I finally got my hands on a fansubbed copy of the first installation of the much hyped and much anticipated cinematic re-make of the cult TV series Neon Genesis Evangelion. And no, this is not yet another movie that attempts to translate the original, infuriatingly abstract ending into something more approachable that would give fans a sense of closure. This is a complete re-telling of the story from the very first episode, all the way to the end.
Rebuild of Evangelion is actually planned as a tetralogy in which the 4th and last part will be a brand new original ending which will differ from both the original, and the movie End of Evangelion.
Why to remake the cult TV series from 13 years ago now? I suppose money is a huge factor. Hollywood has proven time and time again that a glitzy remake of a time honored classic, or a cult title simply cannot fail at the box office. Especially if it is a super, special directors cut edition with never before seen footage. Take the Star Wars: Special Edition – you wouldn’t think that people would pay a ticket admission price to see the same old movie with few CGI shots of wompa rats and Banthas superimposed over the old footage. But they did.
So Rebuild of Evangelion is a little bit like that – same story, but with brand new CGI effects, and vastly improved animation and a new musical score. That and of course blatant product placement:
Naturally, this is not the only reason. There is also merchandising and tie-ins. :mrgreen: But officially speaking, the reasons are a legion. You can read the official statement from Hideaki Anno (the mastermind behind this project) to see them for yourself. In short, he wants to tell the story from the beginning in a way that is more comprehensible, and more approachable to regular audience – and to sort of create the ultimate, directors cut, true version of the story with a definite ending where there previously was none. But mostly, I think it is about the money. ;)
So how is the movie itself? In one word, unavailable in US. Or at least that’s what I summarized after reading the wikipedia entry and a cursory googe search. I could not find any information about US release schedule, or even if one is planned for the future. If you are more in the know than me, please post any and all available info in the comments. For me, this meant that I can proceed to procure a fan-subbed version of the show guilt free via the magical vehicle of bittorrent.
I’d love to give credit to the subber but the video came without an NFO and there are no credits in the subtitle track itself. The only clue I have about the identity of whoever did this was that the file was labeled with the [NF_ITK] tag which is I suppose either a scene group or a fansubbing group – but google didn’t really return any results for them either. The subs are serviceable but not perfect. A lot of the background chatter (especially during the Eva launch sequence) is simply missing. Fortunately I didn’t catch any “mass naked child events” type blunders which is a good thing. That’s as much I can say. I don’t actually know a lick of Japanese so validity of the sub remains to be determined. It seemed ok to me – and I recognized some of the memorable dialogs from the series (eg. the hedgehog’s dilemma and etc..).
As for the movie itself, I am somewhat underwhelmed. The plot is essentially a condensed version of the first 3 episodes which depict the attacks of the first 3 angels (Sachiel, Shamshel and Ramiel). While all the scenes were re-drawn and animated from scratch, with much more modern style of shading, and much more fluid movement, it seems that the team pretty-much re-used a lot of story boards from the series. Watching You Are (Not) Alone is very much like watching A New Hope: Special Edition. It’s the very same movie with a healthy dose of shiny new CGI and that one new really cool scene that was not in the original. The main difference is that while the Special Edition of Star Wars actually ran slightly longer than the original, the new Eva movie actually tries to condense events that originally spanned 3 hour episodes down into a 90 minute feature. I believe that some of the high school sequences depicting Shinji’s and Rei’s daily life ended up being cut. This means that we are seeing a bit less of our main character moping around and being miserable, but we also miss out on the little interactions that give his relationship with his classmates a bit more depth. It also slightly distorts your sense of time passage. The time between angel attacks seems much shorter now.
