Evangelion: 1.11 came to Blu-ray with a video presentation that simply transcended its animated origins and made it stand out as one of the best that I had seen at the time, and this new Hong Kong release of Evangelion: 2.22 follows suit with a visual rendition that is almost as good. Coming to Blu-ray presented with a 1080p High Definition rendition in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen, the detail level is quite exceptional – the modern animation techniques proving themselves far superior to those used in the original series – the line drawings offered up as strong and well-defined, and the CG effects looking noticeable but well-integrated with the rest of the proceedings.
Every single one of the tremendous action set-pieces ignites the screen with a different colour – bright yellows and oranges, deep purples, cold blues, or threatening reds all taking over the screen. The lush Tokyo-3 forest surroundings present vibrant, authentic greens; the Alaska-based early conflict sees the landscape awash with explosive colours and the introduction of Asuka offers up strong blues – both from the sea (which soon turns blood red) and the sky. Black levels are solid too, making for deep shadowing and the only marginal complaint comes in the form of some slight banding that comes across as visible during a few of the scenes. Still, it’s easily dismissed on such an excellent presentation, another strong entry in the new Evangelion series.
On the aural front things are unreservedly excellent. We get two powerful lossless tracks: Dolby TrueHD 6.1 and DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 mixes, both in the original Japanese language, as well as a couple of 2.0 stereo offerings in Japanese and Cantonese. The DTS-HD track has the slight edge, although both lossless alternatives are exceptional, some of the best tracks I have come across this year. Honestly, I’m not a fan of the dubbing of foreign movies (and truly despise the way other countries – like France – still insist on doing horrendous dubs for most English-language projects) but when it comes to animated releases, the argument does not really hold. It’s all to do with expression, intonation, and genuinely matching up the behaviour and ‘acting’ to the voice, but since animated productions require this to happen irrespective of language, I have absolutely no problem with most animes being dubbed. Evangelion 1.11 was released in the UK with an English dub that was surely the mix-of-choice for most UK viewers, but unfortunately Evangelion 2.22 isn’t even on the radar for release yet in the UK, so the only option for eager fans is to pick up this Hong Kong release, which performs well in every respect but one – it has no English dub. Now, this would not normally be a big problem (so long as you don’t mind putting up with reading subtitles for a production where it is not wholly necessary) but unfortunately the English subtitles for this particular release are really not up to scratch, and make it – at times – quite annoying (and unintentionally funny) to view the material. I think part of the problem comes from the tweaks made between theatrical version 2.0 and version 2.22 – apparently the same company did not handle the subtitles for the extra scenes, resulting in some very poor translations indeed, peppered throughout the film.
Still, when it comes to the potency of the track itself, it still remains unsurpassed. Dialogue is presented clearly and coherently, largely emanating from the centre channel, with some accompaniment from the fronts, but the effects and score are the real high points on this track. The many wide-ranging effects offer up some serious directionality across the surrounds: each discrete channel giving us a different element from both the ambient and more explosively-orientated elements. The ambient noises range from background crickets chirping for the landscape shots to the humming of car engines, or the low-end rumble when the kids are inside the Eva units. Then we have the big stuff. The numerous battle sequences are punishingly brutal, the shockwave-blast-laden weapons that the Eva and Angels face off against one another with surging across your living room with significant power and intensity. I’ve never heard such active rears, whether through the more ambient or action-driven sequences. And the LFE channel is immensely gratefully for all of this tremendous fuel, rumbling throughout the proceedings. The original score to the 1995 series had many thematic elements reminiscent of classic Horner-scored Bond movies, and a lot of these riffs carry through in this chapter, perhaps even more so than in the first instalment. Unfortunately we get a few too many incidental cues – really bad elevator-quality music – during the quieter segments; as well as some truly silly moments (both visually, and thus, consequently, aurally). Still, it all gives the surrounds even more to do, rounding off a truly excellent aural offering for this animated release.
This 2-disc Special Edition release comes with a second disc dedicated to the Special Features, which are unfortunately limited by the lack of English subtitling. For completeness, I’ve included them as a list, but there are only a few that fans would really want to watch, even without the subtitles. We get 7 Theatrical, Blu-ray and Teaser Trailers, 7 TV-spots, a Rebuild of Evangelion: 2.02 Making-Of Featurette (much like the English-friendly one that graced the Evangelion: 1.11 UK release), but, perhaps most interesting, 4 Deleted Scenes (totally 3 minutes) and an Alternate Ending. The Alternate Ending is a bit disappointing (at least without subtitles) as I honestly can’t see any difference, unless it’s been scored differently?? The Deleted Scenes are slightly more interesting, not because they offer up any understandable dialogue or story, but because they are totally unfinished, sketched animations, giving you a glimpse as to what the writers used to first visualise their ideas. Finally, to round off the disc, there is a ‘Script’ option, which is not really worth clicking on, as it is entirely (understandably for a HK release) in Chinese.
After a rocky start, proving itself to be little more than a polished-up, glorified replica of the original 1995 anime, the new Evangelion ‘rebuild’ has finally blown away all doubts with its second movie, Evangelion: 2.0 – You Can (Not) Advance, an awesome, action-packed blast which is held together by a rock-solid, well-formulated narrative and some excellent characterisation (for both new, and underdeveloped old characters who now finally come into their own). Seriously, fans could not have hoped for more, this is a landmark anime spectacle that annihilates all preconceptions and raises the bar significantly for the upcoming concluding chapters.
Not yet announced for either US or UK Blu-ray release, the film has been available in Hong Kong for over 5 months in its extended 2.22 form, but the release itself has some disadvantages. Firstly there’s no English dub, which would be a preferred option for an animated release, and secondly the English subtitles are not fantastic. Whilst they won’t ruin your experience, they are far from perfect and will make some certainly look towards double-dipping at some point in the future, when a better, more UK-friendly edition is announced. Honestly, if you liked the first film, You Are (Not) Alone, then you should have absolutely no hesitation in picking up this exceptional sequel. And if you haven’t yet gotten into the new Evangelion ‘Rebuild’ then you should seriously consider this movie as reason enough to add the two chapters to your collection right now. Highly recommended.
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