This review contains spoilers for Shin Evangelion/Evangelion 3.0+1.0: Thrice Upon a Time.
🧵 INTRODUCTION of me and Evangelion
From the age of six to when I became a reclusive sixteen-year-old, on Tuesdays and Thursdays my aunt used to take me, my sister and my cousins to the swimming pool to do actual physical exercise. I loved swimming but I hated going. I felt like the other kids and teachers there were seeing me in a way I had not agreed to and, as a trans man, I now understand fully that odd fear for my body to be exposed to the judgment and sight of other people I do not trust.
Especially on Tuesdays, as I kept swimming in the chlorine-filled water, I could only focus on what was waiting for me on those nights: the MTV Italia anime slot. It used to run from 9PM to roughly 10.30PM and it usually broadcasted three different anime as their ongoing titles. There, I got accustomed to many popular adult-oriented anime that avoided the heavily censored cut of mainstream TV, such as Inuyasha (2001-7), Gensōmaden Saiyūki (2002-2003), Wolf’s Rain (2004-2006), Trigun (2000), Serial Experiments Lain (2000-2003) and Last Exile (2004) to just cite a few titles. [In brackets: the Italian release date]
There, at eleven, I had my first encounter with Neon Genesis Evangelion and its second re-run on the 10pm slot—of course, my age heavily influenced the opinion I had at the time, without having any criticism or, well, understanding of what I was indeed watching. My gut reaction was of awe.
My little body was shaken at the sight of unit 01 going berserk. Shaken, not by a scared chill but a spark of love for how crude, feral, visceral the scene felt. The show’s eternal summer, the scorching heat it conveyed, almost emanating from the VCR screen. Contrasts, immense blue, deep orange, drums, silence, cicadas, still-life, the sea. Something was unfolding in front of my eyes and I was so desperately attracted to it that these images were permanently fixed into my mind like a carving, a memento.
When I was seventeen I re-watched the anime and I hated
it. As a teen, my personality was very much one of a loner know-it-all, who
could only make friends via the internet over the very niche hobbies I had. I
despised the show that now attached meanings to the images I so much held dear.
Meanings my brain was ready to understand but my subconscious was terrified to
confront: you can love yourself and
people will love you—however, you must accept it yourself first, you must give
change a chance to bear its fruits.
However, the one part I loved was the following released movie, End of Evangelion. MTV Italia had never broadcasted it at the time, so I had to look for the Italian dub myself on the internet. For some reason, our adaptations from Japanese always suffered from a certain level of intricacy that made anime (and manga, sometimes) echo as more obscure and mysterious than what they actually were. The translators at the time were probably still very naïve to the language and how it could work hand in hand with Italian, so my guess is to see it as a product of ignorance and inexperience. This point was relevant to my specific experience with anime at the time.
End of Evangelion was the correct ending to me, even though I never had a conflict with the show’s ending, to begin with: it was just a deterioration of the characters, like someone relapsing. Watching it had me shaken, again, with the same feelings of my childhood with the additional baggage of a confused, isolated, lonely adolescent trans boy in fieri. My enjoyment came from the deranged actions of its characters and that, in the end, it did not matter— nothing mattered. It was all about people trying to find one another and I was failing at that.
My third view of the series was at twenty-six and it was with a friend. She had never seen EVA and I felt like it was a topical anime to show a, well, younger anime fan— sometimes you need those elements to understand where other works take their inspiration from.
As we watched it, I
held my gaze to the screen with a certain nostalgia for it. We both enjoyed our
little stay in this universe for the span of 26 episodes and a movie but my
judgment had yet again changed, morphed into a new understanding of the
characters and the themes that drenched this title. I now got them. I understood why they would be acting a certain way, why
the protagonists were… Just teens,
growing up surrounded by unreliable adults that had their own problems and
faults because of past traumas. The world is collapsing. I understand.
I also found a lot of faults in it, this time looking at animation, script and all that jazz. My final critique could be summed up with “the whole show could have been told in just twelve episodes, saving the crew a lot of stress, money and pacing issues.”
In 2020, at the age of twenty-eight, Netflix suggested
End of Evangelion to
me once again and, once again, I ate it up. I still think that is the best
piece of work GAINAX
Maybe I wanted to keep it that way for as long as I had an interest in anime, never acknowledging their existence and living in blissful ignorance. Still, I feel like I can and should chime in with a different point of view on what this product became a shadow of itself, engorged into its own image, the one of a beautiful, impractical, meaningless husk of a man’s ego.
🧵 INTRODUCTION of a man
“I want my burning sorrow to be known.”
(Translation by Paul McCarthy)
I began this part with a quote from Nakajima Atsushi’s The Moon over the Mountain (1969), a short story about a man, Li Zheng, who quit his promising career as a government official to become a poet. He was a “genius” at the craft, we might say, and people all told him so. Extremely talented, well-schooled.
Nevertheless, life ran its course and Li Zheng was not able to sustain himself and his family anymore, accepting another job as a local official. One night, on a trip out of town, he grew mad, running off into the forest never to be seen again— His body, much to his fear and disgust, had now transformed into the one of a tiger.
As he was roaming the woods, at the
break of dawn he encountered an old friend of his to whom he wailed and
lamented his condition, for his unfulfilled talent, his isolation, his anger,
frustration and “timid pride” (okubyō-na
|“I thought it’d be best to try and re-make EVA myself.”|
In 1995, Anno brought the concept of Neon Genesis Evangelion to life as he was battling with depression
In the recently NHK broadcasted documentary on the production of the EVA Rebuilds, Farewell, all Evangelion ~1214 Days of Anno Hideaki~ (I watched the extended release of April 29th, 2021), we are given a recollection of a detail-oriented man, whose work comes before his own life at the cost of personal hygiene, human relationships and general wellbeing. His wife compares him to an animal that is not acquainted to humans, needing to be taken care of.
|“Egoism is the soul of animation”|
The sorrow he battled with, back in the 90s, helped him craft
a very specific vision
The plot and the weird Christian symbolism EVA was soaked in had never really been the main focus of the show, feelings were. Anno’s feelings. His relationship with his father, unreachable, distant, unknown to him as much as Gendō was to Shinji. The frustrating need to form an emotional bond with others, as our protagonist struggles to make sense of his own emotions for Asuka, Rei, Kaoru. Abandonment, fear, the unknown. A roster of people surrounding him, pushing him to be the best that, yet, gave him no aid. The aid he needed, not the aid he wanted.
