ADV Films // 1995 // 75 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // April 21st, 2005
"Does that mean she's really awakened?" -- Ritsuko
When we last left the Neon Genesis Evangelion gang, the Fourth Child had just been selected. We know who NERV selected to pilot EVA-03, but Shinji does not. Well, he's about to find out, and it won't be pretty. Volume Four of the Neon Genesis Evangelion Platinum Collection picks up with parts two and three of the Fourth Child trilogy, and ends with a very strange mind screw of an episode.
This episode distribution is awkward, and it could easily have been avoided by putting the first two episodes of this volume onto Volume Three. Alternatively, it could have been avoided by sticking with a three-episode-per-DVD strategy from the beginning (with an extra episode thrown in somewhere). Starting with five episodes per DVD and trickling down to three leaves an aftertaste of disappointment, even if we overlook the disruption of episode trilogies.
ADV compensates with a healthy slate of extras. Half of them are uninspiring: The clean opening and closing credits are nice, but we've seen them on every other DVD in the collection. Volume Four gave us a full-length animatic for episode 15; this volume reprises the experience with animatics for all three episodes. There may be something fascinating in the animatics for episodes 19 and 20, but I don't actually know. One of these things is enough for me -- I couldn't bring myself to watch the others. (If you did, I'd be interested to know what you got out of the experience. Use that "E-mail Appellate Judge Lineberger" link at the top to tell me what a poor reviewer I have become.)
Fortunately, the remaining extras are superior. The liner notes for these Platinum Collection DVDs are outstanding, especially in an age where liner notes threaten to become extinct. The images are telling, and the prose is both dense and meaningful. The booklet contains a brief discussion of the different release versions of the series, episode commentaries that delve into the psychology roots of the plots, Angel bios, and a glossary of NGE terms. This booklet, like all of the extras in this collection, spoils the series in its entirety for those who haven't seen it all the way through. But this information gives EVA veterans much to ponder.
Consider the booklet a warmup for one hell of a featurette. In "The Mythology of Evangelion," ADR director Matt Greenfield and Sean McCoy discuss the mythological, archetypal, psychological, and religious underpinnings of the series, arguing that its foundation in thousand-year-old symbology explains Neon Genesis Evangelion's widespread appeal. Who is Sean McCoy, you ask? As far as I can determine, he's a guy who goes around to anime conventions and lectures about Neon Genesis Evangelion. He pulls it off with such poise and sincerity that I didn't have time to conjure up a snort of derision. Hats off to you, Sean, it takes brass ones to make a career out of lecturing on an anime series. Between Sean and Matt, we're given plenty of grist for deep rumination on the series, its characters, and its themes. This is a quality anime featurette.
While Sean was hanging around they got him to record an audio commentary with Matt for one of EVA's more confusing episodes. Much of the discussion is a repeat of ground covered in "The Mythology of Evangelion," but the commentary is nonetheless interesting and stuffed full of insight.
Speaking of episode commentary, let's take a look at the episodes. Like the extras themselves, the discussions below contain spoilers.
* Episode 18: "Ambivalence"
"Ambivalence" begins with a brief, character-based interlude that covers a lot of ground. From the main characters to bit players, we hear snippets of dialogue that move the characterizations forward. Asuka is intensely frustrated. Misato is afraid of Shinji's wrath. Kaji has a responsible streak. Kensuke is intensely frustrated. The class rep takes on more dimension. Everyone comes to the party long enough to reveal their inner thoughts to us.
Shortly thereafter, all hell breaks loose. The target is unusual: a fellow EVA with a fellow EVA pilot inside, the identity of whom everyone is aware but Shinji. Asuka tries to tell him, but gets cut off. Was it the Angel's attack, or Gendo's manipulation that caused the communications failure? The Angel/EVA hybrid makes short work of Asuka and Rei because they are unwilling to open fire on a friend (yes, even Rei...weird, no?). Shinji has the same difficulty, but his reluctance is telling because he doesn't know who is inside. He is unwilling to fight simply because a human, any human, is inside. This is a sweet, but immature, line of thought. Shinji is willing to die rather than kill, but Shinji's responsibility is to protect the rest of mankind.
