Thursday, March 11, 2010

DVD Review: Evangelion 1.11: You are (Not) Alone

Evangelion 1.11 may very well be the greatest thing to happen to anime's awesome. Let's just leave it at that.

Have you ever heard of a little show called Neon Genesis Evangelion? Perhaps you may recall this little number from the mid-90's? You know, it's that one with giant mechs piloted by children prone to psychotic breakdowns as they try to save the human race for annihilation. Yes, THAT Evangelion!
It should go without saying that the original series was a breakout success and proved to be a benchmark for anime at the point in time that it came out. Things being what they were, however, the show wound up ending on a rather convoluted note. Rather than go into the details, let's just say that it was so confusing that the original staff put together a couple of OVA releases in an attempt to make it clearer. Their efforts were successful enough, but there was still the feeling that the franchise could have been done better. Now, over a decade later, Hideaki Anno and company have reignited the project as a series of films. The first, Evangelion: You are (Not) Alone is here in my hands.

In case you're unfamiliar with this revitalization of the franchise, then let me fill you in. Basically what happened here was the original animation was cleaned up and interspersed with new animation and effects. The story was tightened up as well to make things more cohesive. This first film is more or less the consolidation and combination of the first six episodes. It was released a few months back here in the States as Evangelion 1.01, but a special edition in the form of 1.11 has just come out with additional animation and bonus features. The release is available on Blu-ray and 2-disc standard definition DVD as well.
In the opening moments of Evangelion 1.11 we're introduced to none other than Shinji Ikari, who is roaming the streets of a city under lock down due to the appearance of an Angel. The military is fighting against this monster with all their force, and just when it seems that Shinji is about to bite the big one, his rescuer comes along and carts him off to meet his father. Shinji's dad, Gendo, is quite the son-of-a-bitch who basically shuns his own son and uses him for his own personal goals, regardless of how he feels. What is his goal, you ask? Well, saving the world basically, but it's a little more complicated than that.

If you are unfamiliar with Evangelion then you should know that at this point in history about half of the world's population has been wiped out due to an event called Second Impact. In the year 2000 a meteor struck the planet and along with it the Angels came about. In order to prevent a Third Impact, and in an effort to save humanity, an organization known as NERV has put together monstrosities of their own known as Evangelions. These biomechanical creatures seem to be the key to humanity's future and are basically the only line of defense we have against the Angels. The only problem is that the Eva units can only be piloted by children. That's where Shinji comes in.

You are (Not) Alone quickly settles into its story and basically pushes Shinji into Eva Unit 01 in an effort to save Tokyo-3. After one hell of a fight Shinji emerges victorious, but the celebration is short-lived. Shinji really doesn't want any part in this battle and making matters worse is the fact that the Angels keep on coming. The fate of the world is thrust upon his shoulders and it's more than the 14-year old can handle. Shinji doesn't have to do it alone, however, since he also works closely with the cold and indifferent Rei, and excessively lively Misato.
The story here is top notch and presented in this form, the opening leg of the Evangelion arc is truly compelling. Considering this part of the journey focuses largely on the conflict with the Angels there are a ton of battles. Some of the moments here are truly epic, and even though we may have seen them before, they have never looked quite this good. With all of that being said, You are (Not) Alone does have its flaws.

Though Anno and his team took time to develop the characters over the course of the show itself, there's not much room for that in this film. Shinji stays whiny throughout, Rei is a cold fish, Misato is overly boisterous, and Gendo is just a dick. The lack of development for each of the film's main characters hurts the experience somewhat and leaves it feeling unbalanced. The characters are almost one-dimensional in many ways, which is a far cry from how they wound up at the end of the series. Hopefully we'll see more focus on the characters in the next three films, but that's going to be a long time coming unfortunately.
Evangelion 1.11: You are (Not) Alone is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. Having watched both the Blu-ray and DVD versions, I can honestly say that the Blu-ray picture is much sharper and more refined, but the DVD is nothing to scoff at. This is a gorgeous film from top to bottom. The color palette is bright, the image is sharp, and all around there's very little grain and virtually no compression. The sound package is awesome as well with English and Japanese 5.1 tracks that truly pack a punch. The sound-field is diverse, rich, and the film truly packs a punch at some points.

Some trailers for other FUNimation titles are included here, as are some previews, trailer spots for the film, and a promotional music video. "Rebuild of Evangelion: 1.01" stands out as something that might have held a lot of promise. I mean, it hints at being a behind the scenes making of feature, right? In some sense it kind of is with two different versions of the changes made from the show to the film, but in all fairness neither is extensive or informational enough to be very interesting.

From top to bottom Evangelion 1.11 is an incredible release. Whether or not you've seen the original is irrelevant. GO BUY THIS NOW! I can't stress how truly awesome the film is and how great it looks (though the Blu-ray is better). You are (Not) Alone is absolutely a title I unequivocally recommend whole-heartedly.

Maki Rating:

Review material provided by FUNimation.

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