Anno… I mean, Shinji really shined as a pilot, even though the crushing knowledge of being himself held him back in a looming state of depression. By the end of the original series we see a certain acceptance, a hopeful look coming through the cracks when Shinji declares “I do hate myself […] but maybe I can learn to like myself one day!”.
On the other end of the spectrum, End of Evangelion presents us with a darker, twisted ending, binding the two interpretations of the same story as two sides of the same coin. Anno’s work exuded a primal need to show his state of mind. And after that, when people were not up on the internet creating threads on how to kill him in the most effective way, he was praised, endlessly— and oh, the weight of the word “genius” has never been heavier.
As I continued watching
Shadowed by his own creation, the idea that Anno is a “quirky genius” and not someone who still battles with depression (he nonchalantly talks about his suicidal thoughts, too) is baffling to me. He is not a genius. That word had a clear effect on his ego, on his histrionic need for praise and yet, living his life in constant doubt of his own skills, fighting his past self, that man who had created what people now easily refer to as “a masterpiece”. By his own standards, if he does not create, he is not worthy of living. Anno sees himself as a puppet of his craft, while EVA actually became his downfall, tying him to a legacy that he himself does not think he might overcome, not with the Rebuilds, not ever. My work before my life .「自分の命より、作品」
|“Interviewer: Do you have any emotional attachment (to EVA/EVA being over)?|
In the studio he founded, surrounded by the crew he hired that barely questions him, talking about the script he himself wrote and staring at a screen full of scenes he selected, Anno Hideaki is creating a soulless movie and will be still praised for it.
He has become the tiger.
Clearly, I do not hate Anno. I do not think he is a “genius”, though, but an extremely skilled director, animator and artist. He worked hard to achieve that level of craftsmanship, hyper-fixating on art from a very early age— so, no, I will not let his years and years of hard work, physical and mental neglect go into the generic bin of “genius”. His works need constructive, in-depth criticism. They cannot be brainlessly absorbed and praised “just because” he is Anno Hideaki.
This is to say, I have no qualms with the new “themes” Anno put in his last movie: growth, happiness, love, acceptance, rebirth. These were all already present in the old show, still I am happy he is in such a state where he is happy enough to write about happy things, as said in the documentary.
Be aware that, from this point on, I am going to be extremely critical of his work, so thank you for reading up to now! It has been a pleasure! I will be brutal on these movies, with a specific focus on the latest instalment. If you want to keep an image of me that has no specific opinion on the Rebuilds, this is your chance.
🧵 THE OTHER THREE and Shin Evangelion
In 2012, Evangelion: Q or Evangelion 3.0 (or 3.33 or
3.333— alright) was released in Japan. I
I went in to watch Q without watching the previous two
beforehand. I thought that what I
remembered from Evangelion would be enough, or at worst, the new movie would
surely make me more interested
I came out of the experience feeling, well, stupid for not getting it and seeing everyone clearly
loving it made me even more confused. What was I getting wrong? My train of
thoughts put me on the idea that my judgment was obviously missing important
pieces from the previous movies, thus I spent two nights watching the first (jo
I have no recollection of what I saw on those nights. The
whole trilogy passed me by with a vague sense of distaste and boredom, lost to
me was the reason why my memory could be able to fixate on even one of the
scenes presented to me. One part, though, stayed with me. Utada Hikaru’s Sakura nagashi
I gave the Rebuilds another chance in June 2021, when my girlfriend and I approached them together: she had never watched any of them and I wanted to be ready to face the End of Evangelion, once again. They were bad. What I mean by “bad” here is “incompetent”. They added nothing to the story of Evangelion. On the contrary, they bloated the plot, now shifting as the main focus.
crispiness of the visuals felt artificial, characters behaved like cardboard
cuts of themselves and the storyline of each movie was held with a thin thread,
which would immediately come undone once one was to try to analyse the three
The real dread and enemy in these movies is called exposition. Gone are the days where scenes could be subjectively understood and plot parts left unexplained. Silence is substituted with words, so many, too many words—Anno wants to be understood like he said in the documentary, but that comes with an enormous and heavy toll on the narrative. After a while, I stopped caring for what the characters were saying, which in return made the awful pace these movies drag themselves with for more than two hours, crystal clear.
Lights are uninteresting, contrasts are not even note-worthy. The score is just Sagisu’s works but toned down and misused, trying to appeal to the viewer’s memory of how the original OST felt, by some Pavlovian bell, immediately react like the first time they watched EVA. Sometimes, Anno even sprinkles in some of Karekano’s old OST, still made by Sagisu but for a teen romance anime.
Technically, these movies’ goal, like every movie’s goal,
should be telling us a bigger story, following a general narrative that will
take the spectator from point A to point B, whatever those points might be.
Except, they do not bring us anywhere. The overflow of information regarding
the plot and trinkets and MacGuffins that our eyes and brains constantly need
to remember or link together make us drown in a themeless sea. It is
frustrating how this “bigger story” is even signalled in the original Japanese
Speaking of Shin
Evangelion, we are at the point where the actual review of this specific
movie begins, so I will not leave you waiting any longer. To get into the mood,
enjoy the little face-to-face I made with the Shin Evangelion scene that recalls the End of Evangelion one.
🧵 TEN YEARS
“It took Anno almost ten years to create Shin Evangelion”, people say. If we take a look at what actually happened, Anno departed the project for a long while, expressing his absence in a comment released regarding his role as director for the 2016 Shin Godzilla movie. Released in mid-2015, a part of it reads:
“December 2012. After the production of EVA: Q, I broke down. I became depressed. It was natural retribution, after crushing my soul in the span of those six years spent creating EVA again. When 2013 dawned, it brought back a lot of negative thoughts, over and over again. I could not bring myself to go back to the studio I represent and to the work I burdened myself with, not even once. In early 2014 I managed to go back to the studio. After more than a year of psychological rehabilitation, I am slowly getting back to my work in animation.”
