“Please! Please just stop it! Make it stop! Dear God make it stop! Stop, Stop, Stop, Stop, STOP STOP!!!!!!”
– Shinji Ikari “Evangelion: Death and Rebirth”
“Evangelion: Death and Rebirth” marks the return of the “Neon Genesis Evangelion” franchise to the big screen [of Japanese theatres…]. Fans were promised that this movie, along with the following movie, “The End of Evangelion“, would provide the epic conclusion to the “Evangelion” series that it so richly deserved. And while it is true that “End of Evangelion” did provide an ending to end all endings [at least with regards to the original series as we know it…], its predecessor, “Death and Rebirth” had nothing to offer other than the fact that we see our characters all get together playing string instruments. Where did “Death and Rebirth” go wrong? Was it the lack of any legitimate story worthy of the big screen? Was it the fact that there was no character development of any kind? Or could it be the fact that there were severe missteps made during it’s launch in the US? Let’s get right in to it and find out where everything went tragically wrong.
[Please note: I will only be reviewing the first hour and a half of “Death and Rebirth”, as the last thirty minutes is a completely different movie and seeing as how I’ll be reviewing “End of Evangelion” next, what’s the point of double dip reviewing?]
Who This Movie Is For – This movie is for you if you want to watch “Evangelion” in a compressed format. “Death and Rebirth” Summarizes up the entire series up to the last two episodes, only showing key moments and battles throughout the series that really matter.
Who This Movie Is NOT For – This movie is NOT for you if you have already seen the “Directors Cut” version of “Neon Genesis Evangelion“. As mentioned above, this is a severely compressed version of the series up until the last two episodes. Unless you haven’t seen the “Directors Cut” scenes which total all of about 15 minutes, or unless you are a fan of classical music and violins, then you can skip this movie and go right to “End of Evangelion”.
Story and Premise – “Death and Rebirth” is a recap of the “Evangelion” story starting with Second Impact, and culminating with the events in episode twenty-four. Seriously, that’s all there is to it. It’s just a “Cliff Notes” version of the series, framed around our main pilot characters playing string instruments in a high school auditorium. One thing that stood out to me like a sore thumb was the fact that Kaworu and Asuka are in the same room…together. Why? If you recall, Kaworu was brought aboard as a replacement pilot when Asuka went off the mental reservation due to not being able to sync with Evangelion Unit-02. If this recital is prior to Asuka’s mental breakdown, then why the heck is Kaworu there? There is no reason for him to be there because Unit-02 has an active and seemingly healthy pilot. Shouldn’t he be at SEELE? Or, if this is after Asuka’s mental breakdown, why in the heck is she just waltzing into the auditorium like NOTHING happened, in school uniform, smiling and happy, ready to play her violin? Speaking of violins, I find it funny that, all of a sudden, our pilots are musically inclined, even though we have never been given hints as to this in the series aside from Shinji and his cello. (12.5/25)
Characters – The characters are exactly the same as we left them in the original series, except now, Asuka, Shinji, Rei and Kaworu are able to play string instruments. What this has to do with “Evangelion” at all is beyond me. Perhaps there is some deeper meaning that I didn’t get, or perhaps this is just simply a fragile framework being setting up in some mysterious way for what’s to come in “End of Evangelion” Either way, it’s a wasted opportunity; heck, even Toji is looking off into space with a dazed expression on his face outside…much like how I looked when I saw “Death and Rebirth” for the first time. (15/25)
Animation and Music – The animation is actually pretty decent this time around. Granted, it’s a movie that shows its age with regards to animation style, but it actually looks really nice; there are scenes that look way better than they did in the original series and even some that look nicer than the re-animation job that was done for the “Directors Cut” scenes. Music wise, Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” acts as the de-facto theme for this movie and it plays very well. One thing that I’ve always loved about “Evangelion” as a series and with these two earlier movies is that it uses classical music in the most unusual ways, yet it always works; much like how “Ode to Joy” and Handel Messiahs Hallelujah Chorus, both joyful songs in their own right, worked perfectly during Shinji and Asuka’s mental low points in the series. (25/25)
