For those who don’t know, the Rebuild of Evangelion series is a four-part theatrical remake of the infamous anime Neon Genesis Evangelion. Evangelion was a deconstruction of the Giant Robot genre. The original series was very much love it or hate it. The polarizing issues ranged from the characters’ notorious pyscholgical problems, to the confusing final two episodes, to the show’s use of rather horrific imagery, peppered with pieces of Christian and Kabbalistic symbolism, resulting in one of the most brutal, influential, and controversial examples of Anime. I liked the original series, but I was fully aware of its flaws, and I considered it to be a flawed masterpiece. Now onto Rebuild of Evangelion. Evangelion 1.0 sums up the first 6 episodes, with the continuity changed slightly, and the Angel fights given a massive makeover. I enjoyed it very much, and while it is very similar to the original, it sets the stage for Evangelion 2.0. Fast forward two years later and we have 3.0. And yes, the wait was worth it. Shinji and Rei still frozen in the impaled Unit-01, Tokyo-3 and Geofront being abandoned. Shinji Ikari later awakens, and beside him stands a mysterious boy… Then a new world waits him…
Anno opens with Asuka and Mari deploying multi-stage booster rockets, high-powered sniper rifles, massive shields and a brand-new pink Eva to fight off an Angel while retrieving Shinji and Unit 01 from Earth orbit. The sequence is brilliant, operatic, even tear-inducing: Then Shinji wakes up in yet another intensive care unit and the roller-coaster ride crashes straight into a ditch from which it will never emerge. Shinji awakes into what is essentially the set of Das Boot melded with the bridge of the Macross. Misato is captain of a giant whale-like flying ark called the Wunder, the Nerv command crew man her bridge, and the cast is rounded out by a trio of space opera stock characters who get more lines than all the old cast combined. Even Mari, who had ‘dark impending purpose’ written all over her introduction in Eva 2.0, turns out to be nothing more than Asuka’s sharp-shooting, one-liner-dropping sidekick.
One of the things I was disappointed about in the third movie was how small Mari’s role is. Misato’s character has undergone what’s possibly the most drastic change. Why can’t my favorite characters be intact? Having achieved friendship and affection in Eva 2.0, Shinji is much better adjusted than in his television iteration, and with that being said the animation, CG, lighting, etc are incredible and I can’t remember seeing anime action look so incredible in a long time. I’m a huge fan of the original series, which was an uncompromising personal artistic statement by its director, Hideaki Anno. Despite its enduring popularity, it was not a series that pandered to a mass audience. Those who say it fell apart at the end are sort of right, but the later release of the two movies “Death and Rebirth” and “The End of Evangelion” – which Anno has said restored his original vision for the series ending – redeemed that ending and properly completed an artistic masterpiece. To know if the ending to this saga will be just as well received will be a long ways off as the 4th film has been heavily delayed.
After being an Eva fan since the release of the original series, I used to watch (and re-watch) every episode intently, fascinated by the multilayered plot, themes and amazing sound and visuals. What we have here with Rebuild 3.0 is a highly desireable and well received remake of the original series that, instead of simply retouching the original, attempts to ‘retell’ the story in a manner more suitable for a modern audience. There are new scenes, touch ups to original scenes, a new character, a fleshed out story with some slight alterations and ‘new’ angels. Anno and the Eva team have done this all to create a movie length feature which can summarise 8 or 9-odd episodes worth of material from the original series. While rebuild 2.0 stays quite true to the original, 3.0 beats its own drum. The story here was designed not only to give a greater background to the bigger picture but also sets up the story toward what will be a more generic type of ending we can expect from 4.0. It may be too early to tell, but I believe this film is the peak of the entire series.