Neon Genesis Evangelion


The Neon Genesis Evangelion saga is back, loaded with new bonus features and featuring an all-new digital makeover for optimum picture and sound quality. In the year 2015, young Shinji Ikari joins his father’s secret organization, NERV, to combat the giant enigmatic entities known as the Angels. With the help of his beautiful superior Misato Katsuragi, Shinji must learn to overcome his own fears and doubts before he can hope to save the rest of humanity from total oblivion.

Review:

Yes Eva fans, you have to buy the whole series over again. However, take some solace in the fact that – this time – you will have in your possession the absolute definitive Neon Genesis Evangelion collection.

ADV’s Platinum releases will mark the third time I myself have purchased the whole series, and it’s the fourth time I’ve purchased certain episodes (the original Eva Vol. 1 was released sans overlays, and Vols. 7 & 8 were reissued with the Director’s Cut episodes included). When ADV first announced it would be releasing GAINAX’s digitally remastered prints, my initial reaction was somewhat less than enthusiastic. After all, how many times did ADV think it could empty my pockets with the same material? I had already bought their 13 Eva VHS volumes, then sold them at a considerable loss so I could upgrade to DVD.

But the prospect of enhanced video and sound on what is unquestionably my all-time favorite anime series was enticing to say the least. Let’s face it, the first DVD release of the series featured downright piss-poor picture quality. The colors were faded and washed-out, and then there was the infamous “Evangelion Jitter.” Every time the camera cut to a different shot, the entire scene jerked slightly from side to side. The effect was hardly noticeable on VHS, but DVD brought this tiny defect into sharp focus. It was greatly frustrating that other favorite series like Cowboy Bebop and Tenchi Muyo! looked so pristine on my TV screen while the mother of them all, Evangelion, looked so drab.

So it was with mixed feelings that I picked up Neon Genesis Evangelion “Volume 1” for the fourth time. 30 seconds after popping the disc into my player, all of my doubts had flown out the window.

We’ve all seen Evangelion before, many of us several times over. But I’m here to tell you that – unless you’ve lived in Japan – you’ve never seen it. Not like this. From the moment when “Cruel Angel’s Thesis” begins to play, the show explodes to bright, vivid new life. The colors fairly leap right off of the screen, and suddenly Evangelion looks as fresh and as new as the latest digitally-painted animé series. And that nasty jitter effect? Completely gone. Wrap it all up in brand-new 5.1 surround sound and you have the ultimate Eva viewing experience.

There have been a few slight adjustments made to the English dub. The original actors have returned to re-record the odd line here and there, presumably to bring the script a little closer to the original Japanese intent. But rest assured; ADV did not give Eva the George Lucas Special Edition treatment, and 95% of the original dub remains intact. As far as the new lines are concerned, the effect is seamless, and only hardcore Eva dub fans will even notice. The “Next Episode” previews have been completely redone by Allison Keith (Misato), however, but they restore the original music to the sequences, and the update is more than welcome.

Even the peripherals have improved a thousand fold. Remember that boring-looking, flimsy black box that housed the original DVD set? Now you can throw it out in favor of this nice and shiny sturdy box that features gorgeous new artwork of all our favorite Eva heroes and heroines. The individual volumes look to feature similarly impressive cast portraits. But best of all may the NERV parking decal included for your car – a slice of pure geek heaven.

The years immediately following the creation of Neon Genesis Evangelion saw the show at the center of an immense controversy in the fan community. Two factions seemed to be forever battling over whether or not Eva was the greatest anime series ever, or just the most overrated. With the passage of time it is possible to look at the series in a more objective light, and it holds up very well indeed. It is a flawed work to be sure, but its breadth of achievement is staggering and its artistic impact undeniable. It no longer seems contrite to say that Evangelion is surely one of the all-time great works of animation.

In Japan this new DVD release was known as “Renewal of Evangelion” (the title had to be changed for the American release because ADV does not have the rights to the Eva theatrical movies included in the Japanese set). “Renewal” may sound a bit pretentious, but it’s a more than fitting title. Evangelion has truly been reborn in a way most of us have never seen before. Don’t feel bad if you’re buying this series over again for the umpteenth time. Eva Platinum is worth every penny.
Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (dub) : A+
Overall (sub) : A+
Story : A
Animation : B+
Art : A+
Music : A

+ finally! Evangelion the way it was meant to be seen
− this will be the third time most of us Eva fans have forked out the money for this series

The Eva pilots settle into business as they begin handling missions against the Angels as a trio. As they soon discover, though, not all of the Angels strike directly or with physical might, but that makes them no less dangerous. Meanwhile Misato gets promoted, Ritsuko must deal with the legacy of her mother, and Commander Ikari is off to the South Pole to retrieve something which may ultimately prove important to his plans and those of SEELE, the secret organization behind NERV. Just when things finally seem to be going well, one of the Evas goes berserk during a test!

