Reviewby Theron Martin,
Eureka Seven: Hi - Evolution 1
Ten years ago, military scientist Adroc Thurston has a change of heart about upcoming Project Necrosis, which is designed to neutralize the Scrub Coral covering the Earth, and instead desperately seeks to stop its implementation with the aid of the humanoid Coralion Eureka. His efforts, which successfully stops the Earth from being destroyed, comes at the cost of his life, but not before he dubs the event “Summer of Love” and is remembered as a hero. In the present time his now-14-year-old son Renton struggles to deal with having left the band of rebels called Gekkostate (where Eureka resides) after feeling responsible for Eureka's crippled condition and finds himself in the care of Charles and Ray Beams, a couple who have their own connections to Summer of Love and are interested in formally adopting Renton.
As alternate adaptations of previously-aired anime content go, this 2017 movie, which is scheduled to be the first of three, is an odd duck. It seems intent on contradicting itself, as it wants to nudge the story in some slightly different directions but is also keen on recycling as much of its content from the first half of the TV series as possible. It also focuses on relatively narrow parts of the first half without adequate context rather than trying to summarize all of the first half, hence resulting in a story which cannot be understood at all without extensive familiarity with the original TV series' first half. Even those who have seen all of the TV series may walk away from this one wondering what the creative intent was here.
Discrepancies to the original crop up immediately. The original story was set thousands of years into the future, while this version is set in the early 24th century instead. The movie starts with a detailed depiction of the Summer of Love, something which was not shown in the TV version and was described with generally significantly different details from what is seen here. At least this part is fully linear and coherent, which stands in sharp contrast to the utter lack of such coherence in the rest of the movie. The story instead jumps around a lot in a 22 day period as it analyzes the story covered in episodes 19-24 of the TV series purely from Renton's point of view. In the process it reuses numerous clips from the original TV series (sometimes twice!) but with the characters sometimes saying dramatically different things that, in many cases, imply much greater knowledge of what's going on than what the characters in the TV series knew at the time.
The movie beginning with Summer of Love is an entirely sensible choice, as that is the seminal event that the franchise's storyline springs from. (This also reveals an interesting background tidbit about Talho, who was apparently a military ship commander herself at a very young age?) The inclusion of a brief new later scene involving Holland and Talho is also fitting. The rest of the decision-making behind the story content is inscrutable at this point; it may make sense once the next movie in the franchise is added in, but it doesn't now. This part of the story in the original series was crucial to helping Renton grow up a little, develop a backbone, and prioritize what he wanted, and it accomplished that well enough that all of this extra elaboration done through the flash-forwards and flashbacks seems unnecessary and even unwarranted. Sure, the impact still gets across, and maybe even a little more strongly, but was that little bit of extra impact actually worth the time? One thing that does get clarified is that Ray's inability to have children is likely tied to her having several artificial organs as a result of injuries suffered during Summer of Love, but that's hardly a game-changing detail.
Because the movie is extensively reusing scenes from the TV series, the technical merits are a dramatically mixed bag. The new footage is such a distinct visual upgrade that scenes where it cuts back to TV series content are usually very obvious. The opening depiction of the battles and action scenes leading up to and carrying through Summer of Love is unquestionably the visual highlight, to the point that the first 25 minutes are worth watching for any flying mecha action fan even if you skip the rest of the movie. While the quality control in that part has some of the same imperfections which plagued the TV series, it still has the crispest animation and flashiest visuals to be seen anywhere in the movie; only one late scene of Renton walking on a plain as the sun sets even comes close. That includes well-above-average integration of CG elements, impressive disaster scenes, and some framing of spaceship animation which looks like it was inspired by the Star Wars franchise. Elements carrying over from the TV series retain the distinctive character designs and '60s flair that the TV series was known for.
The musical score also retains much of the sound that the TV series was known for, although it does use alternate musical selections for many recycled scenes; this includes some cases where a scene which appears twice will have a different musical selection each time to reflect the different way it's being used in each case. A careful effort was made to retain the techno flavor of the original while still updating it, including some rave-caliber electronica numbers. Theme song “Glory Days” by Hiroya Ozaki is a solid, soulful addition.
The English dub retains most of the original vocal cast for new scenes and reused scenes which have been given different dialog, with the most readily-noticeable change being the recasting of Matthieu; he only has a couple of lines in the movie, however. Both Renton and Eureka at times sound enough different that for a while I wondered if they had been recast, too, but Stephanie Sheh and Johnny Yong Bosch seem to be reprising their roles. That basically means that whatever your reactions were to the dub of the TV series, they are likely to be the same for this movie. Thankfully the copious amounts of on-screen text is dubbed, though some of it appears briefly enough that you may have to ride the pause button to catch it all.
Funimation is releasing the movie in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack which also includes access to a digital copy. The feature on-disk Extra is a 28 minute interview with Ozaki, writer Dai Sato, and chief director Tomoki Kyoda; the latter two are reuniting from the TV series. Sadly, the entire discussion is about the music used for the series, with not a word about the interesting content choices. Also included are several music videos and a collection of teasers and trailers.
Overall the first Hi-Evolution movie is hopefully laying a foundation for what is to come, and the preview for the next movie indicates that things may go in a substantially different direction from here. Only in retrospect, after at least the second of the three movies has been seen, will the actual merits of this one be measurable.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ Strong opening about the Summer of Love
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