When Neon Genesis Evangelion was released in the mid-90's it revolutionized the anime industry. Put together on a budget, Neon Genesis featured some incredible artwork, a fascinating story, and an atmosphere unlike any other. Unfortunately the show jumped the shark towards the end and what was a psychological thriller turned out to be a psychotic science fiction mess. In fact the ending was so confounding that additional animation was released after the fact to attempt to clear things up. The end results were more or less successful, but the project as a whole just didn't feel quite right. Recently the powers that be decided to hit the big reset button on the franchise.
Hideaki Anno was given the go-ahead to reinvent the series as a collection of theatrically released animated films. The first, Evangelion 1.01: You are (Not) Alone came out in the States a short time ago, but today we're looking at the Blu-ray release Evangelion 1.11. What's the difference? Well, basically this new edition contains some additional animation and some slightly extended sequences, but the version isn't groundbreaking by comparison. It's still a kickass movie and no matter which version you see, you should make a point to check out Anno's masterpiece. .
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 1.11: You are (Not) Alone is a high recommendation for fans and newcomers alike, though don't expect a completely balanced experience.
Evangelion 1.11: You are (Not) Alone is presented on a BD50 Blu-ray disc with 1080p resolution. The film comes with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio and receives an AVC MPEG-4 encoding.
The picture quality of the film is astounding and it's so much better than its standard definition counterpart. The sharper resolution allows some of the finer details in the designs and animation to come through. Colors generally seem brighter, there's no grain, no artifacts, and I didn't spot a bit of aliasing in the transfer. It's not entirely perfect, mind you, but extremely minor instances of color bleeding and shimmer aren't nearly enough to detract from the experience. This is the best Evangelion has ever looked and it's quite possibly the sharpest looking anime I've ever seen.
Lossless Dolby TrueHD 6.1 tracks are available for both English and Japanese language. The dub tracks for both languages are phenomenal and the casts each did a spectacular job all around. Personally I felt the Japanese track was the better of the two, but both are quite good in all fairness.
While the quality of the source audio is superb, it's the technical merits of this release that really stand out. From top to bottom the TrueHD tracks are intelligently created. You'll be drawn into the film in almost every scene with the wide depth of range on the soundstage. Effects, dialogue, and music utilize every channel with great efficiency and clarity. Bass levels are spot on and you'll get a heightened sense of the action as you watch. The standard definition release of the film was impressive, but this presentation blows it out of the water entirely. Awesome job from the crew at FUNimation!
A selection of bonus features are included on this Blu-ray release of Evangelion 1.11. Unfortunately the additional material is rather paltry considering the high profile nature of this release.
Some trailers for other FUNimation titles are included here, as are some previews, trailer spots for the film, and a promotional music video. "Rebuild of Evangelion: 1.01" stands out as something that might have held a lot of promise. I mean, it hints at being a behind the scenes making of feature, right? In some sense it kind of is with two different versions of the changes made from the show to the film, but in all fairness neither is extensive or informational enough to be very interesting.
The Blu-ray release of Evangelion 1.11: You are (Not) Alone is freaking awesome! Okay, so the bonus material is a bit lackluster, but the picture and sound quality is outstanding and the film itself is exceptionally entertaining. Whether you were a fan of the original Evangelion or not, this is a release that anyone remotely interested in anime should check out. Epic battles, an interesting story, and some iconic characters make for a highly recommended release. Check it out!