Thankfully, Spring Training is right around the corner so we’ll start seeing “best shape of his life” stories. Today, well, it’s still a bit slow.
ICYMI: A number of Royals were named to World Baseball Classic rosters. Max has you covered with all the news here:
Bobby Witt Jr. and Brady Singer to represent Team USA at the World Baseball Classic; Salvy, MJ Melendez, Nicky Lopez, and Vinnie Pasquantino will also participate
In this Reddit thread, someone posted a 6-minute video with one Zack Greinke pitch for every speed from 50mph to 100mph.
The Royals have hired Jim Cuthbert as an advance and special assignment scout. Cuthbert played a pivotal role for the Nationals during their march to the 2019 World Series title. He spent the past two seasons with the Red Sox.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 9, 2023
New #Royals infield coach José Alguacil is managing the Venezuela club in the Caribbean Series right now. They'll play in the semifinals tonight. https://t.co/mhFkAm1i4z— Anne Rogers (@anne__rogers) February 9, 2023
Coming in later in the day, Anne Rogers also takes her first stab at the 26-man roster. For instance, here is one of the position analyses:
Bench/utility (3): Nicky Lopez, Johan Camargo, Matt Beaty Camargo, 29, can play all around the infield and would make a great backup utilityman. Beaty, a former Dodger, can play corner infield and outfield, and the Royals believe there is still something to unlock with his bat. Both are non-roster invitees. Lopez will get every opportunity to earn a starting role.
MLB Trade Rumors had a chat with former Royal Brent Rooker:
Azion: Did you experience that famous KC BBQ?
Rooker: I did, but as a native Memphian this may not be a conversation you want to have haha.
At Royals Reporter, Kevin O’Brien asks How Does Jon Heasley Fit Into this Royals’ Pitching Equation?
There is one pitcher that I think is a bit of a wildcard on the Royals’ 40-man roster that could be utilized in a variety of spots: And that pitcher is Jon Heasley, who is looking to bounce back after a rough first full season in the Majors last season.
At Kings of Kauffman, Mike Gillespie asks “3 big questions behind the plate” (slideshow warning) and, of course, gives answers:
- How much will Salvador Perez catch for the KC Royals this year?
- Who will be the main backup catcher for the KC Royals this year?
- Can the KC Royals find a roster spot for catcher Logan Porter?
Mike Axisa of CBS Sports listicles “the most interesting NRI for every team”:
OF Nick Loftin. It’s a toss up between Loftin and Tyler Gentry, two similarly rated 24-year-old second-tier outfield prospects. Loftin gets the nod here because he plays the infield as well — six games at short, seven in left, 19 at second, 28 at third, and 62 in center last season — and I’m a sucker for multi-position guys. Loftin reached Triple-A last season and I suppose it’s not completely impossible he wins a spot on the Opening Day roster this spring. More likely, he’ll come up at midseason and serve as the quality super utility guy every good team seems to have.
A bit of news around the league.
You can check out all of the World Baseball Classic news at MLB.com as rosters were announced yesterday.
Also at CBS Sports, Matt Snyder takes small market owners to task, holding up the Padres as a spending small market team and the Royals get a mention:
Owners have every right to run their business as they see fit. They are, after all, the owners. I will submit, however, that if there is an owner out there proclaiming that his/her group can’t afford to keep up with the salaries in Major League Baseball, there’s a very simple answer: Put the team up for sale. Every single team sale in major professional sports results in a veritable killing for the previous owner. Remember the small market that is Kansas City? David Glass bought the team for $96 million in 2000 and sold it for $1 billion in 2019.
Speaking of San Diego, Yu Darvish signed an extension with the Padres for $108M. It’s for 6 seasons and he will be 42 when it runs out. I’m sure there’s no way they’ll regret paying a ton of money for a 42yo pitcher.
MLB is expanding to 2-way pitch calling. Previously, catchers called the pitches but now pitchers can, too.
In yet another nod to new technology, Major League Baseball will permit pitchers in spring training to wear wristbands that will let them signal to the catcher what’s coming next. The experiment that will begin Feb. 24 when exhibition play begins with Seattle-San Diego and Texas-Kansas City matchups in the Cactus League. All 30 teams are scheduled to be in action the next day.
