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From The Evangelion Wiki
Welcome to the ReVolution of Evangelion. The Guide to Evangelion is currently under construction.
Here is a brief primer on the Evangelion franchise, and its release history.
It focuses on the English dub releases because...you're reading this in English. It focuses on the R1 North American market, because the same people that handle the North American market also distribute the series across the world.
Somewhat like "Mobile Suit Gundam", there are different continuities of Evangelion in different anime or manga series. These are separate story-verses, and while at times they inform each other, don't base your direct opinions about one continuity on one of the other ones.
There are four major continuities:
- Neon Genesis Evangelion - The original 26 episode TV and its finale theatrically released movie, The End of Evangelion
- Rebuild of Evangelion - a series of four remake movies, released in theaters, the first of which was released September 2007 in Japan.
- Sadamoto's official Evangelion manga adaptation - a manga (comic book) series that follows the story of the original series more than most other manga, created by the character designer that worked on the series
- Weta Workshop's potential live-action Evangelion movie-series - at the moment, due to financial/scheduling problems it exists purely as a "project Weta really wants to make"
These are not the only continuities: there are several other spinoff manga series, though they heavily re-imagine the story (to the point that its a complete alternate-reality school drama and not just a variation on the core story like Sadamoto's manga), as well as spinoff video-games (some of which have so much new animation and story in them that they can almost be thought of as "lost episodes", though they were never released outside of Japan).
Fanfiction doesn't count. We shouldn't have to explain this to you. :)
Neon Genesis Evangelion
The original 26 episode TV series, which ran in Japan from October 4th, 1995, to March 27, 1996. It was directed by Hideaki Anno and produced by Studio Gainax.
No one had seen anything like Evangelion before: it was a deconstruction of the long-established "Giant Robot" genre of anime. It infused intense realism into what had beforehand been a notably quite *unrealistic*, wish-fulfillment genre. The "real story" wasn't even about the giant robot battles, but a psychological analysis of the series' deeply flawed, and thus very realistic, characters. The entire story was set in a post-apocalyptic backdrop which really served as a social commentary on post-World War II society as a whole and the "Lost Decade" of Japan’s mid-1990’s recession in particular, in which "fighting aliens using giant robots" was really a metaphor for "facing life’s problems". It captured the spirit of anxiety and depression Japan was experiencing at the time, and in many ways became the voice of a generation.
Given that the United States was in the middle of an economic boom at the time, in contrast to recession-plagued Japan, it was difficult for some casual viewers to understand the angst and anxiety displayed by the series' characters: following the global Economic Collapse of 2008, plunging the United States into recession, suddenly the characters don't seem quite so crazy...Basically, Evangelion is the Watchmen of Giant Robot anime: not just in terms of impact but in terms of structure. Alan Moore's Watchmen was produced in 1986, during a time of economic downturn and general social depression. Western scifi had long used the "Superhero comics" genre as a means of wish-fulfillment fantasy and escapism...the same way Japan had been using "Giant Robot" anime shows for decades. Both were very unrealistic genres. What Watchmen did was to first, deconstruct the "Superhero" genre, and then use it as a tool for broader social commentary. Watchmen didn't have very "nice" or "heroic" characters, in contrast to the usual archetypes: Nite Owl II is something of a directionless wimp (though he's one of the few "moral" characters in the story), Rorschach is an aggressive lunatic (the result of traumatic childhood experiences), and Dr. Manhattan, instead of being a caring Superman-type, is alien and removed from human society. This shattered all of the usual genre stereotypes. However, it wasn't just a deconstruction: the writers used it as a tool to make a social commentary about the world they lived in, particularly the nuclear brinkmanship of the Cold War in the 1980's. Watchmen was also sort of a loving half-tribute to the old "Superhero" comics, shattering the old conventions even as it redefined them. The problem, of course, was that so successful that in the over 20 years since it was released...it *became* the new stereotype, and everyone else tried to rip it off. All other comics scrambled to make more "gritty" characters, until there were dozens of aggressive Rorshach-types, "emo" self-doubting Nite Owl II-types, and disinterested supermen like Dr. Manhattan. This is what happens to every successful series: even Star Wars and Star Trek were actually very innovative when they first came out. However like Watchmen, anyone first exposed to the story over a decade after their release - having been exposed to all the ripoffs first - would find it somewhat cliched.
Similarly, Evangelion first deconstructed the "Giant Robot" genre, then used it as a tool for broader social commentary. Evangelion didn't have very "nice" or "heroic" characters, in contrast to the usual archetypes (i.e. Voltron, Mazinger Z, etc.): Shinji is something of a directionless wimp (though he's one of the few "moral" characters in the story), Asuka is an aggressive lunatic (the result of traumatic childhood experiences), and Rei, instead of being the normal caring anime superheroine, is alien and removed from human society. This shattered all of the usual "Giant Robot" genre stereotypes. However, it wasn't just a deconstruction: the writers used it as a tool to make a social commentary about the world they lived in, particularly Japan's 1990's recession (which essentially destroyed a generation). Nonetheless, because it was made by fans of the genre, at times it was also a loving half-tribute to the old classic "Giant Robot" series, shattering all the old conventions even as it redefined them. The problem, of course, was that in the nearly 15 years since it was released...it *became* the new stereotype, and everyone else has been ripping it over ever since. It was such a complete deconstruction, that no one really knew how to respond to it, and at best, tried to imitate it. There are now dozens of aggressive Asuka-types, "emo"-self doubting Shinji-types became the new standard, and disinterested waif-ish Rei-types became commonplaceIt has been said with some justification that there have been few significantly innovative "Giant Robot" anime series since Eva came out: we are all of us living in the shadow of Evangelion.
The End of Evangelion
The finale movie theatrically released on July 19, 1997, and produced by Gainax and Production I.G.
Due to severe budget and schedule restraints (they ran completely out of money) the final few episodes were produced on a shoestring budget, particularly resulting in a truncated ending which even supporters admit was just recycled animation. Though integral to understanding the series, the TV ending was clearly not what the story was leading up to, and we know from concept art and storyboards that it wasn't what they intended. Gainax spent a year scraping together funds from other projects to make a theatrically released, alternate-ending movie in 1997, aptly-named "The End of Evangelion".
The TV ending "controversy"
The problem was, The End of Evangelion is one of the most violent movies ever made, infamous as a "kill'em all"-style ending. Fans who were expecting a Disney-esque "happy ending" were disappointed. Instead of being a formulaic, feel-good movie, it broke convention and tried to tell an ending that was realistic, as opposed to just wish-fulfillment.
In the meantime, so many people tried to interpret the TV ending as "a good ending on its own", it became so entrenched, that when The End of Evangelion came out it was met with some reactions of "this is just revenge on fans! you killed so many characters!" (ignoring that, much like Gundam or Macross, people actually died during the course of the regular series).
ReVolution of Evangelion's official position is that there is no debate. If you have to pick one, The End of Evangelion is the "real ending", though it's stressed that the TV episodes are "more Instrumentality scenes" from the middle of End of Eva. If you actually look at all of the evidence, the rejection of The End of Evangelion was an accident of its wacky release schedule. The fact that there had to be a finale movie at all, is simply an accident because Gainax had run out of money for the TV ending. The "TV ending is the real ending and End of Eva is revenge on fans!" fanboys basically want us to "teach the controversy" rather than look at the facts. We're not playing by their rules anymore: it's the direct equivalent of Lord of the Rings hippie-fans from the 1960's demanding that "equal time" be devoted to their views that LOTR was "about" pot-smoking and the Vietnam draft.
However, the final two TV episodes are basically...dream-sequence scenes from the middle of End of Eva (the Instrumentality scenes), shown out of context. It's what's "going on in their minds" during End of Eva. Some sort of obsessive fan-edit would probably just splice them together at the appropriate points. You will *not* understand the full story, character motivations and why they do what they do, if you ignore the final two TV episodes.
Death & ReBirth
When Gainax was busy making The End of Evangelion, they were again running behind schedule, and fans were growing impatient. Ultimately, The End of Evangelion was released in July 1997. To try to placate the waiting fans (not to mention, get more money to finish the full movie) four months before End of Eva was released, they put out another "Theatrical movie". Released on March 15, 1997, also produced by Gainax and Production I.G., "Death & ReBirth" is a compilation composed of two parts:
- "Death" - literally a clip show meant to recap the series, as well as highlight plot-important scenes from throughout the storyline that fans may have forgotten. The idea was also that the theater-going audience, who might not have seen the full series, could watch it and get a rough idea of what the plot of The End of Evangelion was.
- "ReBirth" - following a brief intermission, the second half of the movie is...basically, a rough-cut early version of the first third or so of The End of Evangelion. The End of Evangelion itself is divided into two parts, with the intermission beginning after the Mass Production Eva fight. ReBirth ends just as the Mass Production Evas arrive, right before the main fight scene of the movie actually starts. ReBirth might be of interest to collectors, but it's not really a "lost alternate version of End of Eva" -- there are differences, but they're all attributable to being a rough-cut: i.e. scenes where ReBirth used basically temp music, The End of Evangelion would use a full music track. Animation seems somewhat unpolished in certain scenes, etc. It's just a "work in progress" update on The End of Evangelion that Gainax released because fans were tired of waiting. It doesn't add to the story whatsoever, and visually The End of Evangelion superseded ReBirth in every way. It's literally the first third of End of Eva, released months earlier to drum up the funding to finish the rest of the movie.
"Death" however, is a bit more complicated: apart from when funding completely ran out for the original episodes 25 and 26, the final few episodes were still running out of money, had to cut corners everywhere, and were clearly not what they intended (i.e. a *minute-long* scene in an elevator with no dialogue or motion). "Necessity being the mother of invention" they were able to creatively use cost-saving techniques to still tell a good story, but some vital plot points were left unclear. Therefore, they saw "Death" as an opportunity to go back and do those missing, never-made scenes.
