The last Evangelion 3.x post I’ll write

A semi-coherent brain dump on Evangelion 3.x: You Can (Not) Redo, demonstrating the unrestrained lunacy that I exhibit following any canon Evangelion release. Intimate knowledge of the original TV series (including additional scenes), Death:Rebirth, End of Evangelion and the previous two movies, 1.x You Are (Not) Alone and 2.x You Can (Not) Advance is expected.

For comments, corrections, technical issues and banter please use the blog page. Work in progress, updates are expected, most recently on 26th April 2013.

Short version: spoilers.

Gut reaction

Written shortly after seeing the theatrical version of the film

No. No this is all wrong. This isn't how you follow up the near masterpiece of the second film. It feels wrong, but... familiar.

If 1.0 was was how you remembered Evangelion, and 2.0 was how you wanted it, 3.0 is how it actually was. Obtuse and chaotic and frustrating and awe inspiring and so maddeningly close to coherent. The mind desperately tries to apply old logic to new problems - Dead Sea Scrolls, SEELE, Red Earth Purification ceremony and wait, Adam's vessels? Oh Door to Guf okay back on track, wait, Cassius' spear? No this is all wrong.

But it isn't; just new. And endlessly bleak.

From the purgatory Shinji is thrown into after the eye-popping opening through to the strings of Utada Hikaru's ending song, this is what Evangelion is known for and is why I first fell in love with it. I may be fifteen years older and able to pluck themes and allusions from this film that I would have been oblivious to but a few years before, but this is still the same hyperactive Jungian, pseudo-Christian mythology that made the series so enticing to pick apart.

Less gung-ho than the second film but just as viscerally enjoyable, the focus is squarely back on Shinji to the detriment of the other characters, most notably Mari who threatened to be a more disruptive element. But, in an oblique way, Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo begins to answer the question that End of Evangelion left hanging: as Shinji released his hands from Asuka's throat and the ruination of the world by the Third Impact sat in the background, what happened next?

To butcher a well known phrase then, Evangelion 3.0 is not the movie I wanted, but it’s the movie the Rebuild project, the tetralogy, needed if it was to be remembered as something other than just a by-the-numbers rehash of the landmark TV series. This doesn’t make the film a failure, but the breathless euphoria that lingered after the climax of the second film is absent. Replaced instead with the creeping realisation that being an Evangelion fan is no longer about clutching to the original canon, safe in the knowledge that it all makes sense, but embracing the worrisome uncertainty of the new.

Response from a fan

The more I watch Evangelion 3.33, the more I realise that with the progression from the first film in the Rebuild project, I should have expected the sucker-punch that is You Can (Not) Redo. It pushes reset on everything that old and new fans knew about the mythology and presents a cast of characters in ruin, embattled and callous and fighting over the ashes of the Earth. It’s far beyond the “things are looking grim” attitude the original TV series took and jumps straight to: “things are awful, and now they’re worse”.

More-so than the prior two films is the sense of scale. Not just in the events that take place and have taken place but in the humanoid fighting machines, the Evangelions, that are insects in comparison to the Wünder and pock-marks on an abstract and unfathomable landscape. 3.33 rekindles that sense of awe and wonder and fear that episode nineteen of the TV series managed: this is not something that you can come back from, nothing will be the same after this.

Both for Shinji and for fans that is true because the canon has changed so drastically that the question of whether Rebuild is a sequel or a retelling is now (for various reasons) moot; you first have to answer what the hell just happened? That first vision of what has become of the GeoFront and Tokyo-3 is hard to take in, the red sea is now joined by an Earth in technicolour marble and great objects hovering impossibly in the sky. And none of it is explained. Just like how Kaworu can be both the first and the last Angel (the alpha and the omega); just like how the chronology of the Evangelion units is left as an exercise for the viewer.

