(Not yet available in US)
Story = B+
Video = A+
Audio = A+
At the age of 14 Shinji Ikari is summoned by his father to the city of Neo Tokyo-3 after several years of separation. There he unwillingly accepts the task of becoming the pilot of a giant robot by the name EVA01 and protect the world from the enigmatic invaders known as "angels." Even though he repeatedly questions why he has accepted this mission from his estranged and cold father, his doing so helps him to gradually accept himself. However, why exactly are the angels attacking and what are his father’s true intentions are yet to be unraveled. (Source: ANN)
There must be some kind of the cosmic force that intertwines me, Japan, and Evangelion. That's because about ten (!) years ago, during my first trip to Japan, I caught a showing of Revival of Evangelion (a combined showing of Death and The End of Evangelion movies). And during my second Japan excursion just a few weeks ago, I happened to be able to catch a showing of the latest movie, which is the first of four totally new movies collectively titled Rebuild of Evangelion that retell the story of Shinji, Rei, Asuka and the gang from the very beginning.
And this movie is quite literally a retelling, because it begins exactly where the first episode of the TV series begins and follows the same path up through the successful conclusion of "Operation Yashima" -- episode 6 of the series. That actually worked out great for me because, even though I was watching it in Japanese with no subtitles, I still knew exactly what was going on and at times I even knew the exact dialogue. So having said that, two questions might come to mind: (1) Is this even worth seeing if you've already seen the original series? and (2) Would someone who has never seen the TV series know what is going on?
For the first questions I'd say "hell yes" because even though a lot of it is familiar, it's what is different that will really shock and reinvigorate fans. There are a number of totally new scenes, like Misato and Ritsuko conversing as they are riding on some kind of transport-seat, and the battles are a lot more intense -- especially the battle with Ramiel. Plus, some parts of the story that don't come up until near the end of the TV series rear their heads here early on, and with some shocking twists that portend even greater storyline deviations to come in later movies. And on that note, here go the spoilers:
Shocker #1: Just before the start of Operation Yashima, Shinji is being his usual whiny self, so Misato, in order to re-motivate him, takes him down to Terminal Dogma in a scene reminiscent of the end of episode 21 where she shows him "Adam". But this time, instead of wearing Seele's seven-eyed mask, the white giant is instead wearing something that looks like the white owl-face of the angels. And though I didn't understand what Misato said in total, I distinctly heard her utter the word "Lilith" in reference to the giant...
Shocker #2: The end. Kowaru wakes up in some kind of coffin. He then talks to the black Seele monoliths a bit. Then, in front of him, we see another white giant that does have the Seele seven-eyed mask (or was it the new version?), and this one is Adam. Hel-lo!
So that's the scoop for existing fans, but what about those who have never even heard of the show? Will those two people even be able to follow the storyline? My bet is that, putting aside the intentionally ambiguous parts, I do think it should be relatively easy for newcomers to follow. Like I said before, it pretty much follows a linear timeline (ie, it's not the mishmash of cut scenes you see in Death), so it should be relatively straightforward. Of course, whether or not a newcomer would actually like it is a little trickier to answer because Gainax -- the movie's animation studio -- is known for starting a story out with a disarmingly straightforward storyline only to turn it on its head later on. So if you find giant-robots-with-teenage-pilots-fight-equally-giant-aliens a tediously redundant genre to follow, the story of this first movie may not impress since it is essentially three such battles back-to-back. But my guess is that the real judgement will need to wait until this movie can be taken in conjunction with the other three yet-to-be-released movies to see how it all plays out. But who knows?
Okay, so story bologna aside, let's get into what really matters: the animation. Dear Lord, the animation. For one thing, although many of the scenes are exactly the same as in the series, they are actually redone so that not only is the animation is more smooth, but there are small-but-noticable differences . For instance, in the first scene when all the tanks are lined up in the streets in anticipation of the first angel attack, the water in the in the lake is red instead of blue -- why I don't know... but there it is. And then, after the first angel gets hit by the N2 mine, it suddenly generates a new face. And as crazy as that may sound, what will really get fan's cojones raging will be the parts that don't look anything like the series, namely the battle scenes. The biggest and most intense battle is the last one with Ramiel. He still shows up as a cube, but here he morphs into all kinds of different shapes before he fires his all-powerful beam into Unit-01. And that final battle between Ramiel, Unit-00 and Unit-01...There are no words...
So good animation...check; but what about the sound. Well, let's just say that I'm sure glad I was able to see this in a theatre because they had the sound turned up so loud that my chair was literally vibrating (and not subtly either) whenever there was an explosion or even just when there was a lot of bass in the music. Speaking of the music, much of it is recycled from the TV show but with slight additions (like a chanting choir) to give it a fuller feel for the big screen. Of course I bought the soundtrack, but it doesn't contain the ending theme "Beautiful World". Guess I'll need to download that one.
So okay, I think you get the picture here. I liked the movie. I know there are a lot of people out there who will be disappointed with how closely much of it follows the TV series, but I can guarantee that the story will only deviate further and further away at later movies are released, so in anticipation of that even cynics will need to watch this one eventually.
Speaking of future movies, there is an obligatory "Next Episode" preview at the end of the final credits. It suggests that the next movie will have a totally new Eva, as well as a totally new character. Youtube has a fan-made reproduction of the preview for those who must know.
Also, for those who anticipate its release state-side, no one has yet licensed this movie. But its release is inevitable at some point, so stay tuned.
[Update: Evangelion 2.0 movie preview trailer is now available.]