Saturday, February 16, 2008
Having already reviewed Neon Genesis Evangelion I figured I’d try and tackle it’s controversial “ending”, End of Evangelion. Following the colossal success of the series, and fan backlash of equal size over the original ending, director Hideaki Anno released two feature films. The first, Death and Rebirth, was a retelling of the original story crammed into a much smaller timeframe. The second film is the one that’s important, End of Evangelion is a feature-length replacement for the show’s original ending which left audiences bewildered and in many cases angry. While the film is enjoyable it shares many of the strengths and weaknesses of the rest of Evangelion that will no doubt polarize audiences.
End of Evangelion is intended to replace the final two episodes of the series so anyone who has not watched the previous 24 parts will be overwhelmed from the get-go. All the characters are where we left them as the final pieces fall into place for an epic final chapter in humanity’s story. The protagonists, still saddled with the same flaws as before, will fight through the final battle both physically and psychologically as is the series’ trademark.
It is important to note that despite the fact this film was created due to negative feedback it never makes a serious attempt to correct any of the divisive points. It doesn’t feel as if this was an ending created due to fan feedback at all but rather the true vision of the creator realized because of the opportunity that negativity presented. It is clear Anno had no interest in appeasing detractors but is instead creating the finale he had envisioned all along which will change no one’s mind because it doesn’t intend to. Evangelion’s confused psychobabble is perhaps the show’s most irritating and endearing quality and it is in full effect here. No explanations are offered and few can even be deciphered from the visual bombardment taking place on screen. The viewer is assaulted with wave after wave of seemingly arbitrary metaphors with no compass to direct them toward the correct interpretation. For fans of the show this will no doubt be a good time but for those turned off by pretentious pseudo-philosophy and the like it’s not going to be a particularly fun 90 minutes.
While the apparently unrelated stream of metaphors can be disorienting it is also quite a spectacle. Few shows that have attempted such grandiose sequences have pulled them off this well, and that can appreciated regardless of whether you care for the confused undertones. In addition the audience is treated to one of the best mech battles I’ve ever seen, and while I admit I’m not a big fan of that genre in general I’m confident that fight sequence is as good as any. Anyone who enjoyed the series in the first place will find a lot to enjoy here, the characters do not have any sudden change of personality and End of Eva never really tries to surprise. It fits well within the original work and your enjoyment of it will rely heavily on whether you were a fan of Evangelion to begin with.
The production values are solid throughout. The original series was well-known for recycling sequences or using other tricks to lower production costs and that burden has been lifted for this film. The scope of many scenes is far greater then anything seen in the series no doubt because of the improved budget. The majority of the original voice cast returns and they do an equally competent job this time around. Some minor characters are played by new voice actors and their performance is notably worse, in the early part of the film especially. The musical score helps create a sense of scope but is nothing particularly groundbreaking.
On the negative side End of Eva is something of a missed opportunity. While it can be argued the film never intended to be an improvement on a flawed ending, because the creator ever considered it flawed in the first place, the reality is people expect more from a retold finale then the same jargon made even more confusing with more elaborate imagery. There is no attempt to find a middle ground between the original vision and a milder conclusion that would resonate with a larger audience, if anything this film will create an even greater split between the two sides.
The simple fact is End of Evangelion is a film for fans of the original vision of the creator. It does nothing to appease the angry horde of detractors and isn’t even particularly kind to the legions of fans that try to decipher meaning from the metaphors by being even more confusing. For this reason it is a difficult film to rate, is it good because it gives the fans what they desire or is it bad because it missed a fantastic opportunity to recruit a new audience? It is a very rare anime film that can simultaneously excite one group and further infuriate another.
Final Score: 8.5
Saturday, February 2, 2008
Sorry for the long delay guys, but at long last here’s a review of the last El-Hazard series. While not the chronologically, in that universe or ours, final addition to the universe I chose to view The Wanderers last because it is completely unconnected to the other OVAs. To put it simply El Hazard: The Wanderers is a retelling of the original OVA. At first the differences seem minor but as the twenty-six episodes (more then all the other El-Hazard OVAs combined) roll along the slight discrepancies widen to drastically change the final half of the storyline. But with that being said The Wanderers is still just another regurgitation of the formula that made the original such a charming success, though it does come much closer to matching its predecessor then the other sequels.
The story begins with our hero Makoto building a machine and subsequently being transported to the world of El-Hazard thanks to damage done to it during a fight with his rival Jinnai. Those two along with Jinnai’s sister Nanami and their history teacher Mr. Fujisawa will have an important part to play during a pivotal time in El-Hazard’s history.
The differences between The Wanderers and the original OVA are noticeable almost from the beginning. Makoto’s method of dimensional transportation is not the same and upon his arrival he immediately runs into the Princess Rune. The most jarring difference for fans of the original OVA will be the fact that Rune does not in fact have a sister this time around. In the first series Makoto’s striking similarity to the second princess drove a good chunk of the story along but The Wanderers tosses this ideas aside and replaces cross-dressing hijinx with a more conventional journey with an epic feel. The three priestesses are also introduced more gradually and fans may struggle with the slow start when the other OVAs thrust them right into the thick of things immediately. The writing adjusts appropriately for the fact that a four-episode story is being retold with six times the length and oddly enough nothing feels too stretched or forced.
The twenty-six episode run is interesting to note because it gives us an opportunity to see the strengths and weaknesses of storytelling in comparison to the original’s shorter run. In many ways The Wanderers is a fantastic example of the traps shows tend to fall into when running twenty-plus episodes but it also flaunts things that would have been impossible to pull off in a four episode run. Character development is dramatically improved in The Wanderers, while the first three OVAs featured a decent bit all things considered they never had the luxury to push and pull the heroes in villains in different directions. Motivations are no longer always clear-cut and many of the heroes are more three-dimensional. On the flip-side at times you feel as though the show should be moving along but it lingers too long, this is especially irritating having seen the original OVA. When you know what’s coming next, however roughly, it can be difficult to listen to a seemingly pointless conversation between characters that won’t even be involved in the plot shortly.
The production values in The Wanderers are perhaps the best in the franchise, which is surprising considering this it the longest entry. The score is more similar to the first OVA’s catchy synthesized sound then the epic feel of The Alternative World and it’s nice to hear some of the better tunes be revisited during key moments. The animation is crisp and clean throughout, there are no noticeable peaks or dips in quality giving The Wanderers a visual consistency the original lacked. The original voice cast is back for a fourth time, thankfully, and they once again deliver a quality, believable dub that more then does the job.
While El-Hazard the Wanderers is just a lengthy retelling of the original OVA it’s still worth a look especially for fans of the universe. While it doesn’t quite match the charm of its predecessor and can’t be considered superior it’s interesting to see the differences that twenty-six episodes bring. After watching all four entries in the El-Hazard saga consecutively it’s tough to get too excited for yet another entry with the same dimension-hopping-ancient-weapon-peril but there is fun to be had here and The Wanderers is actually nearly as good of an entry point to the universe as the first OVA.
Final Score: 8.1
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Sorry for the all the downtime folks , I've been out of my routine for the last couple of weeks because of the new semester just starting. But the transition period, that wacky time when I'm not sure when I can eat without referring to my class schedule and vary between too much and too little sleep, is just about over. So expect the weekly updates to start again this Friday and continue to be posted every Friday after that.
In the meantime I've been trying to figure out what new anime I should be looking forward to in 2008. I know I'll definitely be picking up Rebuild of Evangelion whenever that hits, if only to see what changes have been made, but beyond that I'm drawing a blank. So what shows are you guys anticipating this year?