Review: Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death and Rebirth (1997)

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It takes a unique perspective not to mention guts to combine giant robots, Christian symbolism, teenage angst, dysfunctional families and Jungian psychology. If Neon Genesis Evangelion‘s creator, Hideako Anno was a New Yorker he’d be happily seeing an analyst 3 times a week moaning about not being breast fed. Thankfully he’s Japanese, loves giant robots and sees anime as a therapeutical tool. Then net result was Neon Genesis Evangelion, one of the densest animes ever created.

I’m going to take it for granted that we all know how the TV series ended — actually I’m not – it ended in a chaotic collage of fragmentary images that left us all going, Huh, what the hell just happened? As far as I’m concerned, the protagonist Shinji broke free of his crippling introversion. A condition that arose from a complete absence of parental affection and was exacerbated by the pressure of having to save the world and piloting an Eva (for the aforementioned world saving) in which he had to synch with the spirit of his dead mother. For Shinji it was pretty much catatonia or bust. Feel free to disagree with this interpretation. I reckon over a coffee and an hour you could convince me of your own theory.

Ultimately, Shinji embraced humanity and a lived happily ever after — I think…. this was truly the great thing about Neon Genesis. Anno seemed more concerned with examining the emotional flawed states and motivations of his characters. The giant robots beating the tar out of one another was a means to an end. Nothing was overtly explained. The viewer was not beaten around the head with a message. Like an impressionist’s work, interpretation was left to the viewer.

However, that’s not the end of it. Whether there was audience outrage at not being beaten around the head with a conclusive ending, an attempt to cash in on the series success or Anno not having the funds to complete the original series he intended, Studio Gainax released two movies: Death & Rebirth and End of Evangelion. If you thought these movies would clear up lingering confusions and cure the spike in caffeine addictions that resulted from the formulation of support groups to attempt to understand the series, guess again.

Death & Rebirth

The first movie, Death & Rebirth is really split into 2 parts. The first half is a summary of the television series through a series of ‘character profiles’ of the main players. The profiles are constructed from fragments from the series. Really, it’s something of a mess. The character profiles are no good for a first time viewer, the information presented is far too choppy and disjointed, and for people who have viewed the series, barely any new information is provided. Having said that though, there is one big revelation that is almost worth the price of admission (if that admission was at concession rates).

Things do get going in the second half of the movie. Suddenly the plot is picked up and there is plenty of action. Then, just when things start to get going and a continuation of the story starts to coalesce; it ends —abruptly — very abruptly.

Death & Rebirth is ultimately a real disappointment. The two acts just don’t hang together. In attempting to create impressionistic summing up of the original series Death & Rebirth disappoints. The second act’s action is great but ends abruptly with no sense of conclusion. It’s like a car accident – the collision of the 2 vehicles resulting in lots of twisted metal and broken glass.

Good thing I had a copy of End of Evangelion close by…

2 Freudian complexes out of 10.
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