I figured it’s been a while since I’ve watched Neon Genesis Evangelion in its entirety, so going into Evangelion 1.11 would be kind of a fresh slate viewing, or at least a memory-jogging one. It turns out the former isn’t actually possible, but it was certainly a different experience nonetheless. Coming from someone who originally watched Eva on rented VHS tapes, and then again and again on ever-deteriorating copies of said tapes—I have no problem confessing my high school crimes; sue me (wait, don’t)—this is a true visual treat. You Are (Not) Alone is Eva for fans of animation, and it looks stunning on Blu-ray.
If you’ve somehow remained an Eva virgin after all these years, the basic premise is fairly straight-forward. Meek teenager Shinji Ikari is called to the headquarters of Nerv, a paramilitary organization located in Tokyo-3, with the sole purpose of assisting in the prevention of another cataclysm on the scale of the Second Impact. That disaster managed to wipe out half the human population, so something of a similar nature would no doubt finish the job.
To combat this, Nerv fights the good fight against attacking creatures known as Angels with their own bipedal beasts: the Eva Units. These giants aren’t robots any average person can just hop in and pilot, though, as total synchronization requires children of a very specific nature. Shinji is such a child—the Third Child to be precise—and his fate is intertwined with Eva Unit 01 whether he wants to pilot it or not.
Seasoned veterans might roll their eyes at such a simplified introduction to the series, but that’s essentially what sparks this flame, and it should be interesting to see whether or not the Rebuild project can attract fans that weren’t weened on the series proper at some point. Will today’s viewers take to such a whiny protagonist right off the bat? To be fair, in regards to that criticism at least, I don’t think a lot of “manly” anime viewers consider what Shinji is up against from the very beginning. “Hey, fourteen-year-old kid! I know you’re barely through puberty, but get in this hulking purple mech and fight horrifying monsters that we don’t fully understand!”
Yeah, you’d probably cry to daddy and pout ceaselessly in the face of that crisis, too.
Evangelion 1.0 (and 1.11) covers the first leg of the journey, and for the most part it stays pretty true to the established narrative. The real treat here is seeing it all gloriously reanimated, with many key scenes extensively redone and shown in a more visually dynamic light. Shinji’s first battle against the Angel Sachiel is really something special, with Unit 01 glowing a neon green under the moonlight. In fact, even the quickest of moments now display expert fluidity, whether it’s an electric kaiju whip-through of a Tokyo-3 building or the orb-like explosions of a hundred missiles in the blink of an eye. This extra attention to detail really pays off in the film’s climax: an intense sniper mission that makes the production of its television counterpart seem downright anemic.
I was telling one of my friends who isn’t particularly into anime (but he loves him some FLCL) that I was watching the first of the Rebuild movies. After explaining the concept behind them, he asked “have they run out of ideas?” Fair question, but Evangelion is proper fodder for a full-on reboot like this for a handful of reasons. The most obvious is profitability, of course. In a world where one can purchase Evangelion bicycle shorts to go with their Eva-01 bike, it should come as no surprise that Gainax and its partners are itching to return to the series.
Beyond that, though, there are so many iconic visual moments throughout the series that it makes sense to want to present them as fantastically as possible. Hell, I spotted a ton in just the 30-second preview of You Can (Not) Advance, the second film in the Rebuild tetralogy. I don’t know that these will mean a whole lot to newcomers, but it must be exciting to see some of the more intense imagery for the first time, whether it’s Unit-01 going berserk in the middle of Tokyo-3, or that very same unit silhouetted through a crimson shower of blood.
Revisiting this show in a new light may have gotten me all hot-blooded, but it’s definitely tough to judge You Are (Not) Alone as a film. There’s really not much of a movie-like structure to it, and those familiar with the series will identify it more as a collection of the episodes it represents. Something like End of Evangelion, which was clearly structured as a film, is easier to evaluate as a stand-alone product, but this just has me waiting to see what direction Hideaki Anno and co. take the story in next. The original series was notorious for cost-cutting measures masked as bold stylistic choices, so half the fun is seeing what happens when those budgetary restraints are drastically loosened.
While it could certainly be worse, the special features are by far the most disappointing aspect of this disc. With so much having gone into the theatrical recreation of this series, it’s a little disheartening to have a brief comparative (and narration-free) featurette as the only production document. It may not be the only special feature, but unless you plan on poring over promotional materials it’s the only one of note.
This naturally opens the door for Blu-ray releases called Evangelion 1.12, 1.13, and so on. However, unless potential future releases include drastic additions in the bonus materials department, this is the best bet. Despite my moaning about the extras, it’s really a spectacular looking film, and anyone with access to a Blu-ray player and interest in the series—established fan or not—should check it out in HD pronto.