Anime Review #65: Rebuild Of Evangelion 3.0

Last week, I reviewed the first two (well, technically, only the second one, since the first was nothing more than a rehash of sorts) films of the now-concluded Rebuild of Evangelion series. I commented how, despite flaws like cutting out some significant bits of content and watering down a few accidental aspects, it still kept the flair and likability of the original series – recognizable characters, units, Angels, and the same setting, with the inclusion of a few touches such as Toji and Kensuke’s increased screen time, toning down Misato’s lecherousness, and Kaji doing more of what Kaji does best. It felt like you were watching what appeared to be a more refined version of the series in the making, as if Hideaki Anno was living up to his promise of making Evangelion as it should have been all those years ago. AND THEN CAME THE THIRD FILM WHICH COMPLETELY SHATTERED MY PERCEPTION OF THE FRANCHISE AND TURNED IT INTO JUST ANOTHER STANDARD MECHA RIPOFF, AND THUS MAKING ME QUESTION EVERYTHING THAT I KNEW ABOUT THIS SERIES PREVIOUSLY. That’s what Rebuild of Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo set to accomplish, and if I were to write about that, I’d be giving this film a glowing review and end it there.

EVANGELION 3.0: YOU CAN (NOT) REDO

Evangelion 3.33 Drawing by The Gallery
It was at this moment that Hideaki Anno knew that he just stopped caring about the franchise as a whole

Picking up in the Anno-esque tradition, or curse if you want to call it, of delaying film releases for this series, Studio Khara completed its production of Evangelion 3.0 on 27 November 2012 – a mere 3 years and 5 months since the second film went live. What’s funny is not how the series took a full 180-degree turn from the original plotline, but rather how falsely the third film was advertised. At the end of the second film, the third film was previewed as a mini-trailer with the following material shown:

  • Unit-01 pierced with the Lance of Longinus
  • Ryoji Kaji pointing a gun at someone
  • Unit-06 descending into Terminal Dogma
  • Gendo and Fuyutsuki, his right-hand man, climbing a mountain
  • Unit-08 in a stasis-like mode

I’ll have you know that NONE OF THESE SCENES MADE IT INTO THE FINAL CUT. Apparently, no official reason has been given by the executives at Studio Khara as to why the tone of the movie was scrapped – leaving the fate of the original version of Evangelion 3.0 forever shrouded in mystery. Despite coming out in 2012, North American anime fans would receive it just a little over three years later, on the Feast of the Purification of Our Lord in 2016 – nearly twice as long of a wait as the first two films. Unlike the previous two films combined however, very little fanfare was given to herald its arrival, apart from a few short online trailers, screenings at anime conventions in Australia and the United States, and the honor of winning two animation awards.

PLOT

How everyone feels about Shinji after he, once again, backslides in personality

The story starts, “conveniently” enough, 14 years after the events of the last film. The world is covered in an apocalyptically blood-stained hue, with no human life present. We start off in space where a battleship run by WILLE, a schismatic unit branched from NERV led by Misato Katsuragi and Ritsuko Akagi, named the Wunder, attempts a rescue operation of Unit-01 with lead fighters Asuka Langley Shikinami and Mari Illustrious Makinami coordinting the mission. They successfully recover Unit-01 with the trapped Shinji Ikari within it, and recover his consciousness. He awakens to see that he’s surrounded by the company of his allies, but is quickly saddened to learn that they hate him. Misato coldly turns him away, telling him that “From now on, you won’t be doing anything” just as another Angel attack arrives, which the crew successfully takes down.

Though Shinji continues to insist on joining the fight, Ritsuko explains that his unit is no longer in service, and that, following the events of the previous film, they’ve distrusted his motives for piloting the Evangelion, and as a result installed a neck bracelet known as a DSS Choker on him – meaning that should he attempt to pilot any unit, he will die – to prevent another impact from happening. After a brief meeting with Asuka, who tries to punch him through a mirror, he is dismayed to realize that she is acting coldly towards him as the others, and even more to learn that Rei Ayanami doesn’t exist anymore, despite his involvement in saving her that fateful day. Just then, a NERV unit attacks the Wunder and whisks Shinji away, using Rei as a bogeyman for such and playing on his contempt for WILLE – despite the pleas of Sakura Suzuhara, Toji’s younger sister (who is now, ironically, working for the same people who accidentally put her in the hospital all those years ago) and the only person who doesn’t show any animosity towards him.

