Reviewby Mike Crandol,
Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion
NERV has defeated the last Angel, but their biggest threat proves to be SEELE, which is still determined to initiate the Third Impact at any cost. Sending the Japanese army and nine automonous EVA units to invade NERV headquarters, SEELE plans to realize their goal using Unit-01 as their tool. Misato wages a desperate battle to protect a despondent Shinji from the enemy, whose orders are to terminate the three Children on sight. Meanwhile Asuka wakes from her coma to engage the new EVA series alone in Unit-02, and Gendo summons Rei to put his final plan in motion. But Rei has plans of her own, and ultimately leaves it up to Shinji to decide the future of humanity.
The End of Evangelion is a film that needs no introduction. Perhaps the most highly anticipated anime release ever, this theatrical conclusion to the historic Neon Genesis Evangelion television series has been promised to be "coming soon" from Manga Entertainment for almost three years. It's finally, officially hit American shores, but was it worth the wait?
You're not gonna want to watch this movie unless you're already an Eva fan, and if you're already an Eva fan you've probably seen this picture fansubbed at least twenty times by now. Therefore I will forego any lengthy discussion of the film's plot, content, or meaning(s), and focus on the technical aspects of this release and its English translation. Those looking for more info on the thematic aspects of Evangelion should check out my previous article on the subject. I will say that as a work of animation The End of Evangelion is a visual marvel. Though obviously rotoscoped, Asuka's battle against the nine winged EVA units is a blood-splattered triumph of fully-animated action that far surpasses any of the Angel battles from the TV series. The film also makes use of some gorgeous CGI that is a little dated by today's standards but is still impressive nonetheless. Though much of the imagery is grotesque, the whole film is an opulent wonder to behold, possessing a kind of horrific beauty. The end of the world never looked so good.
The video presentation is unremarkable. This may have to do with the fact that the movie is five years old, or that much of the film is intentionally dark and drab. But the picture does not jump out and grab you, as much of the TV series did (despite the infamous "Evangelion-jitter"). There are substantial audio options, including 6.1 surround in English and Japanese as well as the more standard 5.1 and stereo options. The stereo and 5.1 sound quality is good, though 6.1 will not play at all without surround sound.
In the months leading up to the release there had been much talk about the wealth of extra material that would be included. It has unfortunately come to naught, as End of Evangelion's sole extras consist of an audio commentary, Eva trailers, and the standard Manga Entertainment previews. In particular there had been mention of including Dub Outtakes...supposedly there were some hilarious "alternate versions" of Spike Spencer's performance during the infamous opening sequence... but they are nowhere to be found on the disc unless they are a very cleverly disguised easter egg. The commentary by English-language director (and voice of Rei) Amanda Winn Lee, producer Jason Lee (Aioba), and "anime enthusiast" Taliesan Jaffe is a lot of fun, however, and provides tremendous insight into the myriad hidden meanings and endless interpretations behind the film.
It is indeed fortunate that Manga took care to reassemble most of ADV's vocal cast for the dub. Evangelion's greatest strength is its fully-realized characters, and by the end of the series viewers have gotten to know them so well no substitutes would do. Each of the returning actors has only improved in the interim, the result being the same-old-Evangelion, but with a new level of vocal sophistication and excellence. Tiffany Grant is her old fiery self as Asuka, and Tristan MacAvery does a great job of performing a side of Gendo that was never seen in the television show. In early episodes of the series Allison Keith struggled with Misato's more serious moments, but here she is right on the mark in capturing Major Katsuragi's determined nature, and Spike Spencer brings a subtle nuance to Shinji's depression that he tended to caricature in the past; their final scene together is one of the most emotional and beautiful vocal performances to ever grace an anime.
The few voices that had to be replaced are a different story. Professor Fuyutski and the NERV techs were comparatively minor characters in the series but assume a more central role in the movie, and with the exception of Jason Lee's Aioba none of them are here performed by the original actors. Amy Seeley is actually an improvement as Maya Ibuki, but the new Fuyutski is flat and lifeless. Manga's own Keith Burgess steps up as the new voice of the Hyuga, but misses the essence of the nerdy tech completely and kills the character. Fortunately the remarkably strong performances of the main cast overshadow the weaker voice work present, and on the whole I'd say Mr. and Mrs. Lee's Gaijin Productions is to be commended for a job well done.
Evangelion's near-mythic status among fandom no doubt made the job of translating the script into English a harrowing task, especially given the extraorindarily interpretive nature of the movie. It has to be said that in places the English dialogue is a little hokey and overly-melodramatic ("Sweet Jesus! An Anti-AT Field!"). The film's unrelentingly dour and pretentious nature could understandably have made it difficult for the translators to take it all so seriously, but the movie takes itself very seriously, and the sometimes over-the-top dialogue undermines the mood of the film. Then of course there is Asuka's highly-subjective final line which closes the movie....no matter how it was translated it was destined not to please everyone.
The End of Evangelion was a long time in coming, and now that it's here it proves to be a decidedly mixed bag. Fans of the old ADV cast can rejoice as Shinji, Misato, Asuka, and Rei return to give the performance of their careers. Nobody's going to be completely satisfied with the script translation, but that was pretty much a given from the outset. The lack of extras is the biggest disappointment...one would expect more from what's one of the most popular films in anime history, but in the end it's really beside the point. It's time to throw out your faded VHS fansub. Finally.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A
Story : B
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : B+
+ returning English cast members outdo themselves in the ultimate Evangelion tale
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