In 1995 Hideaki Anno and Studio Gainax aired their Sci-Fi TV series Neon Genesis Evangelion (Shin Seiki Evangerion, in short NGE or EVA).It received huge recognition on an international scale which probably surprised noone more than director Hideaki Anno himself: „It is strange that Evangelion has turned out such a big succes – all its characters are so morbid!“, he said when interviewed by Amos Wong, for Aerial Magazine in their January 1997 issue.
The story of Shinji Ikari, Rei Ayanami, and Asuka Langley Soryu triggered a number of films, mangas, and video games and a large lineup of merchandise. Next to Akira and Ghost in the Shell, Evangelion advanced to one of the major anime productions of the decade, although in a few countries like Germany it has only been noticed as a classic by a small fan base.
Studio Gainax went through a tough crisis right before the series startet production in 1995. Sponsors withdrew from projects which went shipwreck, so the studio was tight for money and quite a few members of the staff left. It has frequently been heard that Hideaki Anno himself suffered from depression before starting his work on Neon Genesis.
All these influences are quite palpable in the original series. You can feel them in the particular style, that resulted from its creator's mental condition as well as the financial mess the studio was in.Money was tight, and so Neon Genesis Evangelion couldn't really make use of the technical scope of the time, like Akira or Ghost in the Shell did. In Neon Genesis Evangelion, movement is an illusion basically created through camera movement and angle, rhythm and montage techniques consisting of static images and collages. Still the dialogue has the power to carry the story and develop its characters throughout. It produced a complex, multilayered tale with numerous aspects relating to psychology, philosophy and the great world religions. Self-doubt, psychotic nuances and a dark setting created an exceptional atmosphere no doubt progressive in an anime of the 1990s. It is quite obvious that the studio ran out of money towards the end of the series but it still leaves a permanent impression which, even today, is hard to get rid of.
Unfortunately, its remake Rebuild of Evangelion, completely lacks this kind of intensity – though also produced by Hideaki Anno. Animation-wise it pulls out all the stops – and yet it can't compete with the original's morbid undercurrent, based on subliminal fears and obvious self-doubt.
„‚Evangelion is my life, and I have put all I know into this creation. It represents my whole life. My life in itself“ Hideaki Anno said in 1996 to a reporter of Newtype Magazine (11/96). And this is probably what makes all the diference.Remakes often have a hard time competing with the original and there's always a reason for that. In our modern world technical aspects rule over emotions. Quality all too often is measured by the maximum use of the most modern or elaborate technology. The fact that an oeuvre's overall impression consists of a number of other factors – mostly of a personal nature – is all too easily put aside. Still it is these aspects in their entity that create an impression and trigger a work's success in the end.
In his remake Rebuild of Evangelion Hideaki Anno wanted to reinterpret and modernise his work of art – obviously mostly through the use of all the modern CGI there is. Of course this seems only fair – hadn't he overlooked one essential fact: When Hideaki Anno created his technically flawed version of the 90s he had set the benchmark rather high himself. It is a mark, hard to top.
The new series first film, Evangelion:1.0 – You are (not) alone (Evangelion Shin Gekijoban: Jo) aired September 2007 in Japanese cinemas. Evangelion:2.0 – You can (not) advance (Evangelion Shin Gekijoban: Ha) followed up in June 2009. Part 3, Evangelion:3.0 – You can (not) redo (Evangelion Shin Gekijoban: Q Quickening) is already out in Japan since November 2012 and will be released in Germany around the end of 2013 in DVD and BlueRay (Universum Anime). Until then various festival screenings offer insight. The one, we attended created rather reluctant response. The whole thing came across „a little long-winded“ – "not quite the best thing ever put on screen" seemed to be the general attitude, and it's hard not to agree.