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Neon Genesis Evangelion: Volume 3 (Platinum Collection)

ADV Films // Unrated // November 16, 2004
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Randy Miller III | posted November 17, 2004 | E-mail the Author

Although I'd hardly call myself a hardcore fanatic, I've seen enough Japanese animation to be familiar with the genre. Of all the various shows and films I've had the pleasure of watching (Akira, Ninja Scroll, Macross, Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, etc.), it really amazes me that I'd never really fully absorbed Neon Genesis Evangelion, a short-lived series that first premiered in October of 1995 and only lasted less than a year. Since the very first episode, Evangelion has garnered a huge fan following worldwide, even spawning a few feature-length films in the process (Death and Rebirth, for example). While it may not feature an earth-shatteringly original concept or plot outline---especially within the boundaries of anime itself---Evangelion is a series that really stands out from the crowd with likeable characters, strong undercurrents of religion and mystery, and beautiful artwork (hey, just look at the screen captures for proof!).

Based on a Japanese comic book series (or manga), Evangelion tells the story of a young man's place in the world, A.D. 2015. Although this young boy (Shinji) has a practically non-existent relationship with his father (Gendo Ikari), he is called to meet with him while the city of Tokyo-3 is under attack by a strange, massive robotic creature known as an "Angel". Apparently, Shinji seems to be one of the keys to combat these Angels, and is asked (actually, more or less ordered) to pilot a technically advanced robot called an "Evangelion". Obviously, this is all a little much to take in at once, and Shinji seems reluctant to jump into such a deadly and dangerous situation. Eventually, he reconsiders, and seems determined to follow this new adventure wherever it may lead him.

Part of what makes Evangelion so compelling is its strong undercurrents of religion, philosophy, and basic human psychology. It's common knowledge among fans of Japanese animation that this isn't kid's stuff, and it doesn't pander to its audience. There's a lot to think about here---especially about your own place in the world---and Evangelion has a much deeper and more stimulating premise than a thousand episodes of Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh!. To make a long story short, it's rightfully deserving of its huge fanbase and a terrific "gateway drug" for future anime addicts.

With that said, the only thing that keeps this show from being perfect is the occasional feeling that we've seen bits and pieces of it before, especially in the forms of anime like the previously-mentioned Akira and Macross. It's by no means a cheap imitation, but several key themes and plot devices won't seem as fresh to anyone but those new to the wonderful world of Japanese animation. Still, the show's action-packed, dramatic sci-fi roots help to create a consistently satisfying series, and the mystery of certain characters and situations do a great job of keeping things interesting. During the show's original run, a total of 26 episodes were created. Apparently, Director Hideki Anno actually suffered a nervous breakdown towards the end of Evangelion (some fans have mentioned that the series gets a little confusing in the later episodes), but the show remains a popular favorite of many anime followers.

It's hard to believe this third volume is approaching the halfway point of the Platinum series---word has it that seven volumes are planned----as Evangelion really seems to be hitting its stride here. Although it's unfortunate that this disc contains only four episodes (as opposed to five each on the first two volumes), it's still a better value than the flimsy three-episode original versions. Episodes #11 through 14 are up to bat in this volume, including "The Day Tokyo-3 Stood Still", the awkwardly-titled "She Said, 'Don't Make Others Suffer For Your Personal Hatred'", "Lilliputian Hitcher" and "Weaving A Story". This third volume tones down the action a little bit, although it's safe to say that the series' generous doses of humor and drama are in abundance here. Veterans of the series will find these episodes as good as ever, while rookies (like me) will devour these quickly. The next volume will be released in late December, so at least we won't have to wait very long.

In direct comparison to the original releases, the most notable improvement here is the top-notch technical treatment that Evangelion has received. Long-time fans will no doubt be thrilled at the...*ahem*..."spike" in overall quality, and there's a few nice extras thrown in for good measure. On the whole, Evangelion is still an excellent choice for any self-respecting fan of anime...or just great science fiction in general. With that said, let's see how this disc stacks up, shall we?

Quality Control Department

Video & Audio Quality:

By now, it's no secret that these re-releases of Evangelion contain much-improved technical presentations. This new 1.33:1 full-frame transfer was taken directly from the original negatives, and absolutely sparkles with clarity and sharpness. Colors are bright and crisp, and black levels and contrast are also spot-on. There are little to no defects throughout the entire running time, save for a few negligible instances of edge enhancement and the like. Fans will really appreciate the care that has gone into the remastering of Evangelion, as it's a near-perfect effort in every regard. To make a long story short, the new transfer alone makes this version the one to hunt down...and if you thought the video was great, there's more good news!

