Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone

Evangelion 1.0

KlockWorx & Khara; Hideaki Anno, Masayuki, Kazuya Tsurumaki; based on the original GIANAX series.

Due to the pre-existing nature of the film’s source material, this is both a review of the film and a comparative essay of the film and the television series it was based upon. The two have been separated into a spoiler-free review and an in-depth look into the two different incarnations of the story. This lets the people who want to avoid spoilers from reading any, which I hate as well simply because spoilers tend to confuse me when mentioned outside of the context of the film.

Review
The film kicks off by throwing the audience into the thick of a bizarre, sci-fi battle. Giant alien monsters, called Angels, attack a city called Tokyo-3 (we’re not entirely sure yet what happened to the first two Tokyo cities), and giant synthetic humanoid units called Evangelion are deployed by an organization called NERV to combat them. Shinji, a timid 14-year-old boy, is called upon by his father for the first time in years to assist in combat against the Angels.

Being a remake, not much changes are to be expected at first. (More on that in the comparative essay below.) The film covers the events of the first 6 episodes of the 1995 TV series. The steps taken to introduce 14-year-old Shinji Ikari as the one to pilot the Evangelion Unit 01 to battle the Angels is, shot-for-shot, almost exactly the same as the TV series.

Shinji Ikari (voiced by Megumi Ogata) is introduced to the giant synthetic humanoid Evangelion Unit 01.

Although one of the most notable changes made at first is the increased budget and the use of computer graphic effects mingled with cleaner, more precise cel animation. The new visuals are astounding. And the visual metaphors that seem to be introduced through its religious iconography take a sturdier foothold than they did in the series.

The film doesn’t come without its hick-ups, though. Trying to condense 132 minutes of story into a 100-minute movie while ironing out the pacing to fit the flow required for a feature film (making sure nothing feels episodic throughout the film in nature) is a huge undertaking by any filmmaker. The beginning of Act 2 seems to rapid-fire characters and subplots at the viewer. Some of the supporting cast step into the film only long enough to hit the main plot points and then immediately step off the screen. But seeing as how the underlying story focus has been narrowed for the sake of a feature film, this change becomes acceptable, even though it still makes the pacing of the film feel rather rushed. Some of the animation also takes a nose-dive mid-way through the film as the Angel battles simply become 3-D computer animated movements based on the already stiff cel animation from the original television series.

Though toward the second half of Act 2, both the pacing issues and the animation of the film seems to iron out, and director Hideaki Anno ends the arc of his first film of the saga by completely visually rethinking one of the more boring Angels from the TV series, and turning it into one of the more visually astounding climaxes in animation history. It’s one of the few times where, even if you’ve seen the original series, the pacing and editing of the final battle is so well done you’re still taken by surprise by the things you already saw in the original series. And the main characters are still given enough fidelity and development to share the same detailed characteristics of the characters’ muddled past and dangerous circumstances to still portray an honest representation of the emotions represented in the film.

In the end, the New Theatrical Evangelion Tetralogy shows signs of becoming a character analysis that tries to hold a mirror to teens and preteens in the guise of pure escapism. There are elements to it that will blow the socks off of its target audience, and other elements that will make them think about themselves and their friends. And with Anno promising new deviations of the original TV series leading to a completely new ending, it should be interesting to see where this fresh take at the characters goes as the saga continues.

Misato Katsuragi (voiced by Kotono Mitsuishi, left) and Ritsuko Akagi (Yuriko Yamaguchi, right) discuss Shinji’s many troubles.

Comparative Essay [Spoilers!]
Most of the time when television anime is put into feature-length film in this manner, the film becomes littered with pacing issues. The viewer can tell where one episode ends and another begins, making the plot is full of several different goals that seem very episodic in nature in a way that feels very unnatural in film. Evangelion 1.11 avoids most of common issues by taking the different plot arcs and separating them into four separate films. This makes the transitions from one episode to the next a little more streamlined and allows the directors and writer to really focus on one connecting plot through a series of episodes without altering the main arc of the series in a way that looses a lot of important stories and character development. (In this case the plot revolves around Shinji defeating the Angels while the stories involve Shinji’s interaction with the supporting cast, mainly Misato, Gendo, and Rei.)

In a lot of regards, these two pieces are shot-by-shot identical to each other. The animation has simply been re-drawn (maybe even traced) and digitally re-colored. There are some slight changes in animation earlier on, and most of them have to do with budgetary reasons.

