Neon Genesis Evangelion: Platinum Edition Vol. #1 (also w/box) (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, July 27, 2004
What They Say
This has been officially revised and digitally remastered for this new release by original creators GAINAX to create beautiful, vibrant video and crisp, sparkling new English and Japanese 5.1 surround sound audio.
Neon Genesis Evangelion is the story of a reluctant young hero, called upon to pilot an immense robotic weapon in battle against alien invaders in the year 2015. As the remnants of the human race cower in subterranean cities, a deadly war is being waged on what is left of the planet.
On one side are the mysterious beings known as Angels; on the other, the special agency NERV and mankind's last hope, the awe-inspiring Evangelions. Piloted by a special team of teenage warriors, these giant bio-mechanical humanoids are the only thing that can withstand the force of the Angels' defense fields long enough for the pilots to tackle the invaders themselves in hand to hand combat!
With the lives of every soul on the planet at stake, these few youngsters must reach down deep inside themselves to find the strength and courage necessary to meet the Angels head on in a desperate attempt to save mankind.
With both re-mastered audio and video, the show that changed and redefined anime for many fans is back yet again, and man, it is totally worth the wait (and the requisite re-purchase).
I was overjoyed when I heard that the new release was going to have a 5.1 Japanese audio track, and that was what I listened to for my initial viewing. It's clear, crisp and very nicely done. Directionality isn't overly used, but it is put to nice effect more than once. The new remix isn't going to blow you away right when you pop in an episode, but it has a very subtle effect throughout the show, giving everything a much richer and more vibrant feeling. It's obviously most noticeable during the opening or other loud scenes, but the show has frequent quiet pauses where a few small tweaks really stand out sometimes.
Of interest also is that the subtitle translation is definitely different from the original release. I can't say how much has changed, but there were some rather significant scenes where a few altered words made for a dramatically different feeling and meaning to a line. This was most notable during the first few scenes when Misato brings Shinji home, for example, but many lines seem to make a bit more sense or have more importance and weight to them. On the whole, the translation feels like it's a little more literal or loyal to the original Japanese, but I can't be certain. It certainly feels better, however, so I welcome the update.
I also watched the disc again through with the English audio, and that only confirmed my memory that it was one of the worst dubs I've watched without actually trying to find something that's so-bad-it's-good. I would be appalled if this was a more recent dub, but my only solace is that it comes from the era where it seemed like it was almost impossible for the US to produce even a tolerable dub.
Most of the cast is just poor, suffering from usual emotional projection and timing problems that plague virtually all dubs. Some of the casting choices are grating and simply don't match as well. Gendo loses a great deal of his menace and mystery in far lighter performance by the English actor, for example. The real problem with the dub, however, is Shinji's English actor. His performance takes the flawed-but-human character from the Japanese audio and turns him into the spineless, simpering pussy-boy that everyone accuses him of being. I found him to be virtually unbearable, and I can actually see how someone would be turned off by the show if they watched it English.
That's largely just my opinion, however, and for those who found the old English dub acceptable or even good, the technical side of it was pretty well executed. It seems to be a little more adventurous in using the 5.1 to put sounds all around the viewer and does change some of the sound effects (and introduce some that weren't in the Japanese audio), but it's solid and I didn't encounter any problems. Those who can get past the performances will enjoy the new remixed audio.
The other big appeal for the new re-release is the re-mastered video as well. Evangelion certainly isn't young anymore. Nearing its tenth anniversary, my original DVDs definitely showed their age. The colors were a bit washed out, especially against the standard digital coloring of modern productions. The infamous Gainax frame jitter was also a serious problem, as nearly every scene transition was accompanied by a quick camera shake. Some people never seem to notice it, but it always bugged me when I was watching older shows.
But how much could they really fix about this? When I first heard about the Renewal Project in Japan and the re-release of Evangelion there, I dismissed it and didn't really care. At least, that was until I got my hands on a Newtype Japan promo DVD with a side-by-side, split-screen comparison of the old footage with the newly re-mastered scenes, and I was blown away. I'm surprised that ADV hasn't done something similar in Newtype USA, since a lot of the changes don't really sink in until you get to see them for yourself.