Performances – Because “Death and Rebirth” was licensed by Manga Entertainment instead of ADV Films, the American actors had to recreate and re-record almost all of the dialogue used for the movies, even though most of it would be overlapped by narrative dialogue. Spike Spencer, Tiffany Grant and Amanda Winn-Lee did a great job matching the feelings and emotions of the original recordings, with Allison Keith and Tristan MacAvery shining, once again, in their roles as Misato and Gendo respectively. Because many actors could not be located for the re-record, some characters had to be recast, the main one of which being Ryoji Kaji and Kaworu Nagisa, both voiced by Aaron Krohn. I have to admit, if I wouldn’t have known better, I would’ve thought they were two different people. Both Kaworu and Kaji sound completely different, and both are very well acted. The weakest performer in this one was Sue Ulu as Ritsuko. Honestly, she was really, REALLY not into it this time around. Remember a while back when I specifically complimented her work in episode 23 of the series? Well, don’t look for that same level of acting in the flashback scene from that same episode. It comes off more as a professor giving a lecture than a woman who has been humiliated and scorned. Another fail moment was the casting of Keith Burgess as Mokoto Hyuga as Brian Granveldt proved unable or unwilling to return to the role [I would assume the latter for the plain and simple fact that Manga Entertainment was doing the dub and he is one of the founders of ADV Films…how would THAT look?]. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not a bad actor at all, in fact, he’s really good…but when I first heard Hyuga speak, the first thought that went through my head was “When the heck did Hyuga turn into a big black man?” I mean, seriously! Hyuga sounds COMPLETELY different from the series! I mean, don’t get me wrong, all the other characters who had replacement V/A’s sound different from the originals, but there is an air of familiarity with their voices. With Hyuga, there is no familiarity. There is nothing REMOTELY similar to his voice and performance and Brian Granveldt’s and whoever thought it was a good idea to cast him as such really needs to have their ears and/or brains examined. There’s more I can get into here with regards to performances and the production work done for the American release, [including a MAJOR plot point being completely edited due to an error on the part of the director…] but I’ll cover it in a later post…there’s just too much to go off on. (12.5/25)
Story and Premise – 12.5 out of 25
Characters – 15 out of 25
Animation and Music – 25 out of 25
Performances – 12.5 out of 25
Final Grade: 65/100 = 65% (F)
Availability – Currently, “Death and Rebirth” is out of print by Manga Entertainment, so finding it in a brick and mortar store may be difficult. Your best bet would be to check retailers that have a used DVD collection like FYE. Online retailers like Amazon and eBay are sure to have copies both new and used and for a low price depending on condition. There was also a special edition version that contains both “Death and Rebirth” and “End of Evangelion”, but you’ll be hard pressed to find that anywhere, save for online sources.
Lagniappe (A Little Something Extra)
- Officially, “Death and Rebirth” is divided into two parts: “Death” being the first hour and thirty minutes of the movie, and “Rebirth” being the last thirty minutes. “Rebirth” would then be re-released later as a full movie: “The End of Evangelion”.
- The DVD release of “Death and Rebirth” features a dual-sided disk. Side A [labeled “Alpha”] contains the full movie only with regular English and Japanese translations. Side B [Labeled “Omega”] contains all the disk extras such as the infamous commentary track with the director, co-producer and “anime enthusiast” Tallesin Jagger, and a special function called “Mokuji Interactive” which, when activated, displays information relevant to the scene when the “Enter” key is pressed on the DVD Player remote.
- Amanda Winn-Lee and Jason Lee are the second husband and wife team to work together on an “Evangelion” project; the first being Tiffany Grant [voice actress for Asuka] and Matt Greenfield [ADR Director of the original series and voice of Mokoto Hyuga for the series.]
- During the intermission between “Death” and “Rebirth”, an instrumental version of “The Cruel Angel Thesis” is played. This marks the one and only time that the song appears in any of the movies past or present.
- After the end of the original 26 episode series ended, director Hideaki Anno received death threats and hate mail from fans who were not satisfied with the ending as broadcast. In fact, they were so dissatisfied, several vandals defaced the headquarters of Studio Gainax where the series was created. [an example of which can be seen in the picture…and in “The End of Evangelion” as a fleeting image…]
Thanks for being so patient and waiting for me to get my thoughts together on this one! Coming up next, a new “Drew Threw it To You” award winner, a kind-of, sort of angry letter to Director Amanda Winn-Lee, and of course, my review of…