Rob Manfred (boo) announced a number of things at an owners’ meeting yesterday, including that MLB will broadcast if Bally’s can’t:
About $1 billion of Major League Baseball’s revenue is at risk if a cable television company fails to make payments for local broadcasting rights to 14 teams, and the sport is preparing to take over telecasts.
“I think you should assume that if Diamond doesn’t broadcast, we’ll be in a position to step in,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after an owners’ meeting. “Our goal would be to make games available not only within the traditional cable bundle but on the digital side, as well.”
I know I mentioned last week that I was going to chop up last week’s OT/SotD into two parts after it was shown last Friday. But with a lack of news going on, I thought I’d do something additional.
I know everyone in Kansas City is just dying to talk about it. You know what I mean!
So here are some Superb Owl facts:
From the National Audubon Society:
A group of owls is called a parliament. This originates from C.S. Lewis’ description of a meeting of owls in The Chronicles of Narnia.
From the National Geographic Society:
An owl’s eyes can account for up to three percent of its entire body weight, whereas a human’s eyes make up about 0.0003 percent of its body weight.
From the Missouri Department of Conservation:
Owls’ ear openings also are directed forward and are concealed beneath downy feathers within a feathered facial disk. (The ear tufts of some owls, such as the great horned and long-eared owls, have nothing to do with hearing.) The facial disk itself serves to focus sound waves into the ears. Strangely, the ear opening on the right is higher than the one on the left, allowing each ear to receive sound from a slightly different angle. This provides owls with stereophonic hearing in addition to 3-D vision. Experiments have shown hearing to be so effective that barn owls can locate prey in total darkness by hearing alone. Many owls can hear their prey through a foot or more of snow and can still pounce on their prey target with great precision.
From Bird Feeder Hub’s article about 8 Awesome Species of Owls in Kansas:
These majestic birds have a few unusual traits. Their eyes are fixed and do not move, but their heads can rotate up to 270 degrees on their necks to give them a wide range of vision. Owls are mostly nocturnal, and can hunt almost silently, swooping down on their unsuspecting prey with great speed.
From The Spruce (I have no idea what “The Spruce” is):
A barn owl can eat up to 1,000 mice each year, usually swallowing them whole. Many farmers use barn owl boxes and other tricks to attract barn owls to help control rodent populations in agricultural fields.
(Ed Note: Just a reminder that this week’s OT and SotD are a continuation of last week’s. It was all originally posted last week but has now been split into two weeks)
Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo (2012)
If you held any illusion that the new movie would revert back to the original series, the intro leaves no doubt we’re in new territory now, no longer treading the ground of NGE. It’s understatement to say that 3.0 is a bit of a mess and the weak link of the series. But it’s also jolts the narrative forward.
The movie starts out inconspicuously enough with Asuka and Mari being dispatched to retrieve Shinji and Unit-01 from space after the events of 2.0. Only they’re ambushed by Angel-like drones and Unit-01 wakes up to destroy them. Asuka escorts Shinji back to Earth, where he’s taken aboard the AAA Wunder, a giant fortress ship akin to the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier.
Upon his return, there’s a palpable tension. Old friends are acting frigid, and a new character introduces herself as Sakura Suzuhara, the name of Toji’s little sister. Asuka angrily punches a crack in the glass of his isolation chamber and explains that it’s been 14 long years since the Near Third Impact and the only reason she hasn’t aged is due to the “Curse of Eva”. A distant Misato tells him to “don’t do anything” while Ritsuko coldy informs him he has an explosive collar (DSS Choker) and that if he ever pilots an Eva again, they will kill him to prevent another awakening. They are now all a part of WILLE, a resistance cell fighting Gendo and NERV to prevent the Fourth Impact.
As they are explaining that Rei is gone, no one found a trace of her, and his actions that cost millions of lives was meaningless, he hears Rei’s voice. Mark.09, an Eva very similar to Rei’s Unit-00, attacks the Wunder, blows a hole in the hull, and reaches a hand out to the confused Shinji. Faced with the choice between a hostile WILLE and a lifeline from the friend he saved, he goes with Rei. While escaping, Sakura begs him to never fly another Eva, as he’s a walking cataclysm. Misato hesitates pulling the trigger on the DSS Choker until he is out of range.
In NGE, Rei is one of many clones of Shinji’s mother Yui. This knowledge drains some of the drama out of the next act. Shinji’s delight quickly sours as he realizes this empty vessel is not the Rei he saved at the end of the last movie, the one he shared experiences with. Fuyutsuki confirms she is a clone and this realization pushes Shinji further into despair.
