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Mr. Freeze Reviews Neon Genesis Evangelion

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Mr. Freeze Reviews Neon Genesis Evangelion Empty Mr. Freeze Reviews Neon Genesis Evangelion

Post by Mr. Freeze on Wed Sep 18, 2013 2:55 am

(A few things to start off: First, I lost internet 85% of the way through writing this review. That wasn't fun. Second off, this review has been shortened due to it be too lengthy. Hopefully it's at an acceptable volume now. Strap in for the long haul...this one is the longest yet)

Mr. Freeze Reviews:

Neon Genesis Evangelion

This was originally intended to be cumulative review of the show, the rewritten ending from End of Evangelion, and the Rebuild of Evangelion film series. However, Rebuild is incomplete, and thus I will instead focus on the original series and End of Eva.

Obviously this show held a massive impact on the anime industry when it first came out in 1995. It blew people out of the water with some stellar animation and writing from Hideaki Anno that pushed the limits of reference and philosophy in anime. However, almost twenty years have passed since then. How has the philosophy and logic of the show held up to modern scrutiny? Has it stood up to the test of time?

The Concept in a Nutshell
Shinji Ikari lives in Japan fifteen years after the devastation of the Second Impact destroyed the world's stable climates and put humanity in danger of destruction at the hands of the Angels. When one of these extraterrestrial beings descends upon the city, Shinji is brought to a top secret organization where his father works called NERV. There his father requires him to pilot a massive mech (the titular Evangelion) to do battle with the Angel threatening to destroy mankind. Thrown into a job he's reluctant to accept, Shinji descends down a path of emotional rollercoasters not least helped by his existential tendencies and abandonment issues...

My score is broken up into 4 categories that add up to a potential score of 40. Letter grade is based on percentages akin to standard grading (i.e. 36 out of 40 is the lowest score for an A grade, 32 out of 40 for B, etc).

The Story
Hoo, boy. Where to start?

First off...this is a Monster of the Week show. At least, for a good majority of it. And once you get past the first few episodes...it can be a damn decent one even. How the Angels are dealt with serves as the main focus from episode to episode, even though the big plans are hinted at from early on. Each one escalates the conflict more and more and the severity of each situation feels worse than the previous. There's a well established sense of scale.

Character development is generally handled well (we'll get to Shinji's case further down and withhold judgment here), but spoilerific elements in later episodes kill much of the development further on in (the rather rushed and hectic way Kaworu is shoved into the plot three episodes before the end is one great example). Interestingly enough, a number of side characters who hold slight importance have stronger character arcs than the main cast. The plot decisions of the last few episodes have a lot to do with this.

Thematic focus is on self-discovery and justification of existence. Ideas from Hegel and Kierkegaard (what a surprise...) interweave into an existential study that sneaks in Freudian elements as well. Religious themes are everywhere. Essentially, it's a philosophical clusterfuck.

With everything save for character development looking decent, it's no wonder people laud it as a "masterpiece." It has many of the fragments of one. But the work fails in the long run. Why is that?

Well, there are a few reasons. I won't delve into all of them (for the sake of saving time and because the whole thing is god damned stupidly philosophical), but fundamental ones hold the series back.

For starters, the plot can't seem to properly convey Shinji's search for self-existence. While it does indeed feel lost and morose, viewers tend to have difficulty finding empathy in Shinji due to the massive amounts of angst that clouds his perspective. This makes any progress throughout the narrative frustrating since the viewer knows he'll just sink back into self-doubt. It is an existentialist anime, after all. However, this means that he continues to run from challenges (even as he mutters to himself "I mustn't run away, I mustn't run away") and this lack of a heroic trait further removes him from the audience. It makes him rather unlikeable to many, actually.

Next, the philosophy is cluttered and minor inconsistencies with its inspirations cause it to lose credence. This is a result of Anno's major depression at the time. One major issue is the confusion of "truth" and "belief" as approached by the show. Essentially what the narrative interprets as a positive turn of self-realization is actually a continuous self-deception that is ultimately not healthy for anyone involved. This isn't even addressing the copious use of religious symbolism which the creators even admitted was originally put in simply to be edgy and had no meaning. I can't go further without spoiling too much, so I'll jump to the third and final reason the anime fails to succeed.

