Feb 22, 2015
TwoSevenTwo (All reviews)
"Be Invoked" is absolutely fantastic, but it doesn't stand on its own (unless you just like pretty animation and gruesome deaths). If you want to care at all about any of the characters or understand any of what's going on, you'll either have to watch "A Contact" or the TV show first, neither of which quite match the standards of Be Invoked. If you watch "A Contact", you'll get a compressed version and miss much of the characterization. If you watch the TV series, you're in for a long haul of 39 episodes, some of which are just garbage, but the last ~17 episodes are great and set the stage for "Be Invoked" in the way that "A Contact" doesn't.

Let's get this out of the way first: this movie is infamous. If you've seen End of Evangelion, you know what to expect, since Evangelion was partly inspired by Ideon. The only reason I can imagine that this movie is listed as being PG-13 instead of R is because the characters almost never bleed, even when they have massive head wounds—and the movie hands out massive head wounds like candy. If you are feeling down, or in the mood for something light, just watch something else. But this movie isn't just infamous for body count or on-screen decapitations, it's infamous because it makes you care about each one of those deaths.

That's because the characters are superb. Everyone has been pushed to the breaking point and shows their growth. Karala is confident, Sheryl is broken, Lotta is courageous, Kasha shows restraint, and Cosmo has the tranquility to accept his fate when he can't change it. It's unfortunate, but if you missed the first part of the story, then none of this means anything to you. The villains are also a cut above the standard fare from the TV series: Doba is not only fearsome but conscientious, and Harulu is strong but at the same time she can't see beyond her own pain (again... which you missed if you skipped first part of the story). Kasha and Cosmo get a nice moment together which stays true to their characters and doesn't resort to cliche.

By modern standards, the animation and action sequences hold up remarkably well. Gone are the copy-pasted fight sequences from the series, and we have beautiful, fluid scenes in their place. Itano, who also did key animation on the Cowboy Bebop movie and the good Urusei Yatsura movie, is said to have inspired a generation of animators and this movie is a part of that legacy.

In spite of the plot's galactic scale, the movie is economical. Scan through the movie all you like, you won't find anything worth cutting. No clumsy exposition, forced plot movement, or shoehorned character development. It all fits together organically. This beautiful economy starts right from the opening scene, which does more justice to Cosmo and Kitty's relationship in two minutes than all of episodes #23-25 could manage in a full hour. This is followed by a rework of episode #39, which shows a marked improvement over an already great episode in half the running time. With the occasional pause for breath, the pace continues for the full running length of the movie. If this had aired on TV instead, it would probably be a full 13-episode cour all by itself.

Be Invoked's theme is about whether people can escape bad karma. To that end, you may want to read a little bit about Buddhism before you sit down with the movie. The story's conflict started almost accidentally, perhaps it was nothing more than a misunderstanding, but at this point both sides are so attached to the conflict that they can't escape its gruesome conclusion. Even when the Ide delivers the possibility of peace on a silver platter, nobody can see past their own desire for war. Sometimes your only hope is to find happiness in the next life. This core message is why people can say that Be Invoked has such a happy and sad ending.

I find it difficult to think of any real flaws in the movie, except one. Simply put, this is not just a hidden gem of 80s mecha anime, but a masterpiece. It's such a shame that the movie doesn't hold up by itself.