Neon Genesis Evangelion
Massively influential 90s anime series about a boy piloting large robots to fight monsters referred to as angels. Generally considered one of the great artistic accomplishments of anime and... well, sure, I guess it was pretty good. It took it a while to get there, though. Evangelion starts off fairly formulaic, there's this kid called Shinji more or less forced to pilot a mech for an organization headed by his estranged father to fight Kaiju that seem to attack in fairly regular intervals. Even early on, Evangelion deserves quite a bit of credit for its strong characterizations, Shinji especially presents a fairly believable interpretation of the "teenage hero" that's so popular in both eastern and western pop culture, but the supporting cast, except for Asuka, is very compelling too and only gets moreso the more we find out about them. But no, seriously, even once the show actually gets around to Asuka's obligatory tragic backstory, her characterization as a two dimensional abrasive ***** is just so over the top that it's hard to have sympathy with her, even then.
As I already mentioned, the series is fairly backloaded when it comes to its more artistic ambitions and... well, they mostly pay off. Mostly. While I still don't think the gratuitous references to judeo-christian mythology amount to much, the more psychological aspect of its conclusion are suprisingly well realized and, as a person suffering from very intense self loathing, did manage to hit home for me. That's really what keeps the series afloat, once the series starts to indulge more in its big, operatic, 2001: A Space Odyssey navel gazing, not gonna lie, it kinda lost me. I could follow it just fine, I could also understand just fine how it relates to the psychological themes but sometimes less is more. The series was as its best when it was focussing on its broken characters, their very nuanced relationships and personal histories, the big action setpieces, while visually impressive and often employing very unique and memorable iconography, seemed in many ways more like a framing device to provide context for these characters personal traumas. Which is while I was very happy that the final two episodes, while very abstract, showed a surprising degree of taste and restraint when it comes to providing some closure for these people. Looking at it from a more meta perspective, I understand the reason for the finale being the way is was had to do with budget constraints, but I think those worked out in its favour. Focussing on internal, rather than external struggles, which really had been at the core of the series, was a rather wise decision and winding down with Shinji resolving his personal issues after the last angel had been defeated was much more satisfying than any big, bloated action climax would have been.
So I'm very happy they left it at that and didn't try to ruin a perfectly good, if somewhat low key, ending that provided some personal resolution with 90 minutes of pointless spectacle and indulgently "artsy" visuals that add very little to the series themes aside from doubling down on all the goofy operatics and aimless "lore" that dragged down the series. Boy. That would have been a really silly thing to do.