Enter Kaworu, the mysterious and beloved character from a single, poignant episode of the series. He suffers from overexposure here as he’s already been seen in the previous movies and stars here. Shinji wasn’t mentally strong to begin with but now he’s broken, abandoned, and a kid out of time. So he instantly latches onto this sympathetic character. They play piano duets and gaze up at the stars. Kaworu fixes his SDAT player and then removes the DSS Choker, taking the burden on himself. Shinji never really stops to ask how or why Kaworu can do these things, he’s just happy to find a friend.
Kaworu shows Shinji the results of the Near Third Impact on the world, how the survivors blame him for this, and how Gendo plans to go through the Human Instrumentality Project. He wants Kaworu and Shinji to co-pilot Unit-13, to force a mass extinction and humanity’s evolution, to remove their individuality and reunite with his lost Yui. The impact of his decision to start the Near Third Impact rocks Shinji.
One of the frustrating parts of dealing with this movie is that Shinji is repeatedly beaten over the head with the moral “you made the choices, now you live with them”. And this beating extends to the audience where you’re made to feel guilty for cheering alongside Misato at the end of 2.0 when she yells “Don’t do this for someone else; Do this for your own desires!” Shinji finally makes a decision for himself, breaking free from his reliance on everyone else, his defining character trait.
Is he rewarded for it? No. Rei is gone, never to be seen again. It would be like if Neo saved Trinity at the end of Matrix: Reloaded, but never ran across her again, except maybe as a ghosted memory fragment in the Matrix. There’s no tangible payoff for his growth or personal risk. Instead, he’s brutally punished for it. His actions caused the Near Third Impact, destroying Tokyo-3, and killing countless people. That guilt destroys him.
This wasn’t some fatal Shakespearean flaw where Shinji selfishly took what he wanted, rest of the world be damned. What he did was out of love, with no indication what the outcome would be, good or bad. Good process yielded bad results and he’s moralistically punished for it.
Kaworu tells him that if they use Eva-13, they can retrieve the Spear of Longinus (despair) and Spear of Cassius (hope) to rewrite reality and erase his mistakes. Wanting to atone, Shinji eagerly agrees. They pilot Eva-13 into the depths of NERV Terminal Dogma, accompanied by Rei in Eva Mark.09. Misato sends Asuka and Mari to stop them and the Twelfth Angel attacks. The battlefield descends into chaos. Eventually, Mark.09 and Asuka’s Unit-02 are destroyed while Unit-13 consumes the Twelfth Angel.
You can’t say the Fourth Impact was foreshadowed, so much as it was shouted at the audience. Kaworu, the main character sitting nearby in the dual cockpit, the one that broken Shinji has latched onto, keeps yelling that something is wrong, to not grab the spears, those same spears that he had told Shinji about in the first place. But Shinji completely disregards him and grabs what are revealed to be two Spears of Longinus. They had fallen into Gendo’s trap.
Ruefully, Kaworu reveals that he was the First Angel and is now cast down as the Thirteenth. He tries to use the spears of despair to destroy Unit-13. But then he realizes he has to sacrifice himself. Shinji watches in horror as the DSS Choker decapitates his only friend in the other cockpit. Mari forces Shinji’s Entry Plug from Unit-13. With both pilots gone, the Impact ends prematurely again. Shinji’s escape pod lands in the wastelands where the others also crashed. Stranded in the red desert, Asuka gathers Rei and a catatonic Shinji to look for help.
The last act is really frustrating to watch, one of those times when you want to yell at a character onscreen because they are acting foolishly. Similarly, Kaworu should have known better. And so, the third movie ends like the second, with Shinji causing another aborted Impact. At least in 2.0 he was trying to save Rei and grow as a character. Here, he’s merely a broken child trying to undo the previous mistake. He’s tricked into it, gets nothing out of it, and loses Kaworu in the process. It’s wholly unsatisfying.
Of all the rebuilds, this one had the most negative reception. Oddly, a number of the OG fans list it as their favorite, the only movie they like in the Rebuilds, because it’s something new. Or maybe they’re just being contrarian gatekeepers, like fans of so many niche interests. Structurally, some things work: the time skip helps the Rebuilds break free from the originals. However, many don’t: too much Kaworu, too much emotional torment for Shinji, and too many similarities between the ending of 2.0 and 3.0. This was the last Eva movie for more than 8 years and many feared it might be the last Eva movie ever made.
