Saturday, July 16, 2011

Review: Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone

Evangelion 1.11: You Can (Not) Advance is the first installment of a trilogy of feature film continuing/remaking (a little vague so far) the controversial Evangelion anime franchise for a new generation of sweaty otaku. It's been over a decade since Hideaki Anno concluded the original Neon Genesis Evangelion with the unforgettable magnum opus that was End of Evangelion, and basically went awol from the anime industry. Now he returns not only to his most famous creation, but to anime in general, with his fancy new Studio Khara as screenwriter and supervising director (the films are co-directed by Kazuya Tsurumaki, the assistant director of the original NGE series and director of FLCL). Surely we'll be seeing some amazing new twists on the classic... right?
Well, maybe in the second movie, but in this one, not so much. The film is basically a complete rehash of the first six episodes of NGE with a better budget, tighter pacing, and less music. The few changes made don't really make much sense on their own (Why are they calling the Adam creature Lilith already? In fact, what's it even doing here?) and make little difference. The good news is that 1.11 is just as good as the original episodes, and makes a very good introduction for new fans. However, for the crowd of diehard fans who have watched the original series multiple times and devote long, thoughtful essays to the topic (i.e. me), there isn't really that much to see.
TV Show
And yet, the movie deserves some credit where credit's due. Though most of the film looks pretty much the same as the show, there are several noticeable fixes and updates to the animation, and they are AWESOME. The highlight of these updates is the Cube Angel fight. From episode 6 ("Rei II"), the Cube Angel fight (anyone else notice that it's actually an octahedron?) is the climax of the series' opening arc, as Shinji does battle with a disturbingly logical (and geometric) angel in Unit 01, and becomes closer to Rei, who risks her life to save Shinji. Rei II remains one of my favorite episodes from the original series, but I was always a tad bothered by the Cube Angel (*cough-octahedron-cough*). I loved the idea of such a stoic nemesis, but the execution was disappointing, funny even! In 1.11, though, the Cube angel finally becomes truly menacing. The new computer animation gives the angel a more active appearance, morphing into various shapes (like the one above) while still retaining the stoic mood of the original. The intensity of the battle has also been considerably increased, creating a palpable mood of despair. To be frank, the cube angel is now not only an octahedron, but a badass octahedron.
Another high point of the film comes courtesy of the good folks at Funimation Entertainment, who have put together an excellent dub. Unlike the original dub, an unfortunately over-the-top mishmash of needless enthusiasm in an occasionally very subtle show, ADR Mike McFarland has put a lot of care and respect into capturing the mood of Evangelion. The better performances include Brina Palencia as Rei Ayanami, and someone's cameo as Kaoru in the final scene of the film. Whoever you are, I can't find your name on the ANN database, but YOU, sir, are a great Kaoru. The one flaw with the dub is recasting Spike Spencer as Shinji Ikari. It makes sense, as Spencer's work as Shinji in the first dub is fairly iconic, but the problem is he's getting a little old for the role. Now, perhaps you could say the same about Ogata Megumi, but she's the better VA, any way you slice it. You can hear how much Spencer strains to make that trademark whimper very clearly, and it kind of gets annoying after awhile. I think he would have been better off voicing Gendou Ikari, which would add to the implication that the two Ikaris aren't so different. If a redub of the original ever happens (not necessary here), I wouldn't mind seeing that.
So in the end, we have an okay film kicking off the remake of one of the best anime of all time. Having seen the second installment, I can say the Rebuild does add some new texture to the Evangelion story, but don't expect it in this one. As disappointing as the film is, it makes a great introduction to the new viewers who don't necessarily want to watch 26 episodes and an hour and a half long film to "get" the new version, will be enjoyed by old fans who like to babble minutiae details of how that lines were a bit thicker and the shading was different in the original. Second time's the charm, though. Seriously.

No comments:

Post a Comment