The more you watch the film though the more you realise how closely it cleaves to the original story. The context and the minutiae may have changed, but Shinji still follows Kaworu into Central Dogma, and Shinji still fights Unit 02, and Kaworu still baulks before the sight of Lillith. Suddenly I’m fifteen again and baffled as to how a previously happy-go-lucky series with robots in high-heels got so bleak and subversive so swiftly.

Evangelion 3.33 is not the bombastic augmentation that 2.22 was and miles from the reverant retelling of 1.11; it’s unforgivingly oblique and punishingly difficult to follow but it finally puts to bed the lingering doubt that the Rebuild project was Hideaki Anno rolling in money and joyfully milking an over-ripe cash cow. For a die-hard fan then, You Can (Not) Redo defies expectations and is hard to like on first viewing and harder to recommend to those fresh to the series. But as it takes root, the realisation that it satisfies all the same spots as the original series is endlessly gratifying. Looking to the future then, if 3.33 follows the emotional trajectory set forth by the TV series, then the last film, Evangelion: Final, will destroy all semblance of sense and will enrage fans and casual viewers alike. And I can’t wait for it.

Differences from the theatrical version

Despite ostensibly clocking in with an extra nine minutes of footage, the home video release of You Can (Not) Redo is largely the same as its theatricl release. The extra minutes quoted in a few sources can be attributed to the Ghibli / Hideaki Anno’s collaboration: ”Giant God Warrior“ that runs at the beginning of the release. Theories abound as to whether it has any place in Evangelion canon - an initial viewing could prospectively place it within the fourteen years after Near Third Impact - however it was originally aired alongside 3.0 in cinemas as a promotional video for the “Tokusatsu Special Effects Museum” that was also curated by Anno. The short also pays homage to one of Evangelion's primary design influences: Nausicaa.

You Can (Not) Redo has received the customary spit and polish with animation and detail improved throughout and some scene’s timing very slightly tweaked - for instance Wünder’s launch and Asuka’s retrieval of Shinji from his entry plug - however the differences are minor. For all intents and purposes, the home video and theatrical releases of 3.x are identical.

What happened?

It’s been fourteen years since the end of the second film. What really went on during that time?

If you take the original Evangelion canon as a recipe for the Third Impact, you need several elements. First is an Evangelion Unit with a soul and it must ingest an Angel to obtain its S2 organ / engine; this effectively gives the Eva unit unlimited power. Next, the Eva unit with a human pilot must merge with Adam to start the Third Impact. Once started, the human pilot must decide the fate of humanity's evolution. In End of Evangelion it is Gendou with Adam implanted into his hand who merges with Rei, however she rejects him and accepts Shinji as the leader for humanity's evolution.

In 2.x, the 10th Angel has already absorbed Unit 00 and is summarily defeated by Shinji. Unit 01 absorbs the Angel's core and Rei along with it. Although unexplained so far, it's assumed that Rei is in fact an “Adam's Vessel”, much like Gendou made her in EoE by placing his hand within her stomach. This would explain why Third Impact was initiated in 2.x which began the process of the destruction of the human race. However, Kaworu and Unit 06 stopped this process with a Lance of Longinus, in 3.x this event is called “Near Third Impact”. It’s assumed that, like the original series, Shinji is absorbed into Evangelion Unit 01 as a result of his abnormal synch ratio. He is resurrected fourteen years later and relabelled BM-03.

Here’s where it gets hazy as the aftermath of “Near Third Impact” in 3.x's chronology isn’t entirely clear. It is known that Tokyo-3 was decimated by the Third Impact, effectively exposing the GeoFront to the world, and that by raising Lillith's egg (located under the GeoFront) the world was ravaged by unimaginable catastrophes. A giant Rei, much like that seen in EoE, materialised within the control room of NERV and, like that movie’s Rei, it decayed where it stood.

