A bow to adorn the present that was Neon Genesis: Evangelion, a feature-length piece was perhaps inevitable. The End of Evangelion does not, as many tie-ins to television are, feel like a cash-in on an established product. It is setting off to continue a story, rather than craft another out of the remnants of recognisable characters and themes. That, then, is the necessary and most obvious benefit that directing duo Hideaki Anno and Kazuya Tsurumaki have to work with. They must say farewell to their creation not because they are forced to, but because they want to. A rare circumstance for artists, who wish to bid adieu to their beloved craft before it is cancelled, crushed and killed by the machines and mechanisms of entertainment.
Expected it may be, it is worth noting that The End of Evangelion is a piece of visual brilliance. It is also a film that brings some strong moments to its characters through an incredible soundtrack, intense action and a recollection of many fan favourites. That is the effective and necessary mixture of events that The End of Evangelion relies on, and rightly so. There are risks taken, especially as the fight scenes grow to be as prominent and intertwined with the many messages. Even the slightest hesitations showcase valuable composition. Lingering slightly on the angles of religion through a scene with Shinji and Misato, it is difficult, to some degree, to see where the message stops and the story starts. What can be said of these moments, though, intertwined and unmanageable they may be, they are paced exceptionally well, on par with how the show steeped itself in the engaging, endearing style of an early morning cartoon.
To capture not just the art style, but the feeling of the show, is no small feat. Anno and Tsurumaki manage that to some degree, but The End of Evangelion will live or die on your response to the finale of the show itself. Whether you like or dislike that ending and its subsequent continuation is entirely down to how carried away you can be with the artistry and prose these directors have to offer. There is only so much I can take, and the erratic story and links to a series that, as I described in my review of the show, is merely “Power Rangers with a hint of quality”, it is hard to run the gauntlet with its feature adaptation. Good, and a rounding off for those that needed it, but it shows all the hallmarks of erratic, fumbled storytelling. No surprises there, since the latter half of the series went down this avenue and showed no signs of stopping either. There is no quality control, but at least a good chunk of it is a fun enough farewell.
But “fun enough” should not be the final remark of a series considered by many to be so totally beyond the pale. It is a striking exploration of grief, guilt and all the major tropes and themes I have come to depend on speaking about in my work. There is not, however, any meaning as to why they are included, merely poetic dialogue that can be grappled with by anyone. What is present here is a fixation of prominent, brilliant writing that is broad enough to work as anything the audience wish it to be. There are some questionable scenes sprinkled throughout, but the animation for every moment is sleek and impressive. Simple lines are pieced with effective imagery, and that is the main draw for Neon Genesis as a whole, not just The End of Evangelion. It manages these quite well, and it is the endearing comfort of such able and effective lines that make it so. Endearing, it seems, means to destroy everything they had created. Catharsis seems to be the main aim of the directors here, who wish to bid farewell to their series, however briefly that may be. I can’t blame them for trying.