The result was about 22 minutes of new footage, unique to the theatrical run of "Death". These scenes all take place during the timeline of episodes 21 through 24. They did this, with the plan in mind that later on, they would splice out these new scenes and re-edit them into their corresponding episodes: the "Director's Cut episodes". There were also a few scenes from earlier in the series that they completely re-animated, because they had been produced fast and at low budget and they were unsatisfied with them (i.e. the scene of Rei smiling at the end of episode 6 has so many animation flaws, that they were compelled to remake the scene at movie-quality in Death).
The problem is that there are 3 alternate versions of "Death":
- Death - the original version released in theaters, including the new scenes.
- Death(true) - when they ran Death & Rebirth on satellite TV in Japan, it got shamelessly edited down for time, omitting the actually new "Director's Cut" scenes. This wouldn't be worth mentioning, except that it explains the naming of the final version:
- Death(true)² - the final version released on DVD. It doesn't contain the Director's Cut scenes, but it has one or two extra shots in it that weren't in Death(true).
The only actually "new" things in the version of Death & ReBirth sold in North America, are some improved animation for some brief scenes from past episodes (Rei smiling in episode 6, a handful of others), and mostly footage reedited together. The only significant difference is that they didn't just re-use the original English dub (a different company released these) but made an entirely new English dub (re-using mostly the same cast as the original). If you're a big fan of Tiffany Grant's portrayal of English-dub Asuka, this might be a collector's item. Otherwise, Death & ReBirth is a glorified clip show, long since rendered obsolete by later DVD releases and End of Eva: they only keep releasing it because they're trying to trick you into buying a clip show. Don't.
The way we watch anime has changed since even the early 2000's. We're no longer limited by what we can find, but what we have time to watch. Some people are discouraged from watching The End of Evangelion because "we don't want to sit through two movies": don't even waste time watching Death & ReBirth as a free internet download. It's not just not worth your money, its not worth watching and utterly skip-able.
The "Director's Cut" episodes
When Gainax made Death & ReBirth, their plan was to splice out the scenes containing new content and put them back into their associated episodes (from late in the series when the budget was dropping) in a later home video release. The result was the "Director's Cut episodes", new versions of episodes 20 through 24. These four episodes are distinguished in their title cards from the original version, by being termed 21', 22', 23', and 24' (pronounced "twenty-one prime", like in mathematical notation).
The four Director's Cut episodes contain a combined 22 minutes of entirely new scenes (an entire extra episode's worth)...all of which are important to the plot (as opposed to any random 22 minutes, which contain just padding for time). Generally, the new scenes do two things: provide more plot information, explaining what "Instrumentality" is and what is required for it (setting up The End of Evangelion); and flesh out Asuka's character and backstory more. Loosely, in the series we're introduced to Shinji as a sympathetic character at first, then gradually realize just how dysfunctional he is. Asuka's storyarc mirrors that: she's introduced as a bit unsympathetic, but then the final episodes were going to humanize her more and show what a hard life she's had. All of this Asuka backstory information was vital for understanding Asuka, and specifically her actions in The End of Evangelion, but had to be cut for budget reasons.
The End of Evangelion is essentially treated as the "Director's cut" version of the original final TV episodes 25 and 26...to the point that the title cards in the movie refer to its two halves as "episodes 25'" and "episode 26'".
You *cannot* simply watch the extra 22 minutes of footage as clips off of YouTube: the "Director's Cuts" are more than just splicing in new footage. They actually went back and subtly re-animated the *entire* episode for all four. For example, a scene of Rei with very bad, cheap animation in the original episode 23 has her just standing with a neutral expression. In the Director's Cut version, they went back and re-animated this so not only does it simply look better, but now Rei is actually scowling at Gendo's glasses: so little emotional cues and character reactions that really change the meaning of scenes are in them. The storyboard they're based on is the same, but they subtly (yet noticeably) updated the entire episode. You have to watch all four from start to finish.
The animation for the entirely new scenes, originally from Death & ReBirth, obviously look somewhat different than the rest of the episodes they were spliced back into, because 1-they were produced at better, movie-quality budget, and 2-they were animated by the anime company Production I.G. (Gainax had previously also subcontracted animation for Evangelion out to Production I.G. for TV episodes 13 and 18).
In the 1990's, the best video format was Laserdisc. Laserdisc was sort of the stepping stone between old VHS tapes and DVD: no sooner had American companies embraced it, when DVD came out and superseded it (people are afraid the same thing will happen to Blu Ray: the minute we switch to it, something better might get invented). However, Laserdisc was more popular in Japan and they'd been using it for years. This is why this initial release was called the "Video and Laserdisc" version, because it was the same thing on both VHS and LD.
There is no "official" term "Director's Cut episodes", but they are commonly referred to as this in English fandom. The "official" term was simply "Video & Laserdisc version", but then again, every episode technically had a "Video & LD version" due to minor tweaks and fixes, so its not really a good term for differentiating them. So they tend to get called "the Director's cuts" but its not things that were made but cut out of the original, like the Nth release of Blade Runner. It's not as if Gainax made footage and then cut it out like in a live-action series: these are scenes that they wanted to do, but couldn't due to restrictions of budget and time. They were left unproduced, though probably not fully scripted out they were things the creators wanted to do. Compare this to how the Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition (though it also contained some scenes cut for time) had Peter Jackson go back and film *entirely new* scenes in "pickup shooting", in some cases filming after they theatrical version was already released.
Also similar to how the Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition is the definitive version of the story...*and not watching it is madness*...the Director's Cut versions of episodes 21'-24' utterly supersede the original on-air episodes, and are treated as the default versions.
The four Director's Cut episodes were released to the public in Japan in 1998, the year after Death & ReBirth and The End of Evangelion were released in theaters. Each individual volume of episodes that got released was referred to by the naming scheme "Genesis (number)", and their release schedule was:
- Episode 21' - Genesis 0:11 - February 4, 1998
- Episode 22' - Genesis 0:12 - September 3, 1998
- Episode 23' - Genesis 0:13 - August 12, 1998
- Episode 24' - Genesis 0:14 - September 9, 1998
ReVival of Evangelion
"ReVival of Evangelion" is the so-called "third Eva movie", released on March 7, 1998, but was never give a separate DVD release nor should it: it's more like when they call separate DVD box sets by new names. The first half of "Death & Rebirth" - Death - was a clip show, and the second half - "ReBirth" - was a rough-cut version of the first third of The End of Evangelion. "ReVival of Evangelion" was simply "Death" and The End of Evangelion pasted together, with the full End of Eva replacing the ReBirth rough cut. The version of "Death" used wasn't new, just the Death(true)² home-video version. A fan could have achieved exactly the same thing as "ReVival" at home by watching the home release of "Death(true)²" then stopping and instead of watching ReBirth, watching their copy of The End of Evangelion. The only reason we really mention it is because its used in measurements of "how much money did Evangelion movies ever make at the box office".
ReNewal of Evangelion
"The ReNewal Project" was Gainax's massive attempt to remaster the entire series, fixing previous transfer problems, coloration, audio, etc. not new footage but an incredibly improved in quality DVD. The "ReNewal of Evangelion DVD box set", released in June 2003, contains the entire 26 episode TV series, the four Director's Cut episodes, and the ReVival version of the movies (Death(true)² and The End of Evangelion: there was no point in releaseing Rebirth with that). It is the complete version of the entire Evangelion saga, in its finalized form. ReNewal supersedes all previous releases and is the only one a fan would ever need to own.
Further, part of the remastering was to record the "Japanese original 5.1 audio dialogue". When Gainax was originally making the series, certain scenes had a lot of "background conversations": usually technicians shouting out things at Nerv HQ, or sometimes information running on a television in the background. None of this dialogue ever involved a named cast member, but was meant to make it seem more "real" and textured (in a giant control center with dozens of people, the 4 main characters shouldn't be the only people talking), and more importantly, to occasionally provide some minor extra plot information. The TV station the show was airing on demanded that these parts of the script never get recorded, because they would make scenes "too busy" or "too confusing". This dialogue was confirmed to have always been in the scripts (they aren't pulling a Lucas on us), the network just forced them to not use it. Thus, when making their definitive-version DVD release with ReNewal, Gainax went back and actually recorded this dialogue. It doesn't even involve any of the normal cast members, its staff from the Gainax office who don't normally do voicework doing it as a cameo. Either way, the ReNewal 5.1 audio dialogue was often nearly incomprehensible: it truly was "background noise" that the episode doesn't focus on, or information running on a television set, but at such low volume compared to the main character dialogue that you would have to turn up the sound to deafening levels to hear it completely. However, that wasn't really an issue, because it was in the scripts:
The ReNewal of Evangelion DVD box set contained several books' worth of supplementary materials, cast & creator interviews, and *fully annotated scripts*.
Unfortunately, none of this information was ever released in English.
North American English-dub release
The North American English-dub release of Evangelion was made by ADV Films starting in 1997, and it became the company's flagship title.
A key thing to remember is that Evangelion was dubbed at the turning point when English anime dubbing and distribution was changing from a niche entertainment market, into a nation-wide subculture. The sometimes embarrassingly bad English dubs of the past decade were giving way to well-made English dubs taken as serious acting. Several well-made English dubs in the late-1990's such as Evangelion, Cowboy Bebop, etc. resulted in English dubs gaining newfound respectability.
Nonetheless, because Evangelion was one of the major series that were arguably responsible for the shift to critically acclaimed English dubs, we can't forget that it grew out of the humble origins of earlier anime production. When ADV dubbed Evangelion, they didn't know it was going to be a massive hit (in the days before Web 2.0, internet downloading wasn't commonplace like it is now). Moreover, they dubbed *2 episodes at a time* because Gainax would mail them a VHS tape every few weeks, and they could only fit 2 episodes on it. Therefore, the problem was (by their own admission) that ADV had no idea how the story was going to progress more than 2 episodes in advance. Later revelations about character backstories were unknown to them. It's not that they wouldn't, but that they couldn't: these were the limitations of English dubbing at the time, it was growing out of being a cottage industry. For example, Misato acts very immature in the first 6 episodes, because all that ADV had to go on was watching the series two episodes at a time with no idea of what would come next, and in the first two episodes, Misato happens to be acting particularly drunk and silly: they had no way of knowing she's not usually like that. However, the dub drastically improved the further they went and the further they knew about the characters. This was when English dubs were shifting into something greater, much as the original Japanese version took "Giant Robot" and made it into something "I didn't know a cartoon was capable of doing". So if you watch Evangelion from beginning to end, you can actually see the transition from the "childhood" of anime dubbing in the early years of the 1990's, into the "adult", mature dubbing of the late 1990's onwards, happening from episode to episode. For its time, over a decade ago, Evangelion was mind-blowing, as was its English dub: no one had ever tried to do something this good.
