Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice in the course of three installments of a series, still shame on you for getting my hopes up with a surprisingly good second installment before sucking again.
Rebuild of Evangelion 1.0, to reference The Simpsons, could be described as “Malibu Stacy with a new hat,” promoted as a remake with a fresh perspective but in actuality a lazy copy-paste of the first few episodes of the original Neon Genesis Evangelion TV series with only a few minor and not-so-impressive changes. I was pleasantly surprised when Rebuild 2.0 turned out to be just what was promised in the first place, a creative re-imagining that actually felt like a real movie.
Rebuild 3.0, well, it’s like a very pretty hat attached to the severed head of a good friend, while said friend’s gay lover who you rarely get to see but always enjoy the company of is still making out with that severed head, and then his head explodes.
That last sentence probably sounds like the ramblings of a madman to those who haven’t seen the movie, but to those who have, isn’t that exactly what it’s like? I expect an Evangelion movie to make little sense, but I don’t expect something this inept. Remember that exciting cliffhanger from 2.0? Well, no follow-through on that; instead we jump ahead 14 years in the future where the world’s already ended and the survivors are split into warring factions. We don’t see any of this dramatized, of course, just get it through rushed exposition given to our main character Shinji, who’s been non-existent in the sea of LCL or something for those 14 years. Oh, and everyone’s ridiculously mean to him, because I guess he ended the world even though he clearly had no idea or intention of ending the world if that was in fact what was happening during the cliffhanger of 2.0 but they don’t want his help saving the world now and their science equipment says he can’t pilot an EVA anymore even though he does just that later in the movie. There’s a few new characters who are completely pointless, and Mari, the new character from the last movie, doesn’t do anything either (she and Asuka are still 14 for the most stupidly explained reason). Rei’s become a gross caricature of herself which I hope was intended as some sort of satirical comment but I’m afraid was really just to give some sick otaku more wank-fodder. Kaworu’s the only character in this movie who has an actual arc with a beginning, middle, and end, and even parts of that arc make no sense in how they either directly contradict or needlessly complicate his appearances in the previous two movies, but at least there’s some drama and entertainment value from his scenes.
I have one theory on how this movie can be justified and this series redeemed in its fourth and final installment: this is an alternate universe created inside Shinji’s head while stuck in the EVA at the end of the previous movie. Both the TV ending and The End of Evangelion movie touched upon the idea of alternate universes. It could actually give this movie some sort of point in terms of character development for Shinji, almost everyone else seeming so fake because that’s how he sees the world. A big point of Evangelion was that everyone needed Shinji to save the world, yet because of his depression he never saw that and pushed away everyone who cared about him. In 3.0, everyone’s pushing him away and telling him he’s not needed. Maybe this is supposed to be some sort of It’s a Wonderful Life style story where Kaworu/his mom’s soul/whatever is showing him what life would actually be like if people saw him the way he sees them? Or maybe I’m just like one of those desperate Matrix fans coming up with excuses for Reloaded during that summer before Revolutions.
One anime which is doing something fun with the alternate universe idea: the TV series Space Dandy. Two episodes in, the idea of traditional continuity has already been destroyed, but unlike Rebuild of Evangelion‘s frustrations, it’s fun and freeing, allowing each episode to become as outrageously absurd as possible. I’m up for any wacky romp the show throws at us, while also intrigued by the potential development of the adorable outdated vacuum robot QT, the only character in episode 2 who remembers what happened in episode 1. The show’s got a dream-team crew of animators headed by director Shinichiro Watanabe of Cowboy Bebop fame; Michiko & Hatchin‘s Sayo Yamamoto storyboarded last night’s episode and the crew list for the series includes such talents as Kick-Heart‘s Masaaki Yuasa and even Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo. If those names mean nothing to you, here’s one which might: Douglas Adams. No, he’s not working beyond the grave on this show, but Space Dandy captures that gleeful Hitchhiker’s Guide spirit, interpreted through a healthy dosage of ’50s rock culture and ’60s psychedelia. The show premieres new episodes on Adult Swim’s Toonami block Saturdays at 11:30 before they air in Japan, extraordinarily rare for an anime series. Given the episodic nature you can jump in at any time, but if you want to catch up you can watch the show in English (a very good dub, BTW) on Adult Swim On Demand or in Japanese with subtitles on Hulu.