The End of Evangelion
It can be challenging, at times, to review a CD soundtrack. Sometimes the music is so inexorably linked to the accompanying images of the show in motion that is loses its steam when heard alone. The music might be perfect for the film, but not really worth listening to on its own. However, the memories of Evangelion are quite clear in my own mind, and the music can't help but reawaken the feelings that I experienced while watching the final movie - The End of Evangelion. Regardless of the album's connection to one of the most popular anime series of all time, it also boasts some outstanding music - both classical and newly composed - worthy of purchase to anyone who enjoys complex instrumentals. The two English-language songs on the disc are merely icing on the cake, though admittedly they're the reason I bought this release in the first place.
Once again, before we get started, I'd like to shout out to Geneon for single-handledly flooding us with quality domestic releases of some of the best anime soundtracks of all time. This disc's authenticity is as outstanding as the price point (a mere $14.99), and fans of anime music should support these releases so that we can be sure they'll keep on coming. Thank you, Geneon!
The CD starts off excitingly enough, with the dramatic, yet brief "Interference of Others" and "The End of Midsummer". With an intense string session driving as hard as the electric guitars in the background, you can tell that big things are going down in the world of Eva just by listening to the music. While I'm assuming that everyone who is interested in this CD has already seen The End of Evangelion a bajillion times (or at least twice), I'm going to refrain from spoiling it for those who have not.
We're given a stress break with "Emergency Evacuation to Regression", the third track on the album, which is filled with choir-like chanting. It's a good buildup to the next song on the disc, "False Regeneration", which I believe is Asuka's big moment in the movie, if memory serves me correctly. It's a rousing orchestral piece that would make great alarm clock music since it really makes me want to thrash around, but in an excited way, not in a seizure-like manner.
Track 5, "Substitute Invasion" is a more subdued piece, with nothing more than a piano and a simple bass line to proclaim the Evangelion blues. The tune is sad, but despite the melancholy mood it generates, it contains a hint of moving on, of wrapping things up, and in the end it isn't as dire as it could be, considering the situation in the film.
Eva wouldn't be Eva without the occasional classical music (which works tremendously well in science fiction stories - just look at 2001: A Space Odyssey), and the next track is our good friend J.S. Bach's "II Air [Orchestral Suite No.3 in D major, BMV. 1068]". At least he's my friend.
We're treated to somewhat of a review of Evangelion themes with "The Passage of Emptiness", though the song contains more new material than recycled tunes. As one of the longer tracks on the disc, track 7 starts off with a simple piano lead, and then builds in complexity and intensity.
"Thanatos - If I Can't be Yours" is an emotional, jazzy tune with English lyrics (included in the booklet) that helps to set up the music for the world-blowing events of the conclusion of the Evangelion story. It's quite listenable if you like J-Pop or Jazz, and it's also one of the reasons that I sought this disc out for purchase.
Track 9, "Escape to the Beginning" treats us to more chanting as the primordial ooze hits the cosmic fan in the film. It would also work well in an educational science film. I'm not sure if I'd put it on one of my favorite car MD mixes, but it works tremendously in the movie, and it'd be a shame to exclude it on the CD just because we can't necessarily rock out to it. If you can rock out to it, more power to you.
As we approach the final few tracks on the CD (the end of End of Evangelion, if you will), we arrive at the brief "Honeymoon With Anxiety", which summarizes Shinji's entire personality. You'd think with all of those cute women around him, he'd eventually chill out and become a normal person, even if his dad is a jerk. I mean, he even had a penguin living with him. How cool is that? A penguin? Sure, it probably smelled, but at least the musk masked the stale beer smell Ritsuko undoubtedly radiated. She was, of course, attractive enough for any non-blind male to overlook the beer thing, but she really had a problem.
I guess that's something she doesn't have to worry about anymore, at least.
Where was I? Right. Track 11 is, quite possibly, the best song ever in any movie I've ever seen. "Komm, susser Tod / Come Sweet Death" is unabashedly corny, and (ironically) aurally saccharine, but it was so incredibly perfect in the movie that it made me cry. After all the stuff viewers were pummeled with over the psychological minefield that is Evangelion, it provided such a feeling of catharsis or relief that song was just what I needed to hear to let everything just...fade away. And it felt so good.
"Come Sweet Death" is in English, and while the lyrics are a little morbid ("So with sadness in my heart / (I) feel the best thing I could do / is end it all / and leave forever / ... / what once was happy now is sad / I'll never love again / my world is ending."), it has a very cheerful melody. The brilliance of the song is that it was so out of place, so unexpected, and so catchy, that it made the ending scenes palatable, despite their mind-pummeling finality.
The catchy pop song that plays companion to the infamous "melting" scene is followed, as can be expected, by another classical tune. "Jesus bleibet meine Freude / Jesus, Joy of Man's Desiring" is a wonderful piece to play after the events that transpire during "Come Sweet Death". After that, most of us probably did think, "JESUS." Though it seems that fans are polarized between "Jesus! That was great!" and "Jesus. That was crap!" We can all agree, however, that "Jesus! That was crazy!" Crazy like only GAINAX can pull off.
"Expansion of Blockade" is the second to last track on the album, and one of the more impressive original instrumental tunes we're granted on this soundtrack. It's thrilling, with pounding drums and blazing trumpets, and again, it matches the events of the movie perfectly. Hearing this music will get you thinking about Evangelion all over again, so be forewarned. Some of us like living in a world we can understand, and tossing Eva into the mix just throws everything off.
The closing track on this soundtrack is the calm, soothing piano piece, "Opening of Dream". There are no pulse-jittering drums, no trumpets heralding the end of reality, and no angelic voices chanting in the foreground. It's simply a nice, quiet, contemplative end to a series that, love it or hate it, demands you to think. And for once, the creators of the show give us a track and a time when we're able to do just that. Of course, ten years later, hoards of fans are still thinking about Eva, and I have a feeling we're not going to stop anytime soon.
This is an excellent soundtrack to one of my favorite series, and even if it's not yours, it's an undeniably influential show, at the very least. Fans of Evangelion will naturally appreciate this far more than its detractors. While the quality of the music contained within is considerable, half of the fun of hearing the music is reminiscing on what was going on in the movie as the compositions play in your CD player. "Come Sweet Death" was the driving force behind my purchase of the disc, but any Eva fan will do all right by adding this to his or her collection. With all of the random Eva stuff out there, this is actually one of the more understandable purchases. That, and the Ayanami Rei-sing Project on the Dreamcast.
Mmm. Ayanami Rei.