Sunday, April 18, 2010

Anime review: Rebuild of Evangelion 1.0: You Are [Not] Alone

Neon Genesis Evangelion has been heralded as one of the greatest anime of all time. Its religious symbolism, psycho-analysis, and memorable characters fueled a story that changed the way viewers took to the entertainment medium. It is no surprise that many were a bit pretentious when the new Rebuild of Evangelion films were announced as a four-part reimagining and sequel series. The original is a staple of the anime culture, and while it can never be replaced, Rebuild of Evangelion promises to be a fitting sequel series with some much-needed updates and intriguing plot variation.

Rebuild of Evangelion 1.0: You Are [Not] Alone covers the first six episodes of the original Neon Genesis Evangelion and explores Shinji’s new life in Tokyo-III. Fans of the original anime will be very familiar with the events that unfold, as Rebuild 1.0 strays very little from the original story. There are a few inclusions from later episodes, such as the appearance of the Angel Lilith. Much like the original show, Rebuild 1.0 tries to maintain plenty of action sequences while explaining the backstories of the various characters. There are also some humorous bits sprinkled in, such as Shinji’s first meeting with PenPen and Misato’s conversation with Ritsuko when she first decides to take Shinji in as a roommate. Overall, this film focuses more heavily on the action and keeps the story largely centered around Shinji, though Rei and Misato get a fair share of the focus as well. Much of this is done for the sake of time, as Rebuild 1.0 is one hour and forty minutes long.

Oddly enough, while the original Neon Genesis Evangelion spent much of its early episodes focusing on the characters and their various interactions with one another, Rebuild 1.0 shifts more towards the Angels and their looming threat to mankind. Because of this, important segments of the story, such as Shinji’s uneasy relationship with his father, are glossed over very briefly. As this is Shinji’s story at its core, Rei plays second string in Rebuild 1.0, which is unfortunate, as her two most prominent scenes are the flashback where Gendo rescues her from a berserk EVA Unit 00 and her protection of Shinji during Operation Yashima. Even Misato receives a greater focus than Rei, constantly reinforcing Shinji to do a good job.

As far as the fight sequences are concerned, Sachiel and Shamshel receive a fairly straightforward copy of what they did in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Ramiel, however, is changed significantly. This Angel is still a floating octahedron, but is now able to shift its body into various geometric forms. A spinning array of crystals around the core provides a defensive parameter from NERV’s missiles, while a massive star shape provides Ramiel with a heavy laser that can fire great distances to attack EVA Units 01 and 00. Because of these changes, Ramiel and Operation Yashima take up a large portion of the second half of the film.

The animation in Rebuild 1.0 is beautiful, combining the traditional look of the original series with digital coloring and animation. The digital content is not overdone and doesn’t stand out a great deal, but that’s not a bad thing. The soundtrack is a major revamp of that of the original series. Shiro Sagisu has outdone himself, including more electric guitar during tense fight scenes, calm and mysterious piano parts during Rei-centric parts, and the ever-prominent violin pieces to convey Shinji’s emotions. Many pieces include choir parts, which aids the Biblical themes. While I still prefer the Japanese voice actors, the English voice actors have improved since their work on the original series and sound more fitting to their characters.

Rebuild 1.0: You Are [Not] Alone feels a little bit rushed, but Anno and his team could have done far worse with the story’s pacing. For returning fans, the characters pretty much all fit the same roles and attitudes they did in Neon Genesis Evangelion. For newcomers to the franchise, however, some may find there to be too little focus on Gendo, Ritsuko, Touji, and Kensuke. Overall, Rebuild 1.0 sets up well for a reimagining/sequel, though some more variation in the story could have been beneficial.

My Rating: 7.75 (out of 10)

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