Shelf Life Evangelion 3.33: You Can (Not) Advance
by Paul Jensen, Gabriella Ekens,
With most of the shows I was following over the winter already over (Is it time for Haikyu season 3 yet?), I started watching Gate on a whim last week. I've always been a little bit of a military otaku at heart, so I'm having a blast watching tanks and helicopters wreak havoc in a fantasy setting. I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised since I was willing to sit through Those Who Hunt Elves out of goodwill for a pretty similar premise. Tanks make everything better, I guess. In any case, welcome to Shelf Life.
Jump to this week's review:
Evangelion 3.33: You Can (Not) Redo
On Shelves This Week
Gakuen Alice - Complete Collection [Anime Elements] DVD
Nozomi - 650 min - Sub - MSRP $34.99
Currently cheapest at: $22.53 Barnes and Noble
Synopsis: Best friends Mikan and Hotaru are separated when Hotaru goes off to a mysterious school called Alice Academy. Mikan decides to enroll in the school as well, but she's not quite prepared for just how strange Alice Academy really is.
Extra: We've got reviews of past releases here and here, and it's kind of interesting to note the wildly different overall ratings. If you want to make up your own mind, you'll find the series streaming on Hulu.
Synopsis: When a computer virus known as Fire-Starter causes the death of the Prime Minister, Motoko Kusanagi and her team of special operatives are called in to investigate.
Extra: I haven't really kept up with the Ghost in the Shell franchise since the Stand Alone Complex days, but I feel like I should give the new stuff a shot at some point. We've got a review of this movie's theatrical release here, but there aren't any official streaming options that I'm aware of.
Synopsis: Lupin and Jigen plan to steal a valuable gemstone, but the heist takes an unexpected turn when an infamous sniper with a habit of preparing his targets' graves in advance tries to kill Jigen.
Extra: The Ghost in the Shell movie had a review but no streaming source. This one is the opposite: no review, but you can watch it on Hulu.
Synopsis: After successfully invading Earth, an alien spaceship seems content to simply hover in the sky and observe humanity. The only people willing or able to save the world are the eccentric members of the Magic User's Club.
Extra: We have a very old review of this series from back in 2001, which you can read here. No official streaming options for this one, though. (Update: it turns out that the first couple of episodes are available on Nozomi Entertainment's Youtube channel.)
Synopsis: In the aftermath of their battle with the giant spaceship, the members of the Magic User's Club find themselves stuck with the task of taking care of a giant cherry blossom tree that's sprung up in the middle of the city.
Extra: As was the case with its OVA predecessor, we've got a dusty old review of this TV sequel that you can dig up here if you're so inclined. I wonder if it'd still get an A if we reviewed it now.
Synopsis: The fight between the A.E.U.G. resistance and the Titans takes on a new dimension with the arrival of the Axis renegades. As Char takes on the responsibility of leading the A.E.U.G., the Titans complete a dangerously powerful weapon.
Synopsis: The Fourth Great Ninja War continues as the Allied Forces face off against the Reanimated Jinchuriki. The Nine Tails goes through an unexpected change as Naruto negotiates with the Four Tails.
Synopsis: High school student Shinichi's right hand is infected by an alien parasite that calls itself "Migi." As the first symbiotic pairing of their kind, Shinichi and Migi find themselves in the middle of the struggle between their two species.
Extra: I liked what I saw of this series, but never got around to finishing it. We've got a review of this set here, along with episode reviews of the whole series. You can stream it on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and The Anime Network.
Synopsis: Train fanatic Naoto Takayama becomes a trainee with the JNR security division, where he and his eccentric coworkers deal with a variety of threats including members of a rival private railway group.
Extra: This series came out on DVD a few months back, which is convenient for me since I can just recycle my synopsis for that set. Episode reviews are here, and it's streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and The Anime Network.