The colors are so much more vibrant and alive now. Gone are the dull, washed-out scenes and the old, pale colors from the original release. Now everything is sharp and clear, jumping to the screen. It's still not quite as smooth and polished as the digital coloring we've become used to, but it's a big jump from the original and makes it seem so much fresher and younger. Removing the frame jitter I mentioned also made all the scene transitions so much smoother, which is a significant change if you think of how many individual cuts there are in the average episode.
In short, it was a joy to get to watch the show yet again and have it look so nice. The show looks better than it ever has, and probably the best it can, short of Gainax going back and re-animating it.
The DVD cast itself is pretty simple and straight-forward, and I really like it. A close match to what I've seen of the recent Japanese re-release, we have a picture of Shinji against a cloudy sky with the show and episode titles listed vertically. The back cover has brief episode summaries and screen images, as well as odd (though welcome) additions such as the titles in Japanese and their original air dates. All in all, I'd call it simple and slick.
It also comes with a silvery cardboard slipcase that has the same image of Shinji on the front and the same screen shots on the back with the sell-quote. I have to admit that while I like the graphic design, I was a bit disappointed by the actual slipcase itself. The spine's not glued together or anything, so it bows out a bit. When I'd first heard about these slipcases and seen images, I figured "metallic" actually meant "made of metal." At the very least I had expected something as nicely done (though not as frustratingly hard to find) as the X TV slipcases. This slipcase looks a bit cheaper, taking away from its stylish visual design.
The booklet that comes with the volume was also smaller than I had expected, but shares the same quality design as the DVD cover, including the text orientation so that you open it up instead of to the left. Around a dozen pages or so, it contains commentaries on all the episodes and some information about the angels in the volume, as well as a bunch of nice, pretty pictures.
The final piece of packaging is the very shiny box and yes, it is very nice and sturdy as well. A solid box, it shares the same metallic quality as the slipcase, and each side has a different gorgeous painting of the cast. Shinji cradling an injured Rei with Unit 01 in the background graces the spine, while Asuka and Misato flank him on either side. Gendo gets the top and they even manage to sneak Kaoru in on the bottom. I've got to admit it, I was already rather partial to the original "black monolith" design, if not the actual construction, but the decision to replace it with the new shiny box was easy. It looks very nice indeed gracing my shelf.
The menus share the same straightforward and simply design as the cover; each being simple lists with quiet music and minimal animation. The main menu, for example, is just a listing of the episode titles against a grey background with water rippling at the top right and trumpets playing. It might be a bit minimalist, but it certainly captures the dignity and quiet power of the show.
Sub-menus load quickly and the transition animation is often pretty clever. The extras menu, for example, is still visible behind the trailers menu, which slides in from the right side of the screen.
Rather surprisingly, extras are very thin for this first volume. The DVD box contains a "one-of-a-kind numbered decal" of a NERV parking sticker for your car. On the DVD itself, we get a clean opening, closing and two episodes worth of commentary.
The first episode is Matt Greenfield largely reminiscing about how long its been since he had directed the original dub and how different things are now. He has a few interesting anecdotes, but they all apply to production as opposed to the show itself.
The second episode commentary is with Spike Spencer, the English voice for Shinji, as well. The two continue to talk about the old days and pass on a few more stories, but as you can guess from my opinion of Mr. Spencer's performance, I found precious little to actually interest me here.
The extras are really the only disappointing part of the release, but I hope that we didn't get more as a trade-off for the higher episode count, and that future volumes will have more surprises.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I'll keep my summary of the content brief, as it's available in other reviews and the events of the show have been hashed to death already. In this first volume, we get five episodes and the plot moves surprisingly swiftly.
