Reviews: Rebuild Of Evangelion

Evangelion 3.33

The problem with 3.33 is that its plot is based on several main characters' stupidity. Surprisingly enough, Shinji is only stupid in this, and not nearly as unbelievably idiotic as Misato and Asuka. 14 years have passed and Shinji is blamed by everyone for 3rd Impact despite the fact that it would have happened sooner via Zeruel if he hadn't started it. This, along with Misato and Asuka's refusal to tell him anything, causes Shinji to fall past the despair event horizon and do some stupid things in the vain hope that it will undo the damage. This movie makes Asuka and especially Misato unlikable. They blame Shinji for everything even though the human race wouldn't have made it even this far without him. Misato and Asuka really couldn't let go of enough of their irrational anger in 14 years to swallow their pride for 10 minutes and explain things to Shinji? The movie focuses on punching the proactive version of Shinji that people like in the gut as much as possible, and for the most part this feels unreasonable and contrived.

If you want to relive the magic of Neon Genesis Evangelion... the beginning of Kare Kano instead.

The films try to compress the long, complicated process of Character Development as was seen in the original to the point that the pacing is pretty much ruined. Asuka, who originally had a Freudian Excuse that could make her abusive character somewhat excusable, became downright intolerable when it was exchanged for a poor handling of Lonely at the Top that came off as Wangst. Kaworu’s re-design makes him look uglier than the original, and his characterisation makes him come off almost as a caricature. There are some plot holes left in due to the changes made to the original plot. And 3.33... Oh Kot, the worst case of Idiot Plot I’ve seen in a film in a long while now. At least À quatre mains was beautiful to listen to.

What I do like about these films is that it feels as though Anno got over his depression after getting married and can’t tap into it anymore to produce the masterpieces he’s made before. At least, I really want to think so. But yeah, IMHO as a rab... er... avid fan of NGE, these films (at least the three that have been released) are mostly a waste of your time. (Well, except maybe 2.22.)

Evangelion 1-3

I liked the first two movies, I wasn't sure what I was going to get when I started to watch them. I knew they were about mechs or whatever but I never watched any of those series. Basically, I knew nothing. But Evangelion is probably the most famous mecha series out there, even I knew about Shinji, Rei and Asuka, so one some level it's a retelling of the orginal show which came out a long time ago. Which is cool because a lot of television anime don't have any decent animation. It simply costs too much.

With rebuild they can tell the story the way it ought to be. Watching them fight against the monsters (or angels? I suppose) is some of the best scenes in the movies. Seeing a sea of blood cover the city was really cool :) But when you remake something things will always be left out because of lack of time, kinda like when they adapt books or like now, a television series to movies. This is a hard thing to do but since I never watched the TV series I can only guess what's left out.

But the first two movies are really good, my problem is with the third one. It starts with a time jump which is something I dislike in general. It's not as bad as certain things but it always comes across as a bit weird. You know all those things you learned about? Well, all that has changed now. Here's our new story.

Shinji is left alone, bad things happened because of the end of the second film and he meets a guy that plays a piano. I really have no idea what's going on. And that's what it feels like, that they didn't know where they wanted to take the story. Did they come up with the ending before they started to do the movies? Are they going to an ending akin to the TV series?

The third film feels like this elevator ride, first stop, fight scene, second stop, angst, "fuck you, shinji, you little shit", third stop, piano, fourth stop, more angst, fifth stop, more angst, last stop, boring fight scene.

I don't want to sound too negative here but I'm simply saying the third movie didn't work for me whatsoever. It's hard to review it because I never watched the orginal anime. I like the design and the music but ultimately it's a story told over four movies and I doubt I'll like the last film if the third one was this bad.

Evangelion 1.11: Only for those who have seen Neon Genesis Evangelion already

Evangelion 1.11 is basically a recap of the first 6 episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion, and, if you compare it to those initial six episodes, you'll probably find that it's terrible. It rushes through just about everything in an attempt to cram well over 2 hours of content into far less than that, and the pacing, character development, and general exposition suffer horribly as a result.

However, that is assuming that you have not already seen the original series. If one has seen the original series, 1.11 takes some of the best action scenes of the original series, which suffered due to a lack of time and money on the animation front, and reimagines them in an awe inspiring manner. Basically, what little goodness remains of the original is improved so much that this film is one of the most enjoyable films I have seen in a long time, but I had a clue what was going on.

Most people wont. Most people haven't seen Neon Genesis Evangelion. Evangelion 1.11 blindly assumes that the viewer has seen Neon Genesis Evangelion, and as a result generally does a terrible job of explaining what the hell is actually going on. Even if you saw the original series and hated it, I implore you to watch this film, but be warned, this is not a good introduction to Evangelion.

3.0: Where Darkness Replaces The Soul (SPOILER WARNING)

The massive cliffhanger of the previous film, 2.0, left many hyped up for the sequel, wondering where it was going to go. Well we finally got our answer. In many ways, 3.0 aims to be bigger and more serious than the previous one, and even a bit of a return to the roots of the series. Unfortunately, something was lost in the process: its heart.

