Friday, 2 May 2008

Evangelion 1.01 - You Are (Not) Alone

My name is Andy, and I've been addicted to Evangelion for several years now. There, I thought I'd better get that out of the way so that you know what an Eva otaku I am before I even start. How bad do I have the bug? Well, bad enough to buy the limited edition Japanese DVD of the first remake movie, You Are (Not) Alone.

A remake of any classic series is always a fraught time for a fan of said show - A mixture of trepidation, excitement, hope and angst, and never is this more apparent when it's a series as mind-blowing as Neon Genesis Evangelion that's being remade. Given this mixture of emotion, it is perhaps of no surprise that You Are (Not) Alone itself proves to be a mixed bag, with some great new or reimagined moments on the one hand, but frustrations for the die-hard fan on the other. So, rather than just ramble on in my usual fashion, I thought I'd split this post into discussing those good and bad points in turn. It might be a little spoilerific though, so tread carefully.

The good
- I never really had a problem with Shinji Ikari's character in the original series, but I realise that a lot of people did, and I can see why to some extent. Thus, perhaps one of the bigger improvements to You Are (Not) Alone is a subtle movement in Shinji's character towards a more believable form of young teenage angst. The 'new' Shinji acts far more like your average teenager, proving brave enough to call Misato selfish to her face, sneering as his sulk when getting a ticking off from Misato has the desired effect of enraging her, and choosing to return back to NERV of his own volition after running away following the defeat of the forth angel (although rather confusingly he gets snagged by their security personnel immediately afterwards anyway, which rather weakens that particular point).
- At the risk of sounding pervy, we get to see Rei naked properly in You Are (Not) Alone, nipples and all. Yes, it's obviously blatant fan service, but the blase nature of the nudity in those scenes helped (to my eyes) to reinforce the impression of Rei as largely being viewed as a 'doll'.
- Again regarding Rei, in this movie we get a scene of Gendo and Fujutski agreeing upon making Rei move closer to Shinji to mould him to their own requirements. I can see this being quite a controversial change to the story but it proved to be a fascinating and thought-provoking one for me - Did Rei's attitude towards Shinji soften of her own volition, or simply because she was told to?
- Rather than coming out of nowhere towards the end of the series, we see some hints towards Gendo Ikari and Ritsuko's 'relationship' (if you can call it that) right from the off this time around.
- The entire sequence showing Shinji being trained to pilot an Eva is awesome, both in terms of looking great and the actual imagery itself - It's a far darker sequence in tone than what we saw in the original series, which is in keeping with the darker feel of You Are (Not) Alone as a whole.
- The audio side of You Are (Not) Alone is fantastic, sounding far more 'real' than the original series' effects. Shiro Sagisu's soundtrack does the job pretty well to boot as a reworking of the original music.
- Pen-Pen has better living quarters. This is obviously of huge importance.

The bad
- Piling the first half dozen episodes into a ninety minute movie means things get left out - Sure, all the major points get covered, but there are some things that really shouldn't have been cut if you ask me. Again, I got the feeling that some of it was done in the assumption that we've all watched the original series and don't need the hints any more.
- I just mentioned the darker feel of You Are (Not) Alone, and I'm afraid I have to see that as a negative. One of the things I loved about Neon Genesis Evangelion was how the show had a reasonably bright and breezy feel about it to start with before slowly descending darker and deeper into madness as the peril of everyone involved with NERV (and beyond) became ever greater. This time around, things seem depressing right from the start, and the light relief is few and far between.
- Given my usual love for all things CGI, I'm actually surprising myself by saying this, but the use of CG in You Are (Not) Alone was, for me, a net loss. Sometimes it was used very well indeed (see my mention of the training sequence previously), particular in Tokyo 3's 'transformation' sequences, but in other places it detracted from the simple joys of the original. I shouldn't get too het up about some new interfaces in NERV headquarters I suppose, but the old ones were cool. Where they kept those designs and improved upon them slightly it was great, but those with more heavy reworkings irritated me.
- One of the joys of the original series was discovering new and shocking revelations alongside Misato as she began to realise that not everything is as it seems in NERV. This time around however, she gaily takes Shinji for a quick trip to Central Dogma to show him Lillith as though it's no big deal.
- Perhaps the biggest disappointment was in the entire segment featuring the battle against the fifth Angel, Ramiel. This was always one of my favourite episodes of the original series, thanks largely to its against the clock tension in facing off Shinji, Rei and a Positron beam cannon against the Angel, but somehow this edge of your seat feeling was lost rather by making that final face-off a more ponderous affair. Again, the CGI was also hit and miss here - Ramiel was an obvious candidate for a makeover given its structure, but the graphics used were a little over the top compared to the sinister, cold simplicity of the original design.

Seeing as I didn't make notes whilst watching You Are (Not) Alone, this is nowhere near a comprehensive list of my thoughts, but more of a gut feel about the movie. Besides which, some things I haven't mentioned at all simply because I'm still sat on the fence about how they fit into the grand scheme of things - Kaworu's earily appearance for example. Overall, I enjoyed it immensely because... Well, it's Evangelion, and anything that adds even the slightest new thing for me to ponder regarding it is a good thing in my book, no matter how scared I am that the later movies may start to really butcher the franchise. If you're a fan of the show then you have to watch it - Just don't expect to love every last second of it. It's a bit like sleeping with the girl you lost your virginity to years later, only to find she's had rather a lot of plastic surgery. It feels familiar in so many ways, yet at the same time its also very different.

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