Hideaki Anno’s Neon Genesis Evangelion, often credited with revitalising the Japanese anime industry, has achieved almost Holy Grail-like status within the anime community. Commonly seen as a rite of passage for any would-be anime fan the series, and subsequent entries, are met with tremendous fervour. To call Evangelion a cult classic would be a major understatement as the series garners worldwide attention.
With Netflix obtaining worldwide streaming rights to the series, Death (True)² and The End of Evangelion back in 2018 it meant that for the first time these groundbreaking pieces of animation were available outside of Japan in remastered HD. There are some caveats, however. The omission of Fly Me to the Moon in certain regions due to licensing and both ADV’s original and director’s cut dubs. Netflix does however feature a re-translated script from Studio Khara as well as a new English-Language dub with a cast chosen by the studio.
In 2020 both Anime Limited and GKids announced they had acquired home video distribution rights within the UK and US respectively. This marks the first time the series has been available on Blu-ray within either territory. Both companies announced Ultimate, Collector’s and Standard edition releases with all but the Standard Edition featuring bonus classic dub and subtitled versions. The standard editions only include the newer Netflix dub. Fly Me to the Moon is not included with any of the Anime Limited and GKids releases.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
The series itself still holds up extremely well today, perhaps even more so as it stands high above a sea of generic isekai cash grabs that fill each seasonal anime line-up. Well written characters, deep levels of philosophy and intellectual exploration of religious themes. Evangelion gives us so much to take in and think about that it feels almost an impossible task to try and decipher each aspect. Every time a question is finally answered even more spring up in its place. The series constantly has you edge, dying to understand the deeper motivations of its characters, the symbolism and yet we’re always fingertips away.
Evangelion isn’t perfect though, there are some pacing issues and then there are the final two episodes. Perhaps the bane of anyone who watches Evangelion the last two episodes are frankly unnecessary. The fact that they arrive after a number of stellar episodes is what makes them a jarring experience. It’s hard to adjust to that style of storytelling when the answers we’d been searching for were finally being answered. It also only serves to make Kaworu Nagisa’s appearance feel all too quick for the level of importance he has over the story. Thankfully this is remedied with The End of Evangelion but not before experiencing more of the same in Evangelion: Death.
Much like the aforementioned final two episodes of the series Death plays out like a fast-paced clip show. Designed to recap the story thus far but does so in a way thats out of chronological order making it very hard to follow. Unlike the final episodes of the series, Death focuses on retelling the story from the perspective of the four main characters, not just Shinji. Adding in this new layer helps bring back some of the intrigue lost by the series finale. Death works best as a refresher course before jumping into The End of Evangelion but even then watching the series up to episode 24 is easily the better way of consuming the story.
There have been multiple revisions to the Death movie and what’s presented here and across all previously mentioned editions is Evangelion:Death (True)². This version does away with the Rebirth section as it’s designed to work in tandem with The End of Evangelion. If nothing else the movie does heavily feature Pachelbel’s Canon, a lovely piece of music, even working it into the theme of the movie to great effect.
The End of Evangelion
The search for answers is finally at an end. The End of Evangelion is aptly named as it gave fans the ending they had been craving. A wrap up of the story as opposed to the deep dive into Shinji’s mind. It is within this movie that we learn the truth behind SEELE, NERV, Lilith, Adam and the Angels. It is such a complete experience bringing together all of the elements that make Evangelion so great into a satisfying end.
It is not without its faults, there’s the rather questionable masturbation scene within the opening minutes and the somewhat abstract ending. Criticisms aside, the movie is full of all the symbolism, political agender, the philosophy that we’ve come to expect from Hideaki Anno.
In terms of audio and visual quality, there is not much to complain about. This is easily the best version of the series and movies to be released outside of Japan. The HD remaster from Studio Khara is great, though there are some variations in quality from episode to episode especially episode 16. Still, it’s easily better than previous DVD versions that we’ve all no doubt been obsessively hoarding.
The only major gripe with this series and the Death movie is the excessive use of flashing imagery. It was a popular trend back in the 90s that even saw an episode of Pokemon banned within Japan and subsequently left out of western releases. Evangelion’s are perhaps less notorious given the show is aimed at an older audience but those scenes are hard to watch without throwing up a hand to block out the overwhelming flashing.
Perhaps the biggest bone of contention for many will be the omission of Fly Me to the Moon and while it is certainly missed the replacement song Rei I by series composer Shirō Sagisu is a much more fitting addition. The darker tonal feeling from this song is more in line with the themes of the series, this is, of course, a given with the song being a character theme. It’s a really nice addition nonetheless especially if Fly Me to the Moon is off the table.
Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the most celebrated anime of all time and for good reason. It should be a must-watch for any would-be anime fan and any edition from All the Anime a must-own. With over 5 hours of bonus features in the standard edition alone, this should be an instant purchase.