When I finished the original series a few years ago, and followed it up with End of Evangelion
, I found myself shocked and disoriented by the experience. NGE's two climaxes, chock-full of convoluted emotions and plot twists, were more than I could handle at the time.
When I finished Evangelion 3.0
, I found myself reacting in a similar way - but I think I understood things this time.
3.0 is a startling movie, to say the least. Shinji awakes to find the world he knows completely gone, and all of his former friends and allies coldly treating him like some sort of monster; even Misato snubs him, and Asuka can only bear him in disgust. Gendo, in contrast, is as blunt and ambiguous as ever, and Rei is missing in more than one sense of the word. The paradigm shift is too much for Shinji to handle, and falls further and further towards the brink of despair over the course of the film.
It all seems very unfair - even cruel - what Shinji has to deal with in this film. No one offers Shinji explanations; no one even bothers to accuse him. It's just taken for granted that Shinji has "sinned", and Shinji is left on his own to try to understand. Asuka's quick to label Shinji a brat when he goes against their organization WILLE and rejoins the remnants of NERV/SEELE; but can one really blame a child for misbehaving when he's never been taught to behave otherwise? Shinji is more alone here than he ever has been before, so who can he turn to for guidance?
This is where Kaworu comes in. Kaworu is open and gentle; he offers guidance and friendship to Shinji, and Shinji readily accepts. Shinji is still a child, and Kaworu seems to understand that better than anyone else; so Kaworu treats Shinji appropriately and encourages him as he needs. However, Kaworu can only offer so much solace as Shinji learns the (nearly)entire truth about Third Impact and his father's plans. Kaworu urges Shinji to move forward, but are they actually moving in the right direction?Evangelion 3.0
appears to work best in its smaller moments (although it delivers pretty well on grand action sequences too), but it's too jarring to see how severely Shinji is treated and how abruptly all the responsibilities of the world are dropped upon him. The film seems so intent on sending Shinji over the despair horizon that it seems to sacrifice its writing and much of the cast to do so. Normally I'd flat-out say, yes, this is just a poorly conceived movie - except nagging thoughts in my head said otherwise. I went ahead and watched the film a second time, and those thoughts came out loud and clear:
I think Evangelion 3.0
is a commentary on the Evangelion franchise itself - as well as Hideaki Anno's relationship with it today.
It's well known that Evangelion has always been a very personal project for Anno - being tied closely to his struggling mental state - and I think (I may not the only one, either
) that 3.0 is the most unfiltered, blatant statement on the matter. From what I understand, Anno really wanted to do these films; but making them may be proving to be more trouble than they're worth. The Rebuild films seem to have been met with mixed reception - which I suppose is inevitable for any remake of a popular title - and Anno himself stated that work on 3.0 drove him back into severe depression. At this point, Evangelion seems to be plain unhealthy for Anno (his therapist even says so
), but at the same time, he seems to be stuck in it. I bet fans were delighted to have more Eva when the Rebuild films were first announced, only to turn on him when they were dissatisfied with the results - not unlike how Shinji has Eva-01 suddenly taken away from him in the film. His former friends say, "Don't ever pilot EVA again!!", even as his father says, "You must pilot it". Perhaps Anno and Shinji are walking in the same shoes right now - Eva is what practically defines them now, but does it bring about any good? Would the world be better off without Eva?
The climax of the film is bombastic, intense, and more than a little convoluted, but I think the above sentiments still ring true -
Shinji can only act on what is right in front of him now, pushing Eva forward to the inevitable conclusion, regardless of the consequences, even though he really doesn't know what he's doing anymore. He seeks peace, solace, redemption even; but he risks sacrificing everything else to achieve those. In the end, it feels like nothing has changed at all. Hope may not be lost, though. Misato hesitated when Shinji escaped. Asuka drags him out of his cockpit and pulls him towards a new destination. Rei - perhaps an embodiment of Eva within the Eva, follows in pursuit of her own identity. The end is nigh, but it doesn't have to go out in a whimper; Shinji may still have allies to help him through, like Anno himself has friends and family around.
I'm inclined to say that Evangelion 3.0
is the weakest Rebuild film so far. As I mentioned before, most of the characters felt shortchanged, especially with as many newcomers as there were for this film. The animation was generally stellar, but oddly there were a few scenes that were a little too obviously CGI (whereas the first two films were fine meshing styles), and often settings and objects looked over-designed and needlessly absract. I didn't really care for any of the new Eva designs (beast mode=cat was just stupid). Shiro Sagisu fully delivers on music, forunately; I think his score for this film is easily among his best work ever.
I wouldn't say 3.0 is a bad film, though - more like it's a good film disguised as a bad film. I think Anno had a very specific purpose for this film - to make a statement regarding himself and his franchise - and unfortunately that statement came at the expense of other aspects which may have increased the film's overall merit. I don't know if 3.0 entertained me, but it certainly fascinated me; the Evangelion franchise has challenged me intellectually more than any other series/franchise, and I'm honestly pleased to say that Evangelion 3.0
was no different.
I can only wonder, now, where 3.0+1.0 will lead from here.