Judge Adam Arseneau has excellent Instrumentality. He can play the guitar.
"I mustn't run…I mustn't run…I mustn't run…"
The first in a series of feature-length reworkings of the seminal anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion, Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone is an ambigulously named Special Edition version of the previously released Evangelion 1.01: You Are (Not) Alone, with a few minutes of extended footage, a color-corrected transfer, and a second disc full of supplements.
Facts of the Case
Ten years ago, a cataclysmic event called Second Impact destroyed all of Antarctica and killed half the population of the planet. In Tokyo-3, one of the last remaining bastions of dry land in Japan, the city is under constant attack by massive and mysterious monsters known as Angels. Their purpose is unclear, but they seem hellbent on the destruction of all humanity.
To combat the threat, the government agency Nerv has developed Evangelions—gigantic biomechanical mecha piloted by young children who form symbiotic links with the creatures. One such pilot is new recruit Shinji Ikari, a fourteen-year-old boy recently arrived to Nerv, and the estranged son of Nerv Commander Ikari.
Shinji is a meek and shy boy, struggling with the rejection and abandonment from his father years ago. He tries to reconnect with his father, but is summarily rejected—he is brought here to pilot the Eva, nothing more—and if he's too scared to do it, they'll find someone else. With Angel attacks increasing in scope and frequency, Shinji must put his life on the line to prove his worth, or else see everything around him burn to the ground…
In 2006, Neon Genesis Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno began creation of a reworking and reimagining of his beloved series in a theatrical format: the Rebirth of Evangelion tetralogy. The films would serve as a faithful remake of the beloved series, taking advantage of modern advances in computer animation and high definition formats, reworking sequences and adding entirely new bits of content here and there. The first in the series, Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone roughly encapsulates the first six episodes of the anime and was released theatrically in Japan. The DVD release, Evangelion 1.01: You Are (Not) Alone upgraded a few hundred shots with minor enhancements and tweaks in picture and editing. A second DVD and Blu-Ray release followed, which is this film here: Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone, tweaking the color and adding three minutes of new animation. I know; it's a bit complicated. Try and keep up here. So this is the Special Edition cut upgrade of the DVD release of a completely remade high-definition theatrical release of the first six episodes of an anime series. See? Easy as pie.
Confusion simply is par for the course when it comes to the world of Evangelion. The series is notoriously complicated, in no small part to Anno's constant fussing, fiddling, tweaking, and reworking of the twenty-six episode anime series. Between the original episodes, Evangelion: Death and Rebirth and The End of Evangelion, it is challenging to keep up with the subtle revisions and modifications, let alone the actual true nature of the show. The endings alone are enough to send an otaku into a paralytic coma of psychoanalysis. Yes, I said "endings." With Rebirth of Evangelion added to the mix, I am just going to sit over here in a corner and weep quietly for a few minutes.
Truth be told, it is difficult to ascertain if this theatrical reworking improves the original material enough to constitute a full replacement. The story is tighter, more even and smoothed out; the pacing is noticeably quicker and moves with a more urgent, almost breakneck pace. On the downside, the truncation hinders the character development noticeably, as much is left on the cutting room floor trimming down six full episodes into a 90-minute feature. As a long-time fan of the series, the pacing felt fresh and adventurous, giving the series energy and urgency, but when I put myself into the mindset of someone watching this show for the first time, I felt disoriented and lost. Newcomers are going to want to seek out the original full-length series for true Evangelion satisfaction. Where the film certainly delivers the homage is during the key battle sequences with the Angels; Evangelion 1.11 essentially re-creates itself shot-for-shot, but with improved image and computer effects. Of particular note is the fifth Angel, a marvelous swirling geometric monstrosity that takes full advantage of the upgraded budget. Compared to its original incarnation, a boring blue octahedron, the new monster is a serious upgrade.
In all other regards, this is Evangelion; a complex and endlessly nuanced, almost contradictory artistic bombast of giant robot fights, fan service, comedy, religious iconography, introspective psychoanalysis, meditations on the human condition of isolation, post-structuralism, and good old-fashioned loneliness. Actual graduate thesis work has been written about this darned series. Indeed, it is no coincidence that the title of this film contains the word "not" in closed brackets. This kind of contradictory doublespeak is at the thematic and spiritual root of Evangelion; it also personifies the love/hate relationship most fans have for the series. You absolutely worship and adore it for being so wildly original and magnificent, but hate it for its unsettling emotional content, its neurotic, whiny protagonist Shinji, and a befuddling world view that screams of paranoid schizophrenia by way of Freudian psychotherapy. I both adore and loathe this series, just like I do my father. Or maybe it's just Shinji's father. He is, after all—and this may be the only single thing Evangelion fans can surely agree on—a giant dick.
