Somehow, in one way or another, stories transcend times and locations, growing to become global phenomena. We’ve seen it with the characters of DC Comics and Marvel Comics, the Transformers series (based on the run of Hasbro toys), and, of course, various adaptations of manga like Akira (1988), Ghost in the Shell (1995), and Kingdom (2019). One such prolific animated series is the Studio Gainax and Studio Tatsunoko produced Neon Genesis Evangelion, which ran from October 1995 until March 1996 for a total of 26 episodes. Since the end of the run, it’s spawned several films (including 2021’s Evangelion: 3.0+1.0), and inspired countless others. In partnership between GKids Films and Shout! Factory, much of the series is being brought together on Blu-ray for the first time in North America in three varying collections to own — digital, standard, and collector’s — with an ultimate collection available from GKids. What follows will be a rundown of the standard edition, along with details of the others in order to contextualize the differences to help guide you to the edition best suiting the needs of yourself or someone else.
For those unaware, Neon Genesis Evangelion takes place in a dystopian future where Earth is under attack by giant monstrous beings with a variety of abilities. In order to combat them, a battle suit is constructed by Gendo Ikari, a specialist in charge of a defense unit called NERV, and the only person who seems to be able to pilot it is his estranged and untrained young son Shinji. Very quickly its discovered that Shinji possesses a strange psychic connection to the battle suit, but will it be enough to lead the charge to save humankind?
First, prior to Shout! Factory sending me a review copy of the standard edition collection, I had not seen a single episode of Neon Genesis. I knew about it. I’ve seen references to it. I’ve heard names and characters mentioned throughout the various fandoms I participate in. So, when I discuss this set, this comes strictly from someone fresh and with absolutely no established investment in the series whatsoever.
Second, and this matters for accessibility purposes, it appears that, as of the time of this writing, the Ultimate edition is sold out. We’ll get into what it entails shortly in case you can come across a set, but, for now, the most accessible editions are the digital, standard, and collector’s. A breakout of materials included from the GKids Films Neon Genesis Evangelion page is included toward the bottom of this evaluation.
Before that, though, let’s talk about the standard edition.
This five-disc set includes all 26 episodes of the television show on the first four discs and the films Evangelion: Death (True)2 and The End of Evangelion on Disc 5. Starting with Disc 3, each one includes copious amounts of bonus materials ranging from a title-free opening, various television commercials, music videos, Genesis 0:0 IN THE BEGINNING (29:24 min), animatic collections for 10 episodes and the finale, and even the 16:32 minute “Making of a Live Action Scene” featurette for The End of Evangelion. There’s no indication in the press materials if the bonus features are new to this edition, but, they may be newly gathered in one place considering they haven’t been officially released in this format in North America before. What is worth noting for fans of the series is that the dubs on the standard edition may be from the Netflix edition, whereas the collector and ultimate editions specifically point out that they include the original, or “classic” dub. This will likely go unnoticed by individuals like myself, coming to them fresh-faced and ignorant, but if you’re a longtime fan of the series, this is a detail which may direct you more toward one edition over another.
One thing I can say for certain is that the fidelity of sound and image is fantastic. Checking out the bonus materials really highlight the differences between the original images and the crisp colors of the new ones. It’s still very much a product of its time, but there’s an obvious renewed sense of energy from the visual presentation. Keeping in mind that Shout! also released a 4K UHD edition of the original animated Transformers film and how incredible that looked, I can only imagine how fantastic this same set would be converted upwards once more. More impressive than the image quality, though, is the sound. As someone who prefers watching something for the first time in the original language, I opted for the subtitle track which has the customary 5.1 option. Impressively, this edition also offers 5.1 for those who prefer English language as their main (a big surprise as my My Hero Academia sets don’t have this option). I also really enjoyed a setting I’ve never seen before, the ability to turn on subtitles for signs and songs. Watching the first episode, Angel Attack, I was amused to see tiny translations on the cards or papers the characters would hold up. If I’d had the speed to hit pause, it would’ve been a great way to understand the materials the characters were referencing. So often, even with subtitled programs, stuff like this is left out, so I very much appreciated the inclusion. In an odd way, it made me feel less like an otaku and more inside the world.
So here’s where we get into the differences to help set expectations.
The digital edition comes with the episodes and two movies, while the standard comes with that and a whole host of bonus features marketed as “5+ hours.” If the dub makes a big difference to you, then the collector’s edition is the only place to get the “classic” dub, which includes all the materials of the standard edition plus eight art cards and a 40-page book. Do keep in mind that the 40-page book is merely an excerpt from the larger 156-page book included with the ultimate edition. Speaking of, the ultimate edition includes everything mentioned in all the previous editions, the full 156-page book, limited edition artwork, limited edition paperwork, a NERV ID card with a lanyard, and art boards. With the ultimate edition currently out of stock, which either means they sold out of all 5,000 copies or just out of the inventory they had, the collector’s and below editions are going to be the best bet moving forward.
Speaking as someone new to the series, the digital or standard editions are a solid way to get someone into Neon Genesis Evangelion at a fraction of the cost. With the release coming right before the holidays, this would be good for the nerd who’s into anime but might have some blank spots. As someone who prefers physical formats over digital-only, the standard gets my recommendation. But if you know someone who’s big into the series (yourself or someone like you), then the collector’s edition is the one you’ll want. It’s a higher price point, but you’ll get more bang for your buck and that’ll mostly come from the satisfaction of having the dub you’re used to rather than a reinterpretation.
Neon Genesis Evangelion Standard Edition Special Features:
- Complete TV Series (26 Episodes)
- EVANGELION:DEATH (TRUE)2 Feature Film
- THE END OF EVANGELION Feature Film
- Music Videos
- Textless Opening
- Japanese Cast Auditions
- Trailers And TV Spots
- And More!
Per GKIDS’s official page, please note: The international re-release of Neon Genesis Evangelion does not contain “FLY ME TO THE MOON” in any of its home video editions.
Available on digital platforms November 2nd, 2021.
Available on standard edition Blu-ray from Shout! Factory November 9th, 2021.
Available on collector’s edition Blu-ray from Shout! Factory December 8th, 2021.
Available on ultimate collector’s edition Blu-ray from GKids Films December 8th, 2021.