Okay, so I finally got around to watching Evangelion 1.0! I am a big fan of the original Neon Genesis Evangelion series and am anxious to watch the “Rebuild” Series (a series of at least three planned movie-length retellings of the story, or more, I’m not really sure about the logistics of the schedule at this time and am too lazy to go look it up) and see how things develop, how they are both similar and different. I’m not really much for recaps, so I’ll only briefly summarize the story in this blog here, but if you want tons of details on the plot, it might be better to visit another website. I’ll mainly focus on my comments and impressions, and yes, this WILL contain spoilers, both for the movie itself and for the entire anime series and the movies “Death and Rebirth” and “The End of Evangelion”. So be warned.
The release I own is called Evangelion 1.11, which I understand it is the name for the revamped video release of Evangelion 1.0. It was written and directed by Anno Hideaki, the creator of the original Evangelion 26-episode TV series. Very loosely, the series revolves around three 14-year old “pilots” of “Evangelion”, giant robot mechas. But there is much, MUCH more to the series than that.
The thing I love about Evangelion (well, one of the things anyway) is that it completely throws you for a loop on the nature of the series. Yes, most people know a little about it now, but it’s still so fun to watch it from beginning to end. It starts off innocuous enough, a little bit on the serious side, facing normal post-apocalyptic, sci-fi type issues, with a protagonist that you know is going to have some major psychological hurdles to face, but it still seems like a casual anime what with Misato and Pen-Pen (the stereotypical anime “cute pet creature”) and the whole ‘school’ environment and the 14-year old protagonists (what IS it with anime and 14-year old heroes and heroines?). And then after Asuka shows up you get a series of episodes that feel mostly like just a silly, fun-loving anime, up through around MAGMA DIVER episode. And then after that… WHOA. *squeals*. Suddenly this is just about the deepest anime ever addressing issues as complex as the ultimate answers to the human condition and the meaning of life and the nature of existence, consciousness, and whether or not human beings are ultimately ‘alone’. Of course, the series and two movies only give us vague answers to those questions, but that’s just like life. Still, it totally fulfills my craving for deep, philosophical, thought-provoking stuff. You’ll see I’m a big fan of it as we go on.
The DVD release comes with a little booklet explaining some background on the film and what its purpose is. The idea is to retell the story of “Neon Genesis Evangelion” in the theater in a number of installments with a larger budget than that which made the television series and the original two movies. In this first release, which is based on the first six episodes of the anime, what has been revamped is mostly the special effects and animation, and the story is mostly intact. Although as I understand it the second release, Evangelion 2.0, which I plan to blog on later after I watch it, changes the story a good deal from the anime. We’ll see how that goes when I get to it. The booklet also contains some character profiles as well as info on how they went about creating some of the art and effects for this new film. It’s a handy accompaniment to the release, and also has a little first page bit showing why Anno wanted to remake the series, citing that:
“Eva is a story of repetition.
It is a story where our protagonist faces the same situation many times over and determinedly picks himself back up again.
It is a story of the will to move forward, even if only a little.
It is a story of the resolve to want to be together, even though it is frightening to have contact with others and to endure ambiguous loneliness.” – Hideaki Anno
(I think. It doesn’t exactly say, but it’s in the booklet. I did not write it.)
See? Really deep stuff! But I find that fun… at least I usually do; it does make your brain hurt from time to time, but I think he did something quite ambitious by addressing this sort of material with Evangelion. And as I’ve heard, he came up with the original story based on thoughts he had surrounding a period of depression. It’s really fascinating. But enough on that or I’ll start to become annoying – let’s see what happens as the story moves forward. I wonder how it’s going to differ from the original in terms of how the main “message” plays out.
We open to the disc menu with a lovely silhouette of Rei:
Reminds me a bit of the image of her shadowy form on the original ending credits of the anime series, where she wandered in slow, upside-down circles as the song “Fly Me to the Moon” played in the background. We really get a feel of her ethereal presence throughout the whole series and it gets your head in the right place for watching the film, especially if you know a bit about her true nature(s). I won’t say too much more, as I don’t know how her nature might change in the re-telling from what it was in the original. It does seem, though, that they put a bit more emphasis on Rei’s character and the mystery surrounding her right off the bat in this remake, more so than they did in the anime. But again, it’s been a couple years since I saw the whole anime straight through.
We open with images of war and apocalypse, reminding us of the ultimate nature of the series.
At this point all we know is that the majority of the human population was annihilated in the “Second Impact”, an apocalyptic occurrence that melted the polar ice caps and destroyed a great deal. Humanity recovered, but is now under attack by strange beings known as “angels” that can only be fought by the “Evangelion” mechas, which in turn must be piloted by children that are able to “synch” with them.
And then we meet our main protagonist, Ikari Shinji…
Shinji is the designated pilot of Eva 01 in the Eva series of Evangelion fighters, and in his initial introduction he seems like a normal enough kid, but the poor boy has had to deal with a lot in the past and will have to deal with a lot in the future. He seems so innocuous at first glance, but the entire series revolves around him and it gets really deep and complicated. He also spends much of the series being angsty and emo. Now, I’m not normally a fan of angsty and emo, but I still like Shinji, and here’s why. He’s not angsty and emo just because it’s “cool” to be angst and emo, which I feel like too many series treat it these days. Rather, his angst and emo-ness serves an actual PURPOSE in conveying the message of the story and is a metaphor for issues we all must face on some level or another, though most of us not as extremely as Shinji, I hope. He is voiced by Ogata Megumi, a very talented voice actress famous for her ability to do a wide range of roles and male as well as female characters.