It seems that in the aftermath of this failed Third Impact, either SEELE or NERV let loose a large number of mass produced autonomous units, likely powered by the Dummy Plug system, in order to quell... something. The remnants of these Evangelion units can be seen when Kaworu and Shinji explore the ruins of Tokyo-3. It's unknown what the white sphere that hangs above Tokyo-3 is; the canon would say that this is the moon or Adam's egg however the size seems to be inconsistent. Similarly the inverted pyramid that hangs high above the ruins of the world is what Shinji now refers to as the Geofront (thus why he and Kaworu had to descend rather than ascend to reach the ruins of Tokyo-3) though how and why it was raised is up for interpretation. It is possible that NERV hasn't moved and the world around it was destroyed, however it seems higher than Mt. Fuji which leads to the theory it was artificially raised.

At some point WILLE split from NERV (the latter taking on a cryptic and vaguely Sumerian logo), taking much of NERV's talent and the three Magi computers (or duplicates) with it. At a similar time Unit 01, likely deemed too dangerous to remain on Earth, was imprisoned with the torpid Shinji/Rei amalgam into a tesseract and launched it into orbit, much like Gendou saw fit to launch the Lance of Longinus in the original series. NERV remains as a shell with either an unseen crew or entirely automated with only Gendou, Fuyutsuki, Rei, Kaworu and then Shinji present within the decaying and voluminous base.

Characters 1/5


When we last saw Misato she was egging Shinji on in the opening refrain of the Third Impact, pleading with him not to do it for anyone but himself. Her demeanour throughout was always geared towards the pilots’ safety before all else and her affection for Shinji - whether matriarchal or otherwise - was plain to see. Fourteen years though have changed her. Even from the first mission, Asuka echoes Misato’s new mantra: the mission comes before all else, including humans. Her callousness towards Shinji is worn on her sleeve, perhaps because of the ruined world Shinji left in the wake of his selfish desires or perhaps guilt for her part, however incidental, in enacting it. She still retains a shred of her former personality though, hesitating to detonate the DSS choker as Shinji is taken away by Unit 09, perhaps still clinging to the needy child she still remembers Shinji as.

That we see so little of her during the movie itself is disappointing, as much was made of her slovenly home demeanour contrasting her work one. As for Pen2, the jury is still out.

Misato’s future is still uncertain and, in contrast to the last movie’s preview, it doesn’t involve the now wholly absent Kaji. It’s clear though from her narration of the next film preview that Wille, Wünder (not to be confused with Willy Wonka) and her opposition of NERV will be integral to stopping the “Final Impact”. Her life in the intervening fourteen years has transformed her into a wounded warrior but galvanised her will into building a rebellion to oppose NERV and, with Unit 01, to obtain the "power to destroy gods". That in itself is another drastic change, rather than place her total faith in the chosen children to save the world, she is now fiercely committed to doing it herself, whatever the cost.

My gut feeling however is that her emotions towards, if not Shinji, then Asuka will be her downfall in the final movie. Misato’s counterpart Ritsuko still maintains that cold scientific distance which made her such an effective scientist for NERV, but Misato’s strength was always in her uncompromising trust in her subordinates and peers. Whether she will see Shinji off one final, heartbreaking, time as in EoE or sacrifice herself to save all she has worked for is yet to be seen.

Characters 2/5


A total cipher in 2.x, Mari’s entrance into the canon of Evangelion pilots was… blunt. Busty and whimsical, she hides a knowledge of the Evangelion units and their plans far beyond everyone else, going so far as to activate Unit 02’s otherwise hidden “Beast Mode” to combat the 10th Angel. Here though she is even more flippant, acting as support fire for Asuka’s gung-ho frontal assaults, she can often be heard singing a tuneful ditty as she casually wreaks havoc from afar. Even her mannerisms in the Eva are jovial, mock bowing as she falls back to Earth in the opening skirmish or giving a thumbs up as the Fourth Impact unfolds before her.