Slight changes are made in the animation when translating Neon Genesis Evangelion into the Evangelion 1.11 remake when the budget would allow for more dynamic movements, as shown here when Evangelion Unit 01 restores her own arm.

The story isn’t altered that much within the plot, with the exception of a noticeable lack of time spent with the supporting characters Toji and Kensuke, which were better developed in the original television series. But seeing as how the main focus of the story is Shinji’s interactions with Misato, Gendo, and Rei, the lack of focus on Toji and Kensuke become acceptable.

Some additional props are given to the characters, slightly changing the mood of the picture.

The film makes some interesting changes in blocking, which can suggest a slightly different take on a character by giving the character personality traits that are arguably not in the original television series. A decision for a simple change in blocking changed the mood and personality of the main character Shinji Ikari. In the original series, Shinji is being reprimanded by Misato about the handling of an Evangelion battle. By giving Shinji a drink in the remake, the character appears to the viewer to have slightly more attitude than what was portrayed in the original television series. This is a slight difference in the character, which was portrayed as more nervous in previous incarnations of this scene.

Exposition is handled slightly differently, even to the point of the main character, Shinji Ikari, know about things that is never revealed to him in the original Neon Genesis Evangelion television anime series. Misato even shows the Lilith being right before the battle with Ramiel. In the original Evangelion series, Shinji isn’t introduced to Lilith until the final film, and only until after Lilith took on the figure of Rei, Yui, and Kaworu. No explanation or exposition of the being was ever given to him. So when the film not only shows Lilith, but also explains the being’s origins, much is changed in the main character’s perspective of the world around him, and his reason for protecting Lilith from the Angels searching for her. Also, Kaworu is introduced in the film’s final scene. Remember that this movie only covers the time spent in the first 6 episodes of the TV show. The addition of Kaworu in the cast was not seen in the original series until episode 24, during the final phase in the plot and story arc of the series.

The accompanying music for the remake film is certainly much better than it was if the original television series. Though the basic themes and the same, and it’s throw-back sounds to 70’s animation scores are found to be annoying by some, the budget allowed for variations of those themes to be written that were more fitting to the scene the music was to accompany. In television, usually the budget only allows the music composer to write a limited number of musical tracks that are then repeated throughout the series, whether or not the music fits exactly with the scene on-screen. The changes in the film allow for the music to breath a little more, giving composer Sagisu Shiro the freedom to let the music better explore the emotions presented in the scene. It’s still not the best musical score ever written and not half as well written as Shiro’s composition for The End of Evangelion, the feature-length film that closed out the original Evangelion series, but it’s still a noteworthy improvement to the TV budget used for most music written for the original television series. (Of course, not counting the classical music that accompanied parts of the series.)

There are some cinematic changes to the film; changes that I can only call improvements. To fully realize any of the changes of the cinematography, one should really watch Love & Pop, a live-action film directed by the heavily animation oriented Evangelion director, Hideaki Anno. Since Anno’s animation work throughout the 80s and 90s, Anno had to deal with the usual limited camera movement presented in hand-painted cel animation. His first live-action film, Love & Pop, was shot entirely with a small hand-held camera that allowed his to place the camera anywhere he could fit it. The only limitation was the camera’s size. This resulted in shots placed inside soup bowls, microwaves, cups of water, you name it; if the camera could fit there, it was placed there. Because of the advancements in 3-D computer technology, Anno was again presented with the opportunity to place the camera wherever he wanted. This resulted in the camera sliding around the ground looking up at giant towers to suggest both the scope of the situation and the directional flow of electricity needed to have a winning chance in the final Angel battle.

His gained experience in shot choices also resulted in slightly more subtle approaches to displaying the power and authority any one character had in the film. Out of all of the advancements in the technology, this is my absolute favorite shot in the remake film:

This shot does two things.

One: It compresses the space by replicating a telephoto lens (which is easier to replicate in animation within a 3-D enhanced environment). By doing so, the size of the vehicles transporting equipment needed for a battle suggests the massive and overwhelming scale of the battle that is being prepared.

