The stunning rebuild of the anime masterpiece is now extended and enhanced with never before seen new animation and 266 visual and audio improvements.
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 film experience not to be missed, 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.
"God's in his heaven, all's right with the world."
Not everyone has the same taste in this world, and that's a damn good thing, as I won't get near a McDonald's burger or anything with onions. We all have different upbringings and interests that affect our conception of everything around us. Including film and television. So, with that in mind, I cannot say any movie or show is the best ever, and there never will be a global consensus on any such statement of opinion.
I can say, however, that in the anime genre, one of the better series (meaning no 'Akira') happens to be the tale of Hideaki Anno's 'Neon Genesis Evangelion.' The best? Polls will be taken from now until eternity, and new shows may take the slot that 'Cowboy Bebop' often claims, but that doesn't matter. There very well may be a God, though, as in my less-than-humble opinion, 'Evangelion' is a gift from above.
Created in 1995, 'Neon Genesis Evangelion' was a beautiful mixture of mythology (particularly Christian mythology), politics, existential dilemmas, and giant rampaging robot carnage. It was met with great reception, raking in piles with merchandising, as well as numerous releases of the show on home video. But apparently, the Japanese are about as satisfied with maintaining the original integrity of their work as Hollywood is concerning their horror films, as 'Evangelion' got itself a makeover. A far, far more drastic makeover than 'Ghost in the Shell' received with its 2.0 cut.
Labeled 'Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone,' this first release in the "retooled," "rebooted," or "re-anything you want to call it" series does not require any previous knowledge of the original incarnations. Fans with extensive knowledge of the original may get more pleasure out of this reinterpretation (another "re" word), but they aren't the only audience who can appreciate this film. They may understand many of the terms used, the importance of background characters or themes, and plot direction, but all of those events will be revealed later on in the series for those patient enough for the payoff.
Shinji Ikari isn't your ordinary 14 year old boy in New Tokyo 3. He's a child with destiny built right into him...only, of course, he doesn't know it. What he does know about the real happenings of the world around him are limited. His father, Gendo, is implicitly involved in a project revolving around the defense of New Tokyo 3, and that is the purpose for his current visit to the futuristic marvel of a city. He is needed. Why? And why him?
As Shinji is indoctrinated into the world around him, he's forced into the role of savior, for all mankind. It is his purpose to pilot a giant robot of sorts, Unit-01, an Evangelion. He is to defend the city against the Angels, a group of varied beings who seem to congregate upon the city, for reasons not yet clear. Shinji is not alone, though, as Rei Ayanami, a blue haired girl of the same age, is also a pilot, using the unstable Unit-00. The role of these two youths in a world devastated by an event called the Second Impact seems to be known by those who push them into doing their bidding, and secretive organizations may play an important hand in the future of all mankind. Seele? NERV? Gehirn? They may be German words for soul, body, and brain, but what is their purpose in New Tokyo 3?
It's amazing just how well this anime has held up over the years (fifteen years, coincidentally about the same amount of time between the Second Impact and the events being portrayed), and this "re-whatever" of the series certainly doesn't hurt manners. Watching 'You Are (Not) Alone' for the first time is almost reminiscent of my first viewing of the original series, in terms of scope, unexpected factors (and there are some, hardcore fans), and expectations. After years of being teased by a live action adaptation of the series, which has yet to take off beyond its initial stages, finally having the show receive some new attention and a breath of fresh air is beyond satisfying.
For newcomers, yes, the random terms and layers of government and hidden organizations with light cameos in this first release may seem somewhat intimidating going in, but even ignoring the few scenes that don't yet tie in to anything, there's still plenty to enjoy in 'Evangelion 1.11.' The action, between Evas and Angels, is tense, and varied, not the typical run-of-the-mill repetitive nonsense that you'd come to expect from 'Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.' These Angels take on a variety of shapes and sizes, and as such, their attacks and strategies change dramatically. We also get to see Shinji's learning curve in this first volume, so we learn the capabilities of the Evangelions alongside the young pilot. It is somewhat easy to relate to Shinji on the first time through the show as viewers try to make sense of it all.
The series is meticulous, particularly in the first episode, as we don't just get thrust into the action. We find out Shinji's plight, how his father only wants him now so that he can do his dirty work, how Rei is more favored by his father. The process of activating the Evangelion for battle is shown in painstaking detail, with every step and technical term thrown out to give a greater scope to the technology present in New Tokyo 3 (as if the retracting buildings didn't give that away). There is also a set in stone system of rules, for the NERV workers, for the pilots of the Evangelions, and the Evas themselves, yet, mysteriously, they keep getting bent, skewed as it were. There's always the slightest hint of something greater going on than what is being given credit for. The truths behind each machine have yet to be exposed, but their meaning in the world the show is set in is deep and philosophical, which makes the fact that these rich things are pure ass kicking machines all the more fun.
Hardcore fans, you are not ignored in this re-release. For the most part, yes, the story takes the first five episodes and condenses them, losing some very important character development. While the upgrades in animation may not be worthy enough to justify an upgrade for some, the changes in the story are where the gold can be found. The numbers of the Angels have changed (making more room for differences as we get further into the story), as have the functions and capabilities of a few of them. Battles now have more urgency and fleshing out, replacing the subplots involving Toji Suzuhara, Kensuke Aida, and Hikari Horaki. Sadly, Toji is virtually written out of the story in the second release, titled 'You Can (Not) Advance.' There is also a dramatic change at the conclusion of this release, featuring one of the best characters in the series. To spoil the purpose of this change would be criminal, but let's just say the most androgynous being in the 'Evangelion' universe appears set to play a much greater role than he did before!