The first episode is our introduction, as Shinji wanders Tokyo-3, lost as the first angel attacks the city. The vivacious Misato picks him up just in time and the pair rush off to NERV headquarters while the military makes a futile attempt to stop the beast. There, Shinji confronts his distant and manipulative father that he hasn't seen in years, who demands that he pilot a giant robot he's never heard of (the Evangelion) to defend humanity against a threat he'd never imagines. Like any unloved young teenager, Shinji refuses until he sees how much pain Rei, the other pilot, is in. When the robot moves of its own accord to protect the boy, even Misato is convinced that this plan might succeed. Desperately trying to steel himself against the fear washing over him, Shinji gets in the robot faces off against the angel.
Not even able to walk, the angel apparently beats him easily, and then we cut to a hospital where Shinji awakens. The rest of the cast is busy cleaning up the aftermath of the battle (and dealing with a world that just found out about both NERV and the angels). Concerned for Shinji's mental state, and convinced that she can cure him, Misato takes the boy into her home, putting on a cheery front to get him to open up. Lying in bed, Shinji slowly remembers the fight, and we find out how the Evangelion went berserk and easily slaughtered the angel. We get a glance at the Evangelion's head when the helmet falls off to reveal a fleshy head. The missing eye regenerates as we watch, horrifying Shinji.
The third episode shows Shinji transferring to school, but isn't any calmer. Some of his classmates have their own problems to work out and his petulant attitude does nothing to endear the athletic Toji to him, as he beats him up after school. It's not long before another angel attacks, however, and Shinji is once again in the Evangelion fighting. Toji and Kensuke, the classmates who punched him after school, try to watch the battle and end up getting caught in the middle of it. Shinji is forced to take them into the cockpit to keep them safe and the witness first-hand the pain the boy goes through to fight the angels.
Having disobeyed Misato's orders on the battlefield, Shinji is almost desperately crying out for some sort of caring and emotion from those around him. He only succeeds in distancing himself even further, however. After running away and being brought back by security, he is formally ejected from NERV. After an emotional outburst at the train station with Toji and Kensuke, it seems like he's gone for good, but Misato races there to try to convince him to stay. He wasn't able to board the train after all, and she is able to welcome him home.
The final episode on the volume is our first real look at the taciturn Rei, who shares a unique bond with the commander of NERV, Shinji's father Gendo. They both only smile with each other, and Shinji is can't figure out why they relate to each other so much better than he and his father do. In trying to get to know her better, Shinji only manages to embarrass himself further, getting slapped for questioning Gendo's plans. Before he can make any more of a fool of himself, however, yet another angel attacks and Shinji heads out to fight it. It anticipates his launch, however, and brutally attacks him before he can even get out of the launch tube, leaving us with our cliffhanger for the volume.
In summary, Neon Genesis Evangelion has always been one of my favorite shows, if not the top dog itself. It's a brilliantly directed conspiracy story with religious iconography and one of the most human and realistic casts ever to grace anime. Every time I watch any of it, it's still a thrill and getting to watch it in the new format was a true joy.
I had already bought the entire series on DVD, and then I bought the Director's Cuts, and then before I could even watch those, we have another Evangelion release. But I don't feel gypped or cheated at all, because the new re-mastering is totally more than worth it. We get video that's world-better, a great remix of the audio and even tweaked subtitles. If you haven't bought the show yet, this is the perfect time to do so. Even if you have, the new features are worth an upgrade. At the very least, I urge everyone who liked the show even a little bit to rent a volume and see for themselves how much better everything looks (and sounds) now.
Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening and closing animation,Episode: 01 commentary by director Matt Greenfield,Episode: 02 commentary by Matt Greenfield and Spike Spencer ("Shinji"),Profile booklet filled with screen shots; Japanese commentaries and character profiles,BOX Edition: one-of-a-kind numbered decal
Panasonic CT27SX12AF 27" flat-screen TV; Koss KD365 DVD player; Onkyo TX-SR501 receiver; RCA 6-piece home theater speaker package; Component video and optical audio connections
Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: A+
Video Rating: A+
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Neon Genesis Evangelion