Sakura Wars - The Complete TV Series [Sentai Selects] DVD
Sentai - 625 min - Hyb - MSRP $29.98
Currently cheapest at: $19.49 Right Stuf
Synopsis: Sakura is excited to join an elite group that defends Japan using spirit-powered mechs, but she's not quite so prepared for her role in maintaining the team's cover as a theatre company.
Evangelion 3.33: You Can (Not) Redo
Nothing this week.
Nothing this week.
Now that we've made it through that flood of new releases, it's time for a review. This week, Gabriella offers her take on Evangelion 3.33: You Can (Not) Redo.
In Rebuild, the Third Impact happens after the incident with Unit-03. But instead of the whole thing playing out End of Evangelion-style, here they manage to halt the process relatively early. The planet ends up transformed into a red wasteland, but nobody has turned into yellow goo yet. Rei seems to have died, and for what he did, Shinji is placed in stasis and locked away. This film opens with his release 14 years later. Asuka and Mari break him out of his confinement on behalf of a mysterious new organization, WILLE. This group – which represents the remnants of humanity on the blighted Earth – is led by a hardened, older Misato. Her primary goal is to keep Shinji out of Gendo's hands, and she seems willing to kill him if he proves uncooperative. However, when a Rei clone arrives to take Shinji to his dad, he escapes with her, convinced that she's still the person he knew. With this, a trusting Shinji is back in Gendo's clutches. But will an unlikely ally make a difference in this latest iteration of their power struggle? Or will Shinji remain a pawn in his father's schemes?
First, the elephant in the room. If you loved Evangelion 2.0, there's a strong chance that this film will put you off. I like both of 'em, but understand why some fans might resist this one. Evangelion 2.22 was a pretty perfectly paced action film. Evangelion 3.33 drags way more, particularly in the beginning. There's also the issue of familiarity. Evangelion 2.22 deviated just enough from the original to come across as a remixed version of a beloved story. Evangelion 3.33, in contrast, is all new material. Beyond that, it's purposefully, dramatically different from the Evangelion we knew before. It wants to shock the viewer with how alien it is, mimicking how Shinji must have felt waking up from his coma. To do this, it throws a wrench into character relationships that otaku culture has been invested in for 15+ years. Asuka is absolutely livid at Shinji, Misato cold, and Rei once again a blank slate. It's staggering to see such a beloved show discard its status quo so easily (at least on the surface). Evangelion 3.33 is deliberately alienating in a lot of what it does with its characters and tone. I like this because it keeps the series as fresh and uncompromising as it was in the beginning. Evangelion first became a big deal by messing with expectations for what a mecha anime should be. Evangelion 3.33 messes with expectations for what an Evangelion remake should be. I admire that.
Personally, I'm a fan of this new direction for the series. I've already expounded my opinions on the original show vs. Rebuild in-depth, but this third film is the one where this is all most apparent. In my opinion, Evangelion's meat is the story about Shinji's emotional state. On that front, the vastly different plot actually doesn't change it that much – he's still a depressed kid desperately seeking validation from his mean dad. The new story just gives him more opportunities to do things about it, illustrating the depth of his emotional problems. Particularly, it places Shinji in a situation where allowing himself to be manipulated by Gendo isn't the passive thing to do, just so that he can do it anyways. This makes Shinji's desire for his father's approval apparent in a way that it might not have been in the show, where it comes across more via what he doesn't do (tell his dad to get lost) than what he does. This all naturally extends from how Shinji's character was depicted in the original. It also represents, in my opinion, an advancement in Hideaki Anno's ability to communicate his mental state at the time of making Evangelion. The show is infamously an articulation of Anno's personal demons, and these films are just as personally expressive. It's clear that Rebuild is happening because Anno wants to revisit this story, and not just to keep milking the money cow. Evangelion is a rare cultural touchstone that began as and remains capital-A Art, even decades after its absorption by the mainstream.