Rei takes him to the ruined NERV headquarters underneath what’s left of Tokyo-3, now a ruined hellhole, and reunites with his father and another pilot, Kaworu Nagisa, who in his distant fashion tells him that he’ll pilot a new Evangelion unit, Unit-13 – despite him knowing that he’ll die by doing such. He befriends the latter through participation in his piano duets, and attempts to rekindle a friendship with Rei, but is stunned to learn that, despite the initial contact, she has no memory of the Rei that Shinji was most familiar with in the beginning – as evidenced by her disdain for literature and motionless movements. Seeking answers, he at first talks to Kaworu who shows him the extent of his actions in the previous film, and how it destroyed life on Earth as he knew it; and later to Fuyutsuki (who in the original series had next to no interaction with him), who explains to him a bit about his deceased mother Yui, the truth about Rei, and Gendo’s motives to start the Human Instrumentality Project over a game of shogi – leaving Shinji in a dazed trance afterwards, questioning his reality.

With nothing left to lose after seeing what he has brought upon and heard, he agrees to pilot Unit-13 with Kaworu, under the guise of stopping Gendo’s plan from coming to vision – and in doing this, the latter removes the choker from his neck to permit this occurrence. To do this, they have to go to Central Dogma, now a skull-littered wasteland, and pull the spears of Cassius and Longinus out of a now-decaying Lilith figure. This catches the attention of WILLE, who dispatch Asuka and Mari in Unit-02 and Unit-08 respectively to try and stop him. However, Shinji obtains the spears – much to everyone, even Kaworu’s protests, and inadvertently triggers the Fourth Impact, fulfilling his father’s wishes. In order to stop the carnage, Kaworu sacrifices his life and tells Shinji to find his own place in the world, which leaves him in a near-catatonic state by the film’s end, which sees him, Asuka and Rei travel across what’s left of Tokyo-3 in search for God-knows-what.

“Even after all these years, you’re still a big baby.”
Asuka Langley Shikinami, 2029

WHAT I LIKED

  • The visuals matched the atmosphere of the film – dark, dreary, and de-motivational. The only characters we see are the main Evangelion cast members and their respective units, plus Kaworu and Sakura here and there. Putting Shinji’s near-Third Impact movements into context, and the lack of emotional output from them in knowing about the carnage, Studio Khara did a good job in emphasizing the drastic change in tone from the original series and the previous two films, which were colorful, lively, and very fun to watch.
  • One positive scene in the film is Fuyutsuki’s interaction with Shinji. It was a fun, yet somewhat morbid scene, given how they’re playing shogi, or Japanese chess in the background of a graveyard of Evangelion units. In spite of all that, it was nice that he finally got some screen time with the main character. In contrast, we only saw Fuyutsuki, Gendo and Yui’s relationship explained by proxy in episode 21, and it was Misato and Ritsuko who showed our hero the Rei clones in episode 23 to prelude the final events of the End of Evangelion.
Contrary to an unfortunate popular belief, Shinji is not romantically interested in Kaworu, as episode 24 would have you wrongly assume; and this film thankfully reduces their relationship to just being bros, that’s all.
  • Another is that Kaworu and Shinji’s friendship in this series, while still about as brief as the original, is actually deeper than how it originally goes; they’re playing piano duets together, he shows him around and gives him details about what has happened since, and most of all, he supports him all the way in his endeavors. He acts more like a friend here than the… bland, eccentric space hippie he was shown as before. It does have its flaws here and there, but at least this time around they tried to work around those holes and make it look human.
  • It was nice to see the absence of Christian symbolism in the film this time around: for example, instead of Lilith on the giant red cross it’s depicted standing up, arched back while towering over the mass of skulls lying around Central Dogma. Not that it takes away the unsettling, macabre sight before it.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

