AniMania: Evangelion 1.01 You Are (Not) Alone
This week, one of the greatest anime series of all time will be revisited. On Tuesday, November 17th, Funimation is scheduled to release Evangelion 1.01. Subtitled “You Are (Not) Alone”, this new chapter marks a major reversioning for the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise.
Eva has been getting reworked from the beginning. The ending for the original series drew a firestorm of controversy, with its lackluster production and anti-climactic conclusion. “Death and Rebirth” and “End of Evangelion”, two feature length films meant to provide a more satisfying resolution, did more to fan the flames than to quench them.
In the meantime, there have been no end of spin offs — some official, some totally fan based — which involve everything from Angelic Days’ retelling of the series from the dream world point of view Shinji imagined in the conclusion to the original series to weird little productions like the “Ayanami Raising Simulator”, a dating sim where the player must successfully bring up one of those many Rei clones. Strange, but come on, who doesn’t want their own Rei clone?
But Eva 1.01 is no mere clone. Described by its creators as a “rebuild”, this is a true reversioning of NGE. Chief Director Hideaki Anno departed from GAINAX to create a new production company for the project. In a stunning blend of old and new, the studio revisited key animations and other material from the original series, reworking them into a genuinely “new” version that still retains the unmistakable feel of its source. The result is breathtaking: You Are (Not) Alone looks and FEELS like the original, only BETTER.
If you’re not familiar with the plot of Evangelion, I’d really like to know: 1) what rock you’ve been hiding under; 2) do you have wi-fi there; and 3) is there plane or ferry service? It might be a nice place to visit. Eva has provided the basis for so many other works that even if you haven’t seen it, you probably more or less know the storyline, but just in case, NGE revolves around a global crisis which threatens to wipe out mankind’s very existence. Mysterious, otherworldly beings known only as “angels” have visited the earth, nearly causing human extinction. The only thing capable of stopping the angels is NOT armor clad babes with swords (that was last week), but rather, the EVAs: giant, biomechanical robots, which for some strange reason can only be piloted by teenagers. Must be the hormones.
Joking aside, Evangelion isn’t just another giant robot show — a strong case could be made that it is THE giant robot show. But even if you don’t like mecha series, it deserves to be watched. The real appeal of NGE is it’s unbelievably deep character development. A lot of mech series have just enough plot to justify the giant robot battles; with Eva, it’s the other way around. The series is very much character driven, and in that context, the battles, though frequent, don’t seem silly or contrived. There’s plenty for the technophile, too. The nuts and bolts of the EVA’s workings, though not fully explained, are shown in enough detail to give the impression that these are truly functional machines, and not just fantasy with a thin sci-fi coating. And if that wasn’t enough, the series is steeped in religious symbolism and philosophy. All of this combines to make Evangelion 1.01 live up to its claim to be an “experience not to be missed.”
The release takes the form of a feature length film, with a running time of 98 minutes, in which it retells the first six episodes of the old NGE series. With so many great scenes, any cuts were liable to come at the expense of some truly great material, but the editing was judicious. The resulting product feels more like one episode than the better part of two hours. Future releases will take the same format, with Evangelion 2.0 subtitled “You Can (Not) Advance”. And not to worry — Misato promises there will be even more fanservice.
The new Eva comes with a new voice cast, and as an A-list title, it’s no surprise that 1.01 sports a whole galaxy of stars, with Spike Spencer reprising his role as NGE’s reluctant, self loathing hero, Shinji Ikari. Allison Keith returns as Misato Katsuragi, and John Swasey, who voiced Shinji’s father, Gendo, in the director’s cut of the original series, is as heartless as ever.
All of these performances are solid, but one of the biggest surprises comes from hearing Brina Palencia as the voice of the enigmatic Rei Ayanami! Palencia’s cool, understated demeanor, which felt so out of place for Juliet in RomeoxJuliet, is perfect for Rei, and even more impressive in light of the sound bytes from her upcoming role in Spice and Wolf, where she manages to make Horo (I just CAN’T say “Holo”) one spicy wolf, indeed. Colleen Clinkenbeard leaves the supernatural world of XXXHOLiC to don the lab coat of the exceedingly scientific Ritsuko. Notably missing is Miss Asuka Langley-Soryu. The feisty redhead won’t be appearing until Eva 2.0. As you read this, Asuka is probably busy giving someone an earful about her lack of screen time in the current release.
Along with the reworked animation and some new additions to the voice cast, the “rebuild”, as the studio has dubbed the project in the mission statement included with the DVD (which, incidentally, reads like it was written by Rei Ayanami) features a totally new ending theme. “Fly Me To The Moon” was getting a little old after so many episodes. As the credits roll, we are treated to the unearthly sounds of “Beautiful World” by none other than Hikaru Utada. You may recognize Utada’s voice from “Sanctuary”, which featured prominently in the soundtrack of Square Enix’s Kingdom Hearts series. Utada, who is coming to the States for a limited tour early next year, also provided a remix of her cover of “Fly Me To The Moon” for an Eva 1.01 trailer. A remix of “Beautiful World” will be part of the soundtrack for 2.0.
If you’d like to see more about Evangelion 1.01, check out Funimation’s web site for the show at http://funimation.com/evangelion/ for trailers, character bios, downloads, and other cool stuff.
That’s all for this week. Next week will be decidedly more low tech, with a review of the kendo drama, Bamboo Blade. What happens when an all girls kendo team must fight for honor, justice, and their sensei’s shot at a year’s worth of free sushi? You’ll just have to tune in to find out.
(Since last time, E. Douglas has acquired not one, but TWO more Rei figures. Classic Plug Suit Rei and Sexy Santa Rei are adjusting well to their new home, and should be ready to pilot soon. But even your humble columnist does not own one of those weird Rei mermaid figures. At least, not yet . . .)