It’s somewhat surprising she aligned herself with Wille given that in 2.x she seemed in step with SEELE and NERV’s plans for Instrumentality. Here though, it's uncertain whether she has tipped her hand in the intervening fourteen years. 2.x ended with her only having met Shinji from the Japanese NERV branch, how Mari ingratiated herself after effectively taking Unit 02 for a joyride is yet to be seen, more than likely however her skill within an Eva played a large part of it. Acting as support for Unit 02 means that her candy pink Unit 08 - never seen in any prior Evangelion incarnation - rarely sustains any damage and it isn't until the final climactic battle that she gets her hands dirty.

The next film preview shows her and the newly melded Unit 08+02 fighting against an onslaught of mass-produced units, but where her true loyalties lie is the fundamental question and she, like Kaworu, could be a long-term trump card planted by SEELE. Her character doesn't seem the sort to needlessly martyr herself for a cause, preferring instead to watch and meddle when necessary. My intuition is that she will stoically survive come what may and still remain a total mystery - her past and present forever obscured. Regardless, given the unremittingly bleak tone of 3.x, Mari brings some much needed levity to the story, even if she brings equally as many questions.

Characters 3/5


Still trapped in the body of a fourteen year old despite being effectively twice that age, Asuka is a red-suited bundle of pragmatism and unstoppable rage. The off-again on-again torch she held for Shinji is gone, despite Mari's cat-faced jibes after their reunion, in it's place is the return of a heartfelt and scathing "baka Shinji". Here we never see Asuka out of her plug-suit and it seems she could well have been bound to it after she sustained her injuries in 2.x. In the opening battles, her plug-suit is a tattered and haphazardly taped up repair job; her final one however is a white-and-red affair that, even for a skin-tight suit, is miles above the immodest test-plug suit that she ended 2.x in.

Asuka’s disregard for Shinji and almost non-existent relationship with Mari (referring to her simply as "glasses") is largely all we see of her. She seems to have wholly aligned herself to Misato’s new philosophy of “the mission above all else”, almost casually engaging Unit 02's Beast Mode and then the self-destruct with little thought of what comes next. It's possible that pragmatism is all that is keeping her going though, with no parental figures growing up and now used as a blunt instrument for Wille, all she has in the now decimated world is the mission. Whether Shinji's return and their past together will stir up emotions other than anger though is yet to be seen. Her relationship with Misato, which in 2.x seemed to be moving into a surrogate-mother/daughter arrangement, is either gone or not shown with their heartfelt talk before the catastrophic Unit 03 test all but forgotten.

Obviously Asuka’s most visible change since 2.x is the eyepatch which covers… something. It’s possible that there is some technology within Asuka's missing eye that has yet to be revealed given that it reacts when attacked by Angels and faintly glows. Whether it will have any bearing on the coming tribulations (like Eureka's otherwise inconspicuous necklace in Eureka Seven) is anyone's guess.

What is conspicuously lacking from 3.x however is the bitterness Asuka felt towards Rei for her passiveness and, perhaps, affections towards Shinji. This is primarily due to the two character’s physical (as well as metaphysical) separation, an issue the next film seems set to rectify with the core three children heading towards the Lillin. Asuka's ultimate role in 3.x however, ironically, takes the place of Misato from EoE: cajoling the near catatonic and unresponsive Shinji towards what is inevitably his destiny.

It seems unlikely that Asuka’s role in the “Final Impact” will be the same as in the original TV series given that Shinji’s relationship with Rei has been far more overtly advanced. Given the giant, misshapen Rei parts that are likely scattered around the post-Third Impact landscape, I get the feeling that Asuka will martyr herself to save Shinji in the end, leaving him and Rei in the same position as he and Asuka were in EoE. There is perhaps little doubt though that she will fight until the end, however ignominious that may be.

Characters 4/5


Piece by piece, everything that Shinji has worked for his entire life is taken away. His propensity to just go along with everything is shown by how rapidly he switches from abject confusion after his resurrection to demanding to pilot Unit 01 - essentially switching back to what he thinks people want him to do. When he is told in no uncertain terms to never pilot the Eva again, it takes away his raison-detre, his self-worth that was tightly wound around piloting and the adulation, however small, that got him. In sense then, it is a denial of his existence by those who once validated it.

