ADV Films // 1995 // 75 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // February 3rd, 2005
A war of shadows...
If you're just jumping into this series, or into the DVD Verdict reviews of the Platinum Collection of Neon Genesis Evangelion, I urge you to follow the links on the sidebar to the Volume One and Volume Two reviews. There you will learn all about the amazing improvements in sound and video quality made to this latest edition of the venerable series.
Volume Four maintains the high level of quality we've come to expect from the Platinum Collection. Indeed, it seems that the technical crew has found a comfortable groove, because the video and audio struck me anew this time. I am absolutely floored that the series looks and sounds this good, given the relatively unkempt status of the masters. Let's not be too gushing with praise, though; it's not like the new Neon Genesis Evangelion is reference quality. There are ever-so-slight traces of edge enhancement, periodic (though minor) bouts of twitter, and occasional softness. In addition, some slight judder remains, an artifact of the transfer process. The reason why I'm so quick to praise the new audiovisual experience is that it is a dramatic improvement over the old version.
Though the technical handling is impressive, Volume Four's episode count is not. Volumes One and Two represented fantastic value, giving us five episodes per volume. Volume Three dropped one, giving us a slightly disappointing, but still respectable, four episodes. Volume Four clocks in at 75 minutes, or three episodes. This decision is inexplicable once the pace has been established. There is no other conclusion to draw: Volume Four is simply not a good value, and there is no obvious reason for the subtraction of 50 minutes' worth of material from a disc that costs the same amount as the rest.
Now that we have that out of the way, it is time to explore the episodes themselves. Volume Four is a curious ragtag band of episodes. The first, Episode 15, is an entirely character-driven vehicle. Episode 16 gets us back to the action, while Episode 17 is the first part of a three-episode story arc. (I can't help but point out that if Volume Four had contained five episodes, the entire three-episode arc would have fit onto this disc.) Remember that the following summaries will contain spoilers.
* Episode 15: "Those Women Longed for the Touch of Others' Lips, and
Thus Invited Their Kisses"
Episodes like this one reveal the depth and storytelling prowess of Neon Genesis Evangelion. By presenting the occasional Angel-free episode, director Anno reveals his confidence in the characters to carry the story.
Episode 15 takes us very deep into the heart of several key characters, and the revelations are not always pleasant. After visiting his wife's grave with Shinji, Gendo somehow manages to seem both more and less human. (I can't decide which feat is more surprising between the two.) Misato, Kaji, and Ritsuko reveal a camaraderie born of long acquaintance; their ease with each other comes as something of a surprise. At the same time, the pressures and agendas of adulthood turn that camaraderie into a veneer over dark truths. Asuka's "antics" reveal an obsessive, even pathological, streak of manipulative anger. She cons Kaji, kisses Shinji for sport, and generally makes clear that the value of life and emotion is somewhat foreign to her. For those of you who claim she is annoying, at least her undesirable qualities are rooted in character-based flaws that are inherent to the story. In Neon Genesis Evangelion, even the annoyances have a purpose.
The episode really belongs to Misato, who displays both touching vulnerability in person with Kaji and cold-blooded professionalism in defense of NERV. The cover of Volume Four shows Misato wielding a gun. This image is telling. The decidedly fun-loving and genial Misato is grasping a universal symbol of violence and expedience. It is an indication of how the series is heating up, where guns may become more useful than clipboards or coffee mugs.
Episode 15 doesn't follow a strict dramatic arc. It meanders. But hidden
within this aimless jaunt are several key pieces of information, which heighten
the import of even the most benign conversation. The loose structure allows the
character interactions to take precedence, and the Misato/Kaji stroll in the
moonlight is a fantastic bit of conversation. The rambling tone of the episode
sets up a sharply contrasting ending, one that jars us with an ugly and
incomprehensible truth. "Those Women Longed for the Touch of Others' Lips,
and Thus Invited Their Kisses" is different, but different in a pleasing,
yet profoundly disturbing, way.
* Episode 16: "Splitting of the Breast"
After the interlude that was Episode 15, it is time to get back to some Angel confrontations. At first blush, "Splitting of the Breast" may seem like your typical "kids in EVAs take on a mysterious Angel and win against all odds" episode. Looking deeper, the episode is different from previous episodes in several key ways.
