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Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death & Rebirth
Though the beginning is fairly confusing for first few minutes due to lots of flashbacks and some frenetic editing, Death does do an adequate job of rehashing the plot. As one can imagine, in condensing 600 minutes of the TV series into 45 minutes for Death, lots of stuff was left out. Besides the mecha battles that Death mostly focuses on, Neon Genesis Evangelion contained some of the best character development seen in any anime and had lots of subtle psychological drama that made the series both disturbing and compelling. Most of the important character revelations are left in, as are many of the big revelations concerning Unit 1, Rei, and The Magi, which were contained in the last few episodes of the TV series. For those unfamiliar with the TV series, Neon Genesis Evangelion, followed the exploits of three fourteen-year olds – Shinji, Asuka, and Rei – who pilot EVAs in an attempt to defend Japan from the Angels, otherworldly creatures bent upon our destruction. Episode twenty-four concludes with Shinji's destruction of the final Angel, Kaoru (or Kaworu), after which, Shinji collapsed into near schizophrenia. Death concludes here as well.
After Shinji defeats the final angel, SEELE takes an offensive against NERV, the headquarters of the EVAs, to bring about Third Impact, which would wipe out most of humanity. SEELE and the Japan Strategic Self Defense Force (JSSDF) invade NERV, in an attempt to capture Unit 1, destroy Units 0 & 2, kill all the EVA pilots, and to terminate all NERV employees. With Shinji near catatonic and Rei in some sort of limbo, the newly awakened Asuka is all that prevents NERV's utter destruction, but can even she overcome the odds when SEELE launches EVA Units 5-13?
Death mainly succeeds as a refresher for those who have seen the original TV series. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend watching the TV series first, rather than using Death as a substitute. Though I haven't seen End of Evangelion, Rebirth is supposedly the first part of that film, though edited down. Rebirth is certainly much more violent and harsh than the TV series and possibly contains the most disturbing moment ever in anime. It is important to note that Death & Rebirth can be skipped, as the entire story can be gleaned from watching both the TV series and End of Evangelion.
Death & Rebirth is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen. The transfer is quite good, with few, if any, marks or specks visible. The print has a slightly faded look to it, though colors are still bright with accurate flesh tones. Blacks are never deep or rich, remaining too light throughout.
Death & Rebirth is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 in English and Dolby 2.0 Stereo in English and Japanese. Fans of the dub will quickly notice that most of the same voice talent for the TV series (released by ADV here in the US) reprises their role for this feature. However, some of the secondary and minor characters did not, though I noticed this only with the commentary. The new 5.1 track is incredible, especially at the beginning of Death, with voices coming from every speaker. Rear surrounds are also employed well, and explosions sound fantastic. The 2.0 tracks are, expectedly, more subdued, but certainly get the job done. Dialogue throughout is crisp and clean. Optional subtitles are available in English.
All the extras, including the commentary and Mokuji Interactive, are included on the flip side of the disc. The feature film is included on both sides of the disc, though side B contains only the film presented in English Dolby 2.0 Stereo. This should be of little importance, especially if you're listening to the commentary and watching the Mokuji Interactive feature at the same time.
The commentary features three participants: Amanda Winn Lee (English Language Director, Voice of Rei, Voice of Yui), Jason C. Lee (Co-Producer), and Taliesin Jaffe (Anime Enthusiast). The track is very light, as the participants are determined to avoid the serious nature of the film, by making it a fun watch for them, mainly through jokes. The participants also spend a great deal of time pointing out voice actors and praising them, which grew tiresome as the track went on. However, the participants do (eventually) discuss some of the biblical connections in the film, as well as explain some of the more disturbing moments.
The Mokuji Interactive feature works just like the Infinifilm feature from New Line. An onscreen box/menu will appear in the lower part of the screen prompting you to access information about the characters/events happening at that moment. However, almost all of this information is contained in the Magi Archives. I actually found it much easier to just read the information there. There is one bit of information in the Mokuji Interactive feature that is not in the Magi Archives – it is labeled "Asuka's Condition" and is found at the beginning of Rebirth.
The Magi Archives is easily the feature on the disc I enjoyed the most. It is divided into four subsections, each containing a wealth of text information: Central Dogma, Personnel Files, Heaven's Messengers, and The E-Project. Central Dogma contains information about such things as Prog Knives, the JSSDF, N^2 Mines, the Lance of Longinus, Dummy Plugs, AT Fields, the Magi, NERV, SEELE, and much more. Personnel Files contain information about every primary and secondary character in Evangelion, even the people you only see a handful of times. Heaven's Messengers contains information about each of the angels, and notes which did not appear in Death & Rebirth. The E-Project goes through each of the EVAs in detail. I absolutely loved the Magi Archives, as it really cemented some of the most ambiguous and confusing revelations throughout the series and made it quite accessible.
Also on the disc is a photo gallery of fifteen stills from the film, trailers for this feature, a preview for End of Evangelion, Manga Video Previews, the Manga DVD Catalogue, and weblinks.
Though you can skip Death & Rebirth if you've seen the series and plan on seeing End of Evangelion when its released later this year, I strongly recommend at least renting it. Death serves as a good refresher for the series, while Rebirth gives you a taste of what comes next. However, the extras, especially the Magi Archives, really make it worth a look, because of the sheer amount of information you can glean from them. Recommended.