Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone (Blu-ray), Early Review
By Marc | February 20th, 2010
Evangelion returns. After a long wait (and avoiding the DVD version to wait for the Blu-ray for many people, myself included) the first of the new Evangelion films has made it to Blu-ray in the USA.
With the series hitting 15 years old, is the Rebuild of Evangelion something to look forward to? And after quite a few Blu-rays that aren’t exactly up to snuff, is this the Blu-ray Funimation finally gets it right on?
Evangelion’s packaging definitely is not the standard BD case we’ve gotten used to. Since it’s a digipak, let’s start with the slipcover. The slipcover itself is made of relatively sturdy cardstock. It’s not as stiff as the chipboard previously used for anime boxes en masse, but it isn’t the super soft stuff that has been used in recent thinpak sets. The entire case is reflective, holographic, whatever the current term is; when light hits the case it reflects as a rainbow of colors, making the case very eye catching. The image on the front cover shows Unit 01 shooting at an unseen enemy. It’s a dramatic cover that brings to mind what you might imagine a live action Evangelion film may look like. The back cover uses an image of Unit 01 standing around what appears to be an industrial district. Outside of the bottom, most of the image is pure black, minus a few pieces of the Eva reflecting via the reflective material on the cover. It’s a very neat image. The back also contains a 2 paragraph description of the film which is accurate to the contents of the movie itself. Prior to the description of the film, it includes a small description of what the difference is between prior releases of Evangelion 1.0 and this new 1.11 Blu-ray release. It also contains a list of extras, along with the Blu-rau video/audio matrix. Overall, it’s probably my favorite Blu-ray case that an anime release has gotten, and I’m generally not a fan of digipaks. There is a single mistake to point out on the case though. On the spine of the case, at the very bottom, there is the DVD logo. Since there is no DVD contained (nor was one advertised as included) it appears this one slipped on the case accidentally.
After the slipcover, the digipak itself is quite clean and basic. The front cover is pure black minus a single image of Rei looking at the viewer. The back cover repeats the theme, but with a picture of Shinji. The black is also reflective. On the inside of the digipak we have more reflective material, this time purple. There are no images on the inside of the digipak. On the left side is a holder for the booklet the Blu-ray comes with, on the right side is a plastic disk holding tray. The tray holds the disk quite firmly, but releases it relatively easily with a small push. The disk itself has no art. It simply has the color orange on it. Anything that needs to be written (the name of the film, company logos, etc.) is shown by simply not having the orange, and showing into the disk itself. The entire packaging from the case to the disk itself seem to be based around looking fancy and clean. It’s a look that works well.
Evangelion’s menu continues the classy look that started with the packaging. Unfortunately I can’t directly capture Blu-ray menus, so I had to take pictures off my television, so they won’t be as crisp and clean as they should be. The main menu is a gray and purple stripe along the bottom of the screen with the selectable icons on the gray bar. When you select one of the main menu items that has further options, the purple bar lifts up and pushes the gray bar upwards to show you these further options. For languages and extras you get a text list, and for scene selection you get a list of thumbnails that show chapter names when they are highlighted. The orange spots next to each bit of text shows you what language options you have selected, and are also used in the extras menu in a way I haven’t seen; when you watch one of the extras or trailers and return to the menu, it is checked off, showing you that you have already watched it. The pop-up menu in the middle of the movie is the main menu with ‘Play Movie’ replaced with ‘Main Menu’ and an ‘X’ button to close the pop-up menu. When you are in the middle of a trailer or extra, the pop-up menu is a tiny menu that lets you go to the movie, the main menu, or close the pop-up. Overall it’s a great menu, the only improvement that could be made is the text in the audio setup and extras menu is relatively small.
Evangelion 1.11 on its own is both entertaining and disappointing. In and of itself there is nothing wrong with the movie, and it is quite enjoyable. The problem is, minus a few small elements, this is just the first half dozen episodes of the series. There are small touches and changes throughout, but very rarely do you think to yourself, “Wow, that’s different.” Instead what happens is you see something and then you think “Is that different? I think I remember it happening differently in the series, but I’m not sure.”
Taken on its own, it’s a perfectly acceptable introduction to Evangelion, and knowing that the first film is merely setup for changes to come, along with the fantastic animation, makes it easy to overlook that storywise this is simply the first six episode of Evangelion with nearly 20 minutes cut and a few small things added on.
The video on Evangelion 1.11 is 1080p using the AVC codec. There is very little to say in this case other than this sets the bar very high for anime on Blu-ray. Watching the film, it seems like there is never a pixel out of place. Lines are clean and vivid, colors are bright and bold. Anytime there is a visual filter and colors or lines dull there is no doubt it is what was intended and not a side effect of video compression. The only way I was able to detect anything out of place was to look at my snapshots from about an inch away from my computer screen, which isn’t likely to be how anyone actually watches the film. If you want a reference quality anime Blu-ray, this is definitely the one to get.
The audio is nearly identical to the video quality-wise. Both audio tracks are basically reference quality. They don’t reach the ‘hypersonic effect’ used in the Akira Blu-ray, but otherwise, this is the highest quality audio I’ve heard on an anime release. Both English and Japanese get lossless 6.1 tracks. The audio levels in both tracks are nearly identical. Right below is detailed info on each audio track (average bitrates).