Further, several of the English dub voice actors that worked on Evangelion became regulars working at ADV, as it grew into the largest anime dubber and distributor in the late-1990's-to-early-2000's. In the process, they became mainstays of the anime dubbing industry itself, and to this day the performances that Tiffany Grant (Asuka) and Spike Spencer (Shinji) did in Evangelion are considered career-defining roles.
ADV's English dub VHS and Laserdisc releases of Evangelion are obsolete and out of print now and possibly collector's items for those interested.
The problem is that as with any hit series, i.e. Star Wars, ADV would make rerelease after rerelease of Evangelion: DVD repackaging after DVD repackaging. Each time trying to hype how it was slightly different to get you to buy it when really it was the same. There were basically three versions of the English dub release: VHS, DVD release of the normal version, then a DVD release including the Director's Cut episodes.
Evangelion Perfect Collection
The "Perfect" Collection was ADV's first DVD release of Evangelion ("Perfect" signifiying that it was DVD as opposed to the normal VHS release). It contains all 26 TV episodes. It contains no "new" material thought the audio/video quality was improved from VHS, etc. It no longer seems to be in print, but it was so massively popular during the many years it was produced that you can expect to see it on store shelves everywhere, in libraries, anime clubs, etc. It was released individually spread out across 8 discs, and later as a full DVD box set of 26 episodes. It does not contain the Director's Cut episodes, nor The End of Evangelion.
"Perfect" is the version of the series that was run on TV in the USA from 2005-2007 on Adult Swim.
Evangelion Platinum Edition DVDs
Although the Director's Cuts came out in Japan in 1998 (two years after the series aired, one year after The End of Evangelion), ADV didn't want to have to wait that long when they were making their initial English-dub release of the series. Instead of waiting for months and just copying the Japanese version, they instead used the TV version of the episode master templates. Had they just waited up to a year, they would have gotten the Director's Cut episodes. Unfortunately, soon afterwards ADV got tied up in haggling with Gainax over various issues, and they couldn't get the rights to the Director's Cut episodes. The result was that the Director's Cut episodes weren't released in English until fully *six years* after they were out in Japan.
ADV didn't immediately package the Director's Cut episodes into one giant complete-series box set. It was more profitable to sell them individually at first (then later package it into a box set). They came in two DVDs, released three months apart: "Evangelion ReSurrection" was released on January 12, 2004. It contained Director's Cut episodes 21'-23', as well as the corresponding original versions. "Evangelion Genesis Reborn" was released on Mary 9, 2005. It contained the Director's cut of episode 24', and the final two TV episodes were also included (the idea was that these two DVD discs replaced volumes 7 and 8 of the Perfect Collection DVDs). These two DVDs have been out of print for years, and were superseded by the full box-set "Platinum" release within a matter of months: the only reason they are worth mentioning is because they contained a 20 minute long interview with Weta Workshop's Richard Taylor and Ben Wooten, talking about how they'd like to make a live-action Evangelion movie series, interspersed with over 20 pieces of concept art they had made...
The "Platinum Edition DVDs", released in 2004, are the second DVD release of Evangelion by ADV, as well as the most current one as of 2009. They are more or less the English adaptation of ReNewal of Evangelion.
The Platinum DVD box set contains the entire TV series, including the four Director's Cut episodes 21'-24' (as well as the original versions). The audio-visual quality for every episode is also significantly upgraded from the old Perfect collection (serious collectors point out that they're not quite as good as on the ReNewal version, but they're so subtle you'd have to be looking for the mistakes to find them: still, room to improve for some sort of future Blu Ray release...).
A problem was that new dialogue had to be recorded for the 22 minutes of new scenes. However, because the Platinum DVDs were being made 6-7 years after the original English dub, many voice actors for the second or third tier characters had moved out of the business. They couldn't just record the dialogue for those 22 minutes (due to continuity issues with the voices and various legal things). The result was that the English dub for the four Director's Cut episodes had to be completely re-recorded. The English dub for the Director's Cuts is thus wildly uneven: the returning voice actors for all of the primary roles gave arguably the performances of their careers, because they had over 6 years to reflect on the roles. However some of the tertiary characters were new to the roles and had no time to adapt in only four episodes with relatively little dialogue. The worst of these was probably Greg Ayers' much-maligned take on Kaworu in the Director's Cut (he sounds nothing like what the script calls for...). The Platinum Edition DVDs never aired on Adult Swim, so if you saw the series off of TV you missed all of this new information.
Unforunately, the Platinum Edition DVDs do not contain any of the mountain of bonus materials that were included in the 2003 ReNewal of Evangelion DVD box set. Part of this is probably just due to practicality: ReNewal contained several books' worth of information on the series, including the annotated scripts as well as creator interviews, and it would have been a massive effort to translate it all. In any case, this greatly contributed to the confusion about the series. "Why does no one understand Eva?" is easily answered with "several books worth of supplementary material were included in the DVD box itself in Japan, but weren't released here". The old cliché that "the answers are all in the manual" is really painfully true for Evangelion. Gainax didn't particularly mind that they weren't included, because they are marketing to the *Japanese* audience: they have openly said they never thought the series would be popular outside of Japan, because it deals with such Japan-specific cultural issues and social commentary. ADV tried to make do with what it could, but they didn't *write* the series, they're the English localization team. They made their own DVD commentary for Platinum, which is fairly informative but logically it tends to focus on things like English dub casting and translation issues, because they talked about what they knew.
However, the "Platinum Edition DVDs" were only an adaptation of part of the original Japanese ReNewal of Evangelion box set: ADV didn't get the rights to Death & ReBirth or The End of Evangelion...
How The End of Evangelion's English-dub release got Mangled
The finale movie for the TV series was The End of Evangelion, which was released in Japan in 1997, one year after the final TV episode aired. The English dub release (there was no subtitles-only release) of The End of Evangelion suffered from a few major problems. End of Eva's English release suffered from two big , which were inter-related: complications
- - The End of Evangelion wasn't given an official English dub release until 2002...*five years* after it came out in Japan. Roughly over four years after the English dub of the TV series was released.
- - When it finally *was* released, it wasn't made by ADV, but by Manga Entertainment.
Under..."normal" circumstances, given that English dub of the TV series started being released in 1997, about a year after it came out in Japan, one would expect that the finale movie would get an English release about a year after it came out in Japan, i.e. 1998, maybe 1999. Why did it come out about 3-4 years later than it should have?
ADV and Gainax had started bickering over the various usual points of minor contention, i.e. translation and localization, the percentage of profit they were sharing, etc. etc. Gainax knew that The End of Evangelion was going to be a mega-hit, so the asking-price they presented to ADV for the End of Evangelion license was *one million dollars*. Even for a guaranteed hit-movie, this was considered ridiculously high, and ADV wouldn't pay it. However, due to all of the petty bickering at the time, Gainax was in no mood to haggle, and wouldn't bring down the price. An intense bidding war ensued that lasted for *years*, with neither side willing to compromise, and this is why The End of Evangelion got delayed so long. Eventually, Gainax sold the rights to a different company, who was willing to bite-the-bullet and pay the exorbitantly high licensing fee: Manga Entertainment.
Manga Entertainment's English-dub release of The End of Evangelion was one of the infamously worst DVDs ever made. Any of the minor bickering Gainax had with ADV about localization quality paled in comparison to just how badly Manga Entertainment mishandled it.
There were also one or two translation errors in key scenes. Given that this was the "finale movie that explains all of the plot mysteries", certain translations were absolutely vital. The biggest problem is Misato's speech to Shinji quickly explaining the true backstory of the Angels and Evangelions, which was badly mistranslated, resulting in even more audience confusion. On the whole the film was actually well translated, but a lot of exposition hinged on this comparatively short scene of dialogue (basically, the English dub says that humans and the "mother-Angel" Adam come from Lilith, when really its that "humans come from Lilith, comparable to how Angels come from Adam").
Manga Entertainment did bring back as much of the original cast as they could: the main cast voices are the same, but several third-tier characters got new voices. Usually this had more to do with the fact that they had delayed so long in making the dub that voice actors for minor characters had moved out of the business, and recast voices were of pretty good quality. However, they recast Hyuga with someone that didn't sound at all like the original voice (the original was high pitched and whiny, the new one had a deeper voice).
The Manga Entertainment release of Death & ReBirth and The End of Evangelion also came with an (in)famous DVD commentary. The commentary was made by Amanda Winn Lee (ADR director and voice of Rei), her husband Jason C. Lee (voice of Aoba), and Taliesin Jaffe (a friend of theirs from the anime industry, who has been ADR director on other projects like Hellsing, tried to help them with research, did various odd jobs with sound editing and subtitles, and did some minor voices in End of Eva). Amanda and Jason talk about the anime dubbing process and their experiences producing the dub - interesting stuff about the adaptation process that you'd kind of want to know, and insight into their characters. However, Taliesin spends much of the commentary pointing out his personal theories on all the religious symbolism. That is, rather than ask Hideaki Anno what was going on with the show, Taliesin actually went to an occult bookstore and took out every Kabbalah-related book he could find. So in the commentary, Taliesin keeps pointing things out from his "crib sheets" on the religious symbols which are really his own theories...many of which are actually really uninformative and directly contradicted by the Japanese creators, who have repeatedly stated they never thoroughly researched the religious symbols and just threw them in to look cool. You have to remember that in 2002, DVD commentaries were still relatively new, and anime news sites hadn't quite reached the level of total prominence they did even a few years later (casual fans still relied on anime magazines as their primary source for breaking industry news). Now take this environment, without a solid infrastructure for getting accurate information to fans...and pretty much the only thing that you can guarantee that everyone is exposed to is the commentary on the DVDs that were actually released in North America. Anyone who bought a copy of Manga Entertainment's release of End of Eva could listen to the commentary, but (at the time in 2002) it was more difficult to find official statements by Hideaki Anno himself. The result of the fixation on apocalyptic religious symbols by Taliesin in the "Commentary of Doom" is that a large number of fans of that generation became convinced that this must be something to do with the show, when it was really a fringe minority view that Taliesin promoted. There was a lot of wild speculation in the old days.