Shinji doesn't get a chance to be the martyr, however. Gendo takes control of Shinji's EVA and goes to work on the turncoat Unit-03. Shinji must watch helplessly as his EVA rends the other limb from limb. Blood splatters across buildings in one of the goriest moments in the series. When the carnage ends, Shinji finally discovers that Toji, his friend, is the pilot. Talk about your downers. (By the way, the English dub leaves out a rather important word, "Toji," which makes this moment of revelation awkward.)
"Ambivalence" is given a boost by Production I.G.'s animation support, although it is a curious episode to farm out to them. The few snippets of complex movement are more fluid than other sequences in the series, but there aren't many of them. Most of the violence occurs offscreen while we watch splatters of blood spray over the city.
The episode is marred by confusing subtlety. Apparently, the EVA flying through a cloud had great significance, and its means of attack are noteworthy, but I'll be damned if I had any idea what was going on. If it hadn't been for the liner notes, which took .02 seconds' worth of screen time and extrapolated it into a dissertation on Angel attack methods and physical structure, I would have remained under the mistaken impression that Unit-03 had been classified an Angel simply because Toji was über-pissed about his sister. It doesn't explain why the EVA's arms get floppy like giant noodles, sure. But Toji's hostility toward the EVA transferring during linkup is much easier to understand than a little spark in a cloud that somehow morphs the physical structure of a carefully designed unit and then takes over its complete functioning.
And hey, is Gendo a bastard or what?
* Episode 19: "Introjection"
At first blush, "Introjection" seems repetitive and uninspired as it borrows scenes whole hog from previous episodes. As the episode wears on and the self-homage becomes more and more blatant, it becomes clear that the structure is intentional. "Introjection" is in fact creating a microcosm of the rest of the series. More specifically, it synthesizes the possible turning points that Shinji faced in the past, which contrasts sharply with his behavior and decisions the second time around.
The last time Shinji stared at a ceiling, we found him withdrawn and pathetic. This time, he comes across as withdrawn but seething with rage. Last time he stormed out on his EVA piloting responsibilities, we detected a hint of fear behind the decision. This time, we sense moral indignation. At every turn, whether it be in confronting his father or saying goodbye to Misato, we sense an unusual note in Shinji's voice: resolve.
The parallels come into sharp focus when "Introjection" apes very recent events. An Angel takes out Asuka and Rei while Shinji stands around, unwilling to fight. (This invites us to wonder how Units 00 and 02 were in battle shape so soon after their recent smackdowns.) The battle is fierce, full of decapitations and sacrifice, impressive in scale and energy. Incidentally, "Introjection" highlights the mature work of the English vocal cast. I typically prefer Japanese, and rarely give dubs the time of day unless circumstances call for it. But here the English voices match the translated subtitles nearly word for word, so there's no conceptual loss. Also, the English voices are chilling in their intensity. Spike Spencer unleashes a stream of heartfelt profanity and vitriol, while Tiffany Grant's Asuka screams and cusses in German while charging her enemy with kamikaze rage.
Shinji's unwillingness to fight is only a shade nobler than his previous refusal. It still smacks of immature thought, but at least he's standing behind the line he drew in the sand. What is even more impressive is that Shinji overturns his steadfast decision. He acknowledges ambivalence, and decides to fight.
In a series filled with turning points, this may be the greatest. It couldn't come at a better time. The most powerful Angel is yards away from Central Dogma, and those scant yards are all that separates mankind from extinction. Shinji steps into the gap and opens a big can of whup-ass. In fact, had it not been for the power issue, Shinji would have single-handedly defeated the greatest Angel.
Yet the power issue remains. As Shinji sits inside a useless hunk of metal,
his mental anguish and resolve unlock the EVA's autonomy. What we've heretofore
thought of as a big robot with biological parts turns out to be a big biological
monster with robot parts. This awakened creature exhibits the most feral
behavior, walking on all fours and rending the flesh from its fallen foe. This
primal display is the final echo of a theme that began with Shinji huddling in a
bomb shelter in fear, only to have the walls torn down by Unit-02's decapitated
head. "Introjection" shines as it realizes a trainload of themes in a
stunning action spectacle. The vision of a feral EVA gulping down the remains of
an Angel will stick with you.
* Episode 20: "Weaving a Story 2: Oral Stage"
The last "Weaving a Story" was an uninspired summary episode. This one takes the same tactic of recycling some footage, but the result is very different this time around. Part two of "Weaving a Story" takes us irrevocably off the deep end.
