Neon Genesis Evangelion: Special Edition Movies Box Set - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Manga UK
  • MSRP: £24.99
  • Running time: 202
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Letterbox Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Special Edition Movies Box Set

By Dani Moure     March 22, 2005
Release Date: March 21, 2005


Neon Genesis Evangelion: Special Edition Movies Box Set
© Manga UK


What They Say
Welcome to the Apocalypse...

At the dawn of the new millennium, mankind has awakened a threat unlike any faced before - The Angels. Conventional weapons are useless against them. They can only be stopped by means of the Evangelions, bio-engineered vessels born from the Angels' own technology. But this forbidden knowledge is also the key to bringing about a startling new genesis for the human race. Placed in the hands of three young pilots, the final fate of humanity resting upon their shoulders, the Evas are the world's last hope...

From the Animators at Production I.G. (Ghost in the Shell, Blood: The Last Vampire) & Studio GAINAX (The Wings of Honneanmise)!

The Review!
It's been a long wait, but finally the two Evangelion movies are available together in one package.

Audio:
I listened to the Japanese track for my main reviewing, in stereo sound for Death & Rebirth. It's a relatively nice mix with the sounds coming across nicely, and the performances being the same as the TV episodes they were lifted from. For End of Evangelion, I sampled the Japanese 5.1 track (which I believe is the original track for the movie). It came across nicely with the classical soundtrack and intense effects combining for a very pleasing aural experience. I briefly sampled the stereo track and also the Manga created 6.1 DTS track, which didn't sound like it added a great deal over the 5.1 mix. I noticed no dropouts or distortions during any of the tracks. I also think it's worth commending the voice actors, especially of the main characters, who portray their counterparts descents into madness extremely convincingly.

I've never been a great fan of the English dub of Evangelion, and while I commend Manga for gathering most of the cast from the TV series, I only briefly sampled the English tracks and my opinion hasn't changed much. It's simply a personal preference in that respect, but I noticed no dropouts or distortions here either.

Manga should be commended in a way for the options they provide sound-wise, but on the other hand the six language tracks plus commentary track on End of Evangelion is perhaps a bit much when it comes down to it.

Video:
Prior to its Japanese remaster under the "Renewal" moniker (subsequently receiving a UK release from ADV under the "Platinum" banner), Evangelion never looked particularly good, with jerky film splices aplenty and a general poor quality to the picture. The films fare better than their TV counterparts, but nevertheless both films suffer in this department. Unlike their remastered versions, neither is anamorphic so we get letterboxing. Additionally, there are compression artefacts at times, and there's a lot of shimmering and quite severe cross-colouration in places. It's far from the worst transfer ever, but it's disappointing for films such as these. However this is one area where we can't blame Manga, as short of paying through the roof for the remastered versions (which they may well do at some point), the transfer will always disappoint due to poor source materials.

Subtitles are in a relatively thin, white font, and are easy to read unless you're really far from the screen. I didn't notice any major grammatical or spelling errors.

Packaging:
The movies come supplied in a specially designed digipak box housed in a slipcover. The cover has a nice image of what I believe is one of the movie posters, featuring the four children on the front with EVA 01 looming behind, as well as a red cross and an image of Kaoru faded to the background too. The movie logos appear at the top of the cover. The back features four screenshots from the film (quite late on in some cases), and runs down the series history and a description of the movies, as well as listing the features on all the discs.

The foldout portion replicates the art from the slipcover, while the back features four screencaps and a rundown of the story again. Opening out, the first two sides list the features and descriptions for each movie with some screencaps, while folding out fully reveals four panels of nice artwork. One is of EVA 02 against one of the dummy EVAs, where a booklet will presumably be housed (not supplied). Behind disc 1 is an image of Kaoru looming in front of Lilith hanging on the cross, while behind disc 2 we get another piece of artwork that appears to be a movie poster, and features several of the characters from the series. The final panel, behind disc 3, features the artwork for the original End of Evangelion release, with Shinji and Asuka looking out at the sea of LCL. It's a really nice presentation packaging wise.

Menu:
The menus on each of the discs follow a similar design, with the text options presented with a bit of motion on the main menu as some music plays along with images from the films in the background. Sub-menus follow a similar design, and for the most part they are functional and work well. I did have problems with the subtitle selections on the movie discs though, which weren't picked up.