  • Where do I begin? First things first, the 14-year timeskip is troubling. Considering how literally none of the cast members change except in appearance of personality, one could have completely removed that aspect and it still wouldn’t have made a difference. Heck, I would have been willing to tolerate an 8-month jump if they wanted to go that direction, but, as Shinji calls it out when he first meets Gendo: “There’s so many questions and things I want to ask about (regarding this direction)!”
Started from the bottom (team mom), and now she’s here (team captain) and a complete jerk
  • Movie, inconsistency is thy name. In the previous film, Misato was literally cheering Shinji on to follow his dreams and rescue Rei, even if it meant starting the Third Impact. Here, she full on hates him and, in true draconian fashion, blames him as the source of all her problems – despite her actions in the previous film. I don’t get it – did opposite day come prior to the events of this film, or am I just dreaming?
  • The scene where Shinji and Kaworu play the piano seems touching and all, except for one part – he explicitly states that he doesn’t know how to play piano, yet somehow magically acquires the ability to play at a professional level just by one sitting with Kaworu. Now this logic ticked me off because I speak from experience as a pianist: it takes YEARS to master the playing of the instrument, and isn’t something that can be magically acquired within a single day’s practice. You might be telling me to give it some slack for being an anime: no, I can’t. This scene is practically a slap to the face of any pianist who has worked hard for a long time to acquire the ability to sight-read, identify the notation, learn the Italian musical terminology, and especially the music theory. Like, damn, he could surpass Mozart with his skills but instead we get this wimpy kid.
  • The battle scenes weren’t all that interesting either. Sure, the cinematography might have been nice but it was lacking in the affability of the bouts taking place. The last battle especially, was a huge shift in direction – instead of Evangelions fighting Angels, we now have Shinji’s unit fighting against Asuka and Rei’s unit fighting against Mari, while Misato’s Wunder gets in the way of things. It’s just one big cluster fight that reminds me of anime like Gundam or Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann – or just another fan war over who’s the best character. Don’t get me started with how Asuka and Mari go into “Beast Mode” as well – it’s just another cheap gimmick which adds little value to the series and only proves my point about how standard it has become.
  • Aesthetical parts aside: the major issue I have with the movie is IT DOESN’T ADVANCE THE PLOT WELL. For an episode, this might be passable since one can expect that the story will be picked up another time, but this is a movie that fans have waited three years for, and all they get is retrospective bantering about the last 14 years, more fruitcake dilemma from Shinji, him whining about wanting Rei back; all that, but the story, seems to make any semblance of progress. How exactly is Shinji activating the Fourth Impact going to affect the storyline? Where is Ryoji Kaji? Why does WILLE exist as a separate entity and what role is it trying to achieve? What’s with all the imagery of the half-baked Evangelions lying around Tokyo-3? When did humanity build all these weapons despite the seeming lack of life and resources? Questions like these would have been nice to resolve over the film’s course, but NOOOOOO other priorities had to take place. DO YOU SEE WHAT I’M DEALING WITH?

CHARACTERS

“Unsatisfying” is the best word to describe the characters from this series. I feel like somehow the third film managed to make the cast dumber than they look by depriving them of any character development. Much like how the plot is basically stuck in limbo, everyone from recurring members like Shinji, Asuka, Misato and Mari to new characters like Sakura, Toji’s younger sister, and Kaworu remain characteristically stagnant and one-dimensional as can be. The only exception to this I can think of is Rei and Fuyutsuki, in two different directions. Fuyutsuki, like in the original, has a role in exposition by telling Shinji about the truth behind the Evangelions, and his mother. In the original, this is significant because it not only explains a bit behind the character’s backstory and the origin of his sorrows, but expounds also on Gendo’s motives behind forming NERV, so that’s one way Fuyutsuki’s character gets more involved. Unfortunately, even when the series does good in one part, it comes off more as a minor improvement rather than a total revamp of any kind. Rei, somewhat understandably because she’s a clone of the one from the second film, gets downgraded to the little/no personality bot from the start of the film series, but there was something kind of unsettling about their communication with each other. It felt forced and reeked of reminders when Anno practically made her into a background character. Why they chose to repeat the same tale twice is beyond me, but it was weak how they drove Rei with a negative character development in this film.

MUSIC

Nothing too fancy or out of the ordinary in the music section, but credit needs to be given where it’s due in the sense that it perfectly captures the melancholic atmosphere that came about from the destruction on Earth. Everything about the film just spoke of the loneliness and desolation of what it feels like to be the last humans in the world after a cataclysmic event. Three exceptions, however, exist: the piano duet of Kaworu and Shinji, titled Quatre Mains (Four Hands in French), a joyous, hopeful theme which contrasted the ruins of the NERV headquarters; Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Ode To Joy during the Fourth Impact, an obvious throwback to the original events of episode 24; and Sakura Nagashi (Washing Away Cherry Blossoms) by Utada Hikaru, which plays at the end credits, and just like this film it’s depressingly comforting and somberly closes things off.

