ADV Films // 2000 // 92 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Mike Pinsky (Retired) // April 26th, 2001
"Man has always feared the darkness, so he scrapes away at its edges with fire. He creates life by diminishing the darkness." -- Rei Ayanami
The third volume of the classic television series Neon Genesis Evangelion should satisfy fans of giant robot action with three episodes which balance parody with a few sinister hints of things to come.
The three episodes included on this disc are lighter in tone and avoid too much political machination or philosophical complexity, at least compared to the litany of psychological traumas which mark the series from here. This is not a bad thing: the lighter tone gives us a breather before diving in headfirst. In the last volume, we gathered together the last of our principal players. Now we get to see how they work (or don't work) as a team. In episode 9, Asuka and Shinji must learn to cooperate -- by living together in Misato's apartment! -- in order to defeat an angel with a simultaneous attack. In episode 10, a complex recovery scheme is concocted in order to capture an embryonic angel inside the core of an active volcano. In episode 11, we see the ultimate example of teamwork: when a mysterious power failure hits NERV during an angel attack, everyone must pull together to manually deploy the Evangelions before the angel can penetrate the GeoFront. Ah, team play and happy endings. Enjoy the upbeat tone while you can, folks -- things are going to get very dark next time around.
Once again, technical credits for Neon Genesis Evangelion: Collection 0:3 are the same as the first two volumes: Japanese, Spanish, French, and English soundtracks, and English subtitles. My evaluation of the differences between the Japanese performances and the English ones still stand, but the lack of emotional depth is not as glaring in these episodes as it will be later in the series. Character biographies this time around: Rei, Gendo's second-in-command Fututsuki, Eva Unit 00 (Rei's prototype), and the three angels featured in these episodes. AD Vision runs previews on the disc for a number of its recent acquisitions, including Farscape and an earlier Studio Gainax classic, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water. It is nice to finally see this series released in its entirety on DVD, and it also gives me the opportunity to speak a bit about the company which produced Evangelion.
Studio Gainax represents one of the most unusual rags-to-riches stories in popular culture. In 1981, a group of college students, led by Hideaki Anno, produced fan animation for a couple of science-fiction conventions. The positive response prompted the students to form their own company, and they began work on an ambitious feature film. Beginning with a short pilot (which eventually became the first 10 minutes of the finished feature), the Gainax crew drummed up financial backing from the mighty Bandai (who was probably hoping for a nice toy franchise). The Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise was a box-office disaster in 1987. Kids hoping for combat action instead found a meticulously rendered and deliberately paced tale of an alien culture's attempt to put a man in orbit, sort of an alternate-world version of The Right Stuff. Over time, the film has gained critical acceptance (and Gainax is currently developing plans for a sequel, Blue Uru).
Gainax attempted to bounce back with the mecha parody Aim for the Top! Gunbuster, a tale of bouncy girls and giant robots, which over the course of six direct-to-video episodes (a popular format in Japan, and not a stigma like in the U.S.) evolved into a legitimate space epic. Trying to conquer yet another front, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water premiered on television. This steampunk series set in 1889 balanced swashbuckling action and science fiction, and something quite rare in anime: a girl of color (Nadia is clearly not pale-skinned like nearly all other anime heroines) in the lead.
Feeling that they were on top of their game, Gainax released two parody videos, collectively titled Otaku No Video, which chronicled the company's rise (and eventual conquest of the universe dressed in Space Cruiser Yamato uniforms!) as an animated farce. The series also satirized Japanese fandom, in particular the figure of the geeky "fanboy," or otaku. The satire is not cruel though, but embraces the joy of fantasy -- after all, the Gainax crew all came from the ranks of fandom themselves.
But financial difficulties (particularly the continuing burden of the Wings of Honneamise debacle and the enormous cost of their other projects) undermined the company, forcing it to abandon its high profile and concentrate on work-for-hire video games. After retrenching itself, Gainax came back in 1995 with Neon Genesis Evangelion, which became an overnight sensation and (in spite of the controversy over its finale) continues to occupy a successful niche in Japanese popular culture. Much imitated, rarely understood, Evangelion is the fusion of a whimsical love for the giant robot shows of old, combined with a sharp psychological edge, highly inventive production design, and enough philosophical depth to spur discussion long after the series has run its course. It marks the culmination of everything Studio Gainax has worked for in terms of fan acceptance and critical respectability.
Only three episodes this time around? No drop in price to compensate? No extra goodies? For shame, AD Vision. For shame. And you know we are stuck buying it in order to get to the better stuff to come.
In spite of the fact that AD Vision overcharges ($30 retail) for only three episodes, Neon Genesis Evangelion is still one of the best animated shows ever made. Although the tone seems light here, the series will start to take a rapid shift into conspiracy, trauma, and outright terror very soon. Don't say I didn't warn you.
AD Vision is ordered to pack more into each disc. This show is worth the effort. Studio Gainax is rewarded for all their hard work and years of producing quality product without selling out.
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: 2000
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Character Biographies
* Featured ADV Previews