Neon Genesis Evangelion, like all the greatest franchises, is subject to a constant stream of updates and special editions. But unlike many other (purely money making) releases, Gainax deserve this chance to renew their masterpiece. It’s a well known fact that Evangelion suffered from crippling budget problems during its initial release and much of its animation was low budget for the sake of keeping Gainax financially afloat. But now, a decade on and a whole lot richer, Gainax have returned to Evangelion and given it the posh treatment it deserves; one, mind boggling urban myth even suggests they spent more money on this painstaking renewal than they did during the original creation of the show.
Of course, new Evangelion fans have never had it any better, but what about those of us who already own older DVD versions of this classic show- is it worth upgrading?
(For a series as reviewed and discussed as Evangelion, my content reviews for Platinum will be slightly scattered and not as detailed as my reviews of newer shows. That said I will try to comment on the key story progress presented by each new volume along with the technical merits that each instalment conveys.)
Shinji Ikari is a normal, shy kid thrown into extraordinary circumstances. He has been approached by Nerv, a secret military organisation, to pilot a giant robot known as Eva Unit 01; an eerie, bio-mechanical mecha that requires a specific 13-year-old human pilot to activate. Shinji, the eternal pessimist, is less than impressed (and rather scared) but pushes himself into the job as if to prove something to his distant father (who also happens to be the leader of Nerv).
Nerv’s task is to fight off Angels, strange alien creatures who seem to be randomly attacking human kind for no apparent reason. The Evangelions’ and essentially Shinji himself are mankind’s first and last line of defence. Not exactly something you would want lying on the shoulders of an introverted, emotionally starved teenager.
The relative merits of Shinji’s personality have been debated to death, but I still have him down as perhaps the most realistic portrayal of a teenager’s personality (in anime) to date. Some nay-sayers would like him to stand up and become the typical Hollywood all action hero who is expected to save the day in this kind of situation- but thankfully, director Anno had different ideas and created one of the most memorable characters to grace science fiction, let alone animation.
Shinji’s interactions with those around him make for perpetually painful but also vastly compelling viewing. During these first five episodes, we see him struggling to live with his new, brash housemate Misato and suffering under the burden of the insanely high expectations forced on him by his selfish, unlikable father who no doubt sees Shinji has nothing but a means of getting what he wants.
The pressure on Shinji finally gets the better of him during arguably, this volume’s most exciting moment. Confused and scared, Shinji and his Eva are being torn apart by a vicious new Angel. By protecting his school mates who have just crawled into the Eva entry plug (cockpit) and desperately willing with himself ‘don’t run away, don’t run away’- he stands up, goes against the orders of retreat from Nerv HQ and snatches victory from the jaws of defeat (and death!). The out pouring of rage, fear and sadness during these scenes is exhilarating and perfectly illustrates the feelings that dominate Shinji’s pent up personality.
The more I watch this show, the more I love the vibrant character designs and backgrounds. They are so colourful and full of life that it’s a pleasure to watch such a beautiful, epic series. Despite the rather downbeat atmosphere, the animation helps fill this show with excitement and enthusiasm.
The Platinum DVD: picture, audio and extras
Despite being no technical expert in the areas of picture and audio, I feel I should comment on these key aspects of the Platinum release.
Immediately noticeable is the picture when compared with older Evangelion releases, the Platinum animation is much brighter (or fresher) – adding to the already vivid colours of the character designs (especially those of the Evangelion units). Similarly, the artistic backgrounds are very detailed and often, quite beautiful. I have scattered snapshots taken from the DVD through out the review.
The remastered 5.1 audio is a great addition, especially when you stop to consider Evangelion’s classical music score. I watched (and thoroughly) enjoyed this show with the Japanese language track, though I spot checked the English dub and found it up to the same technical standards.
Given this is a lauded re-release, Platinum is a disappointment in terms of disc extras. There are no Japanese special features, cast or staff interviews; I’m yet to see an interview with maverick director Hideaki Anno- someone who would no doubt have such an amount of interesting things to talk about from a technical and personal point of view.
There is some consolation though; ADV provide us with episode commentaries featuring English dub director Matt Greenfield and (English) Shinji voice actor Spike Spencer, along with a 12 page booklet containing comments and profiles on the show and the episodes found on this first volume.
The silver slip cover and standard DVD cover-art are not especially outstanding, but are attractive enough for a release of this magnitude. Both are emblazoned with Shinji in his classic “I’m worried” pose.
Neon Genesis Evangelion: Platinum #1 is set to become the definitive release for this show so far, so obviously, anyone who has yet to experience the enthralling delights of this epic mecha series, Platinum is your best bet yet.
On the other hand, it’s debatable whether or not it’s worth older fans upgrading from the previous releases.
If you already hate Evangelion, this release won’t change your (frankly crazy) opinions, but then, if you’re a massive fan- this is the best Evangelion has ever looked and sounded.
If you find yourself somewhere in-between, re-watch you’re older Evangelion DVDs and decide for yourself if you want to check out the latest and greatest versions.