Neon Genesis Evangelion can be divided into two versions: original and edited. Each version consists of multiple releases (some of which include the Director’s Cut of episodes 21–24). Here are some of the more commonly known releases:
Notable differences between the two versions are present in episodes 1, 6, 19, 21, 22, and 24. Where it gets complicated is with episodes 21, 22, and 24 of the edited version, which include some of the changes from the Director’s Cut episodes 21–24, but not all of them. In other words, there are three versions of episodes 21, 22, and 24: original, edited, and Director’s Cut. The more common releases feature the edited version, sometimes with the Director’s Cut included, while the less common releases feature the original version (again, particularly episodes 1, 6, 19, 21, 22 and 24).
I think it’s important for people to know about the significant changes that were made to the edited version because:
- These changes affect the impact of key moments in the story, and sometimes even introduce new inconsistencies.
- Chances are, it’s the edited version most people have whether they realize it or not.
The following is my attempt to illustrate what you are missing out on if you don’t have the original version, or haven’t compared it to the edited version. In other words, it is an openly biased account. Whether or not each change is an improvement is a matter of opinion—however, the existence of each change is a fact.
I strongly encourage people to compare any release of the original version with any release of the edited version to see the differences for yourself and draw your own conclusions. That having been said, hopefully this list of changes will at least call attention to an overlooked subject and shed some light on it.
WARNING: Spoilers Ahead
The situation with Shinji being forced to pilot Unit 01 escalates, and Ritsuko and Misato step in to try and persuade him. But Shinji is convinced he doesn’t have what it takes. In the original version, there is music that punctuates the emotion of the scene and makes it more dramatic (the music ends at the point when it becomes clear that Shinji is irreconcilable and Gendo calls for Rei). The music in this part of the scene was completely removed from the edited version, which reduces the emotional impact of the scene.
Shinji open’s Rei’s entry plug by hand, discovers she’s still alive, and begins to cry. Rei says, “I’m sorry. I don’t know what I should do or feel at a time like this.”
Shinji says, “Why don’t you try smiling?”
And Rei smiles in what is arguably one of the most touching moments in the series. The music is timed better in the original version, and increases the emotional impact of the moment.
Unit 00 hurls the Lance of Longinus into outer space, killing the Angel in one blow. The scene is accompanied by dramatic sound effects, and escalating choral music which is hushed to silence the moment before the Lance strikes the Angel. It’s easily one of the most exciting scenes in the series.
In the original version, the last twinkle of the Angel’s existence vanishes into nothing, and the only remaining sound is the hollow echo of its destruction. In the edited version, instead there are the sounds of Second Impact, and the Angel never fully disappears.
The original version makes the Lance seem more powerful by making it more apparent that the Angel was not just destroyed, but blinked completely out of existence. And that in turn increases the dramatic impact of the scene. In the edited version, it sounds like maybe part of the Angel is still alive, perhaps slowly dying. The idea with the sound was probably to make a connection to Second Impact, which is another event in which the Lance interacted with an Angel. It’s not a bad idea, but the execution is lacking. The way it’s done softens the impact that the death blow originally had. In the original version, it’s even clearer that the Angel isn’t just going…it is gone. The way the sound of the Angel’s death fades to silence in the original also does a better job at contrasting with the sounds that come before and after it in both versions: the clamor of music and sounds that precede it, and the bustling sounds of NERV Headquarters that follow it, along with the curt report, “Target destroyed.”
Kaoru opens Heaven’s Door just by looking at it, and Terminal Dogma, the place upon which the fate of mankind rests, is suddenly defenseless. The importance of this moment cannot be understated. It is the moment that marks the beginning of the scene’s climax—a scene that is not only the climax of the episode, but the climax of the entire TV series.
The sound effect the electronic lock makes when it’s opened was changed in the edited version. The problem with this is that the corresponding sound of the lock at the end of episode 15 was not changed to match it, when we hear what is likely the same door being unlocked (and if it isn’t the same door, it is clearly the same make).
And creating inconsistency isn’t the only consequence of changing that sound. In the original episode 24, the pitch and duration of the beep is more harmonious with the music, and has a stronger impact sonically (remember that the music too has just built up to a dramatic point just before falling silent and going into its climax). In the edited version, the beep is a shorter, anticlimactic discord that fails to punctuate the music and complement it as effectively.
Unit 01 breaks free of its arm restraints, moving without power to protect Shinji from a falling light fixture. In the original version, the lights in Unit 01’s eyes never turn off.
But in the edited version, its eyes turn off when the order is given to reconfigure it for Rei and to reactivate it. There’s nothing too out of place with that, but it’s how the eyes turn back on that makes no sense. It seems random because there is no apparent cause. There’s no audio cue or communication to tell us what’s going on, and there probably should be. After all, there was communication acknowledging the order given to reconfigure Unit 01, and there was even communication chatter when Unit 01 moved with no power—but there is no communication to confirm that it’s been reconfigured, or reactivated, etc.
