When Neon Genesis Evangelion was first released in the mid-90s, it rapidly gained international popularity and became quite a phenomenon. Viewers were generally really impressed by the majority of the anime, so much so that they were able to forgive the very messy ending. Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone is the first of four movies which together will form a new theatrical edition of the classic anime. Enhanced with never before seen footages and plenty of visual and audio improvements, You Are (Not) Alone has a lot of expectations to live up to, and pleasingly, it does not disappoint.
The movie is like a compact version of the first six episodes of the original anime series. It begins with the attack by the 4th Angel, a mysterious life form with the ability to restore itself and the primary aim of destroying humans, on the city of New Tokyo-3. In the fight against these menacing creatures, humans have developed Evangelions, which are humanoid weapons. Shinji Ikari is recruited to the headquarters of NERV, the leading command centre in the fight against the Angels. Soon after his arrival, he is given the important task of piloting an Evangelion, the Eva Unit-01. As Shinji becomes a reluctant hero responsible for ensuring the survival of all humans, it appears that this is all part of something known as ‘The Human Instrumentality Project’ and his destiny has already been pre-determined…
The main character of Shinji is an unhappy and lonely teenager. Abandoned by his father when he was young, this miserable character is constantly troubled by the belief that he is unwanted and as a result often questions the meaning of being alive. Even after the reunion with his father at the NERV headquarters, Shinji’s father remains cold, distant and disinterested in his wellbeing. The movie’s length does not allow Shinji’s character to be fully portrayed, and it may be hard for audience new to the anime to develop much sympathy towards him. They should nevertheless find the complex relationship between Shinji and fellow Eva pilot Rei rather intriguing.
The fact that the fate of the human world is in the hands of such a young, inexperienced and reluctant character helps create a sense of doom. To the audience, the insight that the Eva Units are not perfect and may go berserk at unexpected times, together with the knowledge that the next Angel will be more powerful than the previous one, help to create the feeling of chaos and great tension. The movie moves forward at a breakneck pace, and before you know it, the words ‘to be continued…’ appear on screen, and you realise that the thrill ride has just ended.
The version that I have seen and based my review on is the special re-released home version known as ‘1.11’ on Blu-ray. While the creative team has remained loyal to the original anime’s character and robot designs, I do not recall the anime ever looking this good before. The CGI-enhanced visuals make this one gorgeous-looking show. The animators have really done a fantastic job with the colour palette. The action scenes and set pieces are stunning in both quality and enjoyment factor. The music is also incredibly good and the sound quality really impresses on Blu-ray.
There has always been something irresistible about Neon Genesis Evangelion, which I find hard to pinpoint. Somehow, the angst-filled story, depressing mood, beautifully drawn giant robots, spectacular action scenes and philosophy about existence all combine perfectly to become something much greater than the sum of its parts. Neon Genesis Evangelion: You Are (Not) Alone succeeds gloriously in rebooting the franchise. It is exhilarating and enormously enjoyable. As the first movie in the planned series of four, it raises many questions and leaves viewers wanting so much more. To all fans of the original Evangelion, of mecha anime or of sci-fi animation in general, this is not just compelling, but compulsory, viewing. And the promise from the creators that there will be an all-new ending, one that will hopefully live up to all expectations, should give every fan of the show something to be excited about.