Specially bred children find themselves as the saviors of mankind when alien Angels attack, but at huge cost to themselves and the world itself.
What They Say
Tokyo-3 still stands after most of civilization was decimated in the Second Impact. Now the city endures the ceaseless onslaught of the deadly Angels, bizarre creatures bent on eradicating the human race. To combat this strange and ruthless enemy, the government agency NERV constructs a fleet of towering humanoid machines - the Evas - and Shinji Ikari is called into action, reluctantly taking his place at the controls of Eva Unit 01.
Living a life of loneliness and questioning his existence, Shinji struggles to accept responsibility for mankind's battle for survival. Shinji will fight the Angels alongside the only person who might understand his plight - Rei Ayanami, the elusive and frail pilot of Eva Unit 00.
The audio presentation of this release makes out very well with both the English and Japanese tracks being done in 5.1 and encoded at 448kbps each. The theatrical presentation I attended wasn't all that impressive with the audio but this DVD release makes up for it in spades with a lot of directionality to it, particularly with the action sequences but also with dialogue and ambient sounds. It's pretty immersive at points when the film is really trying to make a big splash and that goes a long way towards making it very versatile and engaging. A lot of anime films don't have much punch to them even when in 5.1, but this movie does really nicely by it.
Originally in theaters in 2007, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Because of the average quality of the print I saw in the theater, it's hard to make a real direct comparison here to it. There's a fair bit of grain and noise to this feature, which can be somewhat distracting during certain scenes such as when the room goes red. Some of this feels like it's intentional for style but other times it comes across as too much noise. It does keep the film from looking too pristine and clean which may be the point of it. Beyond this, the transfer looks quite good with very appealing colors, vivid areas when needed and darks that tend to hold up pretty well without losing much detail. The encoding is given a fairly high bitrate on average which helps and most fans will definitely come away pleased. The lack of jitter and awkward splices that we saw in the original TV series alone makes this a worthwhile upgrade.
Since it was first announced as licensed, Evangelion has used a piece of artwork that I've found really appealing and it's used as the cover here as well. The image of the Eva walking through the streets of Tokyo-3 with the sun setting as the light hits the clouds is just haunting and perfect. There's a serious sense of darkness here, the light going out and danger in every little corner. The scrawled logo works nicely as well and the overall presentation here is one that makes you take a second look at it. It's polished but feels raw. The back cover uses another piece of artwork of the Eva moving through the city but it doesn't come across as strongly because it's darker overall, feels murky and is offset by bright white text for the summary as well as the unusual choice of green and orange for other text bits. The production credits are completely unreadable while the technical grid is clean but minimal. It's a decent layout but some of the choices provide for a less than compelling design.
The release is in a clear keepcase and the reverse side has a really good looking piece to it with the right side featuring Rei in her school uniform while Shinji is on the left in his with his headphones in his ears. The distance between them is really nicely done and it stands out very well because of the white background and their expressions. The side with Rei has the film title on it so it makes for a very good cover to use instead of what's on the cover for retail. We get a rare insert with this release that has a beautiful painted front piece with a shot of the Eva fighting in the city taken from below while inside it provides an introduction to why the film was made, which in my mind helps to temper expectations. The back of it has a few words from Anno that really are quite.... self important as he basically says that nothing has been made that's as good as Evangelion since it came out. He talks about why they founded the new studio and where they want to go from there.
The menu design uses a portion of what we have on the back cover with a close up of the Eva's legs and hands as it walks through the deep red hued landscape. The colors here look really nice and it has far more visible detail and atmosphere than it does on the busy back cover and it sets the mood as something dark and unfriendly right from the start. The navigation is through the center to the right a bit and there isn't much here beyond setting up the disc, scene access and languages in addition to the trailers. The layout is simple but effective and it's very quick and easy to navigate. As is the norm, the disc did not read our players language presets.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Neon Genesis Evangelion was quite transformational show, particularly for US fandom, during its original Japanese broadcast back in 1995 and 1996. The release of the series in the US was one of the first big shows to make waves in the nascent anime home video market at the time – thirteen VHS volumes no less – and has been an evergreen title ever since. While quite popular in Japan, fandom there tends to be even more about the shiny and new than in the US. Once a show is done and over with, it’s time to move on. In US fandom, we tend to keep to our favorites, look to expand on them and revisit them. In a real rarity, the Evangelion TV series is being “remade” into four new movies, the first of which is entitled “You Are (Not) Alone.”