Anno could have dropped the projects that were causing him
such psychological damage and were heavy on his shoulders. He could have left
animation, left EVA alone, and yet, as I previously said, Anno forced himself
back to try exceeding his past “masterpiece”. So, in theory, production for Shin Evangelion began around 2016. After
a year, NHK began filming the documentary. It technically did not take Anno ten years to create this movie— But
even if it did, I can be a little irked at the fact that it still came out
If one were to screenshots parts of these, scenes do
convey a certain beauty to them— the
magic of photorealism. It looks nice, it cuts costs
This movie heavily relies on 3D and motion capture, producing distorted yet fluid movements for the characters. Meaning, the characters were drawn over some person doing a stunt and the viewer is able to understand it at a glimpse; as an example, we can look at how Asuka moves at minute 31 when she force-feeds Shinji. When comparing her movements just moments prior to the action or moments past it, we can see a striking difference in how her arms move or how the camera follows her. Another example could be found during the little father-son battle (when we are already one hour and fifty minutes in): both EVAs move like humans would while trying not to actually hurt one another. There is no weight to them, even as they clash onto fake buildings, just looking like puppets or drawing assets.
Anyway, I would love to discuss the plot. I want to discuss how it sounds so extremely complicated, rich in details and, wow, how it looks so cool! But, alas, I am being sarcastic, since I have no clue what these movies wanted to tell me. We can also say that I do not care for what happened and not because I did not want to care—I went in expecting something, anything that would make me feel a little heart clutch at the idea that Evangelion is actually “over” (it is not, by the way, because it is an IP and a franchise, so capitalism will not allow it to die) and yet, it was only a let-down.
The narrative is uniquely boring. On my second re-watch to write this review, I earnestly put myself down and tried to follow what was happening, but I could not bring myself to care about “the lore”. What does it mean? Why are we spending so much time with it? Is it really what EVA fans loved about the original Evangelion? The lore? The answer is, evidently, yes. That is what happened to viewers, they want puppets explaining stories to them. My disappointment stings but I should not have been surprised.
Not only does the script put me
on my knees, but the pace of the movie is also abysmal, trying to juggle too
many characters and action scenes that go by ten minutes in ten minutes. The
audience never breathes, nor does the movie. It never allows us to think. Just watch. Just absorb what Anno
is perfectly explaining to you; consume Evangelion,
praise it because it is Evangelion.
|I saw this in a better movie!|
If we want to focus on the three-act structure, we can divide them with [village], [mission] and [final act] or as I wrote in my notes “Gurren Lagann fight scenes”. Let us dissect this creature together.
In the first act, we begin with a twelve minutes fight scene that does not set the tone for the movie’s plot but helps us understand what we should expect as we move forward: EVAs will behave mostly like a glorified tank/Gundam or generic mecha, characters will relentlessly talk, the music will always come to your aid to feel the “correct” emotion and female bodies will constantly be sexualized (or reduced to just mothers, I guess).
We move then to a missed opportunity to make the three main characters interact, choosing instead to single out this moment for Anno’s signature still-life shots, while the children walk silently in a deserted space still accompanied by music. They reach the village thanks to the trio’s old classmate, Kensuke. This part is the one I hated the least, partially because it was not drenched in useless lore.
We, as viewers, have no rest, though, as the most basic show-don’t-tell is disregarded, favouring a writing style that flatly states whatever happens in a scene. Over and over and over again. In a loop of speech, uninteresting shots and generic music (with vocals in a lot of cases). Evangelion’s most known stylistic choice is gone: silence makes its absence loud. Eyes must always be engaged—stillness is forbidden and spectators are the subject of artificial feelings, the correct feelings.
With act one behind us, we march towards the second act, embarking Misato’s ship alongside Asuka and Shinji. We encounter Mari again. Somehow, Kaoru appears for a brief moment as part of Shinji’s subconscious; they talk. Then, Asuka dies (she actually does not). The way her “death” is portrayed tries to mirror her fight against the EVA series in End of Evangelion, when her eye gets pierced by Longinus’ lance.
The pathetic (see: poor) rendition proposed by the Rebuild is to override EVA02’s “obedient” form, releasing a call back to the original show’s berserk mode… Or something along those lines. End of Evangelion’s Asuka is fighting, her expression morphs into terror, anger, even exaggeratedly so; 02 is moving fast and precisely according to its pilot’s wishes. Asuka is not there to be pretty, she is not there to be an anime girl aesthetic. She is suffering, she is in pain, she is mentally broken.
The Shin Evangelion scene, on the other hand, puts most of the focus on how cool the new Eva transformation seems: we are witnessing Asuka going all the way to an epic sacrifice— like the most common shōnen anime trope. We even have a sparkle sound effect for the 02’s new rainbow arm, with a grandiose score ramping it up. Mari is also there.
When everything is declared hopeless (it is absolutely
not), Misato gets shot by Tōji’s sister, Sakura. The dramatic scene finds a
nice, shiny butt filling the whole camera during a supposedly heartfelt,
tearful moment performed by Sakura’s voice actress. Do we rest now, when it is
appropriate to mourn over our lost hope? No.
However, I am hitting the pause button for a brief moment to discuss a little more in-depth what I mean when I say this movie’s (and the other three’s) colour palette is dull. All shadows in the movie have the same weight, giving out the impression the whole story is set on a brightly lit stage. All of them are, also, grey. The staff working on colouring probably applied a multiply layer to give this effect. We can see this extremely very valid technique in a lot of lower-budget anime (or even high quality, to be honest!) and it was the norm in productions from the 80s and 90s to apply shadows by hand in with a grey overtone-- even though usually, those were balanced with different colour compositions from scene to scene, or flat colours were emboldened in contrast.
