In the year 2000 an object strikes Antarctica, disrupting the world's climate and killing half the world's population. Civilization collapses, with the exception of a few enclaves of powerful people who prepare for an enemy that they feel is inevitable. They call the meteor that hit Antarctica the Second Impact, and they're preparing for the Third Impact.
Fifteen years later, a boy named Shinji moves to the high-tech city of Tokyo 3. A semi-secret military organization named NERV believes that Shinji may be one of the few people on the planet who can pilot these giant robots they've built. Luckily for humanity, Shinji has an enormous aptitude for piloting the EVA-O1, one of the giant robots.
So far this scenario is familiar to anyone well versed in Japanese animation. What makes Evangelion different is that it goes a little deeper into the psychology of the characters. Shinji is one messed up kid, thanks to his alienated relationship with his father, who also happens to be the head of NERV. The other children who operate the EVAs (they all happen to be 14 years old, hmm...) are similarly messed up, but in their own ways.
But don't fear, there is plenty of giant robot action in Evangelion. The robots have a gangly look we've never seen in any Japanese show before, and the giant enemy "angels" are all interesting and unique. The action scenes are well staged and dramatic.
Evangelion's animation overall is cheaper than a movie, with lots of cheats employed to keep costs down. Probably the most infamous of these is that Ikari, Shinji's father, almost always talks with his hands blocking his mouth. This was a TV series after all. Even so, it looks surprisingly slick.
ADV's multilingual first volume of the series contains the first four episodes of the 26 episode series. These episodes essentially introduce Shinji, his roommate Misato, and the angels. They do little more than lay groundwork for what will happen later on, so be prepared to buy more discs in the future.
The video looks detailed and colorful. While watching the movie I became aware that a lot of the time it looks like the animation is realized by fading between cells instead of the more traditional cutting between them. This is either the mother of all artifacting, or another method used to cut down on the amount of animation needed. I'm leaning towards the latter.
The source print used for the transfer is somewhat flawed. Like the VHS copies of the show I saw, the image seems to float a little bit throughout the film, though this is less pronounced than on the tapes. There is also very occasional print damage.
The audio is in stereo, no matter which of the four languages you choose to listen to. All the soundtracks are of about the same quality, though the Japanese one is a little more directional, and the English one has the dialogue recorded at a higher volume.
The subtitles are yellow and could have been made more readable by giving them some kind of dark outline. Rather than subtitling the frequent written material, the DVD features them recreated in English. The credits attached to the episodes are for the English language versions. The Japanese credits are lumped together at the end of the disk.
The animated menus are excellent, and are designed to look like NERV's computer screens.
The disc includes character bios that give you information that you won't get in the show itself, like the names of the angels.
There are also trailers for Tekken Sensation Mix, Slayers, Legend of Crystania, Sakura Wars, Queen Emeraldas, Sonic the Hedgehog, Battle Angel, Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040, Burn Up W, Ruin Explorers, Ninja Resurrection, and Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Scott Hamilton, 5/14/00