Sunday, December 2, 2012

Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo – Impressions

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What the heck did I just see?


Yesterday was “Movie Day” in Tokyo, when theaters make all seats “only 1000 yen on the 1st of the month.  I took advantage of the opportunity to see Eva Q, which is the biggest box-office hit of the year in Japan and causing huge controversy among fans of the franchise. 

I’m going to make this post mostly spoiler-free, apart from general reactions to the film – but I am going to talk about those generalities and how it compares to the TV.  So if you prefer to be completely unspoiled, you’d best stop reading here.

I knew going in my Japanese still wasn’t strong enough to catch most of the dialogue, but I thought with my previous knowledge of the material I could pick up most of it.  In reality, I don’t think I can really decide what I think of “Redo” until I see it subtitled, because so little of the material was familiar to me that my overall impression is more bewilderment than anything else.

Most of us are familiar with the “butterfly effect”, and that seems to apply to Anno Hideki’s Eva "Rebuild" film series.  The first film had changes that were relatively minor, and apart from some tonal changes and shifts in personality (Shinji being much more forceful, Rei much more socially adept) largely tracked the events of the TV series.  The second film veered off more often in terms of plot – Asuka playing a much smaller role and the introduction of Mari as a major player being the primary differences that stand out for me.  By the time we get to “Redo”, almost nothing is the same – this is, for all intents and purposes, a completely new story.

I don’t have a problem with that for the most part.  This is Anno’s baby, a hugely personal work to begin with, and he has every right to tweak it however he wants.  He wrote Eva as a much younger man and identified much more with Shinji directly, and the fact that he was coping with serious depression at the time comes through in the character.  The rebuild films are a very different animal, and so is Shinji himself.  Again, that’s fine and good – Sadamoto Yoshiyuki already reworked the characters substantially in the manga (often for the better, IMO) and we’ve seen countless spinoff series besides.  I quite liked the second film, and this is not sacred text as far as I’m concerned.  Nothing Anno does will lessen the intensity of the feelings I have for the TV series, which largely made me into an anime fan in the first place.

That said – and bearing in mind that I’m going to withhold final judgment until I see a subbed version – I’m not a big fan of where Eva Q takes the story.  In short, it’s too loud, too unremittingly violent and depressing, and lacking any of the contrasts in tone that made the TV series so memorable.  Q is a beautifully animated film, but it’s basically one non-stop action sequence with  a soundtrack that blares from start to finish unrelentingly.  There are a few quiet moments – mostly between Shinji and Kaworu – but in general, there’s very little actual character interaction in the film.

Also, while I don’t want to beat a dead horse, I really can’t stand Mari and I’m totally unable to see what role she fills in the story.  Her snarky demeanor feels out of place, she acts too often as a deux ex machina and generally serves – at least for me – more as a distraction than anything else.  I won’t say Anno wrote her in as a purely commercial decision, because Anno certainly may have larger ideals in mind – but it seems hard to think of another reason why she’s there apart from providing another cute girl (this one with an enormous jiggly chest) to put on the T-shirts.

Any new Eva work is essential viewing for someone who considers themselves a serious fan, and Q is no exception – it’s shaken things up pretty good here, for sure.  A nice bonus is that the Ghibli-produced “Giant God Warrior” short film that Anno directed is shown before the movie, and it’s quite the visual feast – scary and awe-inspiring.


41 comments:

  1. Ive only watched the series and because it was so recent when i watched it, I still remember so much so going to watch any of the movies for me would be boring so im gonna wait to see this one.

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  2. Also was there a lot of gore in this?

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  3. 1000 yen ($12) is not exactly a chump change, is it Enzo?

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    1. When the regular price is 1800-2000 yen, it's a steal.

      Cure, there's some, though the violence is more of the karmic variety.

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    2. I find it curious that you found the movie to be non-stop action; there were some reviews that found the movie to have less action this time around compared to the other two. Guess ill just have to see the movie myself to see what's up. Nice impression of the movie though...here's hoping that the fourth movie is much longer than the ones before it because their gonna need the extra runtime to tie up all these loose ends.

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  4. Just tell me this, Enzo: do they kill off Asuka or not??

    I don't believe in spoilers and seriously they've already toss her off as a side stooge, then have her take the hit for Touji, and gave her dreadful pirate eye patch (lots of eye patches these days in Japanese anime). Judging from the preview clip, they seem to continue abusing her left and right and on top of that gave her spot light to that erigish-girl Mari instead. Well if they kill off Asuka, these films are dead to me! Do they or don't they, tell me!!

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    1. Do you seriously think I'm going to answer that in this space? Even if I could spoiler tag a comment I wouldn't. But hey - that's what Google is for.

      I'll say this much - Asuka is in this movie a helluva lot more than the first two.