Two: It shows the authority that the character on the left (Misato) has in this overwhelming situation as she stops one of the massive vehicles to allow her and her colleague (Ritsuko) to pass through. It also frames the characters to face from right to left, which is the direction the written Japanese language is read. The cinematic technique of framing things in the direction in which the culture reads was used by Alfred Hitchcock to portray a sense of ease or strength in the character’s situation. Having the characters face the opposite direction in which the culture reads suggests more hardships for the character. Director Hideaki Anno seems to have mirrored Hitchcock’s technique in this shot for Evangelion 1.11, as Misato’s direction suggests her sense of ease toward the monumental situation.

That isn’t to say that the computer animation was constantly amazing throughout the film, or that it uses computer animation all of the time in a film that is heavily cel animated. The film also handles the Angel battles through various technical methods. The first Angel battle with Sachiel is shot-by-shot a re-tracing of the hand-drawn cel animation with the digital coloring and slight alteration of the animation when the budget would deem a cooler approach to the shot.

The second battle with the Angel Shamshel in the movie uses a combination of cel animation and 3-D computer animation, which really doesn’t benefit the movie in the slightest. The computer animation for the Angel was stiff and does not utilize the technology as much as it probably should have.

The original series (left) has the Angel animated in hand-drawn cel animation. In the theatrical release of Evangelion 1.01 (center), a computer model is made and simply mimics the movements almost exactly. The final cut of the movie, Evangelion 1.11 (right) widens the framing and aspect ratio, alters the lighting, and even includes the addition of a halo above the Angel's head.

Stiff animation in a mid-90’s Japanese television show is understandable due to the time and financial restraints involved in creating episodes by a once-a-week schedule. But with the time and budget allotted for a feature-length movie, one would expect more than just  re-tracing of the Angels stiff movements using 3-D computer technology.

But the animation for the film’s final battle with the Angel Ramiel atones for all of that. The director really explored the 3-D computer technology to bring about the fullest realization of the Angel possible, causing the Angel to morph in shape and size to create a very mysterious form that audiences would struggle to understand the sheer physics of such a creature.

Much is changed about the Angel Ramiel. The Angel morphs from its original diamond-shaped design to a myriad of other shapes and sizes. Most of the Angel’s biology remain a mystery.

The editing of the new film isn’t that much different to the editing in the original television series in either technique or pacing. Though anyone who was paying attention would have noticed this shot from the television series was cut out of the final edit of the remake:

An Angel splits open a missile with its bare hands right before it explodes in the original Neon Genesis Evangelion TV series.

…but it’s not a huge loss.

Ultimately when the two are compared it is revealed that the first remake movie simply played it safe, not within terms of conceptual and narrative boundaries, but within terms of past experience. Because the first six episodes of the television of the series were of good quality, it stands to reason that the movie that remakes those first six episodes almost exactly would also be of good quality. And Evangelion 1.11 is of good quality, but only by that default set by the original Evangelion television series. Now this is to be expected since it is technically a remake of a TV series, but the title does make one expect an entirely new concept of some sort to present itself in the film. Though the movie does change slight elements to it’s story that promises more even changes to it’s following sequel movies. And the preview for the next movie alone suggest changes that aren’t even suggest by the slight changes of story presented in the first film. So there is hope to those of us who expected a new movie from a new movie, rather than a new technical look at an old series.

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About Stefan D. Byerley
Stefan D. Byerley is an independent filmmaker and freelance visual artist currently residing in North Carolina. He likes detailed storytelling, intriguing imagery, massive bloody violence, crying at the movies, and long walks in the park during the Autumn season.

3 Responses to Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone

  1. nick says:

    Good review! I look forward to your EVG 2.22 review, if you plan on doing one that is.

    • Stefan D. Byerley says:

      Thanks, Nick! I plan on reviewing 2.0 as soon as it hits theaters, as well as doing a comparative essay between the movie in the original TV show. The comparative essay may have to wait for the 2.22 DVD or Blu-Ray release, so I can get images my own to support the essay.

      • nick says:

        Cool! I love reading about the new 3D technologies that are being used in the new NGE films. I liked Evangelion 2.0, it was visually stunning at many points. Pretty much each battle with angels had a lot of CG animation but in the end I was disappointed with the final battle. I think there was too much hand drawn animation going on for most part that wasn’t as spectacular nor it was very fluid at some points from what I remember. Battle against Sahaquiel on the other hand was jaw dropping. I hope I didn’t spoil anything. Happy new year btw =)

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