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Evangelion 3.33: You Can (Not) Redo
It's been nearly five years since US fans of Hideaki Anno's "Rebuild of Evangelion" series have had an entry in the tetralogy. Produced in 2012, in Japan, "Evangelion 3.33: You Can (Not) Redo" answers the long awaited question of "what next" that was so aptly stated at the end of "Evangelion 2.22" with the chilling closing line, "this is the end of the world." For reasons I don't know, nor can discern, US audiences have been awaiting answer to this question for four years longer than their Japanese counterparts, which honestly had me as a fan coming to terms with the second entry possibly being the last for English language audiences. Fortunately after much delay, "Evangelion 3.33" rockets onto Blu-Ray and DVD and waylays fans with the answers they were looking for and a host of new questions.
I won't lie, everytime I watch the new "Evangelion" films I find something new; having no real familiarity with the original TV series they were based on, the "Rebuild of Evangelion" saga has been my entry into a world of semi-sentient mecha and strange Angels bent on destroying all of humanity. While it's reported the first two entries followed the path of the series fairly faithfully, "Evangelion 3.33" supposedly throws out the playbook and forges its own path. Fans and newcomers alike be warned, approaching "Evangelion 3.33" without refreshing one's own memories of the prior two entries is an exercise in confusion and futility, one I soon learned 45-minutes in before I had to call it quits and bring myself back up to speed. Even then, the cinematic mindtrip Anno has in store instantly beckons to fans for repeat viewings.
While "Evangelion 3.33" has its share of epic scale action that have resulted in a handful of iconic scenes and sequences in the series thus far, it is to date, the most cerebral and character driven film yet. Throwing new characters at viewers, it's aptly fitting we are just as disoriented as our hero Shinji Ikari who has just been rescued from the wreckage of Eva Unit 01 for a decade and a half. Thought to be some sort of clone or reconstruction by the remnants of NERV, Shinji is burned with a collar bomb reminiscent of "Battle Royale" and warned it will detonate should he enter an Eva Unit again. Equally puzzling is Rei, Shinji's wing-person and close friend also appears to have remained stuck in time over the past 15-years and sports a crippling case of amnesia. Shinji begins to learn the truth slowly as his relationship with the mysterious piano virtuoso and fellow pilot Kaworu Nagisa develops via some of the film's most aesthetically stunning sequences utilizing traditional animation and rotoscoping in an essentially seamless fashion.
Like its predecessors, "Evangelion 3.33" is a dark film, however, the writers take things to an even darker place with a perpetual sense of dread and plot twists for the series that change the perspective of prior events entirely. Viewers will feel an even closer connection to Shinji and empathize with his plight as these secrets are revealed and by the time the film enters its final 30-minutes in a breathtaking and haunting finale, they will want answers immediately. There is no vaguery in the ending here; it's a definite cliffhanger and makes the yet-to-be-completed fourth and final installment all the more desirable. Was the five year wait for "Evangelion 3.33" worth it? Absolutely, provided one considers themselves a strong fan of the series. "Evangelion 3.33" is an often obtuse film and the major shifts in narrative from previous entries could make turn casual fans away; the questions it answers from the previous film are only punctuated by even more questions demanding a through investment to the series finale. The case could easily be made that a segment of viewers could watch the first two entries and stop; the jarring changes in this third entry could be construed as off-putting and the scaling back of the action a letdown for some. However, those willing to invest in a cerebral, puzzle of a film are going to be rewarded with some of the most rich tone in the series to date and experience character development that far overshadows any loud, clattering action.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is just as striking as previous entries in the series if not more so. The film takes on a very epic sense of scope at times and that is reproduced nicely here with striking detail and minimal if nonexistent entirely compression artifacts. There's no major issues with aliasing or edge enhancement, offering clear animation with balanced contrast and colors, which are used artistically to punctuate tone and emotion in key sequences. The mix of traditional and CG animation is handled nicely and there's no technical hiccups that betray one format or the other.
The Dolby Digital English 5.1 audio track is a quality offering through and through. The quality of the dub is quite striking and having rewatched the prior entries with the dub this time through, I'm actually found it easier to comprehend the narrative. Surrounds are used to great effect during the epic, chaotic, and foreboding battle sequences. There's also some solid atmospheric usage during the film's more character driven moments, most notably during Shinji's encounter with Kawaoru at a piano. A Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 track is included as well as two sets of English subtitles designated, "theatrical version" and "home video version".
Like its predecessors, "Evangelion 3.33" is rather spartan in the bonuses department. There's a brief making-of/overview featurette "Rebuild of Evangelion 3.33" as well as a collection of trailers, and TV spots. The most substantial extra though is a 52-page booklet inside the slipcover that shows the artwork the various Evas, Angels, and key figures from the film. It's a nice way to keep track of what's what on the screen and serves as a reference point for those interested in the design evolution in the series.
While fans may have had to wait half a decade to get the film in the English language, "Evangelion 3.33: You Can (Not) Advance" is a solid entry on DVD from a narrative standpoint and a technical standpoint. While still anemic in the bonus features, the feature boasts a satisfying, dark advancement in the saga that is rich in atmosphere and heavy on aesthetic. The DVD reproduces the animation and vocal performances in top notch format, marking yet another quality release from Funimation in this fantastic series. Highly Recommended.