The Angry (Kinda, Sorta, Maybe…) Letter to the Director

After listening to the Commentary Track for “Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death and Rebirth”, and hearing the director mention that she was afraid of getting “Angry Letters”  and hate mail from the fans for some comments and decisions she made, I figured that I would be the composer of the”angry” letter. Please note, everything covered here is just my own personal thoughts and opinions as per usual; your mileage may vary.

Dear Director Amanda Winn-Lee,

I am writing in regards to your ADR work on the two “Evangelion” movies; “Death and Rebirth” and “The End of Evangelion”. Now, before you ball this letter up and toss it in the trash [or drag this email to your “Recycle Bin” on your computer…] please note that this letter is not ment to be insulting or condescending in ANY way. In fact, I hope you look at this as being the thoughts and opinions of one very strange yet intelligent twenty-six year old black man from Louisiana who is an anime fan. In fact, there are parts of this letter that might not even apply to something that you, specifically, did; in which case, I would ask that you relay the message to the persons or persons responsible and simply graze over those portions for future readings. Cool? Cool.

Let’s look at the positives first. Both “Death and Rebirth” and “End of Evangelion” were, for the most part, very well acted. It is quite commendable that you were able to get back so many of the original voice actors to play their roles and to get an excellent performances out of nearly all of them with special notice for yourself, Spike Spencer, Tiffany Grant and Allison Keith-Shipp. I also love the casting decision that you made with regards to Kaworu and Kaji in both movies. Aaron Krohn is excellent, and his range is so good, I wouldn’t have known that it was the same voice actor for both characters had I not listened to the commentary. Also, as strange as this might sound, I must applaud you for introducing some much-needed realism in the script with the addition of the swearing used by Shinji and Misato at critical points in the movie. I always felt that, considering what the Evangelion pilots and the NERV staff goes through on a day-to-day basis, one would slip in a foul word here or there out of frustration. [heck, just the fact that I was working for Gendo Ikari would be reason enough for me, a non swearer by nature, to take up the habit.]  Listening to you and Jason explain the process of getting Spike Spencer to accurately portray Shinji was very interesting and it shows the vast amounts of knowledge and talent both of you have regarding the industry. Finally, I loved the idea that you cast yourself as Yui Ikari, Shinji’s mom. That was a brilliant decision to make as, realistically speaking, Yui and Rei are essentially the same person. Not many directors would be that inspired to make that choice.

Now it’s time to get into some of the decisions that was made that really, REALLY didn’t sit well with me [and some fans as well, but I’m strictly speaking on my own behalf]. One thing that I noticed with regards to the production of “Death and Rebirth” and “End of Evangelion” was the fact that there was no system of checks and balances. You were the script writer, ADR Director and co-producer for both movies. While it is admirable that you decided to take on all these tasks on your own, it left room for many errors and lapses in judgement to be made without having another person look over the work and say “You know, I don’t think this is going to work. Why don’t you try X?” [Where “X” is another idea, not an illegal chemical substance; though to try to understand these movies might require partaking…] And yes, while I know your husband, Jason Lee, acted as Co-Producer on the project, with all due respect, is he REALLY impartial? One thing that I noticed with regards to the ADR work that Funimation Entertainment produces is that there are a lot of people whose hands are working with individual projects; script supervisors, translators, executive producers, ADR Engineers, Line Producers; all of whom are separate, individual people. More eyes on the project means fewer opportunities for mistakes and a better end product.

With regards to casting, who the heck made the decision to cast Keith Burgess as Mokoto Hyuga? Ma’am, while I do understand completely that Matt Greenfield wasn’t available [or willing] to play the role, instead of finding a good actor that was a close match to him, you went for someone who was a complete one-eighty degrees different! Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking his skills as an actor at all; in fact, I commend his work in this and in other projects I’ve heard him in. But in this situation, I would’ve preferred an actor that sounded like the original instead of someone completely different.