A lovely piano duet which serves to make Shinji and Kaworu’s friendship closer than ever – and not in the way you’re thinking.

FAVORITES

Favorite scene: No other scene gets more chilling than the one where Kaworu shows Shinji the state of the world, and the destruction he had caused thanks to his near-Third Impact outburst. When he says “You are the cause of all this” to Shinji, it was chilling – and seeing him break down into excuses, I have to admit that part was handled well. You felt the emotion, the confusion, the sheer horror of what is transpiring before his eyes; he can’t believe what he’s seeing, and that’s the effect this scene tries to get from the audience as well.

Favorite quote: Speaking of the above scene, I’d like to reproduce the dialogue that Kaworu spoke of to highlight the gravity of how bad Shinji did it.

Kaworu: 14 years ago, Unit-01 awakened, thus opening the Doors of Guf, thus triggering the calamity that beset this. Your cohorts, the Lilin, call it the near-Third Impact… and you are the cause of all this.

Shinji: No… I was there just to save Rei, wasn’t it?

Kaworu: Perhaps. But that doesn’t change what happened.

Shinji: No… this can’t be right! Why are you showing me this? What do you expect me to do about it?

Kaworu: Nothing – what’s past is past, it can’t be changed. But that’s the truth you wanted to know.

Kaworu exposes the consequences of Shinji’s actions in pseudo-episode 23

CONCLUSION

In conclusion: THIS MOVIE WAS JUST AWFUL. Honestly, I can’t help but feel bad for everyone who got suckered into watching it when it was first released. Most of the comments I’ve seen basically read a lot like as if they felt Anno had recited the famous DJ Khaled line, “Congratulations, you played yourself” to them – and I can’t argue against that. Even though I watched this film long after it was released, I could see these sentiments relayed – there’s no decent characters, no cohesive, developing story, no sensible attempt to reconcile conflicting themes – pretty much Anno put lipstick on a pig, and that’s me being nice. This film represented the worst of what the Rebuild of Evangelion series had to offer; one could say, that it looked and felt like Evangelion, but lacked one thing: it’s spirit. You’d have a much better time trying to figure out the funky tidbits of End of Evangelion without a wiki to assist you than to decipher what the heck was going on in this film.

At least, there’s one more film to this quartet of films, and that’s Rebuild of Evangelion 3.0+1.0: Thrice Upon A Time. Seeing how it aims to resolve all the hindrances for this film, I can only hope that it does such – because Lord knows, we all need something to bleach ourselves from this smoking pot of fail, and make sure that you can (not) redo this mess.

SCORE: 4/10

How I feel after watching Evangelion 3.0: like my perception of reality has been altered and that everything I knew was a lie

5 thoughts on “Anime Review #65: Rebuild Of Evangelion 3.0

  1. “Shinji” had fourteen years to practice 😉 (okay, enough with the EVA conspiracies) I thought that Misato’s resentment mirrored her bitterness towards him in the conclusion of Episode 24 and into The End of Evangelion (though, there certainly is an element of lust and maternal care in her last words). The plot of 3.33 can be hard to resonate with unless you’re a KawoShin shipper. Insightful review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! It’s nice to see you around here again 😊

      I don’t recall Misato being bitter in ep24, but in EoE she was – but the way 3.0 expressed it, even if what you say is true, just seems *really* out of character. That also begs the question what happened within those 14 years that made her change into a cold personality – something which the film could have explored too but NOOOOO 😑

      Liked by 1 person

      1. At the end of Ep. 24, Misato told Shinji that those who don’t have the will to live are destined to die, while looking out at the lake that Shinji and Kaworu sat at, and Shinji replied with, “You’re so cruel, Misato.” And there was a rift between them, far from their famial bond at the start of the series. 3.33 was certainly a strange experience though, some loved it and others were very, very confused by it – from what I can recall, I remember 2.22 being a better film.

        Thank you! ☺️ Feeling a little bit more comfortable with commenting again!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You’re always welcome to comment on my posts Luna – feel free to do so anytime ☺️

        I see. I didn’t take it as bitterness, more like she was trying to comfort Shinji, albeit poorly, after what had transpired. All the more confusing though, since we couldn’t see her expressions during that time.

        You are not alone – I also think 2.0 was miles ahead better than this one! At least that one kept the Evangelion nature largely intact despite the accidentals changing. While 3.0 didn’t confuse me, it did take out too much of everything that made the original series fascinating and thought-provoking.

        Liked by 1 person

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