Do you remember the stunning finale of 2.0, where Shinji risked life and limb to save Rei? Despite being quite a morally ambiguous act, it left a bittersweet feeling. A perfect balance of dark and light. 3.0 does it best to make anything that happened completely negative. Taking place in after 14 years, we find that not only did the event not save Rei, but also killed hundreds of thousands of people. Everyone either hates Shinji, or have moved on, and Shinji is once again lost, confused, grief-stricken, and with no-one to comfort him.

Kaworu makes his triumphant return, and here, the Messianic Archetype gets even more blatant, ranging from his self-sacrifice, to even a crown of thorns analogy. Frankly, it's just ridiculous. It's as if they were so determined to make him more of a savior to Shinji that they neglected him any hope from anyone else. This is entirely pointless, except to provide Shinji with even more grief when Kaworu meets his demise. Worse, this all happens thanks to Shinji making a childish decision with no moral ambiguity.

That leads to one of its major problems. It tries to return to the angst-filled tone of the original, but forgets to make us care. By the end, things have become so bleak and hopeless, that there doesn't appear to be any hope, contradicting the entire point of Rebuild. There doesn't appear to be any point to it, except to drag Shinji through the grinder even more. He doesn't change, any actions he makes are undone or pointless, and at the end, he is even lower than he was in End Of Evangelion. Since he is doomed to fail no matter what, why should we care?

It honestly feels like they have written themselves into a corner. In trying to make the darkest thing possible, 3.0 has effectively undermined the entire series. 4.0, the last film, has its work cut out for it. The fact that it might not make 2013 feels like the final kick in the groin. Until then, Rebuild ends with this incredibly bleak, hopeless, and soulless film.

Succeeds on the merits of its spectacle alone.

Can you guess what my least favorite scene of Rebuild so far is?

It's Asuka suiting up in her new plugsuit late in the second movie.

Obviously, there's the fact that the ridiculous test plugsuit is the apex and ultimate symbol of the movie's focus on cheap pandering. But much more serious is the conversation Asuka has with Misato at the same time. Her resolution to be more open and kinder is, frankly, totally random and pretty much unsupported by the two or three scenes that focused on her before that. It's character development that's completely unearned, demonstrative of what a bad character Shikinami is, and demonstrative of a more general laziness in the writing. I don't know whether the characters were pared down to generic shells because of pacing issues, or whether it's the result of deeper, more conceptual problems, but unless things improve in the final two movies, Rebuild will be consigned to merely being a series of epic adventure films, and nothing more. And that makes it a poor successor to the original series.

The characters of Neon Genesis Evangelion are defined by extremes. Not everybody likes them, but so what? It's much more important that they're complex and interesting. They are depictions of mental illness - and I just don't think you can go half-way with that by filing off the jagged edges. I don't mind the idea of portraying the cast of Evangelion in a healther, more positive light. Actually, I would LOVE to see that! But there's no point to it when the characters doing the healing have never been as troubled as the originals. That's just moving the goalposts. Them dragging themselves up from the lowest possible point - that's what I think would be interesting to see. The truth is, Rebuild's reinterpretations have sacrificed the depth that made me care about the originals in the first place. The time that could have been spent on developing them was used for the lavish set pieces, and of course, boobs.

The Rebuild of Evangelion certainly hasn't given us bad movies so far. The animation's great, there's plenty of pulse-pounding action and several intriguing possibilities for the last two films. I am withholding final judgment for now, but the pedestrian character dynamics leave little room for further development, and the original's thematic richness is nowhere in sight either.

1.11 and 2.22: Unleashing the Series' Original Potential.

As good as the original series is, we know that what it could be was limited by money issues and technological limitations. They didn't live up to their potential.

...And then 2007 came and blew all of that out of the water.

The Rebuild movies take the original story, mix it up, add things and take things away, and what comes out is both something new that's just as good as the series, but different enough to still be enjoyable. The few twists that there are are played pretty well, and the old scenes are remade and look great.

Possibly the biggest difference is that Shinji isn't as much of a depressed loser, Rei isn't as much of a stoic doll (which she even says in 2.22), and Asuka is...well, more tsundere. Plus there's Mari too, but she's insane.

All in all, the Rebuild movies are a welcome change from the original series and worthy in their own right. Watch 'em. Now.

1.0 You Are (Not) Alone

I didn't watch the show, but after watching this movie I can summarize the premise as "This is the story of a guy with daddy issues finding himself surrounded by hot chicks and having to pilot a giant robot to save mankind from neat monsters". I heard it is much, much more, but I can't say this remake made me feel that way so far.

Psychologically it's mainly aforementioned daddy issues and some "why me I can't do this I want to matter"-babble, which is just not that effective when it's being said by some guy I know nothing about. Actually I spent most of the movie feeling it didn't really want me to watch it, because the truckload of Fanservice is like "This is for dudes, what are you doing here". Serious contemplation is done in the bathtub, women change on screen and Shinji lands on a naked girl, accidentally reaching second base, completely ruining what could have been a proper confrontation by letting him find out if all her hair is blue. Yeah, thanks movie.