Evangelion: 3.0 + 1.0 Thrice Upon a Time (2021)
As I said at the start, buckle in: this is going to go long. Not only is the final Rebuild movie much longer than the others, it carries the burden of wrapping up a (dense) 25 year old franchise after an 8 year hiatus. Against all odds, it mostly sticks the landing, even with all the previously encrusted dogma, not just from the Rebuilds but from the previous other tellings, and heightened expectations of a series dormant for too long.
The final movie starts out with another gorgeous CGI battle. Want to see Ritsuko’s nervous team of WILLE hackers try to activate an Angel defense system in central Paris while Wunder’s battleships fly through the air to provide cover and Mari acrobatically destroys waves of evil Evas before chucking a red Eiffel Tower at them? Then you’re in luck!
The hope of a new defense system is muted as the opening credits roll over a dying world. It is covered with the red “blood” from Angel battles. Headless floating zombie Evas called Failures of Infinity, remnants of the Near Third Impact, are everywhere. To say nothing for the abandoned cities and countless dead.
The first hour moves slowly, in contrast to the rest of the series. Asuka helps guide Rei and Shinji to Village 3, a small town protected by one of the defense systems. Shinji, traumatized by the events of the last movie, won’t eat or speak for a long time. When he sees Asuka’s DSS Choker, he flashes back to Kaworu’s death and vomits. In turn, Asuka forces food down his throat so he doesn’t die.
It was a daring gambit to stop the action for more than an entire act when there’s so little time left. However, this creative choice pays off, allowing for a necessarily palette cleanse and bringing resolution to some of the minor characters. An older Toji is the town doctor and Kensuke is the local handyman.
With Shinji despondent and Asuka distant, “Rei” is the focus of a lot of these scenes. Toji and Kensuke dub her “lookalike” after they realize she isn’t the original Rei. She goes to work farming with the other women of the village who, in turn, help her understand the simple life. She goes to school with the other children by day and tries to learn what it means to be human at night. As Toji and Kensuke show him kindness and acceptance, Shinji begins to slowly recover.
“Rei” asks Shinji to give her a name and he calls her “Ayanami”. She returns his SDAT player, tells him that she is happy, and says “Goodbye” before her body melts away, unable to live outside of the controlled environment at NERV. While traumatic, this helps Shinji move on. After more time healing, he asks Asuka to take him back to the Wunder. Once onboard, we touch base with the other characters, alternating between hope for the future and tense preparations for war. With the characters (and audience) recentered, the movie launches towards its conclusion.
Once the final battle begins, it overwhelms – the CGI looks like we’re trapped in the virtual world of Summer Wars. We’ve left the common visual language of the series to remind viewers just how far we are into metafiction. At one point, Shinji and Gendo are standing in the “Minus Space”, staring up at “Evangelion Imaginary” as Gendo explains it is “imaginary and fictional, and does not exist in our world; only humanity, who can believe equally in both fantasy and reality can perceive this EVA”. That’s where we go.
The Human Instrumentality Project has always been the heart of the series. It’s never explicitly defined and it’s always wrapped in inscrutable dogma. But, at its core, Instrumentality is the franchise using arcane jargon to rewrite reality and fix the broken connections between characters in the series. Plot devices that were heretofore unexplained, many heretofore unmentioned, are thrown at the viewer in rapid succession: the Key of Nebuchadnezzar, Calvary Base, Vessels of the Adams, the Chamber of Guf, Golgotha Object, etc. Really, they’re all deus ex machina in a series built around the very concept of deus and machina.
Reality is malleable and the specific details of each item really aren’t important. These plot devices, action beats, and visualization serve to break up the character movement and development. The plot is an absolute slave to the characterization because the characterization /is/ the plot. Was the last scene emotionally intense? Let it breathe by cutting to a pair of giant spaceships battling in a CGI void of unspecified reality!
The science fiction will always resolve with treknbabble, the religious allegory with more dogma. The current enemy will always be defeated by some Eva power, only to be one-upped by an even stronger Angel. Hey, that mythical spear was referenced two movies ago in a vague prophecy so that’s lightly satisfying. But which characters survive and where do they end up? That is the real drama.
