Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death and Rebirth

I just finished watching Evangelion: Death and Rebirth, and have never felt so pissed off at a film. Yeah, I’d been warned by people I trust to just avoid this one, but like a cat curiosity got the better of me. After all, the main series was okay, and End of Evangelion may have hacked me off by trying too hard to integrate every philosophy it could think of, but at least it had high production values.

Part 1, “Death,” just recaps the TV series for an hour or so. Those who’ve already seen the series don’t need that much recapping, but it also doesn’t do anything to introduce any characters or plot points to ease newcomers into the film. Even worse, our beloved studio Gainax made this recap by simply re-editing scenes from the show while adding almost no new animation.

Then, we get a credit sequence in the middle of the film, as though this were two TV episodes spliced together, and an intermission. The film’s only 115 minutes long, though, so I’m not sure why any intermission is needed, especially in addition to the immediately preceding credit sequence. Maybe Japanese studios are just especially courteous to moviegoers who buy large drinks at the concession stand?

Anyway, we then proceed to Part 2, “Rebirth.” Here’s the highlight of the film, where we the plot finally gets moving again. End of Evangelion recycled almost all of this footage, but since that came a couple years later I’ll give Death and Rebirth a pass on that. What I won’t give it a pass on, though, is that whereas many films begin in media res, this one decides to end in media res. Literally, the end credits (the real end credits this time) start rolling right before what’s obviously going to be a fight scene, with next to nothing resolved. A couple years later Gainax recycles “Rebirth” and actually finally gives Neon Genesis Evangelion something resembling a proper ending. That one has problems of its own, but at least it begins and ends somewhere, and if you just cut out Death and Rebirth makes the series feel mostly whole.

What boggles my mind, though, is how many attempts Gainax has made at creating a decent ending for their flagship franchise. Apparently, they couldn’t do it right when the show originally aired because they ran out of time or money. Still a lame excuse, perhaps, but whatever. So they make a second attempt with Death and Rebirth, but that fails miserably, so they make a third attempt and finally get it somewhat right with End of Eva. Even that apparently wasn’t enough, though, since now Gainax has redone the whole series as a film tetralogy, their second attempt at the story as a whole and their fourth attempt at an ending. At this point, I feel I must conclude that no one at Gainax ever did know how Eva ought to end; we’ve yet to see whether or not they still don’t.

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