ADV Films // 1999 // 92 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Mike Pinsky (Retired) // April 26th, 2001
"Don't you have faith in your own father's work?" -- Rei to Shinji
The second volume of the excellent Japanese television series Neon Genesis Evangelion rounds out the cast with the additions of two important new characters. Now that everyone is in place, let the battle begin!
Rei Ayanami has no past, cares nothing for her future -- she lives only in the moment, cut off from emotional contact with others. She acquiesces to every order, and only seems to come to life around NERV commander Gendo Ikari. Ikari dotes on her more than he does his own son, Shinji.
Rei's mirror image is Asuka Langley Sohryu, the half-German pilot of the new Eva Unit 02. Impulsive and egotistical, Asuka's pride will one day be her undoing. But not today, as she must grudgingly cooperate with her fellow pilots in their battles against the mysterious and deadly angels.
Between Rei and Asuka is Misato Katsuragi, operations chief of NERV. On the surface, she is all business, ready to take charge of any crisis. Behind the scenes, she is emotionally vulnerable, and perhaps a little unstable.
These are the women in Shinji Ikari's life. Heaven help him.
The second volume of Neon Genesis Evangelion features four episodes that spotlight the major female characters of the show (Dr. Ritsuko Akagi, NERV's leading scientist will come into her own later in the series). In episodes 5 and 6, Shinji tries to build a relationship with the introverted Rei. In episode 7, we explore the many sides of Misato. And in episode 8, we are introduced to the fiery Asuka. Along the way, there is plenty of action (a pair of angel attacks and a runaway nuclear powered robot) and plenty of new questions: why does Shinji's Eva cockpit always smell like blood? What is the truth behind the Second Impact? And is Misato's ex-boyfriend really carrying a briefcase with the Biblical Adam inside?
These references may strike some casual viewers as odd. After all, there are relatively few Jews in Japan (not many Christians either, only 2% of the population), and probably even fewer who know anything about the Cabala. Why incorporate such an obscure mythology into just another giant robot combat show? First, it must be noted that Japanese culture has always been adept at incorporating other mythologies into the native Shinto religion -- after all, what's a few extra gods between friends? In addition, the use of Cabala in Evangelion opens the door for creator Hideaki Anno and company to suggest a number of themes of unusual sophistication for this sort of series.
The Cabala (sometimes spelled Kabbalah, but I chose this particular spelling to pun on "cabal") is a compilation of medieval Jewish mysticism that attempts to decode the Torah in search of the secret wisdom hidden in the text. All human action and decision impacts on the divine immanence of a dynamic and evolving God. Thus, the cosmos arises out of active communication between humanity and the divine. Visible in the opening credits of each episode of Evangelion and on the ceiling of Gendo Ikari's office, the map of the Ten Sefirot delineates the ten key aspects of divine presence. Reflected in numbers (particularly numerical codes which Cabalists believe can be extracted from the Torah and translated like prophecy), divisions of the body, types of virtue -- the sephirot become the key to decoding the structure of the universe and our unfolding place within it.
The Cabala attempts to bridge the infinite with the material, and in the case of Evangelion -- as patient viewers will see this unfold over the course of the series -- the theme of ethical communication is paramount. In many ways, Evangelion is about communication, or more precisely the consequences of miscommunication, among human beings (Gendo and Shinji, Shinji and the world, NERV and its ruling cabal, plus political machinations galore) and between humanity and the cosmos. Fans of the series have long noted the show's use of mythological references both obvious (the names of the angels) and oblique (the parallel between the Evas and the Golem legend). But to go into more detail about this would reveal too much about the direction of the series. Suffice to say that the use of such a complex symbolism in Evangelion is more than mere window dressing: it suggests a set of philosophical questions about cosmic order, free will, and ethical communication that expands the boundaries of this giant robot combat show beyond its traditional limits.
Technical credits for Neon Genesis Evangelion: Collection 0:2 are the same as Collection 0:1. AD Vision offers Neon Genesis Evangelion in its original Japanese with optional English subtitles. An English language dub is also included, which is not too bad, although the performers do not give as much emotional depth to the characters as the original soundtrack. Spanish and French dubs round out the audio options. Previews for five other AD Vision releases are offered, as well as some more "character biographies" (this time for Asuka, Gendo, Kaji, Eva Unit 02, and the latest pair of angels).
My criticisms of the limitations of television animation still stand, but as noted earlier, there is probably little AD Vision can do on that front. I do wish that more extras were provided, especially to round out questions like the show's background mythology or Studio Gainax (whose history will be the subject of my next review in this series).
Neon Genesis Evangelion balances moments of epic tragedy, parody of mecha clichés, and complex philosophical questions. While the story in Collection 0:2 is only just beginning, loyal viewers who can afford to follow through on their collection will find the complete picture rewarding and exciting.
Once again, Studio Gainax is acquitted. Asuka is ordered to undergo some anger management training; Rei is sent for assertiveness training. And Shinji? We'll have to wait and see...
Review content copyright © 2001 Mike Pinsky; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Character Biographies
* Featured ADV Previews