Review:

This volume, which covers episodes 11-14, continues to mix in more light-hearted elements even as the battles and drama are playing out over the first three episodes. During this time we get important information about the nature of the MAGI supercomputers, a bit of a look at Misato’s past, and some key insight into her present motivations. We also get to see Shinji in his most settled state, even though he is still trying to figure out why he’s doing what he is. Because of this, Asuka takes the lead amongst the pilots and thus is at her sassy finest. Ritsuko also finally gets some long-needed attention, during which she says a lot of important things which might be passed off as innocuous at first. The last episode, which begins with a thinly-disguised series review, drops any hint of lighter elements (a precursor of things to come) in favor of a rare dip into Rei’s psyche and a tense problem with one of the Evas during a test. That episode also hints at some of the more intriguing mysteries in the series to date, though it just provides the viewer with more to think about rather than any clear answers. It also introduces SEELE for the first time and gives us a solid indication that Commander Ikari might be playing a different game than what his bosses intend.

As with earlier episodes, the battle scenes in the first two episodes are suitably exciting and creative, and it’s a bit of an extra thrill to finally get to see all three Evas operating in tandem. Episode 13 one-ups the previous two episodes by presenting possibly the most intense Angel encounter yet—and it accomplishes this without true action sequences. No series I have ever seen is as effective as NGE at ramping up tension to nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat levels, and in episode 13 we get a good taste of what the series can achieve. If you’ve never before seen NGE through until its end, trust me when I say that, as good as that sampling was, the best is still yet to come.

As with most of the series, the technical and artistic merits of this volume, while good, are not exceptional by modern standards. Character designs are distinctive, designed to be sexy rather than cutesy, and use eyes much closer to realistic proportions than most mecha series. The mecha designs are among the most distinctive ever produced for an anime series, with sleek, lithe appearances that look monstrous, fearsome, and nimble rather than boxy and knight-like. Though the scenes animated in detail are well-done, NGE is notorious for the novel shortcuts it uses, such as having characters talk while their mouths are covered (curiously, though, you will see animated blinking in many scenes if you watch closely enough). Those weaned on more recent CGI-laden productions may find it all to look a bit dated, but these visuals were highly influential in 1995. However, NGE’s greatest strengths have always lain with its storytelling and emphasis on characterization, a trait which it shares with most other GAINAX titles. In those realms the series has few equals, though this block of episodes is not the best example of what it can achieve.

NGE has never lacked for a quality, effective musical score, and by this point in the series a balance has been achieved which favors dramatic sounds over the overwrought melodrama sometimes heard in earlier episodes. The opener is still one of the all-time great anime series openers, while the closer continues with the varied renditions of Bart Howard’s “Fly Me To The Moon.” One of the greatest highlights of the series is its English dub, which I have long considered to be the pinnacle of achievement in English voice work on an anime title. If there is a finer dub of any anime title out there, I have not heard it. Is it a perfect match for the Japanese vocals? No, but you wouldn’t want it to be. The rhythms and inflections of English and Japanese are very different, which is something the ADR directors for NGE clearly recognized, so trying to duplicate the original Japanese vocals in a series so dependent on the fineries of character expressiveness would have resulted in the series sounding flat in English. Instead, the English voice actors were allowed to interpret the characters into English speaking terms, which produces some of the best individual performances in all of anime dubbing. The veteran English cast almost universally turns in career-best performances here despite the fact that some of the actors, as you find out in “behind-the-scenes” material and convention interviews, were really playing against type. The highlight performance in this block of episodes goes to Tiffany Grant, who embodies Asuka like no one else could. Some of the credit, of course, must go to the fact that they had an incredible script to work with, including some of the most impressive displays of technobabble you’ll hear anywhere. It does stray a bit from the original script, and director Matt Greenfield has stated that some parts would have been translated differently if he could go back and do it over again. I have never felt that any significant meaning was lost, however, and some of the little extra touches (such as Asuka’s German invectives) give the dub a more complete and well-rounded feel than the subs do. I find the original Japanese vocals uninteresting by comparison.

I was leery about checking out this new Platinum edition since I already had all the originals and the Director’s Cuts. As many others have said, though, the quality of this remastered version is worth it. The sound is distinctly better (although a good stereo system is required to fully appreciate it), some additional background chatter is added in, a few lines are adjusted here and there, and the print is a bit sharper—but even this print occasionally shows slight flaws, only apparent on an HD-caliber TV, a common problem for titles from the mid ’90s and earlier. Each episode also uses the original Next Episode pieces and some minor fine-tuning is done throughout to the onscreen text. The tendency to use the undoctored original onscreen text even in the dub is annoying, since one must now switch to the subtitle option to understand them.

