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End of Evangelion

(return to disc)

Content rating: 4
Posted 2004-04-26 by StupendousMan
Endorsed by kurt on 2004-04-27 02:00:00

It has been about one year since I watched the Neon Genesis Evangelion series (hereafter NGE). I'd heard about the two Eva movies, and seen innumerable scenes from them in music videos, but didn't have a chance to watch either one until now. I remember being frustrated by final couple of episodes of NGE: I suspected that Studio Gainax had simply run out of money (as they did at the end of His and Her Circumstances, but I supposed that it was possible that the writers had planned the bizarre non-ending from the beginning. "Surely they didn't," I told myself, "when they made such a terrific journey to reach that point. They must have simply run out of cash."

Well, they had plenty of cash to make this movie, and so I guess it settles the matter: they really did plan it all. And my reaction is the same as it was the first time: bleah.

A cabal of powerful men spend decades setting up a climactic event in which all human souls are merged together in the next stage of evolution. Nope, I just don't buy it. I can see Gendo Ikari, a lone, tormented man, toiling over the years so that he can be reunited with his beloved wife. But that sort of effort strikes me as intensely personal: a struggle that one would not share with others. It's possible that each of the dozen Seele members has some similar story of his own, leading him to wish the same end result. But how could they all work together on this task? Perhaps this seems strange, that I harp on what appears to be a minor aspect the whole story .... but I can't get it out of my head. The fact that I can't accept the premise destroys the whole thing for me. It would be like, oh, I don't know, watching a documentary about World War I which started out by stating that every head of state in Europe was eager to start a war because every one of them wanted a handful of shiny marbles. After every tragic scene of men going over the top and being cut to pieces by machine guns, I'd think, "No, this can't be happening -- no one would do all this for marbles."

But, I suppose, the stated causes of World War I were almost as worthless and implausible as my little fantasy. And yet millions of people did lose their lives. Hmmm. Maybe that was a bad example.

Anyway, back to The End of Evangelion. We get to watch the last hour or so of the world's existence. At first, it seems to make sense: SEELE attacks NERV to capture the Evas, number 01 in particular, because they need it for the transformation of humanity. But when you look more closely, it doesn't add up. Gendo Ikari obviously wants the transformation to occur, too, yet he appears to resist it. Why? Why didn't he just call SEELE on the phone and say, "Okay, I'll put Eva 01 on the shore of the lake at 5 PM tonight -- you can pick it up then?" What's the point of all the fighting?

Asuka has an epiphany in which she realizes (or does she just imagine?) that her mother didn't really desert her by commiting suicide, but has been watching over her like a guardian angel. That makes us remember Shinji's experiences inside Eva 01 during several NGE episodes, when he, too, felt his mother protecting him. But .... we never learn the truth. Were the two mothers floating about their children, somehow anticipating the union of humanity through the medium of the Eva units? Your guess is as good as mine. Asuka destroys all nine Eva units sent to capture Eva 01, but then they mysteriously revive and dismember her unit. How? Why? Is it magic? Don't expect to find any answers here.

The further the movie goes, the more confusing it gets. The animation is replaced several times by live action footage of people walking down a busy street, or an audience sitting in a movie theatre (are they watching some NGE-related item, I wonder?), or a swingset creaking in the wind. Why? What light does the live-action footage throw onto Shinji's internal monologue? None that I can see.

And, in the very end, Shinji appears to discard a utopia in which all people are merged into a single being for the alternative. Well, I can't say that I blame him, since my mind was warning me "No, don't accept it, it's too perfect, it's a trap, go for door number two." He chooses a world in which people are individuals, as they were before the event. Good for you, Shinji, I was saying to myself. And so what does he get? A planet covered by oceans of blood, giant pieces of dismembered Rei, crosses everywhere representing (it appears) the souls of all the people who are now dead, and ... Asuka, apparently the only other human being left. Let's leave aside the question of whether her single utterance was truly contemptuous, or merely her sarcastic way of showing affection (I believe one could argue either way), and focus on something else: what are they going to DO? Can they survive by drinking the bloody ocean? Will they find materials for building a shelter somewhere? If they are meant to represent a new Adam and Eve, then they need to be given some resources, or there isn't going to be much of a future for the human race.

When I watched the end of the series, I concluded that I just didn't get it: I didn't understand the point of the story. Now that I've seen it replayed in slow motion, so to speak, I can say once again: I s-t-i-l-l d-o-n-'-t g-e-t i-t.

And I'll also say, "I give up." Why should I waste my time on this any more? There's plenty of other anime to watch, and that's what I'll do.

Equipment used when writing this review:
Sony DVD player, JVC 27-inch TV, stereo speakers

Content: 4 Video: 8 Sound: 7 Packaging: 7 Menu: 7

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