Reviewby Zac Bertschy,
Evangelion: 1.0 You Are [Not] Alone
Otherworldly beings called "Angels" are attacking the ravaged city of Tokyo-3. A mysterious UN-controlled organization called NERV, under the watch of the enigmatic Gendo Ikari, fights off the angels using the hulking Evangelion units, one of which is piloted by Gendo's reluctant, angst-ridden son, Shinji.
Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone is the first six episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion with better animation, a slightly truncated storyline and a handful of slight changes. It isn't anything new at all to Evangelion veterans; this is a stroll down memory lane, except they moved some of the lampposts around and like any nostalgic journey to the past, maybe it's not really as good as you might remember. Newcomers to the franchise (provided they actually exist) will have a good time but would probably be better served by just watching the original TV series and then waiting along with the rest of us for Rebuild of Evangelion 4.0: Now We're Finally At The Good Part.
Everything you remember about the first handful of Evangelion episodes is here; Shinji stares at the ceiling, Misato gets drunk, Rei speaks in a monotone and Gendo goes about his day being a giant douchebag. The battle between EVA-001 and Sachiel, the third Angel, is appropriately brutal and epic, and pretty much everything is exactly how you remembered it, except it's shinier this time and the action scenes are much more fluid. They didn't even change the character designs; the mouths look a little different, and all the sliding buildings are now clearly done using CG, but other than that, everything looks identical.
That's not to say this is an exact carbon copy of the first quarter of the Evangelion TV series – some things have been changed. The script is different in that the dialogue has been made a lot less confusing; they're very upfront with anything related to the Third Impact, disposing of all the cryptic non-clues and vague hints the TV series dabbled in. When Ramiel, the sixth angel, attacks, Misato takes Shinji right on down to the NERV basement and shows him Lilith, who now has a cool new abdomen made up of hundreds of pairs of human legs, and tells him that it's his job to prevent the Angels from making contact with Lilith or else the world will end, which isn't something we learn in the TV series until later on and even then it's pretty vague. It's a clear attempt to make this material more accessible and less confusing to an Evangelion newcomer, which isn't a bad thing. EVA-01 now has an awesome new roar that sounds like it's being fed through a vocoder, and Ramiel has a chilling feminine scream when it gets sniped. There's also a nifty surprise at the very end that will delight EVA fans and hints at some big and potentially very cool changes to the story in the next film, but ultimately it's a tease.
Unfortunately, some of the changes they've made don't work. It's not clear why they decided to tinker with the show's ragingly screwed up emotional underbelly, but it's as if they've removed all the subtlety from the TV series. They're not properly building these characters this time; the only hint we have that Shinji and his terminally walled-off pops Gendo don't get along is a single flash of that famous picture of toddler Shinji crying next to his luggage, and yet in his very first reunion with his dad, who promptly tells him he's going to pilot the EVA-01, he immediately reacts by crying about it and pitching a fit about how he can't and won't and why me and all that blistering angst that generally took a little longer to get to in the TV series. Shinji was reluctant there, but here he's crying about it right off the bat. Other characters suffer from the same problem; some of the conversations are almost hilariously blunt, with Misato just outright discussing her mountain of personal issues as though she's explaining herself to the audience. They're not coming by all this tortured angst honestly; it feels largely out of context, and for many Evangelion fans, the fact that the entire cast was slowly revealed to be a pack of selfish, emotionally mangled mental patients was half the fun. Here they may as well be wearing tee-shirts that say “Hey guys, I'm pretty screwed up in the head!”. A return to some form of subtlety in the next three films would be nice.
While it's way too early to judge Rebuild of Evangelion as an adaptation, aside from a few hints at some changes to come, this is a pretty slavish “rebuild” of the first six episodes. They're even recycling the soundtrack from the TV series, with a few melodramatic chorus songs inserted into the more intense battle scenes. In spite of the potential fan backlash, it'd have been nice if Gainax had shown some cojones and really mixed things up, swapped around some personalities, maybe redesigned the characters and fiddled with the storyline. Hell, they could've at least given Shinji an iPod to listen to, but this is such a faithful retelling that they even kept his now-obsolete little tape recorder. This isn't “new Evangelion”, it's old Evangelion spit-shined and mildly re-arranged, and the result is not particularly arresting. Ultimately it all feels fairly pointless and basically serves as a big expensive teaser for the really interesting stuff that happens later in the story. Once they really start digging into the psychological, philosophical and religious gobbledygook that made the second half of the TV series a timeless (and endlessly argued about) classic, things will get better, but for the time being, even in spite of all the cool fight sequences and beautiful new animation, what we basically have is Evangelion: The Boring Parts Movie. Hurry up with the sequels, Gainax.
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B
Animation : A
Art : A-
Music : B
+ It's Evangelion. Great animation, excellent fight scenes, some hints at exciting changes to come. Cool cameo at the end, too!
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