Eric Lees’s review published on Letterboxd:
Alright, I now give this masterpiece the review it deserves.
"Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful Sea
...So farewell hope, and with hope farewell fear,
Farewell remorse; all good to me is lost.
Evil, be thou my good"
- John Milton (Paradise Lost)
Evangelion is a special type of anime to discuss. It's a classic that has seen both endless praise and criticism. Depending on who one talks to, it can be seen as the coming of Christ or a colossal waste of time. I sit in the former category, but I still remain critical on the series. However, I can't criticize The End of Evangelion simply because it's perfect.
You know that feeling you get when you finish a film?
When you are left petrified by what you just witnessed?
When you look up to the stars, buckle to your knees, and mutter, "That was the greatest thing I ever witnessed in my life...."
When you finally finish Neon Genesis Evangelion?
To call The End of Evangelion the most profound film ever made is an understatement. EoE is a turbulent masterpiece of emotion, depth, horror, and religious damnation. People wham on this film by saying "It's not deep! It's nonsensical!" and while it is true a first viewing is the most overwhelming and seemingly incomprehensible thing ever, once you let it sink in, allow Evangelion to consume your life, calm down, stop trying to kill yourself, and actually sit through the film, watch the Director's Cut episodes, maybe read a few paragraphs on backstory, and pay close attention, it is actually a very very linear film but still riddled with endless symbolism and profound depth unrivaled with any other film I have seen, and that's a big deal since I have seen over a thousand.
From high tech mecha fights to deep horrifying philosophy and what-not, Hideaki Anno creates the most beautiful, yet grotesque ending conclusion to one of if not THE greatest modern day saga ever made, Neon Genesis Evangelion. In the anime there's a rather sharp tonal shift as the anime becomes less of kicking monster ass and becomes a disturbing and claustrophobic view on what makes a Man, what exactly IS religion in our minds, and, well, everything else.
Anno brings forth a relentless action film in the first half and a savage psychoanalysis in the second, delivering both the satisfying finale fans wanted and his own personal vision. As Third Impact draws nearer and the Human Instrumentality Project comes in full swing, the fate of mankind lies in Shinji's hands, and that's not much a guarantee for humanity's salvation at all. Here the series has lost all recognition, now being a relentless saga of brutal shocking gore and depraved psychotic visuals.
In this film, nay, this artistic masterpiece, there is a enormous emotional flowing, where all kind of extreme feelings get together in the best way possible. We absorb the most sincere demonstrations of despair, grief, lost of hope, emotional and physical pain, insanity, and all together with some subtle moments of melancholic happiness. This "emotional flowing" has a perfect background of images, actions and scenery, and there are some complex ideas that force us to reflect about our own lives after seeing the dramatic and ultimate ending from this movie. It truly leads us to despise the cold and obscure truth of the futile existence that humanity is taking. Everyone that is still around gets a satisfying ending, even those we didn't spend much time with in the series. Evangelion's cast is a highly touchy one that remains inside of everyone who watches it's minds and hearts.
This beloved cast makes the film all the more harder to watch. Quite an End this truly is. I'd be a fool if I could find a more morally corrupt and haunting ending in television or film. It makes you feel empty, depressed, and ultimately betrayed. It's perfectly okay to hate the film due to this. In fact, it's almost expected. EoE is as dense as it gets, one of the hardest pills to swallow. To accept it, you must accept the moral corruption and sinful religious indoctrination that exists within all of society. Despite this, I actually find it a really hopeful ending after dozens of re-watches. Only for Shinji would it take the end of the world for him to get his life straight.
Shinji, love him or hate him, is a great protagonist who defies all of the viewer's wishes. He's as emotionally broken as they come and stands out even in the multitude of nutcases that is the cast of Evangelion. This is his retribution, and his final transition of a character. Same goes for everyone else, here is when their arcs finally conclude seamlessly into LCL. Asuka graduates from bitchy tsundere into the badass she always dreamt of being and her previous actions justified. We finally learn what is Gendo's deal and though it may to justify him it really makes him a three dimensional figure, though he (Aoba, and arguably Ritsuko) are the only characters to not reach peace of mind in the end.
It's not nonsensical wholly though it does have its unfair share of obscurity to the audience and was created to polarize fans of the anime. It is impossible to understand everything, especially first viewing and there is so much in it you find new things and views every time this is watched. So far I understand everything leading up to the actual End (The final 4 minutes), which is just, oh, oh man.... I am one of the few people who actually loved the ending for the TV series and it's hard choosing which end I prefer. I like to imagine they both exist in parallel dimensions, but if you're part of the vast majority and hated the TV ending, chances are you'll find this one much more fulfilling, or not. It's polarizing to say the least.
Is it "2DEEP4U The Movie"? No, that's an unfair label. However, you do need your fair share of knowledge on religion and philosophy to uncover the entire series. I found myself scourging through various religious texts trying to make sense of it all, and it all paid off. The series doesn't use religion as a means of shoving it down the audience's throat, it uses it to craft some great analogies, symbols, and imagery relating to all religious texts of Christianity, Judaism, Muslim, and more. The stunning animation only pushes it, and if animated films can have "cinematography" this ranks among the Top 10 in film. Without a doubt a monumental improvement over the series.
I don't think I have ever been more traumatized by a film, and there were many sleepless nights after watching it where I imagined the horrific events of the film, watching everyone I cared for explode into LCL and watch giant Angels wreck havoc on the souls of the planet, living and dead. It's vulgar, it's disturbed, it's shocking, it's enlightening, it's poetic, it's beautiful, it's art. It's all subjective and is still one of the most polarizing film I have ever had discussions with, truly a "love it or hate it" scenario. If you love Evangelion and want to see a deep and profound ending that will make you question all of existence, or simply are a deep respecter of art and film, you'll love it. For anyone else though, just step back into your Sea of LCL...