PictureIn terms of animated releases (both CGI and traditional cell-based work), whilst - content-wise - the production may not be much more than a polished-up remake (note the above comparison to see what I mean, the updated 2007 revision on the right), visually, things do not get much better than with Evangelion: 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone. Coming to Blu-ray presented with a 1080p High Definition rendition in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen, the detail level is considerably enhanced by the new effects and new technology. Now you can read the computer screens clearly, see every working element of the giant Eva mechas, as well as the - also often strangely mechanical - Angels. It looks stunning throughout, as if every single shot has been lavishly replicated here in simply the best possible way. The line drawings are fantastically represented, and the CGI effects look undeniably perfect. It's a beautiful blend. And you could not have hoped for a more colourful palette either, the screen popping with rich reds, deep blues and vibrant explosions. The background landscapes look sumptuous and brilliant, the lush green forestry both intricately detailed and perfectly blended in terms of colour gradation. Black levels are good too, making for solid shadowing and rounding off an unreservedly excellent presentation.
SoundOn the aural front things are pretty special too. We get two powerful Dolby TrueHD 6.1 mixes: both the original Japanese language and the English dub flavours. Normally, for foreign movies, I strongly advocate the utilisation of the original language track combined with English subtitles. The way in which words are enunciated, the exactly corresponding expressions on the faces, they can simply never be bettered - or even matched - by a dubbed version. And don't even get me started on lip-synch. For animated titles, however, the choice is far from clear. Since the production itself has no real actors involved in it, even the original language is still a dub, so why bother listening to it in a foreign language with distracting subtitles? Honestly, with a well-done English dub, there is no real reason to bother with a subtitled version on an anime. You're not exactly going to notice the lip-synch for these kind of more cartoony characters, are you? Sure, the production companies often invest more money, time and effort in perfecting the 'original' Japanese dub, but the English alternative is seldom vastly different. Evangelion is no exception, and in fact the English subtitles are not very good at all (compare them with the English dub and you'll notice a far better meaning in the spoken words) so I'd definitely choose the English language version over the 'original language' dub.
Dialogue is presented clearly and coherently, largely emanating from the centre channel, with some accompaniment from the fronts, but the effects and score are the real high points on this track. The many wide-ranging effects offer up some serious directionality across the surrounds: each discrete channel giving us a different element from both the ambient and more explosively-orientated elements. The battle sequences are punishingly brutal, the shockwave-blast-laden weapons that the Eva and Angels face off against one another with surging across your living room with significant power and intensity. The LFE channel is immensely gratefully for all of this wondrous action. The original score to the 1995 series had many thematic elements reminiscent of classic Horner-scored Bond movies. The riff played during many old Bond action sequences (the powerboat chase in Moonraker, the evil lair battle in You Only Live Twice, the underwater battle at the end of Thunderball etc.), playing out as the Eva were prepared for (and engaging in) battle. This score, thankfully, is - like the film - basically just a polished-up, updated variation, and is just as nostalgically-inspired as the original. Giving the surrounds yet more to do, it rounds off an excellent aural offering for this animated release.
ExtrasFirst up we get Rebuild of Evangelion which is basically a 15 minute effects montages, showing versions of various key sequences - from the raising of New Tokyo-3, to the deployment of the Evas, to the battles with the various Angels - in their various stages of effects refinement, from sketch draft to final effects cut (sometimes with split-screen comparison). Rather oddly, we get two alternate flavours of music score for this Feature: one by Shiro Sagisu, which basically offers different mixes of the main battle score from the film (and the original TV show), and the classical piece, Bolero, by Joseph-Maurice Ravel, which is a rather strange option to say the least. With that being the only real significant extra, the only other things we get are an Angel of Doom Promotional Music Video, two text-based promotional 'News Flashes' for the movie and three Movie Previews (which are also, basically, music-based promos for the new reworking).
VerdictEvangelion is the new 'diet' reworking of the epic and seminal 80s anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone representing the first of four planned chapters that are supposed to mark the definitive take on the saga. Although the original material was capable of being viewed on several different levels, Evangelion lite emphasises the action and spectacle above all else. And even though it is largely a cell-by-cell copy of the original (albeit polished up and peppered with the latest CGI), it comes across as a much more accessible - and thus enjoyable - version of the story.
On Region B UK Blu-ray we get demo-quality video and audio, but a lacklustre set of extras (the Japanese release came with the alternate Theatrical Cut whereas all we get are basically several music video promos). Fans of the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise will probably be unable to stay away, even if they are essentially being sold a boiled-down, polished-up largely scene-specifically-identical version of what they most likely already own. And, honestly, most fans will probably enjoy seeing their beloved anime getting a fresh lick of paint and a shot of adrenaline to the heart.
Newcomers will find this a good introduction to the dauntingly expansive franchise (and also, potentially, anime itself) as it promotes the cool stuff (giant robots and The Biggest Sniper Rifle Ever) and really delivers on the action front, without getting too bogged down in the more convoluted emotional drama that both enhanced and detracted from the original series. But be prepared to wait some time for the next instalment - let alone the eventual conclusion (and subsequent, inevitable, director's cuts). Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone is just the first of a series of movies that will, as a whole (on the evidence shown thus far), be recommended viewing.
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