Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone is a “rebuild” of the first episodes of classic 90′s anime television series Neon Genesis Evangelion which is often celebrated as one of the greatest science fiction anime series of all time. Having an interest in anime I was obviously eager to check this much praised series out however it seems that, in England at least, DVD copies of the original series are suprisingly hard to come by, so I opted to instead try the Blu-Ray release of Evangelion 1.11, a movie version of the series’ origin. This release is allegedly not a direct remake however, making some departures from the plot of the original series, however from fan reports You Are (Not) Alone sticks fairly closely to the plot of the original, with major changes coming in in the second part 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance.
The story concerns a 14 year old boy named Shinji living in the futuristic city of Tokyo-3. In this dystopian future the human race is under a constant attack from celestial beings known only as “Angels” who intend to wipe the human race from the face of the Earth. Humanity’s only hope of salvation from these collosal monsters lies in the hands of gigantic humanoid robots known as Evangelion. Shy and insecure Shinji is asked to pilot one of the Evas by his estranged father as for an as of yet unexplained reason, the Evas can only be piloted by children. Shinji begrudgingly agrees and joins the fight for Earth with the defense unit NERV. Another child pilot is introduced named Rei, a girl who is even more introverted than Shinji, rarely communicating with anyone but Shinji’s father who shows her more affection than he does his own son.
The set up for the film is very vague and leaves many questions that the viewer hopes will be answered; why can only children pilot the Evas? Where do the Angels come from? What is the human instrumentation project Shinji’s father talks about? While these questions linger they also keep the viewer hooked, hints of the bigger picture are dropped in here and there to wet the viewer’s appetite for what plot revelations are to come. The character’s are the main focus of the plot at this point and the characters set up in this film are likeable and interesting. Shinji may come across to some as whiny however the film does a good job of illustrating how heavy the burden of being a pilot bears on Shinji. Rei is emotionally distant yet interaction with Shinji begins to inspire subtle changes within her as she slowly realises that he is strikingly similar to her and that she is indeed not alone. While this relationship is built on further in the second film, we can see an unspoken emotional bond begin to form between Rei and Shinji in this film. While the plot is heavy and often very bleak there are enough tension breaking moments of comic relief that it does not become to depressing. Misato and her pet penguin Pen-Pen create a sense of home for Shinji and her bright outlook on life provides a nice contrast to the other serious characters. There are some smatterings of fanservice here and there that may make more mature veiwers groan but this is easily overlooked.
Regardless of how you feel about the story, one thing cannot be denied the animation in this film is simply gorgeous. The animation is fluid and intricately detailed, especially noticeable when viewed on Blu-Ray disc. The colours are vibrantly bright and the characters are animated with an energetic sense of fun. The Evas and Angels are a mixture of hand drawn animation and CGI which are blended together very well and is not jarring at all. The Evas are not your standard giant anime mechs, they are not hard edged and technological, but rather possess a unique organic quality, moving almost like enormous giants rather then robots, this allows the Evas to convey with fantastic detail the emotions of the pilot. When Eva-01 tears apart an angel’s torso and begins to stab it’s core the effect is raw and visceral, the mechs even bleed and have humanoid joints that can and are broken. As such the combat is not detached Transformers style, the viewer can connect and feel each attack with shocking impact. This makes each fight scene brilliantly exciting, this is too helped by the soaring orchestral score which builds tension with the ominous semi-religious choir.
The biblical references in Evangelion are many and blatant Shinji’s father comments that the Angels are humanity’s punishment for “eating from the fruit of knowledge”, every time an angel is killed they explode blood in the shape of a crucifix, hell the gigantic celestial being known as Lileth introduced in the third act of the film is even straight up described as a God. Almost every scene in the film contains some kind of religious reference if you look closely enough. What point, if any Evangelion is making about religion at this time remains a mystery to me but it’s my hope that this will be expanded upon in coming entries to the series. There are at the moment two Evangelion Rebuild films released and another two set for release that will conclude this iteration of the Evangelion saga.
As a newcomer to this franchise I found Evangelion 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone a great introduction to the mythology. While some of the many unique concepts introduced are difficult to get your head around at first, like most animes of this genre the more you watch the more you will understand the world and the more hooked you will become. I would sincerely recommend this film to any casual or hardcore anime fan who wishes to find out what all the fuss about Evangelion is about. If you are anything like me you will be watching this series intently to find out what direction this action packed and emotionally engaging anime will take in the future.