For people who are not familiar with these terms: in digital art, multiply layers are very helpful to make quick shadows! However, if you apply them to every colour, they might sometimes render it a little lifeless, especially on skin tones. If you also pick a colour that has a grey tone in it as your shadow, you could end up with a flat and uninteresting colour palette. Examples:
While testing this, I pretty much overlayed that Asuka screenshot with various types of brownish-greys and found out most shadows matched with the colour range of #8A7A66.
Do not overlook this aspect of the craft; colours are essential in storytelling to convey emotions, way more than the art-style itself. An art piece could be beautifully drawn and yet, finishing it with a confusing or uninteresting colour choice could ruin it. Neon Genesis Evangelion’s vivid imagery, vibrant palettes and contrasts are dearly missed, substituted with a wave of brown, engulfing each and every scene, flattening all of it into a crispy, perfectly drawn monotony.
Back to the scene-to-scene description, we are now
entering the third act and facing forty-five minutes of Shinji trying to have a
conversation with his father
While this is going on, Misato is having some previously
mentioned Gurren Lagann space battles
scenes—I found an interesting parallelism with Gunbuster episode 1, where the protagonist’s father, a captain,
dies honourably aboard his spaceship and the last thing he does is looking at
his daughter’s photo, saying goodbye, seconds before the ship explodes. It is
not bad or a critique, I just found it interesting. Some other scenes are
directly inspired by Gunbuster, which
also inspired Gurren Lagann, so life is a circle, after all!
Gendō understands his son is, indeed, related to Yui and he should have cherished him, which promptly triggered the song He Lives in You from the Disney movie The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride. Here goes the mirroring of the Asuka and Shinji scene from End of Evangelion, sprinkle in some soft porn lights, a glistering, ripped plug-suit for a perfect companion image.
There is a part with Kaoru and Kaji talking about plot, out of which I guessed Kaoru is bound in a constant loop until Shinji realises he needs to mature and grow; somehow Kaoru is also retconned from being gay for Shinji to just being Shinji, clearly explaining that is the reason he was attracted or drawn to him! You know. No homo.
|This bishōnen was probably many queer kids’ first gay character they saw on screen.|
Finally, the end— Shinji is on a shore, looking at a blue ocean, when Anno gives us some more “metanarrative” as the scene turns into the Take on Me video by 80s band a-ha, which recalls the sketched pencils of the original show’s episode 26. Anyway, those were made by time and monetary constrictions, this is just to show off and does not offer any interesting imagery or further meanings.
Mari arrives. She is there to shoot a Pantene commercial. Cut to a regular, Japanese train station. All our characters have grown into adults: Kaoru and Rei are talking from across the rails, Asuka is never shown in a close up (that’s how much the story cared to develop her character) but is sitting on a bench and Shinji is seen looking in front of him, a little bewildered.
|Can you spot Asuka? Because I did not on my first viewing.|
Mari says some things. She takes Shinji’s hand in hers as they start running up the stairs. The happy couple is seen running away, 2D animated, overlapping on a quite ugly wide shot of Anno’s birth city, Ube’s train station. This drone footage accompanies us towards the credits, while our eyes finally have a moment to rest on the scenery of a very bland industrial city, with no interesting colour alteration to make it more appealing, or at least he could have taken a better angle of it—Though I suppose AB Hotel will be extremely happy of the free advertising. Anyway, summing it up for you: grow up, nerds.
“Evangelion is an anime about robots.”
(Anno Hideaki, commentary on Shin Evangelion at the “Shinjuku Baltic 9” meet and greet. April 2021)
“Fan service […] is material in a work of fiction or in a fictional series which is intentionally added to please the audience, often sexual in nature, such as nudity. […] It is about "servicing" the fan– giving the fans “exactly what they want.”” (from Wikipedia)
Fan service is almost exclusively directed by and for
straight, cisgender men; its presence in anime has grown exponentially,
becoming unbearably present, at times even in works that thematically would
require little to none. Its themes can vary, from fight scenes that last an excessive amount of time but serve no plot purpose, explosions, classic action
moments to show how cool the (usually male) protagonist is, relationships loved
by fans becoming canon or,
You have the topical use of the male gaze concept with camera movements on a female character that follow her body from bottom-up, even when fully clothed. Then, up the scale, there is gratuitous cleavage, butt or legs shots; the bar rises a little higher when showing girls or women in unprovoked or out of context sexually-charged poses and situations, until we reach the level where female characters are mostly nude or half-naked for no relevant plot reason.
I am not completely
adverse to fan service as a general concept. However, one needs to be tasteful when doing so, whether it might
be to show some interesting battles, character kissing or blatant T&A.
Circling back to another work by Anno, previously mentioned Gunbuster features exposed breasts (naked) in some scenes and the
protagonists’’ “battle clothes” are scant, revealing their legs, which become
ridiculous if compared to their fully clothed male counterparts.
The “tasteful” touch employed here is to expose female characters’ chests when the situation feels fitting. For example, when they are in a bathhouse chatting amicably, or the protagonist is alone in her room only wearing a tank-top with no bra, even when. in a fight scene, her suit gets damaged and exposes half of the character’s chest; the camera never pans on their ass like that would be the focus of action. It is clearly fan service for men to look at anime tits, but at least they feel somewhat fitting or realistic in their approach.
The bar, right now, is so low in anime that this 1988 portrayal of female bodies almost sounds ground-breaking and a generally good compromise. Female bodies in Shin Evangelion, though, are sexualized to a ridiculous degree for being Evangelion— all of the scenes could have contained nakedness, but it is the meticulousness of the angle chosen by Anno that gets particularly disgusting. We are encouraged to focus on the character’s body, to get aroused by it. Every time a girl or a woman is on screen, the viewer has to look at her first and foremost as a sexy female body before seeing an actual character.
