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Served Its Purpose
on 14 July 2004
Ever since I started watching anime (which has not been all that long), I have been curious about some of the big series. Like the nearly infinite number of Gundam's, the Lodoss series, and, of course, Evangelion. The latter has such universal popularity that I finally decided to try it. Put off by the price of the episodes I was attracted to this DVD, because of its two features, 'Death' was a recap of the series, and 'Rebirth' would provide some insight into its ending and meaning.
As usual, I was being optimistic. My first viewing of 'Death' left me feeling that I had just experienced one of those shorts that were titled '26,000 Years of Art in 60 Seconds.' It does indeed recap the high points of the series, but as a crazed rollercoaster ride - with flashbacks. Don't get me wrong, I liked it. However, I felt that I had watched something incredibly momentous yet utterly inexplicable. Certainly, Evangelion is quite a bit more than the sci-fi, kid-in-a-robot series that I thought it was. In fact, it deals with a surprising breadth of issues. From emotional trauma to the future evolution of the human race.
What I did not realize until I read some reviews is that 'Rebirth' is actually the starting episode of 'The End of Evangelion.' As such, I was unprepared for an apocalyptic vision of the attack on NERV headquarters, complete with the new EVA circling above like vultures. The action and emotional pitch are intense, really a step beyond most of the films I had seen before. Lacking any guideposts though, I found it difficult to piece together the story behind the action. And, as in the companion piece, creator Hideaki Anno shows no mercy to the viewer.
However, the DVD includes an entire encyclopedia of Evangelion knowledge called the 'Mokuji Interactive Feature.' This ingeniously flashes the names of people and things that I might want to know about, and provides a great deal of background data about them. Another useful tool was an excellent running commentary on 'Rebirth' by Amanda Winn Lee (the English language Director) and friends. I'm not a great fan of commentaries, but this was excellent, and pointed out many things I would otherwise have missed.
What this DVD did was whet my appetite and draw me into the Evangelion world. It impressed me with both the fine artwork and characters that are far more than cardboard heroes. It convinced me that I wanted to see the rest of 'The End of Evangelion' and all the previous episodes as well. So for me this DVD was a great success, although I will tell anyone who asks that they would be a lot less confused if they just broke down and bought the series DVD's. This production is probably better suited to those who are already fans of the series and are willing to keep freezing the action to examine the plentiful little details.