While on the subject of the cast, I do believe you could have gotten a better performance out of Sue Ulu in “Death and Rebirth”. The dialogue in the “Chamber of Gof” scene was horribly acted as compared to the series. Granted, the acting was worlds better in “The End of Evangelion”, but for “Death and Rebirth”…it could’ve BEEN better, even if it was just a flashback movie.

Next, with regards to “Death and Rebirth”, there was a scene when Evangelion Unit-00 was shooting the angel known as Armisael. In the commentary track, you stated that you changed the original sound effect because it didn’t “sound right”. With all due respect ma’am, what does a giant bio-mechanical robot shooting a double-helixed, circular extraterrestrial being SUPPOSED to sound like? Is there a basis for comparison? I would hope not because that would assume that Evangelions and Angels really existed, in which case, mankind is screwed. The point I’m trying to make is that the original creators had a good reason for picking that particular sound for that particular moment in the movie, and changing because it didn’t “sound right” was a bit of a slap in the face to the people’s responsible for sound engineering on that project in Japan. This was also done in “End of Evangelion”, when the sound of Misato shooting one of the guards point-blank in the head was replaced with a comical splattering sound effect and later when the invading JSSDF forces set a man on fire with a flame thrower, and the soldier said “Hit ’em again!” The justification for this? It sounded “disgusting and wonderful” [quoted from the commentary]. Seriously? I found myself quoting Hyuga from “End of Evangelion”: “Damn! Haven’t they ever heard of moderation?” And to add insult to injury, five minutes earlier, Jason Lee said “That’s the only thing we altered from the original Japanese.” Umm…either he’s seriously mistaken, forgot about that particular change, didn’t know about it at all, or lying through his teeth. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand needing to find levity in a project as depressing as I can only imagine “End of Evangelion” was, but, ma’am, that’s the kind of the thing you see in gag dubs or outtake reels, NOT in a finished project that is going out to hard-core fans who expect better.

Finally, while I do appreciate the knowledge that Tallesin Jaffe brought to the table with regards to the commentary tracks for both movies, there were times when it felt like he was talking WAY over my head about things that, honestly, didn’t apply to “Evangelion”. He came off as sounding more like the countless other “Evangelion Experts” out there [an admittedly learned individual with a lot of knowledge, but can give you more info than you really want, need or desire and most of THAT is questionable], and heaven knows I take everything those experts say with a pinch of Tony Chachere cajun seasoning [or salt if you prefer]. Unless these “Experts” actually talk to Hideaki Anno HIMSELF and cite actual articles and/or books that have quotes in it from HIM, then they are no more experts than anybody else. And I’m sorry, but I completely, COMPLETELY disagree with his comment that the violence in “End of Evangelion” was ” the most horrific piece of violence put to film or cell”. With all due respect, has he ever heard of a little movie called “Barefoot Gen”? Or how about “Grave of the Fireflies”? Does the film “Akira” ring a bell? Also, during the Unit-02 battle, when the Eva lifts the ship above its head, he mentions that the move came out around the time of “Titanic”. In actuality, “Titanic” was officially released in the US on December 19, 1997. “End of Evangelion” release date? July 19, 1997.

As I mentioned earlier, I am not trying to come off as another complaining anime fan. But it’s BECAUSE I’m an anime fan and an English Dubs fan that I do complain! You are a talented director, a good writer, and a hell of a good voice actress; I know you can do much, MUCH better than this…I HOPE you do MUCH better than this.

With Warmest Regards and Hope for the Future for You and Yours:

The Cajun Samurai

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2 thoughts on “The Angry (Kinda, Sorta, Maybe…) Letter to the Director

  1. Hmmm…I had no idea there was some sort of backlash out there against Amanda Winn-Lee. Admittedly, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen Death and Rebirth, but I do remember enjoying the commentary, if only because I felt Winn-Lee came across as a fan of the show and one who appreciated it.

    1. Heck yeah. In every single Evangelion forum I’ve been on, you cannot mention her without expecting a surge of negativity…and don’t even think about mentioning the commentary tracks, or as they tend to call then, “commentary of hell”. Personally, I like it just fine, but I take it with a grain of salt. Oh yeah, be sure to check out the End of Evangelion review which will post an hour from now!

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