Surf's up

A review of the first Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution movie

Everything is a remix, or so the saying goes. The first of the three movie series reboot of Eureka Seven, labelled Hi Evolution, seems to have taken this literally. Starting with a half hour or so of brand new footage, it then switches to retelling a meaty but largely irrelevant chunk of Renton’s escapades during the TV series.

Retelling is perhaps too kind a word for what is some cleaned up, original aspect-ratio footage from the landmark fifty episode TV series, chopped and screwed into the remainder of the film’s runtime.

In Jonathan Clement’s introduction during the Edinburgh portion of SLA 2017, he encouraged examining Hi Evolution through the lens of Evangelion, specifically the rebooted film series (that at the time of writing is still incomplete). The first film of that reboot lifted a lot of animation and direction directly from the TV series, but crucially it technically improved it - expanding to a more cinematically pleasing widescreen ratio and fleshing out the original, ropey animation - while also telling a contiguous and compelling story.

The first Hi Evolution film does neither of these things, instead kicking off with a confusing montage of barrage porn that would have military accountants chewing their nails (twelve missiles for a single critter, preposterous!) interspersed with a disco-in-a-rocket and some incongruous mentions of acid-jazz. Following this are sequences from the Ray and Charles arc of the TV series that are bookended with “PLAY BACK” and “PLAY FORWARD” block lettering, indicating how far forward or back in the timeline the scene is.

Ten years ago. Three point five hours ago. Eight hours ago. Twenty two days ago. So quickly does the film spiral around and around that after a while, a hard cut to black is the pavlovian bell to start jumping through the mental hoops required to piece the whole thing together.

The core problem the film suffers from though is who it’s for. Watchers fresh to the franchise will be rightly baffled by the unnecessary jumps around time and miffed as to the reason Eureka Seven warranted a film series. Fans of the original TV series meanwhile will be pleased to see the film ignores AO but will be equal parts disconcerted by the subtle changes made to the storyline and infuriated as to how badly it contextualises Renton’s situation and relationship with Ray and Charles.

Because this film at least leaves out what was the heart of the TV series: the Gekko-go crew and their relationships. Instead the film places Eureka at the centre of the narrative spiral which, from Renton’s point of view, is true but without context makes little sense here.

All this then makes Eureka Seven Hi Evolution feel like a lazy remix. The opening assault on the senses is slick and brash but undercut by the fundamental dorkiness of surfing mecha and a focus on musical counter-culture references. The rest of the track is what we’ve heard before, but contorted and twisted to be almost unrecognisable.

Still, if the next movie preview is anything to go by, we’ve not heard anything yet.

Apologies for the low-quality screengrabs.