CAUTION: CONTAINS SPOILERS
5. Rebuilding Evangelion
Despite what appeared to be the conclusion to the whole Evangelion saga, in 2002, Hideki Anno began planning a “rebuild” of the series through a sequence of feature-length anime that would finally tell the story as he allegedly wanted to tell it originally, but had not been able to do so due to budgetary and technological limitations. And despite the fact that Anno was not able to start work on the project because of other commitments, by late 2006, he was announcing the immanent release of the first film in the “Rebuild” sequence – even though its eventual release was pushed back to the second half of 2007.
5.1: Evangelion 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone
Essentially a direct adaption of the first six episodes of the original Neon Genesis Evangelion series, E1.0 consists of original animation material, new animation, and some deleted or unused animation. There was also a small amount of re-writing of some scenes and use of 3DCGI technology for the newer animation material.
E1.0 essentially repeats the core story up until just after Shinji battles his first Angel. Afterwards, he disobeys Misato’s commands to retreat when confronted by a second Angel; despite being victorious, he is scolded by her for insubordination and wanders off in a sulk, eventually being returned to NERV headquarters by NERV intelligence agents. Shinji is critically injured in a battle against a third Angel, which Rei has to defeat on her own. To improve Shinji’s spirits, Misato shows him where the crucified Lilith being is held prisoner, explaining to him that the Angels want to initiate contact with her and spark a Third Impact that will destroy all human life. In the next battle, Rei is nearly killed saving Shinji’s life, but he in turn manages to save her; this action seems to dent her normally cool and aloof persona. Meanwhile, on a secret SEELE base on the Moon, Kaworu Nagisa is awoken from some sort of suspended animation; he has a conversation with the head of SEELE and states that he is looking forward to meeting Shinji.
5.2: Evangelion 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance
The second of the “Rebuild” instalments continues from where E1.0 left off, replicating many of the scenes and plot points of the original series, but also introducing new elements – most notably the character Mari Illustrious Makinami, who more or less takes over the role performed by Toji Suzuhara in the original series. These new elements pave the way for the considerable plot changes that will follow in the subsequent films. E2.0 also makes much more use of 3DCGI animation techniques.
When an Angel escapes its confinement on a NERV base in the Arctic, it is defeated by Mari, who destroys her own EVA to gain victory. Another Angel attacks the NERV headquarters in Japan, but is defeated by new pilot Asuka in her EVA. Dr Gendo Ikari takes delivery of a mysterious item called “The Key of Nebuchadnezzar”; he and his assistant Kozo Fuyutsuki visit the SEELE base on the Moon, where they witness Kaworu Nagisa sitting in space without a helmet. Another Angel attacks Tokyo3; Rei, Shinji, and Asuka destroy it, despite significant damage to Rei and Shinji’s EVAs. SEELE only permits Shinji’s EVA to be repaired. Mari arrives in Tokyo3 and NERV’s US branch sends an EVA unit to Japan; due to an international agreement limiting the number of active EVAs able to be stationed in any one country, Asuka’s EVA is sealed away in storage. Asuka volunteers to test pilot the newly arrived EVA, but is trapped inside the unit when it is possessed by an Angel. Shinji refuses to fight the possessed EVA and his father orders an auto-pilot function to be activated; acting autonomously, Shinji’s EVA brutally destroys the possessed EVA. Traumatised, Shinji decides to leave NERV, while the critically injured Asuka is placed in hospital isolation. When another Angel attacks, Gendo is unable to activate Shinji’s EVA; Mari steals Asuka’s EVA from storage and attacks the Angel, but her EVA is severely damaged. When Rei attacks in her damaged EVA, both it and she are absorbed by the Angel. Shinji rushes back to NERV and attacks in his EVA but it loses power; his rage at this development causes his EVA to go into berserker mode. Out of control, the EVA defeats the Angel and rescues Rei by reaching deep inside its core to where she is held captive. At the same time, it pulls the core of Rei’s EVA out of the Angel, which causes it to explode; the Angel’s remains and the core of Rei’s EVA are absorbed into Shinji’s EVA, which now begins transcending its physical boundaries. Just as the EVA begins to turn into a divine being and trigger a Third Impact, it is transfixed by a Spear of Longinus hurled from the Moon; Kaworu Nagisa arrives from the Moon in his EVA, declaring that he will show Shinji “true happiness”.
