At last! This post had been begging to be written for aeons now, (and took more aeons to actually get written), and it’s finally here! Which is sadly more than I can say about any official word on when the next Rebuild movie is scheduled to appear :(
For those who missed the first movie’s post, this is where I do the evafag thing and muse on the film while doing all the watching and comparing with the original that you’re probably too lazy to do for yourself.
Well why even bother, sayeth you? Well, because in the opinion of this evafag, while the Rebuild films so far stand fairly well on their own, they really become much more interesting and reveal a tonne of hidden tasties when considered in the context of what happened in the original. I said it in the Eva 1.0 post and I’ll say it a little more surely now that I’ve seen and mused on 2.0 – Gainax is saying something, or some things, somewhere down there amidst the evident change of mood, between the dark and demented conflicts of the original and the brimming passionate pseudoheroisms of the new films. The question is, what? Well my friend, come along with this evafag into the dark side of evafanaticism and we’ll see if we can get some answers…. *nasty chuckle*
So I’m not gonna fawn over the fantastic visuals or Kaji’s valiant but atrocious attempts at EngLish speaking or the X other things you’d expect an evafag to fanboy about. They’re awesome, yes, but time and wordcount’s a wastin and I don’t think I need to tell you that they’re awesome – enjoy them for yourself. We’re here to talk more interesting stuff, and what’s most interesting in the opening scene here is clearly, Mari. Like, who the heck is this girl? Throughout the first film we seemed to have begun from the same starting point as the original and all the eventual deviations seemed explanable as results of a string of subtle but key little circumstantial changes. Little shifts in the web that gradually avalanched into perceptible impacts on the psychology of the key characters. Ultimately less things go wrong, and the psychological fort held and strengthened. Shinji stood up against his cursed destiny, manned up, and saved the world.
And here now comes this brand new character that we’ve never seen before. What do we make of her? To be honest I don’t know, and maybe we aren’t meant to – yet. For the moment she remained mostly peripheral to the web of character interactions happening in this film, but she may eventually play a bigger part that would make her role in the story clearer. For the time being though we can note a few interesting things about her. She seemed the most at home in an Eva of all the children so far. For Rei, Shinji and Asuka, their Evas really function as catalysts in their pursuit of other ends – meaning and bonds for Rei, his father for Shinji, and self-worth for Asuka. Mari, interestingly, appears to be “doing it for it”, so to speak. She seemed to relish her battles in her Evas, through the haze of violence and pain, to the point that it felt like she truly belonged there within the LCL. Also, there’s the bit where she could do the suspicious Kaworu-ish thing of being able to pilot random Evas and even unlock beast mode. Yes, the comparison with Kaworu was intentional – she may eventually turn out to be more than meets the eye in all kinds of ways. May.
Opening with the cemetery visit is somewhat interesting. Notably, this occurred much later in the original, well after Asuka was introduced. I don’t have a tangible insight to offer in explanation of this difference, but it did feel a little different. The shots and the spoken lines were identical, but the original was preceded with some scenes which hinted at the hope-dread swirl of uncertainty Shinji felt about the meeting – Misato urging him to go and face up to his father, Shinji asking Rei how to make conversation with his father. The meeting between Gendou and Shinji in the film felt much more crisp and unburdened. A conversation between two human beings, rather than between a cold father and an insecure son.
And then comes Asuka! In as flashy an entrance as only she deserves!
We all know by now that Gainax decided to give Asuka an enigmatic name-change, from Asuka Souryu Langley to Asuka Shikinami Langley. Here’s some food for thought – why the random name change? No one else got one. Pay a little attention and you’ll notice a few more things amiss with the new Asuka. Firstly, she’s Captain Shikinami, ace of the European Air Force. That’s a lot loftier than who she was in the original during her introduction. This diminishes the vantage we are offered in the original of her being talented but somewhat unacknowledged, and thus being intent, eventually to the point of desperation, on proving herself. Being captain and ace in the air force is already plenty of recognition, and so the starting point has clearly shifted. Also more notably, Shikinami appears to be on much better terms with Misato than Soryu, in all likelihood because Shikinami does not appear to exhibit any hint of Soryu’s infatuation with Kaji. All in all the new Asuka appears to be in a much more “solidified” position in the sense that she is starting out much less vulnerable to the terrible insecurities, self-doubts and jealousy that gnawed the original Asuka from the inside out. This is an unmistakeable exception to the otherwise honored rule that all the key characters trace their path from the same point as in the original. The name change may be alluding to this fact.
