Fargo's Japanimation Fun Time! Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo

I Just Keep Lettin' Me Down, Lettin' Me Down, Lettin' Me Down...

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What a weird film Evangelion 3.0 is. It's not the sort of weird that manifests in the mind when the words 'weird' and 'anime' collide, but it's very hard to think of a more appropriate term. With the the third film in their Rebuild tetralogy, the direction that Gainax have taken is strange and more than a little disconcerting. Evangelion 3.0 takes place 14 years after the events of 2.0, as Shinji Ikari is being recovered from space having been sealed inside Eva 1. After arriving back on Earth, Shinji is met with hostility by his once friends and turns to Kaworu, a new Eva pilot, for companionship.

The problems with the plot - and there are many - begin with the fourteen year gap. This is a massive time frame, one so huge it's actually difficult to comprehend. There's little validity given to why it's such a huge stretch of time and while it assists the audience in relating to Shinji's newfound displacement, it's still a very uncomfortable and unnecessary addition to the story. It's made even more problematic when the lack of appropriately aged characters is given a brief, unconvincing handwave. While there's always the possibility there are plans to fill this chunk in with the fourth film, it still leaves transitioning into the events of 3.0 a much more awkward experience than it should have been.

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This steep climb into the narrative isn't helped by how uncompromisingly thick and convoluted the story as a whole ends up being. The film never hits End of Eva levels of incomprehensibility, though it borders dangerously close. While End was less a narrative piece and more a psychedelic visual tone poem, 3.0 still very much desires to tell a story and develop characters, but by the time the third act begins there are so many layers of uncompromising and undetailed story it becomes suffocating. The final reel of the film is absolutely stuffed with confusing and nonsensical plot and character development it becomes tiring and taxing. Enjoying Evangelion has always required a deal of patience and a relaxation of the logic sectors in the brain, but 3.0 pushes too hard against the boundaries. The story is, quite frankly, a complete mess.

It spurs the idea of whether or not Gainax actually know where they're taking this reboot. While 1.0 and 2.0 showed great strides in series creator Hideaki Anno's ability to craft arcs, 3.0 seems to have smothered a lot of the promise brought about by the first two films. Instead, we're given a lengthy film that doesn't contribute massively to the plot that was crafted by its prequels. Characters that showed interesting trends have had their arcs completely smashed and new lesser ones produced. Rei, who transformed into a genuinely curious character in Rebuilds past, has been brought back to the soft and aggressively bland form she took in the original series. Raising Shinji up just to smash him back to Earth has been taken to such extremes it makes you question whether he's worth the emotional investment. The heart that was tucked inside 1.0 and 2.0 seems to have been ripped out between films.

That is, with the exception of Kaworu and Shinji's relationship. Perhaps the biggest waste of potential in the original series, the homoerotic tension between Shinji and Kaworu is handled very nicely in 3.0, with enough sexual sparks between the two to make their pairing believable, but never devolving into outright eroticism. There's a subtlety and depth when the two are together, a quiet state of contemplation that was only found in the very first, potential filled episodes of Neon Genesis. They nicely reinforce Shinji's dilemma - is this a world worth living in? A world where the only thing he has to do is nothing? And of course, with a will as weak as his, he settles into this notion comfortably. For as long as he can.

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It's a thread that was found in both the original series and End of. Shinji, at his peaks of existential crisis, would rather destroy people than learn to live with them. But while in the previous incarnations of Eva, this theme was handled with hysteria at its most deafening, 3.0 takes a quieter, more sombre approach and it's genuinely refreshing. The second act, in which most of the Shinji and Kaworu scenes are found, shows what a remarkably gentle and different Eva film this could have been. But once the third act steamrolls in, even their tender relationship can't survive, as it ends on a note so horrifically misjudged it can only be described as mean-spirited and borderline hateful.

That third act really is where Eva 3.0 collapses. While Gainax's work has never looked better, with ravishing spectacle courtesy of FLCL director Kazuya Tsurumaki, the climax is a very peculiar one. It appears to be caught between two spaces. On one side, there's the audacity and depravity found in End of Evangelion, and on the other the more grounded storytelling of the Rebuild films. Caught between two things that couldn't be more different, the ending of 3.0 flounders and concludes in a truly bizarre way. Either Gainax are going to create something magical with 4.0, or it's going to be episode 25 and 26 all over again.

