Judge Steve Power shoulders the responsibility for the fate of all mankind, but not until after his morning coffee.
God is in his heaven…all's right with the world.
Over a decade after it originally premiered, Neon Genesis Evangelion finds itself being rebooted by original creator Hideaki Anno. Evangelion 1.01: You are (not) Alone lands on DVD courtesy of Funimation. Is this fresh start worth the effort for fans of the series?
Facts of the Case
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 in this visually striking rebuild of one of the most important anime of all time. 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. In this not to be missed film experience, 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.
The heaping praise piled upon Neon Genesis Evangelion has always been something of a mystery to me. I recall the hubbub generated when the series first appeared on VHS back in the day, and I, like so many other Anime drones of the era, spent a fortune amassing the collection. The animation by Gainax was relatively weak for the era, the characters were pretty unlikeable, and that final act, oh god that final act. I'd always liked a good giant robot anime, but everything about these sorts of series that made them appealing to me was stripped from Evangelion. It would be years later, and after the profitable eBay sale of my old VHS tapes, that I would come to realize that the show's success hinged on what had initially turned me off; it was mehca anime for people who didn't particularly like the usual giant robot shenanigans. "Eva" would go on to inspire countless imitators, and remains a cultural icon in anime circles.
Which brings us to Evangelion 1.01: You Are (Not) alone, which essentially takes the first arc of the TV series and reworks it into a feature length animated film. This isn't merely an edit job, the movie features all new animation and audio, and the story has been tightened up a bit, giving the whole affair a more accessible feel without compromising the original plot. The animation quality will definitely please long time fans, familiar scenes are presented in almost frame by frame fashion, though with cutting edge techniques. This is how you do a remake properly, unlike the horrid bastardization of Ghost in the Shell that popped up this past year. I'd recommend people who may be curious about the series skip it all together and make Evangelion 1.01 your starting point.
Funimation's disc is top notch as well, the high quality animation gets a flawless transfer and an all new English dub with a lively 5.1 sound mix. Some of the old cast reappear, but people who're used to the old ADV dub may be a little let down by missing voices, though the quality here far outstrips the old discs.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The main characters In Evangelion 1.01, much like the series before it, are just plain unlikeable. Shinji spends most of the film whining or moping with his walkman (probably listening to 'My Chemical Romance'). His old man, Gendo, is a gruff uncaring father with little faith in his son's abilities, and Rei is cold, unfeeling, and distant. There's just not a lot to grab onto emotionally. This is all stuff that's come from the source material, and this angsty "emo" fare was originally one of the show's selling points, so I can't be too damning I guess.
Speaking of holdovers from the show, I hope Anno deviates a little more from the source as time goes on. 1.01 pretty much sticks to the plot of the old series' first 6 or so episodes, which is good in a sense, but it makes me dread what's coming, as the old show completely destroyed itself as it entered the final stages. I can only hope the next 3 films have some plot deviations, as I don't think I can handle my psyche getting mindraped as badly as it was while watching the last 3 or 4 episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Also worth a notice, there's been talk about the special edition Evangelion 1.11 winding its way to R1 DVD and Bluray sometime in 2010, essentially a "director's cut" of 1.01 with a few minutes of additional scenes. Buyers may want to play the patience game and hold out for that one, as you'll get what is considered the better cut of the film, as well as some supplemental materials, since the current disc is as barebones as it gets.
Evangelion 01: You are (Not) Alone proves to be both a functional and entertaining reboot, and yet very loyal to the old material. Fans should be pleased with the new take on events, and today's high tech animation techniques give Evangelion the gravitas it deserves, even if the main characters are still as unlikeable as always. Funimation has also put together a nice disc, as always, but there's talk of a more enhanced version coming sometime in 2010. So buyer beware of double dips.
Care and effort abound in this reboot attempt. Not guilty.
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