Sunday, May 12, 2013

Anime Review No. 56-Evangelion Rebuild 1.11 and 2.22

Evangelion Rebuild film series (2007, 2009) from a fan's perspective
Well, coming full circle once again. Evangelion is the anime that got me initially hooked. I remember when back around 2003-04, as I was entering high school, I first came across this title. Back in the day, there was a Blockbuster video store down the way from my house. As I was strolling through the shelves once, when I saw something that caught my eye. It was two VHS tapes with the title 'Neon Genesis Evangelion. Intrigued, I rented them and watched them, and it was wonderful. Granted, it was only first four episodes, but it got me interested. I ended up collecting most of the DVDs, later owning the Platinum collection and the End of Eva movie for some time.
Evangelion, it has to be said, is one of the most talked about and analyzed pieces of Japanese animation. Put Evangelion analysis into Google and you'll see. Whether or not you like Evangelion, that is something to be recognized. It broke ground in the mecha genre when it first came out in 1995 and even today the anime landscape has been influenced tremendously by it. My opinion of Evangelion is that despite its flaws (which it does have), it is a very good anime series.
But then, talk of a 'Rebuild film series' surfaced around the time I went to college. At first, I was like 'huh?' and 'why?' and 'whats the point?'.. But then, at Anime Weekend event hosted by the anime club at the college I went to, they were showing Evangelion 1.11 film. It was pretty good. Two years later, I saw the second Rebuild film, which is a masterpiece as I will mention later. Recently, I obtained both films from MovieStop at a substantial bargain. Now, onto the films.
Eva 1.11 aka You are (Not) Alone
This is a decent anime film. In terms of story it is basically a showcase of the first five episodes of the TV series rolled into a movie. Or moreover, it's like a highlight reel of the series' start and doesn't really do much beyond that. It does have brilliant animation-nice blend of CGI and digital cel don't get me wrong. But that's hardly praise when most of the movie consists of scenes that beat for beat just like the original series. Of course, this will be evident to only the most astute viewers or fans of the original series.
However, there are great things about this film. For one, Hideaki Anno (director/writer for both the films and the original TV series) seems to learned a bit from the original series as some of its flaws (characters and story) has greatly improved. He has definitely written the characters (especially Shinji) to where they are more relatable. Second, the English dub. This being Funimation, one expect a very good job and they certainly pull this off. Kudos for getting Allison Keith and Spike Spencer back for the dub as Misato and Shinji probably wouldn't have been done justice with a different voice actor. And really, it just go to show how better those two in particular are in comparison to the english dub for the original series, which let's be fair, is a bit rough around the edges.
Overall, a good film. If a newbie to anime wants to know more on Eva, this is a suitable starting point.

