© 1997 Gainax / Project Eva / TV Tokyo
End of Evangelion
The original Neon Genesis Evangelion series ended on a sour note for many fans. What should have been a climactic, pivotal conclusion to the series was reduced to a convoluted sequence of meandering dialogue and recycled animation. It marked a dramatic departure from events leading up to the finale, and, suffice to say, many fans were sorely disappointed. In response, writer/director Hideaki Anno and the rest of the Evangelion staff produced two replacement episodes entitled "Air" and "Sincerely Yours". Together, they form End of Evangelion and represent a more complete finale that fans had expected. Whether it lives up to expectations is another story entirely.
End of Evangelion picks up after the events of episode 24 of the television series. NERV has beaten back the Angel invasion, but faces a new threat in the form of the mysterious Seele organization. With the Angel threat over, NERV has become expendable in the eyes of Seele. Furthermore, Seele plans to initiate Third Impact themselves, but to do so they need the Evangelion units. To get those, they'll have to penetrate NERV headquarters itself. And, boy, do they ever.
End of Evangelion leapfrogs almost immediately into an extended action sequence, featuring a climactic showdown between NERV and the Japanese Self Defense Force (JSDF) operating at the whim of Seele. The attack initially begins as an attempted computer hack on the Magi system, NERV's trio of super computers. When that fails, the physical assault goes into full swing, with ground forces ruthlessly pounding the NERV facility. It doesn't take long before NERV's defenses succumb to the might of the JSDF.
Now, one might question why NERV crumbles so quickly to the JSDF, when they've successfully beaten back some of the deadliest beings known to mankind. The answer, however, should be surprisingly obvious. NERV was designed to withstand giant singular beings equipped with unconventional methods of attack, not conventional highly mobile ground forces. In addition, there's the matter of NERV's primary defenses, the Evangelions, still offline from previous battles with the Angels.
Which brings us to the focus of the Evangelion saga—the Evangelion pilots. Shinji, distraught from his encounter with the 17th Angel and the current condition of Asuka, has suffered a complete mental breakdown and retreated into an emotional shell. Misato vainly tries to motivate him, and only manages to break through his wall of indifference in a memorable scene that is to sure to make at least one fan uncomfortable. Of course, once Shinji has found his resolve, a bitter irony awaits him at his Evangelion. But such is Shinji's life, for even when he tries to do the right thing, fate has other plans. Asuka remains in a coma, still suffering the effects of her encounter with the 16th Angel. NERV sends her and her Evangelion to the bottom of the lake outside the base in a last-ditch attempt to keep the JSDF forces from killing her. She eventually wakes and undergoes a complete emotional transformation upon having an epiphany about her Eva. Her zeal, upon realizing this truth, lends itself well to the ensuing conflict and is in marked contrast to Shinji's melancholy attitude. Then there's Rei. At least, I think it's Rei. It's difficult to say who, let alone what she is, as her pivotal role in the series comes to fruition.
Eventually, Third Impact is finally realized. You knew it was coming. It ended the television series and so it ends here in similar fashion. But now there is no need to recycle old footage from the television series. Instead, we are given a few brief, but meaningful scenes as Shinji is forced to confront his emotional turmoil head-on. These are intercut with the continued events of the real world, depicting humanity's fate. In addition, there are some questionable uses of live-action shots, primarily of an auditorium (perhaps representative of the Evangelion audience). Ultimately, the entirety of the Evangelion saga is realized and Shinji decides the future fate of mankind. And so it ends, leaving the audience to ponder what just happened, and leaving just as many questions, if not more, as the original series.
From a technical standpoint, Evangelion is a step-up from the television series. Animation ranges from mediocre to great, particularly in depicting Asuka and her Eva unit battling the JSDF forces. Music is equally good, with some recycled themes from the television series with new musical scores made for this feature. Fans of the dubbed cast of Evangelion will be happy to hear all the cast members back in their familiar roles. Collectively, they turn out a solid performance, especially Tiffany Grant in the role of Asuka and Spike Spencer as Shinji.
End of Evangelion is probably best viewed immediately after watching the first 24 episodes of the television series, with the events of the Evangelion saga still fresh in the minds of the audience. It serves as a fitting punctuation to the series; a monument to the action, drama, and mystery that has enthralled so many fans. A very suitable end of Evangelion.
The Verdict: * * * * (good)
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