ADV Films // 2003 // 75 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Mike Pinsky (Retired) // February 22nd, 2004
"In other words, please be true..." -- "Fly Me to the Moon"
I have this dream. In it, I keep seeing the apocalypse over and over. It comes in slightly different variations, but always cryptic and artful. But it never seems to stop.
Oh wait, it is not a dream at all. It is Studio Gainax. As you may recall from our discussion of Evangelion: Death and Rebirth, Hideaki Anno and company could never quite make up their minds how to end their groundbreaking television series Neon Genesis Evangelion. After wrapping up the final pieces of the story arc in episodes 25 and 26 with what is easily the most off-kilter climax since the still-frame space battle in Gainax's own Aim for the Top! Gunbuster, the studio then decided to tell the story again. So they compressed the first 24 episodes into what is often delicately called a "perfect memory" theatrical film and added about one-third of a new climax. And they called this Death and Rebirth.
But the real purpose of Death and Rebirth was to lure audiences back into the theater to see the complete finale (including that partial climax they had already seen): the marvelously opaque End of Evangelion. Then the audience left the theaters, bought their model kits and action figures, played a while, and moved on to something else.
Japanese television audiences are not big on nostalgia. There is always
something new to catch their attention. If a series does survive in the cultural
memory long enough to attain classic status (like the works of Osamu Tezuka)
without being buried in a sea of knock-offs, you can be sure that rather than
being brought back in its original form, it will be "revised" in some
way for a contemporary audience. Case in point: Giant Robo, or any of the
"updated" versions of campy old shows from the 60s and 70s that have
hit the market in the last few years. Yes, American film studios are guilty of
the same thing.
Studio Gainax, which began as a group of anime geeks who wanted to preserve the feel of the old classics while adding an ironic, postmodern edge (check out their jokey studio "autobiography" Otaku No Video), seems to have come full circle. Witness Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Director's Cut.
Yes, a director's cut. Of an animated show. Hideaki Anno has taken the last six episodes of the series and added bits of new footage, no more than five minutes per episode, to bring the series more into line with End of Evangelion. The first disc released under this plan, "Resurrection," packages episodes 21 through 23, cleaned up and remastered. The original versions of the episodes are also included for comparison, but in turn, ADV has removed some of the extras from the original Volume 7 DVD (including the French and Spanish language tracks).
Without giving away too many spoilers, even though we are deep into the story's endgame by this stage, I'll give you a rundown of what has been added or changed. Episode 21 includes a flashback to the notorious Second Impact that triggered the creation of NERV and its mandate to stop the Angels. Episode 22 is the most radically changed, adding several minutes of new footage concerning emotionally fragile Asuka, since this episode revolves around her nervous breakdown. Both of these aforementioned "director's cut" episodes add about five minutes to their original running times. Episode 23 adds the least amount of new footage (about a minute), but there are crucial shots of Rei's transformation under the effect of an Angel that conspicuously reference her apotheosis in End of Evangelion. Other bits are added here or there. In a few cases, shots have been replaced with newer animation. And all the episodes look much fresher than they did on ADV's original release.
The most substantial supplement on the disc inadvertently reveals the entire mercenary purpose behind this whole "director's cut" project. In a 20-minute interview, designers from New Zealand's WETA workshop, the guys who brought Tolkein's Middle Earth to life, talk about their plans for the forthcoming Evangelion live-action movie. The pre-production art is all stunning, although it still does not answer how this stuff is going to look in three dimensions. Oh well, it is still pretty early, and this project has a long way to go.
All the promises about a live-action version of this story, ostensibly for English speaking audiences, suggests that the real purpose of the "director's cut" is not that Gainax is actually dissatisfied with how the show's ending fit together, but that ADV wants to keep Evangelion alive in the public consciousness for as long as possible. If he can keep the property marketable, the live-action film will have a ready and receptive audience. If people forget about the show, if too much time passes with nothing new, the live-action film could be greeted with indifference. Certainly, Gainax and ADV are going to need more than just the two planned DVDs of revised episodes to keep the audience salivating. Expect that the Neon Genesis Evangelion Director's Cut will be the first volley in a long-term marketing campaign that will likely include everything but a full-fledged sequel (since End of Evangelion was decidedly final in the most apocalyptic sense).
Since Gainax only released revised versions of episodes 21-24 in Japan (technically rendering 25 and 26 moot with the release of End of Evangelion), I am curious to see what ADV plans to package on the second volume of this rerelease. Still, if you are only picking up Evangelion for the first time, the "director's cut" version is worth getting to round out your collection. It adds a few more pieces to the puzzle, and it is nicely remastered. But unless you are a hardcore fan of the series, there is little on the "Resurrection" disc at least to warrant replacing the copy you already have. Readers will recall that I have always been a staunch defender of this series, so even though I question the motives behind this "director's cut," I cannot be too angry here. This is Evangelion, after all.
But for Heaven's sake, Gainax, how many more times can the world end?
Review content copyright © 2004 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 (Japanese)
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Original Versions of Episodes
* Clean Opening and Closing
* Interview with WETA Designers