Normally, I’d reserve a full, professional, spoiler-free review of something like an Anime Movie… Normally. Evangelion 3.33 is such an odd beast, and such an undercovered beast that I think its worth actually diving into an episode blog style post that deals with and critiques the movie taking into consideration all the story elements and plot points that would otherwise be difficult to cover in a review.
Let me start, by saying that I really have liked what Evangelion 1.0 and Evangelion 2.22 have done with the movie series. Despite having seen the original series, its two remake OVAs/Movies and generally keeping up with the Evangelion franchise, I was not a fan of the anime franchise itself. Like many others, I wasn’t a big fan of the lackluster, utterly confusing and in my opinion, disappointing last few parts of the series. The ending, of course, was a complete chaotic mess that tried to act like it was all philosophical and symbolic, while really not leaving the viewer with much to really discern its overall message or idea.
I liked the concept of Evangelion though, and I really liked the more slice of life moments combined with the horror of having teenagers having to pilot mechs to save humanity from extinction. I believe that the balanced story, without the weird choatic psychodelic trippy stuff, was what made Evangelion special. Near the end of its tenure, I remember a lot of controversy surrounding Hideki Anno, the creator, writer and director of the franchise. Some speculated that Hideki Anno’s own personal life had impacted the ending of the series.
In any case, the Rebuild of Evangelion series, is supposed to be the remake of the original Evangelion series, made to be as it was originally envisioned by Hideki Anno-san. Many have called the new series as Evangelion on anti-depressants. I’d definitely agree, as the recent Evangelion movies were more cheerful, pleasant, well paced, beautifully animated and took the series in a much more clearer and well written direction. Rebuild of Evangelion also took the series in a whole new direction plot wise, with events only somewhat following the original series, and carving a new, more interesting story for itself.
Characters got even more development and depth in the two movies than they did in the original series. Not only that, Shinji Ikari, the series main protagonist, evolved into a much more likable and interesting lead, as opposed to the whiney little brat that had been a mainstay of the original series.
Evangelion 2.22 really marked a huge change for Shinji, as he moved to bet everything on the line and try to save Ayanami Rei. Honestly, I had rather liked the budding romance and intimate connection that had been established between the two, and seeing Shinji man up and try to save the girl he liked was an amazing change of pace.
The movie ended with a massive cliffhanger, with Shinji having seemingly saved Rei, but frozen both her and himself into some kind of new entity. The ending really screamed possibilities for an exciting and new direction for the series, and I honestly believed that the franchise would finally achieve greatness.
And then… Evangelion 3.33 came along. If I were to say that Evangelion 1.11 and 2.22 were everything that made the Evangelion franchise so amazing, Evangelion 3.33 is the very essence of what’s always been wrong with the series. In many ways it felt like Evangelion had regressed back into old habits, and a serious case of depression.
The movie is best described as an uncomfortable experience. I’m sure, that the movie was primarily made with the idea of inciting the feeling of unease and uncomfortableness from its audience, but the movie doesn’t know when to stop and hold back a little.
The story for the third movie picks up fourteen years after the events of the second one. Shinji is somewhat “retretieved” from space by Asuka and brought back to a ship that is under the command of Misato, who now is some kind of Colonel. She also is in charge of some massive ship called the Wunder. Its later revealed that the original EVA 01 unit that Shinji piloted is being used as the core engine of the ship. Rei Ayanami appears and takes Shinji back with her to NERV.
Things get extremely dicey from here on out, as the film refuses to give the viewer the payoff from this whole time skip idea.
The idea of a timeskip after that cliffhanger is actually a good one, with Shinji coming back into a strange and changed world after being basically comatose for 14 years. The problem? The movie refuses to deal with the big elephant in the room until about half way through.
“What happened in those fourteen years? Why is Shinji suddenly hated and despised by everyone that he used to call friend or family? What happened to Ayanami Rei? Why is Misato now fighting NERV in a new organization? Why is NERV still actually in existence and function when the entire place feels like a ghost town? Who is this new Ayanmi Rei”
All these questions are introduced from the very earliest parts of the film, and very few things are actually answered. Not only that, but Shinji is totally ignored, despised and pretty much led along by the plot. The character development and sense of self that he acheived in the first two movies is thrown out the window, and we get a small little child that whines, cries and acts confused for the majority of the film.
Its dissapointing, because one of the best things about the new film series was how much it respected its characters and their development.
We do learn of some things, such as Shinji’s actions at the end of the second movie actually leading to a third impact. This is an amazing twist, but the movie ends up waiting far too long before giving the viewer this little nugget of story. Instead, we have Shinji learning how to play the Piano with Kaoru, playing Shogi with Fuyutiski, and chasing after Ayanami until things finally get revealed.