The Age of Confusion
The after-affects from the disastrous Manga Entertainment release of Death & Rebirth and The End of Evangelion have haunted us ever since. The most immediate affect was that Gainax sort of realized just how good they had it with ADV compared to Manga Entertainment, and tensions relaxed enough that Gainax later sold ADV the rights to release an English adaptation of the ReNewal of Evangelion DVDs, including the Director's Cuts: what would become the "Platinum Edition DVDs" in 2004. Meanwhile, rampant speculation on the religious symbols or meaning in the show consumed fan debates for years (in part encouraged by Jaffe's fixation on it in the End of Eva DVD commentary).
However, the worst affect was to fans' very understanding of the series' ending. In Japan, The End of Evangelion was released in 1997, just a year after the TV series came out. When the ReNewal of Evangelion definitive DVD box-set release was made in Japan in 2003, the movies were just "volumes 10 and 11" in the 11-volume box set. They were packaged as part of "the story". In the United States, fans had to wait *five years* between when the series was released and when an English dub was released in 2002 (or any official English translation for that matter: there was no subtitles-only release). In the meantime, because the TV series was so popular, fans on the convention circuit started trading around bootleg copies of The End of Evangelion, most often with ridiculously bad fan subtitles. One of the most popular fansubbed VHS tapes that made its way around the con circuit was a Hong Kong bootleg: it had been fansubbed out of Japanese into Mandarin Chinese writing, then fansubbed again out of Mandarin Chinese and into English...then people acted honestly surprised when they "couldn't understand the ending". There were so many swirling opinions and uninformed theories, often wildly divergent due to the nature of amateur fansubbing, that misinterpretation of the series became rampant. In some cases, it almost became a warped game of "Mad Libs", were casual fans weren't even trying to translate or explain the series, so much as make up the most "amusing", that is, wacky and needlessly complicated, explanations of the story. All of the translation errors in the official English release, particularly of Misato's speech which explained the hidden backstory of the series, only furthered misconceptions.
Given that fans had to wait fully *five years*...many tried to actually rationalize the TV ending as "standing on its own" as the full ending (for Lord of the Rings, this would be the equivalent of if Return of the King had never been released, and after years, fans tried to rationalize that "The Two Towers stands on its own as a good ending"). Further, as if a five-year wait wasn't bad enough, because a different company released The End of Evangelion, it was *never* released in the same box set as the TV series, the way it was meant to be in Japan. This only furthered the divide, fueling the "TV ending vs Movie ending" controversy, which more than anything, was simply an accident of its release schedule. Some people had gotten so used to interpreting the TV ending as the "happy" ending, that they refused to acknowledge End of Eva and labeled it "just revenge on fans" because it was "too violent"...what show were they watching up to this point? It was always a violent, uncompromising series.
Worse, some casual fans weren't even aware that The End of Evangelion existed. Many anime series often have compilation "clip show" movies which are just compilations of old footage. It didn't help that Death & ReBirth *actually was* a clip show like that. The result was that casual fans might only be aware of End of Eva in passing, or try to watch Death & ReBirth *first* then give up on both movies as "a clip show".
Many of the Old School Fanboys like to reminisce about the late 1990's to early 2000's as "the Good Ol' Days" when they are all knee-deep in rival fansubs trying to figure it out, free to make up their own wacky fan theories with impunity. Post-2005 fandom isn't anything to them: people who watched the series well-translated, in order, off of TV aren't "fans" because they didn't have to hunt around for VHS tapes at convention trade floors, watching them out of order. Sitting around watching horribly fansubbed bootlegs of The End of Evangelion in 2001, is what they consider "the Golden Age" of fandom, where everyone could feel like "an expert" no matter how crazy their fan theories were, because there was no official English dub release. Then when the movie *did* come out in 2002, it was so poorly made - and not even packaged with the TV series - that they could have "fun" endlessly arguing online about which ending was the "real" one (the reality is that the TV ending is part of The End of Evangelion, End of Eva was the "real" ending, they're complimentary). This wasn't "the Golden Age of fandom", it was the Age of Confusion.
The good news is that in 2009, Manga Entertainment finally lost the rights to The End of Evangelion. Their company has been simply collapsing for years. Anchor Bay bought Manga Entertainment, then Sony bought Anchor Bay, and Sony has no interest in expanding into the North American anime market. Manga Entertainment in 2009 is a hollowed-out husk of its former self, hasn't bought new titles in years, and Sony is simply burning off their inventory. When the license for The End of Evangelion had to be renewed, Manga Entertainment simply didn't *bother* to hang onto it, and let the rights lapse. As of 2009, therefore, *no one* has the rights to The End of Evangelion. Everyone really hopes another company picks it up and does a *good* job, possibly even putting it in the same box set as the TV series, to make it just like the Renewal group packaging it was originally supposed to have. If you want to watch it, it was given a wide enough release when it came out in 2002 that you can still find a copy on most store shelves and in libraries. Unfortunately, they never ran The End of Evangelion on Adult Swim on TV, because A-it was a different company and it wasn't part of the deal ADV made to air the series, and B - no one is crazy enough to air a movie like The End of Evangelion on TV, the censors would never allow it. Yes Timmy, The End of Evangelion *is* that cartoon your mother warned you about.
Further, this means we don't have to pay even the slightest lip service to Manga Entertainment anymore: they utterly screwed up, 10 to even 20 years from now we'll still be referring to their release of The End of Evangelion as one of the worst dub releases ever made (just as we make fun of the original, bowdlerized English dubs for Ghibli movies from the late 1980's). Their work was an insult, *re-defining* "sub-standard". Do not wish them well, do not go to their convention panels, do not buy their products (the few they still sell), do not say "God bless you" when they sneeze, do not break if you see them crossing the street.
So what should I, the North American English-speaking fan who doesn't really know Japanese, watch?
As of 2009, with some sort of "Diamond Edition: Blu Ray" super-box set looking to in no way appear at any time in the foreseeable future:
If you are a strict subtitles-only fan:
- ADV's Platinum Edition DVDs, episodes 1-20
- ADV's Platinum Edition DVDs, Director's Cut episodes 21'-24'
- Skip to The End of Evangelion, but stop during the Instrumentality scene, about 15 minutes before the movie ends (skip Death & ReBirth completely)
- Watch TV episodes 25 and 26
- Watch the last 15 minutes of The End of Evangelion
If you are an English-dub fan:
- ADV's Platinum Edition DVDs, episodes 1-20
- ADV's Platinum Edition DVDs, original version of episodes 21-24 (to hear how the English dub for the secondary characters, i.e. Kaworu, is *supposed* to sound)
- ADV's Platinum Edition DVDs, Director's Cut version of episodes 21'-24' (keeping in mind that while Shinji, Asuka, Misato sound better in the Director's Cuts, Greg Ayers had no idea how to play Kaworu. The good news is that both versions come in the Platinum Edition DVD box)
- Watch The End of Evangelion (just skip Death & ReBirth completely), but stop during the Instrumentality scene
- Watch TV episodes 25-26
- Watch the last 15 minutes of The End of Evangelion
The Death and ReBirth of English-language Evangelion fandom: Adult Swim (2005-2007)
The "first generation" of Evangelion fandom centered around the original VHS release by ADV films in the late 1990's. This transitioned smoothly into the "second generation" of Eva fandom, centered around the full DVD box set releases: when Perfect collection got a full DVD box set, The End of Evangelion in 2002, and finally the Platinum Edition DVD box set in 2004, containing the Director's Cut episodes.
And for a time, it was good.
But fandom's so-called civil societies soon fell victim to vanity and corruption. The problem was that, after 2004...there simply wasn't much new Evangelion material coming out. The story had ended in such a way that there was no possible hope for a sequel. Sadamoto's long-delayed Manga adaptation was occasionally churning out new volumes, but they were not in the same continuity as the series. Numerous other spinoffs didn't even try to copy the original series: they took the names and character designs, and set them in happy slice-of-life romantic comedy alternate realities. After years with nothing truly *new*...it started affecting some people's perceptions of the story. Sort of like how some of the younger Star Wars fans base their conceptions about it on the subsequent waves of merchandise and spinoffs, not the original (some of the worse series, like Angelic Days...would be like basing your understanding of Star Wars on The Holiday Special or The Ewok Adventure).
Even for those who didn't focus on the wacky spinoffs...there simply wasn't much new to talk about. Worse, none of the old controversies were resolved due to one overriding problem: such an attitude of "every fan theory is correct" had been ingrained in fandom, or "my personal theory is correct even if I later find out it *directly contradicts* the statements of the Gainax creators*...that none of the controversies were ever solved. How could they be? In Lord of the Rings terms, there will always be some debate about "do Balrogs have wings?", but we were able to narrow it down into two separate arguments, each citing evidence from the text. A "recourse to authority", by trying to cite Tolkien's works to figure out what he meant; arguably if he was still alive, we'd have simply asked him. But what happened in Evangelion was often the equivalent of...not even basing the Balrog debate on any textual citations, but two fanboys arguing, word for word, "my personal mental conception of what Balrogs are like is that they have wings. This is true...because I believe it very hard", and the other arguing the no-wings case on the same grounds. This is "Truthiness": believing what they wanted or believed to be true, rather than what could be proven to be true. Much as the 1960's "deplorable cultus" of hippie-fans utterly subsumed and hijacked Lord of the Rings fandom, believing it was about the Vietnam Draft and pot-smoking...not because they could prove it, but because they felt like it...Evangelion developed its own "deplorable cultus".