However, if the woman
is a mother our gaze is not allowed to sexualize her. Misato
becomes a mother, so suddenly she is de-sexualized; Hikari is a mother and is
never seen as “hot”, the camera never dares to portray the nursing of her baby
as erotic, either. Yui is the epitome of motherhood, only seen as a tasteful
naked lover (her back), amused while holding her son or blissfully happy in the
embrace of Gendō. Ritsuko is sexualized at the beginning of the movie and then
mostly forgotten about, only serving the purpose of spewing exposition— The
only childless adult woman is ignored by the narrative. We do not talk about
childless adult women.
I have no idea if that is some kind of “commentary” on
female bodies in anime. People,
especially cis male fans, will probably read any criticism of fan service as
“preposterous” because “Anno is a genius, it is surely something more than just
Though I must admit Mari, sometimes, does look directly into the camera as if she is acknowledging the audience’s gawking gaze. The problem with this specific type of fan service is that, besides excluding a lot of people that could find it in bad taste or, not being the target audience, are generally not interested, it reinforces the idea that female characters must exist to fill a quota of (stereo) types. Sexy, young-looking, skinny, mostly with a pale skin tone etc.
Similarly, we also have a thematic problem at hand: seeing a butt-shot, an ostensibly suggestive camera movement or framing in a serious scene (in the worst scenario, in a serious movie) takes people out of the sombre mood it is trying to convey. Nudity is not inherently sexual and a sexual act in a movie is not intrinsically pornographic; framing is what transforms and gives them meaning and how they are used in the narrative. What their purpose is.
Picking a movie as a model, Kon Satoshi’s Perfect Blue (1998) has a (staged) sex scene at the beginning of the main character’s psychological downfall— There is an idea behind that sex act, behind the exposed breast and the sexualization of the female character. A thematic purpose to it; a character analysis. With patience and minutia, Anno shaved away the meaning he had previously given to nudity in the original EVA anime series and in End of Evangelion. It is not presenting the audience an extreme consequence of some tropes (i.d. the tsundere/kuudere archetypes, the sexy underage girl etc.) or an aesthetic vision of nudity, of bodies being just bodies used to convey specific imagery. Now, it is there to make dicks hard.
Personal collection of “this is not a normal shot”.
There is another type of fan service presented in Shin Evangelion: the baby-fication of
Ayanami Rei (or Sokkuri-san
|From TV Tropes page: Rey Ayanami Expy|
The more Ayanami’s character was eaten and digested by her fans, the further away she mutated from its original meaning and presentation—Anno’s clones, in this movie, serve to show exactly that. Ayanami is pure, innocent, un-sexualized. She is baby. We must protect baby. I will talk about her later.
Shinji is a PTSD ridden teen at the beginning of the movie and, by the end, he is a fully accountable person, with most of his recovery and weakness-overcoming happening off-screen. The original EVA children were all actively created as fourteen-years-old for a purpose: they are an in-between, not children and not yet adults, so that emotions could be explosive and radical, more genuine than those of an adult, who might have grown to resent the world with a more cynical view of life. Here, the character of Shinji breaks down into little pieces, not recognisable as separate from Anno’s persona.
I wanted to see Shinji fish with Kensuke, learn new things from Kaji and Misato’s son. Be quiet and alone, recovering at his own pace; understand people like him, still—for no reason, by the way. He did almost cause the end of the world for a second time, (though I do not care about plot details, seeing how this movie’s narrative is almost completely detached from the previous three). I wanted to see Shinji grow, not being told he has grown. I did not need to hear discount-Ayanami tell Shinji everyone loves him. I needed to see it.
Shin Evangelion’s Shinji represents Anno getting through his 2013 depression by being in close contact with Miyazaki and how that reinvigorated him— his only work at the time was voicing the main character in Kaze tachinu (The Wind Rises, 2013), Miyazaki’s last movie before his retirement (from which he came out in 2017 with the announcement of a new movie, possibly releasing in 2023).
Shinji lives in a Ghibli-esque village where nobody asks questions; they all act as “simple people” in contact with nature by farming, aware of the environmental toll the Near 3rd Impact had on their surroundings, while they try not to tamper with plants and forests. Life goes on slowly, mundanely. Shinji feels out of place in that real yet fantastical world, running away to the randomly found NERV HQ ruins (it is destiny, Kensuke says), where he stays for about three days. This is probably wrong but it is not clear how long Shinji can sustain living completely alone without eating. Anno is sitting in the old EVA series debris.
Once Ayanami states he is still loved, Shinji (Anno) manages to open up a little and yet, in no way do we see the struggles of getting back on one’s feet— he has PTSD and then he… Does not. By the hour and fifteen mark, Shinji’s character transformed point-blank, becoming confident, assertive and reliable.
Fear and anxiety, emotions that pervaded him, are scraped
away in favour of new characteristics that people have been criticising Shinji for lacking. For
twenty-five years, the crudest viewers were aggravated by the idea that the
protagonist would refuse heroism, turn his back to fate and “the greater good”.
While now, at last, Shinji willingly
gets in the robot: he is peaking as a mecha
As Shinji closes the door to the studio where the real-life Anno crew had been doing motion capture for the actual movie we are watching, he also closes the door to the production of EVA; to EVA as a whole. Shinji/Anno is done with it. Shinji has grown up and is “not crying any more”, his tears had never “saved anyone”, even though that is blatantly untrue. Shinji’s tears probably saved a lot of people who watched his struggles and matured alongside him. Reducing his psychological study as just the “cry-baby” who refused responsibilities was never the point of Shinji’s character. But here we are, he is now an “adult”. Go pay your taxes, Shinji!
The frustration I felt seeing the decline of such an iconic protagonist was probably what propelled me to write this review. I relate to Shinji to a certain extent, I know people who saw a reflection of themselves in him. I spent years of my life hating him as a character for the same reasons: why are you so weak, why are you whining so much, why are you so much like me? Refusing to acknowledge a person like Shinji could bloom as a person, while still having his prominent traits of anxiety and fear as part of his personality, is worrying.
I guess Anno was idealising a vision of himself, or trying to reach out to the audience with a classical “overcome your insecurities” character arc, resolvable in three quick parts of off-screen scenes, patched in with exposition. Uh.
