With the original anime series having screened back in the mid 1990s, followed by a variety of follow up features and reworkings that aimed to provide new endings and clarity, fans would be forgiven for thinking that Anno Hideaki’s “Evangelion” is a riddle that is never likely to be fully resolved. Still, given the vast and ambiguous mythology underpinning the series and it’s much loved and debated characters, not to mention the unbelievable amount of merchandise and fan created material that it has inspired, it is perhaps unsurprising that he would return to it once more. He has done so in fittingly ambitious fashion, envisioning a new collection of big screen film length productions featuring new animation, storylines and even characters which he has referred to as the “Rebuild of Evangelion”. The first of these, “Evangelion 1.11 – You Are (Not) Alone”, now arrives on region 2 DVD and Blu ray, giving fans the chance to judge for themselves whether or not the controversial project has been worthwhile.
For the benefit of newcomers, the series takes place in 2015 after most of the world’s population has been killed in a mysterious turn of the millennium disaster referred to as Second Impact. The first of the new trilogy basically covers the first six or so episodes of the series, introducing viewers to the 14 year old Shinji Ikari as he arrives in Tokyo-3 for a reunion with his reunion with his estranged scientist father, Gendo Ikari. Unbeknownst to him, his father has actually summoned him as a pilot for a giant robot called EVA-01, to be used in battles against massive alien enemies called Angels. Taken in by a kind hearted but wayward young woman called Misato Katsuragi, Shinji struggles with his destiny while finding the courage to take control of the bio-engineered machine and trying to break the icy veneer of fellow pilot Rei Ayanami.
For the most part, “Evangelion 1.11 – You Are (Not) Alone” sticks to the events of the original episodes that it covers, and acts mainly as a summary rather than attempting to change much. On this level it works well, with Anno having focused the action around key moments, and to an extent streamlining the opening of the series into a more coherent whole. Although this may sound as if the film is aimed predominantly towards newcomers of the series, there are a number of subtle changes which certainly make it worthwhile for long time fans, and which mark it as far more than a mere curiosity piece. Interestingly, although in this truncated version some character details are smoothed over, this works very well, retaining the kind of ambiguity and challenging moral explorations that the series is known for. At the same time, this does make aspects of the plot and motivations more understandable, accessible and arguably more satisfying. Although, perhaps understandably, some diehard fans may have concerns over the squeezing of so much material into a shorter running time, the film certainly does justice to the source, and most would be hard pressed to spot anything missing.
Given this, the main draw with this first of the new films is the new animation, and in this the film scores highly. Any worries regarding the inappropriate or shabby use of CG animation or inserts (as with Mamoru Oshii’s “much maligned “Ghost in the Shell 2.0” redux) are quickly laid to rest, as the film looks simply amazing. The tweaks to the original animation and visuals and the new inserts are seamlessly woven together, giving the work a timeless quality. The battle scenes between the EVAs and the Angels, and their destructive aftermaths in particular are noticeably more spectacular, adding to the apocalyptic atmosphere.
As such, though the idea of yet again revisiting such a sacred series may sit uncomfortably with some purists, “Evangelion 1.11 – You Are (Not) Alone” arguably sees Anno Hideaki finally having the tools, budget and huge canvas needed to fully realise his vision. Indeed, the film works well both for long time fans and newcomers, and serves as an excellent reminder of the power of the series – not to mention promising that it might finally, perhaps, get the definitive conclusion it deserves and provide the answers that have been elusive for so long.
Masayuki, Kazuya Tsurumaki, Hideaki Anno (director) / Hideaki Anno, Yoshiki Sakurai (screenplay)
CAST: Megumi Ogata … Shinji Ikari (voice)
Megumi Hayashibara … Rei Ayanami / Yui Ikari / Pen Pen (voice)
Kotono Mitsuishi … Misato Katsuragi (voice)
Yuriko Yamaguchi … Ritsuko Akagi (voice)
Akira Ishida … Kaworu Nagisa (voice)
Fumihiko Tachiki … Gendô Ikari (voice)