Extras:
For starters, there are two commentaries here. The first, on Death & Rebirth, is by ADR director and voice actor for Rei, Amanda Winn Lee. She's very knowledgeable about the franchise in general, having worked closely with it for a long time, and imparts some decent views and interesting snippets from the portion I sampled. She is joined by Jason Lee and Taliesin Jaffe for The End of Evangelion, which is another enjoyable track as they impart their views on the film. It's always interesting to get other people's opinions on the works, especially those close to the production in either language, and even more so with a series like Evangelion.

The meaty extra here is on the second disc that accompanies Death & Rebirth, and it's called "Mokuji interactive". Essentially, this is the version of the film presented again dubbed with commentary, only as the movie plays an icon will pop up on screen at certain points. This is similar to the "white rabbit" feature present on the original DVD for The Matrix, presenting a lot of interesting background information that helps expand the Evangelion mythos. Apparently the data here is translated from the "Red Cross Book", a source of oodles of information made for sale as the programme book for the movie in Japanese cinemas. It's extremely comprehensive and it's a good way of presenting the data (which you can page through from any of the pages you access through the interactive feature, or access from the "Magi archives" menu option).

There's also a preview for The End of Evangelion on the disc, as well as a trailer for Death & Rebirth. More trailers are available on the End of Evangelion single disc.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Evangelion movies are some of the most talked about in anime fandom, and continue to cause a stir amongst new fans watching them for the first time today. With ADV re-releasing the TV series in remastered form with their release of the "Platinum" editions, this is a perfect time for Manga to repackage the movies and release them again to an eager new audience. Of course, this set is one of the most delayed in history, originally due a couple of years ago, but nevertheless it worked out well timing-wise, and this new box set from Manga is a nice three-disc set, with a disc for each film and one for extras.

The first disc on this set features the first theatrical feature, Evangelion: Death and Rebirth. Aiming to give viewers a recap of the main storyline from the TV series as well as a preview of the finale feature, this was split in to two parts, with the first hour or so making up the "Death" portion, with mostly reused and re-edited TV footage, while the last half hour or so is actually the first part of the second feature film, End of Evangelion, which was created to finish the story in a more conclusive way than the TV series' final two episodes did. It's all a bit weird and confusing, but then that just lives up to the feature itself!

Instead of doing your usual recap of events, like you'd see in your regular recap episode of your average TV series, director Hideaki Anno decided to adopt a different approach. Death is non-linear in its approach to the story, starting at the end, jumping all over the place chronologically and finally ending at the closing moments of episode 24 of the TV series, which is where the End of Evangelion picks up the story. The basic setting is Shinji, Asuka and Rei in music practice, each playing a different instrument which matches a piece of classical music, and that in turn acts as the backdrop for the recap for the series of events that surrounded that character. Naturally, after the introduction which literally throws several images in your face that don't actually make much sense on their own (and recaps much of Misato's story in the process), the story begins with Shinji as we see parts of his relationship with his father, the other children, Misato, and his piloting EVA 01.

This relatively long segment is followed up by a bit of focus on Asuka and then Rei, as it somewhat charters everyone's downfall into their rather... disturbed mental states that they're left in at the end of the TV series (or rather, episode 24 of the TV series, if you're keeping up). Events then turn towards Kaoru (Manga's chosen spelling) and play out up until his confrontation with Shinji when he's taken control of EVA 02.

While it's certainly an interesting take on the story of the TV series, there's no way this would serve as a sufficient introduction to the story for someone who hasn't seen the series before. It really is for those fans who just need a brief refresher of a few key events to jog their memory before reaching End of Evangelion. And even then, if you haven't seen the series for a while (especially the latter parts of it), it can still quite easily confuse you enough to be a little bit annoying, but still enjoyable.

The real meat in terms of the movies though, is the finale to the saga, The End of Evangelion. With the last two episodes of the TV series changed from their original scripts due to troubles with the censors earlier in the series, Hideaki Anno and Gainax decided to go back and finish the true ending to the series. As such, the film presents episodes 25' and 26', each running at about forty minutes in length. For added dramatic effect, the episodes are split up by the end credits for both episodes, so originally the movie ended simply on a black screen (though Manga's DVD has a short black screen pause before their translated credits roll).