Fast forward, Asuka comes to live with Misato and Shinji. In a departure from the original we get a (tasty!) Asuka version of Shinji’s naked freakout at finding Pen-Pen in the bath. Here’s the fun part – there could be a tiny bit more to this scene than just a sneaky fanservice powerup. When Shinji went through this routine in the original, there was a subtle significance to his actions, hinted at by Misato’s muttered words to herself at the end of the scene:
“A little too flamboyant, maybe? I might be the one seen through…”
An interpretation of this is that Misato thought Shinji “saw through” her – that he knew that despite her being the host and offering her dwelling to Shinji, she in truth desired the company as much as she wanted to give him company, and thus Shinji’s comical routine was in part deliberate – to warm up their relationship. Come back to Rebuild and realize that Asuka is the one doing that comical routine now. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Delicious, ain’t it.
I’m not like them, I’m special
and that’s why, from now on
You’ll just have to do this on your own, Asuka.
And immediately after, a counter-balancing scene. A small affirmation that some trace of the old Asuka remained. However, her perception of her own superiority isn’t on the same level, isn’t quite as.. venomous. The original Asuka needed to think herself superior, whereas this didn’t seem to apply quite as much to Shikinami. Notably, while she remains something of an obnoxious presence at school, she doesn’t quite go out of her way as much to capture attention anymore. (You’ll remember her facing off in the original with a Rei who couldn’t care less, in front of a gathering crowd).
Asuka, requiring an order to get her to go on a trip with Kaji. This should totally have set off all kinds of bells.
The one thing that stayed firmly the same, though, is her incompatibility with Rei’s personality. They are, quite nearly literally, like fire and water.
I don’t have much to say about the aquarium trip. It feels like it’s there mostly as a means of doing some hasty world-building for the folks who never watched the original. Explaining the lifeless red oceans, the second impact, Misato’s past.
Sahaquiel thunders down from orbit, and a spectacular battle ensues. Some changes were made to the way the battle played out. Asuka smartly landed the killing blow on the angel, but with clear support from the other two children. In it’s aftermath, Asuka railed herself for not being able to deal with the situation alone. And then came this scene:
Even though it’s always been normal for me to be alone…
Even though loneliness shouldn’t bother me…
Perhaps it is during the realization of one’s inability to function alone, that one feels truly alone. And perhaps not being tied down by the vicious coils of jealousy and terrible pride allowed the new Asuka to give in to her loneliness, and seek company. What ensued was… human contact. I think this scene in Shinji’s bedroom is another subtle step towards dissolving the forces that dragged the world to hell in the original. Nothing quite novel is said in the short exchange. We already know that Shinji wants to gain his dad’s approval, and that he was happy to get his first ever praise. What’s important here is that he is communicating this to Asuka, and Asuka is listening. Connection, in place of the terrible, fear-laced walls that isolated every soul in the original. Connection means knowing that people are fighting their own battles, wallowing in their own pain; that they are just like you. They are not standing out there beyond your fragile bubble, just waiting for you to trip up so they could sneer at you.
On Rei’s end of the story, all across the show our man Shinji has just been incredibly nice to her. Well, by her standards anyway. How warm and wonderful an offered cup of Miso soup must taste to the girl who lives alone in a sparsely furnished room, on a diet of pills. I’d point out that this does also underscore the unusual fact that Shinji really is a pretty swell guy. We caught glimpses of a meticulous, caring Shinji in the original, in the precious few spans of time where he was relatively fulfilled and happy, and here in a better world resulting from a better chain of circumstances, we are seeing his better side becoming fully manifest. And this in turn triggers a change in Rei. The same Rei that in the original seemed so forbidding in her detached surety of her own replaceability, finds herself gradually drawn out into the world of normal human beings, of being cared for and valued, of not being alone. And the result? She begins to want to give back, and thus conceived of the whole “get Shinji and dad closer” tea party thing, and started to learn how to cook. I should be careful to note here that she did also eventually reach a similar stage in the original. Tragically, her first act of love and giving then, was to unhesitatingly sacrifice herself to save Shinji.
I’ve been telling people that the true horror of the original eva is that, in a less cursed world with a different set of events, the eva cast wouldn’t have looked out of place in a “normal” show – like a slice of life or a love comedy, as hinted at by the “alternate universe” sequence in episode 26 of the original. The horror is in the idea that perfectly normal people could be turned twisted and demented if you fed them the exact wrong things at the exact wrong time. The original eva did this and vividly illustrated the hell that ensued. But in the new eva, with several subtle tunes to the parameters of the world, our characters are being allowed to connect and heal, and embrace normality.
