Evangelion Shin Gekijouban: Q

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“You Can (Not) Redo”

When I posted my thoughts about Eva Q after seeing it raw in a Japanese theater last December, I opened with “What the heck did I just see?”  After seeing the movie subtitled, I have two further thoughts on that.  First, I sure as hell don’t blame myself for asking that question.  And second, seeing it subbed doesn’t come remotely close to answering the question for me.

I’ll leave it to others to dissect the minutiae of the plot, because many of them are better at it than I would be and frankly, that was never the part of Evangelion that primarily interested me anyway.  As I’ve said in prior posts on the franchise, NGE was really the anime that made me an anime fan.  It was the series that opened my mind to the possibilities of what anime could be, and what it could tell us about the human condition.  It was the psychological side of Eva I loved, the character deconstruction, and for my money it remains the most important anime of all-time.

Having now seen “Redo” subbed, I’m surprised at how little my overall impression of it has changed.  I still find it to be too loud, too confused, too busy and almost entirely lacking in personal connection.  I still find Mari to be irritating to the point of unwatchability.  I still marvel at the animation and art, which despite the Studio Khara label is still the first thing I’ve seen that really looks like Gainax since Eva 2.0.  And I still find myself wondering, more than ever in fact, about the question which I think is at the core of the Rebuild experience: was it really necessary?

If my standards for NGE are too high it’s only because, as I said, it holds a singular place in my anime development.  So perhaps that question is really too high a bar to hold Anno Hideaki to, but even if it’s not fair it’s how I feel.  I said in my review of the second Rebuild film that I don’t consider the original Eva to be a sacred text, and given that not only did Anno-sensei create the series he clearly poured his entire being into it (to the point of a nervous breakdown, in fact) so if he chooses to retell his story, he has every right.  He’s already done so once, of course, with the End of Evangelion movies.  I have strong feelings on those – I vastly prefer the TV ending, and it remains the most honest and poetic conclusion for me.  I feel as if those movies were made for the wrong reasons, and in some sense perhaps I was hoping the Rebuild films would act as a sort of “righting the ship” by Anno.  And the chance to see how a middle-aged Anno would see Ikari Shinji differently than the angry young man who created the character based on himself was a fascinating prospect.

I found the first two movies to have many worthwhile qualities, but the Rebuild series has been a good example of the Butterfly Effect in action.  The first movie had only small changes, and felt a lot like watching the first 20 episodes of the TV series re-told with a huge budget.  The second (for my money the best of the three so far) veered much farther away from canon, but retained a coherent and cohesive narrative, and in fact in some ways made changes that I felt improved on the original.  First and foremost, Shinji was a much more forceful presence (much more, in fact, like the character in the manga adaption – which is arguably just as canon as the TV series, as it actually started running before the TV series aired – by the “other” Godfather of Eva, Sadamoto Yoshiyuki) and Rei was possessed of far more recognizably human emotions.

If I were to try and describe where I think “Redo” went off-track in as few words as possible, I would say that it seems to have forgotten that Evangelion is first and foremost a human story.  But frankly, the narrative overall is quite a mess.  14 years have passed since the end of “You Can (Not) Advance” – though we get no explanation of that until well into the movie, and in fact much of it is spent leaving the audience to try and figure out just what the heck is going on.  If any of the scenes in the preview from the end of 2.0 made it into this film, I can’t remember them – whether that means Anno’s ideas changed completely from the time 2.0 was finished, I don’t know – but there’s a scattershot, improvised quality to “Redo” that more than anything left me exhausted.  The film feels like a non-stop string of big set-pieces with a pounding soundtrack that never ceases – indeed, the only respite being the extended sequence in the middle of the movie where Shinji bonds with Kaworu as they play duets on a product-placement Yamaha piano.

As for the cast, well – this being Evangelion and merchandising being what it is, we have to have a “Curse of Eva” that keeps the pilots from aging (I’ll give Anno the benefit of the doubt and call this an inside joke).  Shinji has been holed up inside EVA-01’s plug suit and has no memory of that time.  The new and improved Asuka – half the eyesight, twice the tsun – has a much larger role to play in this film than in the second.  Mari is, regrettably, integral to pretty much every major action scene and just as insufferable and incongruous as ever.  This time around it’s Rei who takes on the role of NGE stalwart largely forgotten in the script – she’s rarely on-screen, and completely lacking in personality when she is.