Shinji is introduced to his role as Evangelion pilot by Katsuragi Misato, who is quite a character as you can see from the first note she sends him:
No words needed, really… LOL. Also, her wild drinking habits:
Now, despite her frivolous initial appearance, like Shinji, she has a good deal of depth to her character as well. And I’m fairly certain drinking during the off hours is her coping mechanism for the things she has to deal with in her job as a Lt. Colonel helping the organization NERV fight off the angels to protect their city of New Tokyo-3. I can’t remember if she starts out knowing exactly what the ultimate goal of the organizations NERV and SEELE are, but… if she does, I don’t blame her from needing some sort of coping mechanism, though to me drinking is not the best choice of one. It’s too hard to explain all the details of the organizations’ goals here and keep this blog a reasonable length, but I recommend watching the original anime and movies for more information.
Misato is voiced by Mitsuishi Kotono, famous also for her role as none other than Sailor Moon/Tsukino Usagi herself. Because of this, I especially adore the three songs sung by Misato that are released with the movie soundtrack: “You are the only one”, “FALL in STAR”, and “Aoi Legend/Blue Legend”. They’re like both Misato songs and extra Sailor Moon image songs! LOL. I don’t know the translations to them, but “Aoi Legend” is easily my favorite:
Anyway, Shinji is all set to live with Misato in her apartment for the duration of the time he stays in Tokyo-3 as an Eva pilot. He was reluctant to take the role on at first, as his estranged father Ikari Gendo had summoned him to take the role only because he needed him for that job, not because he actually wanted to repair their relationship or anything, which Shinji desperately wants. So he starts out understandably bitter, but when he sees the condition of the pilot of Eva-00, Ayanami Rei, he feels a moral obligation to battle the angel threatening the city instead of forcing her to do it.
Thus begins Shinji’s journey to learn to battle the angels and cope with his own complex emotions.
As I said earlier, the story VERY closely follows the story from the original six episodes, so there wasn’t a whole lot of new material that I noticed in that respect, except for the apparent increased emphasis on Rei’s character. As I understand it that becomes even more pronounced in Evangelion 2.0, the next movie installment.
Rei is voiced by Hayashibara Megumi, another very famous voice actress. While she usually does more boisterous characters such as Lina Inverse from “Slayers” or female Ranma from “Ranma ½”, here she gets to play the much more soft-spoken Rei, which says a lot about her ability to do a variety of characters and her talent as an actress, much like Shinji’s actress Ogata Megumi.
Rei’s character is mysterious, quiet, a loner, and soft-spoken, always leaving for missions saying “Sayonara”, which bothers Shinji a great deal. This is because the word “sayonara”, while meaning “good-bye” directly, is usually only reserved for situations in which you don’t expect to see the person again, either for a very long time or ever. Thus, you more commonly hear phrases meaning “see you again”, such as “Ja mata” or “Mata ne”.
I am fairly certain her name, “Rei”, is based on the fact that “rei” is also a word for “zero” in Japanese. More on the deep philosophical implications of that in future blogs, maybe, or just watch the anime and try to figure it out for yourself. 😀
Anyway, although there is still a difficulty in understanding Rei and we only barely begin to scratch the surface of her true nature, her and Shinji’s relationship is solidified more at the end of the movie when he finally gets her to smile. Aww. 😀
The film ends with the ambiguous appearance of Nagisa Kaworu, who will be very important in the story later on. He appears in this film, but I believe in the original anime you do not see his character this early on. So there’s another difference in these remakes. I won’t talk much about Kaworu right now, but his role is a pretty major one, and back into that deep philosophical stuff I keep mentioning. Just look at the picture below of Kaworu standing and viewing… something… and tell me you don’t feel it. That this series is going to get INTENSE before it’s finally concluded.
So while the story stayed close to the original, the animation here has been re-done, with better digital effects, etc, to an impressive degree. Below is a before and after picture (from Wikipedia) of one of the angels in the anime and again in this movie:
There are plenty of other characters and scenarios, and most of this has also stayed true to the anime so far. I really enjoyed this new movie nonetheless. The background music has changed, but it hasn’t. They are the same tunes, just rearranged slightly, and I like them as much as I liked the originals. Some of my favorite pieces are “Rei I”, “The Beast”, and “Hedgehog’s Dilemma” (“Cruel Dilemme” in the new soundtrack, available for listen below, which describes Shinji’s complex of being afraid to get too close to others for fear of hurting each other). I do hope they get to some of the better pieces in later installments and do new arrangements of them, too. I really like some of the musical pieces from the later episodes of the series and the two movies. The soundtracks can be bought on YesAsia (Regular and Special editions) or CDJapan (Regular and Special editions). The regular editions contain the three Misato image songs mentioned above and some bonus tracks, while the special edition contains longer, “full” versions of some of the background music. I would personally recommend getting both.
Another song most people are familiar with is the theme song for the whole “Rebuild of Evangelion” project, which encompasses 1.0, 2.0, and the rest of the planned films. It is “Beautiful World” by Utada Hikaru, and I just love it. The single can be downloaded on iTunes or bought at YesAsia or CDJapan.
Well, that’s all I think I have to say for now. Whew! I look forward to viewing Evangelion 2.0 next and seeing how things change as the story deviates a bit more from the original series. Hopefully, I like the direction it goes in. We shall see.
Thanks for reading! ^_^