In some ways, Evangelion 1.11 is a more honest experience for audiences, as the format allows for a certain level of transparency between audience and creator not present in the original series. During the first dozen or so episodes, Evangelion was a radically different show than the metafictional rollercoaster ride it ended as. Whether this was a deliberate act by Anno or a sudden shift in direction prompted by budgetary and creative malaise is an issue of historical and raging debate, but regardless; we know what to expect this time out. Accordingly, Evangelion 1.11 works in more details about the Angels, SEELE, and Instrumentality in a way that feels natural, not just dropping everything on us during the last ten episodes. In a sense, this is a love affair for fans only. Newcomers to the franchise should slog through the anime series just like all us fans had to. Call it an intellectual rite of passage. If you can make it through Neon Genesis Evangelion, then Death and Rebirth, and then End of Evangelion with a straight face, then you've earned your fan club badge.
There is no denying that the total abandonment and systematic shot-for-shot re-creation of a fifteen-year-old anime using current state-of-the-art animation technology produces some impressive results. I busted out my old Neon Genesis Evangelion: Perfect Collection (the old, old one, before the remastering and tweaking) for comparison, and it was no contest. Evangelion 1.11 is a stunner on the screen: vibrant colors, gorgeous whites, and deep blacks, crisp detail breathe new life into the franchise. The CGI additions are subtle but welcome, energizing the battle sequences with new adrenaline. The original run of the show was endlessly hindered by technical and budgetary limitations, but Evangelion 1.11 receive no such hindrances. I have reviewed quite a few Funimation titles, and this title is the crowning champion of quality, hands down. Oh, if only all of them looked this good. As benchmarks go, Funimation is going to have its work cut out for it after this. I don't have a copy of Evangelion 1.01 to compare to, but it seems this new release corrects a color/brightness issue that plagued the previous release—so if that was a problem for you before, it appears to be fixed now.
Audio gets a bump from the previous release in the form of a Dolby Digital 6.1 Surround EX treatment in both English dub and Japanese audio. I am nostalgic and twisted in that I miss the old ADV English dub, but the Funimation crew do a respectable job here. Both tracks are near identical in quality, with superb clarity, aggressive bass response, and excellent rear channel environmental placement. During the chaotic Tokyo-3 battles, your surround system will get a serious workout. The Japanese language track brings back all the original voice actors, which is marvelous.
Extras are frankly quite underwhelming. A second DVD includes the extra supplements, but there aren't really many to speak of. We get a large amount of movie previews and trailers, an "Angel of Doom" promotional music video, some news flashes and two "Rebuild of Evangelion" featurettes, each 15 minutes in length, comparing storyboard, animatics, CGI wireframes, and final product shots. It is a strange smattering of extras. The "Rebuild of Evangelion" in particular is bizarre. It just kind of plays a 15-minute montage of wire frames and CGI animations—no narration, no explanation. It's weird.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
As amazing as Evangelion 1.11: You Are Not Alone looks, all restored and spiffy, trimmed of fat and reworked into theatrical form, the story still makes no damn sense. No, stop. Anyone who says otherwise is lying to themselves to look cool on the Internet. Heck, even the show's creator has acted bewildered at times when asked to explain his intentions with Evangelion.
Yes, it is a creative, spiritual, and artistic masterpiece unrivaled in the anime world, an evolving, personal, and complex expression of insecurity and anxiety, but let's be honest here. It never made a lick of sense, not ever. Still, it's okay to love it.
Delving back into the world of Evangelion with this handsome and cutting-edge theatrical reworking is exciting, but one cannot help but observe that this DVD release is a pretty merciless double dip. It has a new, ambiguously confusing numbering system to disguise this fact, but a double dip all the same. Aside from a few extra minutes of theatrical footage and a tacked-on second disc of extras that suck outright, this is a barely justifiable "Special Edition" upgrade with a new color-correct transfer and an EX sound upgrade—not really much to justify a double dip, especially considering the former was released a mere four months ago. Even in the world of anime, this is a pretty brutal sales pitch.
I have a feeling that the Blu-Ray edition of Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone is going to knock some socks off, but the straight DVD version might be a bit harder to sell to people who already made the plunge. Then again, if you're like me and you never picked up Evangelion 1.01? Well, you're in luck. There is simply no reason to bother with the old edition now. Evangelion 1.11 gives fans everything the previous set had, and more.
Now we just have to wait for Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance. Man, waiting is hard.
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