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 UK Region Free Blu-ray release of Evangelion: 2.22 follows suit with a visual rendition that is almost as good, and which is every bit as good as last year’s Hong Kong release. Coming 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 also excellent, coming up just shy of the quality we had on the Hong Kong release (which sported Dolby TrueHD AND DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, but only in Japanese) but besting it in respect of the provision of an English-language dub. We get two powerful lossless tracks: both Dolby TrueHD 6.1, in the original Japanese language, as well as the aforementioned English dub. The Hong Kong DTS-HD track might have the slight edge, but it’s fantastic to finally get to watch this movie in English (I might have a problem with dubbing live-action films, but animation is a whole different kettle of fish – and for something as visually opulent as Evangelion, it pays to have your full attention focussed on the screen, rather than on the printed words).
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.
As a side note, for those who choose to play the Japanese option and want English subtitles, you’ll find the subs on this release are far more accurate than the disappointing ones that adorned the Hong Kong release.
The Hong Kong release that I previously reviewed suffered a little bit in terms of its extra features because of its (understandable) lack of English subtitles (even though some of the features don’t even have any dialogue), but here we get all these extras, with English subs, as well as a new US voice-cast Commentary, which is a pleasant surprise.
Producer Mike MacFarlane introduces the US Cast, who provide sequential non screen-specific commentary, each recorded separately (each sort-of interviewed by MacFarlane). Spike Spencer discusses Shinji’s whining (and sounds a little bit like an irritating Jack Black); Brina Palencia talks about Rei and is unable to relate it to earlier incarnations as she doesn’t appear to know much about the NGE world; Allison Keith briefly pops up to mention her character of Misato; and Tiffany Grant, who plays the highly sexualised Asuka, relates her experiences on this production, and chats about the sexuality of her character. There are a couple of other contributors, and then a whole lot of silence. I have to say that I didn’t find this commentary all that informative, the voice actors generally offering very little insight, with only MacFarlane talking a little bit about the technical side of things and, briefly, about the franchise’s heritage. Fans of Evangelion will be disappointed that this wasn’t a more insightful effort, and will probably be easily bored by this selection of very lightweight contributors – in fact, I doubt this commentary really hits the mark unless you’re related to any of those involved.
Rebuild of Evangelion 2.02 is a 22-minute effects featurette which looks at early design concepts, sketches, pre-visualisation segments and final shots; exploring many sequences by showing the various effects layering involved in bringing them to life. It’s entirely dialogue-less, just set to music from the film, and offers a purely visual look at the effects which brought this animation to life. A little commentary wouldn’t have gone astray.
“I Would Give You Anything” Scene NOGUCHI ver. is an alternate take on the ending, presented in the original Japanese audio, with English subtitles. I have to say, I found it pretty hard to note the differences.
Omitted Scenes total an extra 3 minutes of footage, none of which have been finalised in terms of effects, which leaves them quite difficult to watch. Still, with English subtitles, at least fans can now understand them!
Finally we get a selection of Trailers and TV Spots.
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 well-formulated narrative and some solid 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 top notch anime spectacle that annihilates all preconceptions and raises the bar significantly for the upcoming concluding chapters.
Finally available on UK Blu-ray, a whole year after it’s Hong Kong debut, complete in its 2.22 extended format, we get excellent video and audio – and finally an English dub – as well as expanded extra features which also finally sport English subs. Those who’ve waited patiently will be rewarded by this release, and those who already have the HK version will be tempted by the fact that they can finally watch it with English dialogue. Either way, if you’re an NGE fan – or an anime fan in general – this is well worth adding to your collection. If you liked the first film, You Are (Not) Alone, then you should have absolutely no hesitation in picking up this exceptional sequel. And, in fact, 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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