Jesus fucking Christ.
You may remember that for my third year anniversary for the blog, I decided to finally sit down and watch Neon Genesis Evangelion, easily one of the most influential and significant anime shows in history. My thoughts after it was finished ended up being an acknowledge of that legacy, but also a resounding meh. Of course I hadn’t actually watched the real ending. And ending long considered one of the most out-there, contemplative, theorized, and just ‘what the fuck’ conclusions to a story in the anime world. Now however, I have, and in honor of my first post on the series. Let’s do this right.
Welcome to Shallow Dives in Anime. This is The End of Evangelion.
Right…where do I start?
I think it is best to talk about the first half (or episode), because that is where most of my positive thoughts come from. In terms of sheer action, the first half of this film (or two episodes put together, I dunno, whatever the fuck) is a masterclass in both story-telling and animation. The siege of NERV, the fight between Asuka and the Eva-series, the last stand of Misato, all of it is a absolutely spectacular. It is a true climax, bringing together several different plot points and ideas and setting them off to a display of action that probably has yet to be topped.
All the talent and ability shown by the animators and hampered by the tight budget of the series is finally let loose, and realized to its fullest potential. As fantastic as animation has come in the last two decades, there is still something timeless and spectacular about seeing classic hand-drawn scenes like these. To know they were crafted not by a computer, but by real hands is a wonder, and if anything, EoE deserves full and complete credit for the legacy it leaves behind. I don’t think I have ever seen robots fight like this, with a degree of realism and weight that is too often ignored by other mecha shows. I mean, fuck just watch this shit.
But what is even better is the degree of hopelessness and inevitable failure that the character of NERV feel. They know there is no way they can survive the attack of SEELE, and their final stand drips with that desperation in every frame. The violence is brutal and bloody, with each death feeling as gut-punching as the one before. Misato especially completes her journey from valley girl commander to hard-nosed warrior with a touching and poignant conclusion, and her final scene no doubt earns the conversations it spreads. Furthermore I will always have a tender spot for the Makoto, Maya and Shigeru, the three ‘computer guys’ who stay at their posts and fullfill their duty of shouting out techno-babble right until the end.
If The End of Evangelion had finished like that, I would have been fully on board with the accolades anime fandom has put upon it. But sadly, it didn’t.
Now, this is the point where I’m supposed to go on some long diatribe about my life. How I was a lonely and bullied fourteen-year old kid with confidence and daddy-issues. How when I watched Evangelion it spoke to my personal struggles specifically. How I couldn’t form connections with other people, and so I see myself in Shinji’s journey of despair, surrender and eventual rebirth. How Shinji kicking the sandcastle represents his repressed desire for this mother, or Asuka, or Misato. How the giant vagina in giga-Rei’s forehead somehow represents the futility of man, or the desire for us to return to our mother’s womb. How the way the Eva-series fall to the ground serves a metaphor for the fall of Christ, and the hopeless desire of humans to try and reach god. Then I would end that how EoE is a masterclass in this or that philosophical theory and that the haters ‘just don’t get it man.” I could do that, as many, many, MANY people have done before. But the truth is I’m not a fourteen-year old angst-ridden teenager anymore. Nor am I some first-year philosophy major trying to sound cool in front of that cute nerdy chick who I got NO chance with. I never was.
So that leaves me thinking that the last half of this movie was an absolute load of horseshit.
Yes, it is bewildering and insane. Yes it is a degree of mind-blowing that anime has never, EVER replicated. But this last half is such a massive level of pretentious drivel that I found myself rolling my eyes when I wasn’t fucking confused. There is just so much thrown at you, half of which doesn’t make sense, that you are barely able to string together a real thought. Perhaps that is the point, and from what I can understand, EoE is really about Shinji (who spends half the movie just screaming) giving into his despair and then realizing that even thought it may be be painful, connections, bonds and relationships are important to human existence. That life no matter how hard is worth living, and that is a good lesson to learn. Even if he ends up dooming the entire world to come to that realization. If I hadn’t know that Anno was going through mental challenges, I would have though that it felt like a first year Philosophical students’ attempt to look deep and meaningful, and trying way…WAY too hard. Even then this is a conclusion that feels unbelievably bitter and cynical.
The End of Evangelion, like the series itself, earns every accolade it gets. That fact is marrow deep, forever entrenched in the anime world. But looking at this series as an adult, and one who was blessed with a stable, loving and fulfilling childhood, I can’t help but look at this film through those eyes, and really just dismiss it. A marvel of animation for sure, but also one that too often feels so far up its own ass that it loses sight of the plot, if there ever was one. I know that is a minority opinion considering the cottage industry of analyzation this series has gotten, but I can have to call it like I see it and how I feel about it. A piece of anime history it is, one I am glad I watched and experienced, but also one I never have any desire to go back to again.
Make of that what you will.