And what of Shinji?  The irony here is that Shinji has indeed become a much more decisive and forceful person – and the results for humankind have been disastrous.  3.33 is pretty much a litany of everyone except Kaworu and Futsuyuki treating Shinji even more like shit than usual, including Misato.  Shinji was apparently the cause of the Third Impact, and thus reviled by the survivors – including everyone in Misato’s new organization, WILLE, formed to do battle with Gendo and NERV and stop the Fourth Impact from happening at any cost, with the bio-ship Wunder at the heart of the struggle.  Apparently that includes even Misato treating Shinji like he willfully caused the disaster and fitting him with a collar designed to give her the power to blow him up should he ever decide to pilot an EVA again.  I can hardly blame Shinji for going with Rei (in her latest clone form) when she shows up to rescue him – I would have too, in his shoes.

In this sense, at least, “Redo” has a thematic consistency with Eva canon – Shinji is still eternally a tool of those around him, and yearns to assert some control over his life.  He’s so desperate for some human kindness that it’s inevitable that he’s swept up in Kaworu’s wake after the latter treats him with consideration and respect.  The ending of the film is really just as much a muddle as the rest of it – you can make your own interpretations, but what’s undeniable is that Shinji acted rather than hesitating, and seemingly nearly caused the Fourth Impact in the process.  The cumulative effect of everything that happens is that I end up not really caring which side wins in the end.  That never, ever happened in the TV version, where – depressing as it was – there was always a sense that there were at least some decent people trying to do the right thing.  Rebuild has turned that into a tangle of interests pursuing their own selfish goals, with no real incentive to hope anyone succeeds.  Even if Misato and her crew are trying to save humankind, she’s such an unrepentant bitch (and so is Asuka, frankly) that I can’t bring myself to feel anything for their cause.

At this point I can’t even begin to speculate what the fourth and theoretically final film will hold, or even when it might be released.  There are preview scenes at the end of 3.33 but given what happened with the preview at the end of 2.0, there’s no reason to suspect any of them will have any relation to what’s actually in the final film.  And hearing Mitsuishi Kotono as Misato deliver the preview narration in the “Sabisu, Sabisu!” style of the TV series, rather than being nostalgic, feels grotesque – because it serves as a reminder of all that’s missing from “Redo”.  There’s no humor, no warmth, almost no personal connection at all – it’s no more like the Evangelion of those days than Misato is like the Katsuragi we came to know.  This is Anno Hideaki’s story, and he has every right to re-tell it however he likes – but I sincerely hope that the final Rebuild film will offer both a spiritual connection to the original series, and a compelling reason – apart from commercial ones – for why this new series of films was necessary.

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Preview (For What it’s Worth):

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12 comments

  1. i

    NGE has effectively gone from being the Departed to Bad Boys is how I see it. Part 2 in retrospect was the best but even that pales to ep 7-20 of the TV series.

    I didn't really understand End of Evangelion and the ep 25-26 was even more nonsensical to me so I really did hope to 'get' NGE better through the rebuild series but as you say Hideki Anno is not the one who created this series. I'll have to trawl through literally kilobytes of text to understand NGE's final statement.

  2. A

    Actually, Ishruns, Anno is the creator of the series. He suffered some sort of psychological trauma, and the TV series was a way of sublimating that experience, and he ended up with a masterpiece. However, he could not complete his original vision, because the studio supposedly ran out of money before they could complete the final two episodes.

    Hence the Death & Rebirth, and the End of Evangelion films.

    As for the Rebuild of Evangelion, after seeing all three films, I have to buy in the theory that it is actually a continuation of the End of Evangelion as Shinji tries to reset everything.

    Note the final image of EoE and the first image of Evangelion 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone – they are similar. Other clues such as Kaworu's mysterious references to a past event led me to the possibility that Anno is trying to reset the entire franchise with the Rebuild series.

    As for Evangelion 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo, I found it a visual delight, but also rather disappointing in the sudden lurch from the previous film to a grimdark future where NOBODY explains Shinji anything, until he joins the other camp and it's too late as they fall prey to their machinations.

    *** SPOILER ****
    I couldn't figure out why all of sudden Shinji grows a pair, develops instant determination to pull the spears that he didn’t have just a few minutes ago. Plus, after he compliments Karowu on knowing everything, he ignores his condition (illness) and express orders in some desperate desire to … what? Fix everything?

    Once Kaworu balks at seeing that both spears are the same, he tells Shinji to stop, that they’re aren’t the “droids they’re looking for.” Shinji just replies selfishly and naively that they should just go ahead and pull the spears anyway, that’s why he got in the Eva.

    The incongruency is that Shinji praised Kaworu for knowing everything, that he informs him of the original mission. Despite that, despite everyone telling him not to pull the spears that he didn’t even know about a while ago, he goes GARR and cuts the controls from Kaworu.