'Evangelion' is very heavy in its Christian connotations, to the point that it will excite some, and certainly offend others as the story progresses. If you take your Bible extremely seriously, with no room for accepting a different take on the story, you may want to sit this one out. Obviously, the term Angel will upset some, as the beings normally associated as being messengers and representatives of God and Heaven being depicted as monsters and villains isn't exactly an endearing trademark of the show. However, the twists that 'Evangelion' gives to creationism are brilliant, and even somewhat respectful, in that they do not mock the Bible in any fashion. The tree of knowledge plays a part in this story, as does the tree of life from the Kabbalah, Lilith, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Crosses are constantly formed in explosions and blasts, leaving one to question: who is being symbolized with each representation? Are the Angels truly messengers from God, or are the Evas? Fans of the series will know what Evangelion Unit-01 comes to represent to those who know it, but as of this point, it's just one layer of the layered mystery of the world of 'Evangelion.'
'Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not Alone)' is a great new start to the story, though the twists, turns, and new ending to this part of the story may not make much sense to newcomers, who will have to stick with it. That said, those with patience will get a tremendous payoff. Terms like "Human Instrumentality Project" may confuse, while the layered character interactions and hidden truths hinted at will have their payoffs soon enough. Taken on its own, this first portion of 'Evangelion' is solid, but is obviously just the first stepping stone in the greater story, which got much, much better as the show progressed 15 years ago. Hopefully, this second time around, even with the dramatic changes to come, things will only look up.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone' arrives on Blu-ray on a single BD50 Dual Layer disc. The menu for this release evokes one of the more memorable bits of music from the series, along with a series of clips from the revamped show. The retail packaging is perhaps one of the best yet put on Blu-ray, with a holographic/foiled digipak that is very, very pleasing to the eye, and even includes a booklet for the show. There are 33 chapter breaks on this release.
This "rebuild" of 'Neon Genesis Evangelion' takes the first five episodes of the original show and condenses them, with some slight changes in the overall story (the ending to this release, for example). This new series, which is in film form rather than episode format, runs parallel to the original show, and is not technically a remake, or a prequel/sequel. There is one pre-menu trailer, for the upcoming 'D. Gray-Man Season 1 Part 2' Blu-ray release.
FUNimation has been spotty on their anime series, with some very troubling upconverts under their belts that may concern fans, but their handling of 'Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone' may very well be the best looking anime put out by the studio, as it comes from the Japanese HD source material. Presented in a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode at the 1.78:1 ratio, this first entry into the Evangelion retelling is as sparkling as its beautiful packaging.
Colors are clear as can be, with some moments of incredible boldness (though, to be fair, a few moments of dead and dull color). There are some very obvious differences in the upgraded shots, but they are not so much a distraction in any sense. Colors stay within their boundaries for the most part, save for some intentional bleed in intense moments in the show. Lines are clean and solid, never stairstepping, with only one scene that had problematic shimmering/aliasing. Just one. There are some light color banding issues, which occur more frequently in the first half of the film, but no real artifacting issues besides that. It's not perfect, but damn if it isn't worthy of great praise. All of my high hopes and anticipations were met, with this release that isn't quite demo, but damned if I'm going to look this gift horse in the mouth!
FUNimation has made some very questionable choices in relation to the audio on past Blu-ray releases, with the Japanese tracks getting stilted lossy tracks compared to dubs getting priority treatment.
Right now, I want to give FUNimation a big, sloppy kiss. 'Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone' may default to English, but this time around, all tracks are created equal. Lossless Dolby TrueHD 6.1 equal.
Dialogue is clean, with absolutely zero feedback or distortion, and finds itself registering through each and every channel regularly. This isn't a gimmick where a line can be heard one time through the rears...this is voices moving through channels, speakers blaring through all channels, or through individual speakers at will, constantly. Echoes, particularly in dialogue, are pitch perfect and appropriate. There are a few moments where discrete effects aren't discrete enough (cicada invasion of Tokyo, I'm looking at you), and can equal the spoken word in volume, but for the most part, dialogue is prioritized, and spectacular.
Just as dialogue does, the score, as well as atmosphere and effects, all hit each and every channel in the room. Motion isn't over-utilized, despite being present fairly often, but damn if these aren't some of the best localized sounds in any anime release to date! Silence is pitch perfect, and silent, to boot, with a few breaks mixed in with all the action. There is superb range on display, as well. Bass levels aren't over the top, but they're fitting. The very first steps we see of the fourth Angel get low rumbles that increase in power with proximity, while explosions and extreme action get nice thuds and rumbles, as does the heartbeat of the crucified Lilith. Fidelity, range, activity. This track does it all superbly. The few hang-ups don't prevent me from giving the rarefied five star audio score.
For fans of the dub track on the original series, many of the voices have been recast, while a few key elements remain. I personally am not a stickler to dubbed voice acting, as my personal foreign fare preference is to only listen to the natural tracks.
And here is where the release stumbles!
The story of 'Evangelion' may be a bit complicated for some, but it's rich in its payoff for those who are devoted to seeing it through. Future chapters in the television series featured a stronger element of theology, philosophy, and ass-kickophy, as well as the most intricate character in the show not named Shinji- Asuka Soryu Langley, the fireheaded German Eva pilot. This first entry into the four part revision is solid, and enjoyable, but leaves some room for improvement, which will happen if this new series is anything even close to resembling the one of old. This Blu-ray release is stellar, with FUNimation's best presentation to date, even if the extras are incredibly underwhelming. Since this is the first chapter in an anime series, it is a great way to test the waters, so it comes with great recommendations for fans new and old. Worst case scenario, you now have a near-demo anime release!