Monday, May 17, 2010

Anime review: Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death and Rebirth

Following the conclusion of Neon Genesis Evangelion was the ending creator Hideaki Anno said he intended from the start, End of Evangelion. However, End of Evangelion was released in July 1997, so to tide fans over until the Summer, Anno and his team released Death and Rebirth in March. The response was not the praise that Neon Genesis Evangelion had garnered, rather it sparked even more controversy into the saga of Evangelion.

Death and Rebirth is ninety-seven minutes in length, and is split into two distinct portions. The first seventy minutes are a recap of episodes one through twenty-four of the original anime series. This portion of the film includes minimal new footage, only including sequences of the children practicing on orchestra instruments within the room seen in episodes twenty-five and twenty-six of the original series.

While it would make the most sense for Death and Rebirth to spend a balanced amount of time between recapping battles between the EVAs and Angels with the plot and character development, this is unfortunately not the case. The Angel battles receive plenty of focus, but the film jumps from one to another at a rate that is almost a chore to follow. The characters are almost entirely kicked to the curb and viewers are given an incredibly small amount of information and backstory to base their opinions off of. Even Shinji, the main character of the original series, feel severely underdeveloped.

This Death recap portion is set up in a similar fashion as episode fourteen of Neon Genesis Evangelion, “Weaving a Story”, in which SEELE provides a slideshow-style report of NERV’s encounters with the Angels thus far and review Gendo’s work with the EVAs. However, the way that Death and Rebirth handles this is without a voice actor, thus the transitions between each new segment as well as detailed descriptions of the Angels, EVAs, and characters are delivered by white text on a black background.

The Rebirth portion of the film includes the early events of End of Evangelion and caps out at twenty-seven minutes. This comes to an abrupt halt at the conclusion of Death and Rebirth, and could have been completely left out to include more footage for recap.

The art style is still good, even if there isn’t any real difference between what is used in Death and Rebirth and what was animated into the original series. The soundtrack is clean, though it fails to convey the emotions it did in the show – this is more to the fault of the story’s pacing than Shiro Sagisu’s orchestration, though.

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death and Rebirth tries to compile the events of one of the most complex and multi-layered anime series ever into one hour and thirty seven-minute film. While the Rebirth portion does provide some new footage, it’s more or less to tease viewers of what is to come in End of Evangelion. The characters fall flat and are significantly underdeveloped. The psychological aspect is not particularly impactful, as it is delivered in quick and choppy segments. As impressive as the fight sequences are, they cannot carry the series alone. As far as I can tell, the only real good audience for Death and Rebirth would be viewers who want a quick refresher of the events of the original series before watching End of Evangelion. As for first-time viewers, this is one compilation film that is more of an insult than an aid to the series.

My rating: 5 (out of 10)

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