Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995) IMDb

Creators

Anno Hideaki (director).

Extent

Review refers to the Renewal/Platinum DVD versions with integrated additions from the feature film Death.

Categorization

SF action, drama, horror. Anno’s magnum opus.

Subject

Bestial mecha with disturbed child pilots protect something from surreal and mysterious creatures in near-future Japan, rebuilt following a prelude to the apocalypse.

Commentary

“Was it not so, O Morquan! King of Japan, whose lofty jet they say at times assumed the semblance of a snow-white cross against the sky?” – Moby-Dick (1851).

Original, jagged and mesmerizing, Neon Genesis Evangelion didn’t spring from a vacuum. Like Space Runaway Ideon (1980), the giant mecha of Evangelion fuse Mobile Suit Gundam (1979) with its superheroic predecessors, as remade in “Giant Robo: The Animation” (1991). Ikari Shinji is a lot less gung-ho and less generic than Ideon’s Cosmo, a lot more like the directors of both shows: One of many wonderfully strong characters here.

The Judaeo-Christian emblems are present in Mobile Police Patlabor: The Movie (1989) and Anno’s own Nadia (1990), but as heavy-handed exoticism. Evangelion’s apocalypticism is more genuine. It reminds me of the primal and obsessive angst of the early Christians, of Revelations: It is the intrinsic cataclysm of The Quiet Earth (1985) and the extrinsic, equally permeating cataclysm of Godzilla (1954) and other nuclear cinema. Much of the soundtrack exists in Nadia, in embryonic form.

NGE changed the industry and raised awareness of animation among Japanese intellectuals. The manga adaptation by character designer Sadamoto started a few months earlier and has some advantages.

References here: Revolutionary Girl Utena (1997), Love & Pop (1998), Gasaraki (1998), Mahoromatic: Automatic Maiden (2001), RahXephon (2002), One Hour Photo (2002), Kiddy Grade (2002), Gunparade March (2003), Shadow Star Narutaru (2003), Fafner (2004), Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011), Pacific Rim (2013), “Me! Me! Me!” (2014).

Gainax Japanese production animation fiction mecha moving picture series

Remake:

The End of Evangelion (1997) IMDb

Creators

Anno Hideaki (director).

Categorization

Theatrical feature animation, with moments of other media. It’s not a complete remake: This film is both Rebirth and the sequel to Rebirth, forming an alternative plotline with regard to the last two episodes of the TV series. Exotic interpretations that reconcile the two endings have been proposed. The film incorporates elements of live action, including pictures of real death threats to Anno.

Subject

Based on the original scripts for the end of the TV series, executed with a full cinematic budget.

Commentary

Genius. The title The End of Evangelion is an invention for the foreign market, just as Neon Genesis Evangelion itself is a studio-mandated corruption of the original title, Shin Seiki Evangerion (Evangelium of the New Century). The replacement of Shito (messenger/apostle, sounding very similar to hito, person) with “Angel” for foreign release was also mandated by Gainax.

References here: Death & Rebirth (1997).

Gainax Japanese production animation fiction moving picture

Compilation:

Death & Rebirth (1997) IMDb

Creators

Anno Hideaki (director), Tzurumaki Kazuya (director).

Categorization

Animated feature film released to theatres after the controversial ending of the original series. The first half, named Death, is a summary of the TV series (episodes 1-24) with some additional footage, directed by “Masayuki”. The second half, Rebirth, is itself only the first half of an alternate ending, directed by Tsurumaki.

Subject

This added the catastrophic birth of the Giant of Light, among other things.

Commentary

Death is artful, but incoherent. It’s just a refresher, inadequate as a summary for those who never saw the original series. This film is therefore obsolete. The only significant footage that hasn’t been recycled is of preparations for a recital, which does not fit into the canonical plot anywhere. The additions to the main plot have been worked into Renewal and The End of Evangelion (1997), while the purpose of a summary faster than the TV series is served by the first installments of Rebuild.

Gainax Japanese production animation fiction moving picture

Remake:

Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone (2007) IMDb

Creators

Anno Hideaki (supervising director).

Extent

Seen in 2013.

Categorization

First in a series of four feature films, named Rebuild of Evangelion, telling an increasingly original version of the entire story. Produced at a new studio, Khara, but again directed by Anno Hideaki. A little more visceral SF. Corresponds to episodes 1-6.

Subject

Quite compressed, but all of the Angel fights are included. Of the various changes, the largest is Misato showing Shinji what he is fighting for by revealing Terminal Dogma and Lilith.

Commentary

The great visual beauty of Diebuster (2004) added to an intelligently polished narrative. My only complaint is that the Fourth Angel, and improbable civilian involvement in that fight, should have gotten a more substantial revision, akin to the now brilliantly impressive Sixth Angel. Silly CG kaijuu ribs don’t cut it.

Japanese production animation fiction moving picture

Sequel:

Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance (2009) IMDb

Creators

Anno Hideaki (supervising director).

Extent

Seen in 2013.

Categorization

Veering toward action blockbuster with much stronger apocalyptic elements than the first film. Corresponds roughly to episodes 8-12, 18-19 and some material up to episode 23, with more new stuff.

Subject

Among numerous changes, Asuka takes the place of the original Eva-03 pilot, a new pilot character who enjoys the work is introduced, and Asuka and Rei have a romantic rivalry over Shinji.

Commentary

A lot more sloppy than the first film, or the TV series, but there is still great attention to detail. I love the ecological angle, with a long visit to a special water purification facility protecting some oceanic wildlife from the broken oceans. The injection of moe is very unfortunate.

Japanese production animation fiction moving picture

Sequel:

Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo (2012) IMDb

Creators

Anno Hideaki (supervising director).

Extent

Seen in 2014.

Categorization

A turn back from action towards introspection, but retaining the heightened apocalyptic elements. Corresponds roughly to episode 24 of the TV series. More overt human-on-human conflict, which is an elaboration upon the concept of the human attack on NERV in End (humanity being the 18th Angel).

Subject

Shinji materializes out of the LCL into a world where his heroic decision to rescue his fellow pilot was pointless and makes him a pariah.

Commentary

The time skip is great, except the use of “Eva no jubaku”. I love the fact that the world appears to have moved on during the skip, including a continuation of Third Impact and—likely—several Evas that we do not see (Diebuster again). This all feeds beautifully into the anti-heroism of the piece.

Reviewing the US Blu-Ray, Zac Bertschy interpreted the most significant dramatic movement of the film to be the realistically failed expectation that one person’s sincere love—Kaworu’s—can cure the self-loathing of another: Shinji. This is indeed a good centerpiece, but 3.0 is again more sloppy than the previous film. I am especially disappointed to see the ecological aspect of the apocalypse completely lost, along with the idea of NERV needing workers.

I appreciate the introduction of Wunder, a nonsensical homage to the tradition represented by the White Base, the Solo Ship and the Macross, dating back to the Yamato. The scene of Wunder’s first battle is scored with tongue in cheek. Much of the other new stuff is unexciting, though it has the potential to be cleared up by the long delayed final entry.

References here: “Until You Come to Me” (2014), “Confidential: Evangelion: Another Impact” (2015), “Cassette Girl” (2015).

Japanese production animation fiction moving picture