As you may have noticed, up above I mentioned that the ending sort of derailed characterization. That's not all it derailed. Evangelion blew most of its budget on the large action scenes and ran out of money by Episode 25. As a result, the show's ending is...complete bullshit. Basically, the viewer can be advised to skip episodes 25 and 26, but that then leads to the problem of End of Evangelion. Essentially an entire film to redo the ending of the show, Anno took full advantage of his budget to create as ridiculous an ending as he could. It takes aspects of the show and blows them up to extreme proportions, even resorting to more emphasized nudity for shock value. End of Eva can pretty much be summed up in those words: shock value. Whether or not it works is up to the individual; I for one was not impressed.

Even though it is a flawed work, it is a work that requires thought and analysis to understand why exactly it is flawed. The show gets a lot of points for trying; much thought was put into this work even despite its weaknesses. In fact, studying why it is wrong enlightens the viewer. The story receives a 9/10 just for making me do tons of god damned research on existentialism, postmodernism, Kierkegaardian's religious philosophies and how Japanese philosophy has developed from researching them in the 1890s, and refreshing me on Hegel's Thesis->Antithesis->Synthesis philosophy and how it has affected the known world since its conception.

The Visuals
As mentioned above, much of the budget was swallowed up by the fight scenes with the Angels. Said fight scenes are quite impressive and outdo much of the other animes from the time period. The Angel designs are interesting enough and there is a decent level of creativity in most of them. Character designs aren't the most creative out there, but they get the job done.

However, points are heavily detracted for the last few episodes of the show. With no budget, Episode 24 features a scene with no movement in the animation for over a minute. No movement, no speech, just music. Episodes 25 and 26 became 80% stock footage. It's ridiculous and inexcusable. End of Evangelion at least reveals the original intent of creating new animations that imitate previous scenes, but it's not enough to rectify 40 minutes of existential ramblings with stock footage attached as well.

The visuals are polarizing and receive a 6/10 as a result.

The Voice Acting
Dear God. If you can get past the first few episodes, it recovers from dreadful to mediocre. Shinji's voice in both languages is easily a deal breaker. I, for one, found his screechy english voice much more bearable than the horribly childish sounding sub. Seriously, watch the masturbation scene in End of Evangelion subbed and tell me you didn't feel awkward listening to a boy who sounds younger than he looks beating off to an unconscious girl in the hospital.

Anyone who isn't part of the main cast sounds pretty atrocious, the dub in particular. It's laughable at times. The voice acting gets a 5/10 since it's only ungodly unbearable for a few episodes; otherwise it's "meh."

Also Kaworu
that is all

The Soundtrack
First off, dat theme song. It's an ear worm.

Evangelion's go-to composer is at all times Shiro Sagisu, and I must say his work is...not that bad. While obviously generic tracks like "Misato" are present throughout, those fond of choral brass works will enjoy the emphasis on horns throughout the show (especially in "Tokyo-3" and "A Step Forward into Terror"). Action scenes are covered by orchestral tracks such as "EVA-00" and its fast-paced equivalent "The Beast." Various versions of Rei's theme tend to be pleasant to the ears. There's a lot of good things to be said regarding the music despite some of the lower quality recordings that are present at times.

Pertaining to the sneak peak I gave last week is the end credits. This show is famous for using the old Bart Howard hit "Fly Me to the Moon" as its end credits...and using many different versions of it. In fact, throughout Evangelion's 18 year history, at least 31 versions have been recorded, 20 of them available on the three soundtracks of the original show. These range from the television ending versions to the full blown original covers, and said arrangements cross multiple styles.

All in all, the soundtrack of the series gets a solid 8/10 for a memorable theme song, a few gems in the show and the insane efforts put into ensuring the end credits aren't always 100% the same every time.

Final Notes before the verdict:
Relevant video:

The Verdict
Neon Genesis Evangelion receives a 28/40, or a C in my book. It's a fun show for the middle duration and can lead to proper research of its concepts, but they're overall not handled well and the beginning and ending(s) are generally polarizing portions of the show. I'm not sure whether or not to recommend this until Rebuild of Evangelion finishes, but if you wish to watch that I suggest seeing both NGE and End of Eva to further your understanding of the thus far superior reboot.

Last edited by Mr. Freeze on Sun Jan 19, 2014 8:28 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Mr. Freeze Reviews Neon Genesis Evangelion Empty Re: Mr. Freeze Reviews Neon Genesis Evangelion

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