That's not to say that the film is flawless. The WILLE stuff (which makes up the first third of the film or so) is mostly narrative dead space. Whether it amounts to anything will depend on what role the organization plays in the fourth film. Is it setup so that they can hit the ground running later on? Or is it just fanservice for the mecha design fans? I have a pet theory that Touji's sister, Sakura, was introduced as an eventual love interest for Shinji. The rest of the women are too broken and/or his mom's clone. You can harass me about how right/wrong I am whenever the fourth film comes out. (Hopefully before this third film's date of 2028.)
In terms of production, the Rebuild films do a great job adapting and altering Neon Genesis Evangelion's art style to their own purposes. In one sense, it's an upgrade. The original series may have occasionally been made for approximately no money, while these films command all of the resources that Evangelion's status as one of anime's premiere franchises can provide. The animation is great, while the CG integration is very strong. There are, however, some deliberate stylistic differences. The character designs are slightly more fluid, while the colors are much brighter. At first, this seems at odds with the original series, which is largely renowned for its images of starkness. However, this reflects one of the biggest differences between the originals and Rebuilds – a newfound sense of openness. By the second film, Shinji, Rei, and Asuka had already proved themselves more capable of interpersonal connection than they ever were in the original series. That continues here, with moments between characters that are downright romantic. These are, of course, shaded with some of the most vibrant gradients that Evangelion has ever used. The revamped visuals suggest a world where everyone isn't trapped in the desaturated prison cell of their own psychoses, and thus can potentially interact with each other in healthy ways.
In terms of imagery, this film contains a uniquely Eva-ish portrait of the apocalypse. It adds quite a bit of new iconography to Neon Genesis Evangelion's already rich visual canon. There's Lilith's rotting corpse, the red land coupled with the bright blue sky, and the four-armed Evangelion Unit-13.
The dub has the usual Evangelion dub problems. I've found people either can't stand Spike Spencer, Tiffany Grant, and co., or they grew up with the dub and that's how it's always been. As a release, it's quite nice. I'm especially a fan of the design. Matching the Evangelion 2.22 case, the cover is minimalist text over a flat cover, but it's been given a matte texture. It's classy and imposing. This standard edition comes with a very good art booklet for the release's price. At 52 pages, it contains key art for most of the film's character and mechanical design.
Overall, this is a solid release of the latest installment in the controversial Evangelion saga. Love it or hate it, you can't deny the series' unparalleled ability to drive anime fans into a passionate frenzy. I'll see you someday for Evangelion 3.0+1.0's release, if there are even any humans alive at that point.
That wraps up the reviews for this week. Thanks for reading!
This week's shelves are from K-Slice:
"I started watching anime when I was in the fourth grade, after I was sick and had to stay home from school. My mother took me to Hollywood Video and I happened to see the first VHS tape of Ranma 1/2 so I decided to check it out and I was instantly hooked. It was the animation quality and the story that I fell in love with, as I was used to seeing the normal cartoons that came on TV (not including shows like Robotech and Voltron). After that my brother and I would rent whatever was available at the movie stores, even going as far as asking our parents to drive us to different video stores on the weekends to try to find the next VHS tape in whatever series we were trying to watch. Soon we were rushing home from school to catch the toonami's run of Tenchi and Outlaw Star, and even staying up late at night to catch the next episode of Dragon Ball Z on the midnight run. From then on, as I grew so did my collection, and I watched everything I could, from romantic comedies, to action, to plain old slice of life stories, but my favorites are still the works by Rumiko Takahashi, most notably Urusei Yatsura and Maison Ikkoku. I'm of the old school generation of VHS tapes and Laser disc but I hope to keep expanding my collection so that friends and family will have something to watch if they ever ask."
Ah, the good old days of hunting down that one last missing volume to complete the series. I kind of miss the thrill of the hunt, but not nearly enough to go back to paying twenty bucks for three or four episodes. Thanks for sharing!
If you want to show off your own collection, send me photos at [email protected] Do it! Do it now!
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