Tuesday, July 13, 2010

ヱヴァンゲリヲン新劇場版, aka Rebuild of Evangelion

So I decided to revisit an old flame, the epic, mind-twisting, agonizing experience of 新世紀エヴァンゲリオン (Shin Seiki Evangelion), in English, Neon Genesis Evangelion. I got my hands on a fansubbed copy of film 1 of the new Rebuild of Evangelion (ヱヴァンゲリヲン新劇場版) flicks, entitled ヱヴァンゲリヲン新劇場版: 序 (Evangelion Shin Gekijōban: Jo, titled in English as Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone).

First, I've gotta say, they redid a lot of the animation, and brought a level of detail to the images that can only be described as Akira-esque. The animation is nothing short of gorgeous.

Second, when the Angels die, their cores spray copious amounts of blood everywhere. This was not present in the original episodes, and in fact is quite annoying. Not disturbing, not upsetting, but annoying. It is, simply put, overkill, unnecessary.

Third, in order to cram the first six or seven 25-minute episodes into a 100-minute running-time, they had leave a great deal on the cutting-room floor. The result is a rapidly advancing story which doesn't give the characters much time to develop. This isn't a problem if you are already familiar with the TV-show. However, if this is your first experience, you're going to feel dragged through the plot at a pace that is just far too rapid for you to really get involved.

Fourth, they added a few new scenes and pushed a few things forward in the story. For example, Misato takes Shinji down to Central Dogma where Lilith is hanging. She doesn't mistakenly identify her as Adam, as was done in the TV series. She does, however, explain that the objective of the Angels is to reach Lilith and cause the Third Impact. Also, at the very end, we see Seele awaken Kaworu, proving something fan-speculated for about a decade--that Seele sent Kaworu to NERV on purpose, knowing he was an Angel. Why, exactly, will hopefully be addressed, because theoretically if Kaworu causes the Third Impact, it will basically wreck all of Seele's plans.


I'm not as impressed or amazed by Evangelion as I was when I was 18. I guess the past ten years have sobered me. I've grown up. The show still has a lot of the magic it possessed when I was a college freshman. The new footage and improved animation (especially the Fifth Angel) are very impressive. But the show, after ten years of viewing, has long since lost its edge.

It's influence on anime hasn't been entirely positive either. Almost every giant-robot manga or anime to have come out since have attempted to emulate the complexity and depth of Evangelion, but inevitably ended up disappointing the discerning viewer. I quickly grew tired of seeing religious symbols and characters jammed into a giant anime blender, pureed, and then served on my television in an almost haphazard fashion.

Nevertheless, Evangelion made a big splash both in Japan and America, and that's because it's complex plot, plethora of symbols, metaphors, and allegories, seemed to be saying something. It was a show where you were constantly guessing, trying to figure out what was going to happen next. It was a thinking person's show. You couldn't just idly sit back and watch it. You had to examine it, look for clues, foreshadowing, and symbolism, and try to unravel the truth.

Evangelion has a special place in my memory because of the times I spent discussing it with my friends. I recall drinking coffee for hours at the diner discussing our various theories, bouncing them off one-another, trying to figure out if Rei was a clone of Shinji's mother, for example. We pieced together clues, analyzed phrases, and grasped for any clues we could get our hands on to try to piece together the different puzzles. It was great fun.

I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Evangelion. It was a fantastic bonding experience for me and my friends sitting around trying to unravel what everything in the show meant. It pushed the boundaries of what not just anime, but television as a whole could do. Yes episodes 25 and 26 were incredibly disappointing, but the studio was over budget and out of time on the production for the finale. Hideaki Anno produced End of Evangelion to give disgruntled fans everything they had wanted in a gut-wrenching, destructive manner. I imagine that we are going to get a "real" ending once the fourth and final Rebuild of Evangelion film is released, but who knows? The first one came out in 2007, the newest one, film #2 was released just this June, and the third isn't due probably for another two years at least.

I'm still quite torn in regards to Evangelion. Much of the show was driven by Hideaki Anno's own personal drama and psychoses. It was, quite literally, his method of coping with severe depression, and in the later, darker, humorless episodes reflect much of his own personal angst. In retrospect, much of the symbolism and imagery was simply chosen for the purpose of being evocative, but conveys very little message.

But this strays too far from this post's primary objective--to evaluate Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone. So, a few closing remarks regarding the film.

Nostalgia no doubt played a huge role in my enjoyment of it, but I certainly would not recommend a cold viewing. Instead, watch the series first, in its entirety. And watch it with friends. The best part of Evangelion is the dialogue it will inspire. Watching this movie will fill some gaps, explain some unanswered questions, and create a few more.

At a later date, I'll give a thorough evaluation of the Evangelion franchise.


Chris Cesarano said...

In a sense, Evangelion was to anime what Lost later became to American television. They both introduced the idea of people getting together and theorizing just what was going on and what would happen next.

Well, I can't say for certain whether Lost has had that large an effect or not. Heroes sadly started to try and go the route where every major episode MUST end in a twist that no one could ever see coming. This isn't how the first season ran. Sure there were major developments, but nothing that was supposed to come out of nowhere. The true, massive plot twists were only on rare occasion.

I've seen a few other shows try to emulate what Lost did, but mostly I think 24 has had a greater influence on American television. It made the serial drama popular again, and now television is becoming more than just sitcoms that always return to the status quo.

While Evangelion's influence is more like what Lost presented to television, it's actual widespread influence is more like 24's. Unfortunately anime has yet to recover.

InfinityPal said...

So I just found this blog (thanks to your review of The Big Nowhere)... and it's awesome.

I'm an Evangelion fan, and I don't know if you've seen the second film of the Rebuild series, but it is far better than the first. The strength of the television series was the depth given to its characters, and 1.11 doesn't develop them. 2.22 allows more development for all characters... and adds in some unpredictability lacking in the first.

In many ways, I am glad that Evangelion is still changing anime today. It is a flawed but fantastic series. It really changed anime conventions for TV series. Without Eva, there would be no RahXephon, Eureka Seven, FLCL or Gurren Lagaan.