For my first inaugural post, I have decided to cover the latest movie in a series that has had its legacy established for the past 20 years in Japanese animation. Neon Genesis Evangelion first aired on TV Tokyo on October 4th, 1995, and has since been a staple on the history of anime for anyone who is either an older or newer fan to anime. For the newer fans, it might be a series they have heard about but haven’t seen yet, and for older fans, they can either offer praise to the series or a hypothetical black eye on what the series has done to anime as a whole since its release.
I saw my first episode of Evangelion on the now extinct Locomotion animation channel, which was a Spanish TV station found mostly in South American countries during the 2000’s. I was on a mission trip to Ecuador that summer of 2002, when in the hotel I was staying at, I came across the Locomotion channel they had. It was through shear channel surfing that I came across the episode that grabbed my attention towards Evangelion as I was sitting at the edge of my hotel bed, which I later found out was episode eleven, “The Day Tokyo-3 Stood Still.” It wasn’t until the beginning of my sophomore year in high school that same year that I borrowed a friends Evangelion series on VHS, and the rest became history on my personal anime fandom. From then on, Evangelion became a show I heard about online to a show that consumed my interest in my years as a high school anime fan, and I wasn’t the only one. To put it bluntly, Evangelion as a series has been one of the most discussed and dissected series to understand for the past two decades, and to say a lot of people have been trying to figure it out is an understatement. Luckily, fans were given a promise of what came next was to tie everything together.
In 2007, the original creator and director of Evangelion, Hideaki Anno, decided to revive the series 12 years later by adapting the television series into 4 proposed films, starting with Evangelion 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone. Anime fans from all over praised the film on where it was going to take the viewer in the upcoming sequels, since Anno stated that he wanted to re-adopt Evangelion story into a direction that is supposed to make the original series much clearer to understand. After seeing the ending to Evangelion 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance, the fan reaction was positive in seeing a redemption to the main protagonist actions than how he handled the story in the series, so everyone eagerly awaited for the next installment.
What came out in 2012 seemed to be something that fans were split on, either they were ok with where the story was going next, or they flat out hated it, and spewed their abhorrent viewpoints on the film throughout all corners of social media and anime forums online. I personally handled the responses from the anime community in the best way possible; by putting my head under a rock and being completely blind to what people had to say about the film for the next 3 years. After numerous delays by the American anime distribution company Funimation, people like me trying to be patient for an American release were rewarded on February 2nd, 2016. But did that patience pay off?
Hell…no. The amount of effort to keep my ears and eyes away from this film was all a giant disappointing letdown Friday night as I, my brother and my girlfriend spent the next hour and a half watching what we have been anticipating on for the past five years (and mind you, this was the first time my girlfriend has seen anything Evangelion related, boy did I screwed up big time there as not only a fan, but as a human being).
What I saw in Evangelion 3.33 You Can (Not) Redo seemed to be that our main protagonist Shinji Ikari, was woken up with no recollection of what is going on around him, which mirrored my experience when I popped in this movie last night. I would assume this was done on the intention by Anno to make you more in tune with the protagonist and to get a sense of what he is going through. Turns out, long story “filler free” short, Shinji messed up big time since the last movie and a lot of stuff went down in a period of 14 years, which again Shinji sort of tries to fix it. When I say sort of tries, it’s like having a persons of a mental handicap running around a nuclear power plant with a missile launcher screaming “IM HELPING, IM HELPING!!” No, you really aren’t Shinji, and I am sorry to tell you that.
I can empathize a bit with Shinji predicament, he started out in a place where he isn’t wanted and everyone seems to be out to get him for a mistake he unsure about, which he then leaves to go to a place where he wants to try to make things better but is used again to make things worse. It’s a catch-22 for Shinji, and you as the viewer have to ask yourself which is the lesser of the two evils for our protagonist. We all thought Shinji was doing really good and turning in the right direction by the end of Evangelion 2.0, but alas Anno didn’t have it like that, as Shinji is once again back in his own filth of self-pity, misery, and broken self-confidence to once again, try and get in the robot in order to save the world.
To boil it down, what I paid $30+tax on was great visuals, cool looking robot fights in the beginning and the end of the film, followed by slow pacing with pretty background visuals and a retelling/re-adaption of the story from the End of Evangelion movie that came out in 1997. What I witnessed was a protagonist focused story of Shinji Ikari, and that he didn’t seem to change for the better like I thought he would do at the end of Evangelion 2.0. What we got was more of a character that reverted back to his old self and old problems fans of the series have already had enough of at this point after 20 years later. The real core of Evangelion that is shown in 3.33 is that all of these elements were all present from the television series, and once I noticed that from the get go, nothing seemed to surprise me than how the film has a cliffhanger ending. For a film that I tried my best to not pay attention too in order to surprise me when I saw it with no kind of expectations, it became apparent that I had pre-determined expectations from the 2.0 film, and I wasn’t the only one that felt this way either, I just came in 3 years late to the pissfest.
To someone who might be reading this never to see an episode of Evangelion before, don’t take my opinion about this movie to close to heart to judge everything that came before it. On the surface, Evangelion looks like a robot show, but it is much deeper than that. To put it bluntly, a friend of mine in my freshman year of high school told me long ago before I ever watched Evangelion that “If you watch Eva for the robots, you will be disappointed.” Who would have thought 15 years later after hearing him say that, he is still right about Evangelion.
On the surface from at the beginning and the end of the film, this would look like a flashy, well animated robot anime show that looks pretty appealing to the eye, and that you can proudly hold up and say that anime is now saved for years to come. However, Evangelion isn’t the same without the other half of what makes it the Evangelion anime fans have known the series to be really about. Evangelion 3.33 continues its character development about broken people with more drama than what your typical high school, priss-pot bimbo deals with on a weekly basis. Evangelion is a series that contains one part human psychology, one part homage to Ultraman and Yoshiyuki Tomino television series, and one part human psychology “that-can-link-up-with-robots-to-fight-aliens-like-things-because-that’s-cool-and-we-need-to-sell-toys-also!” Eventually within the personal conflicts and interactions throughout the Evangelion series, such broken people either understand why they are miserable and try and cope with those emotions, or find a way to fix their issues, which results in ending all of mankind in some form or fashion. The personality of these characters and their problems seem to be a longer shadow than the Evangelion robots themselves can project.
I am not sure when Evangelion 4.0 will be released in the United States from its Japanese release, and if so, will I do the same thing as I have done for the past 5 years all over again? Normally with a positive pay off as the end result, would I do the morally correct decision to support the American release and be surprised by the product that I will blindly spend $30 more dollars on? Or because of how I feel after seeing this film last night, do I torrent the heck out of the movie like the typical teenaged anime fan does, and then go on internet forums and complain how much it sucked and how I won’t justify spending money to the companies that license Evangelion in America? I guess when Evangelion 4.0 is released, I will have an answer by then. Truth be told, I’ll do it all over again, because I try to be a grown-ass responsible adult to support and contribute to the industry the best I can. However if you like this movie, please explain on the comments below why I am wrong, I would love to hear it. See you guys next time!