Bored and without much new material, fanboys started making increasingly large amounts of pornographic fanart and self-serving fanfiction. Or they'd combine them, to make full-length fan-comics (doujinshi) filled with pornographic fanart and stories. In Lord of the Rings terms, it's as if the Frodo/Sam slash sex fanfiction people were *in charge*.
Even for those that didn't heavily get involved in those activities, there wasn't much new to debate, and gradually, more and more people kept simply leaving fandom, due to the slow attrition of time.
Then, larger anime industry-wide events started affecting things: the anime industry collapsed in 2006, due to rampant overspeculation, and in a few years, anime DVD sales had dropped 50%. The real wake-up call was in fall 2007, when one-time major North American anime distributor Geneon suddenly got shut down by its parent Japanese company. Central Park Media also collapsed, and Manga Entertainment shrank to a tiny husk of its former self, burning off inventory. Even ADV, once the largest anime distributor, was hard hit: as the largest company, they had overspeculated the most (they had their fingers in the most pies) so their losses were far more dramatic. ADV became a shadow of its former self, to the point that on September 1st, 2009, they had to rebrand and restructure themselves under the new name "Section 23" (run by exactly the same people, who now own the rights to Evangelion).
Eva fandom is a subset of anime fandom as a whole: if the industry was collapsing, that meant that many of the old school fans from before 2005 didn't have much reason to stay as all of the old mainstays dried up. This accelerated the rate at which people were dropping out of fandom. Combined with an industry downturn and simply a lack of any really new material, it seemed that Evangelion fandom would fade into history...or would it?
In February 2003, ADV aired the first two episodes of Evangelion on the Cartoon Network's "Toonami" afternoon anime block, as part of the expo event "Giant Robot Week". It was in a children's block at 4:30 PM and heavily edited, but it exposed the series to new people. Moreover, it was taken as a sign that Eva could succeed on TV, and Cartoon Network later agreed to run the series on its late-night anime block, Adult Swim (with only minor editing, i.e. minor nudity shots). The result was that Evangelion was run on Adult Swim, starting on October 20th, 2005. The entire series ran start to finish two times, from 2005-2007. This brought a massive wave of entirely new fans to the series. What was once limited to fansubbing circles or the limited anime club crowd, was now exposed to anyone with a TV. It let to the creation of "third wave fandom": people who either watched the series well translated and in order off of Adult Swim, as well as those who now had full DVD box sets easily available in stores and could experience the same effect at home: the days of Eva knowledge being based on bootleg fansubbed VHS tapes are long past.
So just as the old fandom was decaying...they weren't even making that much porn fanart anymore, they had fallen to such a level of inactivity...all of these Adult Swim or DVD box set fans started liking the series, with the zeal of new converts, and for the most part, free of all of the wrong preconceived notions of the fanboys.
"ReVolutionOfEvangelion.org" was made by fans who watched the series off of Adult Swim. In many ways it can be considered "the revenge of the Adult Swim common fans on the elitist fanboys". Most of the moderators watched it off Adult Swim. V, the guy that owns and runs the site and runs national-level convention Evangelion convention panels now, first saw Evangelion by randomly flicking channels and stumbling onto the first episode when it aired on Toonami's "Giant Robot Week" in 2003. Just as theonering.net had to "take back LOTR fandom" from the combination of diehard 1960's-style hippie-fans and elitists, REVA is "taking back Eva fandom".
From 2006-2007, there was a shift where most of the old school fanboys simply lost interest and their fandom was falling apart, while at the same time, an entirely new one was rising, based on venues of mass media consumption. This is the Toonami/Adult Swim generation: no longer taking warped pride in Eva or anime in general being a "unique" niche title that only a few know about, making them "special". The goal is to make Evangelion become accepted as "mainstream", just as Cowboy Bebop was. There was a time when Lord of the Rings was considered a very "niche" book, but it too later became "mainstream". This does not mean "dumbing it down" in any way. The elitist fanboys tend to look down on anyone who watched the series after ~1999. The sobering truth is that...as the wave of new fans from Adult Swim has matured and grown in confidence, we've realized how frighteningly little the fanboys ever actually knew about the series. They knew no more about Evangelion, than the 1960's hippie-fans did about Lord of the Rings. They wanted to keep new fans out because we "wouldn't understand"....wouldn't "understand" their crazed fanboy theories, which really meant that new people would be able to realize that they had no basis in the facts, and they didn't know what they were talking about.
REVA is dedicated to a "recourse to authority": taking as a given that any writings, essays, or articles written in the nearly 15 years since the series' release (even at the "professional" level) are circumspect. Rather than trusting such secondary sources, we will use the statements of the cast & crew, of creator Hideaki Anno, as definitive...just as Tolkien's statements were definitive about LOTR. We will base things on scripts, guidebooks from Japan: a return to hard "evidence" and rationality. We're starting fandom over again from scratch, because just like LOTR's old hippie-fans, the wave of fanboys that grew up around Eva in the past 15 years had no idea what they were doing.
All of this might have been for naught, though, as Evangelion was still a series that had finished a long time ago in 1997. Then again, in the mid-1990's, Lord of the Rings was a 40 year old book, far older than Eva is now, yet it went on to greater things. Still, by spring 2007 the old school fanboys were at their lowest ebb of inactivity, and Adult Swim had just finished its second complete airing of the series. In order to truly get things rolling, we'd need some sort of actually new Evangelion material...
Rebuild of Evangelion
Series creator Hideaki Anno had left anime altogether for live-action work in the late 1990's, having grown disgusted with how the fanboys co-opted Evangelion, ignored its social messages, and turned it into a merchandising empire. Then on August 1st, 2006, recruitment notices were posted on Anno's personal website stating that he was forming a new animation studio: “Studio Khara” (Greek for “Joy”). Many naturally assumed that Anno would be working on an entirely new animated project. However, on September 9th, 2006, the stunning news was released (via Gainax's official website) that Khara would produce a new series of four Evangelion movies: a re-imagining of the original storyline, along with new cinema-quality animation: "Rebuild of Evangelion".
Many weren't really quite sure what to expect based on the cryptic descriptions of Rebuild of Evangelion, combined with the very good job the production team did of preventing news leaks (this is easier to do with an animated movie than a live-action one: it's not like we could get spy photos from the sets). Some suspected that it would be little more than what Death & ReBirth was: a compilation movie series redone with slightly better animation, a clip show of the original series. Other anime series have been known to do this kind of thing. The first movie was set to premiere on September 1st, 2007, and for over a year there was little information on what they were doing. Then the first trailer came out in July, only two months before the movie, and everyone started realizing this was something more:
The first movie is more or less a retelling of the first six episodes. Some have complained that it was too faithful, but the point was that there is an entire generation of young fans who might not even have seen the original series after so many years, and they needed to be introduced. As for returning fans, the story of the first six episodes is left mostly untouched, because they wanted to "ease fans back into" the series, and accept that they'd change a few things: if they had started off with massive changes, fans would have revolted, and rejected the series out of hand. Instead, the first movie follows the original six episodes very closely, so hardcore fans will get used to the idea of "okay, shot-for-shot its not going to be a direct recreation, some scenes will get changed around or condensed" etc.
The second movie, which was released in Japan on June 27th, 2009, started to drastically alter the plot, while still remaining "in the spirit" of the original series. It's an alternate retelling, of *an* Evangelion story. It loosely follows the plot up to episode 19 of the original series, but changes so many things that it is now obviously a "separate continuity", the way different Gundam series are.
While Rebuild of Evangelion is technically made by Hideaki Anno's new production company, "Studio Khara", the name "Gainax" still appears in the credits because they share a lot of copyrights on the names. Further, the *entire* creative team that worked on the original series who still work with Gainax, crossed over to work on the project: the writers, the character designer, giant monster designer, the audio and music people, the *entire* original Japanese voice cast, everyone. Their love of Evangelion has transcended such business boundaries. There's really no functional distinction between Khara and Gainax for our purposes, and at times you'll see "the creators of Rebuild of Evangelion" collectively referred to as just "Gainax".
There are four planned Rebuild of Evangelion movies, named after the three act Japanese classical play structure: Jo-Ha-Kyu (Beginning, Middle, End). Yes, they chose to ironically name a four-movie tetralogy after a three-act structure: the fourth movie is literally called "?" (the question mark symbol). The original idea was to release the second film in Fall 2008, but Gainax being Gainax, it got delayed until the middle of summer 2009. We don't know when the other two movies are coming out: according to the original announcement they were supposed to be shown "together", and were supposed to be out alright. Again, Gainax being Gainax, their production has been months behind schedule...though this time its deliberately because they don't want to rush things. There have been rumors that Rebuild of Eva 3 will be coming out summer 2010, but other statements have implied that there might be another year and a half long or more wait between Rebuild 2 and Rebuild 3.
- Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone - released September 1st, 2007
- Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance - released June 27th, 2009
- Evangelion: 3.0 Q Quickening
- Evangelion: 4.0 ?
Rebuild of Evangelion's North American English dub release
Much has changed in the North American anime industry since ADV first dubbed Evangelion in 1997. Anime in North America went from a relatively niche market in the early-to-mid 1990's, to a massive entertainment empire in the late 1990's through the first half of the 2000's, then the market collapsed in 2006 and its been in freefall ever since.
