[SPOILER WARNING!!! This review was written to be as spoiler-free as possible. Unfortunately, in order to talk about Evangelion: 3.0 in any substantial way, I do spoil the basic premise of the film. If you want to go into 3.0 completely fresh, I recommend skipping to the last few paragraphs for my overall thoughts. Studio Khara has done a remarkable job of keeping this film under wraps.]
Evangelion: 3.0 is not the film you think it is.
The third entry in the Rebuild of Evangelion project is a surprising movie that takes enormous risks with familiar and well-loved characters. You Can (Not) Redo is probably the gutsiest film I've seen all year.
Is that a good thing though?
Read on after the break as I take a look at the third piece of Studio Khara's Rebuild of Evangelion series.
Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo
When we last left Shinji in Evangelion: 2.0, he had managed to pull Rei out of Zeruel, accidentally initiating 3rd impact. Riding Eva Unit 06, Kaworu descended from the moon and pierced Unit 01 with the Lance of Longinus, seemingly putting an end to the process.
A lot of time has passed since then; 14 years, to be exact. You Can (Not) Redo kicks off with Asuka and Mari retrieving a sealed Shinji and Unit 01 from space, only to come under attack by a strange Angel-like monster. The creature is obliterated by a briefly awakened Unit 01, and from there our slumbering hero is transported to the AAA Wunder; headquarters of the anti-NERV organization, Wille.
Awake and unsure of what the hell is going on, Shinji is led to the bridge where he comes face to face with aged versions of all the NERV operatives that he had come to know in his time as an Eva pilot. Leading this group of hardened soldiers is none other than Misato Katsuragi, his former guardian and friend. With the world having fallen to pieces and no one giving him the answers he seeks, will Shinji be able to find his own form of happiness as everything and everyone around him moves on?
The first thing that needs to be made clear about You Can (Not) Redo is that it doesn't at all follow the template of the source material. 2.0 added many new plot elements, but the main story beats were mostly kept intact. This is not the case in 3.0, as Studio Khara has instead taken the Rebuild story in a completely different direction. By keeping Shinji out of the picture for 14 long years, the characters of Evangelion have been able to grow in unique ways.
It's fascinating to see Misato unchained from the shackles of NERV. She was never really able to capitalize on the information about SEELE that she uncovered in the original TV series. Here, she leads the charge in an aggressive attempt to stop the 4th Impact from occurring. While completely different than the road she ends up taking by End of Evangelion, it's nonetheless in line with her character and the way the Rebuild films have developed her up until now.
Despite technically being more divided than ever before, it's good to see the core group of characters finally unite against a common threat. I do wish we could have gotten more scenes with some of the new Wille characters, but with a runtime of 106 minutes, I can understand why they didn't have more screen time.
Asuka in particular comes as a pleasant surprise. Despite her outer appearance being mostly unchanged (the silly excuse being LCL exposure), she's aged internally by 14 years, making her a 28 year old adult. This newfound adulthood is reflected in her personality and the way she chooses to deal with others. Her anger toward Shinji isn't born from childish romance, but rather frustration that he hasn't changed at all. Now more of an older sister than an object of romance, Asuka's new dynamic with Shinji is a fresh take on an old relationship. In an interview with Asuka's voice actress, Yuka Miyamori, she said that after reading the script for 3.0, all she could think was that Asuka has finally "taken a step forward." I couldn't agree more.
Unfortunately, Maaya Sakamoto's character, Mari Makinami Illustrious, doesn't get a whole lot to do in You Can (Not) Redo. Her banter with Asuka is a lot of fun to watch and she gets some great action sequences, but her presence and purpose are still huge question marks. In some ways, she reminds me of the battle-loving side of Asuka from the TV series, which makes for an interesting contrast with the current version. I'm not sure that's enough to justify her existence at this point, however it looks like she might have a fairly large role to play in the 4th film. Rei's role in 3.0 is also diminished compared to the previous two films, but no less important. Going into detail about her story arc would be like trying to navigate a spoiler minefield, but I will say that I look forward to seeing what's next for the character. I wish she had been given more screen time, but she was clearly not the focus of the story.
Where Evangelion: 3.0 really shines is in its handling of Kaworu and Shinji's relationship. Unlike his brief appearance in the TV series, Kaworu is given the majority of the film's focus, and the end result is a friendship that feels much more sincere and less rushed. Shinji has effectively lost everything near and dear to him, leaving him alone and beaten. Kaworu represents hope; the hope that maybe he can redo things. There's something fascinating and truly sweet about their friendship, and that forms the crux of 3.0's narrative. It keeps the audience connected to Shinji, and much like Kaworu, we want to see him find some measure of joy amidst all the chaos.
You Can (Not) Redo is a slower paced, less action-filled affair than the previous films, but the emotional payoff is greater. Shinji is at times frustrating to watch, but more justified than ever in his decision making and thought processes. Cast into a mysterious new world with people he doesn't even recognize anymore, Shinji is lost. Every truth he learns only serves to hammer that fact in further. It's in finding friendship and love through Kaworu that Shinji is able to move forward, for better or worse.
There were rumors that midway through production, Studio Khara discarded their work and started from scratch. The fact that none of the scenes in 2.0's post-credit trailer made it into the film lends credence to that. Evangelion: 3.0 is a great looking film, for the most part. The first and third act of the film are beautiful, filled with an electric mix of CG and traditional animation. The second act suffers from some dull looking locations and a few too many shots of the sky, which I suspect might get cleaned up by the time the BD hits Japanese shelves. That being said, the final action set piece is so crazy that it more than makes up for some of the rushed scenes.
Shiro Sagisu continues to bring his musical talents to the Evangelion franchise with his signature choral arrangements. Nothing really sticks out in my mind, but that doesn't take away from how consistent the music is. In particular, the final battle features a rousing piece that really adds to the tension onscreen. At this point, I can't imagine Evangelion without his compositions. Utada Hikaru's Sakura Nagashi serves as an appropriately melancholic ending theme, emphasizing the weight of what transpired onscreen. The idea beyond the song was to emphasize how we should value the people and things that are immediately around us. I normally don't pay too much attention to ending credits music, but Utada Hikaru nailed it.
Evangelion: 3.0 is a hard film to stick a number on because it leans so heavily on the story that has already been established. It's a film that serves as a bridge between the old and the new, and it sets up the final conflict. With all the major forces ready to clash in the 4th film, 3.0 lacks closure. You Can (Not) Redo also avoids the breakneck pacing of its precursors, opting to be a slower, more personal film. It's impenetrable to those who haven't kept up with theRebuild films, and carries a huge amount of baggage in the form of the original TV series.
Yet despite the nagging little issues here and there, Studio Khara has proven that there's plenty of life left in this beast, and I can't wait to see where these characters end up in the fourth and final film. By moving forward instead of replicating the old experience, this new series of films has carved its place into anime history.
I just hope we don't have to wait too long to see its conclusion.
8.0 – Great. A well executed film or series that defines its genre without resorting to cliches.
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