This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
🅰️’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
It's hard to review this film because it's so frustratingly perfect that it's left me almost speechless every time I've watched it. There's also just so much to discuss as the series and film are very dense on a thematic level and are filled to the brim with complex character work and creative, personal storytelling. I'm not gonna talk about the show here, but that still gives me a lot to write about due to the film being the greatest saga conclusion I've ever witnessed.
First, I'm gonna get the technical brilliance out of the way. The animation is a huge upgrade from the show as the movements are a lot more fluid and there is more detail to the character/environmental designs. The way certain concepts are visualized through abstract, dreamlike imagery is unbelievably evocative, oh my god. As for the voice acting, these characters are perfectly cast and I can say without a shred of doubt that Megumi Ogata's performance as Shinji is the greatest voice performance I have ever heard. The musical score is amazing as always, but the two songs composed for the soundtrack are truly special as are the way they're used. One song plays during the end-credits of the film's first episode and the other one plays in one of the most celebrated scenes in all of anime. The latter scene is easily the best use of music I've seen and a good contender for best film scene, period. The sound design is also pretty underrated. I think this may be the best film I've seen from an audiovisual standpoint, but I'll have to think about that.
Now, for the characters, they're some of the most human characters I've seen. The main character trio of Eva are supposed to serve as representations of Hideaki Anno, the show's creator, and it's obvious that he put so much effort into making sure they reflected the flawed, broken nature of his self when he was developing this project. Shinji Ikari and Asuka Langley Soryu are some of the best characters ever written.
The former is meant to have many roles: An explicit self-insert for Anno, a reflection of otaku/escapist culture, a traumatized child soldier, and just a relatable, lonely teenager in general. He's a character whose nature is determined by his father abandoning him as a child, which caused him to choose a life of loneliness as he avoids contact with others due to a fear of rejection. He's let his tragic past dictate how he views himself, illustrated by the fact that he lives in self-loathing and feels completely worthless. Not knowing how to solve his problems, Shinji always looks for ways to escape. He'll escape by either literally running away, using others as emotional crutches for validation, or blatantly attempting to ignore his situation. Overall, this boy is very layered and it's easy to see why he's so iconic, he acts as such a brilliant mirror for those involved with Evangelion, whether it's the artist behind the work, or the audience viewing it.
The latter is just a teensy bit more imaginatively-written than the former (in my opinion!) as she is arguably the least like Anno out of the main trio. She also serves as an excellent deconstruction of the lens through which female characters are viewed in anime. I could write more about that, but that's going into deeper spoiler territory. Anyways, Asuka is a wonderfully profound and subversive character. At first, she seems upbeat and prideful, but she's actually a very repressive and insecure person dealing with childhood trauma and trying her hardest to live up to an unrealistic image of what she wants to be. She attempts to reject any sort of vulnerability or dependency, which leads to her pushing others away even if she enjoys their company. Her arc of learning to overcome her trauma and become more understanding and expressive with her feelings is very moving. Personally, she's my favorite character in the franchise.
As for Rei Ayanami, she doesn't connect with me as much as Shinji or Asuka, but she's still a very well-constructed character. Her arc is excellent and the way her character is used to comment on concepts like existentialism and what it means to be human is very admirable. I don't have much to say about her like I do with Asuka and Shinji, but she's still one of my favorite characters in media.
This review is getting pretty long, so I'll end it with this paragraph. Like I said before, Evangelion is a thematically dense work that explores an abundant amount of topics, such as depression, purpose, loneliness, human connection, understanding, trauma, escapism, and anime itself. There's a lot to admire when it comes to its handling of these topics, but I want to solely talk about the way it handles depression. This film poses the question of why should one live if their existence is and has mostly been filled with pain, sorrow, and hardship. This is a question that often gets simple answers, such as, "Everything gets better" and "Everything will work itself out." Of course, Evangelion doesn't go for simple answers and chooses to end on a beautifully hopeful message grounded in reality.
As Shinji spends time in the Instrumentality that he triggered, he learns many lessons. He comes to terms with the fact that escapism will never truly solve his problems and that happiness will never be easily available. He knows that normal human existence allows for psychological walls to act as an adversary for people trying to connect with others and that human relationships will always have their intricate difficulties. Despite this, he chooses to reject Instrumentality. He does this because now, he knows that as long as he is alive and has the ability to feel emotion, he can find happiness. He understands that relationships with others can lead to him being hurt or still feeling lonely, but that he can also find genuine connections. Even though he's lived most of his life in misery, Shinji still puts hope in the chance that he'll be okay one day.
Take care of yourself.