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Anime Reviews: Rebuild of Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone
More than just a mere retelling, Rebuild of Evangelion 1.0 bridges the gap between fans old and new with a fresh take on the divisive franchise.
Title: Rebuild of Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone a.k.a. Evangelion Shin Gekijouban: Jou
Production: GAINAX / Studio Khara / KlockWorx
Film Length: 98 minutes
Air Dates: 9/1/2007
Age Rating: 17+ (strong violence, mild language, some nudity and suggestive content)
Summary: Ever since an event known as the Second Impact, which took place in the year 2000, mankind has had to scramble to survive in a world where the oceans are tainted red and all life on Earth has been reduced by half or more. In the year 2015, 14-year-old Shinji Ikari receives a summons from his estranged father, requesting his aid in a secret government project. As Shinji waits for his ride, an alien being known as an Angel attacks the city, shaking off any artillery used against it. Shinji's ride arrives in the nick of time, in the form of a woman named Misato and her little blue sports car. They travel to NERV Headquarters, where both Shinji's and humanity's fate awaits in the form of the giant armored synthetic combat humanoid, Evangelion Unit 01. But can Shinji, who has no combat experience, really be mankind's last hope against the Angels?
The Good: Stunningly beautiful art and animation; familiar soundtrack and voice actors; handily summarizes the first few episodes of the TV series; increased intensity
The Bad: Some questionable direction choices; too much techno-babble
The Ugly: Trying to explain to the FBI why there's a naked 14-year-old girl on your computer screen
To be honest, the news that this movie was going to be a thing was absolutely shocking, not just to me, but to many anime fans. Both GAINAX and American dubbing company ADV Films had been milking the Evangelion series for all the money that could possibly be made out of it for nearly 10 years, so when it was announced that something brand-new would actually be made in relation to the series, it sounded suspicious. But wouldn't you know it, a few months later, we learned that it was true, and also that it was glorious.
The very first thing that strikes you as the movie begins is that the detail of the artwork and the quality of the animation is nothing short of mind-blowing. Like, literally, if you try to analyze the artwork to find all the little details they've thrown in, your brain will try to escape from your skull. They also manage to do the near-impossible by making the traditional 2D animation and the 3D CGI animation mesh together flawlessly, sometimes making it difficult to tell which is which. It's at this point that you completely forgive Anno Hideaki for shamelessly milking the series for so long, because all of that money went into the making of this film.
Of course, for many of us, the Rebuild movies just wouldn't be the same if they changed all the music. Good news, everyone! The music will instantly be recognizable to long-time fans of the series! Many will be happy to hear classic tracks like "Angel Attack" and "The Beast" get a modern-day facelift while retaining the intensity that made them so memorable in the first place. Scattered in between, we also have a few new tunes to enjoy, like the excellent "Angels of Doom." Oh, and I should mention that, in both the Japanese and English versions, everyone comes back to reprise their roles, so if you loved the voice acting in the original series, you're gonna love this, too. Overall, the soundtrack is an aural treat for all fans, both new and old.
Now then, what about the story and the characters? Because the film covers the first 6 or so episodes of the TV series, surely the film must suffer in those departments, right? Well, that's where'd you be wrong, and stop calling me Shirley.
To keep this relatively short, the movie's length helps the story far more than it hurts, keeping the focus consistent and the pace constant. The scenes go by in a coherent manner, no frame is wasted, and all the proper emotions are conveyed. And when it comes to the action sequences, dear God, that animation budget shines through; every punch, every slam, every attack has palpable weight behind it. Between the hard-hitting battles and bombastic soundtrack, Rebuild 1.0 stands as one of the most intense films I've seen in recent years. So then, what about the characters? Do they get shafted by the movie's runtime?
Short answer: No. Long answer: Hell no. In fact, just like the storyline, the characters are also kept in focus and in check by the relatively short runtime, giving us the essence of each character without the fat, so to speak. We can see Shinji's insecurity and fear without having mountains of dialogue explaining it. We see the ambiguous relationship between Shinji and his father and Rei, via a few key scenes, perfectly fine. Even Toji and Kensuke get some proper character development and remain memorable, despite the fact that they're only on-screen for a few minutes. Man, juggling 6 episodes' worth of story and character development in half the time without any trouble--is there anything this film didn't do right?!
Sadly, yes. Yes there is. In the process of squeezing all of this material into a 98-minute movie (such a strange time limit to set...), there are inevitably a few missteps that will occur. One thing I've noticed is that many of the iconic silent moments during the first few episodes were either removed or shortened (Shinji staring at the hospital ceiling and later watching Rei be taken past in a stretcher, the awkward escalator conversation, etc.). This is kind of a bummer, considering it was those quiet moments that helped make the original Evangelion series as memorable as it was. Another thing that ground my gears was the handling of the scenes that coincide with the 2nd episode, where Shinji fights the big shoulderpad Angel, Sachiel. In the original series, as Shinji loses consciousness during the fight, it cuts away to the hospital scenes, filling us in on how he survived later. In Rebuild 1.0, it all plays out chronologically. For us veteran fans, this change sticks out like a sore thumb and it doesn't feel right.
Another thing this movie did wrong was overload us with meaningless techno-babble. My God, do the folks at the control bridge love talking about synchronization rates and pilot signals and deployment routes and...plug depths? Man, I don't even wanna know. Even during the third act, when the climax is in sight and the tension is building, we get, like, 5 solid minutes of status reports regarding the machinery being deployed, and it's just so dull. Can't we just get to the slugfest, already?!
While awkward direction choices and techno-babble do get annoying, they pale in comparison to Rebuild 1.0's exceedingly high quality in every other facet. Long-time fans of Evangelion have no excuse to skip out on these films, and for those who didn't care for the original TV series, I urge you to at least give these films a shot. Chances are good that, whatever it was that drove you crazy about the original series, it has been fixed here. Yes, that does include making Shinji less of an annoying, whiny git. No, I am serious. And I told you to stop calling me Shirley!
Final Score: 9 out of 10. Rebuild of Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone successfully reinvigorates this aging franchise with a fresh new look and feel, giving older fans something both new and familiar while offering newer fans another chance to join the club.