Wednesday, February 3, 2016

There's nothing like a new Evangelion — Evangelion 3.33

Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo
ヱヴァンゲリヲン新劇場版: Q

If you're caught up with what Eva is, scroll down to the embedded video for the start of the review of Eva 3.33. Personally, I can't just jump into a review of a new Evangelion without talking about the past first.

I have a very long history with Evangelion. A VHS tape of Asuka's (惣流・アスカ・ラングレー) premiere in the original series was the very first anime I ever purchased and I was originally the same age as the characters when it came out. The characters go through a metric fuckton of crap concerning relationships and psychology, and the series became intertwined with my own identity. I would not be who I am today without Neon Genesis Evangelion (NGE).

If you're not aware, the "mecha" genre (giant fighting robots) was completely revolutionized by NGE in the late 20th century. Mecha and anime today would be vastly different without NGE. If you were to go back and watch the original series after years of watching anime, you might think that it is unoriginal until you realize that everything you are seeing was the first time it was done or effectively the first time it was done. Also noteworthy, its airing on Japanese television prompted the JAPANESE to go and revise their rules for what can be aired on daytime television for its violence.

Unfortunately, the production was rather troubled. Failure to budget properly meant that the ending of the series was drastically lower quality than the beginning to middle, with an over-reliance on text and long shots on immobile backgrounds. For all that, it was and remains one of the all-time great anime series and one that I have never gotten tired of.

A few years later, Evangelion received two films designed to be a retelling of the end of the series. Death and Rebirth was a retelling of the first 20 episodes (Death) and a "director's cut" of episodes 21-24 (Rebirth). End of Evangelion gave alternate versions of episodes 25 and 26. I've heard it said that if the series was what happened inside Shinji's (碇 シンジ) head during the Human Instrumentality Project, then the movie was what happened in the outside world. It's an incredible movie that I've only been lucky enough to watch two or three times (due to production problems with the DVDs).

My largest complaint is that they do some really stupid, jarring things involving real-world images and shots partway through that really take you out of the experience. For all that, it is still an incredible experience.

Then, the Rebuild of Evangelion came into existence through Studio Khara (株式会社カラー). According to Hideaki Anno (庵野 秀明) (director, writer, producer of most Evangelion projects, but not directing these films), this is Evangelion as it should have been with all technical and budget restraints removed. Evangelion 1.0 came out in America in 2009, 2.0 followed in 2011. Evangelion 3.0 had a THEATRICAL RUN in 2013 and it's taken THREE YEARS TO FINALLY BE RELEASED YESTERDAY (in 2016).

My fiancee has had the third film (home releases differ in title by adjusting the numbers to 1.11, 2.22, and 3.33 and include improved graphics) on pre-order for over two years and was amazed that it was being shipped and arrived in the mail yesterday. She surprised me with it at the end of the night and I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning watching the film I waited three years for.

Without further ado, let's get into it. Trailer for the dub:

The production quality is simply astounding. Maybe I've been lulled into a false sense of mediocrity by watching so many anime television series, but everything is top-tier—some of the most amazing visuals I've seen in anime. Not as painterly as a Studio Ghibli film perhaps, but a real visual marvel. This is immediately noticeable in what I guess we will call Act 1.

I make the modifier on Act 1 because if we compare the movie to the traditional three act structure it would be Act 2, then Act 1, and ending with Act 3. This means that the middle of the movie does slow down drastically and the action shifts from mecha to psychological.

The action in the beginning and end of the movie is incredible and almost too dense. I need a 100-inch television and multiple viewings to keep track of everything going on (and double subtitles above and below from multiple people talking at the same time sure doesn't make it any easier!). There were multiple times in the beginning where I felt lost because the flow of visual information is incredible.

Additionally, much of the exposition is hidden, forcing you to seek answers online. Evangelion has never been afraid to keep information from you, to the point that much is left up to the viewer, but there was a significant amount of things happening that were wholly unexplained.

I will say that all of the angel-like baddies in Act 1 are all Evangelions (Mark.04 units in fact). This doesn't spoil anything I think since evangelions went rogue in 2.0/2.22 and in the original series. It does beg the question of how they are as powerful as they are and how humanity has been able to advance in the wake of the Near Third Impact / Third Impact, but these questions will probably never be answered.

I haven't witnessed the dub yet, but I've always been a big fan of the original actors and I have no worries that they did a spectacular job, and the new actors are definitely serviceable—even if the Japanese studio was purportedly not very happy with the theatrical translation (hence the 3 year delay). The Japanese actors did a great job; my only complaint being I personally find Gendou's (碇 ゲンドウ) voice a bit jarring and look around for another speaker before realizing it's his character speaking. If he wasn't always shrouded in shadows or have his face obscured, it might not have been noticeable.

And then there's Shinji. Poor, pathetic Shinji.

I've always been a Shinji defender, but his actions in this movie seem unforgivable because you've known Shinji for so long and you think of him as progressing. But if you think about his behavior in hindsight, I suppose it makes perfect sense. A lot of shit happens in this movie, not the least of which being everyone he's ever loved holds him responsible for the end of the fucking world. That might even pale in comparison to the revelations about Rei that are made perfectly clear to him for I believe the first time ever.

If you're an Eva fan, this is required immediate watching. If not, it may be worthwhile to wait until the next film . . . although that may take another lustrum if this last movie is any measure. It does have great action as we've come to expect from the Rebuild films, but it also delves more into the mindfuck, psychological territory we're used to with the classic series than the films have thus far.

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