Though it came out in the mid-90's Neon Genesis Evangelion revolutionized the anime industry. The show was put together on a budget, but featured such a wild atmosphere, awesome artwork, and a fascinating story. It was a psychological thriller wrapped in a science fiction bag that was an instant success. Unfortunately it also jumped the shark towards the end and it was so befuddled that the creators had to rework the ending in the form of a OVA so that it made sense. Now that enough time has passed and the budget is substantially larger, show creator Hideaki Anno has been given the go-ahead to reinvent the series.
Evangelion 1.01: You are (Not) Alone was recently released theatrically in Japan and has finally made its way to the States. In case you are wondering, this isn't exactly a complete re-do. This is more or less a director's cut with extended scenes, cleaned up and new animation, and a script that has been retooled to make more sense. With that being said You are (Not) Alone is wholly familiar for anyone who has seen the original series. The aim of this project is to condense the entire series into four films, and I'm pleased to say that this first release is very successful in that regard.
Comprised more or less of the first six episodes of Neon Genesis, You are (Not) Alone rebuilds the series from the very start. In the movie's opening moments we're introduced to none other than Shinji Ikari, who is roaming the streets of a city under lock down due to the appearance of an Angel. The military is fighting against this monster with all their force, and just when it seems that Shinji is about to bite the big one, his rescuer comes along and carts him off to meet his father. Shinji's dad, Gendo, is quite the son-of-a-bitch who basically shuns his own son and uses him for his own personal goals, regardless of how he feels. What is his goal, you ask? Well, saving the world basically, but it's a little more complicated than that.
If you are unfamiliar with Evangelion then you should know that at this point in history about half of the world's population has been wiped out due to an event called Second Impact. In the year 2000 a meteor struck the planet and along with it the Angels came about. In order to prevent a Third Impact, and in an effort to save humanity, an organization known as NERV has put together monstrosities of their own known as Evangelions. These biomechanical creatures seem to be the key to humanity's future and are basically the only line of defense we have against the Angels. The only problem is that the Eva units can only be piloted by children. That's where Shinji comes in.
You are (Not) Alone quickly settles into its story and basically pushes Shinji into Eva Unit 01 in an effort to save Tokyo-3. After one hell of a fight Shinji emerges victorious, but the celebration is short-lived. Shinji really doesn't want any part in this battle and making matters worse is the fact that the Angels keep on coming. The fate of the world is thrust upon his shoulders and it's more than the 14-year old can handle. Shinji doesn't have to do it alone, however, since he also works closely with the cold and indifferent Rei, and excessively lively Misato.
The story here is top notch and presented in this form, the opening leg of the Evangelion arc is truly compelling. Considering this part of the journey focuses largely on the conflict with the Angels there are a ton of battles. Some of the moments here are truly epic, and even though we may have seen them before, they have never looked quite this good. With all of that being said, You are (Not) Alone does have its flaws.
Though Anno and his team took time to develop the characters over the course of the show itself, there's not much room for that in this film. Shinji stays whiny throughout, Rei is a cold fish, Misato is overly boisterous, and Gendo is just a dick. The lack of development for each of the film's main characters hurts the experience somewhat and leaves it feeling unbalanced. The characters are almost one-dimensional in many ways, which is a far cry from how they wound up at the end of the series. Hopefully we'll see more focus on the characters in the next three films, but that's going to be a long time coming.
This reinvention is high-spirited and packs a punch from beginning to end. It's hard to tell at this point if the rebuild trumps the original, but so far it's off to a great start. The combining of the first six episodes into the form of a film, and then building upon that with new moments and improved artwork seems like a fan's dream come true. Evangelion 1.01: You are (Not) Alone is a high recommendation for fans and newcomers alike, though don't expect a completely balanced experience.
Evangelion 1.01: You are (Not) Alone is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. The film looks quite good and if there was any doubt that new material could be combined with old that argument should be laid to rest. You are (Not) Alone maintains a very refined look that embraces the style of the original in almost every way. Characters, Eva, and Angel designs look mostly the same, though some new background effects and CGI helps bolster the overall appearance. The picture can be a little soft at times, and there's some grain, but all around this standard definition release is really good with some fine details.
English and Japanese 5.1 surround sound mixes are included on this disc. Both feature a strong output of audio and really come to life with each battle (of which there are many in this film). The rear channels are employed liberally and if the bass is cranked up on your sound system you can expect some ground-shaking moments. The audio here is clean, concise, and exactly what one would hope it would be. With that being said the quality of both dubs is quite excellent as well and fans will recognize some familiar voices as well!
Sadly there are no bonus features included with this release.
Evangelion 1.01: You are (Not) Alone isn't perfect, but it doesn't need to be. The original show was flawed, but was so wildly imaginative and unique that it didn't matter. Thankfully the same can be said for this film. The story itself is absolutely incredible, the battles are awe-inspiring, and the redesign is truly something to marvel. With that being said the characters do feel a little one-dimensional in this installment, so it makes it hard to root for Shinji and the like. Fortunately the next few films should remedy that and then some. Consider this one highly recommended.
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