Eureka Seven The Movie: Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers
Milking a franchise is a great cash cow for the entertainment industry. Take a beloved property and revive it, throw some money at it, and watch the revenues roll in. We see it when long-dead TV shows like The A-Team suddenly make it to the big screen. Truthfully, nobody wants too much risk in their filmmaking endeavors, which is why so many films are based on books...there's a built-in audience. But if someone has already successfully translated a world into a filmed medium, there's greater cause to think that magic might strike twice...or three or four times, as the case may be.
In the anime world, there are essentially three kinds of films made out of television series. The first is the compilation film. These movies sometimes reuse footage (Space Battleship Yamato) and sometimes they don't (Macross '84), but they retell the story of the original television program in a couple hours, perhaps with a few changes for simplicity's sake. These have been surprisingly effective in Japan, and several lingering franchises such as Gundam wouldn't even still exist had these films not captured attention when they were released. Although they've become rare, the Evangelion films show there's still life in retelling a story everyone wants to hear again. The second kind of film simply continues the TV show. Most are one-offs that leave the characters exactly where we found them so that if you miss the movie, it's OK. While these can be frustrating -- nothing important really happens in them -- we see these all the time, from Cowboy Bebop to Naruto and Bleach. Again, it's rare to get a film finale, but those would fit into this category too.
The third category is the strange one. In this category falls the re-imagining. Here we find films where major players act out of character (Escaflowne) or the tone changes significantly from the original (Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer). Sometimes these movies work brilliantly; from great risk comes great reward. If you can get into the changes and let yourself go where the writer and director are taking you, it can be a blast. But sometimes, great risk means you wind up with egg on your face, and that's what happened with Eureka Seven: Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers. To be blunt, every significant change they made acts to the show's detriment. While I had some beefs with the TV series, I liked Eureka Seven a whole lot. But this...it's well-made but utterly disappointing. (And please note...vast spoilers lie ahead because it's the only way to discuss why this film is so frustrating. If you want to go into it spoiler-free, skip to the end.)
In this variation, Renten and Eureka are childhood friends. They do everything together...they even share dreams. But while still very young, Eureka is kidnapped. The Eizo are an alien race that have invaded, and Eureka is linked to them. Flash forward ten years, and Renten has hooked up with the crew of the Gekko State. They're a part of the army, but they're really there to locate Eureka, who they believe is the secret to their problems. The members of the Gekko State were subjected to an experiment that ages them rapidly, and they hope to reach their own Neverland where they cannot age. Once Eureka and Renten are together, though, it's not clear who their friends and enemies really are.
E7:GNSTYL (not sure how you would pronounce that) looks very much like the television series, which isn't a backhanded compliment; the TV series looked really good. However, there's little here that looks very different, either, except perhaps a few more explosions. I noticed nothing on the technical side out of place, which means that those just wanting one final Eureka Seven fix may be OK with anything they get. I should mentioned that I enjoyed the English cast for the series, and almost all of them return this time around for what turns out to be an excellent dub.
But where to begin with the problems! We could start with the fact (which serves as an example for everything that goes wrong) that Nirvash, the unit that is the heart and soul of the mecha of the same name, is now a floppy creature designed to sell plushies. Yes, the green container still sits inside the shell of the mech, but now Nirvash makes animal cooing sounds to communicate with Renten. I'm not sure why they did this, but it's not to sell the film to children, especially since there's some really graphic violence in here.
Nirvash also becomes the only comic relief in the film. That sounds bad, and it is, but you'll need all the comic relief you can get, as everything in Good Night... is amped up to 11. Sometimes even 12. Seriously, the film is far too, well, serious. It's no fun. Everything is life or death, anger and fury and convoluted emotions. I am glad that Renten and Eureka are together from the start -- I don't think I could have taken the "will they/won't they" of the series for another two hours -- but everybody is so darn tense, it's ridiculous. It's the same truth that sound engineers know...compress a song too much, make everything noisy and boomy and unnaturally loud for the sake of being loud, and it gets tiring to listen to before the second chorus. The same is true here. It's simply too much too fast too loud.
It's also too different. Now I am not a purist; I think people who always whine that "the manga was better" should be horsewhipped with a copy of Shonen Jump. Change can be done right. For example, Macross '84 improved upon the TV series because the whiny, bratty version of Minmei never materialized and the kinder, more thoughtful, even sexier Minmei of the latter episodes was all we saw. Make your characters more compelling, and you can sell it.
But here, everything is on its head. Character origins, the villains, the heroes, their motivations...all are different. In fact, what I can say is this: if somebody had told the story of Good Night... with completely different characters, you'd never have imagined it was somehow related to Eureka Seven. So what if there's a couple of kids in love from two different worlds? How were Romeo and Juliet any different? It's as if somebody took an initial draft of Eureka Seven, one jettisoned long ago in the process of creating the series, and said, "Hey, why don't we go back to this stuff we threw away?" I can't think of a single change they made that I thought improved the story or the concept in any way.
What's worse is that the movie requires you to know and care about the characters from the TV series to enjoy it at all. Very little is explained here, and so we have no interest in the fate of the Gekko's crew other than that we import from our experience with the show previously. When those folks start acting quite differently than what we expect, feeling betrayed is the natural reaction. I could get behind it if the film had taken any time at all to introduce the cast, but that doesn't happen.
What's bizarre is that, perhaps three-quarters of the way through the film, I figured out a way I would have enjoyed it. It would have been awesome to see the crew suddenly say, "you know, something's not right here. Doesn't it seem like we've lived this before? Are we meant to have lived this life, even?" Through a series of events, we could have found out that Renten and Eureka are destined to be together in parallel universes...that regardless of whether she's an Eizo robot or a humanoid Scub Coral, every variation of her has to wind up with every variation of him, and they've got to spend the rest of the film making sure that happens. Or else what? Who knows? It's not the film they made. But I would have liked that one a lot better than the one I saw.
I couldn't bring myself to give this show a lower grade than what I did because it's competently made and it's not offensive. But it's also not that interesting as a film. It didn't hold my attention, and when it did, it was only to make me more annoyed with the paths they took. Fans will want to steer clear of this in order to preserve their memories of the original...I can guarantee they will be better.
Eureka Seven: Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers -- graphic violence, brief nudity, brief profanity -- C-