If you'll recall, Shinji has just awakened a massive, primal beast -- while sitting inside of it. It would be like Jonah crawling down the sleeping whale's gullet, kicking it awake, then hollering for it to give him a rodeo ride along the bottom of the ocean while ingesting large sea creatures. To make matters worse, the already freaky GodzEVA has just dined on Angel tartare.
The net effect of these various transformations and ingestions is that the entity known as Shinji is now swimming around in a primordial ooze that has been spiked with Eau de Angel. In short, he's gone bye-bye. Ritsuko knows this, or at least suspects it, and says as much to Misato.
Misato has just witnessed something rather upsetting, aside from Asuka's decapitation, Rei's massage by an N2 mine, and the Greatest American Angel boring a hole through the Geofront and coming within yards of annihilating all humanity. Misato was subconsciously prepared for all of that. What she wasn't ready for was the aforementioned transformation, her cold and clinical EVA crawling around in the dirt like a lemur, throwing off its bindings and keening at the moon. It perturbs her further that Ritsuko doesn't act all that shocked. This puts a damper on their relationship. Misato, after all, just admitted to Shinji that she'd pinned her hopes for survival on him.
Misato is not one to let hope die, which means she's not one to let Shinji die. She bitch-slaps Ritsuko into converting Shinji from a puddle of ooze and psychic resonance back into the whiny tool we all know and love. It works; Shinji is reborn, spewed naked onto the sidewalk in a puddle of amniotic fluid.
But between points A and B, we are treated to discombobulated Shinji's most introspective musings. While the newly ambulatory EVA sits bound and gagged in a cell, bleeding for thirty days straight, Shinji floats around inside of it -- physically evaporated and mentally meandering. I'm here to tell you, the trip is not pleasant and is barely comprehensible.
The plus side is we sort of get to see Misato, Asuka, and Rei naked. This is what passes for fan service in NGE. The downside is the lines. You can always tell the show is going ape shit when characters are represented by white lines on a black background. These lines waver as they yell at Shinji. Depression, remorse, anger, and regret emanate from the screen like waves of nausea. Is there a better representation of abject depression, or the utter deterioration of self, than the slow pan up Shinji's crumpled, distorted, and ultimately hollow plug suit? Perhaps, and I'm sure we'll see it in the upcoming episodes.
You have no choice if you want to continue watching this series; you must decipher this morass of deeply nuanced psychobabble. It may give you a headache, and you will never understand it all. But hidden within the ruminations are nuggets of information that shed light on the convoluted plot.
Whereas "Introjection" highlighted the English language track, "Weaving a Story 2: Oral Stage" tears it back down. Many of the English scenes have different meanings than the Japanese track, or outright omissions. One key scene with Ritsuko and Misato in the car is absolutely nothing like the Japanese version. The subtitles don't make the scene much clearer. Unfortunately, I have more chance of figuring out Shinji's psyche than learning exactly what is going on in this scene.
The closing scene of Episode 20 concentrates less on the "weaving a
story" part and more on the "oral" part. Misato and Kaji writhe
around in one of the most graphic sexual scenes in non-hentai anime. We don't
see it. Instead, we hear their pillow talk while the camera rests on a glass of
liquor and a lipstick-stained cigarette butt. The pillow talk progresses from a
discussion of what Adam is doing in the basement of Central Dogma to Kaji taking
"strange things" and putting them "in there." I profess much
curiosity. If only the glass had trembled with the force of their exertions, it
would have been perfect.
With the birthings and awakenings and other such events, Neon Genesis Evangelion has become sharply symbolic of a sudden. The "Mythology of Evangelion" featurette couldn't have come at a better time. We have more to chew on now than ever before, and my brain is starting to crack under the pressure of figuring everything out.
Review content copyright © 2005 Rob Lineberger; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 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
* Full-Length Animatics for Episodes 18-20
* "The Mythology of Evangelion" Featurette
* Commentary with Director Matt Greenfield and NGE Lecturer Sean McCoy on Episode 20
* Clean Opening and Closing
* ADV Previews
* DVD Verdict Review of Platinum Collection Vol. 1
* DVD Verdict Review of Platinum Collection Vol. 2