Hideaki Anno‘s philosophical giant robot saga has come to an end. Again.
Drawing upon his own battles with mental health, he created a story where he had hoped to share and educate on the realities of this life. As the series developed, it became “increasingly dark and psychological”. While it may be by design, it could also be due to Anno becoming disenchanted with the “Japanese “otaku” lifetstyle”. Add to this some budgetary restraints which disenchanted Anno’s delivery of the tale, and the original series ends up concluding in Shinji’s mind. Here it gave us the meme-worthy “Congratulations” ending with a lack of any real closure to the world of Evangelion.
This doesn’t mean I don’t remember the series fondly though.
It felt like a more adult anime, with its heavy themes and heavier philosophies. Something which I hadn’t so much experienced in the likes of Gundam Wing, Orphen and Trigun before it. From dealing with generational trauma to religious overtones, and larger issues such as suicide, it didn’t relent on the story it wanted to tell; Right down to the infamous hospital scene, which in your youth is really something that makes you go “Huh”.
So Anno rebuilt it. Apparently the booklet for 1.11 shared anecdotes such as “what are we trying to make once again?”. “The desire to portray my sincere feelings on film?”. And which could be concluded with “the desire to have these wishes be realized”. Anno’s creation of Studio Khara to take this on, resulted in a wholly fresh retelling of Evangelion which allowed them to fix up the ending, while further building on it to give it a little more life. And I binged them all in day.
I’d known about the Rebuild series since it’s initial release in 2007 but I don’t know why I hadn’t invested straight away. Thankfully though, I felt grateful I didn’t considering how long it took for 3.0+1.0 to release after 3.0. And it was Amazon’s move to globally release 3.0+1.0 which had me attack the whole series in one go.
Getting to relive a lot of the iconic moments of episodes 1 to 6 in 1.0 were a treat. From the introduction of classmates Toji and Kensuke, to Misato clearly being a mess but being the best Captain, it was all there with a new paint of coat. Additional content such as an earlier introduction of Lilith and Kaworu leads the audience to the realisation that 2.0 might not be the same story we know.
ENTER MARI ILLUSTRIOUS MAKINAMI.
The first time she appeared, I thought “have they really introduced a whole-ass new character??” and you bet they did. Some kind of chaotic fusion of Asuka and Misato, Mari is a welcome change to the world of Eva. As expert a pilot as Langley, she also presents a potential new end to Shinji’s story. This story still involving his father Gedo’s own traumas and inability to manage the grief around the loss of his wife Yui. Kaworu hasn’t joined yet, but my favorite part of the original series, EVA-01’s acquisition of the S2 engine is turned into the Third Impact event.
Dear reader, you may have guessed this is where it deviates away fully from the original run. And I loved every bit of 3.0 into 3.0+1.0. I really can’t imagine having had to wait almost 9 years to see it, but fans did. And it was worth it. Pushing the tale into more of the religious iconography it posits and how this predominantly affects Shinji, resolves the tale in a much more satisfying fashion.
That’s not to say I don’t miss “congratulations” ending. There was something eerie about the lack of any real closure to Shinji’s original story and the discussion around what it meant for his choice, especially after End of Evangelion came along. But the bittersweet melancholy and more receptive maturity shown in Rebuild sees this cycle conclude in a manner that leaves Shinji with the sense that his choice was sound. Which honestly made me so happy because that damned emo softboi deserved it.
So there’s the end of Evangelion. Again. Knowing now that it’s cyclical, who knows what it means for future. But for now, I’m happy to see them all run off into their weird, real world adventure.