The thing is, Shinji isn’t exactly trying to avoid the answers to these questions. The idea of Shinji actually wanting to avoid learning about what happened would be an interesting idea in and of itself, but its hardly adressed at all. Instead, Shinji just fumbles around, whines and continues to get trampled from all sides, as there is literally no one he can trust.
Then, we get Shinji’s budding friendship and even potentially romantic relationship with Kaoru happen. This was, perhaps, the most entertaining part of the movie. In a movie where nearly everyone is stoic, odd and seemingly dead inside, Kaoru actually appears to be the most human and expressive character in the film. His bond with Shinji, and the way he gets Shinji to trust and open up to him, is pretty darn awesome.
Not only that, but Kaoru genuinely is the only person who appreciates and respects Shinji. The reason as to why is never really explained though, and that comes off as kind of weird. There IS a reason, as nearly everyone except the audience and Shinji seems to know why everyone feels the way they do about him. Yet, we never get to know, because apparently the audience isn’t good enough to know the real story or idea behind the movie they are watching. This “No I won’t tell you!” attitude of the movie is obviously something that continually persists throughout the movie, and makes it such a chore to watch.
I will say, I wanted to give this movie the benefit of the doubt till the end. For a while, the whole idea of Kaoru and Shinji going at it alone, against everyone, to fix the world sounded like a nice idea. I bought into the idea that Shinji was going to fix things with Kaoru, and that they really had to fight both Misato’s side and Ikari Gendo’s side in order to win.
Shinji and Kaoru end up facing up against Asuka and Mari, and therefore Misato’s new organization. Its a thrilling battle, and it seems like the movie actually has decided on a direction for the story and all is finally well.
And then the movie serves to ruin expections… again. Shinji, despite being told by EVERYONE, including Kaoru, to not pull out the two spears of Longinus, ends up doing it anyway. Karou repeatedly asks him not to, even mentions that the two different spears they need are not there! Yet Shinji ignores all of that. His behavior is stupid, erratic and definitely out of character. Shinji simply does what the plot dictates to him, because he has to. His own motivations are not ever well defined.
The best explanation, that can be put forth, is that the stress of the alienation, the changed situation and everything that’s happened to Shinji propells him to just go crazy and pull out the spears anyway. Its just… puzzling and arguably extremely bad writing.
Lo and behold, a fourth impact is suddenly triggered. Without really explaining anything, the audience is told to “understand” that what’s happening is because Kaoru suddenly became the thirteenth angel, and that it is because of Ikari Gendo’s plan.
And speaking of said plan, the whole reveal behind Ikari Gendo’s plan and the situation behind Shinji’s mother is also more puzzling than anything. What exactly did she propose? How is she related to the whole thing? She apparently was the one who created and championed the whole concept of the EVAs, but beyond that we really don’t understand much at all.
And of course, the movie ends with Kaoru sacrificing himself to stop the fourth impact. Its a quick and sad end to perhaps the strongest character in the movie. Of course, even Karou’s so called sacrifice doesn’t stop the Fourth Impact Entirely, and then Mari has to actually go and de-activate the Unit 13 that Shinji and Kaoru were in.
Somewhow Seele (the origanization that Gendo ultimately kills in the movie) had Shinji as their actual backup for their plan.
In the end, we have another weird exchange with Asuka coming and asking Shinji why he didn’t come to save her. Shinji? He’s too busy being in the fetal position and being an emo child. In the end, Asuka, drags him out and takes him and Ayanami Rei into the vast stretches of the Red-ish landscape, hoping to get close enough to the Wunder so that they can be picked up.
And that’s that. With only One movie left to go, and myriad of confusing questions, illogical events, and extremely inconsistently paced story Evangelion looks posed to repeat the mistakes of the original series. It really is sad, because the potential put forth by the first two movies really posed to make Evangelion something truly great. Its just… sad to see all of that squandered and for Evangelion to regress back into the mess that was the original’s series ending, or the End of Evangelion OVA/Movie.
Honestly, I found this movie to be quite bad, and the core problem is that it really focused too much on large scale, sweeping action scenes, rather than on its characters, story and plot. The story for this movie was something could’ve easily been covered in half the movie, and the other half could’ve easily had more content in it. Instead, the whole thing felt like a quickly put together mess. And I don’t mean that from a production value stand point, as the visuals and animation, alongside the audio work in this film were amazing.
It was the writing, dialogue, characterization and overall direction that not only marred the experience, but effectively killed it. There is a chance that Evangelion 4.44 or the Final movie in the series will bring everything to a nice close. Given this movie and its performance thus far, I won’t hold my breath in anticipation. I give it a C Grade.