I fall in and out of love with anime. Now, it’s more like that friend you see every now and then. You enjoy their visits, and you love spending time with them, but too much of them drives you insane. On a whim, I decided to revisit the first film in the Rebuild of Evangelion series. A planned set of four films, that reimagined the plot of the 1995 series and follow up films. Telling the story, the director claims he originally intended.
The series has become a cult classic, along with titles such as Akira, Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell, and Serial Experiments Lain. Prompting discussion of the films themes of depression, the religious allegories, and the overall meaning of the series ending. While there is a lot of debate as to whether the show deserves the praise, it’s more than fascinating to go through first hand and join the debate. The show provides countless topics of discussion, as well as examples of storytelling, as well as the story of the shows production.
Fans of the series, upon hearing of the Rebirth films, were delighted to get both another piece of the puzzle, and a fresh look at the overall story. Currently, three of the proposed four films have been released, with the fourth delayed while the director finishes other projects. The new films provided the director, Hideaki Anno, with a fresh palette to start over. Reintroduce the main characters, and define them from the start, before moving to the existential nightmares that await them in later films. The first film, Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone, essentially retells the events of the first 5 episodes. Going from Shinji first arriving in Tokyo-3, reuniting with his estranged and cold father, meeting the other members of the organisation Nerve, piloting the EVA Unit 01, and defending the world and the city of Tokyo-3 from the 3rd, 4th and 5th Angels.
While the opening five episodes work well as a self-contained arc, and an opening to the new films. When re-watching Evangelion 1.11, I couldn’t help but feel that the lack of time the film has compared to five 20-minute episodes, gives less weight to the films events. While some scenes, such as Shinji walking in on Rei are still handled strongly, with the appropriate amount of pacing given to allow the full impact of the scene. As well as the film’s climax, and the beautiful final conversation between Rei and Shinji. I can’t deny that I tear up with the line “Why don’t you just try smiling?”. However, it’s the small scenes in the original show that made the characters, and gave weight to their choices. The relationship between Shinji, Toji and Kensuke, seems generic and rushed in the film compared to series. The iconic scene of Shinji being taken away, and running back and screaming at Toji that he doesn’t blame him for hating him. That he deserved to be hit, that he feels like a coward, a wimp, sneaky, and dishonest. That moment of weakness is a defining point in their relationship, as well as the moment between Misato and Shinji at the station, when Shinji makes the active choice to stay. Aside from Shinji’s night walking the street, none of these moments are included in the film. Their lack of inclusion leads the audience to question why Shinji just doesn’t leave if he hates the situation so much. That scene of his declaration, and decision to not get on the train is his defining moment in what mater to him, and what he is willing to lay his life down for.
While the first Rebuild film is fine overall, with stunning visuals, and the return of many of the original voice actors, both Japanese and American. As a starting point for the new films, it does what it needs to, as well as introduce a few new elements early, such as Lilith’s location. But compared to those original five episodes, it lacks heart.