I can't ignore that judging 3.0 without 4.0 to conclude it is premature, but it doesn't change the fact that 3.0 is a disappointment. Evangelion 2.0 was possibly the most consistently good thing the franchise has produced, and to follow it up with a film that returns to the worst elements of the series is hugely unfortunate. It's so laden with convoluted storytelling it becomes hard to digest, and while the Shinji and Kaworu relationship is satisfying and enjoyable, the poor handling of the rest of the story leaves a great deal to be desired. The long wait for Evangelion 4.0 begins, but what was once enthusiasm has been demoted to simple hopefulness.

It sounds like you're hopping around spoilery bits you really want to talk about in this, but I get the general idea. The film has too much to say in too short a timeframe and some of the idea it presents don't work. It sounds like EVA might be falling back into old habits of throwing vast quantities of information to the audience which adds layers of incomprehensibility. I would like to see this for myself, but until Funimation gets off their arses that's not happening, so I just hope that I can enjoy it.

Kaworu was my favourite character from the show due to how mysterious and charming he was but also how he influenced Shinji as a character, so hearing that they handled the relationship well pleases me no end.

Calumon: Will Jack go really unhappy and miserable seeing this like when he watched that film on this with the giant face on the front? :S

Jack and Calumon:
It sounds like you're hopping around spoilery bits you really want to talk about in this, but I get the general idea. The film has too much to say in too short a timeframe and some of the idea it presents don't work. It sounds like EVA might be falling back into old habits of throwing vast quantities of information to the audience which adds layers of incomprehensibility. I would like to see this for myself, but until Funimation gets off their arses that's not happening, so I just hope that I can enjoy it.

I think when the film gets a release in the Western territories - so around 2034 - I'll do a second, spoilertastic review. There's little point in doing one now when I imagine most Eva fans have either read plot synopsis' online or want to know as little as humanly possible. So stay tuned! You never know, I might consider grabbing a few other Eva fans and doing a collaborative review...

But yes, your statement about old habits is accurate, in my opinion. The 'lore' of Eva is so dense and, in many ways, not very meaningful that when the plot starts to rely on the mythos it very quickly begins to come crumbling down. When just read flat out, a great deal of the information is nonsensical and Eva 3.0 doesn't give enough of a foundation to those more 'out there' concepts. It's just a mess really, and not an interesting one like the end of the show or End. Still, 4.0 may justify the existence of this one. The film doesn't devolve into pure, art house madness like the other endings the franchise has had, so there is the hope of salvation.

Calumon: Will Jack go really unhappy and miserable seeing this like when he watched that film on this with the giant face on the front? :S

Yes.

Fear him.

It's quite amazing how everything that occured in this movie could've been avoided if Misato, Ritsuko, or Asuka simply told Shinji what the fuck was going on. He was happy enough to see them all again, but then they just treat him like shit and don't bother to fill him in on anything. And yeah, that's how you deal with Shinji if you don't want him to run away, isn't it. Good job everyone, you just drove him into the enemies' hands.

The scenes between Shinji and Kaworu are great, but ultimately superfluous seeing as how the relationship was established and how it was concluded, i.e. with a nonsensical sledgehammer.

See, I didn't have any problems with the original show or EoE, because most of it was driven by the trauma and personal issues of the characters, which is what NGE was always been about. Even the final two episodes still held true to this. But when you establish a more practical setting with characters who react in more of a "I want to better myself and the world around me" kind of way, you can't just pull a twist like this out your ass without any explaination and expect me to roll with it.

I'm not a big fan of the new Rebuild movies, but this third one just wipes it's ass with what was set up in the first two.

Casual Shinji:
It's quite amazing how everything that occured in this movie could've been avoided if Misato, Ritsuko, or Asuka simply told Shinji what the fuck was going on. He was happy enough to see them all again, but then they just treat him like shit and don't bother to fill him in on anything. And yeah, that's how you deal with Shinji if you don't want him to run away, isn't it. Good job everyone, you just drove him into the enemies' hands.

to be fair, no one likes Shinji.

