Mike delves into the technical side of anime and discovers a whole world of knowledge.
Reviewby Theron Martin, Mar 18th 2005
Neon Genesis Evangelion
DVD 3: Platinum Edition
The Eva pilots settle into business as they begin handling missions against the Angels as a trio. As they soon discover, though, not all of the Angels strike directly or with physical might, but that makes them no less dangerous. Meanwhile Misato gets promoted, Ritsuko must deal with the legacy of her mother, and Commander Ikari is off to the South Pole to retrieve something which may ultimately prove important to his plans and those of SEELE, the secret organization behind NERV. Just when things finally seem to be going well, one of the Evas goes berserk during a test!
This volume, which covers episodes 11-14, continues to mix in more light-hearted elements even as the battles and drama are playing out over the first three episodes. During this time we get important information about the nature of the MAGI supercomputers, a bit of a look at Misato's past, and some key insight into her present motivations. We also get to see Shinji in his most settled state, even though he is still trying to figure out why he's doing what he is. Because of this, Asuka takes the lead amongst the pilots and thus is at her sassy finest. Ritsuko also finally gets some long-needed attention, during which she says a lot of important things which might be passed off as innocuous at first. The last episode, which begins with a thinly-disguised series review, drops any hint of lighter elements (a precursor of things to come) in favor of a rare dip into Rei's psyche and a tense problem with one of the Evas during a test. That episode also hints at some of the more intriguing mysteries in the series to date, though it just provides the viewer with more to think about rather than any clear answers. It also introduces SEELE for the first time and gives us a solid indication that Commander Ikari might be playing a different game than what his bosses intend.
As with earlier episodes, the battle scenes in the first two episodes are suitably exciting and creative, and it's a bit of an extra thrill to finally get to see all three Evas operating in tandem. Episode 13 one-ups the previous two episodes by presenting possibly the most intense Angel encounter yet—and it accomplishes this without true action sequences. No series I have ever seen is as effective as NGE at ramping up tension to nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat levels, and in episode 13 we get a good taste of what the series can achieve. If you've never before seen NGE through until its end, trust me when I say that, as good as that sampling was, the best is still yet to come.
As with most of the series, the technical and artistic merits of this volume, while good, are not exceptional by modern standards. Character designs are distinctive, designed to be sexy rather than cutesy, and use eyes much closer to realistic proportions than most mecha series. The mecha designs are among the most distinctive ever produced for an anime series, with sleek, lithe appearances that look monstrous, fearsome, and nimble rather than boxy and knight-like. Though the scenes animated in detail are well-done, NGE is notorious for the novel shortcuts it uses, such as having characters talk while their mouths are covered (curiously, though, you will see animated blinking in many scenes if you watch closely enough). Those weaned on more recent CGI-laden productions may find it all to look a bit dated, but these visuals were highly influential in 1995. However, NGE's greatest strengths have always lain with its storytelling and emphasis on characterization, a trait which it shares with most other GAINAX titles. In those realms the series has few equals, though this block of episodes is not the best example of what it can achieve.
NGE has never lacked for a quality, effective musical score, and by this point in the series a balance has been achieved which favors dramatic sounds over the overwrought melodrama sometimes heard in earlier episodes. The opener is still one of the all-time great anime series openers, while the closer continues with the varied renditions of Bart Howard's “Fly Me To The Moon.” One of the greatest highlights of the series is its English dub, which I have long considered to be the pinnacle of achievement in English voice work on an anime title. If there is a finer dub of any anime title out there, I have not heard it. Is it a perfect match for the Japanese vocals? No, but you wouldn't want it to be. The rhythms and inflections of English and Japanese are very different, which is something the ADR directors for NGE clearly recognized, so trying to duplicate the original Japanese vocals in a series so dependent on the fineries of character expressiveness would have resulted in the series sounding flat in English. Instead, the English voice actors were allowed to interpret the characters into English speaking terms, which produces some of the best individual performances in all of anime dubbing. The veteran English cast almost universally turns in career-best performances here despite the fact that some of the actors, as you find out in “behind-the-scenes” material and convention interviews, were really playing against type. The highlight performance in this block of episodes goes to Tiffany Grant, who embodies Asuka like no one else could. Some of the credit, of course, must go to the fact that they had an incredible script to work with, including some of the most impressive displays of technobabble you'll hear anywhere. It does stray a bit from the original script, and director Matt Greenfield has stated that some parts would have been translated differently if he could go back and do it over again. I have never felt that any significant meaning was lost, however, and some of the little extra touches (such as Asuka's German invectives) give the dub a more complete and well-rounded feel than the subs do. I find the original Japanese vocals uninteresting by comparison.
I was leery about checking out this new Platinum edition since I already had all the originals and the Director's Cuts. As many others have said, though, the quality of this remastered version is worth it. The sound is distinctly better (although a good stereo system is required to fully appreciate it), some additional background chatter is added in, a few lines are adjusted here and there, and the print is a bit sharper—but even this print occasionally shows slight flaws, only apparent on an HD-caliber TV, a common problem for titles from the mid '90s and earlier. Each episode also uses the original Next Episode pieces and some minor fine-tuning is done throughout to the onscreen text. The tendency to use the undoctored original onscreen text even in the dub is annoying, since one must now switch to the subtitle option to understand them.
The extras are also better than in the original DVD releases. Gone are the Spanish and French language tracks, but in their place we have clean openings and endings, a short featurette on the technical aspects of the English remix process, and commentary tracks for episodes 11 and 13. The former is done by Tiffany Grant and husband Brian Granveldt, who played NERV tech Makoto Hyuga. It is by far the more lively of the two, and brings out interesting tidbits like the fact that the English VAs for all the Eva pilots eventually married the VAs for all the chief NERV techs. The second one is done by director Matt Greenfield and the chief Dolby 5.1 remix tech guy. It is much drier and focuses exclusively on technical aspects of the sound reengineering for most of the episode. While it's interesting to see exactly how much was done for this new version, much of its material could have been shunted off into the Remix featurette. Also included in the extensive liner notes are episode commentaries and more detailed versions of the character profiles that appeared on the original DVDs.
Volume three of the Platinum Edition does not show Neon Genesis Evangelion at its best, but it does give viewers some indication of why this series is widely-considered to be among the greatest anime series ever made. It is worth picking up even if one already owns the originals.
Overall (dub) : A
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : A
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : A-
+ Superior English dub, intense drama
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