A film that leaves you wondering what the point of it being made was.
What They Say:
After the second impact, all that remains of Japan is Tokyo-3, a city that's being attacked by giant creatures that seek to eradicate the human kind, called Angels. After not seeing his father for more than eight years, Shinji Ikari receives a phone call, in which he is told to urgently come to the NERV Headquarters, an organization that deals with the destruction of the Angels through the use of giant mechs called Evas.Shinji's objective is to pilot the Eva Unit 01,while teaming up with the Eva Unit 00 pilot, Ayanami Rei.
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 seen in the theater in the US and dubbed, 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 1.0 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, about120 minutes, down to a 90 minute runtime so things are cut. But they deal with it well enough.
Looking at this film, I can only come to two conclusions about it. The first is that they did it wrong in a way. Instead of being faithful, keeping to the structure of the TV series with its weekly installments, they should have redefined it for a four part theatrical experience. It’s too familiar for people like myself. There’s some appeal in seeing the cast on the screen again with snazzier animation, especially in the action sequences, but there’s very little true divergence from the original here outside of a few brief scenes that are almost add-ons for exposition and setup than anything else.
The second conclusion I come to is that this is a film from Anno and Gainax where they want to keep their big property alive in any way possible. Frankly, I can understand that the original series, treasured as it is, is simply inaccessible to new fans. It’s dated in its animation and its style and has been imitated numerous times since. This version of the series retains a lot of the core, gives it a fresh updated feeling while being faithful and then utilizes the popularity of the original to draw in both new and old fans. I can see this being a lot more interesting to the new fans rather than the older ones like myself, but it also come across as a bit jumpy and convoluted in this opening piece. For me, I came away feeling very cynical about the entire experience and what they’re trying to do. If they had retold the story in a new way, without using so many exact scenes from the original series and reformatting it to the needs of a theatrical experience, I would have been a lot more interested and happier. But as it stands, this first installment has left me with zero interest in seeing the second one. There’s a lot to like here, but I get the distinct feeling that it’s intended really for new fans and as a straightforward money grab with one of the biggest properties that Gainax has in its stable.