the series that inspired it, Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers is a sprawling sci-fi epic with a soft romantic core. At the center, where their soaring, perpetually threatened love can do the most good, are Renton and Eureka—a determined boy and an achingly pure girl, who just happen to be on opposite sides of an (inter-dimensional?) species boundary and also hopelessly and irrevocably in love. Around them swirls a massive, reality-altering storm of events: the ongoing battle against the EIZO; a nefarious government plot to scorch the Earth with heavenly fire as a select elite escape into space; the secret machinations of a group of children who are aging at an unnatural rate thanks to the doomsday blundering of Renton's deceased parents. A book of possibly-prophetic myth, an elderly lady with a mysterious connection to said doomsday bungling, and a dogged government investigator all figure in as events begin to spiral towards Armageddon and the walls of reality start to crumble. And key to it all, indispensable to everyone from the government to the aging-accelerated doomsday survivors and, of course, Renton, is Eureka, the girl-shaped emissary of the EIZO—unsure of her purpose, unsure of her path, sure only of the fact that she wants to stay with the boy she loves.
Heady stuff, to be sure. Overflowing with big ideas and clever touches, chockablock with aerial action and mind-bending sci-fi sights, convinced of the power of human will to alter fate, and in the end oh so very romantic. And smart. Let's not forget that. Director Tomoki Kyoda's script is, if nothing else, well-educated. It touches on the power of myth and stories—the ones told us and the ones we tell ourselves—to shape our lives. It dabbles in alternate realities and chips away at the mind/reality barrier. Dreams—the kind you have in your sleep—are a recurring theme. Obliquely the film asks, is Renton's world a dream? A story? One told, or dreamt, and thus shaped, by the characters within it?
On a technical level the film is equally strong. Stylistic continuity with the TV series is good. There are fewer concessions to budgetary concerns and a general boost in detail levels, but other than that its visual fundamentals are basically unchanged. Given the quality of the TV series, that's a good thing, capital G and T. Combat is sharp and, when it gets in the air, thrillingly acrobatic (sky-surfing mecha never stop being awesome). Characters are lovely, especially Eureka with her precisely parted aquamarine hair and vivid purple eyes, but also grizzled Holland, lissome Talho, sleek Dominic, and nobly aged Anemone. Emotions are vividly expressed, mecha appropriately neat (special props to Nirvash's final form), and reality-shattering forces impressively realized and sometimes wonderfully surreal. Naoki Sato's score is as easy on the ears as BONES' visuals are on the eye, ranging from delicately sad support as Dominic and Anemone give Renton and Eureka a gentle push at a decidedly non-gentle moment, to symphonic soaring during the aerial combat.
The problem... The problem is that all of these delectable ingredients, when combined, somehow end up coalescing into a big, ephemerally entertaining shrug of a film. It's some kind of mysterious, reverse alchemy—silk purses turned to sow's ears, gold to lead. It's the kind of result that drives me out of my reviewer's gourd: no easy handles; no convenient scapegoats; no nice, clean, systemic failures—just a film full of high-end entertainment fuel that somehow fails to catch fire.
Not that we can't point to all kinds of dampeners. Emotionally, the film is always cranked to 11. Every other scene is a blistering emotional climax and that dulls rather than heightens the film's impact. Eureka's role in the film also leaves a sour aftertaste. She spends most of the film crying out for Renton's help, and though she briefly takes her fate in her own hands, she ends up—and this is not a metaphor—as a naked girl-vessel emptied of everything except her love for Renton. As for that reality-questioning business with stories and dreams, it's clever and suitably under-played but has the off-putting scent of fatuous, college-students-on-pot philosophizing.
But none of that explains, on its own or in aggregate, why the film ultimately feels so empty. Maybe the truth is simply that it is empty. That behind all the spectacle, all of the intellectual hand-waving and sparklingly pure romance, there's just nothing there. No greater purpose, no goal, no true conviction, not even genuine respect for the feelings of the characters. Maybe that's what I'm sensing. Then again, maybe not. Damned alchemy.
Funimation has kept Bandai's original dub, which is solid and faithful but marred by a lot of inconsistent acting. Stephanie Sheh and Johnny Yong Bosch are fine as Renton and Eureka, though they both falter a little when asked to dial up their feelings, which is often. Crispin Freeman's Holland has fire and intensity, Kari Wahlgren spans the gap between Anemone's two ages (young and old) decently enough, and several of the bit players visibly relish the new directions their characters have taken. On the flip side, Kate Higgins' Talho is a rather uneven and Peter Doyle is an awkward blight as Dominic.
This set comes with two discs: one DVD, one Blu-ray. It isn't of exemplary quality, but you'll still want to use the Blu-ray. Aside from promos and trailers and other boring stuff, both discs also include a fat 50-minute making-of feature comprised of interviews with most of the Japanese cast and crew. It's especially valuable if you want to know what the cast thinks of the changes to their characters and if you want to see Tomoki Kyoda looking like a narcoleptic potato.
Mind you, you will very likely enjoy Good Night. Especially if you're a Eureka 7 fan. It's a genuine delight to visit these characters again, their roles revamped in unexpected and sometimes hugely satisfying ways. Anemone and Dominic, here an elderly sage and a wise doctor, their self-destructive romance transformed into a mature and sustaining (if bittersweet) love, are worth the price of admission alone. And the revelation of Holland's true identity, as well as the gruesome fate of a pair of comic-relief characters, count as jaw-slackening (and heart-sickening) surprises. But regardless, when the end credits roll, nothing lingers. As it turns out, a tale doesn't have to be told by an idiot to be full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B+
Animation : A-
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ Interesting new roles for familiar characters; rich in spectacle and big ideas; saturated with romantic Renton and Eureka sweetness.
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