Rebuild of Evangelion: 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone & 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance

Rebuild of Evangelion

REBUILD OF EVANGELION: 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone & 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance

Watched via BD

WHITNEY

CRYSTAL

PLOT: Rebuild of Evangelion is a four-part movie franchise that takes another look back at the classic anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion. For those familiar with the original series, the first “episode” covers roughly the first six original episodes rather faithfully. Young Shinji Ikari moves to Nerv headquarters at his father’s request, and is asked to become a pilot for Eva Unit-01, a large robot constructed for battle. This first episode is used to establish Shinji’s character as well as the tension between him and his father, and the new bonds between him and the rest of the staff. Some events may have been omitted or altered, but overall this adds to a more streamlined story, which I feel works extremely well as a movie release.

In the second “episode” we begin to see more abridgment of battles against angels and the time between them, and the first hints of an altered story (including a new Eva pilot). Ultimately, I don’t find these changes damaging in any way to the franchise. In fact, I feel that more than anything, the biggest change to the franchise was played out in foreshadowing. While the original series seemed to wait until the last minute to reveal anything vital, these two episodes slowly and consistently revealed crucial information through dialogue, and more importantly, relevant action.

Putting aside format and timeline, I should probably briefly reiterate the actual plot of this franchise, although most are already familiar with it. Evangelion is a classic shounen mecha franchise featuring battles between young, disturbed, and lonely youth in large robots against gigantic “Angels” bent on destroying all of civilization. Shinji, the protagonist, while only one of several young adults capable of fighting the Angels, becomes a pivotal tool to saving mankind. While it isn’t your typical coming of age story, Evangelion explores identity, individuality, and community through the eyes of a young man starved for attention and admiration, in ways never seen before in anime or fiction in general. The battles are brilliant and epic, and the emotional turmoil is heart wrenching.

I agree that the major changes from the TV series work well in 2.22, especially regarding the new pilot and the change of who pilots Eva Unit 03. These films are more streamlined than the series, which works in their favor as a reboot of an old favorite show.

PLOT: As any anime fan knows, Neon Genesis Evangelion is the mecha series, a classic that brought new life to the genre and showed just what anime could do narratively and psychologically. The Rebuild of Evangelion movies set out to reboot the franchise now that their director, Hideaki Anno, is in a different mental space, and we thought it’d be good to review the first two films before 3.33 (eventually) comes out in the U.S.

These films begin with the same premise as the TV series, in which a post-apocalyptic version of the world is getting terrorized by beings called Angels, and their only defense against them is giant biomechanical creatures called Evangelions. Amidst this fighting, a quiet teen, Shinji Ikari, expects to reunite with his estranged father but learns that he’s actually there for the sole purpose of piloting an Evangelion in combat.

1.11 follows Shinji’s initial time piloting his Eva and settling into his role, especially as he relates to the first Evangelion pilot, Rei Ayanami. As Whitney mentioned, this film largely follows the same events as the first fourth of the TV series, though it’s still an enjoyable experience due to the distinct upgrade in visuals. 2.22 brings in two new Evangelion pilots, Asuka Langley Shikinami and Mari Illustrious Makinami, as humanity contends with the ever-stronger Angels continuing to attack and the destruction of new Evangelion units seemingly as soon as they’re made viable to use.

In terms of plotting, these films are excellent because there’s never a dull moment. They’re either worldbuilding, showing new Eva-vs.-Angel fights, or focusing on characters, and it’s this last bit that really makes the Rebuild films stand out from other anime. Like the original TV series, these films are primarily about their characters’ relationships and inner struggles, which makes them so much more relatable and important that most mecha series. These are movies about real people with real problems fighting in tough circumstances, which makes them absolutely intriguing, no matter how much bizarre, Christian-esque theology babble they throw at you.

SETTING: As scene upon scene passed before my eyes, I found myself falling more and more in love with the copious details of mechanics and world building. Evangelion, the original series, instantly won me over when I first laid eyes upon a mecha with internal power capable of lasting only five minutes. Finally, a “realistic” sci-fi series that lavishes in its lack of technology and limitations. In that regard, Rebuild of Evangelion is like wandering through Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Each tactile maneuver is beautifully, carefully, and expertly laid out over minutes, hours, and days to give the Evas the best chance of survival. The city itself is armored with transportable buildings and walls designed to protect mankind and support the Evas in battle.

I found myself glued to the screen watching as Evas were transported by rail deliberately designed by engineers to traverse throughout the city where needed. In the first episode we see a staff of engineers speed to modify equipment while the government is rallying together to pool electrical resources. While the Evas and supernatural world building is fantastic and brilliantly thought out, it is the everyday works of man which truly draw me to this series. It is clear that mankind wants to live, and they are working tirelessly together to ensure the best battles possible to preserve the world as we know it. Hideaki Anno hasn’t created just a story, but humanity itself.

