“Shinji Ikari…I want to show you something…”
– Ritsuko Akagi
“Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (NOT) Alone” is a restart of the “Neon Genesis Evangelion” franchise; the first of a four-part movie series known as “Rebuild of Evangelion”. As the premiere film, “Evangelion 1.0” had a lot of weight riding on its shoulders. Not only does it have to appease existing, die-hard fans, but it also had to find a way to bring in new viewers who might not be familiar with “Evangelion”. Did it succeed? Did the new, slightly altered story, slightly re-imaged characters, all-new artwork, and new American dubbing company accomplish its goal? Only one way to find out.
[Please note that the version I used for this review is “Evangelion 1.01”; the original DVD release. However, for simplicity sake, I will refer to the movie by its theatrical release title “Evangelion 1.0″…]
Who This Movie Is For – This movie is absolutely for you if you are new to the world of “Evangelion”. It explains everything you need to know, but it does so in a way that doesn’t get boring like the earlier film “Death and Rebirth” did. This movie is also for you if you are a fan of the original material, as it presents it in a slightly different manner than the series, and the all new animation makes it all the better.
Who This Movie Is NOT For – “Evangelion 1.0” is not for you if you have any kind of aversion to religious imagery. While it’s not quite as predominant as the earlier films, it’s still there and might be offensive to some. This movie is also not for you if you are an Asuka fan as she does not appear in this one, save for the preview at the end. [And even then…it’s only a split second frame…]
Story and Premise – “Evangelion 1.0” is set in a time and place in the near future, where Earth is under attack by the “Angels”; mysterious beings in varying shapes and forms intent on reaching the mysterious being known as Lilith and destroying all of humanity. The only hope that mankind has lies in the organization known as “NERV”, and the synthetic bio-mechanical android known as the Evangelion. Piloted mentally by a select group of fourteen year olds, the Evangelions wage war against the “Angels” preventing a “Third Impact” from destroying all mankind. If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because this movie is basically episodes one through six of the original series reanimated and told in a different fashion. While it is a bit of a cop-out story-wise, the new little quirks, like Misato’s awareness of Lilith, and the appearance of Kaworu gives enough new tidbits to veteran viewers to keep them satisfied while still appealing to newcomers. I also liked how tight the story is this time around. In the original series, there was an overly extended scene when Shinji is simply wandering around town like a lost lamb. This time around the scene is much shorter, and we get back into the story quicker. Also, this movie kind of makes you realize just how much life and energy Asuka brings to the story and overall feeling of “Evangelion”, as this whole movie kind of drags about without her. But still, the story is good enough that you kind of forget she’s missing unless someone specifically points it out. [Or you’re a die-hard Asuka fan…] (23/25)
Characters – If there is one thing that can be said about the characters this time around is that they seem more defined and complex than their series counterparts. Our male lead, Shinji Ikari, is a little less the whiny kid we left at the end of “The End of Evangelion” and more of a typical teenager going through an atypical situation. Rei Ayanami is also different this time around, appearing to show a bit more emotions than in the original series or even the prior two movies. With regards to Gendo Ikari, Shinji’s father, he somehow has found a way to make himself even more detestable and colder. As for all the other characters, they’re pretty much unchanged from their series counterparts; Misato is still the headstrong leader with a love of liquor, Ritsuko is still the logical expert with something to hide, and Toji and Kensuke are still the hapless duo they were in the series. What we don’t get, however, is the fiery red-headed Asuka, who will make an appearance in the next movie “Evangelion 2.0 You Can (NOT) Advance”. (25/25)
Animation and Music – This is where this movie both shines brightly and blacks out tragically [and literally…]. “Evangelion 1.0” is the boldest upgrade to the Evangelion franchise since the “Platinum” revision years prior. Though all the characters look the same as they did in the original series and prior movies, the whole of “Evangelion 1.0” is treated to a fresh, new look that is absolutely awesome. Everything, right down to the digital displays, has been given the modern-day treatment, and it all looks great…except when it comes to nighttime scenes. During nighttime battles, and scenes that take place in dark rooms or other such environments, the characters fade into the darkness, making them almost indistinguishable unless they’re standing next to a light source. While I understand there were issues with the film transferring over to DVD, and that it was corrected with the Blu-Ray version of the movie, I shouldn’t have to buy a different disk to be able to watch a movie more clearly. If it was done right the first time, then there wouldn’t be a problem. According to reports, even the theatrical release suffered this problem. There is simply no excuse. With regards to music, once again, “Evangelion” surpasses my expectations, not only updating the original incidental music, but adding some new pieces which does justice to this grand new endeavor. “Beautiful World” by Utada Hikeru is a beautiful new addition to the “Evangelion” soundtrack and makes a perfect ending to a movie of this nature. (23/25)