SHIKINAMI LANGLEY ASUKA (formerly known as Sōryū Asuka Langley)
What happened to Asuka’s character? I have no answer. What I have is a lot of things to say about others, but Asuka is different. For a character that once Anno called “his favourite”, he forgot and mistreated her until she became an afterthought. What is her purpose in this story, who is she? She is a clone, Shikinami series, and, much like Rei, chewed and spat out until what was left was her appearance and her tsundere personality trait. No evolution, no degeneration. She is there, existing in a constant state of frustration and cultivating a pretty weird relationship with Kensuke.
Asuka is supposed to be around twenty-seven in the body of a fourteen-year-old girl and yet, she behaves exactly like she did before the time-skip from the third movie. Her maturing to adulthood would also mean to leave behind her “b-baka” attitude; does she realise she is constantly berating an actual teen? No, that was never integrated naturally into the story, she is just angry in an incredibly shallow and childish way.
Her behaviour is even more frustrating with this endless pool of anger. I kept thinking, back when Q came out, that the trick of having her be an adult in the body of a very young teen was solely for fanservice purposes, to leave people gawking at her feeling a little relieved. Oh, she just looks fourteen. My mind has not changed.
The resolution to her character is self-sacrificing, with triumphant music in the background and forgotten once more until the plot feels like now the otaku fans watching are ready to see Asuka as an adult, you know, her body out to service the male gaze, yet again.
“I want someone to pat me on the head”, she says during a flashback and we see Kensuke appear from inside a doll costume (her doll). Am I missing something? She had found, what? A father figure in this man we have barely seen twenty minutes of? He was, also, his former classmate. Did she find a lover in him?
That creates an even weirder read onto their relationship, by which Kensuke is quite literally grooming Asuka, an emotionally stunted twenty-seven years old in the body of a fourteen-year-old. I am not against any type of relationship Anno wanted to portray here, but seeing how confusing it ended up being, the whole thing feels unhealthy at best and creepy at worst. I am so sad for whatever happened to Asuka and I never even liked her that much to begin with.
“Rei is my core, the one created from the deepest parts of me.”
As I mentioned in the fanservice section, Rei is seen as a pure being, lifting her character to almost martyrdom with a death scene that punishes her for attempting to become “human”. Before she dies, her design briefly changes to her original white plug-suit design. What we have here is a relentless polishing of Ayanami as a person and as a character; in the Rebuilds, she emotes. She is cute. She is constantly pandering to an audience that is dying at her feet as the epitome of moe, creating accessories or new (and old) outfits to show this sweet doll in. Farmer doll Ayanami, black plug-suit doll Ayanami, long-haired cutesy doll Ayanami, high-school girl uniform doll Ayanami.
She exists to pander to the viewer— but she is also the one that is allowed to grow harmoniously, as the story moves on. Little by little, she learns how to communicate and be around other people as a new person, a new sense of self born in her. The problem here is the delivery: her whole existence demands a show-don’t-tell narrative.
When she is learning human interactions she uses direct questions, quite the odd behaviour coming from someone who keeps reminding the audience she had only ever been following orders. How could we frame this in a better way? Just some thoughts here, but by presenting the audience Ayanami parroting the words she hears, have her quietly study her surroundings without too many inputs bothering the scenes, could have created a more coherent and touching story for her.
Let us soak into the scenery, her feelings of belonging and blossoming happiness. Allow us to breathe with her. Respect her character; let her be seen as an agent of her own destiny. Discount-Ayanami should have named herself and it would have been great if whatever she had chosen could have been in a silent scene, with just her lips moving—something that was just hers.
While I was putting together some notes on my thoughts about the movie, I had completely forgotten about Mari. My gut feeling was to shut her out of my memory, her character being so incredibly annoying to me. As soon as the film began, her meowing through the battle scene was irking me already—then, the way she moved inside the EVA resembled someone trying to park a car.
It dawned on me on my second re-watch. What if her character was just… you know, trolling? This failed experiment must have been some kind of joke, considering how she has all the specifics for a “manic-pixie-dream” anime girl: adrenaline junkie yet with some nerdy traits, meganekko with big boobs, exasperatingly hyperactive yet overpowered and, lastly, “yuri bait” yet ending up with a man at the end.
So I had to find a solution to this dilemma because I
could not believe these movie
Her character had apparently been a push from the producers to create an additional female character to differentiate the Rebuilds from the original show—then, Anno allowed Mari to appear more and more.
So it could not be the case of having a joke character in our hands: it was, as usual, bad planning and bad writing. Tsurumaki even admitted that she did not feel like a character that would fit the Evangelion world, looking and acting more like someone from his other work, FLCL.
I was trying to figure out a way to just ignore Mari for as long as humanly possible— still, here I am. My intentions were to write about Anno’s wife, Anno Moyoko, famous author of Sugar Sugar Rune (2003-2007) and character designer for Shin Evangelion itself. Many have compared her to Mari, completing the image with Anno being Shinji.
Yet, Anno M. has expressed her wish not to be compared with the character, or at least not to an extent that would make her feel uncomfortable and I will respect her wishes. I do think that, to some extent, Anno had to push a little bit of himself onto Mari’s character and the closest thing would be overlapping her with the closest person he loves, crafting a certain form of “othering”. After all, Mari almost betrays (Iscariot!) the whole concept of Evangelion as an introspection of its author’s psyche.
Anyway, her character had briefly appeared on the first Neon Genesis Evangelion manga by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, which ran for fourteen volumes from 1995 to 2013, in the chapter Extra Stage: Eden in Summer, appearing in the last volume. We have a brief interaction with a whole different Mari—a little bit squared, a little bit jealous and very much queer.
The readers quickly understand she is jealous of Ikari Gendō, discovering soon after that the reason is that she likes (suki, 好き) Yui. The glasses Mari wears are actually Yui’s, she had kept them as a memento of her unrequited love; Yui, then, offers Mari to brush her hair.