The science fiction plot of the Human Instrumentality Project won’t be resolved with science, it’s going to be resolved by helping these broken characters heal. You have to resolve the interpersonal issues, especially Shinji’s, but also everyone else’s. No matter how many giant mechs or religious spears or N2 bombs or AT fields you throw at the problem, Shinji, Rei, Asuka, Misato, Ritsuko, Gendo, and others have to have their character needs addressed before we can move forward. It’s an artistic therapy session for Anno and Psych, Philosophy, and Religious Studies 101 class with giant fighting robots and fanservice for the rest of us.
I’ll quickly recount the plot beats that get us here but, as noted, they’re mostly immaterial. WILLE takes the Wunder to the Second Impact site in Antarctica, hoping to intercept Gendo and Fuyutsuki and prevent them from restarting Evangelion 13. Gendo anticipates this and the Wunder has to fight its way through three other sibling ships. He also set a trap for Asuka to use the Ninth Angel, which was trapped inside her after the events from 2.0 (and why she has a DSS Choker), to reactivate Eva-13. Conditions met and the rites performed, Gendo takes Eva-13 through a portal into “Minus Space”. Shinji follow him in Unit-01, seeing the original Rei one last time. It’s breathtaking. It’s frantic. It’s awesome. It’s manic. It’s Eva, cranked up to 11.
For the third time in the series, the Human Instrumentality Project commences. In this iteration, the fight for control is represented by father and son dueling across the Anti-Universe. Gendo is despair in Eva-13 with the Spear of Longiness while Shinji is in Eva-01 wielding hope and the Spear of Cassius. They duel across abstract scenes from different incarnations of the show, everything from the streets of Tokyo-3 in NGE to Misato’s dining room in the Rebuilds. They are perfectly matched. Gendo yells: “Violence and fear are not the criteria upon which our conflict can be resolved” as his Unit-13 throws Shinji from Kaworu’s piano onto the train tracks of Village 3.
They stop fighting and Gendo shows Shinji, Eva imaginary. Giving it both spears, Gendo begins the Additional Impact, rewriting perception and reality to grant his wish. Shinji begins to understand that all of his fathers actions are the result of grief from losing Yui. And he will rewrite existence to get her back.
Meanwhile back in the “real world”, Misato uses the Wunder to craft one final spear, going down with her ship, in the creation of the Spear of Gaius. Mari confronts Fuyutsuki who releases the remaining Evas that power the other ships so Unit-08 can consume them, further consolidating the few Evas that remain. In the middle of the next act, Mari takes her combined Eva and the Spear through a giant imaginary Rei while Joy to the World plays and it shows up in Shinji’s hands when he needs it most. And it somehow feels like it fits. Yup.
This is the third time trying to end the story. The first was the original episodes 25 and 26 of the series. It was well behind schedule and feels hastily constructed. Many parts of it play out like an abstract interrogation where Shinji has to justify his existence. He inadvertently wishes for an empty world, where only he exists. Realizing his mistake, he tries to find meaning in life and form connections with other characters. He exists in various realities from a sitcom to pencil sketches before determining he might be able to live with himself and the world is restored.
The second, the “replacement” ending, is End of Evangelion. It is messy, to say the least. The audience watches as, one by one, all of our main characters die mostly unsatisfying and often gruesome deaths. Then their souls merge in Instrumentality. However, Shinji rejects Instrumentality and wants to continue the human struggle to make connections with other people, even as it is imperfect. His mother’s soul assures him that “it will all work out” and all human souls can return if they choose. That’s a gross oversimplification of the first 84 minutes of movie time, but I’m not here to write another 1000 words on EoE.
However, The final scene is intentionally vague and still a matter of debate to this day. Shinji and Asuka appear to be back on earth on a beach. Shinji begins strangling Asuka for no discernable reason. But Asuka reaches up, caresses his face, and he starts crying. We’re given some vague clues but not enough to determine how much time has passed and why this is happening. After Shinji fought so hard for this return to life, why this ending?
As I mentioned before, one way to look at these is that 25/26 of NGE is what is going on inside Shinji’s head while EoE is what’s happening in the outside world. The Rebuild may offer up another option for what is going on. More on that down below when discussing the movie as a whole.
