Following from my last review of Neon Genesis Evangelion, tonight I would like to present to you a feature film, which finished off the original show back in 1997.
If you have not seen the original series I must warn you now that this retrospective will spoil it for you. I strongly recommend watching this classic anime before continuing on. I would hate to be the person to spoil that journey for any prospective viewer. I will however attempt to not completely ruin this movie for you.
End of Evangelion was a block-busting feature animation, which acted as the climactic ending for the acclaimed sci-fi anime. Together with the re-animated summery of the series named ‘Death and Rebirth’, it attempted to bring about a dramatic ending that would put the series to rest.
The drama however was apparently not limited to the screen. It has been said (my source is the English commentary on the DVD) that Hideaki Anno conceived End of Evangelion in response to the anger and death-threats he received after the anime’s original ending.
In the anime, the show ended with Shinji starting to come to terms with his place in the world while playing through with various possible realities, including a zany high-school anime world where both his parents still lived and his relationships with the Eva girls were very tongue-in-cheek. Frankly, it wasn’t a bad ending to the show, and I would have been somewhat satisfied with this was an end to the story.
However, thanks to (or probably in spite of) some fan-anger in Japan, we received a series of final episodes, which became this feature.
This is a difficult film to take on, and anyone who’s watched it will understand why. It is a brilliant feature, and just like the series I did enjoy it immensely. But it was different to the original series in many ways.
The quality of animation was stepped up a good deal, although that couldn’t have been too much of a jump given how good the original show’s animation was. The music score was yet again bombastic and the technical production was not wanting in any department what so ever. It was a treat for the senses as usual.
I guess this was the first thing I liked. This was a feature, but really felt like it was just a continuation of the original show (which technical it was. This feature original aired as the show’s final 3 episodes). So the heart of it hadn’t changed, unlike the disappointing Nadesico feature I reviewed before.
What really set this feature apart from the original show in my mind was the plot. As I had mentioned in my last Evangelion review the tone of the series had gone from light-hearted to very dark throughout its run. This trend had continued right into this feature.
Asuka had been on a disturbing downward spiral throughout Season 2, and had ended up in intensive care after spending some time exposed in the ruins of the now very wrecked Tokyo 3. The town itself was fairly deserted, leaving mostly the NERV crew remaining behind in a very desolate and sorry looking city.
Rei had already died a couple of times by then, raising doubts about her humanity and casting very dark shadows on the intentions and actions of Gendo Ikari, who in turn maintained a chilly distance from his son.
Misato had drawn into herself with grief after losing her long time love interest Kaji. Her perseverance remained, but her heart was clearly torn to bits.
Finally there was Shinji. That entire ‘coming to terms with himself’ bit that we got from Shinji at the end of the series was thrown to one side and replaced with an even more depressed and unhinged shell of a person.
All of this, on the eve of the story’s closing battle and final act.
Much of End of Evangelion covers the final realisation of NERV’s original plan, which appeared to involve causing the very disaster it had been established to prevent. The Japanese government together with NERV’s shady backers, had decided to stop NERV at all costs and began to wage an all out invasion of Tokyo 3.
They appeared to have two main objectives: take out NERV, and kill the Evangelion pilots. With no option to surrender, and their base being overrun by the Japanese army, NERV resolve to knuckle down and fight.
Of course, this all required getting the Evangelion involved, but half the challenge was shipping the pilots to their posts. It was here that I found Shinji to be at his very worst and also Misato to be at her most bad ass.
Rather than fight Shinji, had come up with the genius plan of curling up and waiting to die. This also nearly happened when the army corner him, only to have their objective taken from them by Misato who stormed in like an enraged mother-bear and culled the entire squad of soldiers with a style that only she could pull off.
Despite Misato showing him what awesome looked like, Shinji continued to moap about like a rag-doll, while protesting that he wanted to die. Understandably peeved with him, Misato forced her point and damn near carried him off to safety.
Misato’s actions in this feature were awesome, but did also attract some controversy. When nearly to their goal, Misato is mortally wounded (sorry for the spoiler), and had to use every effort to drive Shinji to make it the rest of the way on his own. In one last gasp of energy, she pulled Shinji to her, kissed him passionately and essentially promised him sex once he got back from his mission.
I feel there are a couple of ways of looking at that scene. For one, she knew she was dying and the proposition she made to him was probably empty. Even if they both lived, I doubt she would have slept with him. She was a mother figure for him after all and not a lover. The other end of the argument puts the point forward that this act pretty much makes Misato a bit of a paedophile. There’s merit to that argument, but I still feel that her suggestion to Shinji was empty and was mostly a last dig at getting Shinji out of his shell so that he would escape and live. Finally, this did seem like a bit of fan service, designed to either placate or even encourage the fan-fiction writers.
Whichever way you look at that scene, it did provide a unique edge to Misato’s final moments, which suited what had been present throughout the feature.
Finally, it is time to talk about the ending, which is a difficult thing to do.
Evangelion ends its story with an event. This event was mind bending, colourful, exciting, explosive and satisfying while somehow managing to be a bit unsatisfying as well. I’m afraid this one of those things that I can’t describe too well, and will have to leave you to experience instead. Sorry for the cop-out, but this one is worth a watch.
What I will say is that it did leave me with a sense of wonder. In the way that I had started to wonder what the whole point of NERV’s efforts where. I had wondered why they had even bothered to build a city knowing all too well what their plans would result in. Mostly I was left wondering why.
But it was nonetheless an ending. There was enough resolution and enough possibility left over for me to say goodbye to this story while feeling satisfied.
Thus ended the block-busting anime that exploded into the western world back in the late 1990’s. Evangelion wasn’t completely done however, as it was later destined to be updated and remade. (Especially since we have already reached 2014, the very year that the original Evangelion was set in!)
I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t seen any of the newly made Evangelion features, but I’m sure I’m likely to do so in the near future. When I do, I think I might also do a comparison feature here on UKAnifest.
In the meantime I will keep on trucking with these retrospectives. Next time I will treat you to the much more up-beat comedy feature: Project A-ko!
Until next time, keep on looking out for 3rd Impact! It’s weird!!