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I missed out on a lot of anime growing up. I just didn't have the means to go running out to Suncoast or Media Play on a regular basis nor did I have regular access to "Toonami" on Cartoon Network. However, these days, thanks to eBay and various streaming services, I have been getting up to speed on many of the most well-known anime of the last forty years.
Most recently, I watched through the entire series of Neon Genesis Evangelion. The series held my attention easily. For those who don't know, the series involves a devastated human civilization fighting giant alien monsters called "Angels" using giant bio-mechanical weapons called "Evas" that are piloted by teenagers. While that sounds very cliche, there is a lot more going on than just that. The religious implications taken straight out of the book of Revelation raise the stakes to a haunting degree, and the psychological turmoil with the three pilots, Shinji Ikari, Asuka Langley Sōryu, and Rei Ayanami, as well as the support people around them hit me on a deeply emotional level. It was a fascinating series with tense action scenes and even some very good comedy. It wasn't perfect by any means. Asuka's bloated ego annoyed the hell out of me, and lead scientist Ritsuko Akagi acted less emotional at times than the clone Rei.
Still, I was invested in the series right through the end, which is why the follow-up movie The End of Evangelion absolutely angered me.
Now, here's a good time to give a spoiler alert for those who missed everything Evangelion-related over the last 25 years. If you're ready for my thoughts on the endings, read on.
Back in the day, people complained about the end of the series, which saw the last two episodes with virtually no action and taking place entirely inside the minds of Shinji, Asuka, and Misato Katsuragi, the closest the teens have to a regular parental figure. I actually thought that ending was just fine. The Angels were eliminated; so, it made sense to devote the final episodes to the emotional damage the battles had done to the characters' psyches. Sure, the fact that the producers were running out of money by that point was apparent in that the animation and the artwork was very limited, to say the least. However, the story made up for it with Shinji confronting his insecurities about his father and his place in the world and finding the peace of mind that he was searching for throughout the series. It was a very effective cap to the show as far as I was concerned.
It's too bad The End of Evangelion screwed that all up. In a desperate attempt to add action, Seele, the shadowy organization who oversaw the whole Eva project, decided to jump-start a new apocalypse and murder all the characters the audience got attached to. Great friggin' start! While this development is an obvious affront to the audience, it also defeats the entire premise of the show. If these guys intended to destroy the last of humanity anyway, WHY BOTHER FIGHTING THE ANGELS AT ALL??? Sure, Seele was convinced, thanks to the Dead Seas Scrolls, that they could bring about the next step in human evolution this way, but that makes as much sense as taking the predictions of Nostradamus at face value. It seemed to me like just a flimsy excuse to have an action-packed ending to satisfy those who complained about the more mental approach.
Worse than that was what happened to Shinji in this movie. Remember the character development I mentioned earlier where he defeated the insecurities he had since the start of the series and found his inner peace? Well, just chuck that out the window. Shinji starts the movie even more neurotic than he was at the start of the show. In fact, he became completely impotent, so much so that it indirectly got people killed. His refusal to move to his Eva when Seele's forces attacked resulted in Misato taking a bullet for him. His defeatist attitude when Asuka was outright begging for his help led to her getting ripped to shreds by Seele's platoon of Evas. And he had the nerve to get enraged when he saw what was left of Asuka when he could've prevented it? Shinji may have had his annoying moments throughout the series, but The End of Evangelion made me outright hate him.
Finally, the last thirty minutes of the movie stomped all over common sense. The imagery just went out of its way to be weird for its own sake, even throwing in random live-action sequences. The plot goes loopy with all humans melting into protoplasm and Shinji stopping it from happening to him by just being mopey. The last image of Shinji on what's left of Earth alone with a mostly-restored Asuka was unfulfilling in every way. It was one of the worst endings I had ever seen, period.
If you haven't seen Neon Genesis Evangelion before, do so. The show was very interesting; I highly recommend it. However, stop when the show stops. Forget that The End of Evangelion even exists. It doesn't continue the series well; in fact, it actually tries to stomp on all the goodwill of those who liked the show.
I don't often trash things in my Vocal articles; I feel there's enough negativity on the net already. However, because I got so into the show and ended up so pissed about this movie, I just had to say something about it. What do you think? Am I off-base here? Let me know, and take care.