As for the film itself, well, much like the TV series was originally, it's one of the most widely talked about anime movies of all time. Quite frankly, so much has been written with opinions and interpretations of the themes and such that it's hard to not be influenced by any of it when you write about it. But it's been almost three years since I originally finished the TV series and watched the movies, so revisiting them before I've even watched the series again in full was an interesting experience. Suffice it to say it didn't take too long to become completely engrossed once again.

Episode 25', entitled "Air", picks up just after the death of Kaoru depicted once more at the end of Death, and sees SEELE take action against NERV and Gendo, as they send in their troops to take control, and do as much damage as possible in the process. The attention of Misato and everyone else at NERV HQ turns to protecting the three EVA pilots, but that's not as easy as you might expect. Rei is off with Gendo, so no one else can find her, as he's about to try to put his plans in to action using her. Asuka remains in a coma, but is eventually ushered into unit 02, while Shinji is quite literally at the end of his emotional tether. There's a fantastic scene that opens the movie that, while quite sick in one way, truly shows just how much Shinji's mental state has deteriorated, and indeed it only gets worse. Misato makes every effort to save him, but to say everything ends up going horribly wrong for most people is understatement of the century. By episode 26', Gendo is initiating the Complementation Project and everyone's life is about to change.

Visually, The End of Evangelion is something of a masterpiece. Whether you like the symbolism and themes that the movie portrays, it's done with such a sense of style that it's quite different from pretty much anything else. From the frequent flashes of text, to the live-action snippets, it meshes together extremely well to form a surprisingly coherent film. While episode 25' is relatively clear-cut and straightforward with regards the events taking place, episode 26' is what will probably make or break people's opinions of the film, given how it goes wildly surreal at times, and is heavy on interpretation and dialogue that requires unravelling. Most people will require at least a couple of viewings to make some sense of it, and even then it'll only be an individual interpretation of how things ended.

But that's the beauty of the movie. For some it will be utter rubbish. For others it'll be the anime equivalent of the second coming. But to everyone it'll mean something slightly different, with each part open to its own interpretation. Another undeniable thing about the movie is that it ups the intensity to the highest possible level, and sustains it almost through to the end. From the moment Asuka awakes and begins her battle with the EVA clones, the music, animation and dialogue combine to form some of the most intense action scenes you will ever see. Sometimes it can be quite sickening even, but it's a series of awesome visuals to behold.

It's actually quite funny that it's not until I started writing this review of the movie that I realised just how much I appreciated it for what it does. It's a different approach that won't be everyone's cup of tea, but it's essential viewing for anyone who even liked the TV series a little. It's one of those anime movies that can be considered a true classic, for what it attempts, what it achieves, and for the very fact that opinions and interpretations are so divided. So many years on and it still has people talking about it, and that only shows how it has stood the test of time.

In Summary:
While it may not be the most technically sound set, it's a very nicely presented package and is quite frankly the best anyone will get on these shores outside of Manga licensing the remastered Renewal versions of the films. While Death is an ambitious recap of the story that succeeds in some ways but fails in others, The End of Evangelion is essential viewing for any fan of the series, and much like the series itself is something that any anime fan should at least watch once, just to see what all the fuss is about. Love them or hate them, the Evangelion movies will be talked about for years to come and have cemented themselves into the history of anime. This is the cheapest and easiest way to sample both, though if you're not a completist and have no real interest in acquiring Death, the single release of The End of Evangelion might be the way to go. For anyone looking for both, though, this set is the way to go.

Features
Death & Rebirth:,Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (5.1 & 2.0),English & Portuguese Subtitles,Audio Commentary by Amanda Winn Lee,Mokuji Interactive feature,The Magi Archives,Trailers,The End of Evangelion:,Japanese Language (6.1 DTS; 5.1 & 2.0),English Language (6.1 DTS; 5.1 & 2.0),English & Portuguese Subtitles,Audio Commentary by Amanda Winn Lee; Jason C Lee & Taliesin Jaffe,EVA Trailers

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.

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