The wait for the third instalment of Evangelion’s Rebuild series has been a long one.
Originally intended to make its English debut back in early 2014 after its Japanese release in 2013, the studio decided that the dub wasn’t ready and asked for it to be re-recorded. Pretty ironic for a movie titled You Can (Not) Redo. So two years later, with the 20th anniversary been and gone, it has finally been released in February 2016.
The last film, You Can (Not) Advance, finished with a bang. With Shinji initiating the Third Impact once again in a desperate attempt to save Rei, it looked as though history would repeat itself. But at the last second, in comes Kaworu, who makes his triumphant return by impaling Unit 01 with his Eva’s weapon and halting the full fury of the apocalypse. You Can (Not) Redo sees Shinji recover from the incident, awakening from a very long coma. A 14 year-long coma, to be exact. The world he wakes up to is cold and unfamiliar, with almost everyone having defected to WILLE, an organisation hell-bent on destroying NERV. Rei is gone, Misato will barely talk to him and Asuka has over a decade’s worth of rage to let out. Gendo and Fuyutsuki remain at NERV, still working with SEELE to achieve Human Instrumentality, with an army of clones from the Ayanami Project behind them.
In true Shinji style, he runs away from WILLE and finds himself back at NERV. He meets Kaworu properly, who reveals the extent of his actions. The world may not have completely ended, but the effects of Shinji’s stubbornness were still devastating. And to make matters worse, the Third Impact could restart at any time.
Given that the dub was the reason for the release’s delay, it made sense to watch it with the English cast. Why the original was rejected is open to speculation, but it may have been worth it. The quality of the voice-overs seems consistent across all three movies, without 3.33 being too out of place. The stand-out performance in this film was definitely Allison Keith-Shipp, who has played Misato Katsuragi since 1997. Her character in the original series and first two films had a bubbly personality which hid anger and self-loathing underneath the surface. Before, she suppressed her negative emotions to get the job done and exact her revenge on the Angels. Now, the façade is lost as she struggles to forgive Shinji for making her relive her past trauma. Keith-Shipp is extremely good at conveying this pure, visceral rage, which is all the more evident with how her character used to be. Tiffany Grant (Asuka) also does anger well, but her character has never had an issue with letting it out, so the contrast just isn’t there.
The continuity with the other two movies in the series was always going to be something to be carefully considered. As with every story with a time skip, there is some ‘wiggle room’ to switch things up and make some parts different, but it’s essential that it’s still recognisable. Thankfully, Evangelion manages this. Part of the familiarity of You Can (Not) Redo is possibly due to the ‘curse of the Eva’, that causes the pilots to never physically age. But what could seem like a lazy shortcut in character design makes sense within the narrative, especially if Rei’s appearance is constantly recycled through the Ayanami Project. By doing this, it shifts suspicion from Gendo and NERV, and prolongs the reveal about her true nature.
It’s not entirely clear when the Rebuild movies take place, but there a lot of tiny details which imply that instead of being straight re-workings, these are actually sequels to the main 1995 series and subsequent films. From the blood-red sea, to the stain across the moon, these are all elements from The End of Evangelion. Pairing that with some dates that don’t match those from the original, it suggests that these movies are set in 2017 and 2031. Because the main anime’s timeline ended in 2016, it could be argued that in the first Third Impact, Shinji pressed a metaphorical reset button to try and fix his mistakes. With this theory, the Rebuilds make so much more sense, and it explains away any potential continuity errors.
Even so, 3.33 still feels slightly disconnected from its earlier counterparts. 1.11 and 2.22 did diverge from the original story (looking at you, Mari Makinami), but they didn’t have a huge effect on the storyline until the finale of the second movie, and actually dodged the worst parts of the 90s films. But now, it’s such a monumental change that removes any certainty of what’s going to happen.
And it’s not just the plotline that feels detached from the others. The DVD format itself seems different. The cover art is plain, and while minimalism can work, when it’s compared with the stunning artwork of You Are (Not) Alone and You Can (Not) Advance, it’s a little disappointing. The alternative on the inside of the cover isn’t reversible, but would have still made a better choice. The title menu is a static image with no audio, and even though it’s possibly a throwback to the origin of the series, the visuals look like they’d be at home in the 90s. The majority of the special features are trailers, for both Evangelion and other anime, but Rebuild of Evangelion – a deconstruction of the animation process – is by far the best extra content.
One thing that’s improved since the main series is the subtext between Shinji and Kaworu. It could be due to a more contemporary viewership, or that the alteration to the timeline allows more time for them to bond and grow closer, but there’s more implied yaoi than ever before. Even if Shinji with Asuka, Rei, and even Misato or Kaji are still popular pairings, Kaworu/Shinji (or KawoShin) is a very visible relationship across the Evangelion fanbase. Over the last twenty years it’s become increasingly common to portray same-sex couples, in both Western and some Eastern media. KawoShin may be mostly reliant on subtext and isn’t always made completely obvious, but there are enough hints for it to be undeniable. Some of those ‘hints’ are as subtle as a brick wall, like, Kaworu telling Shinji he loved him in the original series. This wasn’t in the Rebuild movies, but there are still scenes which are usually reserved for the main heterosexual pairing, such as lying next to each other and having a heart to heart under the stars. It may not be perfect, and there are definitely things the 1995 anime did better, so watching both together is recommended. Most of the reason why the relationship between the two feels more developed in 3.33 is largely due to time – in the original they’d only known each other two days, but this time they’re together for longer.
Overall, You Can (Not) Redo isn’t perfect. It may not be the jewel in the crown of the Eva franchise, but it definitely pushes the boundaries of its post-apocalyptic universe. It wasn’t afraid to make changes to the original series, and even though it’s a bit hit-and-miss at times, taking that risk gave a fresh new look at an anime classic.
UK Rating: 15
Release date: Available in the UK on DVD and BluRay now (as of 29th February 2016).