Anime review: Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo

Warning: This review includes some spoiler content for anyone who has not viewed Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance, and includes some minor spoilers regarding the plot of the beginning of Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo. While I generally try my best to avoid including any spoiler content in my reviews, the nature of the Evangelion films makes this difficult. Evangelion 3.0 is especially tricky to review in a manner that does the film justice, due to how different a direction it travels in comparison to the previous films or the original Neon Genesis Evangelion series.

Fourteen years have passed since Shinji Ikari initiated Third Impact and Kaworu Nagisa subsequently intervened with his own Evangelion Mk 06, halting the process. Evangelion 3.0 opens with Asuka and Mari piloting their own Evas in pursuit of Shinji and Unit 01, who are in orbit above Earth and headed planetside in a cross-shaped container. After one very exciting open scene, the group descends through the atmosphere as Kaworu watches on. Shortly thereafter, Shinji awakens onboard the Wunder, the flagship of an anti-NERV organization known as Wille. After Wille engages and defeats some enemy forces, Shinji comes face-to-face with Asuka. Glad that she is alive, Shinji asks her what has happened to Rei. Asuka, who is less-than-ecstatic to see Shinji, informs him that she does not know where Ayanami is, which Misato follows up by implying that Rei is dead. Convinced that he was successful in rescuing her during the Third Impact, Shinji begs for someone to explain what exactly is going on, but his time with these familiar faces is cut short, as Evangelion Unit 00 attacks the Wunder with the goal of retrieving Shinji. Though Misato orders Shinji to remain on board the Wunder, going so far as to threaten his life, Shinji leaves with Ayanami and the forces of Wille are ordered not to pursue.

Shinji's story in Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo is very much one of a stranger in a strange land. At times, it carries a similar tone as Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone or even the early episodes of the original anime series, wherein Shinji was scared and confused about what all these foreign pressures being thrust upon him meant and why he was chosen to be a protector of all mankind. But in Evangelion 3.0, Shinji's confusion arises from his fourteen-year absence. The moment he returns to the world, he is caught up in a power struggle, and there is little time for anyone to explain to him just what is going on. Asuka and Misato blame him for the current state of the world, while Rei seems to have completely forgotten the dynamic of her relationship with Shinji. Gendo appears before Shinji only briefly to inform him of NERV's plan to build a new Evangelion, and thus Shinji finds Kaworu the only person he can confide in.

Evangelion 3.0 spends less time showing off spectacular battle sequences than the previous installment, in favor of character and plot development. Asuka, Shinji, and Kaworu are easily the three most prominent cast members this time around, though Rei's unfamiliarity with people and habits is of relative significance to Shinji's wrestling with his inner self. The film does well to answer some major questions left lingering from You Can (Not) Advance. A couple of subplots from the original series are revisited and reworked to fit the Rebuild of Evangelion storyline. Religious tones are more specific, with themes of penance for sins and coping with loss taking center stage. Evangelion 3.0 is a much darker film than the two that preceded it, and its second half treads a path that echoes End of Evangelion in certain respects.

When the Evas do enter combat, they look even better than during their last outing, and it is really impressive how the animation team manages to work in so much detail to every scene while keeping everything so clean and visually captivating. The design of Mari's Evangelion Unit 08, the Wunder, and even some of the updated character designs are quite adventurous. Meanwhile, the soundtrack is intense and carries a different feel from those used in the previous films. It is largely comprised of brand new songs, all of which fit the mood of the film very well, from scenes where Shinji and Kaworu are playing the piano to segments where events prior to the film are explained. And of course, the classic Eva battle themes see a few new renditions, with the occasional inclusion of a heavy electric guitar part.

Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo zooms in on a very specific place and time in the storyline of this new film series. Whereas Evangelion 1.0 and 2.0 consolidated events most Evangelion fans were familiar with, 3.0 has to slow down and bridge gaps. While it may not answer every burning question fans have about this new film series' story, it does well to set in motion an endgame. By the film's conclusion, viewers should get a sense that there a clear goal in mind for the fourth film's plot, even if we don't know exactly how Hideaki Anno and his team intend to let it play out.

My rating: 9 (out of 10)

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