With the large scale success of series like Evangelion or Cowboy Bebop, the North American anime market rapidly grew in size. Apart from the spiraling effect of word-of-mouth for VHS (and later, DVD) sales, a lot more anime started being shown on TV in the United States, particularly on Cartoon Network's "Toonami" afternoon block, which in the late 1990's converted a legion of fans to Dragonball and its spinoffs, as well as several Gundam series. Of course, the series which rapidly mushroomed into a media sensation, capturing the hearts and minds of an entire new generation of young fans, was Pokémon, which started airing on broadcast TV in 1998. Meanwhile, Cartoon Network's late-night block targeted at older viewers, "Adult Swim", began airing many other series, some meant for children (Inuyasha) but also many dealing with mature subject matter (Cowboy Bebop itself, also Trigun, Ghost in the Shell: the series, etc.). Anime English-dub distribution companies like ADV, Geneon, and Bandai (the "Big Three"), started to think and act not like "cottage industries" run out of garages and rented office space, but a real "industry" like western comic books. Monthly anime news magazines started running in most major bookstore chains. Fan-run anime conventions steadily increased in both number and size throughout the 1990's, until by the early 2000's anime cons with thousands of fans in attendance could be found in most major cities, with anime companies like ADV hosting news panels at them like mini-versions of Comic Con. What was once a small-scale subculture was now becoming much more mainstream.
And for a time, it was good.
But the anime industry's so-called professional companies soon fell victim to vanity and corruption.
- What is the current crisis? How did we get here?
Around 2003-2005, the anime distribution companies started a massive overspeculation boom which grew to epidemic levels. They literally thought the sky was the limit. Such overspeculation booms have actually happened in other media before: it was directly comparable to the infamous 1993 comic book bubble burst that devastated D.C. and Marvel Comics, or before that, the video game bubble burst of the early 1980's. When ADV and companies like it had started out in the early 1990's, there was no anime on store shelves. There was no competition. There was no internet downloading. People would buy whatever they put out, simply because there wasn't that much anime, and people were hungry for it. This ingrained in them a mentality that "people will automatically buy whatever we sell", which wasn't easy to shake off. But the market had changed by 2005: there was such a glut on the market of titles no one could possibly want that their value plummeted. Supply outstripped demand. Just as in western comics, there was an overspeculation boom in the early 1990's, until people started realizing "why would I want to buy a series about "Squirrel Girl"?...the anime companies were buying up every title they could get their hands on, thinking people would automatically buy them. But now the market had shifted: there was so much that people could pick and choose what they wanted. There are some truly sobering reports that some of these ultra-niche series they bought up sold literally only a matter of 200 individual DVD boxes...nationwide. As with any disaster of this scale, everyone should have seen it coming...
- Denial: Slumping DVD sales (2006-late 2007)
Following the overspeculation boom of 2003-2005, the anime "bubble burst" in 2006. DVD sales started plummeting. The other major problem, arguably worse in the long run, was the rise of internet downloading, which resulted in massive amounts of online piracy. It was particularly severe for anime compared to other media, because series come out in Japan often months ahead of their North American release, and fans can just grab them from Japan over the internet and make fan-subtitles and release them on their own. Moreover, the "anime industry" did a thoroughly inept job of trying to stop internet downloading, often responding to "piracy" with tactics used for stopping the physical shipment of bootleg VHS tapes when the real problem is online downloading. At first, the slumping DVD sales were treated with denial. The anime companies waved it off as just year-to-year variation, "we just had a bad year", nothing to worry about.
- Panic: the collapse of Geneon (late 2007)
Then on September 26th, 2009, Geneon USA (formerly, Pioneer) got abruptly shut down by its parent Japanese company. This was like the nuclear blast going off at the beginning of Akira, and sent shockwaves throughout the industry. Not only was it one of the two largest distributors, it wasn't even doing that badly. But their parent company decided that they just weren't worth the effort to save and that they really didn't want to risk much on the North American market anymore; they wanted to fall back to just the home market in Japan, so they simply pulled the plug on their US operations. ADV had started trying to enter into a negotiation deal in August to help Geneon distribute stuff but it fell apart too when Geneon USA shut down, hurting both sides. Sheer panic ensued.
- Slaughter: the Fall from grace of ADV, and the ravaging of the North American anime industry (2008)
For many years, ADV (based in Houston, Texas) was the largest North American anime distribution company. The direct result of this is that when everyone was overspeculating and overexpanding, they did it more than anyone else: they had their fingers in the most pies, so when the bubble finally burst, they had the most to lose. ADV was decimated in 2008; as was the rest of the industry as a whole.
Basically what went wrong is that as part of their overspeculation, ADV entered into a deal with the Japanese "Sojitz Corporation" in June 2006 in order to acquire even more titles; it was a disaster. From this point on, virtually all of ADV's new Japanese acquisitions were made with Sojitz' help, but then in January 2008 ADV without explanation started removing many titles from their online catalogue.
As the saying goes, "when it rains, it pours", as the bad news for ADV kept on coming on an almost weekly basis: in February 2008, major anime news magazine NewtypeUSA (which was owned by ADV and had been running since 2002) was forced to fold: besides the loss to ADV, this meant one of the major longrunning sources of anime news was knocked out. Most of the anime news magazines shut down, and fans entered a news blackout. Things were getting worse and worse throughout 2008, and no one knew what was going on. Other anime companies followed Geneon into bankruptcy, or collapsed to the point that they were virtual non-entities.
By 2008, anime DVD sales had dropped fully 50% industry-wide.
- Brave New World: The Rise of FUNimation (2008-2009)
FUNimation (based in Dallas/Forth Worth) is an anime distributor that rose to fame in the 1990's as "the company that releases Dragonball", which remains one of their flagship titles. They got bought out by mainstream software/DVD company "Navarre Corporation" in May 2005, but Navarre kept FUNimation's leadership structure fully intact. It actually worked out pretty well for FUNimation: Navarre gives FUNimation the seed-money it needs, doesn't interfere with FUNimation's internal operations, then FUNimation just gives them a percentage of the profits. The result was that during the subsequent anime bubble burst of 2006 and the subsequent chaos, Navarre would just keep injecting more funds into FUNimation, allowing them to expand their market share while other companies were failing. In June 2007, while sales were slumping for most companies, FUNimation actually expanded by moving to a new headquarters (still in the Dallas/Forth Worth metro area) with double the office space of their old headquarters. In July 2008, FUNimation struck a deal with Geneon's parent company in Japan to start distributing several former FUNimation titles, and in the same month they also announced that they acquired 30 titles from Sojitz that had previously been licensed by ADV. FUNimation just kept expanding, rescuing more of Geneon's old titles every couple of months, and as more and more companies lost titles or closed down, they'd buy up all of the licenses they lost.
By 2009, FUNimation controlled over 50% of the anime DVD market. Given that the market had shrunk 50%, objectively its more that FUNimation held even while everyone else was falling apart. Even FUNimation had to lay people off and drop some titles to get a leaner bottom line. Another way of putting it is that after the overspeculation boom, FUNimation is optimizing its spending to a sustainable level. At any rate, by 2009 FUNimation dominates the industry as ADV was the dominant company in the early 2000's.
- How the anime industry collapse affects Evangelion
Rebuild of Evangelion came out September 2007, and everyone knew it would be a hit. As a result, *there was a massive bidding war for the rights to make the English dub*. We're not entirely sure what kind of haggling was going on behind closed doors, but no North American anime company was in a position to buy a new massively expensive series at the time: it was released the same month as Geneon collapsed, after which the industry started panicking. Through 2008, everything just advanced in a haze, most anime news magazines shutting down so all we had to go on was hearsay, and anime companies that had problems weren't even holding scheduled panels at conventions. One week to the next we didn't even know which companies were going to shut down. Rebuild of Evangelion was in this odd limbo where months after it logically should have been released, it didn't even have a subtitles-only advanced release. The bootleg fansubbers and illegal downloaders had a field day. Many naturally assumed that because the Neon Genesis Evangelion TV series was ADV's flagship title, they would assuredly also buy the Rebuild of Evangelion remake.
Then on December 31st, 2008, it was announced that anime distributor FUNimation bought the license to Rebuild of Evangelion. This was the shocking, final sign that ADV was officially having life-or-death problems. ADV canceled their annual convention panel in Chicago, and some were openly speculating that at at the big Baltimore convention in August 2009, ADV would announce bankruptcy like Geneon had. However, instead the ADV panel in August announced that the downward slide had stopped and they had relatively stabilized.
But while the near-destruction of ADV and their "how the mighty have fallen" decline led to major headlines (people were jealous that they were the largest North American company for years), all companies are going through rough patches, let there be no illusions. There was a time in the early 2000's when ADV was on top, and back then there were people who thought it might never fall: FUNimation shouldn't get complacent.
Nonetheless the bidding war pushed back the release of the first Rebuild of Evangelion movie's English-dub (and there is no subtitles-only release) for at least a year later than it should have been.
- Section 23: the Death & Rebirth of ADV (September 2009)
By 2009, things were oddly quiet. Pretty much everything that could go wrong had already gone wrong during the living nightmare of 2008. One-time major anime company Central Park Media finally went into bankruptcy in April 2009 after years of inactivity, and surprisingly, ADV picked up many of their old titles. It looked like things might be turning around for ADV.
However, on September 1st, 2009, it was abruptly announced that ADV was shutting down. At first, this led to mass shock. But then it became apparent that ADV was actually *drastically rebranding and restructuring itself* to shake off old debt. So the old ADV title and logo is now retired, but they shifted into being a new company: "Section 23" (named after the designation for Tokyo during post-World War II reconstruction). Apparently they'd been planning to do this since for six months in advance, and its basically shifting around their titles to clean the account books, take advantage of some legal loopholes, etc.: after two years of everyone just throwing their hands up and saying "The End is Nigh", it looks like Section 23 (or "Neo-ADV" as some fans have taken to calling it, like Neo-Zeon from Mobile Suit Gundam) actually has a "plan" for recovery. Section 23 is actually still putting out more titles than Bandai, or Manga Entertainment (don't be surprised if either one of those doesn't last through 2010): they may have lost an amazing amount of market share (FUNimation is arguably about 10 times bigger than Section 23 now) but as the former biggest company they could lose a lot and still be bigger than what Manga Entertainment is now. Further, in November 2009 Section 23 announced that they've been subcontracted to make the English dub for Halo Legends, the animated direct-to-DVD movies set in the popular Halo franchise, so they might rebuild themselves around that. Remember, if Evangelion teaches us anything, it's that the Fate of Destruction is also the Joy of Rebirth.