    Enter Fourth Impact.

    I eagerly look forward to the final film, but I don’t have much faith in Anno to provide much way of answers this film raised, much less a closure to the series.

    I have the same expectations as Enzo does, since Evangelion is probably the greatest piece of fiction I've ever seen, and they are too high in the first place. Then again, Evangelion 2.22 was probably the best of the lot.

  3. l

    This 3rd movie is, without any doubt, a narrative mess and throws too many questions with few if any answers. It works in a certain fashion because the movie is trying to show the situation in the eyes of Shinji – disoriented and uninformed from his 14-year slumber. Together with him, we are thrown for a loop. Those close to him are either gone or hostile to him. The only person who seemed to offer him a hand was Kaworu, a new acquaintance for him.

    For a 14 year old kid who has lived his life like Shinji, with low self esteem, being usually ignored, and used as a tool for purposes beyond his understanding, I would expect most would find their head spinning by the turns of events shown. Thus, in this movie, he didn't act or behave outside of what made him this way. What he has left of his confidence is with piloting an Eva. Piloting one gives his confidence that he can do things. Remember that he got praised in the second movie for his piloting of an Eva unit? Conversely, outside of it and without it, he has nothing much left of his life. Hence, he did what he did when he was back within in an Eva unit, took action in the fervent belief of wanting to fix the situation – thus, the moive title – "You Can(Not) Redo", and rashly initiated the Fourth Impact which had Gendo setting it up the scene for it.

    With respect to Kaworu, I thought this was a a nicer interpretation of him compared to the TV series. His cryptic utterings in this series of movies hint at the possible loop of events since the TV series. He is less goal oriented and more compassionate and respectful of Shinji. He must also be like a buddha in the context that in each of incarnations living through all this loop of events and having himself knowingly killed off in gruesome ways as an acceptance of his fate in all these loops. Imagine having to live through all that. One can go mad but he seems to take it all in stride by accepting it.

    I like to spare a thought for Misato. She is the stern commander of Wille in light of what its purpose is, i.e. to stop Nerv and all manifestations of the Angels. While she is angry and brusque with Shinji for inadvertantly starting Third Impact, she still has a soft spot deep within for him. Otherwise, the movie would have ended well within the first hour. She could not bring himself to press the trigger to kill him when he was spirited away by Rei v2.

    As to the rest, there's not much change. Asuka is still all emotions and with more anger and rage now to get things done. Probably because she nothing much else and thus pouring it all into the one things she is really good at and can make a difference/ Mari knows more than she lets on and going with the flow of things. Gendo is still hellbent on reuniting with his wife and using all means to justify his ends. Fuyutsuki still with Gendo because of his own longing and support of Yui. Rei, well.. this is Rei v2, a new container. Is the same soul within? Will only know more in the next movie.

    The "Curse of Eva" of beng locked in the same age is, in my view, firstly a reflection of needing them to be in that age because the world mechanics requires pilots of Eva units need to be in their early to mid-teens and secondly but no less influential, a commercial decision due to merchandise featuring the Eva pilots at that age group, i.e. Asuka, Rei, Shinji, Kaworu, and now Mari, are very popular and bring in the dough. As to whether it is an inside joke, I can't say for sure but it is something they backed themselves into a corner because of the first reason.

    Heck, this whole movie seems to indicate that they have done so with the whole narrative. Will they get themselves out of this mess in the next movie as the solution to the narrative shown here? That's the only reason I will stay with it to watch the conclusion. If not for that, I would have thrown in the towel and leave this series of Eva movies which seemed destined for something really good as a result of the 2nd movie but for now, I can't see where this is all heading.

  4. Z

    I see they scrapped the Shinji dating-sim idea from 2.0.

    Hey let's swing those angels round the Wunder merry-go-round wheeee~!
    Like 2.22, many of the realistic constraints like budget and manpower seem to have gone out the window. Now they can pretty much build any conveniently placed Eva marathon wall, super weapon etc, that they want. Remember how the repairs for a single Eva-unit in the TV series were enough to bankrupt an entire country? Also what is the deal with rabid dog mode Eva? Stop trying to be Gurren Lagaan!

    The best parts of this film are definitely Kaworu explaining the situation to the poor boy, and Fuyutsuki having the conscience to finally tell Shinji what his father is really doing.

    If you find these films a narrative mess it's because there is no unifying plan. I think we can all drop the pretense that this all actually means something and that they aren't just making stuff up as they go along.

  5. M

    Heh, Gurrengelion.