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    2. More to the point. Do you really think they'd kill off Asuka after reviving her with an eyepatch?

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  5. "I won’t say Anno wrote her in as a purely commercial decision, because Anno certainly may have larger ideals in mind."

    I seriously doubt it.

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  6. Mari encapsulates the nature of these films. You've basically said so yourself.

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    1. Your impressions seem to reinforce what I was saying back in the Tokyo Diary: 11/24/12 thread.

      This isn't 'Anno's baby' anymore. He's completely removed himself from the story which made Eva so unique and intense. Rebuild is fanboy paradise.

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    2. I still think that's too harsh, because for starters Mari is still a relatively minor character. Yes, her presence disturbs me but in itself isn't a deal-breaker.

      I liked the second film a lot, and on paper I actually prefer the way Shinji and Rei are characterized in the Rebuild (and by Sadamoto, as it happens) over the TV series. It's just that for my tastes, this film is out of balance in terms of tone. It seems to have largely jettisoned the intellectual reserve and wit in favor of bombast, and that's not a change for the better. I may feel differently after I see it subbed.

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    3. Yes, I agree with that last bit which I'd argue is fairly evident in 2.0 too. That's part of the reason why this feels like a fan's retcon and not so much Anno's handy work this time round. It certainly feels more conventionally shounen than before.

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    4. I see Mari as more of an example that you don't need to be a teenager filled with enough angst to sink the titanic to be an EVA pilot. But then again that's not saying much about her either.

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    5. Generally the children chosen were dealing with some sort of Trauma and/or emotionally imbalanced. Mari just goes berserk...because she can?

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  7. Hey Enzo, is this what you saw?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnigpyCYHOc

    This looks like a legit release of about 7 min clip (not sure if it is the beginning or just a random clip though). It even comes with a eng sub.

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    1. I don't understand the question, I'm afraid. I saw the movie, in a theater in Japanese.

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    2. I was wondering if it was a legit Eva 3.0 clip. It seems like it is.

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  8. BTW, I know Rei was (and probably still is) like 5-10 times more popular than any other Eva character including Asuka among Japanese. But is it the same among non-japanese folks? I have a feeling that it's at least 50-50 split or Asuka is more popular among western folks. At least that's my impression as fan drawings of Asuka seems to dominate Rei's at western-oriented fan sites. Perhaps we don't care much for an emotionless gloomy robot girl and dig feisty red hair girl!

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    1. It's a long-standing assumption in Eva circles that Japanese fans prefer Rei, while Western fans prefer Asuka. I've seen some polling to back that up, and I have no reason to doubt it though I've certainly never asked around myself.

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    2. Huh. Most of the people I know prefer Rei. Myself included. But maybe we just move around in different circles?

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    3. All I know on the subject I know from third-party polling, not personal experience, so circles have nothing to do with it for me!

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  9. Lucky you Enzo. I guess that's one of the perks when you live in Tokyo ;)
    I haven't seen the movie but it ain't Evangelion if it's not controversial. Only one thing was certain about the movies - the theme songs by Hikki was going to be awesome and rightfully so, I've been looping Sakura Nagashi non-stop for about two weeks now.

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  10. One major problem that I have with this movie is that it's only 1 hour 40 minutes long. Seriously, Anno, you introduce such radical changes in the story (including new characters and something involving the number 14) and you cram all of that into 105 minutes?

    That pissed me off. I can perhaps understand him doing that if the movie were released in 2010, as it was originally planned, before Anno decided to delay, delay and delay it until the 4th quarter of 2012.

    But because he's delayed it for over 3 years, he should have had the time to make a longer movie with more character interactions, character development and breathing time.

    As you know, Guardian Enzo, some VERY MAJOR characters pretty much get ignored in this movie. Couldn't Anno have used an extra 20-30 minutes to cover all of this?

    Then again, Anno supposedly had a lot of problems during production of 3.0. The most obvious of these was the fact that he left GAINAX to form his own Studio Khara. Also, I read somewhere that he scrapped the story for 3.0 and rewrote it halfway through production.

    Anyway, I seriously hope that 4.0 -- whenever the hell it'll be released -- will be at least 2.5 hours long. Anno will need at least that much time to explain all the things that haven't been explained yet.

    One last note: I doubt that Mari has any substantial role in this Rebuild tetralogy. Anno is a smart man, but he is first and foremost a businessman who is running a studio. He needs material that can make money. Mari is precisely that (figurines, shirts, artwork, etc). No business leader, no matter how smart they are, is beyond cheap tricks at making money.

