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.