Blu-ray Review: Neon Genesis Evangelion | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, July 6th, 2022  

Neon Genesis Evangelion

Studio: GKIDS

Dec 09, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


For the first time since its original release in 1995, Hideaki Anno’s Neon Genesis Evangelion, one of the greatest anime and television series of all time, has arrived on Blu-Ray in North America. The physical release comes just a few months after the release of the newest (and allegedly, final) Evangelion-related movie, and uses stunning and crisp visuals to bring the action-packed, existentialism-centered series to life.

The 26-episode series is set in the city of Tokyo-3 in the year 2015, fifteen years after an event called the “Second Impact” killed over half of the Earth’s population and awoke a series of beasts, dubbed “angels,” that are focused on causing mayhem. To combat this threat, an organization called NERV is created to manufacture giant robotic fighter machines, entitled “Evangelion,” which, due to technical logistics, must be piloted by young, adolescent children.

The series mainly follows Shinji Ikari, a shy and insecure 14-year old boy who, at the beginning of the series, is summoned to Tokyo-3 by his absent and distant father, Gendo Ikari, the commander of NERV. Shinji, despite having no prior experience, is tasked with piloting an Evangelion to fight an angel that is threatening the city. After a brutal first fight that he barely wins, Shinji moves to Tokyo-3 and lives under the wing of one of NERV’s captains, Misato, as he learns how to command and fight with the Evangelion. He attends a new school, meets new people–including the two pilots of the other Evangelion, Asuka and Rei–and consistently struggles to break his maladaptive cycle of self-hatred and loneliness.

The series can easily be divided into two halves. The first half is much more focused on worldbuilding. Because of this, the first set of episodes are filled with a mix of intense action sequences and exposition, as Shinji learns to interact with the people and world around him. The second half of the series is centered more around exploring the idea, and NERV’s motive, of “human instrumentality.” To put it simply, this concept emphasizes the idea of merging everyone’s souls together in order for there to be no walls, and conflicts, between people. The nature of this new conceit and possibility leads the characters–and the series–down a variety of philosophical paths, forcing viewers to confront a simple yet deceivingly complicated question: is it better to have a world where we are all completely emphatic of each other’s inner struggles and motives, and if so, at what cost?

From the opening episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion, it is overwhelmingly obvious that there hasn’t been, and likely never will be, anything quite like this series. Anno’s work is most profound in the way that it constantly subverts viewer expectations, using drawn-out situations and crises to propel deeply human and universal ideas to the forefront of its storytelling. This is especially notable in the way that the battle between the Evangelion and angels can be looked at as a metaphor, in a variety of ways. One could see it as a representation of battling depression, something Anno was fighting himself while he was creating the series, or as a representation of mankind’s tendency to fight anything seen as alien to our natures, among many other possibilities. The series’ unique storytelling approach is also notable in how it uses various plot developments to explore Shinji’s internal character and mindset, allowing the series to function as a deep character study while still echoing qualities similar to other anime.

While there are many themes that Neon Genesis Evangelion tackles, one of the most prominent is the idea of the connections we make, both with ourselves and with those around us. The series doesn’t shy away from capturing each of the characters’ fears and insecurities, whether this manifests through their estranged relationships with their parents, their fears about piloting the mysterious Evangelion, or the crushing weight of knowing that the entire world is relying on them. By first defining each of the series’ characters in extraordinarily different ways, Anno uses the rest of the series and its many conflicts to constantly place emphasis on how they interact with each other. This maneuver reinforces the difficulty that comes with building connections and relationships, but also the beauty that lies in our interactions with others, however big or small.

The physical release also includes two feature films that were released shortly after the series. The first film is Death(True)2, which is essentially just a recap of what happens during the series’ first 24 episodes. Due to this film’s quick-paced nature and compact structure, just watching the series itself is a much more worthwhile experience. The release also includes The End of Evangelion, a deeply philosophical and earth-shattering masterpiece that consists of Anno’s remakes of the final two episodes. The film was a result of massive backlash towards the original series’ budget cut-strained 25th and 26th episodes and it presents the conclusion of Evangelion in a narratively cohesive, fascinating and disturbing way. The End of Evangelion is an apocalypse film that has no heroes, no true protagonists and very little hope, showing the literal end of the world in a way that is frightening yet oddly fulfilling. While the final two episodes of the series do not deserve the hate they may have received in the past, it’s difficult to compare them to the film, which has a much larger scope and a more personal storytelling approach.

The physical release of the film comes in three editions, ranging from a “standard edition” basic Blu-Ray set to a limited “ultimate edition,” which contains a variety of supplemental materials. The “standard edition” includes the entire series and two films on disc, as well as a variety of bonus features. Importantly, the English-language dubbing of the series on the “standard edition” is the 2019 dub that was made for the series’ re-release on Netflix. This dub has received quite a bit of backlash since it was introduced, so for fans looking for the original, “classic” dub, it is only available on the higher-priced editions. Regardless, a physical release of Neon Genesis Evangelion has been so long-awaited that its mere arrival is exciting in itself, both for longtime fans of the series and for those who will dive into the unforgettable world of Evangelion and finally experience the importance, and complexities, of Anno’s work for themselves. (http://www.store.gkids.com/pages/neon-genesis-evangelion)




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