Welcome back to EVERYDAY EVA, the blog series where I aim to cover one episode of Evangelion every single day for Mecha March 2022! This NEW segment dives into the films of the hit sci-fi franchise.
Following the cataclysmic pursuit of his desires, Shinji reawakens to an unfamiliar red world. The only shred of hope to be found lies with the boy from the moon.
As I write this post, I realize that I could talk A LOT about 3.33, probably more so than any of the other Rebuild films. For visual design, the film’s focus on crafting large open spaces for its tiny characters presents us with some of loneliest imagery in the entire franchise. Eva’s use of colors has also never been this meticulous. The cinematic 2.35:1 aspect ratio tells us that this is a departure from everything we once knew, visually and narratively. Much has changed in the world since Shinji assimilated with Unit-01 over 14 years ago. Many of these changes are unnerving and unexplained, forcing us to side with the cowardly hero for once and really sympathize with him (if we hadn’t already). 3.33’s theatrical game takes Eva to an entirely new level—one that will usher a unique visual aesthetic that becomes emblematic of the entire Rebuild series almost overnight.
Evangelion 3.33’s opening fires off with one of my all-time favorite action cutscenes in anime—and not because of the actual battle waging between EVA-02 and the Mark.04 series. It’s the kinetic energy of their skirmish, the manipulation of machine through the foreign terrain of zero gravity, as well as the ducking, swaying, and swerving that accompanies an EVA jettisoned by rocket boosters and reeled by inertia. The scene does little to establish theme or expectation for the remainder of the film, but it serves as a masterful display of using CG design and quick directive reflex. I’d argue as far as to say that everything Studio Khara had been doing up until this moment was for the purpose of sharpening 3.33 into a wholly unique experience in Eva’s history. This is where the artistic and story risks taken in the previous installments start to reap their rewards.
That said, I think the Wunder lift-off scene is entirely too long. If we’re going to talk about “wasting time” on Anno’s obsession with heavy machinery, we should be pointing to this sequence instead. My guess is that not many Eva fans are particularly fond of the Wunder. Certainly, I am not, though I do appreciate the god-slaying ark slightly more thanks to 3.0+1.0. (I’m still waiting for an official source to confirm for me that it is, in fact, a domesticated 11th Angel that was cloned three times, please and thanks.) Anyway, I still wish (as I do with the final film) that less time was wasted on flexing the Wunder’s combat capabilities and more was invested into precious character interactions or world building, both of which are sorely sparse beyond 3.33.
What I would also like to commend 3.33 for is its structure, however; the film charts out really well as a tragedy in three acts. The first 30 minutes are all action and reawakening which attempt to re-welcome us to the world we thought we knew. In the next 30 minutes, Shinji develops his attachment with Kaworu to replace his growing disillusionment with Rei. Finally, the last 30 minutes, Shinji revives his drive to pilot the EVA in the name of hope, encountering Asuka, Mari, WILLE, and Kaworu himself as he vows to change the world once more. A friend and lover is lost in the falling out of the climax, and all of Shinji’s previous resolve vanishes. In a kind of microcosm all to itself, 3.33 tells the entire rise and fall of the protagonist. Structurally, it’s a very sound film.
In building upon my opinion on Amazon Prime’s English dub, I should comment that the script Amazon offers is a near-perfect duplication of the script Funimation used! I remember part of the reason this film didn’t get released to the global audience until 3 years after its initial release in 2012 was because Khara was so stingy with the translation. (This makes sense, though, given how fans raged for years over the meaning of certain lines in EOE.) While I’m GRATEFUL that much of the same crew Funi used is back for the Amazon dub (including Sakura’s VA, wow!), it’s a shame (and an honor, I guess) that practically the same dub crew had to reopen old wounds and replicate their own work after all these years. Eva continues to have THE most convoluted production history, from developing the story and animating it to releasing the finished product into the global market.
Evangelion: 3.33 You Can (Not) Redo is a tragic experience not only because of how things turn out for Shinji, but also because, for nearly a decade, this was where the Rebuild story ended. Fans were left alongside Asuka, Shinji, and Rei wandering the red Earth until Misato and WILLE (“the Lilin”) eventually come to rescue them. The somber cry of Hikaru Utada’s “Sakura Nagashi” echoes into the black abyss of credits, and finally a [super shitty] CG preview with THE ugliest EVA designs attempts to hype us up for the finale that never came. To add insult to injury, we never got the satisfaction of seeing the 3.0 preview content at the end of 2.22 actually happen in this film. Although we imply the events still occur, it is frustrating that Anno gave us a preview for the final film that is significantly less true to the artistic vision it ended up being. Hasty preview work happens all the time in the entertainment industry, but again, THIS WAS THE ENDING of the great Rebuild of Evangelion for almost 10 whole years. That’s 10 years too long if you ask me.
By the end of 3.33, many questions still linger about the 14 years that transpired prior to. What we do receive, though, is one of the most fraught and sorrowfully resonant arcs in all of Evangelion played out on an extraordinary, high-budget, theatrical stage. It is, to me, the most artistic film in the Rebuild, and the one I always come back to whenever I think about the new films. Come the next and final installment, Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time will conclude the third retelling of Shinji Ikari’s fate—and the grand drama that has been unfolding for the past 26 years. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you at the end!