Fans of the fantastic anime series NEON GENESIS EVANGELION will no doubt embrace “EVANGELION 1.0: You Are Not Alone”. The film is the first series of four films titled the “Rebuild of Evangelion” which will be a compressed retelling of the anime series and the two big screen films with better animation, a much more tighter and compressed storyline, and the promise of a newer, better ending (fans thought that the climax in the series was unsatisfactory). Creator HideakI Anno and company know that their bread and butter lies in the majesty of Evangelion; it is an excellent blend of huge robots, shonen action, existentialism, pure human angst and apprehensive self-determination. This first film, Evangelion 1.0 is a retelling of the first six episodes.
After the events of the second impact that nearly annihilated mankind, Tokyo-3’s hopes for survival lie with a 14-year old Shinji Ikari (voiced by Megumi Ogata) and his ability to pilot the EVANGALION Unit 01; a massive sentient robot designed by his father, Gendo Ikari (Fumihiko Tachiki) to fight against an alien invasion mounted upon humanity called the Angels. Shinji’s hopes for a simple reunion with his father are dashed as Gendo proves to be one cold-hearted parent. Taken under the wing of commander Misato Katsuragi (Kotono Mitsuishi), the young man reluctantly fights against the invaders’ awesome firepower. But for reasons only he can decipher, Shinji finds himself drawn to another EVA-unit 00 pilot, Rei Ayanami (Megumi Hayashibara)…
There is much that is left unexplained in the film since this is the first of four films planned by writer HideakI Anno and directors Masayuki and Kazuya Tsuumaki. The motivations behind the attack is hinted on and as to why and how youngsters Shinji and Rei were chosen to pilot the giant robots aren’t fully explained; all the details will come later in this new series. “Evangelion” fans will no doubt be more able to fill in the gaps and may offer little in the way of surprises. Much of the film’s main draw would come from the improved animation that blends traditional cell animation and CGI. It also introduces little changes to the characters’ introduction but this may also prove to be the film’s best assets as it strengthens the feeling of familiarity in its set designs and atmosphere that just gives a lot of depressing plot elements. For those unfamiliar with “Evangelion”, this film is great way to start since the storyline is much tighter, easier to connect with and arguably more taut than the anime series.
However, there’s less to get into in a mere less than 2-hour film. The more compact storyline does work in some ways but the more verbal approach in the film’s exposition makes the underlying themes and notions become a little more obvious. The methodical approach in the anime series gets a little lost which may prove to be either the film’s weakness or strength depending on the viewer’s perception. In this approach, Shinji’s self-loathing and depression gets a little redundant quickly because he isn’t given enough space to breathe and for viewers to form an attachment to him. The beauty of the “Evangelion” series if the unnerving fact that two people who are barely in their teens are fighting a war to defend mankind. I guess in this more compact approach, Shinji becomes a mere child full of self-pity rather than a sympathetic figure who has become the anime poster child for depression. Shinji appears to be depressed most of the time, and newcomers to “Evangelion” will more likely feel a little disconnected and maybe even annoyed. Japanese non-fans will still form a connection since existentialism and angst are deeply embedded in most Japanese sci-fi movies, I have some uncertainties whether it would ‘click’ with newer American audiences.
The robot battles are awesome to behold. I really enjoyed the manner with which the Angels varied in its approaches in its attacks, each one becoming deadlier than the next. The way that the NERV team approaches its battles aren’t more on brute force but more on strategy that rests on Shinji’s resolve to pilot the EVA. Things don’t usually work out as planned, but Shinji and Commander Katsuragi do get by. I loved the way the direction remembers to instill emotion in the pilot’s cockpit; Shinji is a young, inexperienced pilot after all, it is only his resolve to stay that keeps him alive. Ayanami has more determination to see things through.
For a film supposedly marked to attract new fans, I think “Evangelion 1.0” feels more aimed to its solid fan base. The copious expositions and the familiar back story would be easily understood by fans of the series. The film is a little opaque with its storytelling at times, the complexities of the 6 episodes in the series cannot be captured in a two hour movie. This is an anime film NOT for children as it contains some nudity and suggestive themes (Katsuragi is often in suggestive positions). It is a bit early to judge whether this new “Rebuild the Evangelion” would prove as compelling as the anime series, as this is only the first of a new 4-parter. It looks almost the same and I can’t say as of now if this new series would do anything different; only time will tell. However, I am enough of an EVA fan to stick around to find out.
Highly Recommended to ‘EVA’ fans and a recommended rating to those unfamiliar with the anime series [4- Stars]
Note: Watching the film in its original Japanese language is highly advisable.