Eva 2.22 aka You Can (Not) Advance (and spoiler alert)
The second movie, on the other hand, is far more interesting hence why I shall talk more about it than the first film. The opening sequence with Mari is bloody fantastic and really hooks one into the movie. It also let me know that this is miles above a mere remake of the original series.
This attitude continues with the intro to Asuka and Unit 02: vastly different from the series, but still awesome, using the same music from her introductory episode of the TV series. Now, as for Asuka Langely Shikinami: while toned down in bitchiness for sure, she is still cocky and confident. She also got that still lingering hidden sadness and psychological issues-though not rammed into the viewers' face. Another point is I like how Tiffany Grant returns for the dub. She does a pretty good job, in comparison to TV series dub. Asuka is a tad abrasive towards Rei and Shinji at first.
There is also the lingering mystery of Gendo. Is he doing some kind of Instrumentality project? I don't know, any scenes with him involve being cryptic and mysterious. And what's with the random one-off shots of Kaoru? Once again, I am not sure. There is some more hinting at Rei's true nature and intro to SEELE.
Another aspect of note is the oblique reflection of 'Kare Kano'. Several music bits are recycled from Kare Kano (anime series by Gainax back in 1998-99 and previously reviewed on this blog). I have been wrapping my head around for some time. The best I can come up with is that its Anno looking back obliquely at the previous series he did, before he left Gainax and pursue other projects.
That's not to say that it's all serious business. Comedy/light-hearted moments are plenty in this movie: Shinji and Asuka's home life with Misato, school life scenes, the visit to the 'Aquarium' where even the downtime shows character development, and the night after the team fight against the Angel: intimate moment between Asuka and Shinji.
That's not to discount the Angel Fights: very well good, kinetic without cutting too many corners. The Angels are a visual treat, more so than the first film (otherworldly CGI is the way to go). In other words, showing how with the advancement of technology the animation staff and Anno are basically amounting to saying 'Oh look at what we can do now!". The second Angel they fight in the movie (the one that falls down on top of them) shows the group dynamic very well (Rei, Shinji, Asuka).
In addition, Shinji and Kaji's relationship is allowed to develop more so then in the series, like the scene at the aquarium or the watermelon field scene. It's all very good stuff. I really like the Second Impact flashback-visually stunning and captivating and good utilization of the visual medium.
Mari's entrance into the narrative proper, well that's quite surprising-this one scene establishes her character-outgoing and a bit quirky (She likes the smell of LCL?! What?! Explain, movie). Still, it's good to see if this character pays off. We'll see.
The third act aka Rei's Dinner Plans, where the plot begins to deviate wildly from the source material, but for the better. Well, it turns out that there is an Experimental Unit 04. Events in this segment seem to be akin to the 'Calm before the Storm'.
For example, Eva Unit 02 gets grounded and Asuka is not pleased. This leads to the Elevator scene, which is improved vastly from the original 'moment of silence'. There exists actual dialogue and character interaction between Asuka and Rei as they spell out clearly what they are about. IT makes me wish that the TV series had more scenes like this, as it would have bolstered that up a bit.

There is also the Dummy Plug System, which is explained briefly so my thinking is how long 'til someone gets hurt?
What color me surprised Asuka will go in for the experimental test for Unit 03. Though, this makes more sense than in the TV series. There, Touji (Shinji's classmate) ends up the pilot as some feeble attempt for pathos and it fails. This is due to Touji being a side character, so who gives a crap? At least with Asuka it leads to me giving some concern towards what is happening. Asuka's phone call to Misato is a very great moment for Asuka's character development. I have to ask: Why didn't the series have more of this?
Experiment goes awry, as expected. Unit 03 turns into an angel and goes on a rampage. With Asuka in there, the moral dilemma Shinji has is more real and believable. He's hesitant sure, but given the time he has had with Asuka its understandable. It also really shows how much of an emotionally distant authority Gendo is, but again this has been obvious from the first film, so moving on. Finally, with Asuka in the corrupted Eva, it makes Shinji's brief post-battle rebellion much more credible.
Dummy Plug Unit 01 ripping to shreds the Angel-controlled Unit 03 is just a sight to behold. Disconcerting music playing over it, with sweet song over a scene that is still brutally violent, just makes it a terrifying beauty to be seen.

Another aspect of note: The psychoanalytic scenes are short and to the point, not redundant and overbearing like in series In addition, actions have consequences: Asuka is recovered but quaratined , Shinji is told to leave for good and Rei is the last usable pilot. Oh dear...
The Tenth Angel forms the tremendous finale to this movie. It is a very tense and harrowing situation. Mari's first sortee mostly involves to keep on whaling on the Angel with little to no effect. She activates the Beast mode which can summed up as: wow, just wow. Dayumm... Turns out, it is Mari's the one who gets Shinji to man up a bit and get involved by getting him to come back. Once Shijni see the destruction unfolding before him, he realizes that he can't run away. He goes to fight and nearly fail when Eva Unit 01 goes berserk which is another fantastic moment in this movie. It then enhances the scene further by having him save Rei from the Angel itself, now that was a very powerful moment as well.
Third Impact begins.... Ok, ending on a cliffhanger, it seems. Well, alright then. I shall eagerly what happens with the third movie, Evangelion 3.33 or Eva Q,
Still the two Eva Rebuild films are released to the USA by Funimation and I highly recommend them to any fan of the original series or newbies who want to see what all hub-bub is about.

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