Today we look at the first movie in the Rebuild of Evangelion tetralogy by Hideaki Anno, which is a remake of the famous Neon Genesis Evangelion series from the 1990's. The question today is: How does it compare to the original?
Long story short, the movie compares very well to the series. The first Evangelion film is a very close remake of the early episodes of Neon Genesis with a bit of alteration made to the overarching plot and changes to the characters. Let's get down to the nitty gritty details.
As I just mentioned, the story is a good retelling of the original series. It manages to skillfully condense a lot of the early plot of Neon Genesis Evangelion without much loss. One might argue that the large cuts of screen time for some of the original characters is a bad thing, but I think it makes the series more focused. While Neon Genesis quickly became a psychoanalysis on the various characters (even early on), the shortened movie is more focused on specifically Shinji Ikari and the characters directly linked to him.
Of course, everyone that remembers Neon Genesis will also remember the sometimes vapid mood swings of nearly the entire cast, Shinji included. Thankfully, Anno caught onto this and the whole cast is far more... err... sane I guess? They are far less prone to emotion-stricken sadness and despair than before (although not gone completely, which is a good thing).
One way the movie very well could have suffered where the series succeeded would have been in the introduction. Where the series had episodes upon episodes to introduce the setting, the movie has a limited amount of time to get it all across. Regardless, the movie still manages to convey the setting, situation, and key plot to the viewer in very short order without getting bogged down. I wasn't left wondering if anything had changed from the series (well, at least in terms of the setting, etc.) at the beginning because it was still very well communicated.
The plot of the movie itself is excellent just like Neon Genesis. It is both brutal and real, exploring the hidden story behind most mecha shows we see. It follows Shinji as he is forced to deal with his reality as an Evangelion pilot, as terrifying and unfair as it is. The resulting intensity and brutality in the movie cannot be understated in the slightest; be it in a conference room or focused on the Eva-Angel fight, the audience will tense up at what's going to come next. It all meshes together to make an excellent piece that keeps the viewer on the edge of the seat, even though series watchers already know what is coming (most of the time).
In addition, the heightened budget of the movie shows in the Eva-Angel fights, which are just as varied as the series were. Each Angel fight is fundamentally different and it tends to affect the main characters differently every time. There is some fantastic imagination put into these Angels, even if they are just copies of the series. The animation in this department cannot be understated either, the whole series has had a significant animation upgrade because of the advances in computers since the 90's. The angels certainly show off the advancement in a way only they can.
Switching gears, I'll point out that the greatly reduced cast get more development this time around. Although characters like Gendi Ikari get less screen time, it is still passable when we get more development out of the main characters Shinji and Rei.
Minor spoilers here. Speaking of, while still creepy (you know what I'm talking about Evangelion fans), the Rei-Shinji dynamic is played up very well in this movie rendition, with Rei seeming to experience more character development (rather than somewhat stagnated like in the series). I'm not sure if I necessarily ship Rei-Shinji, but the dynamic is intriguing (although creepy, so damn creepy).
Shinji, on the other hand, has gotten a character upgrade this time around. While he's still a reluctant fighter (who has more than a few problems that he has to work out), he also makes a lot more sense now than he did in the series. Instead of being constantly mired with despondent uncertainty and depression basically every minute, he's a more focused individual that even manages to have glimpses of hope at times. It's a good change to add to an already long list of good changes.
Of course, this series still suffers a bit from the symbolism overload. There is a whole mess of symbols tossed into the series with no real reason for being there. The rampant references to Christianity is just one big example. While the overall story of Evangelion relates to aspects of Christianity, it still seems odd that so many references are in there with no reason other than to keep up a theme. This is a bad in my opinion, although others will disagree with this assessment.
The movie still carries on the Evangelion tradition of being kinda crazy, even for people who already know the story. I mean Kaworu's reveal is just weird man. There's no getting around the weirdness here, so you should just take it in stride if you watch.
Lastly, and probably the biggest detractor, the plot is a condensed version of the first few episodes, so it was bound to experience some compression pains. To the audience, it might seem a twinge rushed compared to the TV series. Some plot points have to be packaged up and dropped pretty quickly to move onto the next point
NOT FOR CHILDREN OKAY? Now that we've got that piece of information out of the way...
Evangelion 1.0 is a great retelling of the first few episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion. It mixes the original story with greatly enhanced animation techniques and then alters the characters to be more relatable and real. It tends to suffer a bit from the persistently cryptic nature of the series though and, in the process, it gets a bit too crazy for the picky viewer.
Even though the movie is a very faithful remake of the early episodes, it also makes it very clear that the following movies won't be. This movie is launching a series of movies that are fundamentally different from the TV series. It is a complete retelling, and we've been promised a very different resolution to the story. As we'll see in my Evangelion 2.0 review, they didn't lie, things have changed in the series, arguably for the better.
Let's see, what's a witty line here, "Come for the giant mecha, stay for the crazy, brutal, and merciless plot"? This series is meant for people whom are looking for a very deep, very dark plot. You should definitely not expect a happy ending going into this series, I sure don't. Evangelion still deconstructs the mecha genre, which means that all bets are off on the usual mecha tropes. We'll see how things turn out in the future, we've got a long way to go yet with the best parts of the anime series yet to be touched.
Evangelion 1.0 is not available on the usual streaming channels because it is a movie. Likewise, Netflix does not stream it yet. Your best bet is questionable viewing practices or snatching it up via retail.
To be clear about the numbering, the movie is called "Evangelion 1.0" although the special edition of sorts is "Evangelion 1.11", which comes packed with extras.
As usual, I claim no ownership of the images. Credit to signalsappearing.tumblr.com for the gif.
There is a chance of Blood+ next time.
This is part of my Anime Review Marathon that I began in October 2013 to record my thoughts as I watch a variety of anime on my ever growing backlog. These reviews won't come out on a persistent basis, they'll come out when I feel I have seen enough of a series to pass a judgement on it.
You can see all my articles on Dex's Corner by using the "Dex's Corner" tag.