As with superhero comics and CSI, it’s hard to know where to start with some anime franchises. Do you start with the Ghost in the Shell films, or the Stand Alone Complex show? Naruto, or Naruto Shippuden? Evangelion, or Evangelion 1.11? Decisions, decisions…
The question is raised again by the new SF adventure, Eureka 7 The Movie: Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers. It’s spun off from the Eureka 7 TV show, available on DVD in two box-sets. The film appeared in Japanese cinemas three years after the final (fiftieth) episode was broadcast, but the film isn’t a sequel; rather, it’s what fans would call a “parallel universe” version. You could call it a reboot or retelling, but Tomoki Kyoda, who directed the big and small-screen versions, has really remixed his saga.
Both versions are about Renton, a boy with the feistiness of many an anime teen. Eureka is a girl from the “Churchill’s Russia” school of anime heroines, a riddle in a mystery in an enigma. With albino skin, green hair and lavender eyes, she suggests a very interesting mix of genes, not necessarily all human.
Both Eurekas fling the youngsters into world-shaking aerial battles, often between sky-surfing giant robots. But the details diverge from the start. On TV, part one has the teen Renton and Eureka meeting for the first time when Eureka’s robot, the Nirvash, crashes on Renton’s house (the “girl drops out of the sky” ploy has shades of Miyazaki’s Laputa). The film, however, shows Renton and Eureka raised as infants by a character who’s mostly – but not entirely – different in the TV version.
Other remixing soon becomes apparent. Several characters who were small-screen allies are more like adversaries in the film, and vice versa. The movie becomes something of a “mirror universe” with goodies recast as baddies to shake up the audience (though Eureka shies away from making characters wholly good or bad). Director Kyoda even considered giving most film characters different names from their TV counterparts, but decided against it when the actors complained.
While most of the film is new, it samples moments from the series in cunning ways. One flashback involves two characters flying down a Doctor Who-ish vortex. Except their heads have been switched with two characters in the TV serial, whose roles in the story have been given to two other characters… and so on.
So which version is the best starting-point? The series is simpler, but takes more time – twenty-odd hours – and reveals its plot very slowly. In contrast, the film is heavily plotted, not so much because it compresses the TV story, but because it’s doing lots of other things. It takes motifs from the series – for example, books of blank pages that must be filled – but converts them to its own distinctive theme, about how dreams help or hinder growing up. The story itself takes mighty leaps into dream logic in later scenes.
The film wrongfoots fans who’ve seen the show by changing everyone’s hats around, squeezing characters together and bumping off regulars for kicks. Consequently, TV Eureka fans may be more confused by the film than newbies. We’d suggest starting with whichever Eureka you fancy, but either way, come to the film version prepared to focus. And if the story loses you first time, try watching it again. It’s still quicker than watching the series…