It was by complete accident that I found out that The Movies at Montgomery Mall was playing Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo on the big screen last Saturday night. Is this a thing that happens regularly there? They really need to advertise that shit better. If I hadn’t been randomly looking around Fandango, I would have missed it entirely.
I don’t get to see a lot of anime on the big screen so I figured, hell, might as well give it a try. Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone and Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance were very pretty to look at and, for the most part, fairly understandable as far as Eva goes. I also don’t mind the dubs of Eva. I almost always prefer subs, but I’ve always liked the actors that dub Eva. So I thought I’d give 3.0 a chance. As you’ve figured out by now, I’m a sucker for robots punching things on the big screen.
END OF NOSTALGIA
Before I attempt to describe what I saw, I think a little background is in order. I was in high school when anime started to break out into the mainstream. Adult Swim was subjecting people to things like Dragon Ball Z and Inuyasha. Hollywood Video started carrying box sets of Mobile Suit Gundam and Patlabor. Cowboy Bebop, Macross Plus, Trigun, all of this shit was becoming mainstream. And then, there was Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Everyone I knew loved Eva. It was objectively good. Who gave a flying fuck that the last two episodes were a meta mess that basically subverted the entire show. There were robots punching and girls wearing plug suits. Honestly, we were just happy to get copies that we could finally understand. Fuck yeah, anime!!!
Now that anime isn’t so difficult to get, there’s a whole new generation of fans who aren’t fooled by giant robots punching just because. Giant robots aren’t that special so if you’re show sucks, you can’t distract these new fans with exploding crosses and virbo knives. This new generation of fans have discovered something that my generation was unwilling to see.
Eva kinda sucks.
In some ways, Eva was always meant to suck. It was a cynical deconstruction of the giant robot genre. Instead of asking how hard can a robot punch an alien, Evangelion asks what would piloting a giant robot to defend civilization as we know it do to the psyche of a pre-teen? How would children deal with such a burden? What kind of sick fuck would knowingly create such monstrous machines? All the familiar aspects of the classic giant robot shows are there, they’re just twisted into a heaping mess of emotional damage.
It’s kind of a wake up. Sort of a, “Hey otaku! Yeah, you! You know those robot shows you love so bad? Hey, they’re actually really fucked up! The emotional damage done to the kids piloting these things would ruin their lives! EVERYTHING IS AWFUL WHY DO YOU KEEP WATCHING THIS SHIT?!??!?!!!!”
There’s a theory that Hideaki Anno, the guy who created Eva, hates his fans. And honestly, after watching countless hours of the Eva series, the movies, the rebuilds, it’s kind of difficult to ignore the meta context. This entire series is a giant middle finger to giant robot shows. A beautifully animated, completely blatant fuck you.
And we keep going back for more.
So with all this shit in mind, let’s finally talk about this fucking movie.
It’s been so long since I’ve seen an Eva anything that watching this was almost like seeing Evangelion for the first time. And if this is your first time seeing anything Evangelion, just stop. You won’t understand a goddamn thing. There are no Cliff’s Notes, no “previously on” montage, no wall of text to recap episodes 1.0 or 2.0. Fuck, I’ve watched all of these fucking things and even I had to do a wikipedia dive when I got home.
Let’s see if I got this straight.
After the events of the second film, Shinji has been in a coma for fourteen years. In that time, Misato Katsuragi and basically the entirety of NERV except for Gendo and Fuyutski have formed a splinter group, WILLE. WILLE’s aims to destroy NERV and all NERV created Evas.
Asuka rescues Shinji from his slumber within Unit 01. Oh, bee tee dubs, Asuka still looks like a fifteen year old because apparently piloting Evas keeps you young forever. Because anime! So yeah, she rescues Shinji who is floating in some kinda space cross. WILLE somehow uses Unit 01 as the power source for their command ship, Wunder, which must happen off screen at some point. Misato, Ritsuko, and pretty much everyone on the bridge treat Shinji like shit.
There’s a fight. Unit 9 which looks like Unit 0 shows up somehow and rescues Shinji. Rei 9.0 takes Shinji to see Gendo. Gendo says, “You’re gonna pilot Unit 13 with this weird asshole, Kaworu, because Unit 13 is like a Jaeger and requires two minds in the Drift.” Because parenting. So Kaworu seduces Shinji while Shinji tries to connect with Rei not realizing that she isn’t the Rei he knew fourteen years ago.
It’s finally time to jump into the Rift with Jaeger Unit 13. Shinji and Kaworu drift with Unit 9 protecting them. Asuka and Mari show up and it’s a big Eva fight. With Jaeger Unit 13, Shinji pulls out the spears that stuck in giant Rei and Unit 6 and then shit happens that still doesn’t make sense to me. Apparently, this triggers Fourth Impact but I don’t know what that is because it’s never explained in this movie. I’m guessing that’s when everyone turns into goooo, but don’t hole me to that.
Kaworu wants to stop Fourth Impact so he stabs Unit 13 with the spear thingies and then his head explodes because anime. Mari saves Shinji by ejecting his entry plug. Asuka saves Rei by blowing up Unit 9. Asuka finds Shinji sulking in his plug and pulls him out. Rei shows up and the three of them walk off into the sunset.
Even after writing all that shit out, it’s still confusing. Through much of the film, Shinji yells variations of, “WHAT’S GOING ON?!!!” I felt like he was speaking for me the entire time. And none of the explanations he’s given are satisfying. Also, the Human Instrumentality Project is dropped a few times and I still have no idea what the fuck that is. Is that where everyone turns to goo? Or is that where everyone wakes up on a stage and claps? Or is that the same shit?
Also, how does Asuka punch so well with the total lack of depth perception? Does syncing with an Eva compensate for all that? Why is Mari so useless for most of this movie? How can Gendo and Fuyutski make an Eva themselves? Where are the rest of NERV?
YOU SHOULD (NOT) KNOW BETTER
After all these years and after all the hours I’ve spent watching Eva related things, I should know that we don’t look to Evangelion for answers. We look to the show for giant robots that kind of look like malnourished track athletes trapped in armor and skin tight plugsuits that make for some really awesome cosplay.
When I forget to ask “why,” I enjoy Eva quite a bit. I’ve always liked the aesthetic of the mecha and the designs of the plugsuits. And on some level, I definitely appreciate the deconstruction of the giant robot genre. But when I start to look for explanations, my brain starts to bleed.
Here’s the sick genius of it all. When 4.0 comes out, I’m gonna be one of the first in line to watch that shit. Even if Anno hates his fans, even if I don’t know what the fuck is going on, there’s something about Eva that just draws us all in.
And when Anno gets bored and decides to reboot the fucking thing five years later, I’ll be right there in line scratching my head and wondering what the fuck I’m doing there again.
Jamie Noguchi is a Maryland-based artist and creator of Yellow Peril, an Asian American office romance comedy webcomic. He is also a co-founder of Super Art Fight, the greatest live art competition in the known universe.