Sunday, January 9, 2011

Review: Neon Genesis Evangelion-part 5-directors' cut episodes 21 thru 24

(note: Though it is unlikely to specifically matter within this review, I am specifically discussing the director's cut versions of these episodes because they feature much more content than the cheaply-made TV broadcast version. I suggest you skip them in your viewing as well.)

In the last set of episodes, we watched as Shinji's world fell apart, and now the world crumbles around him. Shinji's closest friends lose themselves in a sea of depression, and those who dare to be stable are met with death.

Episode 21"The Birth of Nerv/He Was Aware That He Was Still A Child" is an extensive flashback of Gendo's backstory, and features lots of cryptic info on the MYSTERY of the series. This episode is actually my favorite of the entire TV series, giving Gendo and many other characters the element of pathos that defines their roles for the final act of the story. We see Gendo in his prime, friendly and happily married, and watch as he falls apart, morphing into the monster of a man who calmly traumatizes his own son. We soon realize the Gendo is what Shinji might become. At the end of the episode, someone dies and someone else falls apart, and the very idea of Eva being a normal robot show falls apart. Now the series progresses to show Rei die bravely in combat, replaced by an emotionless doll calling herself "the third one", Ristuko revealed to be psychotic, and Asuka literally get mentally defiled. Truly great merchandise fodder.

At this point, Shinji is, of course a wreck. It is only natural he find someone to turn to. By the way, that sound you hear is a million fangirls squealing. In Episode 24 "The Final Messenger/The Beginning and the End, or "Knockin' on Heaven's Door"", Shinji meets Kaworu, the new pilot of unit 3. Kaworu tries reaching out to Shinji, and pretty soon the two boys are very much in love. But this is not BL. This is so BL it is not even funny. Kaworu is the one bright light left in Shinji's crumbling world, and their love for each other is perhaps the one optimistic thing left in Eva at this point. However, Kaworu is actually the last angel (not exactly true, but I won't bore you with details), and Shinji is sent to stop him. One would think that would be traumatizing enough, but in this show, NOTHING is traumatizing enough! Standing in front of the giant Adam, now revealed not to be Adam, but another giant beast (remember that embryo thing on Gendo's hand? THAT was Adam), Kaworu is left with a choice: Destroy the world, or kill himself. He decides the latter option, and in fact, has Shinji kill him. For five minutes there is no animation but a single shot of the Eva clutching Kaworu's body. Then a brief shot of Kaworu's silhouetted head falling to the ground. And with that, the story enters its final phase.

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