Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of my all-time favorite anime series. Released originally in Japan in 1995, the series ran twenty-six episodes, with the last two being both confusing and somewhat bizarre. Created to appease the fans, End of Evangelion was a theatrically released new conclusion to the series that, depending on your perspective, takes the place of or works in addition to episodes 25 & 26.
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 Tokyo 3 from the Angels, otherworldly creatures bent upon our destruction. Episode twenty-four concludes with Shinji's destruction of the final Angel, Kaoru, after which, Shinji collapsed into near schizophrenia.
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. Shinji, however, has given up on himself and humanity, resigning himself to die. The newly awakened Asuka is all that stands between SEELE's EVA Units 5-13 and NERV's utter destruction, and she must hold them off long enough for Shinji to activate Unit 1. Now, Shinji will determine the fate of mankind, but what will he decide when the world has only caused him pain and loneliness?
End of Evangelion is a multi-layered epic, much of which is a bizarre, ambiguous, abstract, and disturbing journey, in part due to the symbolism and strange imagery. It is also much more violent and harsh than the TV series, some of which is rather shocking. Despite that, the series reaches a definite conclusion here, with all the character's interactions with each other reaching resolution. While I can't say that End of Evangelion left me any more satisfied than the last two episodes of the TV series, many of my lingering questions about the series were finally answered.
End of Evangelion 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. There is a fair amount of grain in several scenes, but is more than likely intentional.
End of Evangelion is presented in DTS-ES 6.1, Dolby Digital EX 5.1, and Dolby 2.0 Stereo, all in English or Japanese. As with Death & Rebirth, much of the same voice talent for the TV series reprises their role for this feature. However, some of the secondary and minor characters did not, though many are not obvious. The new 5.1 track is quite good with a fair amount of directional effects and split surrounds during the more action-orientated scenes. The rear channels, though, are mostly employed for ambient effects, as well as to support the fronts conveying the terrific orchestrated musical pieces. Much of the film, especially the ending, consists entirely of music and dialogue, though, so the track is somewhat limited by the material. 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.
The main extra on the disc is the commentary with Amanda Winn Lee (English Language Director, Producer, and Writer, as well as the voice of Rei and Yui), Jason C. Lee (Co-Producer), and Taliesin Jaffe (Anime Enthusiast, voice of several minor characters). As with the track on Death & Rebirth, the track has a fair amount of humor to avoid much of the seriousness involved in the film. While even these participants have trouble interpreting some of the more incomprehensible aspects of the film, they do postulate and share their observations of some of the symbolism and minor occurrences in the film that one may overlook the first few times through. I really gleaned quite a bit from the track and came away with a new insight into the film. Especially those newer to the Evangelion universe should definitely give it a listen, though most die-hard fans would have already engaged in theories similar to these.
Also included are trailers for this film, Death & Rebirth, Manga Video Previews, the Manga DVD Catalogue, and weblinks.
Though End of Evangelion was somewhat disappointing, for fans of the Neon Genesis Evangelion TV series this film a must watch. Manga has put together a terrific presentation for the film, complete with a fairly interesting commentary.