5.3: Evangelion 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo
Fourteen years after the events depicted in E2.0, Asuka and Mari retrieve a vessel in earth orbit: it contains both Shinji and his EVA. Asuka’s attempts to retrieve Shinji from the vessel result in the release of attack drones; their assault causes Shinji’s EVA to reactivate, destroy the drones, then descend to earth. Kaworu observes this event and declares that he has been waiting for Shinji. Meanwhile, Shinji is taken aboard a flying battleship, the Wunder, and fitted with an explosive collar; brought before Misato, Shinji discovers that she now leads an anti-NERV organisation called WILLE (“Will”). She discloses that the Near Third Impact which Shinji triggered resulted in neither Mari nor Asuka being able to age; Rei was never found. Shinji is told if he ever pilots an EVA again, the collar will explode. Shortly thereafter, the Wunder encounters a NERV EVA, from which Rei’s voice issues’; Shinji escapes aboard this EVA and is taken to NERV’s ruined headquarters. Here, Gendo Ikari informs his son that he will co-pilot a new type of EVA with Kaworu; the two boys form an unlikely friendship, and Kaworu shows Shinji the ruins of Tokyo3, explaining that they were the result of the Near Third Impact. He also explains that Gendo plans to trigger an actual Third Impact that will remove humanity’s individuality, enabling him to be reunited with his dead wife Yui. Meanwhile, Shinji discovers that Rei has lost all her memories of him, and is only capable of obeying commands. Gendo’s assistant Fuyutski discloses to Shinji that the soul of his mother Yui resides within his old EVA, and that the Rei he rescued is but one of many clones of Yui. Kaworu removes Shinji’s collar and puts it on himself; as a result, they form a plan to undo the Near Third Impact by removing the Spears of Cassius and Longinus that pierce the body of the Lilith being. As they approach Lilith, with Rei following in another EVA (accompanied by Kaworu’s original EVA on auto-pilot), Kaworu realises the Spears are not what they seem to be; however, his attempts (as well as those of Asuka and Mari, who have also arrived on the scene) prove insufficient. Shinji removes the spears, at which point Gendo orders Rei to decapitate Kaworu’s original EVA in order to release the “final Angel” and initiate Third Impact through the “final Angel” being absorbed by Shinji and Kaworu’s new EVA. It now begins the process of divinization; Rei loses control of her EVA as it tries to attack the Wunder. Rei ejects and Asuka destroys the EVA by self-destructing her own unit. Mari ejects Shinji from his cockpit, and he falls to earth; Kaworu halts the metamorphosing EVA by stabbing it with both spears and exploding the neck collar. Asuka and Rei, having also fallen to earth, meet up with Shinji; Asuka lectures him on running away from his responsibilities as they trudge through the ruins of Tokyo3.
5.4: Evangelion 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time
After protracted delays and production lags, the final instalment of the “Rebuild” sequence was released in 2021, almost ten years after the previous film.
Paris is restored by a WILLE fleet lead by the Wunder and Mari in her EVA, who defeat NERV drone forces attempting to stop them. Asuka, Rei, and Shinji, meanwhile, arrive at a village populated by survivors from the Near Third Impact; among the inhabitants are some of Shinji’s former school friends, including Toji Suzuhara. While Asuka expresses frustration at having to help Shinji recover, Rei becomes friends with some of the village women and helps them with their chores. As Shinji regains his strength, he meets Misato’s son, Kyoji; but Rei, who cannot survive without the biofuel drawn from Lilith, disintegrates in front of Shinji. The Wunder arrives to collect Asuka and Shinji joins her; he is placed in isolation. Gendo Ikari reactivates the EVA previously piloted by Kaworu and Shinji; as a result, Misato has the Wunder set course for Antarctica. The Wunder is attacked by three NERV flying ships and a horde of automated EVAs; Asuka confesses her feelings to Shinji then sorties with Mari. They attempt to attack the reactivated EVA, but Asuka’s EVA won’t do so. She then reveals the Angel hiding inside herself (the result of her possession), but is unable to prevent her EVA from being absorbed by the reactivated EVA. In the process, Asuka discovers she, too, is a clone. Meanwhile, the Wunder is constrained by a powerful NERV vessel, and Misato and Ritsuko confront Gendo. Ritsuko shoots Gendo to no effect; he has used the “Key of Nebuchadnezzar” to transcend his humanity. Gendo reveals the purpose of the Human Instrumentality Project and leaves abord the reactivated EVA. Shinji persuades Misato to let him fly his old EVA against Gendo; some of the crew of the Wunder attempt to prevent his departure, and Ritsuko is shot in the confusion. Mari uses her EVA to absorb several other units. Inside his own EVA, the original Rei appears to Shinji. As Shinji and Gendo battle inside an “Anti-Universe”, the trauma Gendo experienced at his wife’s death is revealed, as is his plan to eternally reunite with her. Misato evacuates the Wunder and sacrifices herself and the ship to create a “Spear of Gaius” that will enable Shinji to rewrite the universe. In the “Anti-Universe”, Shinji says goodbye to Rei and reconciles with Asuka and Kaworu, while also helping Gendo come to terms with his loss; as a result, Gendo and Yui sacrifice themselves to enable Shinji to perform a complete reset of the world. In this new world, there are no EVAs or Angels and the original Adam/Lilith contradiction is resolved. At a train station in this new world, all the EVA pilots appear as normal teenagers; in the final scene, Shinji leaves the station with Mari.
The release of E.3.0+1 brought the “Rebuild” sequence to its conclusion. Again, the films of this sequence were both critically acclaimed and commercially successful. The last two films in the sequence, in particular, introduced major plot changes to both NGE and The End of Evangelion; and, once again, despite these significant departures, audiences and reviewers alike appeared to appreciate both the significantly more coherent storyline as well as the reduction in the amount of abstract and esoteric material (despite the significant presence of both in the last installment).
So – is this, at last, the end of Evangelion?
TO BE CONTINUED
Text ©Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2021. All rights reserved.