Welcome back to EVERYDAY EVA, the blog series where I aim to cover one episode of Evangelion every single day for Mecha March 2022! This NEW segment dives into the films of the hit sci-fi franchise.
The climactic final act of the original NGE plays out on the global stage as prophetic wishes come to pass. The end and the beginning are one in the same.
As we have now fully realized, Eva, historically, is a story that is *officially* thrice ended. For the longest time, however, The End of Evangelion and its counterpart Death and Rebirth served as the true ending to the franchise. Like all things in Eva, EOE is comprised of a pair of “episodes” coupled together for one theatrical viewing: Episode 25 “Air” (subtitle “Love is destructive.”) and special Episode 26, “ONE MORE FINAL: I need you.” (Emphasis here on the word more.) These two parts offer the amazing satisfaction of filling in the story aspect otherwise lacking from the series’ ending. What makes EOE a true masterpiece, though, is its conviction to relaying the story’s themes while also bringing everyone’s story arcs to a close—all while still utilizing the experimental visual techniques from the series’ finale. And unique is the optimistic way of putting it. EOE is downright weird.
First, I should mention that Death and Rebirth is still worth watching today. When I first reviewed the film, I pretty much tore it to pieces (save for the newly added quartet scenes, which I still value as some of THE best Eva content). NGE is a series that often likes to recap itself. Yet, despite the repetition, the lore aspect of the plot remains difficult to parse even after a third, fourth, fifth viewing. (And I have watched this series through at least seven times. Yes, it’s my favorite. Get over yourself.) SEELE’s schemes, Human Instrumentality, and the ancient secrets encoded in the Dead Sea Scrolls only finally start to make sense in the latter half of Death and Rebirth, AKA the “Rebirth” part (since “Death” is just an hour-long series recap). It just so happens that Anno decides to recycle THE ENTIRE SECOND HALF of this film to make THE ENTIRE FIRST HALF of his next, The End of Evangelion. No wonder fans were done with this guy back in the 90s.
The first time I watched EOE, I distinctly recall being put off by the changes in character design and the aspect ratio change. Now, I realize that these are actually the on-model designs at their peak, meaning that much of the series is visually inconsistent. (Like we didn’t already know that.) Also, the old Manga Entertainment DVD—which was sadly the best way to watch EOE for an unfairly long time—suffers from horrible compression issues. Instrumentality really starts to look like red soup instead of the individual rows of ascended souls, which, I guess, also somehow feeds back into the main point of it all.
I bring this up because watching EOE in gorgeous HD Blu-ray quality (and GLORIOUS full screen) is an entirely different experience from what I first had. Seeing everything so clearly for the first time helped make Anno’s intent and direction make more sense—new sense, too. I already thought Asuka’s triumphant last stand against the EVA Series was the most impressive animation battle sequence ever made for its time. Now I think its the most impressive animation sequence ever made, PERIOD. The same glowing things could be said about world-shattering climax in the film’s second half—the appearance of giant Rei and the transcendence of all humanity. Like, the live-action footage during Shinji’s vision actually looks GREAT here. Also, did y’all know that Unit-01 had BLUE HAIR just like Rei? Crazy how fuzzy memories become elucidated truths in this latest HD rewatch. “Ah, so this is how Anno intended for us to watch the end of his Evangelion.”
As far as story and character drama goes, I think this is the first time the ending didn’t make me tear up. Maybe it’s cause I was in awe of Blu-ray magic. Who knows, emotions come and go like that for me. I do think this is still an incredibly satisfying ending for Misato, Rei, Asuka, Ritsuko, Gendo, and especially Shinji. The NERV staff get to play such prominent roles, too, and I appreciate the film for that.
Having seen this with both English dubs and the original Japanese, I will say—and this will be controversial—that Netflix’s EOE dub is my favorite. There. I said it. Please don’t hurt me. The script just makes SO much sense here, and while the JP will always be king, Netflix really crushed it with this one. The Netflix actors for Asuka and Hyuga especially impressed me, and perhaps that’s because they took 26 episodes warming up to their parts. (JK, they were great since their debuts, I just thought they knocked their delivery out of the park with EOE.) And they should, you know? EOE is an innately climactic film.
I could default to my usual summarizing and commentary about Shinji’s decision, but we already did that with Episode 26. The added ending here, then, is the beach scene. “Oh dang, we’re here again,” is what I used to think whenever I got to the end. This time, however, I only felt complete satisfaction, both for Shinji and myself. It’s a fantastic and memorable ending, a conclusion so bleak yet so sincere and hopeful at the same time. As the journey of Evangelion reaches a resolute place to moor, we at last realize that fate and destruction really can lead to joy and rebirth.
I couldn’t be happier with how this rewatch of the classic Evangelion series and its mesmerizing final film turned out. Likewise, I’ll somewhat miss reading from the production notes that were included in GKIDS’ Ultimate Edition Information Booklet. If you own the set, it’s a nice companion piece to the discs—an “art book” that is actually useful pre-, mid-, and post-watch. Give it a flick through when you get the chance. I’ll be closing the book on NGE and turning to the Rebuild in the next post, so until then, feel free to drop your thoughts on the classic Eva down in the comments. Thanks for reading!