The iconic Mari look is actually a lesbian reading coming straight from the manga, which makes it even more disappointing that Anno quite literally forced a straight-washed look on an important bisexual character like Shinji and a canonically lesbian character like Mari. Sadamoto disregarded the manga’s iteration of Mari as just “fanservice” and that is probably even worse.
By the end of the movie, there are way too many characters to keep track of, one of the reasons these movies do not work and are so hard to follow.
What happened to half of this crowded cast? Should one care about them? That is completely up to the viewer’s interpretation and will to fill the gaps themselves, as most of them have no narrative relevance and the movies do not have time—or did not put time—to explore any of them to make them interesting.
Here is a little overview:
- Ritsuko’s sole purpose, as we have said, is to explain Misato’s problems directly to Misato’s face for the sake of the people watching. Her only plot-adjacent moment is to shoot Gendō in the face multiple times, an act I really enjoyed by the way.
- Misato’s character has been distorted
so much that she now resembles a generic early 00s GAINAX type. A Japanese
reviewer suggested she might be the representation of Anno as Studio Khara’s
founder— and the parallelism stands on pretty solid grounds: Misato left NERV,
just like Anno had previously left GAINAX, then she founded her own
organization (WILLE), mirroring Khara’s birth.
Also, the idea of her leaving her son behind could be read as Anno’s apology for abandoning the studio he himself had created. Theories aside, Misato had already grown to be a girlboss in the previous movie, but in Shin Evangelion she dies a heroic death by smashing her whale-shaped spaceship into the eye of a giant 3D-Ayanami, while Joy to the World plays in the background. Her personhood reduced to a common, bland spaceship captain, who happens to be a mother. Not that these traits were inherently bad, of course, it is the way they were handled.
- Misato’s crew must have been the stupidest decision the EVA staff has ever made; six (or seven? or five?) characters, whose names are of no importance, are plunged into this story and the only one who is slightly remarkable is Tōji’s sister, Sakura, a wink and nod to the original show as if Anno was pulling some nostalgia strings. Remember her? She is an adult, barely!
Their dialogues are awfully written, jam-packed with sentences
- Tōji and Hikari are written as
completely brain-dead, not because they are two ordinary people living in
extraordinary times, but exactly because
they do not behave like actual ordinary people would. There are no scenes where
they struggle to do… Anything, actually. They could have done it with a big
smile on their face!
They could have still been the positive energy of the movie if only the script allowed them to actually be characters. I think I have already mentioned how Hikari is now reduced to the idea of “mother”. Kensuke is also there.
- Kaji blathers something about
“commander Kaoru” and I really do not care.
- Kaoru is the most perplexing
character of the bunch, popping into existence as, seemingly, a figment of
Shinji’s imagination. You know, maybe that would have been interesting, Shinji
hallucinating Kaoru as a sort of continuation or development of his PTSD, a way
for him to digest what had happened to the only person that had shown him love
and affection. I was, oh, so very wrong.
Kaoru is retconned from his original “last angel” character to… Being Shinji, while also being the last angel, and the first angel, and a commander. And in a loop. Boy, I do not get what has happened. I spent too many hours looking things up to connect the dots for such an extensive, nonsensical and irrelevant lore. This type of writing is what is killing media literacy, you know?
- The role Gendō played in the original show
and, to some extent, in the Rebuilds, was the emotionally distant father who
preferred abandoning his son to the care of others in favour of pursuing his
own goals (a.k.a. resurrecting his dead wife, in a way or another). He already
showed symptoms of obsession, fixation,
narcissism and lack of empathy, especially for his son, whom I believe Gendō
thought responsible for Yui’s death in a certain way.
He saw Shinji as just an extension of himself. In Shin Evangelion, Anno probably grew a deeper kinship with the character of Gendō, finding it hard not to push a “relatable” narrative onto him; by making this man part of a pathetic (see: inducing pity) storyline, his actions could be excused by some viewers.
The question remains, why? Why would the plot excuse Gendō’s actions? There was no need to make the viewer feel sad for him. People already knew he was a dejected, lonely person who was unable to grieve an important loss in a healthy way. Gendō’s new story addition is another way of babying the audience without allowing them any space to nurture their own opinion.
The music in the original EVA series was an immediate point of appeal, with drums, piano and violins transporting the viewer into the unapologetic rawness of the story. Sagisu Shirō acted as the main composer for the classic OST and, also, for other works directed by Anno, such as the above mentioned Karekano; he returned to his role for the Rebuilds as well.
I loved EVA’s score. It seemed like each scene, from the most mundane to the emotion-filled ones were reserved a unique sound to them—at times, it felt like a background rumble, in others, it filled the entire scene. There was an interesting selection of classical music pieces, such as Beethoven’s Ode to Joy or Bach’s Cello suite no.1, complementary with the images on screen, too.
Sadly, I cannot say the same for the music in this movie. It is not bad, just fine. It is… it is everywhere, though.
Every scene will have music that forces the viewer to feel a certain way towards what appears on screen; that is just how music in visual media works. It is an auditory aid and boy, does this movie push you to feel exactly how Anno wants you to.
Asuka is dying? There is no threat, though—you know, she is not really going to die, the music is signalling it is a triumphant moment of transformation. Shinji is walking alone, he is sad and lonely, the music lets me know it! Fight scenes are cool? Yeah! Listen to this cool mecha/action anime music! All of it follows the same pattern. There are no contemplative moments because music is constantly by your side like an ill advisor. Also, Joy to the World happens to be there and when it came on I busted out laughing.
There is a single scene where music is not present: when Shinji starts to angrily, desperately eat his food, as tears run down his cheeks, reminiscing a bit Chihiro from Studio Ghibli’s Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (Spirited Away, 2002) eating some onigiri as her emotions sink in. The rest of Shin Evangelion suppresses any moment of silence with speech, music or songs. I personally do not like the second-to-last pop song, Voyager – Gravestone Without Date, performed by Matsutoya Yumi and arranged by Sagisu. Oh, well.