Being far removed from the Evangelion dub (the last time I watched anything Evangelion related dubbed was when Platinum first came out in the USA) I found the dub of 1.11 quite enjoyable. Having Spike Spencer back as Shinji is effectively as far as Funimation had to go to make the dub feel much like a favorite shirt; it’s familiar, it sounds good, anything else is just whipped cream on top. Having Spencer and Allison Keith as Misato, arguably the two primary roles in 1.11, be the actors people are familiar with from the TV series dub makes it easier to get into the dub version of the film. Everyone else is a recast or from the Director’s Cut re-dub that ADV did years ago. It’s a fine dub, and I imagine most fans of Evangelion TV’s dub will enjoy this one even more due to better production values, a script that doesn’t stray, and a cast and crew that has the benefit of having done dubbing for years (and I’m sure various differences between Shinji and Misato will be debated since they have the same actors.)
There are quite a few extras for Evangelion 1.11 on Blu-ray. First up we have two versions of ‘Rebuild of Evangelion: 1.01.’ This extra is basically a 15 minute making of set to music. The two different versions are each set to different music. One version uses BGM by Shiro Sagisu, the composer for both Evangelion the series and the new movies. The other uses the song Bolero from Joseph-Maurice Ravel. I should mention, you oddly can’t switch audio while you are watching this extra, what you start with is what you will finish with. The Rebuild extra is a different kind of “making of” than we tend to get. Instead of interviews, we simply see animation. Sometimes it’s a two way split screen, sometimes it’s a 4 way split-screen, other times animation starts and switches between versions as it is running. It’s a very interesting extra to watch, because it shows just how much work and effort went into animating the film. Sometimes a scene starts with a quick paper outline of characters being dragged across a background with no animation, evolving into pencil sketches with quick marker coloring, then that shifts into digital animation with no color, then we have color but no lighting, then we see the final scene. It was interesting enough that I’m actually checking it out for the third time as I’m writing about it. Seeing them layer a CGI Unit 01 from a basic CGI skeleton, going through various other layers to the finalized animation is something quite beautiful to watch, and I think this is an extra that absolutely needs to be watched by fans of not only Evangelion, but animation itself.
After Rebuild there is a short two and a half minute music video. The music is orchestral and has animation from the movie playing along with it. Then we move onto two short ads for the film that are called ‘News Flashes’ that advertise the four new Evangelion films as a whole, with a specific focus on the first and its theatrical opening in Japan. More previews of the film are up next: first is a ‘color corrected version’ of ‘Preview 1′. This is the only extra that is 1080p. It is a minute and a half trailer that seems to focus both on both 1.11 and the upcoming 2.xx. After that there are three versions each of “Fly Me To The Moon” and “Beautiful World.” Truthfully, flipping between them takes awhile, and despite flipping back and forth a few times, I did not notice any differences. Since the alternate versions are labeled as A and B copies, I imagine there is some slight difference in audio or the animation used at some point in the clips. Beyond that we get the normal selection of trailers. Most are 1080i, Dragon Ball Kai gets a 1080p trailer, and a few trailers are relegated to 480. It is also worth mentioning that there is a front loaded trailer that can be skipped for the recently canceled D.Gray-man Season One Part Two on Blu-ray. Outside of the disk itself we also get a short booklet. The first two pages discuss why remaking Eva was done and gives a small introduction. After that there are a few pages that describe various versions of animation that appear in the Rebuild video extra. It ends with profile data and a short description of the music video on the Blu-ray. Throughout the booklet are pages that contain nothing but good quality art. Overall the extras collection isn’t long, but Rebuild by itself is a surprisingly great extra that along with a collection of promos makes for a good collection of extras.
Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone is the closest thing to a perfect anime Blu-ray we have so far. The film isn’t perfect, but the video and audio are as close as we have seen for a Blu-ray thus far. After numerous releases with both video and audio issues from Funimation, this is the one they should be proud of. Hopefully this disk represents a turning point where Funimation fixes the issues their Blu-rays have had (primarily in regards to video. Having an upscale is alright, having a bad upscale that has been DVNRed to death isn’t.) The movie itself is less a complete film, and more a setup for what is coming, so if you can overlook that this is basically just the first six episodes of Evangelion reanimated you will have a good time.
Show: B+ (It’s entertaining, but how much you will get out of it depends on what you are expecting.)
Packaging: A (Very nice packaging. There is a single mistake that didn’t change the grade.)
Video Quality: A+(The best I’ve seen on an anime Blu-ray thus far. While not perfect, it’s highly unlikely anything will be noticed watching the film.)
Audio Quality: A (The audio is fantastic.)
English Dub: A (A modern dub using the primary cast members from the original dub. Dub fans will enjoy it. People who didn’t like the original dub will likely check it for a moment then switch back though.)
Extras: A- (The documentary is relatively short, but contains so much that it pushes this grade up quite a bit. The other extras are interesting, but relatively short.)
Overall (not an average): A (It’s a start of a new Evangelion on a near perfect Blu-ray. This is the anime reference disk.)
It is also worth mentioning that in the insert Funimation included about their Blu-ray releases, there are a few upcoming Blu-rays that as far as I’m aware, aren’t announced yet:
Guyver- June 22nd, 2010
Desert Punk- July 13th, 2010
Black Cat- July 13th, 2010
Rin ~Daughters of Mnemosyne~- July 20th, 2010
Eden of the East (Complete Series)- ‘Coming Soon’
Gallery and copyright information under ad. All caps are lossless PNGs, feel free to request more. (Caps are 1920×1080 matching the resolution they are stored on disk, and meant to be viewed at.)
This show was reviewed using an early copy purchased at an anime specialty retailer.
This Blu-ray is labeled to work in Region A and Region B on both the packaging and disk.