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    1. well, Anon, it's bloody difficult to make an anime movie longer than 2 hours. In fact, I can't recall a single anime movie that is longer than 2 hours, let alone 2:30! A human can take only so much in one sitting; heck they can barely tolerate 2:30 for a live-action film and no one wants to watch a 3-hour live action film in a theater. The limit for anime movie is probably around 2 hours.

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    2. The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi clocks at two and a half hours. But then again, its KyoAni and their tub of money (that they probably swim on). Any anime movie that goes past 2 hours is uncommon though. Hopefully the financial success of Rebuild, would let Anno splurge on the last movie.

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    3. I agree with anonymous (who mentioned the movie should have been longer), this movie should have been much longer than 1 hour and 40 mins. If you're gonna delay the movie for so long and take all this time to develop the movie, shouldnt the movie reflect the long process of development and be a long movie itself? I personally enjoy long movies because it gives a movie time to flesh out its settings, characters, and plot, which at the end of the day, makes the movie much more meanigful. Animation studios barely push their movies over the 90 minute mark most of the time and that's sad. We are almost in 2013; anime needs to start evolving past these old conventions and take themselves more seriously. If the studio has a story to tell, they should use as much runtime as they need to tell it; if they are lacking the budget to do so, then dont do it until you run into the money to do so. A monster of a franchise like Evangelion doesnt deserve to cut corners. I see is it a serious cinematic movie, and not just anime. The movies should have run times of at least 2 hours and 30 mins to tell the grand story it wishes to tell. In general, we are in a new era, Anime needs to start escaping the label of "as an anime" (like when people say "as an anime movie, it was good) and start being judged as true art, as true cinema or tv show. Im not saying anime should abandon its fun appeal, but it should also take itself in a new direction.

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    4. @jeffrey: in the anime camp there's the already mentioned Harui movie, in the live-action one I think you're forgetting the huge Indian movie industry at the very least. Bollywood movies often clock at more than 2:30 hours - although this is changed in more recent years and in more 'westernized' productions - , I can tell you they're still pretty watchable ;).
      Back in our western world: Gone With The Wind, The Ten Commandments, the LotR movies ;D...
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      @GE: I'm politely refraining from sharing my opinion on Anno's baby in any of its incarnations, but going by your review I can't stop thinking the title of this movie sounds quite ironic. For the fans of the franchise I can only wish for you to get a good finale. Good luck?

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    5. Mononoke Hime is well over two hours, and Ookami Kodomo is right at the 2-hour mark. It does happen, though not terribly often. On balance I'm not sure it's a bad thing, because there are too many live-action movies that fall into the "long = good" myth. If a movie has a reason to be over 2 hours like Mononoke does, great. Too often, it's because the director didn't let the editor (sometimes the same person) do their job.

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    6. > Then again, Anno supposedly had a lot of problems during production of 3.0. The most obvious of these was the fact that he left GAINAX to form his own Studio Khara.

      Pretty sure that happened before 1.0, even. Shouldn't be any kind of issue for 3.0.

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  11. Link of your review of you can not advance please.

    Evangelion is more popular than one piece in japan?

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    1. http://www.lostinanime.com/search/label/Evangelion

      Popular is a big word. I don't doubt that Eva Q will out-gross the One Piece film at the box office, and I have no doubt that OP far outsells Eva and everything else in terms of manga and merchandise. As an ongoing series aimed at kids, OP is the most commercially powerful manga/anime franchise in the world. As an event film and in terms of influence on the medium, Eva is probably unmatched.

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  12. Thanks man

    I'm expecting a review full of spoilers when the BD is released

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  13. Now that the sub is out are you going to re-review it?

    Because honestly I felt words and terms fly over my head. It does feel like one big action movie, Mari has no role other than as an extra set of boobs, Asuka regains her role for me and will do so even more in part 4, Shinji is a bit more angsty but I think it was dumb on hindsight for those at 'wille' was it, not to tell him about the world and Evangelion has indeed lost that special connection its characters had with the us.

    Hard to explain what that connection is but its as if its no longer about people and the battles we face in our head when we live. Ah wakaranai.

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    1. I will indeed cover it, thought it may be a few days at least.

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  14. I just tweeted this:

    Evangelion 3.0 mini review: 1 thumb up 4 animation & action. 1 thumb sideways 4 the illogic. 2 Anno thumbs embedded in undisclosed location.

    https://twitter.com/thanatologist/status/328146113544716288

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  15. Finally read this post after watching the movie last night, and...your opening line sums up my feelings on this movie perfectly. Gah.

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    1. Heh. I'll be doing a post on the subbed version soon.

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  16. Most of the scenes at NERV, specifically Fuyutsuki's shoji match were done pretty well. It's the first and final acts which were messy hodgepodge. Poor Unit 2 has had it rough in the ideas room. Great music though - bests 1.0 and 2.0 in that regard easily.

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