In fact, the whole thing felt a bit rushed. Since I’m familiar with the series, I could easily fill in the blanks, and I knew exactly what was going on at any given time. Perhaps this is due to the fansub quality, but I felt like we were not getting as much info as in the original. Perhaps, they intentionally decided to turn down the level of details and technobabble to meet Hideaki’s goal of increased approachability. If that’s the case, then I would say this was a wrong decision. Such a move would make the movie even less comprehensible to a new viewer. But it is hard to say without actually seeing an official translation. Remember – not a leak of Japanese here. ;)
The new CGI is nice, but I’m not really someone who swoons over graphical fireworks. I saw Evangelion for the first time only few years ago so it was already a dated show. Still, I loved it despite the fact that it did not have flashy 3d effects which are so common in the contemporary anime. The combat is surely more dynamic and exciting, the angels have a new and improved look and you can observe the Tokyo-3 buildings rising out of the ground in painstaking detail. The original series had a tight budget, but this remake seems to be taking the “no expense spared” approach and it shows. Still, to me, visuals are secondary to the story itself. And this is where the movie is slightly underwhelming. Not that the story is bad in itself – after all it is the same store as before, which was excellent to begin with. It’s just that this is part of the problem – a brand new movie, with the same old story only in a more condensed mode. It’s a bit like watching that amateur Phantom Menace cut in which they remove all the stupid Jar Jar Brinks scenes – only this time, actually meaningful stuff gets cut or changed. There are notable exceptions though, which actually add to the story – some very ominous foreshadowing, and interesting tidbits here and there which almost make up for the loss of detail elsewhere.
What are these exceptions? Well, for one, Rei has nipples this time around. Yeah, I was surprised too. If I can remember correctly, the TV series had all the ladies sporting busts akin to those of a Barbie doll – ie. perfectly smooth featureless orbs. I guess Rei fans will love this upgrade especially since she is showing plenty of skin. But that’s largely irrelevant. There is more.
I spotted several very striking, and important departures from the source. If you don’t want to be spoiled, just scroll down to the very last paragraph of the post real quick and close your eyes not to see the screen shots. Mega spoilers lurk below.
First minor detail I noticed was that Shinji was actually at one point training in one of the unarmored simulation Eva bodies which were dormant and seemingly abandoned in the original. This is interesting, but not very significant. Yet it shows that they are fleshing out these little details, possibly in order to make the story more cohesive.
There are bigger surprises ahead though. For example, Misato not only knows what lies hidden in the Central Dogma but also has access to it. To convince Shinji to fight Ramiel, she takes him all the way down there, and shows him the crucified angel correctly identifying it as Lilith. In the original Misato did not know about it until it was revealed to her by Kanji near the end of the series. Furthermore, both of them assumed the angel on the cross was Adam not Lilith.
Furthermore, the new Lilith does not have the characteristic, symbolic mask with the 7 eyes. She is now wearing the plain, smooth gray mask similar to those seen on all the other angels. Perhaps this is done to establish her identity as one of the angels more firmly in the eyes of the audience? She is also not bleeding LCL. To that tune I do not recall Shinji ever saying that the LCL smells like blood in this version, but this once again might just be the fansubber dropping the ball. Still, this may suggest that they dropped the idea of LCL being the blood of Lilith.
Another huge departure from the original story is the scene in which Kaworu wakes up on the surface of the moon which seems to be stained with blood or something like that. He says something cryptic about “the third one” never changing, and expresses that he looks forward to meeting Shinji. In the original this character didn’t show up till the very end of the series and we initially did not know about his un-natural origins. Furthermore he seems to be standing over a body of yet another angel who looks strikingly similar to Lilith, and in fact is wearing a mask that looks very similar to the one Lilith wore in the original. Is that Adam by chance?
Overall, the movie by itself does not really live up to Hideaki Anno’s promises of being the ultimate anime of all times. It feels much more like watching Star Wars: Special Edition. But it is not all just a condensed carbon copy of the original with shiny new CGI and animated nipples either. The last act of the film seems to suggest that the creators are taking the story in a very different direction this time around. The next 3 movies that will soon follow You Are (Not) Alone are likely to become progressively more original leading up to a brand new and unexpected conclusion. There are also rumored new characters on the horizon that are yet to be introduced. So I suggest adopting a wait and see approach here. I will reserve my final judgment until I see the whole tetralogy in it’s entirety. While this first installment is not totally mind blowing, it seems like a good start. What remains is to hope that someone out there will at some point secure US distribution rights, and do a popper translation so we can all enjoy fully and support the whole project with our dollars without worrying about region codes, and the ever-present language barrier.
[tags]evangelion, rebuild of evangelion, neon genesis evangelion, evangelon: 1.0 you are (not) alone[/tags]