A show from the 90s that took the anime world by storm. It had a complex plot, excellent animation and sound for its time, a strong cast of complex, diverse characters, a heap of references to mythology and various religions, a solid English dub, and has been deconstructed and discussed to levels few shows, particularly in the world of anime, can match. Of particular appeal to me, it sported an interesting, vividly realised, dystopian setting, spent a lot of time psychologically exploring the exceptionally disturbed main cast and their interactions with each other, and the plot gave a lot of emphasis to questions of humanity. This probably sounds like a cavalcade of praise and adoration, and I imagine this is probably hanging a huge question mark over why I haven’t placed this series in my top ten. So let’s get to explaining.
It would probably be fair to say that I have never been quite so disappointed by a show as I was by Evangelion, and what’s more it did it to me fucking twice. So onto the controversial side of Evangelion, and in particular my experience regarding the endings. No, using the plural form there was not a typo, Evangelion has already been given two different endings, and they are currently working on a third as part of a reworking of the entire series.
I am always particularly cynical entering a show that has a massive amount of hype surrounding it, and Evangelion did very well to work me over to its side and genuinely have me rooting for it coming up to the finale. Like Darker Than Black, Evangelion keeps you in the dark a little too much throughout for my tastes, but it did a far better job of making you feel like it was heading somewhere with it all. It maintained the impression of a tight structure through all the confusion, and it didn’t impulsively add plot points, and this is all it really took to make me feel only a tiny fraction of the uneasiness I felt throughout Darker Than Black.
So there I was, approaching the end of the series, and all but ready to admit that the show deserved most of the hype it got – even if aspects of it clashed with my own personal tastes – so long as the conclusion lived up to the lead up. The sixth last to third last episodes were undeniably excellent, doing a lot to bring the show exceptionally smoothly to its conclusion, as the Religious allusions built powerfully and the main cast’s various psychological issues came to a head. Then there were the final two episodes that were originally aired. Nothing but a surreal dream state interrogation of the characters one by one, resolving none of the physical problems the show had built up to, and in my opinion not even doing a very good job of resolving the characters psychological problems. Alas, this ending was due to budget issues, and as painfully disappointing as that was, money issues are a reality and I entirely forgive the show for its original ending, especially since I had End of Evangelion, the last two episodes redone in movie format, ending the series as the writer had originally intended to, with me upon finishing the original finale.
It is well known that while writing Evangelion Hideaki Anno suffered depression and that a lot of the psychological themes drew inspiration from this. Nowhere was Anno’s depression quite as apparent as in End of Evangelion. This is easily the most controversial part of the Evangelion franchise and before I go any further I want to make it especially clear that general opinion on this is extremely varied and if you watch it you may find it to fulfil everything the series worked up to and even surpass it. That said, I found it to be several times more disappointing than the self-help seminar that was the originally aired ending. For me, it built up further only to mean-spiritedly destroy everything the series seemed to have been working towards, and give perhaps the most obtuse and incoherent ending to a show I have ever witnessed. As I mentioned earlier, the show is currently being entirely reworked, this time as four movies, with two out so far. Speculation is wild and overall it looks quite promising. It’s proving it still has the power to make a huge impact on the anime community, and even though my experience with it left a bad taste in my mouth, I truly think it deserves the attention it gets, at least as a polemic. However; even if the rework is a towering masterpiece, it won’t earn any points in my mind for having been reincarnated so many times. Going back and reworking a show multiple times, however effective, just isn’t very classy.