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Evangelion 3.0 and the Most Challenging TV/Movie Franchise Ever?

Evangelion 3.0 and the Most Challenging TV/Movie Franchise Ever?

FUNimation’s Blu-Ray edition of Evangelion 3.33: You Can (Not) Redo is available for order, now. Thing is, this disc will be dropping more than two years after the movie’s very limited theatrical engagement in North America. For Eva fans, it’s the resolution of a drawn-out mystery, and one more twist in a franchise defined by unpredictable ziz-zagging.

For those just coming into this party…

Neon Genesis Evangelion is the brainchild of director Hideaki Anno, and Studio Gainax’s signature franchise. Since its debut in the late 90s, it’s been one of anime’s most successful crossover hits. It’s about a trio of teenage mech pilots battling kaiju-esque “angels” who attack the Earth in waves after a global cataclysm. Though, despite their dogged efforts, and the machinations of the Illuminati-like cabal handling them, another Apocalyptic cataclysm looks inevitable.

Evangelion 3.33 -- Promo 3

Photo Credit: FUNimation

Mecha anime separates into different epochs around Eva‘s release. It’s a genre re-defining series, puncturing the gung-ho of Mobile Suit Gundam just as Madoka Magica picked cheery miss Sailor Moon apart. It depicts junior pilots as the damaged youths that life-or-death missions would logically turn them into. More salient, though, Evangelion is the opus of an auteur who’s suffered depressive episodes during its production–and it’s basically been advertised as such.

Anno has made no secret of his issues and, morbidly enough, they’re part of the series’ intrigue. Viewers see this mech adventure spiral into something deeply nihilistic, and speculate on how certain twists might reflect the creator’s troubled mind. Like, in the original series’ infamous ending, when Gainax purportedly ran out of budget and couldn’t execute the explosive finale as planned. The action is interrupted by a group therapy session with the cast in a surreal black box theater… and that’s it. Credits roll. Series over. It’s so easy to picture that surprise as the product of a temperamental artist just throwing his hands up and storming away.

Evangelion 3.33 -- Promo 1

Photo Credit: FUNimation

Of course, fans were understandably irate about their expectations being so jarringly thwarted. And a year or so later, Anno reluctantly directed End of Evangelion to give them the more conventional conclusion they demanded. If that wasn’t Gainax’s shrewd plan, all along, it proved to be one hell of a way to sell a movie.

Despite explicitly declaring an end to his saga, Anno announced ten years later that’d he be directing a new four-part Eva film series. The first two would remake the story already charted, while the second two would take the characters into bold new territory. He was keen to spin these movies as being in a class of their own, as well. They weren’t remakes, they were “rebuilds.” And there was no defined release scheme with dates set. They’d come out when they were done, basically.

Of course, the odd complications continued. Eagle-eyed fans noticed background clues in the Evangelion 1.0 – You Are (Not) Alone and Evangelion 2.0 – You Can (Not) Advance strongly hinting that they were actually taking place on Earth in End of Evangelion‘s aftermath. These “rebuilds” could potentially be both sequels and remakes, with the teen pilots somehow reliving the war against the angels in a new cycle of rebirth. How could that be?

Evangelion 3.33 -- Promo 2

Photo Credit: FUNimation

No answers came in Eva 3.0, however. Those of us who caught it in theaters two years ago found another challenging piece. Instead of advancing affairs with the plot-density of the first two rebuilds, it slowed down, wove earlier segments back in, and then lingered on what felt like a bad dream the hero was having. More of a cinematic ellipse, or a feature-length version of that group therapy session, it left a whole host of new questions about where the promised Eva 4.0 could even go.

Then… more complications!

Eva 3.0‘s home video release was delayed, reportedly because Anno was unhappy with its translation and wanted a hands-on revision. (He’d done director’s cuts of episodes in the original series, so this wasn’t unprecedented). Only it took two years. And now it’s coming out soon after Anno’s announcement that, after another depressive bout, he’s put Eva 4.0 aside to direct…

Godzilla Resurgence Poster

Photo Credit: Toho

Yes. A new Godzilla. It just released its poster and trailer, while the next rebuild’s release dates remain undeclared. So, the doubly (or triply?) revised Eva 3.0 will be our only clue for the time being.

Hopefully, we’ve conveyed what it’s like to be a fan of a TV/movie series shaped by legendary mood swings. Evangelion is renowned for its Byzantine mysteries, and honestly, such frustrations make it what it is. At times, it’s been described as the Twin Peaks of mecha, and perhaps that fits even more here. That show never ended properly, either. And maybe its own long-after-the-fact follow-up will come out around the same time as Eva 4.0, now. Anno probably doesn’t even know, himself.

Featured Image Credit: FUNimation


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