    Look, Anno can be charming but he's pulled a fast one on you if you think he's doing this movie series for any nobler goal other than to milk you. He's somehow convinced most of you that 2.0 was a very good movie and some improvement on the original series…

    Evangelion was largely about character psychology in relation to the generational inheritance of greed bestowed upon these tragic children. Shinji even in the anime was always striving for the acceptance and approval of his elders, but nothing was ever enough and he snapped under the weight of that disappointment. EoE did a terrific, if slightly provoked, job of illustrating the consequences of this selfishness. We like to kid ourselves that EoE was a ruse but it fits with the TV show’s psychology unashamedly.

    "First and foremost, Shinji was a much more forceful presence (much more, in fact, like the character in the manga adaption – which is arguably just as canon as the TV series, as it actually started running before the TV series aired – by the "other" Godfather of Eva, Sadamoto Yoshiyuki)" Incorrect. Sadamoto stated that he drew his ideas from the original script of the already in production TV anime. He just released a few volumes before it went to air.

    2.0 can be remembered as the film that planted the cancerous seeds into this re-mode. Decisions to make classic characters like Asuka and Rei into embodiments of their founding tropes were more mandatory than a creating a well structured and thematically powerful film. Not only do we suffer convenient changes to characters personalities but we have an accumulation of them in the form of “Mari-sue”. She embodies the dreams of fans who loved eva for its unrelenting severity and serial action. She along with the modernized tweaks made in 2.0 serve no thematic purpose to the grander retelling of this story I’m afraid. Greater characters such as Toji, Kensuke and Hikaru – who were a human link to the impact of NERV – have largely been written out in favor of idealized simplifications. Think –was it necessary to replace Asuka with Toji in Unit 03 – Toji’s decision to pilot 03 results in a loss of limb in the anime, and tragic death in the manga – only to have her trivially survive with an eyepatch accessory to boot? How insulting. 'Bossuka' could have simply lost her eye whilst fighting Zurel in Mari’s stead. Unnecessary and miscalculated is how I would describe 2.0, a sentiment which describes the spirit of Rebuild. Consequence has ironically been removed from the equation – which clearly highlights the intent of Anno’s changes.

    Finally to get to my point about 3.0:
    Disregarding Rebuild at this stage as a legitimate piece in the mythos of Evangelion is largely encouraged to be able to enjoy it. Anno unsurprisingly scrapped the original 3.0 script halfway through and rewrote it. So yes, he's making it all up as he goes along which says a lot about his grander intentions I'd think. 3.0 is preposterous fun if you take it at the face value Anno has presented it. The eye burning CG is much the same but on the technical side it is better structured, shot and musically inspired compared to 1.0 and 2.0. Perhaps that can be largely attributed to Mahiro Maeda’s involvement this time round? A shame then that discernible writing and integrity of ideas were left on the cutting room floor.

  6. s

    As psychologically intriguing as the original series was, at times the story telling was a mess and the psychological moments lost cohesiveness just for the sake of being awkward and trippy. I think a major part of the appeal of the original series was how even though it was messy at times, the impact it had on the viewer was monumental. For all those who stated that Asuka's character was ruined in 2.22, I have to fully disagree because in the original NGE, Asuka played the role of the average Tsundere character until about 2/3 of the way through the series when we finally started seeing the darker facets of her mind. At the point of 2.22, we still had two more movies and enough time to see how her character would be handled past what we had seen in that movie. I dont think it was fair for people to start attacking Asuka's character development; it's not like the rebuild series was done yet so you cant make an accurate comparison of her character with the way she was handled in the old series which was already complete. I do admit that her character went through some changes pretty quickly in 2.22 but they werent super drastic and out of character and overall her development had worked in the context of the story. I think what the writers were going for with Asuka in the rebuild was to transform her from a bratty self-indulgent child to a girl who has become confident in herself by realizing that she is human and therefore makes mistakes (though arguably because of 3.33, that didnt end up being portrayed well; thought they did make her character stronger..but again, with the poor character writing, there wasnt any impact).

    In many ways, 2.22 handled things better than its tv counterpart. Rei was given more of a personality despite her stoic presence and Shinji's transformation from this meek whiny kid into someone willing to risk everything to save a life was pretty good. 2.22 had great moments and a part of me feels like if Anno had kept his original screenplay for 3.33 aka the one we saw in the preview at the end of 2.22 then we would have got an awesome 3.33 (i am aware that this is very debatable) and the character developments in 2.22 would have paid off handsomely.; it even looked liked we might had seen a return of the psychoanalysis moments that made the original series special (we got a small glimpse of that in 2.22) had anno stuck with his original screenplay.

