Love or hate the Giant Robot genre of anime, there is no denying the resounding influence the Evangelion franchise has had on the industry since its introduction back in 1997. I’m a self-admitted mecha-head and to have an opportunity to go back and witness the beginning of it all was quite an experience. Thanks to FUNimation, the masses will now have that same opportunity with their North American release of Evangelion: 1.01, the full length motion picture.
Hard facts first: The release is comprised of a single disc, housed in a standard sized dvd case with a cardboard outer slip cover with art that directly mimics the case within. The program’s runtime comes in at 98 minutes and wears an appropriate PG-13 rating due to animated action, violence and some ambiguous nudity.
Language options are standard sub & dub fair, which means the viewer is given the option of running the original Japanese dialog track or an English dub, either of which is presented in Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound. The option to turn on English subtitles exists for either language choice as well.
Extras are essentially nonexistent save for an included booklet that explains precisely what this rebuilt DVD means and a note from the original screenplay writer and Chief Director of the project, Hideaki Anno.
The story, while straightforward enough in presentation, has been the source of case studies, web-site devotion, even college thesis throughout the years and hence could never be summarized accurately (with dignity) here. However, to reduce it all down to its most basic levels, a young boy by the name of Shinji is thrust into a world beyond comprehension once an attacking “Angel” comes to town. It turns out that Shinji is one of few individuals in the world who possesses the rare ability to pilot the massive synthetic beings/ weapons known as Evangelions.
Reluctantly he allows himself to submit to the whirlwind of life-changing experiences associated with becoming an Evangelion pilot and makes some new friends and discovers more about his own past in the process. Working for a top-secret, underground (literally) organization known as NERV, Shingi’s life as an average 14-year-old is forever lost to the reality that his destiny is to be the one to save all of mankind from imminent doom.
So here it is precisely twelve years since this very material graced Japanese movie screens, you may rightfully be wondering what it is that FUNimation is releasing here. The answer is a bit complex, but I’ll do my best to set it straight.
Way back in October of 1995, the animated television series Neon Genesis Evangelion made its television debut in Japan. Two years later the work was “rebuilt” into a theatrical release that essentially spliced together the key moments of the tale into a larger, single effort. The mission was a success but kind of like what George Lucas has done with his Star Wars franchise, the creators behind the property always felt as though the technology available at the time wasn’t quite where they would have liked it to be to accurately present the tale visually. Hence in 2007, the material was revisited once more, this time not simply remastering from the original film stock, but rather breaking the material down into its raw form so as to correct and readjust even the smallest imperfections such as animation density and errant particles as a result of using film. It was not so much an exercise of splicing new CGI effects and eye-candy into the original material as it was about using modern animation methods to perfect the look and feel of the original material. As an added bonus the CG elements allow for visual flair that was, at the time, quite impossible to achieve.
Hence that brings us back to this, the 1.01 release, which is the first official North American release of this rebuilt movie series (it is scheduled to be presented in 4 parts total, with the third and fourth parts being released together). Obviously, part 1.01 being reviewed here is the introduction to the story.
If the timeline appears confusing, rest assured that sorting it all out is by no means a prerequisite to enjoying the film. It starts quickly with very little time spent establishing back-story and sweeps the viewer into a truly unique world where the precision and color pallet of modern computer generated animation melds seamlessly with the unique look of hand-drawn cells of yesteryear.
Plot wise, the tale is brisk and wonderfully entertaining with battle sequence on the absolute grandest scale broken up by moments of genuine character-development and emotional attachment. Perhaps the greatest of these being the sexual tension that exists between the lead characters or the appearances of the enigmatic father of young Shinji.
Fans, detractors, and scholars alike have gone to great lengths in drawing parallels and comparisons to Evangelion’s symbolism throughout the years and yet agreement to or even knowledge of these theories is by no means necessary to come away from the film with satisfaction.
In fact, it has actually surprised me in revisiting this film (which is actually made up of the first six episodes of the original television series) at how much of an influence Evangelion has had over subsequent Giant Robot anime franchises like RahXephon and Aquarion. The show is rife with familiar archetypes such as the young boy being thrust into the role of humanity’s savior, the biomechanical weaponry/ interfaces, the enigmatic villains that refuse to reveal their intentions, the impassive corporation behind it all, and the dysfunctional family structure that makes the antagonist question his very purpose of existence. Evnagelion is essentially the framework from which all others have followed.
The direction is simply wonderful with the structure of the film being more an endless succession of perfectly framed scenes than a random display of visuals. The voice acting is also quite notable whether you choose to enjoy the original Japanese dialog track (which is spectacular by the way) or the freshly dubbed English track featuring the talents of some of FUNimation’s finest performers. Either option represents the perfect accompaniment to the impeccable visual work.
In all this release marks the beginning of a franchise that has been deserving of revalidation for quite some time. The approach taken with rebuilding the film from the basic elements must surely have been quite an undertaking for all involved but I can attest that the finished product simply oozes with hints of the level of perfectionism sought out in the process. Amazing things are truly possible when such a revered and definitive property receives the loving caress of modern technology’s capabilities. This is highly recommended anime.
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Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone (ヱヴァンゲリヲン新劇場版: 序 , Evangerion Shin Gekijōban: Jo?, lit. "Evangelion New Theatrical Version: Beginning") is a 2007 Japanese animated film written and chief directed by Hideaki Anno. It is the first of four films released in the Rebuild of Evangelion tetralogy based on the original anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion. It was produced and co-distributed by Anno's Studio Khara in partnership with Gainax. Hideaki Anno wrote the first movie and is the general director and manager for the entire project. Yoshiyuki Sadamoto provided character designs for the film, while Ikuto Yamashita provided mechanical designs. Both Shinji Higuchi and Tomoki Kyoda provided the film's storyboards.
The plot is largely a point-for-point adaptation of episodes one through six of the original anime. While some scenes and events are replications of the original series, others unfold differently with new or omitted scenes and newly-available 3D CG technology. The film received a positive response from fans, with Hideaki Anno himself calling it a "faithful remake of the original series". The film was ranked 4th highest grossing anime film at the Japanese box office during 2007 earning a total of 2 billion yen.