SETTING: The Evangelion franchise has always been interesting in how it invariably begins in medias res and slowly establishes the background that led to a world with Angels attacking and Evangelions as the only line of defense. Characters in-the-know are always throwing around impressive terms like the Second Impact and the Human Instrumentality Project without quite explaining what’s going on, which just makes me eager to watch everything to get answers or read the Wikipedia articles right away. Fortunately, though the franchise throws in a lot of Christian symbolism for the sheer exoticism of it, all of the labels do refer to genuinely interesting events, and it all makes a weird sort of sense. Unfortunately, not much is explained by the end of 2.22, so it helps to have prior knowledge of what’s going on through another form of the Evangelion franchise.

Additionally, Evangelion is interesting in how its main city, Tokyo-III, has been completely built for these battles against Angels. Buildings retract underground, and the entire city can be changed to aid Evas in fighting Angels. It’s a fascinating world where everything’s centered around saving humanity through the Evas, and I love that mecha combat is so central to this world in a believable way. Though the Angels and Evas are unrealistic creatures, the technology surrounding them feels real enough to give the films some credibility, which goes a long way towards making their ideas stick in your brain.

Now that you mention it, the quasi-religious parts do tend to stick out like a sore thumb. However weird it sounds to mix religion and science thematically, it all kind of makes sense when you look at our world and see how much we like to apply technology and science to solving supernatural questions and problems.

CHARACTERS: One of my fondest pre-Eva memories is hearing a couple of friends speak ill of Shinji. Now having formed my own opinions on his personality, I love looking back on this conversation and how topical of an issue it was, and still remains. First of all I should probably say that I adore Shinji’s character. I enjoy his selfish desires, his weaknesses, and his boyish attempts at being a “man.” What I find so meaningful is how conflicted Shinji is throughout the series. He is confused by his selfish desires to live and be comforted by safety and by his selfish desires for adoration masked in heroism. The original series played out his character wonderfully. The Rebuild movies did cut down on his pity parties a bit, but did so with care. There are some fans I suspect who may like his character more since he takes “less time to come around” and those who like it less for the same reason, either way I believe his character remains truthful to the original, though his moments in the limelight may be briefer as with any movie.

One of the aspects I enjoyed the most was how much footage was shown of Gendo Ikari, father to Shinji and commander of Nerv, sneaking around on his own. Watching Gendo’s business meetings and trips created opportunities where we could discover more about Seele and the Human Instrumentality Project and at a much quicker pace than the television series. I am very interested to see how having this knowledge earlier on will change the feel of the next two movies as they slowly reveal themselves.

Aside from these two characters I feel that the rest of the cast, their personalities and actions remain honest to the original versions of themselves. There is a new character who ends up being a foreign Eva pilot, but it ends up being a bit too soon to really make any predictions on what will happen with her.

I find the changes to Asuka to be very interesting, since the films take her character in an interestingly different direction and mostly avoid setting her up as a love interest for Shinji. Considering how much love there is for Asuka as an early tsundere love interest, these changes are fun to see.

Wow, I’m surprised I didn’t really think about Asuka. I guess so much of her character development is contingent upon filler, that she’s easy to edit out. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to her character since she stood as such a strong anchor in the television series.

CHARACTERS: I know a lot of people can’t stand Shinji (because who wouldn’t want to pilot a mecha?!), but I really feel for him (because I would hate piloting a mecha). Shinji’s in a tough place of being distanced from his father but desperately wanting to reestablish contact with the one relative he has, and that leads him to piloting a mecha, which goes against every facet of his character. He keeps trying to figure out what will make others happy, and when he makes any decisions for himself, his agency is pulled away and he’s forced into terrible circumstances again. Shinji’s a confused, introverted, emotionally scarred person trying to find his way in the world while also being forced into some crazy intense combat situations, and for that, I have a lot of respect for him. Shinji is a character where you can definitely see some of the director’s personal growth since the TV series, and I think the films are better off for it.

Rei is another character I’m fascinated by in these films, especially in relation to what I know of her from other Evangelion media and how she’s been changed for these films. Her relationship with Shinji intrigues me, and I love seeing her develop so organically. It’s easy to see why she launched an anime archetype that’s still popular today.

Beyond Shinji and Rei, though, most of the main characters haven’t been afforded much time to really develop them. I understand that this is a natural side effect of the film format, but I’d love to learn more about Asuka’s background in this version of Evangelion or to properly learn about any of the adults. This isn’t so much a weakness as a shift in focus, since these films clearly are interested in Shinji’s relationships with Rei and Gendo, but if you’re aware of the larger backstory from other Evangelion media, you might find this version lacking. Hopefully we’ll learn more in the last two Rebuild movies, or else I’ll just have to be satisfied with the information from all of the other incarnations of Evangelion.

