Reviewby Matt Jong
Neon Genesis Evangelion
DVD Vol. 1
Neon Genesis Evangelion is a story of a frail looking 15-year-old boy and his unusual day-job: piloting a huge robot to save mankind against angelic invaders. It occurs on a drastically different earth, flooded by the melting of Antarctica. The year is 2015 and the place is Tokyo- 3, Japan. Bizarre-looking organisms, called angels have begun appearing and attacking mankind, and it seems that frail, 15 year-old Shinji Ikari and the biomechanical robot known as Evangelion, are mankind's only hopes. Under the auspices of NERV, a top secret UN organization, Shinji, and another pilot, Rei Ayanami, pilot their Evas in hand to hand combat with the angels. That's what the story is on the surface at least, but it quickly evolves into a psychological and philosophical melting pot with deeper meaning and symbolism, rife with religious images, metaphors, and techno-jargon.
Despite its shortcomings, this DVD is quite good. Many people have valid complaints with the DVD (myself included) however, they are grudgingly minor and acceptable; I did expect something better but it wasn't off my expectations by much. Having heard all of the complaints, I had been hesitant to buy it. But I have the series on tape, and wanted a permanent digital collection. Granted there are problems with the series and the DVDs but ADV did a decent job transferring Evangelion to DVD.
The video transfer on the DVD is good, it won't win any outstanding video awards, but the overall quality is good. Every once in a while the lines blur slightly from movement, but that could very well be the player. Despite this small flaw in sharpness, the video is, for the most part, clear; although it certainly could have been better. It certainly doesn't detract from my opinion of the DVD as a whole.
One of the biggest problems with this DVD is the overlays, which are done inconsistently and poorly. Many people think it was one of the worst things done to the series. For example, the opening scene has rail line schedules awkwardly displayed in English. Seconds later, all the signs in downtown Tokyo-3 are in Japanese. This is probably the worst problem with the video. However, after the initial disgust, the feeling quickly subsides as the video continues. It doesn't occur often, and it can quickly be forgotten. Fortunately, ADV heard the complaints and fixed the problem; the remaining DVDs in the series do not have overlays.
The audio was well done, too. The original music from Evangelion is fantastic. Shiroh Sagisu did a great job with the music. The music is catchy and fits the mood of the action well. It always appropriately fits the scene. The transfer to DVD seems good and I didn't notice any glaring mistakes. They even have Spanish and French audio tracks, in addition to the standard English and Japanese, which is interesting, if you're multilingual. The Spanish track seems to be quite good, and it is fair to assume that the French track would also be quite decent.
The English dubbed track was well done and sounded just as good as the Japanese subbed. But being able to hear the subbed track with the original Japanese voice actors was great. Some people prefer the subbed because it relates the nuances better. The Japanese voice actors played their parts well. The American voice actors did an equally great job and the quality of the dub is just as good as the subtitled Japanese track. I thought the English Commander Ikari was perfectly cast for the part. There is however a small problem with the subtitles themselves; the font chosen is ugly. And every once in a while the subtitles get ahead of the actual dialog, or they come in at the wrong times. It doesn't happen often enough to ruin the DVD, but still it happens.
Unfortunately the DVD lacks a decent set of extras. The short little character bios are interesting but inadequate. Of course, there are the typical ADV trailers found on all of ADV's DVDs, but the lack of image galleries, storyboards, interviews, or anything else is disappointing. At the very least, they could've made the character bios a little more in depth. If extras are important to you, enough to seriously influence your purchasing decisions, then you're out of luck here. Perhaps GAINAX wasn't very forthcoming with image extras and things like that. The menus are okay, but listening to "Zankoku Na Tenshi," the opening theme to Eva, and "Fly Me to the Moon," the ending theme, every time you switch menus gets boring fast (especially if you listen to them at the opening and ending, every time). It's a minor detail, but annoying nonetheless.
Overall this DVD is good. It certainly isn't stellar or fantastic, which is unfortunate, really, for ADV's flagship anime. This is their big series and although they didn't botch it, they didn't do an amazing job either. Considering that Evangelion is thought to be, by some, a groundbreaking, exceptional anime, ADV should have done better. Maybe the remaining discs will improve on the minor details. The story itself is fantastic and merits buying, particularly for the cerebral types; and even those of you that aren't will find yourself watching it over and over to get every subtle detail and understand what's going on. Others, however, will yawn right through it. It does bog down many times with awkward silences and incoherent psychobabble and the action in every episode is brief if there is any at all. If you want non-stop robot action, maybe you should look elsewhere. But the first few episodes are structured to leave you hanging in suspense and hook you right in. And since the overlays are being eliminated in the rest of the DVD collections, that point quickly turns into a non-issue. One disc out of the eight in the whole collection will have the overlays, which is acceptable. The music itself is great, the audio well done and the subbed or dubbed tracks are both excellent. I still bought it, and stand firmly by my decision to do so. Overall, it was still a good DVD and I feel that I got my money's worth.
Overall : B+
Story : A+
Art : A-
Music : A
+ Great, thought provoking story/character development, great audio, great music, great subbed and dubbed tracks, Spanish and French tracks
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