This feature, which was originally seen in the theater in the US and dubbed in August and now viewed in its original Japanese, is much like what the chief director Hideki Anno has said in that it’s a faithful remake. Covering approximately the first six episodes worth of material from the original twenty-six episode series, we’re introduced to a near future where half of humanity has been killed in an event called the Second Impact. Everything changed after that as immense flooding occurred, cities moved and changed and mankind moved forward with a new resolve and some fascinating new technology. Centering in Japan in the city of Tokyo-3, we come to understand that the Second Impact was caused by aliens that are being labeled as Angels. At the start of the film, the fourth Angel has just arrived and is causing all sorts of havoc in the city.
With the military unable to do anything about it as it resists everything they throw at it, the defense and safety of humanity is placed in the hands of an organization called NERV. Led by a man named Gendo Ikari, they’ve acquired humanoid mecha units called Eva’s that they can pilot to deal with the Angels. Only a few people are qualified to use them because of the kind of synchronization required and it appears that it’s mostly young children around the age of those born just after the Second Impact. NERV has been using a young woman named Rei for their tests on Eva Unit 00 but the arrival of another pilot, Ikari’s fourteen year old son Shinji, gives them something different. Shinji is able to pilot Unit 01 effortlessly when he arrives without even wearing a proper connective suit and through a lot of luck and some very terrible moments where the Eva goes berserk, he’s able to stop the fourth Angel.
The feature introduces a few more Angel’s into it that come for a relentless attack against the area where NERV is located as they have something deep inside that the Angels want. There’s a good deal of action and tense moments to be had here with it but they also mix in a lot of character material as well. Shinji is a defining kind of lead that ended up populating a lot of shows after the original series came out. Wanting his father’s approval, feeling useless and without a purpose, he spends a good deal of this film whining and nearly crying about his relationship with his father and how he shouldn’t have even come to the base to do what his father wanted. Naturally one expects this to grow and change over the course of the four films, but it does make him a fairly unlikable character for this film. Beyond him, the only other one that has any significant time is his caretaker of sorts, Misato Katsuragi. She has an affection for him and gets him to live with her in order to make sure he socializes some. There’s a sizable cast beyond this, but most are just shells of characters at this point that will be more important later.
Evangelion 1.01 is an interesting experience, but one that I can’t bring myself to enjoy in a way. With a fair amount of the original creative staff behind it, it strikes me much in the same way as the Psycho remake that was done nearly frame by frame for accuracy to the original. It leaves you with a big “what’s the point?” in all of it feeling. The bulk of this film does look like a shot by shot recreation with better animation quality. The character designs are the same, streamlined and tweaked a bit, but when it comes to the layout, placement and style of the film, it’s like watching a glossier version of what came out back in 1995. There’s certainly appeal in it, especially for those that can’t bring themselves to watch something “so old” as that, but there’s a large case of déjà vu here. There are numerous scenes that are new of course, transitional pieces and a greater use of CG that gives it a much richer feel and definitely adds to its theatrical nature to differentiate it from the TV series, but for someone who is very familiar with the series it’s something that’s almost distracting considering how faithful so much of the film really is to the original. Of course, they are condensing six episodes, about 120 minutes, down to a 90 minute runtime so things are cut. But they deal with it well enough.
When I saw this in the theater, not being aware that it was intended to be very faithful for the first one, it left me feeling very disinterested in seeing anything further from it. I felt, and still do, that they missed a prime opportunity to truly re-interpret it and expand it, something that they're going to do with the next three movies. I can appreciate Anno's plan for it and that the start of the four films is one where few changes really need to be made, but that it kept so much of the structure of the TV series made it feel like it didn't know how to flow well. Watching it again a couple of months later, in Japanese this time, I felt somewhat better about it having seen it already and knowing what to expect. As much as I do enjoy it – the improved visuals, the minor expansion in some scenes and a tweaking of the characters and their relationships – the things that bother me outweighs that. And the more I read of what Anno says about the importance of the series, these films and his works overall, the less interested I become as well. This is a good film that could have been better that is well done, engaging and full of big set pieces and lots of intrigue. I do wonder how well it plays to those who have not seen any Evangelion before as part of me feels like this is a big exercise in self-adulation by Anno with a series that he's still the most known for.
Japanese 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.