The English dub of Rebuild of Evangelion 1.0 came out on DVD in November 2009, and the Blu Ray version (with new scenes and utterly superior video quality) is coming out in spring 2010. Unfortunately, FUNimation explained that they have to negotiate for each movie's license individually, so we're not sure if this will lead to another long wait for Rebuild of Eva 2.0 (we suspect it will be out by Christmas 2010, but that's just speculation).
- So as it stands at Christmas 2009, the Evangelion TV series and movies are owned by the following companies:
- Section 23 (Neo-ADV) owns the rights to the original 26 episode TV series (including the Director's Cut episodes)
- FUNimation owns the rights to the first Rebuild of Evangelion movie, and given that it controls over 50% of anime DVD sales, it will probably get the rights to the next three films (assuming there isn't some disaster by Rebuild #4, like when ADV surprisingly didn't get End of Eva)
- No one owns the rights to The End of Evangelion. Manga Entertainment simply let the license lapse around Christmas 2008 (and confirmed this by fall 2009). We're hoping either FUNimation or Section 23 will buy the rights. If Section 23 got it, it would be a justifiable reason to put out a "super box set" (possibly Blu Ray?) of the entire original saga, which fans would be driven to buy.
Sadamoto's official Evangelion manga adaptation
Evangelion has an official manga series adaptation, made by the TV series' character designer, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto. Because Sadamoto was Gainax' character designer, the characters in the manga actually look exactly like they do in the TV series: the artwork is mostly as good as it was in the TV series. Sadamoto knows the rest of the Gainax staff and the writing team, so he knows bits and pieces about their original ideas for the series, some of which never made it into the TV show but are used in the manga. However, Sadamoto as not one of the writing staff, and further he wanted to intentionally take the manga in a somewhat different direction. The result is that the manga series is officially an alternate continuity from the TV series: at times characters don't behave as their counterparts would in the TV series, some of the characters' backstories have been completely rewritten, all for better or for worse depending on your taste. It's an interesting read by an official source, and there are bits of information which might be alternate ideas the production team had. For example, the manga devotes time to actually explaining Kaji's backstory, and it doesn't directly contradict anything from the TV series and indeed seems to complement it: it might be part of TV-Kaji's backstory that just had to be cut from the TV series for time. We just want to stress that you shouldn't base opinions about TV-Asuka on how Manga-Asuka behaves, the two series stand on their own as different continuities.
The manga series is an adaptation of the TV series (more or less), the TV series is not based on the manga. However, the first issues of the manga came out before the TV series premiered. Sadamoto's Eva manga first appeared in Shonen Ace's February 1995...eight months before the first TV episode premiered in October 1995. The idea was that the manga was going to be released a few months before the TV series, as a promotional event to get viewers hyped for the upcoming show. However, due to production delays, the TV series fell drastically behind schedule, resulting in the first episode airing months later than it was originally going to. Thus, when the show was first coming out, the manga had actually outpaced it, and fans were basing knowledge of the series on the advanced manga issues. *Given that the TV series aired nearly 15 years ago, this is becoming increasingly irrelevant*.
The infamous part about the manga series that most bears mentioning, is that it is still ongoing, after nearly 15 years. Sadamoto's work on the series was infamously slow, by his own admission (that and he frequently stopped to work on other projects). Each chapter of the manga is called a "Stage". Stages are compiled into bound graphic-novel volumes (called "tankōbon" in Japan). Each volume contains about 6-7 Stages. Since 1995, volumes of the manga came out, on average, at a rate of about one every 18 months. The manga only got up to about the point where they fight Ramiel (the cube angel) corresponding to episode 6, by the time the TV series had finished airing. Volume 4, which introduced Asuka, was released as a bound graphic novel in October 1997...three months after The End of Evangelion was released in theaters.
There were originally supposed to be 12 Volumes. Currently there are only 11 Volumes, though Sadamoto has recently picked up work again and there are several new Stages that haven't been collected into a Volume yet. What will become Volume 12 is starting to cover the events of the story corresponding to the final battle in The End of Evangelion. The story expanded enough as it went along that Volume 12 cannot possibly cover the entire ending of the story, so there will have to be a 13th volume.
In North America, the English adaptation is made by the manga branch of Viz Media, and translated by editor Carl Gustav Horn. The individual Stages are released only as the bound Volumes in North America, not in any magazines individually, but the Volumes can be found in most bookstores' manga sections as of 2009. Viz released most of the manga volumes in 2004: they started with Volume 1 in March 2004, and by November 2004 they had caught up with Sadamoto by releasing Volume 9. Due to Sadamoto's slow production schedule, there can be quite a long space of time between the release of new Volumes (there was an over 2 year long wait between Volumes 9 and 10, from April 2004 to February 2006). After Viz caught up with Sadamoto by the end of 2004, the English translation release is also dependent on Sadamoto's slow schedule. What will become Volume 12, Stages 77-84, are the most current issues as of Christmas 2009, and cover the beginning of the fight between Eva-02 and the Mass Production Evangelions.
Following the release of Rebuild of Evangelion 2.0, Sadamoto has said he hopes to devote more time to finally finishing up the manga series before they start on Rebuild of Evangelion 3.0.
Other spinoff material
- "After the End" audio drama - First released in the "Neon Genesis Evangelion: Addition" CD which came out on December 12, 1996 (*before* The End of Evangelion). "After the End" isn't well known in English fandom, because it was *never* dubbed into English. The idea is that its billed as "episode 27", but is full-episode in length satire of the series, made by the *entire* Japanese voice cast from the series. The premise is that the characters are treated as actual actors, who are told that the series has been renewed for another season, but they've got no budget nor can they think of a way to continue the story much less make something that will get high ratings. They completely "break the Fourth wall", with a lot of meta-narrative humor: they frequently shift back and forth between whether they're "actors playing these characters" or if they're the actual characters (i.e. "the actress named Asuka" and "Asuka the character" are paradoxically supposed to be the same person), and actually point this out multiple times. Dead characters reappear without explanation, even acknowledging that they died in the series. They make fun of stereotypical "Giant Robot" genre conventions they did or didn't conform to (i.e. Giant Robots usually get a new "form" every few episodes to make children buy new action figures; the most Eva did was repaint Eva-00 blue). They also poke fun at fan complaints about the series: for example there's a point where Asuka complains that Rei is a doll that rarely talks, prompting Rei to make an unbroken, several-minutes-long angry rant speaking very rapidly (easily speaking more than she did in the entire series combined). Apart from just the humor, the parts where they're making fun of "standard" genre conventions highlight just how much Eva was supposed to be a satire of stereotypical shows. English fandom truly lost some understanding of the series by never getting an English dub of this, but if they couldn't get the entire cast back for The End of Evangelion, the odds of some future English release of this coming out are negligible.
Other Manga spinoffs
- Angelic Days - Evangelion is a very dark and brooding series, meant to serve as a mirror for how we live today, and a criticism of using self-medication and "telling yourself what you want to hear". In response, many fans like utterly re-imagining the series as a light-hearted high school romantic comedy where there are no giant robot fights, no psychologically deep characters or angst, and lots of sexy images of the female characters. Its specifically the kind of self-medication Eva was complaining about. Gainax licensed what was basically a fanfiction writer to make one such series officially: the idea is that its set in the happy Alternate Universe seen in the TV ending. Well, it was really based on the spinoff video-game "Girlfriend of Steel 2". Not only is the story horribly cliched...it doesn't even look like the TV series. The artwork is godawful. It's as if you took an unrelated series and just inserted the names "Shinji" and "Asuka". Nonetheless we report on it because it was "officially licensed". It got released by ADV Manga (which has since been folded) and lasted 6 volumes. It's out of print, but can still be found on shelves if you look hard enough, because few people were willing to buy it. Don't hurt yourself by buying this, lets put the shame behind us.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji Ikari Raising Project - Summarized as "the same basic idea as Angelic Days, except done well". Shinji Ikari Raising Project (SIRP) is set in the happy Alternate Universe from the TV series ending, but isn't horribly cliched like Angelic Days. It is an adaptation of an RPG video game. Further, the artwork actually looks more or less like the TV series does. If you were going to make a "happy" Eva series set in the Alternate Universe, this series does the concept as best as it can possibly be done. REVA does stress that the point of Evangelion was that it was kind of synonymous with "dark brooding story", and if you wanted a stereotypical happy series...why watch Eva? It's being released by Dark Horse Comics, and the translation is also being handled by Carl Horn, editor of Sadamoto's official Evangelion manga. There will be at least 9 volumes, and the third was just released in North America at Christmas 2009.
Video game spinoffs
Most of the early Evangelion video games, released right after the TV series in the late 1990's when its popularity was at its peak, were for the Sega Saturn console (though some later got transferred to other consoles). Sega Saturn did moderately well in Japan, but in North America it came dead last in the console war against PlayStation 1 and Nintendo 64. The reason for this is that originally, Sega Saturn and PlayStation 1 were supposed to both come out in September 1995. Then in May 1995, four months before the big launch, the president of Sega of America appeared at E3 (this was the first E3) and announced that in a surprise move, Sega Saturn was being launched *immediately* (as in at the end of his speech) at select retailers across the USA, to try to get a four month lead on PlayStation. This backfired in spectacular fashion: only a handful of games were actually ready, mostly from Sega's in-house development team. The third-party game developers had been developing their titles for the September launch, and felt that Sega had betrayed them to try to boost sales for their in-house studio. Further, only some retailer chains were included in the surprise early launch...but not major chains Wal-Mart or KB Toys. The result was that most third-party game developers stopped working with Sega, while Wal-Mart and KB Toys refused to sell the Sega Saturn at all, and started actively removing Sega products from their shelves in retaliation. Finally, an early release only benefited PlayStation: they had advance warning of what price Sega Saturn was being sold for, and had ample time to slash their own prices to 25% cheaper. Sega Saturn thus lost the format war of its generation, with sales distantly trailing behind PlayStation 1 and Nintendo 64, and it was terribly unsuccessful in North America. The result is that most Evangelion video games never got a North American, English-release version, and now exist only on a console that has been out of print for a decade and didn't have widespread popularity in the first place.
