I have a few words to say on this anime's ending. "A few words" may have been an understatement, though; I was seriously considering centering this entire post on beating the shit out of the ending provided by the original series. Of course, I'll be doing the other portions of a regular review first, due to the anime actually being decent when it made sense, but I anticipate this post to be a lot longer than those I usually do. With that, I'll begin the general summary of the story, leaving the ending out until later. As a warning, there will be spoilers in this post.
Neon Genesis Evangelion focuses on the story of Shinji Ikari, otherwise known as Pussy. When the dystopian haven of Tokyo - 3 is attacked by a monster known as an Angel, he is humanity's only hope. By piloting a robot known as an "Eva", he is capable of defending mankind. Operating under NERV, an underground organization, he and other mecha pilots must work to guard the Earth from further invasions. Notable characters include Rei, a short-haired clone of Shinji's mother; and Asuka, a bitch. I might be being a bit harsh on these character labels, but I can offer complete justification. In an attempt to discover the true nature of angels, Shinji and his friends find that the truth may prove mankind more dangerous to itself than any external threat.
I'll get into what I liked about this anime before the flood of negatives. Regardless of its flaws, the first 24 episodes were extremely entertaining to watch. With fluid animation that far exceeded its time, it was a true mecha pilot anime, allowing for battles that both drew me in and kept me watching the series. Voice acting was also good, and I found myself forgetting that this anime was as
old as it was. Basically, it was well-animated, well-acted and was a ton of fun to watch. This, of course, made the ending that much worse than it would have been on its own.
Characters in this story were generally likable, or so I'd like to claim. In truth, Shinji Ikari was enough to nearly drive me away from the anime after several episodes. I understand that, being a 14 year old boy, he's gone through probably more trauma than we'd experience in our entire lives, but I just didn't enjoy how he was portrayed to be such a massive coward. Surprisingly, though, I felt myself hating him less and less as the series progressed, probably because I got used to his character. Asuka is an entirely different story. A fellow mecha pilot, she's an arrogant, snobby, conceited bitch, whose generic personality is reminiscent of the Tsundere archtype. Oddly enough, I didn't dislike her as much as Shinji. In the latter half of the series, where Shinji begins to kick her ass in everything he does, she enters a state of self-depression. I found this interesting enough, but such a drastic change in character was anything but subtle. Finally, Rei, the clone, is essentially mute for the series. However, the anime does sneak in deep, philosophical monologues into her time on screen, which made her decently fun to watch. With all of that out of the way, let's rape the ending.
I'll give those of you who haven't watched the anime a recap first. Knowing the ending will literally not impact you at all in watching this anime, for reasons you'll see once I explain it. The first time I saw this ending was before I actually started the anime itself. Shinji is desolate after murdering his potential gay partner, a boy named Kaworu, who turned out to be an angel. At this point, the anime begins to fuck itself over. After an incredibly unclear scene transition, we find that the ending basically consisted of Shinji talking to himself, characters arbitrarily appearing and disappearing, and then a standing ovation for the aforementioned protagonist. When I first watched this ending, it was out of context, so I thought it'd make more sense if I watched the anime. I watched the anime, and no fucking sense was made.
Some people support Shinji's LSD trip as a legitimate end to a great anime. They claim that it's a metaphorical art form, and that those who don't understand it are peons who have the brain capacities of monkeys. Smells like bullshit. There was, of course, philosophical subtext to the ending, but it entirely missed the point of what an ending was supposed to do: finish a fucking anime. I would have loved to hear more analysis of the main characters' respective psychologies, but the truth was that it was the wrong place and the wrong time in which they presented it. The writers could have built it up over the duration of the show, or better yet, put it somewhere else where it fit. Instead, the viewers received a kick in the balls: an out of context, high on drugs and ultimately incoherent ending sequence with supposed "deeper meaning". Another common argument is that it's an ambiguous ending, open for interpretation. That's like asking someone to interpret the way another person takes a dump: you'll try to see it, you really will, but all you'll find is shit. The ending in no way closed the anime, nor did it explain anything that was going on. It was a testament to what happens if you either run out of funds of your writers stop giving a fuck. All in all, it's a disappointing ending to an anime which deserved a lot more than it had. If I haven't made it clear enough, the ending was a let-down of a mind fuck that turned Evangelion's satisfying viewing experience into a mediocre one.
The ending was so fucked, actually, that there was an alternate one provided. The End of Evangelion, a movie made in 1997, gives an alternate, almost equally incoherent conclusion to the events of the anime. At least, it made more sense than the original, although that isn't saying much. Shinji's Eva turning into a goose and flying to the moon would have made more sense than that. Regardless, the movie itself was an amazing event. It took the Evangelion that was, until then, a normal mecha pilot, and made it a bit more disturbing. Granted, it was gory, but the distortion ties into something present in the story half of the time. The other half, it's just meant to be unsettling. The ending provided by this film was a bit different, although still up to interpretation. The one thing I didn't really enjoy, though, was Shinji. They turned him into one of the largest pussies, so to speak, in anime history. I didn't mind him that much in the television series, due to occasional lapses in his cowardice, but this movie outright destroyed his image. Whether it was when he masturbated to a comatose Asuka in a hospital room, outright ran away from Misato, or kept raving about how people should treat him nicely, I just felt that his character became less and less appealing. Overall, The End of Evangelion was a decent movie, with certainly epic moments. It did amuse me, though, to see that the writers tried twice and still couldn't make an ending which was easier to understand.
This has been a longer post than usual, but I believe the anime merits it. Do I believe Evangelion to be a decent mecha anime? Yes, I do. Do I believe that both of the endings detracted from the experience? Again, I do. All in all, though, Evangelion is an overall entertaining anime to consider watching, and has its moments in the sun as well as in the rain.