Just recently managed to grab the first two installments of the new Eva movie tetralogy, Rebuild of Evangelion. Turns out that director Hideaki Anno saw fit to remake his global success of a show for the big screen and, so, far, I’d say that I prefer it to the original. To summarize, the first flick, You Are (Not) Alone, does a Dragon Ball Kai, streamlining a chunk of the original source material into a (relatively) bite-sized, better animated slice of pie; whilst the second, You Can (Not) Advance, branches out in a bold new direction, shedding much of the baggage that weighed down the previous incarnation.
So, what stands out for me about this series so far?
Firstly, Shinji Ikari, our chief protagonist, has undergone something of a renaissance. Whilst he still bears the insecurity and turmoil of his previous incarnation, those traits have been considerably toned down from the dysfunctional degrees seen in the original series. Rebuild Shinji smiles almost as readily as he sulks and shows himself to be more “together” and assertive.
I still wish he’d slap Asuka, though…
Yup, even a name change can’t make Asuka Langley Shikinami (formerly: Sōryū) any less of a bitch. The fascination large swathes of anime fandom have for the tsundere archetype she embodies completely escapes me (though I guess Black Lagoon’s Revy fits somewhat, but she dials that shit down after the seventh episode), and, boy, does she dial up her tsun here!
It’s as if someone took the worst traits of DBZ’s Vegeta and stuffed them into the body of a permanently menstrual, teenage brat of a girl. Half her dialogue so far seems to consist of the word “stupid”, spat out as if it were punctuation.
In contrast to Asuka, Rei Ayanami has, like Shinji, undergone something of an upgrade. No longer a blank slate for audience imagination to scrawl over, Rei-build shows a definite emergence in personality, what with her quiet determination to protect Shinji and close the rift between him and his dad, Gendo (who’s not much different from his NGE counterpart, so far). Her newly emerged personality finds fine complement with a firm, determined dub performance by Brina Palencia.
In fact, comparing the general standard of Rebuild’s voice acting to that of the original series makes it crystal-clear how far anime dubs have come over the last decade. Colleen Clinkenbeard (Ritsuko) gave me a tingle with her last line in Advance.
Speaking of tingles, I got a kick out of the new addition to the cast…
Imagine Getter Robo’s Ryoma Nagare given a sex change and dropped into the Evaverse and you’ve pretty much got the phenomenon that is Mari Illustrious Makinami. Flying into battle with gusto and displaying a courage that borders on the suicidal, she seems she’d be more at home screaming out attacks in the Getterverse: she even induces insanity as a weapon, much like Ryoma!
Paradoxically, this incongruity makes her a welcome addition to Evangelion. It’ll be interesting to see how Anno and co utilize this character in future flicks.
…unlike some others I could name…
The soundtrack comprises a character all by itself. One of the joys of watching the various scraps with the Angels lies with the sweeping, Wagnerian composition of Shirō Sagisu: a perfect complement to the “two minutes to midnight” atmosphere that pervades the series. Then there’s the soundtrack dissonance of the gentle, acoustic ‘Today is the Time for Goodbye’ playing through one of the most violent and harrowing scenes in Advance (not unlike ‘Komm, Susser Tod’ in End of Evangelion). The most outstanding piece of musical vocal work, however, has to be the ethereally uplifting ‘Beautiful World’, evoking memories of the deceptively upbeat ‘Cruel Angel’s Thesis’ opener from the old series.
I think that covers all I wanted to say about the story so far. The divergent Advance ended on an interesting cliffhanger and it’s uncertain where Anno will take the tetralogy next. Will the NERV be crushed by Machiavellian transhumanist powers? Will the world fall prey to the hivemind of the Human Instrumentality Project? With Rebuild’s reworked characters and rewritten plotlines, the best answer to those questions can only be an intrigued “Who knows?”