Friday, April 19, 2013

Evangelion 1.11 You are (Not) Alone

Get out your giant sentient robots, we're reviewing Evangelion 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone!
I have discovered that Evas are my favorite giant robot to draw and IT IS AMAZING.
The world is threatened by giant monsters called Angels, and the only ones who can stop them are the operatives at NERV with giant robots called EVAs, piloted by a meek boy named Shinji.  Will he fight or run away?

If you haven't been introduced to the classic anime Evangelion, this is your chance to catch up. Evangelion 1.11 is a movie remake of the first six episodes of the original series. I'm going to review this just as a movie instead of Evangelion as a series because OF COURSE it's a great series, but the question is A) for new people: should you start here or delve into the original? And B) for those who've already seen it: is it worth seeing everything again?
Most giant robots are big, bulky and
symetrical. Evas are organic and
fluid which works well in my style.

Buuuut if you're completely new to Evangelion and wondering why you should definitely get into it, here's the shorty.  It's an anime about young teens in giant robots fighting ridiculous monsters. But wait! This is not just some Gigantor/Power Rangers rip-off where they send out the giant robot, it punches a monster in the face, and then they battle over a cued catchy theme song. No, this is complex (dare I say realistic?) giant robot battling in which they have whole teams of people examining the Angels and figuring out how best to defeat them. It's very well likely they'll spend half an episode just dissecting what the current Angel is and how in the hell they are going to kill it. And these aren't your daddy's Godzilla rejects, either. How do you stop a monster made out of shape-shifting crystal that shoots giant lasers as soon as you get close? Or a monster hovering above earth's orbit with a giant orbital laser? These things will break your mind in comprehension, especially when you get later into the series.

And then there's the crazy existential parts of what everything means (they use language like “angels” and “spear of destiny,” and “the third impact”) and how it affects the pilot physically. They're not just piloting them, they're a PART of them, and it hurts every time an EVA is damaged. And EVAs aren't just machines, they're living things that are liable to go berserk at a moment’s notice! Then there's the complicated relationship of the pilots and the agents of NERV. Shinji is the son of Gendo Ikari, the director of NERV. Gendo abandoned Shinji, repeatedly calls him useless, and Shinji is just trying to get his father's love and attention. And Shinji is not your typical male bravado hero. In fact, he's a real wimp who routinely cries and must tell himself the mantra, "I mustn't run away, I mustn't run away," to ever do anything.  He's an interesting character to a point, but after that he's incredibly annoying.
Basically an episode
of Evengelion.

Also, the animation and music for all the series as a whole is AMAZING.  This is classically hand-drawn 2D animation we're talking about here, with unbelievable fight scenes and lovely atmospheric shots. But enough about Evangalion as a series. Let's talk about the movie!

For starters, it mirrors the first 6 episodes of the series as a kind of condensed version. This is both a blessing and a curse. It helps to eliminate a loooot of the boring downtime in the collective two and a half hours that may have turned some off to begin with, and shortened the narrative considerably. But in doing so, they've also eliminated a number of the smaller details you would get over time that help to cement the world. In this way, it might be a bit harder for newcomers to follow. Things like the fact that the EVAs need to have a cable constantly attached in order to provide power to the unit aren't mentioned until it's absolutely necessary, and it could get a bit confusing. 

And as a whole, it doesn't really fit as a movie. It's just the first six episodes. They haven't really molded it into something that fits into the usual 98 minute story arc. It doesn't have that fulfilling feeling of watching a whole movie, you feel like you've just been shown the cliff notes version.

The animation is still really, really good, but a lot of it has been replaced by 3D where 2D hand-drawing used to be. It's not that big of a deal to newcomers, but it could go either way for returning fans. On the one hand, having that beautiful hand-drawn line work feels like there was something ripped out of the equation. On the other hand, seeing the new CGI may be a good enough reason to watch it again. The CGI is still good, and it's nice to see where they made the changes. The score is still here in all its glory, and most of the voice actors return, though a few don't and it's pretty noticeable.

So on the whole, it's not bad. Evangalion is easily the animeiest of anime, and it's still pretty good here. It's fun to watch, but newcomers may want to start with the original series instead.
THE GOOD: Great animation, great score, condensed story with downtime taken out, most of the voice actors return, new CGI elements look nifty.

THE BAD: New CGI elements, not all the voice actors return, small details taken out make it hard to follow, doesn't feel like a complete movie.

THE VERDICT: $$$ Maybe. Returning fans may want to check it out just for the new elements and because it's Evangelion, but newcomers may want to start with the original series to get the full experience.  Unless you don't think you could stand a full season and just want to take a taste of what everyone is talking about, then this is perfect for you.

MOVIES LIKE IT: Neon Genesis Evangelion, The Big O, Gundam 08th MS Team, Perfect Blue, Paprika, Paranoia Agent

ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: In Shinji's first fight with the EVA, he passes out and the EVA takes over. In the original series, this is done between shows and shown in a flashback, told to Shinji secondhand when he's in his hospital bed.  But in the movie, it just shows the fight straight. It saves time, but it loses that interesting narrative halt the series had by using the episode break to its advantage.

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