Evangelion: Rebuilds [Movies 1-3] (2007)
In 1995, the original series of Neon Genesis Evangelion (NGE) came out to the world and sprung an anime attack not only in the East but also in the Western world. However, Studio Gainax was hit with crazy technological issues along with creator/director Hideaki Anno suffering from his own personal issues. Inevitably, this lead to countless problems and one of the least understood endings in anime ever. Three movies deemed “Rebuilds” have been made to date with a loose retelling of the original series: Evangelion You are (not) alone 1.0 (episodes 1-6), Evangelion You can (not) advance 2.0 (episodes 8-19), and Evangelion You can (not) redo (episodes 20-24). Are they faithful to the original or do they do something else entirely?
Angels are giant alien-like creatures bent on wiping out mankind. Set 15 years after the “Second Impact” where half of humanity was wiped out. Shinji Ikari is a young abandoned teenager. He receives word from his father, the head of NERV, to come and be a pilot of something called Eva Unit 01 and save mankind. Of course, Shinji was really told none of this or what he would be forced to go through by his own father.
NERV (in German means nerve) is an organization responsible for battling the Angels and the creators of the mechs known as Evangelions, deemed Evas for short. The Evas are more like cyborgs in which the pilot must synchronize up to psychically in order to pilot them. It is later explained why only 14 year olds with mothers whom died in the Second Impact are the sole people able to pilot these Evas. What the Evas are, how they impact the pilot, and how to utilize them is deeper than just cyborgs with robotic elements. One of many interesting aspects to the series.
Art, sound, animation, everything has been improved ten-fold comparatively. In 1995, NGE already had good animation for the time, but the amount of detail of landscapes, the mechs, and an implication of CG turns this into a stunning work of art. Staying true to the series roots, the films somehow incorporates the old music with the new creating a stunning mixture. The biggest noticeable difference is now the incorporation of emotion portrayed into the characters eyes unlike the old series where full mouths were drawn to showcase a smile. One example of this is when Shinji reaches Rei in her Eva capsule. Originally, Rei looks at Shinji with a large smile on her face while in the movie, this is solely shown in her eyes with almost zero mouth movement.
In terms of movie one, it arguably cuts out the unnecessary plot elements and condenses it into showcasing Shinji and the people directly linked to him instead of many of the other cast members. Even the early rapid mood swings by Shinji and company were reduced, which is a good thing for this being the start. Also, due to a smaller window to work with, both Shinji and Rei benefit from having a larger focus; Shinji does not seem in a constant state a self-loathing and depression every second, so only every minute now, while Rei arguably has more personality development than her stagnation experienced in the show.
The second movie has a mixture of good and bad. Angel and Eva fights are crazy awesome as expected. Anno does not miss a beat giving the viewer a sense of brutality and emotion to go along with these sequences. In this sense and an even further condensed plot, screen time is re-focused again. This time, characters personalities are changed yet again. With this new constraint, characters like Shinji mentally breaks faster, Asuka seemingly is more blunt and dedicated as opposed to switching rapidly between being social and absolute depression, and Rei is more accepting of Shinji this time around essentially taking away many aspects of her original personality. Basically, the second movie creates more relatable characters. There must be a mention of the complete departure from the original story line, and there are theories to go along with it. Within this new direction, the writing and pacing accelerates the deconstruction of the human psyche so many aspects of the film could easily be missed. With so many plot elements missing from the original for deeper character development and subtext all over the place, one last issue seen is the awful story telling involving plot magic. This is when the writing conveniently exploits a plot device making anything possible. This was an issue in the original series during this point as well.
Now for the third film. This is a visual masterpiece that completely departs from the original series. This movie provides more questions than answers on top of being in new territory creating an utter mess. The viewer is given extremely subtle one-line clues from start to finish such as the phrase “curse of the Evas.” NERV is gone and a civil war-esc event is currently happening. Little explanation to character choices and even Shinji’s view only adds to confusion that ensues. What is most disappointing is now the universe and events happen simply because the current plot demands it to happen giving the viewer zero sensibility. Sure the constant action is salivating and edge-of-your-seat interesting, but the reasoning is very puzzling. Plot magic and backwards character development is in full force here. It is all very sad since the mindless action is so good.
Seemingly, the rebuild movies slowly gave the audience more action and focus on Shinji as a character. Characters like Rei, Asuka, and the newly introduced Mari had their development sacrificed. It pretty much wants to get the viewer to watch the original show. Rei, the pilot of Unit 00, is most as cold and emotionless as ever, but by the third movie is reset, and the same could be said for Asuka. Mari basically got nothing, so not even totally sure what the point of her was.
As for theories, the best to come up with for now is due to events in the original series lead to a total universe reset based upon a single human’s wish. This leads to believe that the events starting with Shinji getting into the Eva and a slow re-write of the universe’s events eventually leading to a new future or alternate future all together creating a retelling or “rebuild.” If agreed or close to this theory, it is rather interesting and amazing. The same story can be told and due to this slow departure can focus on other aspects of the Eva universe ranging from Angel focused fights to something as cool as introducing new characters and even a new ending.
Overall, the Rebuild Evangelion movies 1-3 to date are no doubt breathtakingly gorgeous and action packed. The first movie is by far the best, and depending how the viewer takes the other two can almost be just as good despite the third being a complete mess in terms of storytelling. Based on the theory stated above, the original series needs to be watched to fully understand the characters, their personalities, their choices, and importance they play into these rebuild films. Otherwise, without that understanding these films are simply mindless action fluff, which is not something Evangelion is. However, together, the rebuild movies have an even deeper meaning and the second and third rebuilds make that much more sense and intrigue going forward.