Thursday, December 31, 2015

MR:Quickies The End of Evangelion

I really wanted my last review of the year to be a "2015 Special Review".

After a questionable resolution for the show, here's the pair of movies that would answer all our questions.. while confusing the audience even more!

Fly me to the moon, and let me review Evangelion among different mediums:

Some might love it, the others might hate it, but you can't deny how big and influential Neon Genesis Evangelion was for the anime industry. 

A huge multi-media franchise generating billions of yens-worth of figurines, statues and other merchandising items. Before all that this highly meta-psychological show about super robots, fanservice, life and death, it was just a loving tribute series made by long time passionates about the medium.

But Hideaki Anno's original vision never made it quite right due to having to deal with other big imaginative creators at Gainax, TV restriction and let's not even forget budgetary constraints.

Before Anno got a chance to "rebuild" Evangelion in the appropriately titled Rebuild of Evangelion reboot film series in 2007, a couple of movies were made back in the mid-1990s to offer a better alternative to the TV show's conclusion. Extra alternate episodes so to speak.

One is basically just a recap of the show.

While the other is the proper ending to the series, but I can't imagine people jumping in there without any prior knowledge of the show.

Hence why I didn't want to review them both separate. Here they are, the real "End of Evangelion"...

Movie title: Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death & Rebirth, also known under alternate cuts Evangelion: Death(True) and Death(True)2
Directed by Hideaki Anno, Masayuki & Kazuya Tsurumaki
Release date March 1997
Genre Clipshow/Science-fiction/Psychological Drama/Mecha anime film 

After receiving so many complaints, hate mail and even death threats over the years following the resolution of the show, the creators of Eva - Hideaki Anno, Noriko Kobayashi and Yutaka Sugiyama - decided to put together a pair of animated films to clear things up and clarify the ending of their creation. It's not a complete retreat of what they said with the actual anime, but actually a more concise and understandable conclusion (specially since now they could gather the funds the last few episodes were sorely lacking once the budget ran out).

Released on March 15, 1997, Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death & Rebirth is the first of these two films. Mostly a big recap of the anime before the actual film conclusion. Like the title alludes to, it's composed of two parts "Death" and "Rebirth".

The first one is Death, a 70-minute long compilation of the original first 24 episodes of Evangelion. It's not just a quick summary of the show since it's newly edited according to a new narrative and even adds some new footage here and there (which would also be added back into the actual show through "Director's Cut" versions of episodes 21-24 on the Platinum Collection releases of the series).

The second part, Rebirth, was a ~25 minutes-long preview of the next film End of Evangelion back when it hit theater. It's now usually left out of home releases since it was made redundant with the second film.

Death and Rebirth is not really linear, jumping from one thematic to the next. It links this recap with little inserts as the kids get together to play a musical composition.

For a quick summary, Evangelion tells the story of this kid, Shinji. Shinji was called to Tokyo 3 to pilot this robot, an Eva, in the NERV's fight against the Angels, creatures apparently set on destroying mankind. Of course his father Gendo Ikari has his own motives and secrets behind all that, so does SEELE, the organism funding this entire operation. Along the way Shinji learns to trusts others and open up to new people, specifically his tutor Misato, the "first children" Rei and this foreign Eva pilot, Asuka. It all leads up to a confrontation with this final Angel, a kid named Kaworu. After being forced to kill him with his own hands, Shinji collapsed into madness...

Despite being made to help most of the mainstream audience who haven't watched the show, it's a really confusing experience if you haven't caught up with the series. Using a ton of flashbacks, frenetic editing and a look into the mind of these characters we're never properly introduced to here. But what did you expect, that's what you get for condensing a 20+ episodes-show into a single hour long movie. A lot had to be left out. Actually some of it works out well for the whole psychological drama-angle, causing a lot of disturbing imagery with the condensed summary.

Over the years there's been different cuts of Death and Rebirth. In January 1998 there was a simplified new cut, which is the version the film's mostly known through nowadays, titled Evangelion: Death(True). They reedited some of the film, removing a lot of the recycled footage as well taking out the Rebirth part since it was now pretty much obsolete.  A further edit Death(True)2 would follow fixing several minor details.

Overall: Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death & Rebirth is really just a simple refreshed. Intended to help the audience catch up on the series, it just only works really if you're familiar with Eva and need a quick summary to remind you plot details before watching the following film.

In fact it can pretty much be entirely skipped if you just watched the entire series and was thinking about moving on to the films next.

Now as far as clipshows go, there's certainly worse attempts out there. If anything this was nice warm up for fans after a few years. But let's be honest it's completely forgettable and avoidable.

I kinda like it, but only for a few details like how they were able to include some of the hate mail the team at Gainax received over the years in the footage.

I give this one a: 1 / 3 Score! 

