Neon Genesis Evangelion: Directors' Cut: Genesis Reborn (of 2) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, March 02, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, March 09, 2004



What They Say
A revised and re-edited special edition produced under the careful supervision of creators Hideaki Anno and Gainax to include amazing new footage never before available outside of Japan. This volume contains Evangelion episodes 24-26 in both the extended Directors' Cut versions and the original broadcast versions, allowing fans to see the creative progression of this seminal title's final moments!

The Review!
The final official directors cut episode and the last two that were also slightly tweaked brings Evangelion, once more, to a close.

Audio:
Just as with everything else Evangelion for us, we took in these episodes in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix here is essentially the same as what we've heard before, which yields some solid sounding material that has some good moments of directionality across the forward soundstage. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout it and we had no trouble during regular playback. The English dialogue track is likely to cause issues with some fans and create a new never ending debate. A number of people feel that the episodes were entirely redubbed, noting that some performances are now ?improved? or ?better? than when they were first done back in the mid 90's. From what I've been able to learn, only the new footage was dubbed and a few other areas cleaned up to provide a smoother transition of the material, and that entire episodes were not dubbed over again.

Unlike the original release, the French and Spanish tracks are not included here.

Video:
Likely to cause just as much debate as the audio, the video here is one more piece in a puzzle that continues to push me further and further away from Eva fandom. The transfer in general looks very good here and much cleaner than what we got back in 2001, mostly due to fewer soundtracks and an increase in the bitrate. The colors look solid and vibrant in many areas and some of the softness that was in the original release isn't as strong here. We didn't do too many comparisons between the two versions overall since Gainax are notorious for doing things to their masters, but there appears to be less frame jitter overall with this release ? but it's worth noting that as the series progressed the jitter dropped off anyway, but was still present. Overall, this transfer looks good and casual fans of the series that get this will be pleased.

One thing that's worth noting with the video, at least in regard to our reviews, is that we've now watched this series over three different monitors and probably four different DVD players. Starting with a standard 36" CRT with s-video and then moving to a 40" HD-ready rear projection set and now with a 50" rear projection LCD display, we've looked at this in different ways. Each of these setups has provided different end results and it's been interesting to see the differences as we've gone along - even more so with this particular release since it was done by a different authoring house than the one that did the original release in 2000 and 2001.

Packaging:
Keeping some of the similar style to the original packaging, they might as well have just done this all in black for the front cover. There's a lightly illuminated version of the Eva on the cover here with parts of it visible, but for all intents and purposes under normal room lighting, an all black cover would have done the job just the same. Is that part of its back or my thumbprint on the cover? The back cover keeps the same layout as the original and provides a mixed paragraph of overall plot as well as why this set of episodes is different from what came before. There's a good number of shots from the show and the usual breakdown of features. The insert has a sweet shot of a good chunk of the cast in individual blocks with blue sky and white clouds behind them while the reverse side lists the chapter stops for both sets of episodes.

Menu:
The menu layout is done in the same style as the original release, with the in-theme computer screen panels with the animation playing through the top part. The main menu provides you with selecting which version you want to watch on the left while all the settings on the right are the same regardless of the version. The menus are pretty fast to load and access times are quick.

Extras:
The extras aren't a lot here in one sense, but there's some good material finally presented. The opening and ending segments, neither of which received textless versions during their original run, are available once more. The new extra to this particular release is a five minute video gallery with instrumental pieces from the show that takes the conceptual (stress on conceptual folks) artwork WETA is doing for the live action film. Most of this I think we saw in the featurette in the previous volume of the Director's Cut release, but this time it gets a full focus look. There are some great pieces in here that make me wonder where the movie will eventually go. I also have to wonder what Anno thinks when he sees things like this, sort of like, ?I wish I had thought of that!? for some of these building layouts.

Content Part One:
It's been just over two and a half years since the original volume of the broadcast versions of the episodes was released, so there has certainly been enough time between the two releases to bring out the Directors Cut without feeling like you were going to be gouging the fans. These episodes are a hard sell to begin with, at least in my mind, since while they may be common knowledge among the hardcore and the online fans, the general buying public that bought the series won't have much of a clue about it.

The first episode runs close to thirty minutes while the other two are just a touch longer than the original episodes, providing a few minutes of new animation and dialogue in, expanding scenes or adding new ones in there. Dialogue is also reworked in various scenes to adjust for this or to correct some things that may have been done in haste during the original broadcast. For the casual fan, which I still consider myself one of, I noticed what's likely just a fraction of the new material. While I enjoy the series a great deal, I've never been terribly hardcore about it and gone through the various versions of the episodes or the numerous variations of the two films. So while I enjoyed this a lot, and could tell a few new scenes here and there, there is no way this review will sate the hardcore fan who can recite all of the changes on demand.