The extras are also better than in the original DVD releases. Gone are the Spanish and French language tracks, but in their place we have clean openings and endings, a short featurette on the technical aspects of the English remix process, and commentary tracks for episodes 11 and 13. The former is done by Tiffany Grant and husband Brian Granveldt, who played NERV tech Makoto Hyuga. It is by far the more lively of the two, and brings out interesting tidbits like the fact that the English VAs for all the Eva pilots eventually married the VAs for all the chief NERV techs. The second one is done by director Matt Greenfield and the chief Dolby 5.1 remix tech guy. It is much drier and focuses exclusively on technical aspects of the sound reengineering for most of the episode. While it’s interesting to see exactly how much was done for this new version, much of its material could have been shunted off into the Remix featurette. Also included in the extensive liner notes are episode commentaries and more detailed versions of the character profiles that appeared on the original DVDs.

Volume three of the Platinum Edition does not show Neon Genesis Evangelion at its best, but it does give viewers some indication of why this series is widely-considered to be among the greatest anime series ever made. It is worth picking up even if one already owns the originals.
Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (dub) : A
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : A
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : A-

+ Superior English dub, intense drama
− some onscreen text isn’t translated for the dub

Kaji continues to investigate the deeper secrets of NERV, while others take care of more personal business that often leads to awkward outcomes. Later, the 12th Angel attacks, absorbing a newly-emboldened Shinji into itself! NERV races against time to find a way to extract Unit-01 and Shinji, while Shinji finds himself examining his own inner motivations. Later still a catastrophic accident eliminates the second branch of NERV in the Nevada desert, where Unit-04 was undergoing testing. Unit-03 is shipped to Tokyo in the wake of the incident, requiring the Fourth Child to be activated. And his identity is a surprise to most. . .

Review:

This volume, which covers episodes 15-17, includes only one conflict with an Angel (albeit a very novel one), so action is sparse even though dramatic tension isn’t. These episodes instead concentrate heavily on character and plot development, especially the relationships between various characters. A smattering of underlying NERV secrets—some of them startling—are revealed, but nowhere near enough information is available at this point to even make a guess as to what they ultimately mean. Amongst character developments, we get a full dose of Misato’s insecurities and Shinji’s ongoing internal dialogue. It is also becoming clear that Asuka may have some serious issues which are going to be real trouble for her later on. Lesser characters Toji and Hikari also get some attention, and even Rei is starting to show signs that she may be capable of more emotion that she’s shown so far, though she understands poorly what she’s feeling. Ultimately the purpose of these episodes, and all the developments in them, is to position all the key players and set up circumstances to exploit during the intense end run of the series. Even something as seemingly innocuous as Asuka’s interesting way to kill time takes on greater meaning when one looks back after seeing the later episodes. For those who haven’t already seen the rest of the series, a piece of advice: nothing that happens in these episodes is coincidence. Even the smallest details matter.

Most of my comments about the artistry, technical merits, music, and value of the Platinum edition for this volume are identical to those in my review for Platinum 3 so I will not repeat them here. I will add that episode 16 is the first time that NGE’s unique brand of introspection, complete with the “train scenes,” is used. We also get the first major samples of the “flash” scenes that permeate the later episodes and movies. Both are characteristics which were, to my knowledge, unique to NGE at the time of its creation.

On the English dub front the voice acting continues to be very strong, with Allison Keith turning in a stand-out performance as Misato in episode 15 and Spike Spencer doing top-rate work as Shinji in episode 16. Otherwise, see my comments for the Platinum 3 review.

The extras one again include clean opener and closer and extensive liner notes which replace the original bio files. Also included in the liner notes are the regular (and very insightful) episode commentaries, a description of the process used for footage renewal, a breakdown of all the different versions of “Fly Me To The Moon” used in the episode closer, and the first part of the comprehensive Evangelion glossary—but, fair warning, this glossary contains some spoilers for later episodes. The commentary track this time is for episode 15 and features Tiffany Grant (Asuka) and Matt Greenfield (the English dub director). It is less insightful than the ones in the previous volume, but Tiffany Grant is always interesting to listen to on a commentary track. Unique extras on the disc include an “animatic” version of episode 15 and a featurette called “That Little Red-Haired Girl,” where Tiffany Grant proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is Asuka’s #1 fan as well as her English voice actress.

With volume 4, NGE continues to increase the quality of its storytelling while introducing to mecha degrees of character study that the typically action-oriented genre had never seen before. The assorted mysteries of the series accumulate further as it sets up for the powerhouse final three volumes. If you’ve enjoyed the ride so far, stay tuned: the best is on its way.
Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (dub) : A
Overall (sub) : B
Story : A
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : A-

+ Continued superb English voice work

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About animemidwesterner

I started watching in 2010. After the cruel and unusual treatment I received via silence from my conventional American culture journal(s), I decided upon an anime Japanese approach to meet new people and have otakus comment. I can finally emulate pursuit of happiness in some fashion. Pursuit of happiness wasn't happening in dead silence. myanimelist.net/profile/renegadeviking
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