Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo

There is nothing like partially destroying the world to cause an existential crisis.  Shinji Ikari was always a moody kid, but he is in for the mother of all guilt trips.  The franchise that rejuvenated mecha anime returns with the third installment of Hideaki Anno’s feature anime “rebuild” series, Evangelion 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo (trailer here), which screens this Friday in New York.

If you saw 2.0, you might be somewhat surprised to learn the climactic battle did not turn out so well, but not as surprised as Ikari. He will have quite a rude awakening from fourteen years of suspended animation.  His former protector, Misato Katsuragi is now the leader of WILLE, an outfit explicitly opposed to his father’s NERV—and she apparently hates his guts. A lot of people do, including his former hotshot comrade-in-arms, Asuka Shikinami.  Nobody will spell it out for him, but they are all adamant he should never step inside an EVA battle bot again.

As a result, he is more than willing to desert WILLE for NERV when offered the chance, particularly since the getaway EVA is piloted by Rei, whom Ikari thought he had saved at the end of 2.0.  She has changed though, whereas his father is the same old cold Machiavellian.  At least, Ikari makes a new friend in Kaworu Nagisa, with whom he plays four-handed piano and learns the full devastating extent of the Third Impact he inadvertently hastened.

Given the fourteen year time jump, 3.0 ought to be a convenient entry point to the series, but it actually feels denser than the previous two outings.  It is definitely a middle film, ending more with a lull in the action than any sense of closure. While he was never a barrel of laughs, Ikari’s mopiness becomes almost insufferable.  On the plus side, Shikinami really comes into her own as an anime action role model for girls. Listening to her tear into Ikari is good, sort of clean, cathartic anime fun.

As usual, the art of 3.0 remains several cuts above the industry standard. This time out, writer-chief director Anno cranks up the apocalyptic elements something fierce, but somehow the religious overtones do not feel as pronounced.  The complete lack resolution will frustrate casual viewers, but fans will dig the metal-on-cosmic metal action (they should also stay for the teaser-stinger).  Recommended for anime connoisseurs who appreciate the intricate series mythology and Shikinami’s attitude, Evangelion 3.0 screens this Friday (1/10) at the Big Cinema Manhattan, Saturday (1/11) at the Yonkers Drafthouse, and Saturday (1/11) and next Tuesday (1/14) at the Village East, as well as other select theaters throughout the country.