EVANGELION: 1.0 YOU ARE (NOT) ALONE
|Starring||Megumi Ogata, Megumi Hayashibara|
Note: This screening will be of the English subtitled version.
A teenage kid is brought to Tokyo-3 by his estranged, emotionally-abusive father and recruited to pilot a giant, symbiotic “Evangelion” robot for a paramilitary super-science organization named NERV in a war against enormous, divine, alien invaders called Angels who are prophesied to bring about the “Third Impact” and end all life on Earth. Maybe. I think. And that’s all before things start to get weird.
When the original NEON GENESIS EVANGELION television show premiered in 1995, it revolutionized the anime industry by deconstructing familiar tropes and archetypes and forging a new direction for psychologically rich and thematically complex animation. Much like Alan Moore did with his seminal superhero comic Watchmen in the 1980’s, EVANGELION creator Hideaki Anno was attempting to turn the foundational genre of his medium, the giant mecha robot story, inside out. Grounding the drama in the interior lives of flawed and tragic characters, and exploring the real world ramifications of pop sci-fi concepts, Anno defied expectations of failure and produced a masterpiece as formally ambitious and accidentally influential as Watchmen was for comics, reinventing what it was possible to achieve in a weekly animated series. It was an ultimate mic-drop move. Anno could have retreated from that particular spotlight as Moore did, distancing himself from his early work and leaving it to pedantic fans to argue and obsess over. Instead, he picked the mic back up and decided to remake the whole thing from scratch.
Taking as his source the 26 episode TV series and two subsequent feature films, which piled on even more mysteries and hallucinatory, apocalyptic imagery on to the show’s already cosmically complex storyline, the yet-to-be-completed 4-film cycle of the EVANGELION REBUILD movies is part retelling and part maybe-timeloop-sequel-who-knows, all vibrantly rendered in gorgeous, new, big-budget animation. Deepening characters, themes and plot, Anno takes the original story in striking new directions, redefining it past the point of recognition and injecting a vitality that takes the whole project a million miles away from any sort of George Lucas-style OCD tinkering.
The incredible, epic-scale battles between “robots” and “monsters” remain, as do the agents of NERV who are investigating and collaborating with what may be an apocalyptic conspiracy, travelling from the remains of the polar ice-caps floating in blood-red seas, to the moon itself, to unravel the story’s mysteries. Expanding on the original series’ subversion of the classic anime story of a boy and his giant robot into a polemic on the psychological damage caused by self-imposed isolation, the REBUILD films deliver beautifully nightmarish moments of body-horror transformation played out on a galactically ambitious scale in which the characters are forced to retreat into the depths of their own subconscious to face terrors and monstrosities that dwarf any simple end-of-the-world scenario. Almost 20 years on, EVANGELION is still pushing boundaries as some of the best anime around. (Tommy Swenson)