  7. M

    Again, I think fans place their idealism all over the characters of Evangelion – as if the changes made the characters are more comforting? They're messed up for a reason as they represent the themes of the story.

    Asuka was part of a chain of characters who are considered prototypes of the Tsun trope, they only rammed that up in 2.0 by making her a more self-assured bitch ("I'm okay with how I treat others Misato!")instead of the girl who built aggressive AT walls to protect her major insecurities. But really she had every right to wear that personality because of the repercussions of her childhood explained in that harrowing back story with her mentally ill mother. Her self imposed pride and ambition to be the best in conjunction with these personal flaws become her undoing instead of some silly Unit 3 angel redux. 2.0 shortchanged on all of this character building. I don't blame them for hastening development but it doesn't go anywhere since she's effectively written out half way through.

    In the anime, Rei II underwent a substantial human transformation – but her origins as clone make her stoic quality a reasonable jumping point. What annoyed me about 2.0 is that they channeled her assertive behaviorism into fulfilling another role in Shinji's harem.

    I don't disagree that it could have been interesting to see where these modernizations could have gone in the later films – I don't think it could possibly done anything to change my gripes but I guess that's redundant now.

  8. M

    As a side note, the changes to Shinji's character didn't play all that well into 3.0. The only difference from EoE is that he's willing to take action, but even then stuffs up majorly. I feel for the guy and don't ever begrudge him for his realistic personality flaws from the original series. So much of who he is is brought about by his lack of receptiveness from others.

  9. s

    while i didnt think 3.33 was bad per se, it was a step in the wrong direction; and not because it got more depressing than its other two predecessors. I actually wanted this third movie to delve into darker territory, but the overall problem with this movie is that the fundamental characterization is completely absent and the story-telling was executed poorly. In short, the movie was too ambitious for its runtime. Ive said this many times before when talking about this movie and just the future of anime movies in general and ill say it again; this movie would have benefited from a longer runtime. An extra hour at the most to flesh out the world our characters exist in now as well as who they have become so that the movie could have had more of an impact. 3.33 was a chance to take the rebuild series to a whole new level and a longer runtime to flesh out its story definitely would have helped in taking it to that level. I still enjoyed 3.33 but i would be lying if i said i wasnt a bit disappointed. The only way i see the rebuild series recovering from 3.33 is if they split the last movie into two parts as to give the story the fleshing it needs (cuz i fear that the last movie is going to rush through a lot of crap if its only one part and that wont be nooooooooo gooooooood)

  10. f

    The problem with 3.33 is that it it took everything people liked about 2.22 and threw it out the window.

    In 2.22, Rei stops being a doll. In 3.33, Rei is even less of a character than Rei III from NGE.

    In 2.22, Asuka grows up a bit and starts seeing other people as human beings. In 3.33, she won't even give Shinji the time of day.

    In 2.22, Shinji grows a pair and generally becomes an admirable main character. In 3.33, he fails at everything.

    In 2.22, Mari was a mysterious new character that was able to do exciting things no one else could do. In 3.33, we realize that there was never any mystery and that she is utterly pointless.

    It's obvious that this is the point of the movie, especially what happens to Shinji. It's obvious that 2.22 was supposed to be some kind of magnificent troll, where the characters all went beyond the NGE versions of themselves, and in a believable way that did justice to fans of the original series, but then 3.33 would break Shinji so hard that at the end of it, he'd be worse off than he ever was in the TV series. And you know what? It could have worked.

    But this movie had no emotion in it. The story was so bizarre, and the characterization so lacking, that I just couldn't connect with the cast. Even the relationship between Shinji and Kaworu didn't mean much to me, and NGE Episode 24 is probably my favorite episode of any anime ever. It just felt like an AU fanfic of some sort, so hard was it for me to believe that this was actually Eva.

    Yet, Eva fan that I am, I must admit that I eagerly await the fourth movie, if only to see just how they're going to make this thing work in the end. Bring it on, Anno-san: I know you're capable of great things, so please make Rebuild something that will be worth remembering.

  11. h

    Odd. I came away with the feeling Rebuild now needs a rebuild.

    After all, it's hard to build much of anything if you can't get the foundation right.

  12. J

    Some people are saying the original show was messy. I disagree, the plot was very tight and the use of subtext to suggest and clue in the viewers to what was going was extremely good compared to other anime. I think the real problems for the rebuild are 1) the original didn't need retelling 2) the movies are to short to tell the story effectively 3) This version seems more concerned with special effects and merchandising than telling an effective story.

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