This section is going to be short, because action scenes, to me, have an inherent quality when they are short. Pure “action movies” (see specifically series like The Fast and The Furious or Mission Impossible) tend to be “boring” because your eyes are constantly trying to follow the moving piece in the scene— If that goes on for too long, well, your attention span decreases, until your brain refuses to process the information it is visually presented. They should be a companion to characters, more than to a plot. Nowadays, some movies have created a nice blend of action and character-driven pieces, for example, Kang Yun-sung’s The Outlaws or Gabriele Mainetti’s They call him Jeeg. Anno seemed to have missed the memo, though.
Action scenes in Shin Evangelion usually last about ten minutes, with eccentric camera movements without a good focal point and too many things moving at the same time, making those moments busy and hard to follow. It does remind me of a very good video regarding action scenes in the Transformers movies and how the viewer would immediately forget the specifics of an action scene. What happens? Who does what? What are the damages? What are the stakes?
Can you recall any specific moment in any of Shin Evangelion’s action scenes? I do not, yet I perfectly remember half of the battles that happened in the original series.
Another important point to remember is the spatiality of battles, which in this movie equates to nothing. Literally, nothing is surrounding the battles. Mostly, it is a tie between sky battles, sub-space battles or previously-seen-backgrounds battles. They are not even original per se, most of them resembled other mecha anime and I am absolutely unimpressed by how messed up they all were.
Recently, Oshii Mamoru (Patlabor, Ghost in the Shell, The Sky Crawlers) has been criticised online after his comment on Anno, emphasising how his movies lack themes:
“Presentation and themes are two different things. A striking or novel way of crafting [a movie] does not equate to having themes.”
Oshii touches on a good point with his comment, noting how his works always had some underlying themes that permeated the narrative, but with the Rebuilds, we do not. We have scenes that might follow a vague hint of a theme, as they stumble in a messy script overflowing with exposition and “lore”. Concrete themes exist as the base where one builds up the foundation of their story: what is the foundation of Shin Evangelion’s story?
It has been said the movie is tied to Anno’s personal life way more than the old EVA series ever could; contrary to the universal understanding the original had, this new movie is so wrapped around its author that some parts of it do not really make sense until one knows who Anno is.
theme would be something that the viewer understands as the story progresses,
not something that is flatly told by the characters
In his poor attempt at telling his audience to mature, he is actively babying them again and I find it rather insulting—he crafted a trap of meaningless lore and well, bullshit, knowing that his fans would keep on dissecting every single frame to grab a deeper meaning to hold onto; the sole meaning you will find is the imperative to grow up.
The media landscape has helped foster viewers for movies like Shin Evangelion: Anno is pandering to an audience that was brought up with exposition as the bread and butter of narrative. Nothing can go unexplained. Everything must be clear, no scene is allowed to be up for interpretation— and if it is, the reason for it must be found in a poorly written, jumbled script or in confusing action scenes, with the usual empty religious “symbolism” sprinkled in.
attention on what media is telling you, the viewer; are you understanding
what is going on? I figured the
“complicated” fame EVA has pushed the idea that these movies were bound to be
|“I’m happy to have met you.”|
My love for Evangelion is both aesthetic and nostalgic. It shaped me; I would not be the person writing this without my encounter with it. This review comes from a place of love and disappointment for the general state of media and what this deterioration meant for works that, at the time, were ground-breaking for their innovative style of genre critique, animation and narration. I would like to thank you for reading up to now, I know I write a lot.
As much as Anno wants to be precise when he writes his own stories, I also want my points to be articulated and understood. I would like to come across as someone that goes beyond “it is bad” or “I did not like it” (or “I like it”, “it is good” for that matter). I have great respect for the crew who has worked under the constant stress of Anno’s obsessive strive for perfection; I respect Anno’s freedom to show the world his own take, his own movie and his own story.
I also respect you, the person who maybe has loved Shin Evangelion or the Rebuilds tetralogy as a whole. You know, you can like it, by the way. You can love it, make it dear to your heart, weep tears and have smiles on your face whenever you hear its score; you can re-watch it every year. You can think it is the perfect ending— heck, the perfect masterpiece and that I am just an idiot with too much free time. Those opinions are all in your rights and I am absolutely ecstatic for you. Truly, I am not joking. Go and be happy with Shin Evangelion for me, too.
This movie is going to be subjectively good for a lot of people; it is objectively bad to me.
Did you like this movie? No.
Would you suggest other people watch it? I have watched it twice and I can wholeheartedly say, no.
Do you hate Anno? No.
Who is best girl? Ayanami, she is baby!
Beta readers:- Cissy
- Anime Room: general collection of old Neon Genesis Evangelion interviews 👺
- GENESIS 0:0 IN THE BEGINNING, Anno Hideaki Interview, 1995 👺
- NEWTYPE issue of January 1995: Creator talk with Anno Hideaki and Sadamoto Yoshiyuki, 1995 👺
- NEWTYPE, issue of June 1996: Special interview with Neon Genesis Evangelion creator, AnnoHideaki, 1996 👺
- NEWTYPE issue of November 1996: EVA special talk with Anno Hideaki and Ueno Toshiya, 1996 👺
- Animage: Hideaki Anno and Yuko Miyamura: Say 'Anta Baka' To Me!, 1996 👺
- Meeting & Interview with Anno Hideaki, 2000 👺
- Moe: Exploring Virtual Potential in Post-Millennial Japan by Patrick W. Galbraith, 2009
- Animekritik: Imperialism in Gunbuster, 2011
- My Navi: Tsurumaki Kazuya interview on 10 years since FLCL, 2010 👺
- Asahi Shinbun “be”: Anno Hideaki interview, 2012 👺
- Anno commentary on directing Shin Godzilla, 2015 / Huffington Post JP article 👺
- NetLab: On Anno's style, Shin Evangelion, Shin Ultraman and Shin Godzilla, 2021 👺
- Neon Genesis Evangelion favourite character ranking, 2021 👺
- Commentary of Shin Evangelion by Anno shocks fans, 2021 👺
- Oshii Mamoru's comments on Shin Evangelion, 2021 👺 / Anime News Network
- Shin Evangelion Review by Wakari_te, 2021 👺
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