Neon Genesis Evangelion is a true landmark of anime; being one of the first series of it’s kind to mix epic science fiction with religious symbolism and strong personal angst.
The names Shinji Ikari and Rei Ayanami are not simply just characters within this story, but words in which fans use to describe certain actions and emotions. In short, Evangelion has become a template against which many anime series are judged today.
Despite the series highly influential nature, many fans were split on how to decipher its controversial conclusion. Instead of the climatic ‘apocalyptic’ events being shown for us all to view, Evangelion’s last 2 episodes are an introverted, psychological deconstruction of the main characters, showing us their inner most fears and anxieties.
Of course, this left many people baffled at the sheer ambiguity of Evangelion and resulted in a rather large backlash against the series author ‘Hideaki Anno’, but also gave birth to a legion of rabid followers; happy to sit and interpret Evangelion’s many cryptic sub-plots and character motivations.
Since then, Neon Genesis Evangelion has simply gone from strength to strength, with a worldwide fan base that is still expanding to this very day.
Thanks to these demanding fans, we have already been treated to ‘End of Evangelion’ (a theatrical reinterpretation of the series conclusion) and now a ‘Directors cut’ set of the last six episodes.
‘Directors’ Cut: Genesis Reborn’ is the revised, re-edited footage of the last 3 episodes. Whilst containing new footage and revelations, this disc doesn’t attempt to revamp Evangelion’s TV ending, preferring instead to present it in a clearer, perhaps more stream-lined version.
I will not be attempting to explain/solve what happens in these extremely layered and rather psychotic episodes. I’ve watched Evangelion three times now and it still confuses the hell out me.
Episode 24 is the introduction of Kaoru, the supposed 5th child sent in (by SEELE) to replace the flailing Asuka. Many of the NERV personnel are suspicious of this perfect new pilot, yet strangely, it’s Shinji who quickly befriends Kaoru and within days, the two have sparked up a strong friendship with one-another.
As the episode continues, it becomes clear that Kaoru isn’t exactly who he seems to be; and this in turn sets’ off a dramatic chain of events which concludes with Shinji being forced into making a tragic decision. The final clips of this episode, matched with some famous classical music, create one of the most enduring, and sad scenes given to us by Evangelion.
Episode’s 25 and 26 make the controversial jump straight into the psychological results of the fabled ‘human instrumentality project’.
In a combination of different animation techniques (ranging from simple pencil drawings to completely abstract animation styles), each of the character’s personalities are systematically explored, knocked down and then rebuilt.
Episode 24 contains most of the new footage, with a running time that is now close to 30 minutes, while the two concluding episodes contain mostly reworked dialogue and touched up animation.
While I do not know enough about Evangelion to immediately spot the changes that have been made/added, I can say that none of them diminish the overall impact of what is essentially one of the most controversial anime series ever made.
Episode 24 was always my favourite episode (simply because I enjoy the serene, understanding attitude of Kaoru) and none of the affects of its stirring conclusion have been lessened.
Taking a look at the disc’s special features, we are treated to a musical slideshow of the (beautiful) conceptual art (by WETA) for the upcoming live-action Evangelion film (a section that will no doubt feed the furious excitement surrounding this project) as well as text less opening/ending sequences.
I must say that my understanding of the inner-plot details of Evangelion has always been sketchy at best, but I did find these episodes a little easier to follow this time around. If this is due to either my growing experience of the story or the new directors’ cut is up for debate, but I have a feeling it’s a combination of the two.
So there we have it; (hopefully) the definitive conclusion to what must be one of the most discussed anime series ever.
I’ve always enjoyed Evangelion for the bravery shown in its story telling and the realistic afflictions carried by the majority of its main characters.
The series conclusion, while highly controversial and extremely ambiguous, left me feeling satisfied. Evangelion was always about the mental strife suffered by the likes of Shinji, and it’s fitting that it should all end with him finally understanding the error in his ways.
Neon Genesis Evangelion is an innovative, action-packed anime series that should be missed by no-one. This ‘Directors’ cut’ just adds to what was already a near perfect example of influential, symbolic Japanese animation.