Performances – This time around, Funimation Entertainment handled the license for “Evangelion 1.0” as ADV Films [or at least the ADV Films that we once knew…] no longer existed and Manga Entertainment expressed no interest in the project. At the helm is veteran ADR director and voice actor Mike McFarland [You’ll remember him from my “Mushi-Shi” review…], who was faced with the daunting task of locating as many of the original voice actors as possible and, baring that, finding appropriate replacements. Thankfully, Spike Spencer and Allison Keith-Shipp were ready and willing to return to their roles as Shinji and Misato respectively, and both turn up the dial to eleven with regards to performances. It’s as though the eight year gap between “End of Evangelion” and this movie didn’t exist. I’ve read other reviews that said Allison Keith-Shipp’s Misato suffered this time around, but honestly, I don’t hear it at all. She sounds just as good, if not better, than when we last heard her in “The End of Evangelion”. One key role that had to be recast was Rei Ayanami, as Amanda Winn-Lee was either not available or not willing to reprise the role. [And to be honest, after the backlash she received due to her work in the earlier “Evangelion” movies plus her child’s illness, can you really blame her?] Succeeding her is the amazingly versatile Brina Palencia who gives a performance of the First Child that matches, if not surpasses the original voice actress. She gives a portrayal of Rei that is uniquely hers and makes the character more human and less deadpan. Also recast [or rather, brought back in a way…I’ll explain later…] was John Swasey as Gendo Ikari. He does quite a respectable job as Shinji’s father, but I still don’t think he has that snap to his voice that the original actor, Tristan MacAvery had. Replacing Sue Ulu as Ritsuko Akagi is Colleen Clinkenbeard, who does an excellent job in the role, but it’s a departure from the original. She sounds good, but it’ll take some getting used to. Also receiving a new voice actor is Kaworu Nagisa, now voiced by Jerry Jewell. I was pleasantly surprised to hear his portrayal of the Angel of Free Will and, though he only says a few lines, he really owns that moment. Overall, while the majority of the cast was replaced, the new voice actors and actresses fit into their roles perfectly as though they’ve been playing them as long as the original actors have. (25/25)
Story and Premise – 23 out of 25
Characters – 25 out of 25
Animation and Music – 23 out of 25
Performances – 25 out of 25
Final Grade: 97/100 = 97% (A)
Availability – “Evangelion 1.0” is available in a few brick and mortar stores like Best Buy and FYE in both DVD and Blu-Ray formats. There are also special Collectors Edition DVD and Blu-Ray that include a separate disk with some Japanese behind-the-scenes extras like music videos and storyboards. Honestly, if you’re into that thing, then more power to you, but it doesn’t add much to the experience in my opinion. If you’re not into those kind of extras, save your money and go for the Standard Edition DVD’s or Blu-Ray disks. They’re just as good, aside from the darkness issue.
Lagniappe (A Little Something Extra)
- Funimation Entertainment is the third company to touch the “Evangelion” franchise in the US after Manga Entertainment handled the first two movies and ADV Films handled the original series.
- Picking up the unofficial “tradition”, ADR Director Mike McFarland played the role of Bridge Technician Mokoto Hyuga. In the original series, Matt Greenfield played the role under the pseudonym Brian Granveldt. The “tradition” was broken for the movies as Keith Burgess played the role as the director for that film was female.
- This is the first “Evangelion” project to not feature Asuka as a speaking character.
- Both Greg Ayres and John Swasey were in the series “directors cut” episodes as Kaworu and Gendo respectively, though only John Swasey returned to his original role. Greg Ayres assumed the role of Kensuke Aida for the movie.
- Like most of the technology featured in “Evangelion 1.0” Kensuke’s camera has also gotten an upgrade. The camera he now uses is an HD camera instead of the old disk-based camera used in the original series. This new camera now has a screen on the outside, yet it still functions as a mobile TV as seen in the evacuation shelter. [Something only a photographer would notice…]
- Several actual products make an appearance in “Evangelion 1.0” including Doritos tortilla chips, UCC Coffee and Pizza Hut pizza. These companies sponsored “Evangelion 1.0”.
- In the trailer for “Evangelion 2.0 You Can (NOT) Advance”, Misato promises the viewer “plenty of fan-service!” as she did in the original series.
- “Operation Yashima” was the unofficial inspiration for the power conservation methods used in Japan after the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake. [Save for the giant sniper rifle, bio-mechanical robot and geometrically inspired Angel.]
So where does that leave us? Simply put, “Evangelion 1.0 You Are (NOT) Alone” is a successful reboot of the original “Neon Genesis Evangelion” series. This movie has something for those who are new to “Evangelion” and those who have been there from the start. Though the story is the same, it still keeps you guessing, with characters who will take you on a ride through the human condition. This new world is bright and vivid…in the daytime, and the music holds your attention without being distracting. Lastly, the undeniable effort on the part of the Funimation crew to breathe new life into the movie with both old and new actors cannot be denied or underestimated. Love it or hate it, “Neon Genesis Evangelion” is back, and “Evangelion 1.0 You Are (NOT) Alone” is the launching pad for all good things to come.
And so guys, we approach the tail end of “Evangelion November”! I have to admit, despite the challenges, this month has been really fun and a big success! Of course, it ain’t over yet! We have one more movie left! Hang with me boys and girls, because next week, we wrap up “Evangelion November” with the review of…
“Evangelion 2.0 You Can (NOT) Advance”