Narutaki and I spent a good deal of time wondering if we should even attempt this article. Neon Genesis Evangelion is such a loaded beast that writing anything directly related to it is a dangerous subject. You can talk about any of the alternate universe or spin off materials like Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days or Girlfriend of Steel with little fear because they are so removed from the original work that they are safe. The problem is this remake movie is just as touchy a subject as the original series. Any praise, scorn, criticism, or analysis is just as loaded as it would have been for the original.
Evangelion is a show that will never go away, never be forgotten. I can still remember my dad bring home a couple of VHS tapes of it for me, so many years ago, and immediately popping them in. I didn’t know what that series was going to be with just those first four episodes but I knew that I wanted to find out. Anything as big as Eva is going to cause endless discussion. Sometimes you don’t even want to touch it with a thirty-nine and a half-foot pole but the new movies seemed like a nice place to dive into the danger zone.
I saw the first four episodes of Evangelion thanks to the always amazing King of Players Benjamin McGraw. I remember thinking it was interesting but I did not finish the series until years later. It’s odd. I never have had the usual two reactions to Evangelion. I did not embrace it like chocolate covered love nor rejected it like poison coated manure. While I have always thought Evangelion was interesting I was never fanatical about it to any extreme.
We here at Reverse Thieves show no fear because fear is the mind killer. We watched a whole episode of Clannad and I think we both came out of that as stronger people. Okay, Narutaki might cry himself to sleep at night but he is a stronger man who cries himself to sleep at night. Plus I cried myself to sleep even before I watched Clannad. We shall surely only win at life more than usual because of this this article.
We are going to attempt (ATTEMPT) to talk about this movie as if we haven’t seen the original work it is based on. This is somewhat easier for me as far as plot goes since I tend to forget just about every thing anyway. But what I don’t forget is how a series makes me feel, what characters I connected with, and how I desperately waited to see what would happen next. To me these are the harder things to disconnect from.
In the world of Evangelion, giant mysterious creatures named Angels have been attacking the earth after a gigantic environmental disaster and the called the Second Impact killed much of the world’s population. Shinji Ikari has suddenly been called my his estranged father to Tokyo-3. Instead of a reunion he gets a mission: to pilot a giant robot to fight the Angels. Not surprisingly he is reluctant to do so. After being strong armed into piloting the robot Shinji eventually settles into his role with the assistance of his fellow pilot Rei Ayanami and his guardian and superior Misato Katsuragi.
Both the Angels and Evangelions (the giant robots) have mysterious natures. We also have no real knowledge why these attacks are going on or why they need Shinji of all people. NERV, the organization behind creating the Evas, is shadow and does not seem very upfront about their motives. I certainly don’t think of them as the good guys right off the bat, but that is a huge part of the series…the gray factor and the unknown.
I think the mysteries and the pacing of their reveals has always been one of the major selling points of the series. They throw you into the middle of everything and no one seems to be in any big rush to tell him any more than the bare minimum. At the end of the movie we has a conclusion but no real answers. Most of this has to do with the fact that the first movie is the opening act. It is supposed to lure you in with mysteries, tell a complete story arc that draws you in, make you care about the characters involved, and then leave you wanting more. I think it succeeds in this respect.
Shinji Ikari comes off a very mild and shy. At 14 he is thrust into the responsibility of protecting a city full of innocent people. His father uses him quite openly and the first time he gets into a robot it is out of guilt for another injured pilot. However, as the movie goes on we see him time and time again step-up to the plate. While understandably reluctant, once he feels the direness of the situation he puts up quite a fight. In fact, the last battle in the movie was so totally awesome and suspenseful that when it was all over I almost wanted to cheer. Shinji’s life outside of NERV is filled with the uncertainty of youth combined with burden of his responsibilities to the people around him. Shinji tends to internalize his pain. His relationship with Misato, a woman who sort of takes him in, is one of the most interesting as they are both discovering what the word family means.
I think that we would be remiss is forgetting to mention that Shinji does spend a good deal of the movie trying to run away from his responsibilities no matter how understandable running away might be. He has to be guilt tripped into piloting the Eva each time. He also runs away from NERV for several days until they recapture him when they need him again. Shinji is clearly not the hotblooded robot pilot that loves piloting his mecha nor is he the icy cold ace pilot who always does what needs to be done without a second thought. He is clearly an awkward and scared boy who has been thrust into an overwhelming and dangerous position with no training or preparation. He eventually does what is need to be done every time but he never seem comfortable or willing to pilot the Eva until the end of the movie. Even then he only seems to have a beginning of acceptance of his role as Eva pilot.
The entire cast is sort of an enigma that we only get glimpses of their true motives. Anyone except Shinji, since he is the main character we spend a lot of time with him, feels like there is so much going on below the surface. Who they are can change from one situation to the next. This really brings the most ominous feel to the movie, it is done subtlety however. You feel it as a viewer, nothing is as it seems and who are all of these people caught up in it? Once again, since this is the first film in a series, it brings a lot of flavor and suspense for the coming movies.
