There’s an interesting thing in regards to this string of movies. For whatever reason, the parent series is considered a classic of the anime medium, and many fans hold it with high esteem and a symbol of creative genius. I’ve seen the parent series. I liked it quite a bit. It certainly has more substance and nihilistic anxiety than basically every anime to follow or precede it. I would recommend it to any anime enthusiast and to people outside of this colorful(?) medium, too.
Now, I didn’t watch anime around the time this film was announced, but I imagine the reaction to the news was met with extreme caution. The masterpiece had already been put in place, with two additional movies created to sweep up the incredibly bizarre final two episodes of the series. I would certainly be cautious if Nisio Isin randomly announced a movie adaptation of Katanagatari, a completed story that’s absolutely fine on its own. Even so, I watched Neon Genesis Evangelion years ago, so I don’t believe the concept of battling against its origins gained a lot of traction in my mind. I watched the film as though it were its own thing, with only vague recollections of events that also occurred in the parent series—and still liked it quite a bit.
If there’s anything to be concerned about for newcomers who have never seen the parent series, the beginning of this film drops a planet of information on you with no context. Shinji is simply presented, waiting for a girl on a sexually-suggestive photo he has in his possession. An “Angel” appears and starts reeking havoc—earth’s defenses launching everything they’ve got at it. Wait! Hold on! Whoa, whoa, whoa! What the hell is happening here?! Who is this kid with this photo of a skin-gracious chick? What exactly is this alien thing? There are a lot of questions that arise when the film begins almost precisely when the action starts. As it progresses, it rarely ever stops, at least not to answer the questions that are ever-present in the audience’s mind. Why is this happening? How? When? What about this kid, Shinji? What’s his past like? How did he get here? What’s with him and his father? And the other characters! Who are they? Why do I feel like I just jumped into a film halfway through?
It seems Hideaki Anno, the director and original producer of the parent series, is a man of subtlety. He wishes for you, the audience member, to piece together the empty slots for yourself, through pieces he presents to you in a gradual progression. Like with many good films, every scene has some inherent purpose—at least one can assume so. Whether to develop a character’s personality, ambitions, motivation; or to create unease through emotional turmoil, Evangelion is a very emotionally-conscious creation. A fairly dark look into what many mecha anime take for granted, especially with its pilots. Angsty as it may be (I know some who despise the series for being so), one can’t help but empathize with the weight of the situations these literal children are being forced to withstand—bonus points go to making the kids emotionally and mentally unstable.
To think, this is just the introduction! I’m looking forward to what many consider the pinnacle of the series with its second “episode.” What’s good about this film? Well… it does just about everything the parent series does with an added emphasis on the things the team couldn’t afford to perfect in the mid-90’s. Emotional, substantial, and with a great sense of direction. The repetitive nature of prep-work only to have things go wrong initially, before eventually getting things right at the final moment, is another thing that’s a little irritating to watch more than a few times, like in the original series. The typical up’s and down’s.
If you’ve seen the parent series recently, one likely won’t be missing much with this film, but the potential for something bizarre in the next part makes it worth investing in anyway. Though I can’t say that until I actually watch it. Until tomorrow!
Final Score: 8/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!