The year of 2007 fulfilled every fan-boy’s dreams with an announcement that a remake would be made of the epic saga known as Neon Genesis Evangelion. Things could not have sounded better: the creator of the series, Hideaki Anno, would reprise his role after more than a decade to direct Evangelion once again, promising fans that the new films would be a reinterpretation of the source material, and bring fresh, original content as well as a brand new ending. Fans had dreamt of a seeing their favorite characters and Evangelion in high-def, utilizing all the new tools of animation that the original series didn’t have access to in the mid 90’s, and now Anno was serving it to them on a silver platter; delivering not just one film. Or two. Or three. but four feature-length films to tell the story.
Evangelion, my favorite anime franchise of all time was being remade. It was the first anime series I sought out on my own interest, and the first box set I ever bought with my own money. To this day, there has nary been a single series that even came close to being as influential and industry-changing as Evangelion did in 1995. The sheer amount of imagination and creativity put into Hideaki Anno’s tale about the end of the world is frightening. His ability to marry concept and visuals have created some of the most iconic imagery in anime history. Evangelion was soaked with ambition from beginning to end, despite budget and time constraints; but now, with the re-imagining project and nothing in his way, Anno would re-create Evangelion as he envisioned it.
Now, the first entry to this tetralogy was released in 2007 to tremendous success in japan, and the second film was released on blu ray this past may. Having seen the first film years ago, and just having finished watching the second, I can keep the stupid grin on my face and say that there still isn’t anything like Evangelion out there today.
The premise remains the same: the world is being attacked in succession by giant, seemingly indestructible beings from the sky, and mankind have created pilot-able behemoths of their own(called Evangelion) to combat them and ensure the survival of the human race. But as promised, the film strays away from the narrative tracks that the TV series provided, covering new territory. Many of the landmark events still happen; but in different circumstances and spawn alternate consequences. As the preview from the first film hinted, the arrogant red-head Evangelion pilot Asuka Langley is introduced in this film to finally fill out the original television cast of characters, but that’s where the similarities end.
It’s made clear at a various points in the film that the fates which awaited certain characters in the television series may not be there in this retelling, for better or for worse. It’s at these moments where I had the strongest reactions; my emotions varying from relief, to complete despair. If you’ve seen and remember what happened in the television series, prepare to be knocked on your ass.
The chemistry between the major cast is easily the most interesting difference between this retelling and the TV series. I really enjoyed the original series’ approach to the development of the characters. The slow-burn and brewing malevolence worked well in episodic increments, but wouldn’t translate well into film. The story moves at a quicker pace, and the way characters were written compliment it exceptionally well. However, this doesn’t mean the movie skimped on character development; quite the contrary. One of the major changes this film made was to give more attention to the casts’ thoughts and interactions, instead of on the convoluted pseudo-christian imagery and mysticism.
Evangelion 2.22 boasts some of the most jaw-dropping moments I’ve had watching anime. Hideaki Anno still has a knack for creating large-scale action sequences that have the same impact no matter how many times I watch it. The visual style largely remains the same as it looked in the TV series, which already makes it stand apart from its fellow contemporaries, as everything keeps its 90’s tinge when it comes to the design of characters and the environments, which is fascinating to see in crystal-clear HD. Evangelion has never looked better.
The soundtrack, which had a lot to live up to, does fantastically as well. There are several bold choices of music, and the grand orchestral songs match the chaos happening on screen. The melodies created for this film stand out distinctly and serve well to be the new themes of Evangelion, which is a much more impressive feat than simply rehashing old songs from the series.
This film, like the series, shows us an extraordinary group of individuals who refuse to let down even when they are staring at world extermination right in the face but unlike other anime, optimism doesn’t save everything. It shows a society that is coping in incomprehensible circumstances, and the compromises they must take just to continue living. Even when humanity is on its last legs and out of options, Evangelion shows us that humans are still human. They pursue selfish motives, worry about trivial things, get blinded by petty motivations and bicker. It shows us good, warm-hearted people who must take orders from a cold, soulless, military machine in order to survive, and just how much of their humanity they must sacrifice in the process.
I’ve just scratched the surface, but I won’t go further in fear of spoiling anymore than I may already have. I’m glad to report that Hideaki Anno is back, and so far he completely delivers on the promises he made over 3 years ago. He has proved to me that Evangelion is its own genre, and it’s the only one of its kind. Mr. Anno has taken the reins again, leading the progressive movement of anime to bring it out of its comfortably stagnant state, and push it forward.