I think you’re forgetting one of the more iconic characters in anime history. The Rei. She mainly acts as a stark contrast to Shinji’s attitude while also occasionally being his motivation. Rei seems to be unthinkingly loyal and dedicated to being a Eva pilot. No matter how injured she is, no matter what the danger is in, she is ready to pilot her Eva. It mostly seems that she does it because of a machine like personality but we get hints that is due to a loyalty and even love for Gendo. Shinji surely would have never piloted the Eva the first time if it where not for a half dead Rei and she is instrumental to getting him to fight against the third angel.
I didn’t forget, I just avoided. Rei is this paradox of helplessness and killer instinct. She is very husk like to me; as though there is something ticking in there, but we rarely see it. In fact, we see it when she is blindly defending Gendo of all people. But I like that, the relationships of everyone are complex and we as the audience just get the beginnings of them.
Gendo. We don’t really get much insight into him but they are fairly good at presenting him as a cold and even vile person without making him a snarling villain. He is obviously a man with a grand plan and will sacrifice anything and any one to get to that goal. We mostly see an emotionally detached manipulator who moves all the characters including his own son like chess pieces. Gendo’s famous pose with his hands clasped together under his nose will forever be the mark of the manipulator.
Misato acts as both a sexy older sister and a hard commanding officer to Shinji. In many was she is the gentle and warm parental figure in his life while also being the harsh tough loving figure as well.
The battles are well-paced with intense action and plenty of suspense. All of the battles’ big factor is the will he won’t he with Shinji. You really don’t know what he is going to do, but when he does it something surprising usually happens. I can see this getting annoying but at this point it wasn’t. This animation quality is really working itself in these scenes, of which there are many. If you are anything like me, I have to go back to the original to really see the difference in animation; except for the final battle. Wow, what a difference!
I think the battles are very well done and now take advantage of the clearly larger budget and more modern animation techniques of the time. The fight are usually pretty dramatic and tense. I think the fact that you don’t know what Shinji is going to do keeps the fights interesting because you know he can’t just whip out his equivalent of Form Blazing Sword and win. Half the battle is Shinji verse himself and half the battle is Shinji trying to figure out how to fight the angel. Anyone not impressed by the updated battle against Ramiel is just one jaded human being.
The use of music to bring tone to the movie is very well done. It has a modern classical feel. The original TV series had great music and it is nice to see that tradition continued into the movies. Also is has a killer ending song Beautiful World by Utada Hikaru which is more in the realm of things I know about. It actually creates great juxtaposition between the things happening in the movie and what the song is saying. Sort of like the contradiction of NERV’s slogan, “God is in his heaven, all is right with the world.”
I felt like the ending song was almost a love song to Shinji but maybe that is just me. Maybe it is nothing more than a random song thrown in on the end because people like Utada Hikaru and she has undoubtedly drawn a little more attention to the project by doing the end theme but I want to think that it is more than that. I feel the lines about “What a beautiful boy. Yet, you are unable to see your own beauty.” just strike me as being about Shinji. I might just be reading into things that are not there but I would like to think that I might have something here. Who knows? Maybe Utada Hikaru is a huge Shinji fan girl reading all the Shinji X Kaworu doujinshi she can get her hands on.
Not surprisingly since this is a series of movies, we are left with more questions than answers. In fact a lot of questions! Especially since a lot of things that aren’t introduced until much later in the original are mentioned or shown in this first quarter.
I’m am curious to show this movie to anyone who did not see the original TV series. I followed along with the plot quite easily but I already saw the original. However, the first six episodes of the TV series are simpler than the later episodes. They don’t really have much of the trippy and hard to follow storyline that the last quarter of the series contains. Despite this I wonder if the movie is just well written or was I filling in any holes with my knowledge of the TV series and assorted surrounding works. Do you gentle readers know of any Eva virgins that have only watched the first movie? What did they think of it?
I doubt if anyone outside of Sony, Warner Brothers, or another major movie studio can afford to license this considering the current state of the anime industry. The End of Evangelion movies are famous for being insanely expensive. I remember hearing that someone at ADV said the could licensed 10 TV series for the asking price of End of Evangelion. I can’t see this movie being any less expensive. So unless one of the major U.S. studio decides to fork over the cash for Evangelion, I assume the only way we would get this movie is if Gainax decides to release it themselves. Maybe that is what Gainax is going to be sending people to fanime to announce.
I have no doubt that everyone in the anime industry would sell pieces of their body for this license but it wouldn’t make a difference. Because no one is going to get their hands on it. They just can’t afford it. I mean ADV is totally out. They couldn’t even afford to hang on to the license for Gurren Lagaan (another Gainax title). And unless the people at AnimEigo feel like it, which I don’t think they do, no one else has enough capital to fund such an endeavor. Eva made record sales in the the theaters and also with its recent DVD release. I want it, but I have my doubts.
It does not matter if you love it, hate it, or are quite indifferent. You cannot deny that its impact on the whole of anime is significant. Well, you can ignore Evangelion but it is sort of foolish. It would be like deliberately ignoring the works of Osamu Tezuka or Hayao Miyazaki. Any legitimate anime scholar must watch it at least once to understand it’s impact on the industry. It basically created a whole new genre of mecha anime. It is also the target of countless parody and homage. There is still as much Evangelion merchandise being sold for a 25 year old show as there would be of an anime that is currently playing on TV.
UPDATE: Evangelion 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone is now licensed by Funimation!