Movie title: The End of Evangelion also known as Evangelion – The Feature Film, originally titled Evangelion: Rebirth 2
Directed by Hideaki Anno & Kazuya Tsurumaki
Release date July 1997
Genre Science-fiction/Psychological Drama/Mecha anime film

Due to the huge success of Evangelion, Gainax had to revisit the franchise at some point. Who would have thought they would do so only a few years after the conclusion to provide a better ending for the series?

The End of Evangelion followed quickly the previous film, it was released on July 19, 1997.

Apparently Hideaki Anno often disagreed with the rest of his team at Gainax over a lot of elements in the series. With this film he would finally gain complete control over this version of the ending since it would be entirely written by him. Like the series it was still produced by Toei Company, only this time the new scenes were actually animated through renowned anime studio Production I.G

The film was originally going to be titled Evangelion: Rebirth 2. Like the first recap film above, it was also divided into two episodes: "Episode 25': Air / Love is Destructive" and "Episode 26': My Purest Heart for You, Sincerely Yours / ONE MORE FINAL: I need you" which act as replacements to the original episodes 25 and 26.

The story begins with Asuka now catatonic. SEELE is taking the situation under control and send the military to seize control of the NEVER. Asuka wakes up on time to face Mass Production Evas attacking them. That is when Gendo puts his plan of Instrumentality into action to merge with the Rei Ayanami clone, now revealed to be the incarnation of the Angel Lilith to initiate the Third Impact and be reunited with his dead wife, Shinji's mother Yui. Gendo himself apparently merged with the original Angel Adam. But this Rei III rejects Gendo for Shinji.. And at this point all the world goes to hell... and the rest gets pretty confusing, I mean even more so than usual. But it's quite a ride you have to experience for yourself! When it's all said and done, Shinji gets to be the one to either redeem humanity... or destroy it. Can someone so sad and whiny really find happiness in the real world?

The main idea for the film was to offer an alternate retelling of the last two episodes of the anime series, more of a real world look at the events of this post-apocalyptic climax of the storyline.

The show's finale left things off pretty ambiguous, but a lot of people were dissatisfied with that. Those last few episode were perhaps the controversial episodes of any anime ever made. A lot of people felt the show was left unfinished, incomplete. Even the idea going back to change things caused some issues amongst Gainax regarding the integrity of the series.  

I do thing the new ending still left things pretty ambiguous though. It's a rather bleak and dark ending. We're left with plenty of questions. Are things definitive or permanent after the instrumentality? Nothing is sure. What I like is that it still left room enough for interpretation. There's been a ton of theories over the decades, like if this whole End of Evangelion was even a replacement for the ending or a completely different alternate take on the events of the TV series.

Like the above film there's been a few alternate cuts of this film as well over the years. Principally the cute part of the Renewal of Evangelion which is made of both films released together, newly remastered. There's even an infamous fairly long deleted live action scene with the voice actors in their roles (only quickly glimpsed in the regular cut).

Overall: The End of Evangelion is a pretty unique conclusion to a really unique anime series. Sometimes abstract, sometimes ambiguous, containing a lot of disturbing imagery and symbolism. Be warned it's a more violent and brutal product than the TV series though. It's the official definitive conclusion of Eva for Anno.

The film contains a lot of disturbing stuff since it didn't suffer any TV constraints. I liked that it played up the creepy factor during most of the final act of the film, although I could have definitively done without Shinji masturbating to Asuka's body in the coma at the beginning of the film (in fact, the manga did that better by simply leaving that part out).

It's an attempt at a better ending, not a "good ending". It's pretty bloody. It has sexual undertones, religious references and more. A lot goes over your head, of course, but it feels satisfying. My only problem with it is that it focus a bit too much on Shinji (but that was also a problem in the entire anime series, the manga gave more room to other characters for example). It doesn't end up giving too much away in the end, but if anything it's a better alternative than those last rushed complex episodes. It's still messed up, though. The ending of the anime was pretty polarizing, the movie's ending offers a better interpretation of those same events. It might feel like a cop out retreat to go back and change things like this. 

One thing for sue, this is the final Anno always meant. With some gorgeous imagery and animation, and a lot of new great music by series composer Shiro Sagisu.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score! 

Another version of both these films would be release on March 1998, consisting in both films combined together with further edits under the title Revival of Evangelion

Over the years a lot more productions revolving around Evangelion would be made, including a few spinoff manga titles. The chibi parody Petit Eva would even make it into an anime adaptation. Those didn't really provide new stories or even follow-ups (aside from the famous novel series set in an alternate future, Evangelion ANIMA), but instead alternate and often humorous non-canon takes on Evangelion.

Well, before we finally received the latest revival of the series to date, a sort of reboot called Rebuild of Evangelion, once Anno decide to finally revisit his creation...

That's all for this time's Quickies!

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