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Case Number 07296: Small Claims Court

Buy Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death And Rebirth/The End Of Evangelion Box Set at Amazon

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death And Rebirth/The End Of Evangelion Box Set

Neon Genesis Evangelion
1997 // 115 Minutes // Not Rated
Neon Genesis Evangelion
1997 // 205 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by Manga Video
Reviewed by Judge Bryan Byun (Retired) // July 28th, 2005

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All Rise...

Judge Bryan Byun struggles with the most maddening and complex mystery behind anime classic Neon Genesis Evangelion: how to make sense of its gazillion DVD releases.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Neon Genesis Evangelion: Platinum Collection (Volume 1) (published August 26th, 2004), Neon Genesis Evangelion: Platinum Collection (Volume 2) (published October 21st, 2004), Neon Genesis Evangelion: Platinum Collection (Volume 3) (published January 13th, 2005), Neon Genesis Evangelion: Platinum Collection (Volume 4) (published February 3rd, 2005), Neon Genesis Evangelion: Platinum Collection (Volume 5) (published April 21st, 2005), Neon Genesis Evangelion: Platinum Collection (Volume 6) (published April 21st, 2005), Neon Genesis Evangelion: Platinum Collection (Volume 7) (published May 5th, 2005), Neon Genesis Evangelion Director's Cut: Genesis Reborn (published March 23rd, 2004), Neon Genesis Evangelion Director's Cut: Resurrection (published February 22nd, 2004), Neon Genesis Evangelion: Collection 0:1 (published April 26th, 2001), Neon Genesis Evangelion: Collection 0:2 (published April 26th, 2001), Neon Genesis Evangelion: Collection 0:3 (published April 26th, 2001), Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death And Rebirth (published July 30th, 2002), Neon Genesis Evangelion: Platinum Collection (published February 23rd, 2006), and Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End Of Evangelion (published October 11th, 2002) are also available.

The Charge

"I don't know what you're talking about…nothing makes any sense!"—Shinji Ikari, Death & Rebirth

The Case

Let me cut right to the chase for fans of Neon Genesis Evangelion: if you own the two Evangelion movies released on DVD by Manga Video in 2002, you can skip both this review and the box set. There are only three things this set offers that you don't already have: a mouse pad, a postcard, and a lovely box in which to house your cases. Otherwise, these discs are exactly the same product, only repackaged as a two-pack.

If, on the other hand, you not only don't own either DVD, but have absolutely no idea what Neon Genesis Evangelion is, you can skip this review and the box set, too, because the insanely oblique, complex conclusion (well, one version of the conclusion, anyway—see what I mean?) to this insanely oblique, complex series is difficult enough to grasp for viewers who have followed the series since the very beginning, let alone anyone coming in at the end.

Finally, if you don't own either DVD, but are familiar with the series and are thinking of purchasing this box set, you still ought to skip this review, and instead check out the linked reviews (see sidebar) of the two movies, written by the honorable Judge Pinsky, or the series disc reviews by the honorable Judge Lineberger. Those gentlemen have written exhaustive, brilliant analyses of the Evangelion series, to which I have little to add, and even less inclination to repeat. Really, I ought to forget reviewing the discs altogether and just review the mouse pad. (It's nice—about 4 1/2 inches by 7 inches, with a smooth finish on one side and a sticky finish on the other, and printed with the box cover art of Shinji staring determinedly against a background of a crucified Lilith. The postcard is light purple and printed with tiny reproductions of production sketches.)

For the four readers who are left, a little background: Neon Genesis Evangelion is a 26-episode science fiction anime series by director Hideaki Anno (Cutie Honey, Nadia: Secret of Blue Water) that originally aired from 1995 to 1996. Evangelion is set in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, and tells the story of Shinji Ikari, a shy and troubled teenaged boy who is recruited (by his father, the head of a shadowy government agency called NERV) to pilot a giant mecha, called Evangelion, in battle against a series of invading monsters from space, called Angels.

What starts out fairly conventionally—and engagingly—as an action-filled adventure story of a boy and his giant robot, takes an abrupt turn towards the bizarre, as the story becomes less and less about robots fighting monsters, and increasingly about the characters' psychological issues, religious allegory, explorations of biology, society, and spirituality (including allusions to Christianity and the Hebrew Kabbalah), and even the series creator's animosity towards his fans. By the end of the series, narrative coherence has all but completely surrendered to Anno's surrealistic head trip, making for a controversial, polarizing, and utterly unique work. Plenty of anime titles (FLCL, Serial Experiments Lain) have copied Evangelion's style, but none has surpassed its majestic, breathtaking weirdness.

Nothing that happens in Evangelion, however, is as loony as the uproar over its ending. The original story wrapped up with a set of episodes that didn't so much resolve the plot, as smash it into hundreds of tiny shards with a gigantic hammer. Instead of learning how everything turned out, viewers were sent spiraling into the depths of Shinji's unconscious for an extended stream-of-craziness rumination on life, death, personal freedom, and human nature. It wasn't a resolution, it was a counter-resolution.

Fans of the series were, to put it lightly, disgruntled. Anno received death threats. Plans for another go at the ending soon followed.

The result was the release in 1997 of two theatrical films, Death & Rebirth and The End of Evangelion, that constitute, depending on your point of view, either an alternate take on the original ending, or a total replacement. Instead of quieting the fans' outrage, these films merely stoked the flames, with many accusing Anno (not without justification) of lashing out at his audience in The End of Evangelion, which contains a number of satirical and angry attacks on the fanboy mentality.