Another scene that happened far, far earlier in the movie than the analogous scene in the original, and with far different vibes. Rei speaking out to Asuka felt like a direct result of the gradual opening up of her character. And the timing of it is also critically different. Here, Rei was able to speak out to Asuka well before Asuka took a wound to her sanity and allowed it to deepen and fester. The original version of this scene was acutely painful to watch, and it was already far too late for Asuka. This version felt like an outstretched hand, from someone well on her awkward way towards seeking happiness to one who’s just beginning to feel down. The result?
Connection. I can’t emphasize how important I think this concept of connection is to the new eva. The enigmatic distance between human to human has always been a central theme to the eva franchise. The AT field has been described as the walls of the heart that divide us from each other, making us reject other people even as we are desperately alone. The human instrumentality project is all about dissolving this wall and making all of us one and thus whole. And now in the Rebuild series comes the act of connecting – fighting the repulsive force, exposing oneself, in order to reach out to another. And as people begin to understand each other, they begin to help each other, to sacrifice themselves for the cause of the other because they understand it. Empathy. And as Asuka understood Rei, she eventually, slowly, but naturally made the decision to help her, in a wonderful, sacrificial act of kindness that, in classic eva-esque fashion, went horribly, horribly wrong.
I still cannot get over how Gainax made me sit through this. It’s not so much the actual scene of violence itself as the terrible dawning horror I felt as the realization gradually materialized that Toji isn’t going to be the one testing Unit 03.
“You’re a kind girl Asuka”
“You’re the first person to say something like that to me Misato.
Somehow I feel better now.
It feels nice to talk to someone else.
I never knew…”
What a thing to do. For a fan like me, this moment really meant a lot. After having suffered through a loved characters terrible, gut-wrenching journey through the original, this moment of epiphany, of final breakthrough towards happiness felt incredibly precious. For it to preface that terrible event that you knew was coming is just too cruel, and yet too brilliant. I hoped till the last moment that Gainax might have completely changed the plot, that the evil, corrupted taint of the angel would never come. And yet I knew that it would. And it did.
And those terrible images of violence will now forever haunt that song Megumi Hayashibara sang in the background. That same song appeared as one of the Nichijou second-half EDs too. Yes, I remembered. Suffice to say that ED probably didn’t have quite its intended effect on me.
Somewhat apart from all this, another interesting twist has been slowly working its way into the story, signs of which began showing somewhere around the end of the battle with Sahaquiel the Kamikaze angel, possibly earlier. Ikari Gendou is markedly less malevolent in the movie. After the battle he specifically asked to speak to Shinji to give him his short praise, which felt like a reasonable lift from the more passing-remark-ish version of the original, even if the words used were the same. Yes, in case you haven’t figured it out by now, watching more or less the same thing while getting different feelings out of it is a huge part of the fun in watching the Rebuild series. Of course, later on he also handily agreed to go to this tea-party thing with Shinji. The original Gendou would’ve been all “I don’t have time for your nancy invitations”. Rei’s ninja-likeness to his dead wife might have ought to do with that, but we could also imagine that Shinji’s improved behavior had earned him some semblance of subconscious approval from the stern man. Either way, Gendou’s reduced evilness weaves another interesting spin on the events surrounding the brutal extermination of the infected Unit 03.
See the smirk on Gendou’s face during the slaughter in the original? The truth is that Gainax never quite needed to show us this smirk. We knew it was there underneath his gloved hands. Gendou was a ruthless man who reveled freely in his triumphs, even over his own wayward and worthless son. Watching the original, it’s natural to side with Shinji as he shrieked and demanded and pleaded for his dad to stop, witnessing alongside him the terrible deed being done. This, interestingly, became somewhat reversed in the film version. We see no sign of Gendou’s unseemly smirk, and it its place we find a pragmatic, veteran grimness. The truth is that there is some wisdom to Gendou’s actions in both versions, and by simply removing any trace of satisfaction on Gendou’s person in the film, we are suddenly shown a very different Gendou. Watch the scene again if you don’t believe me. It is hardly a stretch at all to say that in the film, Gendou did what he knew he had to do, in the absence of any other choice. He did.. the right thing.
Holding on to that line of thought, we then witness Shinji’s standoff with home base, where he locks himself in and threatens to destroy half of home base. In the original, this arguably felt like a positive development for Shinji, all things considered. He was finally standing up to the uncaring father he had so long obsessed over, in anger and outrage over something he knew to be right. Shinji in the original had the chronic problem of allowing the world to be defined for him, and having a vanishingly small sense of self and self worth. This was him finding himself and acting as himself, telling his father, the symbol of his hopes up till that point – screw you, I hate you.