When he chooses to go back to NERV, he is placed into a purgatory (both figurative and almost literal) and made to confront his sins. His action to save Rei in 2.x not only didn’t work - “his” Rei is nowhere to be found and any feelings he has for her are unreciprocated - but killed millions and irrevocably damaged the world. His father, whom he shared at least a formative understanding with, is once again absent and he learns his mother is locked away within Unit 01, now unobtainable and ensconced within the Wunder. Shinji’s last chance to redeem himself is with Kaworu who shows him nothing but friendship but Shinji repays that with distrust. A distrust that causes Kaworu to don the DSS choker and ultimately die, accepting what would have been Shinji’s fate.

Shinji’s naive belief that action, any action, in this case piloting the ominously titled Unit 13, is better than none is a significant shift from his personality in the original TV series that was ferociously passive. It makes the outcome all the more heartbreaking though as it’s Shinji’s distrust of Kaworu and people in general that ultimately kills him, and it’s Shinji’s fervent desire to atone and undo what he wrought that, once again, damns the world.

Where Shinji goes from here is unknown, but it can hardly be a bad thing that he take Mari’s parting advice and “go and see the world” rather than being trapped in his own melancholia. Being able to reconcile his guilt for his actions and move forward will likely be the theme of the final movie, understanding that to advance you have to act, but also accept the consequences of that action without regret. But if he ends up choosing humanity’s fate once again during Instrumentality, I get the feeling that his decision won’t have changed from the TV series or EoE, only the reasoning behind it.

Characters 5/5


Anything Kaworu says is going to be read with a predatory homosexual undertone to it; even his utterance at the end of 2.x elicited guffaws of laughter when I saw it in a packed cinema. Kaworu's affection towards Shinji has always been entirely platonic and never of the kind of carnality imagined by thousands of fanfic writers. Here in 3.x it is no different. His introduction hasn't been as blunt as it was in the original series, being one of only a few characters seen in each movie so far, and his relationship with Shinji isn't as accelerated as it threatened to be.

Little is made of Kaworu's Angelic lineage with no mention of it to Shinji, to him he is simply a gifted, if somewhat strange young man. His fate is inextricably linked with Shinji's and unlike the original series which had him utter "I think I was born just to meet you", here Kaworu's raison d'etre is to aid Shinji in whatever way he can, using the more confirmatory "I really was born to meet you". We see nothing of his life outside of his interactions with Shinji: no words are shared with Rei ("You are the same as I am") and no early morning meetings with SEELE monoliths which leaves him a total mystery - what did he do in the intervening fourteen years since descending to Earth? Why does he wish to make Shinji happy? Why did he awake from a coffin on Moon?

The answers are (mostly) irrelevant as Kaworu was always the "last nail" for Shinji, he was the one who showed that trust and unconditional friendship - things Shinji had never experienced before in his brutal upbringing - are possible. Kaworu's death destroys the last thing Shinji had to hold on to. All of the piano playing and the homoerotically titled "double entry system" for Unit 13 are just allusions to a relationship Shinji has never had and unknowingly yearned for. But in those final moments, as Kaworu wishes Shinji the happiness he couldn't bring him, that last transparent barrier still stands in the way between them both reaching one another.

As before, Kaworu dies to prevent the end of humanity but this time promises Shinji that they'll meet again. Whether this will be parting words during the Final Impact as in EoE or when the past repeats itself is unknown. Kaworu may be "SEELE's boy", an agent of the mysterious group, and their plans may be foiled, however it is Shinji's last hope that really dies with Kaworu.

Scrutiny 1/2

The opening act of 3.x is mighty difficult to take seriously: everyone either sports a new hair cut or futuristic sunglasses. Not helped by the Wunder's bizarre proportions or the, for want of a better phrase, anime-esque launch sequence. It cleaves closer to the bedlam of Nadesico than the po-faced seriousness the series is familiar with. Whether it's the pink-haired Midori's cliched vocals, the prior bridge bunnies (Makoto, Maya and Shigeru) taking a literal back seat or the flying aircraft carriers - it's a shame that between the stonking opening battle and the quiet melancholy of Shinji's purgatory is a relative low point in what is otherwise a stunning movie.