First is Shinji. He has heretofore been a passive, angst-ridden, poseable figurine of a pilot. This episode reveals that he has confidence, even brashness, and that is not necessarily a good thing. Does anyone really want a cocky fourteen-year-old running amok in a giant synthetic killing machine? (By the way, though the action scenes in this episode are really cool, Shinji's sudden aggressive heroics are implausible.)
Second is the NERV staff. The animation in this episode is as dark as the shadow Angel they are fighting, and it echoes the nastiness of the interactions. In one conversation between Rei and Asuka, Asuka's face is literally a black pool with a mouth and steely blue eyes. She spouts her vitriol and Rei seems ready to physically kill Asuka. Misato and Ritsuko echo this scene with a slightly more mature, but no less nasty, exchange. Misato takes an aggressive stance, slapping and threatening Ritsuko in order to learn the truth. But Ritsuko is as cold and elusive as ever, shredding Misato's resolve through simple attitude and carefully selected barbs.
Another difference, and perhaps the most important, is the interaction with the Angel. Whereas previous encounters went along the lines of point and shoot, "Splitting of the Breast" features a lengthy interment where Shinji is trapped inside the Angel. As his life support expires, Shinji has a strange series of hallucinations where another version of himself talks to him. This other self isn't exactly chipper. Who else in the world can tear down your soul better than yourself? Is this Angel good at Psy-ops or what? The big question, of course, is whether or not the Angel was trying to communicate with Shinji, trying to find the most direct means of communication. If true, this twist calls into question everything...everything.
Though it has deep-seated ramifications and lots of cool moments (Shinji's
EVA screaming in rage as it claws its way out of the Angel comes to mind),
"Splitting of the Breast" is mostly weird. I mean avant-garde,
surrealist-artists-flinging-their-own-poo-while-wearing-sombreros weird. The
worst part? Neon Genesis Evangelion will get even weirder before all is
said and done.
* Episode 17: "Fourth CHILD"
We have to keep in mind that Neon Genesis Evangelion is a series with a longish overall arc. "Fourth CHILD" doesn't work particularly well as a stand-alone episode; it is meant to set up the next two episodes. Without those next episodes handy, it is hard to judge how successful "Fourth CHILD" is.
As a singular episode, "Fourth CHILD" is mostly an information dump. We learn of mysterious happenings at other NERV installations, and we learn of the selection of the Fourth Child. We also sense some coolness between Misato and Ritsuko, as well as tension between Rei, Shinji, and Asuka. Anno and the Neon Genesis Evangelion creative team are not ignoring prior events. Arguments leave residual traces, even irreparable damage. This is why people praise the psychological depth of the series.
Aside from the plot points that are choked out, two main themes emerge from
this episode. One is that Rei is literally not all there, either physically or
mentally. We might have cause to wonder what she actually is once we see her in
a basement plugged into a vat of biogel. The second is that Shinji's
relationship with the new Fourth Child is likely to be troubled and complex
given their history. Neon Genesis Evangelion continues its inexorable
march into madness.
The extras package is a mixed bag. The episode commentary felt somewhat routine, if you can call jovial horsing around "routine." Tiffany Grant is perky and tenacious as always, which is always worth listening to even if there is less information this time around. The animatic is very cool as a baseline for where the animation comes from. This isn't the type of extra we'd like to see on every anime disc, but the occasional peek behind the scenes is interesting. The oddest, and perhaps most interesting, extra is when Grant shows off her massive collection of Asuka stuff. As she gushes on and on, we get the sense that perhaps she is too close to the character. Of course, Grant plays up this question of her own sanity, so it is hard to derive any hard-and-fast assessments. Let's just say that she is not only an EVA actor, but a huge fan as well.
Volume Four may not reach the scintillating peaks of action we found in previous volumes, but the show is growing beyond those simple crutches. As our body of information expands, the possible connections and conclusions we can draw expands. For this reason alone, Volume Four is a must-see. Put on your thinking cap and dive in.
Review content copyright © 2005 Rob Lineberger; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
* English (Signs only)
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* 12-Page Profile Booklet
* Clean Opening and Closing Animation
* Full-Length Animatic for Episode 15
* Episode Commentary by Tiffany Grant and Matt Greenfield
* That Little Red-Haired Girl
* DVD Verdict Review of Platinum Collection Vol. 1
* DVD Verdict Review of Collection 0:2