Equally impressive is the robust Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound mix, available in the ever-popular choice of an English dub or the original Japanese (with English subtitles). I chose the original language track for the bulk of the viewing session, but also listened to a bit of the English dub as well (which is a quality effort, but I really don't like the idea of dubbing in general). Both tracks exhibited a great amount of punch, and the overall atmosphere and ambience were terrific. This is easily one of the best 5.1 tracks I've heard for any anime series, perhaps bested only by a few miscellaneous DTS tracks (such as those found on the Akira and Cowboy Bebop Perfect Sessions re-issues). Directional effects and LFE are also excellent, and really pull you into the action from the very first episode! If the remastered video wasn't enough of a reason to double dip, the audio easily puts this one over the top.

Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging:

Although the animated menus (seen above) aren't flashy or terribly exciting, they're simply designed and make for very smooth navigation. Each of these five episodes is broken down into the five customary chapters of most anime shows (Opening Credits, Part A, Part B, Closing Credits, and the Trailer for the next episode), and there was no layer change detected during playback. Packaging was also nicely designed, with brief episode descriptions provided on the back of the keepcase and an attractive overall layout. The keepcase also comes packaged in a sharp looking (but sorta flimsy) "Platinum" slipcover with embossed black lettering. Additionally, a nice 12-page character profile booklet is also included for easy reference. As mentioned before, English subtitles are also provided (although for some reason, some of the episodes' opening credits only feature Japanese subtitles).

Bonus Features:

The extras here are still a little thin, but they're a mild improvement over the second volume's lineup. Episode #11, "The Day Tokyo-3 Stood Still", features an optional Audio Commentary by voice actress Tiffany Grant (the English voice of Asuka). Although it's great to hear from some of the voice talent firsthand, Grant has a little trouble keeping things moving for the entire session. I would have much preferred a group effort, especially with Matt Greenfield and Wade Shemwell (who provide a second Audio Commentary for Episode #13, "Lilliputian Hitcher"). This second track is much more technical in nature---especially since Shemwell supervised the superb 5.1 remix---and contains a generous handful of interesting tidbits that fans will really enjoy.

Moving on, there's also an interesting 18-minute interview with the pair concerning the English Remix Process, and it's pretty informative despite a somewhat bland presentation. It's letterboxed at 1.85:1, although it looks to have been squeezed horizontally a bit (either that, or Greenfield and Shemwell should lay off the Twinkies). Although I would have loved to see some before/after comparisons during this segment, the wonderful 5.1 presentation should speak for itself. Other included regulars are Clean Versions of the opening and closing credits, as well as a handful of Trailers for other ADV releases (including Chrono Crusade, Peacemaker, and Farscape: Starburst Edition, among others).

While the quality of the included extras is decent (and I appreciate the improvement over Volume 2), there's still not enough on here to satisfy most fans. For one, I'd have loved to see a sketchbook or art gallery, or a behind-the-scenes look at the show's production and voice acting. Additionally, the lack of more commentaries by the cast and crew also hurts this release a bit, as a little more effort in this department would have really made a world of difference. As it stands, this Platinum DVD is easily superior to earlier releases of Evangelion, but it's still not quite a definitive disc. With any luck, the final disc in the series will be much heavier on the bonus materials, so let's keep our fingers crossed. Ironically, though, the complete set of Platiunum releases will easily trump the $170 Perfect Collection boxed set in every category. Looks like ADV will need to go thesaurus-hunting in the near future.

Final Thoughts

While some television series tend to sag towards the middle, Neon Genesis Evangelion: Volume 3 is every bit as good as the first two volumes...if not slightly more refined. Although the action seems to be turned down a notch this time around, the same great drama and character interaction makes Evangelion stand apart from the crowd. Like the previous two volumes, the DVD treatment itself is phenomenal---especially in the technical department---and it's high time that more anime releases got this nice of a clean-up job. While the lack of meaty extras took this disc down a notch, it's still a great release in most every other department. Only the stiff retail price may scare a few people off---but this is anime, so the $30 tag is almost expected by now. All things considered, The Platinum Collection is definitely the way to go for those who haven't experienced this series on DVD, and the remastering effort alone makes it worth the double dip for Evangelion disciples. Recommended.

Other Links of Interest

Complete Evangelion Guide at TV Tome (spoilers)
Other Evangelion Reviews at DVD Talk

Randy Miller III is an art instructor hailing from Harrisburg, PA. To fund his DVD viewing habits, he also works on freelance graphic design and illustration projects. In his free time, Randy enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.
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