It hides a lot of incidental information however, that, like the rest of the film, is important to comprehending the whole picture. For instance the Wunder (or to give it its full title, Autonomous Assault Ark Wunder) houses the three magi units originally from NERV HQ as well as an N2 reactor (previously seen in N2 mines used against the 4th and 10th Angels). The style of the Wunder and its crew is important with raw and busy control screens surrounded by sticky notes and manuals - this is a ship and a crew that is constantly under siege and there is not the time or the manpower for the niceties that NERV once offered, only utilitarian functionality.

The Wunder itself, although harnessing Unit 01 for its power source, appears to be one large Evangelion unit (controlled by the Dummy System) replete with an LCL startup sequence and tell-tale bloody wounds when damaged. The concept of Eva being just a humanoid fighting robot is turned on its head with the double-entry Unit 13 and the mass produced flying Unit 04 or "Nemesis Series" as they are referred to. Angels are similarly reconceptualised with the bizarre twelfth inhabiting the Mark 06 (the same unit brought down from the Moon) as well as Kaworu supposedly being both the first and last Angels. This leaves two very conspicuous holes in the Angel pantheon:

  1. Kaworu
  2. Unknown
  3. Defeated by Mari at the beginning of the second movie
  4. Defeated by Shinji at the beginning of the first movie after going berserk
  5. Defeated by Shinji during the first movie with Touji and Kensuke in the cockpit
  6. Defeated by Shinji and Rei during the first movie after it tries to drill into the GeoFront
  7. Defeated by Asuka upon her entrance in the second movie
  8. Defeated by Shinji, Rei and Asuka in a group effort during the second movie
  9. Defeated by Shinji in the second movie after it had infected the test Unit 03
  10. Defeated by Shinji in the second movie after it had defeated Mari and Unit 02 and absorbed Rei and Unit 00
  11. Unknown
  12. Inhabits Unit 06 and is released by Rei in Unit 09 by decapitation, devoured by Unit 13
  13. Defeated by the DSS choker, Kaworu after being "cast down"

Continued on 2/2 →

Scrutiny 2/2

← Continued from 1/2

The question being where Adam and Lillith fit into this line-up - if at all taking into account the enigmatic "Lost Number" Kaji delievered to Gendou in 2.x - considering they were the first and second Angels respectively in the previous mythology. That mythology though is most malleable given that it seems the Rebuild project is not just a sequel to Evangelion, but a far flung iteration. The most telling part being the descent into Central Dogma where, buried within the strata of the walls, are what look like ghostly Evangelion fossils. Kaworu refers to them simply as the "failures of infinity". A tantalising possibility then that the Evangelion TV series was the first iteration of the story, and Rebuild is many, many times through.

Take for example the SEELE monoliths that are assumed to be like their originals: conduits for the shadowy funding council to speak through. Here however Gendou and Fuyutsuki "turn off" the monoliths, briefly showing the imprint of a brain (gehirn in German) before they turn grey. Gendou claims they have changed their souls and were able to live forever; perhaps then these obelisks are what became of the souls behind SEELE after EoE's Third Impact, just as Asuka and Shinji reformed into human bodies, SEELE turned into immortal stone sentinels.

What is clear though is that the Instrumentality that the TV series championed is not the same as it is in the Rebuild project. Instrumentality (or the lesser known "Red Earth Purification Ceremony" which fits with the Earth's current state in 3.x) before was an artificial evolution, merging humanity's consciousness by turning into LCL. Here though it is a destructive act, wiping out humanity who "change the world to fit themselves" as Kaworu put it, in order to make way for new beings.

Regardless of how it turns out, Evangelion: Final certainly has a lot of questions to (at least try and) answer.