One of the biggest TV shows finds itself reworked, slightly at first, for a series of four theatrical movies.
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. Shinji and Rei will struggle to learn a simple truth: when carrying the burden of humanity's survival on your shoulders, you are not alone.
This release makes out very well from FUNimation as we get a pair of Dolby TrueHD 6.1 language tracks for both the Japanese and English language mixes. The feature is pretty good when it comes to the audio, though it’s a film that most definitely favors the forward soundstage over the rear channels by a wide margin. The two tracks play well with a lot of directionality and depth across that stage as well as good deal of bass when required in the bigger action sequences. The feature has a lot of character and activity across it, it’s not a quiet movie by any stretch, so there’s a lot to follow here and it flows very well. We listened primarily in the Japanese track and it was essentially a flawless experience where it sounded rich and full without any noticeable problems.
Originally in theaters in 2007, the transfer for this feature film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is in 1080p encoded using the AVC codec. When it comes to shows that aren’t upconverts, FUNimation pulls off some really amazing work. This feature, outside of a few issues that I believe are pretty much in the source, is gorgeous from end to end. Colors are rich and vibrant, blacks and darkened areas maintain a wonderfully solid feeling and there’s precious little banding to be had in general, an issue which is definitely source related. And what little there is doesn’t lead to break-up or noise. The colors in this are wonderful and there is such a solid feel to them that it really is difficult afterwards to go back to watching a regular DVD release, nevermind an upconvert release. The only real fault in this release, and it’s one that will bother some more than others, is that the end credit sequence uses the US theatrical version with the English language credits first and then the Japanese credits instead of the original credit scroll followed by the translated credits (which is what FUNimation usually does with their foreign films, but rarely with anime). Beyond these couple of minor gripes, this is the edition to own of the Evangelion movie.
Unlike past Blu-ray efforts, this feature ends up without the usual Blu-ray blue caes. What we get is a slipcover that has different artwork from the DVD version with an under the crotch view of Unit 01 as it shoots down a city block at an Angel. It’s done with a foil material so it has a lot of shimmer to it that catches the light and thereby catches your eye. I’m not a huge fan of this cover with its artwork and angle, but it’s one that may catch a few more eyes on a retailers shelf than one using the familiar character artwork. The back of the slipcover has full piece shot of Unit 01, all darkened up and against a black sky, walking through the light city of Neo Tokyo-3. The artwork of Unit 01 is far too dark and murky making it really indistinct and unappealing. The right side of the cover has a slightly angled layout to it with the premise of the feature and a breakdown of its extras and the booklet. A few shots from the show make it out here, good shots at that, while the rest is given over to basic production information and a minor amount of the technical information. It is worth noting that this release is region coded for A and B.
Inside the slipcover we get a digipak that’s all black. The front of the digipak is really nice with an illustration of Rei in her school uniform along the right where she’s looking cute while holding her schoolbag. The back of the digipak is also full black but has Shinji standing there with his back facing you as he wears his headphones as he looks fairly downcast. The pairing works well for this release and gives it all an ominous feeling. Opening it up, the interior is very simple as it uses the shade of purple we find in the movie (and on Unit 01 too) for the background and that’s it, though there’s a sleeve on the left side to hold the booklet. The booklet is pretty nice as it goes through the why of the Rebuild movie, the characters and terminology and a few other little nuggets along with some beautiful artwork pieces that showcase a lot of detail and richness.
The menus for this release do a nice job of playing in-theme with the show and some of its iconic material. While 90% of the menu is given over to clips from the film that are generally action based, it has a good buildup to it with the instrumental music that’s used to set the mood right. It covers from all over the film though I don’t know that too much of it would be considering spoilerish as it depends on your sensibilities. The bottom 10% has two strips to it with a blank purple one on the bottom and a black one on top of it that has the navigation itself with its icons set to green, playing to the color strengths of Unit 01. The layout is decent, minimal and quick to access so it works well and is problem free, though of course it does play like every other FUNimation release in that it defaults to the English language track.
The extras for this release are pretty good but nothing that’ll really stand out all that much in the long run. The first is the Rebuild section which has two pieces that run about fifteen minutes each. These are pretty light overall as it goes into the why of the Rebuilds and some of the comparisons, but it doesn’t have any deep examination of it. A two minute promotional video that has been seen at many convention before is included and there’s a brief section of trailer spots called News Flashes. The last on here are the movie previews themselves which covers the various trailers which I do like seeing though they’re not the best things ever created. The big plus with all these extras is that they’re all in high definition, making them even more appealing.
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 in its 1.0 version last year and now in its 1.11 version in Japanese with subtitles, 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.
When I saw this in the theater, I came away pretty underwhelmed from it. I had gone into it with as little knowledge as possible so while I knew they were basically remaking the movies, I had hoped that there would be a lot more variance to it. On the plus side, they used a lot of the original storyboards and music to create this and it has a wonderful sense of the familiar but animated in such a level of detail and vibrancy that it’s really quite jarring but in a good way. Scenes to the long time fans are familiar but they take on a whole new scale here in this form. On the flip side, because this one does adhere a great deal to the original episodes, there isn’t a sense of drama and uncertainty to it for the older fans. It is, sadly, predictable at this point though by all appearances the changes really start coming at the last second here and in the second film.
I also tried something a little different with this feature by watching it with someone who has had practically no anime exposure at all. With this being so familiar, and so full of military hardware geekiness, I was very curious as to how it would play out to someone with no preconceptions of the property itself or anime either. Interestingly, they found it to be really quite engaging and the way the movie cuts and jumps, something I found to be a little problematic at times as it condenses so much material, didn’t impact them at all because they didn’t have the mental image of what should come next. I’m not sure this is a movie that would leap to new fans, but it is worth remembering that the original TV series brought in a slew of new fans in the mid 90’s who had never seen anime before and went by the growing buzz about that release.
In the end, it’s pretty likely that the combination of the first film being predictable and dubbed made my first exposure to this movie less than it should be. I’m by no means anti-dub, but these characters have always been heard in Japanese to me. So getting to experience it now in the 1.11 version (and no, I can’t pick out the differences between it and 1.0) was very different and far more enjoyable. I still have some of the core issues with it as I wish there was less reliance on the existing storyboards and that they should have took more chances in changing things up here, but I can understand the approach of lulling us into a sense of security and familiarity. At the end of this experience, I’m looking forward to the second movie a lot more now than I was the first and I absolutely love how this Blu-ray edition turned out. It’s simply the best they’ve put out at this point as it shines through and through, which is what Evangelion is worthy of.
Features Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Rebuild of Evangelion: 1.01 (Shiro Sagisu Version, Joseph-Maurice Ravel Version), Angel of Doom Promotional Music Video, News Flashes, Movie Previews
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.
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