And then there’s the sound effect inconsistency: there’s no sound effect for when the eyes turn back on, which is out of place considering they went through the trouble of adding a sound effect for when the eyes turn off.
All that this change in the edited version does is raise questions, when the scene worked fine before the change—in fact, it was airtight. There’s no other point in the series when a docked Eva is on-screen when the order is given to reconfigure it, so there’s no reason for us to conclude that the eyes would turn off when that happens. (Note that while Unit 01’s eyes do turn off in episode 19, that’s because it’s refusing the dummy plug.)
When Naoko strangles young Rei, Rei’s face fades into Yui’s. In the edited version, psychedelic colors and a heat-wave-like shimmer have been added in. Perhaps the added effects convey a better sense of Naoko’s emotions (which might include some combination of shock, jealousy, disgust, pain, resentment, hatred, and of course, murderous rage), but they also have the potential to make it difficult for a first-time viewer to recognize Yui’s face, and I believe that recognition is important for the viewers’ comprehension because it provides one of the clues that make it possible to piece together the connection between Yui and Rei.
The colors have been tinted blue in all episodes of the edited version, and darkened. For me, the tint is apparent enough to be distracting, whereas the color of the tint in the original version of the series looks much more natural and isn’t distracting.
When Unit 01 loses an arm while fighting the Angel, Gendo is drenched in its blood. In the original version, he is squeaky clean in his next appearance (about four minutes later). In the edited version, he is covered in blood to make the shot consistent with his previous appearance. I consider the edited shot an improvement for the most part because given the dire circumstances, it’s unlikely Gendo would devote the time necessary to make himself spotless. The problem is that the reflection of Unit 01 in front of him is now way too dark. It almost looks like a hologram or miniature instead.
After the scene back at NERV after the Angel is destroyed, there is a shot of the Lance drifting through outer space. In the edited version, the animation has been changed, and the Lance is shown flipping end over end rather than drifting in a stationary position.
The newer animation looks great, but the problem is that, once again, the corresponding episode that is affected wasn’t changed to match it. It breaks continuity with episode 24, when the Lance is shown drifting in a stationary position rather than flipping end over end. That kind of thing doesn’t happen in outer space where there’s no drag. If it starts flipping, it stays flipping. And this begs the question: how did it start flipping in the first place? It shot through the Angel like a bullet.
The time of day in the scene where Hyuga gives Misato intel about the Eva series production is changed from dusk (original) to night (edited). I’m mostly indifferent about this change, but it makes a little more sense that in order to draw less attention to themselves, Misato and Hyuga wouldn’t be meeting up at night out in the open. Out in the open at dusk, and it’s easier to imagine that any passerby would probably just assume they’re taking their breaks at the same time, or having a work-related or friendly chat after work. At night, it raises questions of conspiracy: what are these two doing together at this hour? I realize there can be late work nights, but it’s a question of which version of the scene raises less questions for the viewer.
Shinji is reunited with his father for the first time in years, only to be told to either pilot Unit 01 or leave. In the original version, Gendo’s voice echoes with booming authority, which is fitting given the history between Shinji and Gendo, and Gendo’s position at NERV. But in the edited version, it sounds like his voice is coming out of a dinky radio.
I realize that the idea in the edited version is that they’re using communication equipment (with the transparent plate separating them presumably being a factor). But even if you think the scene is less believable in the original version, ask yourself this: which version does a better job at delivering the emotion of the scene? Make sure to watch the whole scene, because it’s not just one line. And appropriately, the echo effect in the original version is only noticeable when the camera is further away from Gendo, and is used consistently with other characters’ voices to convey the acoustics of the space.
While I prefer the original version for the emotion of the scene, objectively I will admit that the edited change makes more sense.
After the Lance destroys the Angel, and Fuyutsuki asks, “What about the Lance of Longinus?”, he looks more calm in the original, and more tense in the edited version. Moments later when he replies, “It’s impossible to recover now,” he relaxes and seems to accept the situation in the original version, whereas he remains tense in the edited version.
I’m completely indifferent about this change.
- In the scene where Yui meets Fuyutsuki, the last shot of her face is drawn differently in the edited version. The animation depicting a shift in her expression is actually removed! I prefer the original version because it adds another layer of complexity to Yui’s character.
- Young Ritsuko is redrawn in the edited version for her first scene at Gehirn, and her outfit is redesigned. The edited shot is less likely to distract the viewer in that her outfit is less unusual. However, I prefer the draftsmanship in the original version, as well as the animation for when she nods. Even still, the edited shot is probably better overall.
- Ritsuko’s expression while riding the train is slightly different. I prefer the edited shot because she doesn’t look as bored, which is more fitting given the context of the scene.
- Kaji’s face is redrawn for his final scene, and includes additional animation to convey a shift in his expression. I prefer the edited shot, in terms of both the draftsmanship and the additional nuance of Kaji’s expression.