Title: Neon Genesis Evangelion Perfect Collection
BBFC Certificate: 12
Suggested Retail Price (SRP): £89.99
Episodes: 1-26 (of 26)
Audio Options: English 2.0;
Japanese 2.0; Spanish 2.0
Reviewer: Rich (Webmaster)
On paper it looks very simple and
straightforward. A trio of angst ridden teens pilot massive mechs called
Evangelions to defend humanity from a series of giant monsters called
Angels who are hell bent on starting the apocalypse. It doesn’t sound
particularly special, in fact it sounds a little clichéd. On paper.
Many other things have been written on paper about Neon Genesis Evangelion
too. In fact essays have been written about it…
Evangelion is often regarded as the greatest anime series of all time.
Magazines, fans, reviewers and creators have waxed lyrical about it, debated its
hidden meanings and depths, discussed its use of Freudian psychology and
Catholic dogma, and argued long and hard over which was sexier, Asuka or Rei?
Rarely has a series so captured the imagination of the anime viewing public,
both male and female, as Neon Genesis Evangelion.
As with most of the output of the Japanese anime studio Gainax – a
maverick collective of extremely talented writers, artists and animators –
Evangelion is far more than it seems on paper. Hideaki Anno’s
nihilistic vision of a near future earth recovering from a disaster that wiped
out half the population of the planet, and now under siege from a monstrous
enemy of unknown origin, proved to be a refreshing shot in the arm for the (at
the time) turgid TV anime market. For once an anime series cropped up that
had intelligence, an anime series that took risks and had interesting and
intriguing characters. Evangelion was not really like any anime on
TV at the time and its impact hasn’t dulled with age.
One of its main strengths was in characterisation. Instead of the usual
square-jawed heroes, cutesy girls, stern officers with secret hearts of gold and
cloak wearing enemies, Evangelion brought something anime had rarely seen
– people. People who were vain, people who were self-obsessed, people who
schemed, people who were insecure, scared, or just plain angry. From the
fiery Asuka Langley to the unemotional Rei Ayanami, from the angst-ridden Shinji
Ikari to the tragic Misato Katsuragi, from the uncaring Gendo Ikari to the cold
and calculating Ritsuko Akagi, Evangelion succeeded in creating a whole
raft of new archetypes that can be seen in nearly every anime released since.
It gave you characters who weren’t always going to do the right thing,
characters who had issues, and it wove their stories around the simple core
premise and made it anything but straightforward.
However, personal insecurities and cleverness isn’t all Evangelion has.
For one it’s entertaining, if the stunning action scenes aren’t your cup of tea
then the comedy probably is, or the romance, or the sci-fi, or the fan service.
Evangelion is a bit of everything, in places it is very funny and surreal
– more like a romantic comedy than a deep intellectual sci-fi – but in others it
is deeply introspective, and in others highly disturbing.
Evangelion focuses on Shinji, the estranged son of scientist Gendo Ikari,
who is summoned by his father to pilot the biomechanical weapon known as
Evangelion 01 following the serious injuries sustained to the main pilot Rei
Ayanami. Feeling used and angry Shinji becomes the Evangelion’s
pilot but descends into a spiral of angst and self pity, which the seemingly
carefree Major Misato Katsuragi attempts to drag him out of by moving him into
her apartment. Soon after a third pilot arrives from Germany – the
impetuous and arrogant Asuka Langley – and she moves in with Misato and Shinji
to form a dysfunctional family unit. However, not everything is as it
seems, the characters all harbour their own secret conflicts and insecurities
and there are plots and counterplots being woven that threaten humanity as we
know it. Will Shinji, Asuka and the immensely introverted Rei Ayanami,
under Misato’s guidance, be able to cope with the pressures they will face and
save the world?
Evangelion is a masterpiece. It is a masterpiece of storytelling,
design and delivery. There are still criticisms, it often hints at layers
of meaning that probably aren’t there, it is occasionally deliberately confusing
and the last episode drew an angry reaction from fans for its arty montages of
still images and convoluted psychological introspection, but whatever people say
about these segments they at least make you think.
Evangelion succeeds on many levels. It is entertaining, action
packed, funny and thought provoking. It packs in huge amounts of character
development and has great music and voice acting (especially from Megumi
Hayashibara and Mitsuishi Kotono, who are cast completely against type as Rei
and Misato respectively). The design is excellent, particularly on the
surreal and disturbing Angels and the main characters, and the animation is
smooth and stylish. You can even forgive some of the deliberately
confusing sequences, even the unexpectedly psychological ending (which makes
more sense once you watch the End of Evangelion film), because the series
is so watchable.
At the end of the day Neon Genesis Evangelion is an important anime
series. It is one of the best available in the UK and is one no self
respecting anime or sci-fi fan can be without. It shocks, moves and
entertains in equal measure and it gives birth to the uncomfortable thought that
those who are tasked with saving the world may have the same insecurities and
hidden agendas as the rest of us. Buy it now.
The eight discs in this set are exactly the
same as the existing eight individual volumes, and as such contain the same
extras. Basically you have ADV Previews, character profiles and
clean opening and closing sequences spread over the discs, but you do get a
spankingly good boxset featuring UK exclusive artwork to keep them in!