Death & Rebirth is little more than an extended recap of the series, with a chunk of original story (from what would become The End of Evangelion) tacked on. The "Death" section of the film consists of scenes from the previous episodes, shuffled and grouped around the theme of each of the main characters—Shinji, Asuka, Misato, and Rei—preparing for a string quartet performance as each experiences a flurry of disjointed flashbacks. (That's actually a pretty flimsy description of the "plot," but it's the best I can do in one sentence.) The "Rebirth" section turns out to be a more straightforward retelling of the series conclusion, but ultimately just a long teaser for The End of Evangelion.

The End of Evangelion, which followed quickly on the heels of Death & Rebirth, consists of two episodes, "Air" and "My Pure Heart for You," which are meant to either supplement or supplant the final episodes of the series. Is Shinji alive or dead? How will he decide the fate of humanity? What have we been watching for the past 15 to 20 hours? These questions are answered, or at least responded to, with varying degrees of success, leaving viewers both satisfied and more confused than ever. The lesson for fans: be careful what you ask for, especially when you're asking an artist whose emotional Happy Meal is missing a few fries.

The Evangelion series has seen quite a few revisions over the past decade. There have been director's cuts of several episodes and revisions of the "Death" segment of Death & Rebirth. These changes gave rise to a slew of "new" DVD releases and repackagings. There's the Evangelion Perfect Collection, the Platinum Edition, the Resurrection and Genesis Reborn discs, and so on (and on). It's easier to figure out the ending of the series than to sort out all of these releases.

To make things easier for the confused Evangelion fan, I'll lay out, to the best of my knowledge, the most current iteration of the complete series on DVD. You'll want the Platinum Edition put out by ADV in 2004, which contains all 26 episodes of the TV series (with improved video and audio remastered and mixed into 5.1 surround) and the director's cuts of episodes 21-24. For the final movies, if you don't own them already you may want to purchase this box set. I say "may" because, unlike ADV's Platinum series, this set, originally distributed by Manga in 2002, isn't drawn from the 2003 "Renewal of Evangelion" box set (released only in Japan) that included digitally remastered versions of "Death" and "End of Evangelion" (the "Rebirth" portion of Death & Rebirth was dropped as redundant). Manga might release those final versions in the States at some point, but this isn't that point.

If you don't want to wait for that prospective future release, there's plenty on these two discs to keep you busy until then. Death & Rebirth comes as a double-sided disc, with the film on one side, presented in (non-anamorphic) widescreen and sporting a muscular, active Dolby 5.1 audio track in English, along with lesser 2.0 tracks in Japanese and English. The other side offers a slew of features, chief among which is the film, again, but this time enhanced with the "Mokuji Interactive," a white-rabbit feature similar to New Line's Infinifilm feature. Pretty much all of the information from the Mokuji feature—text-based background on the story and characters—is available separately in the MAGI Archives. There's also a routine photo gallery, Japanese trailers for Death & Rebirth, and a trailer for The End of Evangelion. The DVD also offers an audio commentary by Amanda Winn Lee (the English-language voice of Rei Ayanami), co-producer Jason C. Lee, and "anime enthusiast" Taliesin Jaffe. It's an informative and valuable commentary, though there's a fair bit of joking around that tends to undercut the solemnity of the proceedings.

The commentary is continued on The End of Evangelion (the beginning of which is essentially the "Rebirth" section of Death & Rebirth, but that's about it for the extra features on that disc. On the plus side, the audio options are impressive, with your choice of robust DTS-ES 6.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks in Japanese or English. As with the previous film, the audio quality is exceptional. Both films offer a decent transfer, with a fairly clean print that's mostly free of defects, although the source material is clearly dated and the colors tend to look washed out.

So there you have it. Assuming you don't already own these two films on DVD, in which case you can disregard this repackaging (unless of course you absolutely must own a Neon Genesis Evangelion mouse pad and/or postcard), this double-pack is a convenient way to complete your collection…until the inevitable Super Ultimate Triple Platinum re-re-release.

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Genre

• Anime

Scales of Justice, Neon Genesis Evangelion

Judgment: 90

Perp Profile, Neon Genesis Evangelion

Studio: Manga Video
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Japanese)
Subtitles:
• English
• English (signs only)
Running Time: 115 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Neon Genesis Evangelion

• Mokuji Interactive Feature
• Audio Commentary by Amanda Winn Lee (English Language Director and Voice of Rei Ayanami), Jason C. Lee (Co-Producer), and Taliesin Jaffe (Anime Enthusiast)
• MAGI Archives
• Photo Gallery
• End of Evangelion Trailer
• Death & Rebirth Trailers

Scales of Justice, Neon Genesis Evangelion

Judgment: 90

Perp Profile, Neon Genesis Evangelion

Studio: Manga Video
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• DTS 6.1 ES (English)
• DTS 6.1 ES (Japanese)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Japanese)
Subtitles:
• English
• English (signs only)
Running Time: 205 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Neon Genesis Evangelion

• Mokuji Interactive Feature
• Audio Commentary by Amanda Winn Lee (English Language Director and Voice of Rei Ayanami), Jason C. Lee (Co-Producer), and Taliesin Jaffe (Anime Enthusiast)








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