Evangelion and Fun Time. i am suprised the world hasnt experienced a sudden black hole ripping up on earth after writing this...

also:
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Casual Shinji:
Snip.

That's another problem I didn't tackle fully in the review, for sure. The way the characters have changed since Eva 2.0 is so very jarring and nowhere near fleshed out enough. It come,s back to this whole fourteen year gap thing, a choice that causes far too many problems in the narrative. Character motivations are barely implied, as though the audience should no exactly what happened in between movies. Things that the film barely hints at are treated like we've known about them all along. When the climax rolls around, there's a complete lack of audience comprehension because the film refuses to fill us in on these blanks. I understand the desire for it to be a Shinji focused story, and that putting the audience in that unknowing headspace is part of it, but when, towards the end, the narrative gets so thick and laden with character motivation it leaves way too much in the dark. The explanation given why everyone hates Shinji doesn't make a whole lot of sense. If characters sat down and talked for fifteen minutes then so much would get resolved.

Unlike you though, I'm very much a fan of the Rebuild movies. Well, the first two. NGE is always a show I've appreciated from a distance, never managing to get emotionally gripped by it. 1.0 and especially 2.0 felt much warmer to me, and the storyline and character development felt a less fractured and more focused. I think even the most ardent fans of the original series would have trouble arguing the story was ever focused. So it's even more disappointing to me when 3.0 is as cold, harsh and unengaging as it was. The story being built up in the first two films showed real potential for a retelling that wouldn't get lost in a sort of psychosomatic daze as the original show did. But now it seems it's falling into the exact same trap, making the narrative far too dense for its own good. But now it's even lost the saving grace of the original series, which was the psychological drama. While it was never medically accurate, was certainly interesting and ambitious.

Though the flashy visuals don't show it, the reports of troubled production do make me curious as to whether or not Gainax know what they're doing with this story. 3.0 frequently smacks of trying far too hard to be clever in its storytelling, when the crux of the series was always the inner workings of the characters. It was never about the bombast, or the mythology, or the history, or the symbolism - the franchise has always shined when it cracked open the skull of its characters and just let the audience stare. It's why End of Eva's second half has far more weight and emotion than any angel battle throughout the series.

FargoDog:
Snip.

I heard somewhere that there was an initial script which got scrapped in favor of this one. I don't know how much of that is true though.

In very broad terms I can see where they were trying to go with this movie. It's not unlike the original show. There the first half was spent building Shinji up, slowly giving him more characters to interact with. The second half was all about slowly tearing each of these relationships away from him one by one, untill he's all alone again, but with the knowledge of having lost everyone he knew. With Kaworu delivering the coup de grace.

The movie tries to pull the same thing, but in a way that completely alienates not just Shinji, but the entire audience from most of the characters we've grown to care about. Shinji is way more self confident by the end of movie 2, so throwing an obstacle like this his way could've worked if they'd actually spent time on how and why these characters behave the way they do now. Especially Misato who was egging Shinji on at the end of movie 2, to just be selfish and pursue his own happiness regardless of the consequences, but then acts like a fucking ice queen in movie 3 for no reason. Again, this could've worked if they focused more on that instead of using it as a plot device to get Shinji with Kaworu.

I still like the Rebuild movies well enough, the visuals alone see to that, it just lacks the meat and potatoes of the original show. There's also a few things that happen in the movies that niggle the fuck out of me. I won't argue the original series had a messy narrative, but that to me just seemed to coincide very well with its subject matter.

Anyway, I was really excited for Rebuild 3, but now I'm not too anxious to see the final movie.

When I first saw this film, I really liked it, but the more I think about it and after watching it again, I realized that, well, it really isn't that good, especially compared to the other films.

I guess I could start with what I liked about this film. I liked how bleak it was, and that it was going back to the dark, depressing, psychological, and philosophical aspects of Evangelion, although it wasn't explored as much as I would've liked. I liked the relationship between Shinji and Kaworu, maybe even better than the original series. I just wished they spent as much time on other aspects of the film. I admire how GAINAX took a huge risk with this by taking the story to a drastically different, but interesting, direction, which I could definitely see polarizing so many fans. The soundtrack was great, too, but that's nothing new for these Rebuild movies.