Most Evangelion titles have alternate official English names, but the video games never had an official release, so there is no objectively "correct" English translation title:
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: 1st Impression (Sega Saturn, 1996) - Basically just a walkthrough of the series.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: 2nd Impression (Sega Saturn, 1997) - Actually tells a new story, in which Shinji falls in love with new, bookish pilot "Mayumi Yamagishi"; not particularly popular even in its day.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Girlfriend of Steel (Sega Saturn, PC 1997) - AKA "Iron Maiden". Easily the most popular of the Eva video games, frequently re-released. Subsequently ported over to PC, Mac, and PlayStation 2 versions. Re-released on PlayStation Portable (PSP) as recently as April 9, 2009 (in Japan). Girlfriend of Steel is presented almost as a..."lost episode" of the series. It is a "visual novel" in which "gameplay" consists of moving from one in-game video to the next. It has original animation by Gainax for the in-game videos, and a complete episode-worth of new dialogue by the original Japanese voice cast. In certain ways...it's Evangelion's version of the Star Wars Holiday Special: it has the original cast members, is made by the same production team, and has all of the same sets and props (Gainax animated the in-game videos). Physically, it looks, sounds, and feels like "Evangelion". Storyline-wise...it is actually more mature than most manga, but could never possibly be part of the actual series, playing up the romance parts of the storyline far more than they would ever really have gone. The basic plot is that similar to the "Jet Alone" robots from episode 7, a rival defense contractor makes fully-mechanical robots, still piloted by 14 year olds, to compete with the Evangelion units, and Shinji ends up falling in love with the new female pilot of one of them. This pilot, "Mana Kirishima"...is the living embodiment of "Mary Sue character". Look up "Mary Sue" in a dictionary and you'll see a picture of Mana. She is designed to be the "ultimate girlfriend" for Shinji: she's literally a combination of Rei and Asuka. Rei is very introverted, Asuka is very extroverted: Mana balances this out perfectly. She even looks like a physical merging of Rei and Asuka: she has Rei's haircut but Asuka's hair color. She's sickeningly too perfect, the sort of unrealistic super-girlfriend that only a complete shut-in basement dweller would conceive of as the idealized perfect woman, right next to the green-skinned alien woman who wants to learn about this human thing called "kissing". Unsurprisingly, the fanboys in Japan have developed a large cult around Mana, to the point that her popularity in Japan nearly rivals that of actual cast members. Fans are seriously afraid that the promised "new character" in Rebuild of Evangelion, Mari Illustrious Makinami, will be "god-damned Girlfriend of Steel all over again".
- Neon Genesis Evangelion 64 (Nintendo 64, 1999) - A straightfoward walk-through/fighting game based on the series. No particularly new animation or story content.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion 2 (Playstation 2, 2003) - Another RPG-style walkthrough of the series, without even much fighting control. Normally, utterly forgettable, except that it contained...
- The "Classified Information files" - Unlockable files in NGE 2. See "Supplementary Materials"
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji Ikari Raising Project (PC, 2004) - A comedy/drama/romance RPG, set in the happy "Alternate Universe" glimpsed in TV episode 26. The SIRP manga series is based on it.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Girlfriend of Steel 2 (PlayStation 2, 2005) - Utterly unrelated to the original "Girlfriend of Steel". Pretty much the exact same concept as Shinji Ikari Raising Project on PC, but not done quite as well. The regrettable manga "Angelic Days" was based on it.
- Secret of Evangelion (PlayStation 2, 2006) - An RPG/Adventure Murder-mystery focusing on Nerv intelligence agents and research scientists, only tangentially related to the original story. Non-canonical.
- Detective Evangelion (PlayStation 2, 2007) - Sort of like Secret of Evangelion, but with more Giant Robot fighting parts. Adapted as a manga series.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Battle Orchestra (PlayStation 2, 2007) - A fighting game, with no new story content.
These are the "official sources", which were only ever available in Japan, from which we have derived a large amount of information about Evangelion:
- The ReNewal scriptbooks - fully annotated scripts that were included in the ReNewal of Evangelion DVD box set, which unfortunately were never translated into English.
- The theatrical booklets - Little supplementary booklets, licensed by Gainax, which were released *in theaters* where Death & ReBirth and The End of Evangelion were running in 1997. They contain glossaries about the contents of the movies, i.e. they directly explain "this is what the Tree of Life is". In Japan, they sold these to you right in the theater when you came to watch the movie. Three were actually released: one for End of Eva, two for Death & ReBirth (a normal one, then a "special edition" version). The End of Eva booklet has been nicknamed "the Red Cross book", due to the prominent red cross design on the cover, but that's not an official name.
- The "Classified Information files" - From the Neon Genesis Evangelion 2 video game (2003). When the video game developers were making it, they heavily interviewed series creator Hideaki Anno. Then, they peppered the game with unlockable short files of information about the backstory of the series, based on the interviews. A major selling point of the game was to buy it in order to play through and unlock the files. Files that contain more information are logically more difficult to get to. Thankfully, in the years since its release, full transcripts of all of the files have been posted online and are circulating around the internet, and various fan-translations have filtered into English fandom. The "Classified Information files" fully explain the backstory of the Angels, Evangelions, Adam, Lilith, and the "First Ancestral Race". The information is considered shocking to some, who like to reject it out of hand as "not canonical"...or worse, accept that Hideaki Anno said these things, but choose to believe that the creator of the series himself can't give out more information offscreen: basically, fanboys don't like to let "facts" get in the way of their long-held theories. Further, other supplementary materials that were released, not to mention early draft outlines of the series from before it even aired, have actually confirmed the information in the "CI".
- Groundwork of Evangelion - a 5 volume series of annotated artbooks filled with concept art.
- Evangelion Chronicle - A *massive* new 1,000 page Evangelion encyclopedia released across 30 volumes from 2006 to 2007. The idea was that instead of releasing it as one gigantic and thus very expensive book, it is spread out across 30 issues (over 30 pages each) like a limited-run magazine. We are, of course, still sifting through all of this.
- Eva Extra - A set of promotional magazines released in coordination with the Rebuild of Evangelion movies. Very loosely, they're sort of Rebuild's version of the "Red Cross book", the theatrical pamphlets released with End of Eva, but Eva Extra is structured like a limited-run promotional magazine. They do contain some solid information, but their chief value at the moment is that they contain preview images of upcoming Rebuild movies. The first 3 were released simultaneously, and for free, with the release of the 3 theatrical trailers for the second Rebuild movie, Evangelion 2.0 : You Can (Not) Advance, in 2009. Eva Extra 04 was sold in theaters during Eva 2.0's theatrical run: it contains some things from the earlier versions, and also new art and stills. This was followed by Eva Extra 05, and then Eva Extra 06 which came out in March 2010. Eva Extra 07 will be released May 26, 2010, the same day that the second Rebuild of Eva movie goes on sale in Japan on DVD and Blu-ray.
The idea was that as work on Lord of the Rings was wrapping up, Weta realized it needed another big special effects movie to sustain itself, and they thought of Evangelion: Richard Taylor and many of the Weta staff are personally very big Evangelion fans (it aired in New Zealand in the late 1990's).
Weta Workshop is very enthusiastic about making Evangelion into a live-action movie series: they actually devoted about 6 months to pre-production work, that is, drawing preliminary concept art. However, the project slowed down for 2 reasons:
- The rights to other things kept opening up due to Weta's success on LOTR. First, the rights to Peter Jackson's pet project "King Kong" opened up and displaced Eva, then the Chronicles of Narnia. By 2006, on the cusp of the anime bubble burst, ADV was still pretty hopeful about the project, and multiple directors were interested. Then live-action Halo opened up (which later stalled).
- The Writer's Guild of America Strike of 2007-2008 completely shut down Hollywood.
The good news is that originally, movie industry insiders were hesitant about backing Evangelion, but the financial success of Transformers in summer 2007 convinced them that "a movie about Giant Robots based on a cartoon series from Japan" can be a big success. Multiple studios actually got seriously interested in the movie series, and are apparently in a behind the scenes bidding war for the rights.
Even after ADV's implosion, as late as May 2009, ADV was saying that negotiations were actually making process on the films (which due to their very nature, proceeds very slowly).
ADV, now Section 23, is basically our version of the Saul Zaentz company. What is that? The small company that technically owned the rights to a live-action Lord of the Rings film and got millions by selling the rights to Miramax and New Line.
ADV was never in a position to "make" a live-action LOTR film: major Hollywood producers invest the cash, and Weta Workshop would actually "make" it. Whatever director they hired would "make" it. Since Day One, ADV openly stated that they had no creative input on the movie series whatsoever. They'd just be producers contributing some money to the project, and they control the license.
How can we make live-action Evangelion happen? Can I have a job?
No, randomly volunteering to work on the movie at a convention panel isn't going to get you hired. Weta Workshop only hires CGI artists that move to New Zealand. No, we do not want to read your fanscript.
Much like live-action Lord of the Rings, live-action Evangelion is only going to happen if people believe in it, and actively fight for it. We can't just wait for it to happen.
Thankfully, a great opportunity has presented itself with Rebuild of Evangelion, which will be the literal Second Coming of Evangelion in North America. Even though FUNimation owns the rights to that, if "Evangelion" gets massively popular again in America, people will also buy the original series in record numbers again. If Rebuild of Evangelion becomes a massive hit, Hollywood producers and money-types will take notice of the figures, and be more willing to invest in a live-action movie series, based on the original series.
So get out there and support live-action Evangelion, by supporting Rebuild of Evangelion. One success will build upon the other.