Anime used to be the preserve of anoraks dedicatedly downloading episodes straight from Nippon on a weekly basis. Often these pioneers would learn Japanese from beloved classics like Evangelion, Gundam and Gurren Lagann. The mainstream appeal anime/manga enjoys now is a realisation of its roots in a rich artistic heritage that traces back to long before Shogun times.
The story of Evangelion 3.0 follows Shinji, fourteen years after causing the third impact. He hasn’t aged a day since the incident but everything around him has changed. The Earth is in ruins and everyone that he once protected, is treating him like a prisoner and are threatening to kill him if he pilots another Eva.
Shinji soon meet Kaworu and they bond. This is when it becomes clear what the organisation’s true mission is. Shinji becomes immersed in all of the deception and is in danger of loosing himself, which in turn could bring an end to humanity.
The visuals for Evangelion were a standard of animation I had not believed were possible in an anime. The futuristic landscape of a deserted space of dark planets engulfed with red is suggestive of an almost catholic theme of guilt and blood debt. Namely the culpability of a young male protagonist – indiscriminately aged somewhere between his teens and early 20s; held prisoner by space pirates. When he’s not a captive, he flies free in an Eva.
The idiot Shinji is treated harshly and tenderly by the differing few colleagues and combatants involved in what is quickly established to be crucial to the destiny of humanity. It is all tied to Shinji and his role as a pilot of the Eva Mecha model. The connection he has with the machine is juxtaposed with his unfamiliarity with the more natural things shown to him by his one ‘true friend’.
The slight protagonist’s memory loss, sexual frustration and isolation amid the vast wasteland that comprises angry hulls of space ship and decaying ores is oddly reminiscent of The Machinist – at least they didn’t make Christian Bale underweight for a role!
The dialogue dipped from the jargonistic talk indicative of any exploration of sci-fi to humorous banter which had the aisles of the BFI brimming with hysterical laughter. The central character strikes me as human as any one of us.
His questions for himself are answered differently by the factions, friends and his father. Choices must be made by Shinji which effect whatever life there is to ever be on earth; one he hardly knows himself.
The narrative can at times be very difficult to follow, but if you bear with it the ride is well worth hanging on for. Evangelion 3.0 boasts a combination of well crafted hand-drawn and CG animations that allow at times very complex shots to look stunning. The technological side of the film is mind blowing and superbly creative. I especially enjoyed Wunder, the space battle ship.
This explosion of anime fandom in English speaking countries is now even acceptable to the level of services that provide geeks (derogatory term or reclaimed badge of fame?) with monthly packages of toys and memorabilia (eat your heart out Forbidden Planet).
Evangelion is a beast of a film and I hope to immerse myself more in the mythology and I recommend you give it a try too.
Words by Amaan Ali
Photo from dondake.it