That is not to say I didn't like it. The art is superb. The animation is smooth, the backgrounds are gorgeous, the lightning and frames accentuate the mood well, the imagery is neat and the angels are great eldritch abominations (screaming origami diamond from hell, fuck yes). Not to mention the last few scenes are strong and show the protagonist is capable of not being a total doormat, which is nice and makes me hope the next instalment will allow me to get to know some characters.

2.0 You can (not) Advance

“We should cherish these normal days." And normal days there are, the first half of the movie is full of standard anime stuff and Ship Tease. I was hoping this film would be a little more subtle about the fanservice, but my wake up call came in the form of a tsundere (going for the world record of 'baka'-usage) storming out of the bathroom naked and kicking the protagonist. Much of the first half helps you get some idea of the characters, but it feels like it's based on a Dating Sim and very eager to please male otaku that know the other show.

Since none of that applies to me, foreshadowing and hints of Hidden Depths feel like a nice break. I actually went "yay, politics!" when they were talking about treaties and other countries' robots, and got annoyed when that was immediately compensated by another chick slamming her boobs into Shinji's face. If you think I'm overemphasising on the fanservice, I recommend you grab some booze and take a shot every time the movie does it. You will die.

But then, in the second half, the Holy Shit Quotient goes through the roof. The battle against the tenth angel is positively horrifying, with EVA-01 ripping it apart like a hound, making you wonder who the real monsters are, and ironic music to make it even worse (by which I mean better). The animations are smooth, the imagery is strong and the last scenes are all in all very engaging and great to see. It is much easier to care about characters in situations like this. Okay, I'm not sure if what's happening is making any sense at all, but it's atmosphere is sublime and I'm curious to see where things will go.

1.01 and 2.0 Only

Now, as some may have guessed from my review of main NGE, I was a bit of a victim of Hype Backlash. Way too much grimdark and angst for my tastes, although still very well-written.

Rebuild has the right amount of grimdark and angst.

(Oh, beware of spoilers.)

OH MY GOD, THIS IS THE GREATEST (anime) MOVIE I'VE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE!!! Seriously, it is. Rebuild is the first anime to make it into my top five films/film series, coming in at a handsome #4. Right below The Matrix, Serenity, and The Lord Of The Rings (OBVIOUS NERD IS OBVIOUS). I had two major problems with NGE: Too much angst, and the low quality due to the low budget. Rebuild has much less angst and has... a much higher budget. It is so very, very pretty. Is the High Octane Nightmare Fuel still there? Oh yes. I am largely immune to such imagery; although the scene with Unit 01 attacking Unit 03 went from creepy to TERRIFYING.

As for the rewritten characters: There are still a lot of similarities. The thing is? They are all much, much... SANER. Also nicer (except maybe Gendo). Shinji's massive list of complexes? Well, he has the requisite daddy issues, but otherwise is rather stable. Asuka is actually a Tsundere instead of a female Jerk Ass; she has a few deredere moments throughout 2.0. Rei is... well, she is TEH REI; very little changed, very little needed to. Kaworu? He actually has an important part... in 3.0, if the trailers are to be believed. The new girl, Mari Makinami, had very little screen time, and since she was not in the original anime, I have nothing to base an opinion. Here is to hoping for more Character Development in 3.0 and Final.

With the decreased angst, sane cast, and bigger animation budget... I liked the changes, as much as Internet Backdraft disagrees. While I am not a hardcore Eva fan, I did watch the series... if you liked the series, but thought it was too angsty, give Rebuild a look. All in all? There are two more movies. DO WANT.

One thing that Just Bugs Me: No Cruel Angel's Thesis? You've had two movies, Anno. I want my Crowning Music Of Awesome.

This review applies to the first film only..

I am not an anime fan. However, the constant raving about Evangelion made me bite the bullet and take a chance. So I bought a copy of the rebuild 1.0.

I loved it. It was dark and angsty, but not excessive. The misery was realistic and understandable (being that the whole premise of the show is to deconstruct the whole Falling-Into-The-Cockpit cliche and show how awful such a situation would actually be). The animation was impressive too.

I recently purchased the box set of the original series, and although the original and rebuild 1.0 are different continuities, I have to say I find the rebuild more effective. The tone of the first six episodes of Eva is lighter and more inconsistent, wheras the Rebuild is more forward with its dark approach. The fact that there is less space within a film (time-wise) actually means that the characterization is, in my judgement, more effective. It goes straight to the core issues of each character and doesn't pad things out. Yes, this may be dangerously close to Flanderization, and some people may scream 'dumbing down,' but the overall effect is a starker characterization boiled down to the essentials.

What must be singled out for praise is the improvement in the production. The battle against Ramiel (the big diamond Angel) is absolutely stunning and very, very tense. Comparing against the original; there is no comparison.

In short, this non-anime-watcher would have to say the rebuild 1.0 is very much a distillation. The absolute essentials of Eva episodes 1 to 6 (with of course some changes for continuity purposes) boiled down to their tense, angsty, dark essentials. Consistent characterization, excellent technical detail, and a more mature feel make it quite clear that this work is fundamentally Evangelion.

Would a hardcore Eva fan like it? I am not in a position to answer that question. But I was impressed. Greatly.