Guest Author - Lesley Aeschliman
Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death & Rebirth is the first film released for the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise. The film, which was directed by Hideaki Anno, Masayuki and Kazuya Tsurumaki, was released to Japanese theaters on March 15, 1997. Manga Entertainment released the film on DVD in North America in 2005.
The first part of the film is "Death." This is a 70-minute long edit of the first 24 episodes of the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime series. It also includes some new footage created for this release; this footage was later added to the "Director's Cut" versions of episodes 21-24.
"Death" is essentially a recap of the anime series. Unfortunately, a decision was made to do the recap in a non-linear manner. While non-linear storytelling can be an effective device, it really doesn't work for "Death." Using this device makes the story feel jumpy and scatterbrained. I had a hard enough time following the story, and I've seen all of the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime series. I can only imagine how confusing "Death" would be for someone who has never had any exposure to the franchise before seeing this film.
The second part of the film is "Rebirth." It runs for 27 minutes, and it ultimately contains what makes up the beginning of The End of Evangelion, which is the second film in the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise. The End of Evangelion was released to Japanese theaters four months after Death & Rebirth. In other words, it was basically a teaser for the next film.
When Manga Entertainment released Death & Rebirth on DVD, it was released as a double-sided disc; personally, I'm not a big fan of double-sided discs. Looking at what is on both sides of the disc, it really could have worked as a single-sided disc. I really don't understand why it was done as a double-sided disc.
The first side, which is labeled as "Alpha Side," only has the movie on it. On this side, the film is available in both Japanese with English subtitles and with an English dub.
The second side, which is labeled as "Omega Side," includes the movie and the bonus features. On this side, the film is available in Japanese with English subtitles, with an English dub, and with audio commentary. The audio commentary is provided by Amanda Winn Lee, the director of the dub and the English dub voice for Rei Ayanami.
On this side, the film also has the "Mokuji Interactive Feature"; this feature provides an image on the screen during the film that you can click on to see bonus content. This feature is only available with the dub and audio commentary versions of the film.
The next major bonus feature is the "MAGI Archives." This feature, which is divided into four sections, provides pages of text to explain various aspects of the series. The first is "Central Dogma," which is 26 screens of things directly related to NERV. Next is "Personnel Files," which is 17 screens of information on the characters in the series. The third is "Heaven's Messengers," which is 18 screens on the Angels and things related to the Angels. The final section is "The E-Project," which is seven screens on Evangelion and the EVA units.
There is also a 16-page photo gallery, a one-and-a-half minute English preview of The End of Evangelion, and five minutes worth of trailers for Death & Rebirth. The "Manga Extras" section includes three parts. The first is Video Previews, which runs for five minutes and includes trailers for Manga Entertainment, Ghost Sweeper Mikami, Blood the Last Vampire, Ghost in the Shell, Ninja Scroll, and Street Fighter II. The DVD catalogue includes 24 titles that you can click on to see what releases are available. Websites is a one screen listing of web addresses.
When it comes to Death & Rebirth, I can only truly recommend this film for die-hard fans of the Neon Genesis Evangelion television series. Between the "Director's Cut" versions of episodes 21-24 being available in the Neon Genesis Evangelion Platinum Collection box set, as well as being able to see the entirety of The End of Evangelion on the DVD released for the film, more casual fans really don't need to own Death & Rebirth. What little bit of animation is exclusive to this film is so unimportant, that it really doesn't make it worth it. While there was a reason for this film to exist when it was first released, it has become rather irrelevant as the years have gone by.
I wrote this review after watching a copy of this DVD that my husband and I purchased.