I’m rather shocked at just how much attention is being given to Rei. I don’t know if this is making up for Asuka getting more attention before, as a plea by fans, or if she’ll end up becoming a huge corner stone to the whole series, either way I’m expecting a lot out of their building inter-dynamics.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Rebuild of Evangelion retains many of the visual strengths of the original series while technologically advancing the weaknesses. With developments in CG, we are finally able to see Hideaki Anno’s vision played out completely. As I mentioned before, the world building is fabulous, and it is in large part due to the laborious details of every shot. Backgrounds are highly detailed and fervent with activity, like an ant colony, illustrating the world as it moves around the target action.

Character designs are subtly modernized for a newer generation of fans, but safely keep their distance from all the moe effects of the 2000’s. Actually, for the most part they look identical, save coloring and slight changes to lining. I’d really love it if we could have more animation like this, something that shows off the new sleek possibilities of computer animation, without loli-fying everything. Anyways, I should also mention, this imagining still keeps its love for tertiary colors, which I found to be quite essential to the original series. These colors are just slightly off from their primary and secondary counterparts and therefore visually create a feeling of unease for the viewer since nothing feels quite “right”.

Oh, the tertiary colors! It’s especially lovely to see Eva Unit 01 all lit up in that eerie neon green at night. Hideaki Anno’s team certainly has an eye for color, and I’m glad they made that change for the BD release.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Evangelion has always been visually striking, from the TV series’ great opening animation to the strangely lanky Eva designs and the characters’ distinct visual style. The Rebuild films continue to use that foundation while building upon it with a much higher budget for animation that allows everything to look properly breath-taking. Detail has been added everywhere, from the backgrounds to the Evas’ movements, and everything has been painstakingly rendered to look gorgeous. Even the CG looks great and mostly blends in with the traditional animation, smoothly allowing the films to include complicated Angel designs or changes to Eva units that would have been difficult on a TV budget.

The main character designs are all essentially the same as they always have been, allowing them to stand out from the current anime norm by being refreshingly lanky and angular, with those crazy tiny hips. The Evas have been slightly redesigned, but they still look vastly different from most mecha designs, and their movements are perfectly, slightly exaggerated and almost awkward. Oh, I can’t properly discuss how the Evas move. The Rebuild films’ visual treatment of mecha is mecha porn on the same level as Pacific Rim, and if you’re at all interested in how mecha would move, it’s glorious. I could watch this caliber of mecha battle all day, it’s so good.

Cheers to that!

OVERALL: These movies do more than rebuild, they revitalize a series long known for revolutionizing mecha as it once was. Some fans may be displeased, but I found very helpful that these movies were easier to get through than the original series. Events happen quicker, and with the addition of more foreshadowing, become clearer to the viewer than in the original series. Judging solely on these two movies, I can already tell that these will also become anime classics and essential to own, especially if you are a mecha/sci-fi person.

One last issue a remake always brings to the forefront is, so which one do I buy? First of all, I don’t feel that these movies are in some way a “replacement” for the original series. Rather they should be seen as an addition of sorts. Time will only tell how autonomous this series really is, but I already feel that it is probably best watched with at least a slight understanding of the original (not that new fans can’t watch it successfully, but that I feel older fans will appreciate subtle changes). While the television series may be aged, there are still many glorious things going for it, for one thing more time to play out personalities and relationship building. Hopefully these movies will help new fans give the franchise as a whole a shot. If you’re interested in the movies, give them a try, and if you see promise in them, make sure to add the originals to your must watch list as well.

OVERALL: I’m not absolutely certain that the Evangelion franchise needed to have another anime revision, considering how much Hideaki Anno has tampered with it since the original TV series. When you have gone back to an idea so many times, shouldn’t you just leave it alone instead of being like George Lucas and milking your cash cow over and over again? Furthermore, shouldn’t anime be focusing on more original ideas right now instead of rebooting everything that ever was a hit?

Whether or not Evangelion needed to be rebooted, I’m glad that these films exist, just like I’m glad for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Sailor Moon Crystal. Sure, the original versions of all of these anime worked well enough, but the new versions bring more to the table as far as I’m concerned. In this case, the Rebuild movies allow for two significant upgrades. First of all, they look a billion times better than the TV series, which makes it that much more fun for me to watch as an animation fan. Secondly, you can tell that Hideaki Anno was at a better, more stable place when creating these films, which makes them interesting to analyze in terms of changes and potential reasons for those changes. Not only can Anno present a more unified version of the universe, but Shinji and Rei have subtly been altered in a healthier direction, which I love. Hopefully these films will end with fan praise instead of rabid hatred—though, based on early reactions to 3.33, that may not be the case.

FINAL SCORE: (10&10/10) FINAL SCORE: (8&9/10)
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