But in the film, the world preceding this point had shifted. Shinji isn’t the angsty loner and Gendou isn’t the ruthless bastard. The result was that the standoff interestingly felt a lot like a healthy teenager throwing a tantrum. Because Gendou made a good tactical decision, and because we can find no evidence that he enjoyed the necessary evil he perpetrated, the tables are turned against Shinji, who seemed, in contrast, to be flaunting an absolute refusal to listen to reason. Virtually identical scenes, virtually identical dialogue, but a 180 degree shift in perspective. Did I mention that I love this show?
This has become a monster post of decidedly epic proportions – we’re 3000 words and counting now, and we still have the spectacular finale ahead of us. Hopefully you’re not as desperate for this post to end as I am to finish it. On second thought, if you’re even here still reading this, thank you :D Anyway, I’m gonna cut corners a little bit here and gloss over the avalanche of fantastic, climatic action sequences and cut to the chase. There are two main things in the finale that I thought was interesting. Lets look at number 1.
The Tenth Angel is the strongest rejection-type.
It’s destructive power is unbelievable.
Cheesy as it may sound on paper, I thought that the final battle between Unit 01 and Zeruel is interpretable as an elaborate physical representation of some of the ideas discussed above – in particular regarding connection and rejection. The reference is made that Zeruel is a “rejection type” angel, and this is somewhat reinforced by how amazingly powerful its AT-field is. That Zeruel is cast as a monster of unimaginable destructive powers is telling on what “rejection” means in eva’s universe. We need only take a brief rewalk-through of the original series to affirm this idea. Enter Shinji and Unit 01, and with them the birth of a power so appallingly great that it completely overwhelmed the mighty Zeruel. If we tried to put our finger on what this power might represent, we’d inevitably come to the overarching motivation behind that final battle – Shinji, disregarding all barriers, tearing down all hell, to get to Rei.
I’m gonna use that word again – connection. And I’m totally on a roll with my interpretation now so I’m just gonna barrel ahead – this isn’t just about Shinji trying to physically save Rei, it’s much more emotional, more profound, than simple rescue. It’s about reaching out to another human being and not letting go even if it hurts. Both the original and the first film discussed the ‘hedgehog dilemma’, where it is cold to stay alone but the closer you get to another person the more it hurt. This is Eva’s solution to the dilemma – don’t stop anyway. Watch the way the rescue happened. The exposition of Unit 01’s core, Shinji’s skin flaking off, can be taken as symbolism that connection inevitably involves exposing oneself to harm and hurt. But if you back out due to it you’re going to lose to rejection, and nothing will change. Shinji kept going, pulled through, and at the end…
“Ayanami, about my father.. Thank you.”
“I’m sorry, I couldn’t do anything”
This is okay.”
Meaningful contact is made, and meaningful bonds are formed. I and them becomes Us, and destructive, dividing walls are dissolved.
(I cannot resist a quick plug, what a wonderful turn of events for Rei. My great Asuka fanboyisms aside, I’ve always inexplicably been just a little more of a Rei fan. This totally makes me a happy evafag)
And the second thing? (holy shit I’m still going?) It’s more a bit of intrigue than the kind of meta-analysis I’ve been doing all post. An interesting fact is that after the original run, people have been speculating and discussing the soul that resided in Eva Unit 0 – since all Evas are said to house a soul, and Unit 0’s is the only one not clarified by canon. In the end the most well accepted answer was that it housed Rei I (think loli Rei). The theory was that the soul of Lilith was divided between Rei I and Rei II, and that was why Rei II could pilot Unit 0. In the wake of Unit 0’s destruction, Rei III was a decidedly different personality from Rei II, in particular her admiration for Gendou appeared to have turned into a fair bit of animosity. This could be explained if we supposed that after the destruction of Unit 0, both parts of the soul became wholly housed in Rei III, who with the combined knowledge of both halves now knew Gendou for who he was. The fact that Rei III could produce ridiculously powerful AT fields also reinforced the idea that she now housed the full soul of Lilith. Anyway, assuming these speculations had some truth to them, well, we just saw Unit 0 get destroyed in that final sequence there. Also, we saw that her fusion with Unit 1 did trigger the second impact. Is she now the full soul of Lilith? What implications could this have? This time she seemed to have retained her personality though. Actually, I have no idea how this is gonna continue at all, and yeah, I just spent that last paragraph laying down something to make the wait for the next film extra deliciously painful.
Okay! I think I’m finally, finally, finally… done. Hope I did not bore you with my rambles >.< And if you made it all the way down here, let me end by dropping you a friendly reminder to sit through the ED, because there is a sneaky sequence tucked in at the very end after the credits. You don't want to miss troll spear just totally shutting down the second impact like a boss.