"But replacing it with a big, black box that basically replaces lots and lots of core functionality with its own ridiculous idea of a service in so many areas (DNS, etc.) just destroyed the concept for me."
Indeed. Systemd is entirely Windowsesque. Here's a tiny example from this morning. The command to list services in Ubuntu 14 is "sudo systemctl list-unit-files". Having a long output, you can pipe that in to "more", "less" or your preferred pager, as is the unix norm.
However, like a suspicious friend, systemctl is unhappy that you might be using another tool without talking to it first. So it gets involved. It does the terminal paging. Yes, there is, right there at the bottom of the systemctl man page. Systemd actually contains code to page user terminals. Only by invoking a third party pager, mind you, but there it is nontheless, systemd sticking its nose into the shell's business, to no advantage whatsoever. An annoyance, but also a small demonstration of the design which so many object to, and for sound reasons.