Now, I have no clue about what's going on behind the scenes, whether they are having problems or not. I does seem clear that this was not the original script of the film, seeing how none of the scenes that were in the preview of the second film were in this movie. One of the major problems I have with third film was that it felt disappointingly short, which lead to a lot of story and character neglecting, which is especially bad when you drastically change the story like this. I really like the post-EoE-ish setting, and that could've worked very well if they had the time to explored that a lot more, and go more into both the preexisting characters and the new characters. But like I said, the film felt too short and a bit rushed. One of the things I liked about the Rebuilds was that they had perfect pacing. The first film was basically a recap film, but it never felt rushed or condensed like more other recaps. You feel like you're watching an actual movie of Evangelion. They left in just enough detail that you'd get the full gist of the characters easily. Same with the second film, which change things up a bit but still felt familiar. But this doesn't even feel like a full film, but more like one-fourth of the final film. While there's huge set pieces and battles here, the film just doesn't feel as big and epic as the second film. which is still in my opinion the best of the films. While not terrible, This is definitely the weakest of the bunch. While I'm still looking forward to the final film, this was pretty disappointing.

Casual Shinji:
I heard somewhere that there was an initial script which got scrapped in favor of this one. I don't know how much of that is true though.

That would not surprise me. The scenes at the end of 2.22 that gave a 'sneak peek' of 3.0 are almost completely absent from the finished product. I do admire that Gainax want to do something different from the original series, but I can't help but wonder if they've started ripping the original plan to pieces if only to differentiate the two stories. Though what's weird is that, the end of 3.0 isn't that hugely removed from how the original series played out. The details are obviously different but on a very broad level it does hit a lot of the same notes. And yet, there seems to be another film to go and I have no idea where they could possibly take this story. Honestly, I would have preferred they simply retell the original story with tighter storytelling and a better creative focus, but instead they seem to be slipping closer to the deep end.

[Kira Must Die]:
Snip.

That's a very good point about how short it is. A lot of the running time is spent on spectacle and mythology, and while the film does spend a good amount of time with Shinji and Kaworu in the second act it needed a stronger character focus in general. Nowhere near enough time is spent on the characters and how they've changed, and while this is certainly Shinji's story, they do feel side-lined for other, less important parts of the film.

Well...that's disappointing to hear. The previous two Rebuild films are the reason I can say that I like Evangelion, because I heavily disliked the original run (Not to say that it wasn't an unimportant anime) and now it seems like they're returning to certain aspects of the original show that put me off of it.

FargoDog:
It's made even more problematic when the lack of appropriately aged characters is given a brief, unconvincing handwave.

Problematic indeed. The writers of this film pretty much said "THE EVA PILOTS DIDN'T AGE BECAUSE RAWRAWR" just so they can do this 14 year gap, which sounds pointless and silly to begin with.

I still can't wait to see this film whenever I can so I can judge it myself. It'll be interesting to see how 4.0 turns out.

Just a note, Gainax is only somewhat slightly supporting the new films, it is Anno's new company Khara which is creating the films.

I've only watched the film on a cam-rip so far so perhaps I cannot completely understand the film visually, but from what I have seen I did enjoy the film, even though I was very much frustrated and confused at times. However, I think that is a position we are supposed to be in as we are seeing and experiencing the film through Shinji's eyes as the Protagonist, the time-skip and the changes made to the world is supposed to put the viewer in the exact same position of disorientation and confusion as Shinji is then put in.

Still, I do wish they will explain a lot of the unexplained plot elements in Rebuild in the next film or in other supporting materials... But this is Eva so that's quite doubtful, so they'll either explain a few things or explain things very subtly.

The changes to some of the character's personalities are particularly jarring but I still think that perhaps Misato's new found harshness is merely a mask used a Captain to put on in front of the crew.

I am going to wait in anticipation to watch the film again in proper quality (and perhaps dubbed as well) to see if I can understand it more and to wait for 4.0/FINAL. I did definitely enjoy 3.0 though, bleak. fucked up and depressing Eva is my favourite kind of Eva.

 

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