Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. This is like the Bollywood review I also published tonight. Go ahead... tell me we don’t care about anime! Tell me again!
I’m well aware that sending a review of anything anime related to this site is going to be an uphill struggle. It won’t be long before someone below makes an comment concerning how the entire genre of anime “is crap” (just bringing that up ensures it) or how forty plus years of Japanese culture will “hopefully go away soon.” That is, of course, when the more rational talkbackers (all three of them) step in with a list of candidates that might just change some minds if anyone bothered to watch them – things like Escaflowne, Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo and of course... Evangelion. I could try and write this review of the first of the new Evangelion movies to appease both those who have never seen the series and those who have. However, I can only write from one standpoint – I’m far too familiar with the material to give any perspective on what it would be like without having first seen the TV. So that’s how I’ll handle it. Anyone interested in these movies who hasn’t seen the TV... has their starting point right there. Go do that. Love or hate the ending, anyway, there is no doubting the effect this 26 ep TV series, now over 10 years old, has had on anime since. Gainax, the studio responsible, know this all too well themselves – the initial poster for the new movies makes the bold statement “in the last 12 years there has been no anime as new as Evangelion was.” Debating that is a point for another time. The issue here is that they have decided to come back to the cash cow and turn out four new movies, to be released in three sittings. However, rather than take the recent Gundam Zeta route of mixing TV animation with new footage they have used the old storyboards to totally redraw everything digitally. As the films progress they will move further and further away from the original material, eventually culminating in an all new ending – one which we are assured everyone will be able to make sense of. This first movie takes the content of only the first 6 episodes of the TV series, dealing with the attacks of Angels 4, 5 and 6. It basically takes those battles with all the material around them condensed and smoothed together, then pumped up on steroids. The TV series looked fantastic 10 years ago, but as soon as the first frames hit the screen you know this is a movie. The background are either beautiful, detailed hand drawings or smoothly integrated CG. The movement is as fluid as you would expect from movie quality, and the characters all look pretty much identical to the TV series (something the trailers made me wonder about, and also something they totally didn’t bother with in Zeta.) Animation and visual wise, it was fantastic, with just the right balance between CG and hand-drawn material. Content starts of a little slower if you know the TV well, because it covers the same ground mainly with omissions rather than changes for the first half. A scattering of low level changes include the Eva’s arm no longer moving to protect Shinji from falling debris that now never falls; no mention of the Dead Sea Scrolls (thank god) but rather everything is running according to a schedule Seele has created; Gendo and Fuyutsuki manipulating Shinji into visiting Ayanami’s apartment rather than him simply dropping off homework, and all of the Eva’s weapons having been redesigned along with a different paint job for Unit 0. However, as things move into the Yashima operation the changes start to become bigger and more frequent. The 6th Angel looks the same initially but has undergone some big changes in appearance when it attacks, and the entire scene and how it plays it out is significantly beefed up from the end of another “Angel of the Week” TV show to something more fitting the climax of a movie. There are also two massive changes, both of which are huge spoilers and the most fun anyone who knows the series well will have with the movie, so I won’t detail them here. I will say that both simultaneously introduce elements that were kept hidden until much later in the series as well as greatly changing how these elements are going to work in the story. I’ve seen comments that people have been worried about “dumbing down,” but there isn’t too much of that. A few points, such as some details on the AT Field and how to destroy an Angel, are highlighted far more than they were in the TV. As I said above, mentions of Dead Sea Scrolls et al are all pretty much gone and even some Katakana terms like “First Children” are now absent, simply handled in Japanese, but that’s probably a change for the better. The scattering of random terminology that was then never really explained (especially religious stuff) is what helped to clutter up the end of Eva and make it all even more crazy. But the complexity has certainly not been stripped away – it just feels like it is leading somewhere this time. The preview at the end of the movie gave some hints as to where. At least one new Eva and one new character are both going to appear in the next movie, so it is moving even further off-book, and at this level of quality I personally can’t wait to see it. As a set up, the first of the movies has done a fantastic job. Ultimately, it is a retread but a fantastically enjoyable one, keeping all of the beats of the original material but overcoming the pitfalls of combining TV episodes together and bringing enough new stuff to the table to promise big, big things for the next two releases – especially the all new ending. The question with Zeta was “why not redraw it all?” and now they did that with Eva, the question is “why not draw something different?” – the first two battles play out exactly as you remember them, although they look a lot nicer – but then again, why try to fix something that most definitely wasn’t broken? Anyway, if you like Eva then I don’t have to tell you to see this, once you get a chance, but hopefully the above impressions will whet your appetite in the meantime! If you use this call me AndoSoundsLikeAMong.