In order to talk about Evangelion: 1.01 You Are (Not) Alone it’s best to start with a bit of history. For Evangelion diehards I apologise for this brief interlude, but it’s important to know some history about the series.
The Neon Genesis Evangelion anime was originally released as a 26 episode TV series in 1995 on Japanese television, and subsequently made it to Western markets where it rightly found a large fanbase. Then in 1997 Gainax launched Death and Rebirth, a retelling of the series in a highly condensed movie form, followed by The End of Evangelion which gave an alternative ending, replacing episodes 25 and 26 of the original series.
If you’ve watched the original series and the two follow-up movies then you probably have your own opinion of how well they ended. I was left wanting something more, and a better end to a great anime. So when the announcement of four new Evangelion movies was made in 2006 it was an exciting time for Evangelion fans.
The four movies will retell the whole story of Evangelion, with the first three covering the TV series and the last movie being a brand new story conclusion. It gets a little more complicated than that though, as there are multiple versions of each movie. This review covers the first movie entitled Evangelion: 1.01 You Are (Not) Alone, but a 1.11 version also exists that is a re-transfer to fix some darkness issues with three minutes of additional footage in the first fifteen minutes. 1.11 is the version to pick up, and it is available on both Blu-ray and DVD in the UK.
Evangelion 1.01 is a retelling of the first six episodes from the original series condensed into less than two hours. The story is set on Earth fifteen years after the Second Impact. Creatures known as Angels keep appearing with their aim being to set off the Third Impact, thereby destroying mankind and all life on Earth. With military defenses having no effect on the Angels, an organisation called NERV has been created to defend humanity against them.
Our story starts as the fourth Angel has appeared in Tokyo-3, where NERV headquarters is located. In order to initiate Third Impact an Angel needs to reach Lilith, the second Angel to appear which was captured and held by NERV. To defend against the Angels, NERV has developed “Evangelion” units; these are piloted bio-mechanical suits capable of fighting an Angel at close quarters.
The central character in the story is a boy named Shinji whose father, Gendo, heads up NERV operations. He has a poor relationship with his father who asks him to come to NERV headquarters three years after they last met. Shinji arrives, but instantly regrets his decision as his first task is to pilot an Eva unit. At first he refuses, but upon seeing the poor health of the other Eva pilot, Rei, he changes his mind and steps up.
Shinji is a frail, unhappy boy, but surprises everyone with how well he synchronises with Evangelion Unit 01. Although he fails to battle the Angel himself, something happens during the battle to ensure victory which makes his father Gendo show a rare smile. The rest of the story in this first film covers Shinji’s continued reluctance to pilot the Eva, his developing relationship with those around him at NERV, and the continued feud with his father. Of particular note is Shinji’s interest in Rei who enjoys a much better relationship with Gendo than he does.
Evangelion is comprised of very strong characters and a compelling storyline. The arrival of each new Angel provides a new challenge for both NERV and Shinji, while at the same time slowly unfolds the background story of why the Angels are coming, and what NERV’s true goals are. That, coupled with the uncomfortable life we see Shinji leading, keeps you glued to the screen and wanting to know what happens next.
As for the quality of the DVD release, Gainax has done more than just retell the story. Time has clearly been spent enhancing the footage, improving the sound quality, and using new scenes that were originally left out of the final release. There’s also 3D CG used to enhance some sections during the Angel fights. If you consider that this is a series from 1995, the design of the characters – in particular the Angels – holds up very well.
Although it may sound like a lot has changed from the original, this first movie should be seen as an enhancement rather than a new take on the plot. This is a faithful remake of the episodes covered, and one I believe Evangelion fans will enjoy. The enhanced footage and story retelling flow along nicely and the 1 hour 38 minute running time flies by. I’d even go so far as to say that if you are introducing someone to Eva for the first time, get them to watch this movie before diving into the original series.
The ending certainly leaves you wanting more, and this could be the best retelling of the Evangelion series yet if the other three movies are completed to this standard.