The new scenes I did notice were quite good and added some new depths to the show that was implied before but not fully voiced. What's also pleasing and noticeable is that for the subtitled version, the opening song has been cleaned up a touch with its translation as well as a few other areas throughout the program, with some names corrected and the like.

Content Part Two: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This entire content review will contain spoilers. Frankly, I can't see much of a way of discussing things here without giving away massive plot points. So turn away now if you haven't seen these final episodes. Seriously.

Go on.

Yes, you too.

For those of you who have seen it, you know just what kind of weird ride this is at the end. The opening episode brings the Fifth Child into place while Asuka slips even deeper into her unbalanced state of mind after her poor performances in Unit 02. The Fifth Child takes an instant liking to Shinji which is just plain wrong after everyone else essentially gives him the cold shoulder or outright hates him since his joining the project. But Shinji finds himself being very open with Kaoru, and tells him things he's even surprised that he's saying.

The rest of the management layer of the project find themselves very concerned about the arrival of Kaoru, who was apparently sent by Seele itself, and that can only be a bad thing. Information on Kaoru is minimal to classified, but one bit of information that does manage to get eked out is that he was born on the day of the Second Impact.

With the way things go for Shinji, it shouldn't be any surprise that Kaoru turns out to be the 17th and final Angel. Kaoru takes control of Unit 02 and heads down into Central Dogma so he can finally achieve some interaction with Adam and bring things to a closure. Much to Shinji's dismay, he's ordered once again to go after and kill someone he considers a friend, and Unit 01 and Unit 02 battle while Kaoru looks on and talks to Shinji about humans and their place in the world.

When Shinji defeats Unit 02 and he and Kaoru end up inside Terminal Dogma, which looks a lot like where the Second Impact occurs, Kaoru is surprised to learn that Adam is actually Lilith, but with the mask of Seele placed over it to trick the Angels. His realization of this ties quickly with Shinji reaching out in his Eva and grabbing Kaoru. Kaoru talks briefly that Shinji must do what must be done for the good of humanity, though Shinji's mind will likely collapse after doing it.

This brings about a minute or so of absolute dialogue silence and stillness in the animation, with the Eva holding Kaoru while some powerful music plays. Followed by Kaoru's head in shadow form hitting the floor. This is an extremely powerful moment.

This leads into the final two episodes, where we delve into the psyche of several of the characters, but primarily Shinji, as the Human Instrumentality Project commences and the meshing of all human life on Earth begins to commence and for some reason, Shinji finds himself at the center of it with the choice of making the reality he wants as the overriding reality.

The show takes on a very controversial style here, alternating between flashback animation shots, new animation and very simplistic animation. Some believe it was done to be cheap, others hold to it that it was being overly stylistic and displaying the fracturing mentality that is Shinji. I happen to fall into that camp and find the style of the remaining two episodes, while very chaotic, to be an interesting mental representation of a young boy whose had the weight of the world thrust upon him.

And all it comes down to is that he wants to be liked. Like so many people.

Many people who are seeing this show for the first time are going to walk away with a "What the - ?!" feeling. I know my wife and I did after our initial viewing a few years ago. But it also sparked quite the discourse between us trying to figure it out, and it's always come up in the years since. Evangelion is a series that really benefits from both multiple viewings and discussions with people to get to the core of it. Everyone has a view of it, and that's one of the things that I find that makes this a truly great piece of storytelling in that it can inspire so many different opinions.

Evangelion will long be considered one of the holy grails of anime here in the U.S., though I doubt it will hold as long of an influence among its fans in Japan, but more of an influence upon the creative anime industry instead. Many newer shows have creators commenting and referencing Evangelion as an inspiration for many things, from characterization to mecha design style. It does earn its place in history, and I'm glad to have finally seen it again and been able to grasp more of its meanings.

Great stuff here folks. I can't recommend it enough.

In Summary:
For almost ten years now, I've enjoyed Evangelion. While I don't hold it up as the holy grail of anime, I do find it to be a piece that's quite good in convincing people that there's more to this medium than they're used to. It's interesting to just jump right into these episodes without having seen the prior ones since late 2000 and early 2001, to see how quickly it all comes back. These Directors Cut episodes are a fanboys wet dream that has been in the making for far too many years now. Their arrival has finally stopped some of the most asked questions at conventions and forums, and for that alone I'm thankful that ADV has acquired and released it.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Live Action Movie Concpetual Artwork

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 150
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Neon Genesis Evangelion