iSugio

The End of Evangelion – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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The End of Evangelion is one of those particular anime films that when it was released, caused such a controversy amongst the fan base that viewers were divided over how to handle what they actually witnessed, quite similar to the division found amongst viewers concerning the end of the television series. I will say this: The End of Evangelion is a film that consists of a combination of symbolism and philosophical tendencies that as a whole will echo the various sentiments displayed by fans pertaining to end the television series. Viewers will attempt to understand what occurs within the film, not understand them at all, or provide their own interpretative measurements to what they think the film truly means.

The thematic values that are expressed throughout the film are that of loneliness, separation, and eventual reunification. These values, although hard at times to recognize, are the backbone in promoting The End of Evangelion not only as an animated film, but as a philosophical statement regarding inter-human relationships and the variables that constitute the outcomes of those interactions. We begin the film at a very precarious situation, a situation that involves pretty much the entire cast in a state of uncertainty. In fact, most of the characters have been separated from one thing or another, and it’s this separation anxiety that spurs the story along.

Because of this, there is an ominous feeling of dread that permeates throughout the film, and it’s this sense of uneasiness that captivated me as a viewer the first time I watched it. For example, Shinji has fully withdrawn into herself, Asuka is in a state of comatose, and Rei begins to cut her ties of dependence from Gendo. The juxtaposition between the characters we view in the film and the ones viewed in the television series are crucial in understanding the purpose of the film. We begin to see the destinies of these characters come to fruition, and like I said earlier, this could be hard to recognize for some viewers due to the heavy amount of violence and symbolism displayed on screen. I always imagine some viewers are so concerned with those two aspects that they tend to miss the overall purpose of the film.

Similar to my review of the TV series, The End of Evangelion can basically be viewed as episodic in nature. The first part of the film deals with the confrontation between Nerv and Seele as they both vie for control of who gets to commence Third Impact. One can view this chapter, quite literally I might add, as the death portion of the film, and I say that in regards to what occurs. The characters that one grew accustomed too in the TV series are all but devastated and some nearly suicidal by the start of film, and it only gets worse as the film progresses during this segment. The brutal actions propagated by Seele present a stark contrast to the television series finale, but I believe this was important to showcase the desperate nature of the situation at hand and the importance of who gets to control its outcome.

The harsh visualization of death and destruction during this sequence is important because it expresses the helplessness and inability of characters to do anything to change to the course of events and makes the finale all the more realized. This portion of the film fulfills what some critics of the television series wanted to see for an ending, which is basically an accumulation of grandiose Evangelion battles and a physical representation of Third Impact. Strangely, director Anno does something different here by providing the outcome one might expect, but not in its entirety. This is a move that I found shocking, but in the end necessary and I can understand why some viewers will begin to dislike the film even more so after that certain sequence, but for others, it will become even more moving of a film because of it.

As for the second portion of the film, one can view this as the rebirth segment, again, both in a literal sense and as the structuring of the film progresses. The character driven issues that were explored within the TV series are expanded here, particularly for the case of Shinji Ikari. This portion of the film consists almost entirely of the introspection that was also found in episodes 25 and 26 of the TV series. This, to me, is the most critical portion of the film. Here we get the resolution of Shinji Ikari as a character, as well as some of the other characters within the series. The beauty of this portion of the film, and again this can be attributed to Anno, is that the conflict that Shinji faces, and the resolution he chooses to resolve that conflict, seems largely against the conventional actions that a protagonist would choose.

From a personal level, his decision seems oddly fitting, but I can see why certain viewers would be angry by Shinji’s final decision and more importantly, the conclusion of the film. At first viewing, I too thought the conclusion, as well as the entirety of the film was just overly depressing, but I say this looking at it from an external approach. After analyzing it for awhile though, I personally found the ending of the film to be uplifting, mainly because it completes Shinji as a character and resolves Shinji and Asuka’s relationship, and in certain way, humanity’s as well. This ending can be viewed as a parallel to the television series one, which a lot of people seem to miss by looking at the ending from an objective viewpoint.

Now onto the animation of the film which was done entirely Production I.G. For starters, the look of the film is different from the TV series, especially the choreography of Evangelions. They eerily reflect more of the human attributes that we only received a glimpse of in series, which makes for some very interesting and realistic battles. I also notice that the film had this hazy atmosphere throughout, presenting an almost dreamlike quality to it. As for the physical representation of Third Impact, it’s probably one of the most visually stunning animation sequences ever witnessed in a film, animated or live action. Overall, I believe the animation was great, and it really created the otherworldly experience that was needed to showcase what basically amounts to the death and rebirth of the world.

Similar to the television series, Shiro Sagisu composes a score for the film that accompanies the often times mesmerizing and brutal scenery displayed. The usage of English lyrics in certain songs provides an outward extension to non-Japanese fans to understand and realize how much they complement sequences within the film, and for the most part, accurately convey the spoken aspects in regards to the visuals aspects Also, the use of classical pieces only heightens the impact that certain scenes have, which is always a plus when used in the right context. I think this is one of the most important assets of the film and the series as a whole.

My final words on The End of Evangelion are this: it’s not a film about giant robots. It’s not a film about the end of the world. And it’s most definitely not an action film. It’s a film that showcases the fragile and emotional nature of its characters and their relationships with each other. It’s about Shinji’s choice to reject his father’s will and in a sense “grow up”. It’s about Rei taking control her destiny, sacrificing herself for the sake of others. It’s about Asuka’s willingness to let her go of her ego and embrace someone, even if it’s just for a glimpse. When there is destruction, there is always rebirth. It might not work out the way one thinks, but that’s ultimately the beauty if the film.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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Comments

  • ShinjiIkari14

    Excellent review. I think a lot of people wrote this off as Anno’s revenge against the viewers because they didn’t like how dark the film is, but it’s necessary to watch this, and the TV ending otherwise it can’t be fully understood.

  • Douglas

    Thanks for commentShinjiIkari14. I agree; a lot of confusion about the film stemmed from people dismissing it a “revenge flick” from Anno, which it’s absolutely not. I personally found the film to be a great companion piece to the series, and like you said, they both need to be watched to fully comprehend the story.