Gendo and Shinji continue to converse inside Shinji’s “mind train”, a frequent symbolic location in NGE. Gendo chooses a path similar to a previous one of Shinji’s, the one without AT fields where all people are merged together as one, free of individuality. But he cannot find Yui, he only sees Rei. Shinji returns his SDAT, the one that used to belong to his father, and they travel into the past and see that young Gendo is just like Shinji, a lonely child. But he didn’t mind loneliness until he saw the alternative with Yui and her death crushed him. In telling this story, the realization strikes him: he cannot find Yui because part of Yui has been in front of him all along. Shinji. He laments all the lost time and apologizes to Shinji. The answer is so simplistic and frustrated me at first. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked the elegance of it.
With Gendo gone, Shinji was left to control Instrumentality. Next, he tries to help Asuka, this one likely a clone of the original Asuka Langley Soryu from NGE. He revisits her on the beach from EoE and helps her heal, sending her back so she can settle down with Kensuke. He could be the father she never had and accepts her even though she thinks she’s an Angel, no longer human. He helps Kaworu realize that he was confusing Shinji’s happiness for his own. He joins up with Kaji to farm and try and find happiness and meaning.
Finally, there’s Rei. Shinji meets her on a sound stage, in front of a screen showing scenes from the NGE. She seems content in this false reality, unsure if she has a place in a world without Evas. But Shinji assures her than another incarnation found happiness in Village 3. Shinji promises he isn’t going to rewind time or revert the world, but rewrite it as a world without Evangelions (I’m not entirely sure the distinction here), Neon Genesis.
As Shinji prepares to plunge the Spear of Gaius into Eva-01 and eliminate Evas forever, his mom appears and shoves him back into reality. He sees Yui in Eva-01 and Gendo in Eva-13 and realizes his parents wish was to end this together. The spear pierces all of the Evas, including the giant Rei Evangelion Imaginary. All the Evas return their souls back to earth and the world is reborn anew.
The animation devolves into pencil sketches with Shinji (and the world) fading away. But then Mari’s voice breaks in, the art progresses back to modern animation, and she fanservice-y emerges from the water. After all, that’s also at her character’s core, too. As her Eva, the final Eva, fades away, the controversial Mari saves the day, and sends the series off.
In the final scene, adult Shinji is waiting at a train station and sees glimpses of Asuka, Rei, and Kaworu. Mari sneaks up behind him, accuses him of being a “real grownup”, and removes the DSS Choker. The two run out of the train station into Ube, where Anno is from. The animation shifts from digital ink and paint into realistic CGI and then real video of the city as the first bars of the final theme song start. The words “Thank You and Farewell Evangelions” is splashed on the screen. It’s the type of ending to a book or movie that makes you a little sad the journey is over. You have to return to the real world after being emersed in a lush fictional one. In this particular case, the animation literally paints this picture for the viewer.
There’s an argument to be made that Shinji doesn’t earn this happy, Disneyfied ending (or that it’s befitting the Eva franchise). He destroys the world twice, once in a really stupid manner, and then wishes for a carefree life, settling down with a vapid fanservice waifu. However, I think that’s a really narrow reading of the last movie. Shinji has to first delivers satisfying endings for every other character before he can be at peace with himself. The staff has also gone out of their way to say that, in the final scene, Shinji and Mari are not a couple, merely friends.
I guess we finally need to talk about Mari Makinami Illustrious – the most controversial addition to the Rebuilds. FYI: I’m cribbing most of these notes from the Evangelion wiki. Anno didn’t originally want another pilot, but she was foisted on him by one of the producers, probably to sell more merchandise. Anno original intent was for her to “destroy Eva” but he had little beyond that, so most of her design fell to Kazuya Tsurumaki (of FLCL fame) and outsider Yoji Enokido. Her presence caused constant script revisions, as most of the writers just wanted to ignore her, and her voice actor was decided at the last minute. There’s a common misconception that she represents Anno’s wife, who pulled him out of depression. You can see how people come to that conclusion, however both of them have vociferously and repeatedly denied it. Personally, I think she’s his alien Ariadne and a free radical used to, yes, destroy the Evas. But she also plays a pivotal role in connecting a number of characters and plots in the Rebuilds because she has outside knowledge. That makes her a fictional cheat code, a lazy writing crutch, only it fits within the narrative structure of the Evangelion universe.
Within these movies, It doesn’t make a lot of sense why she’s the character opposite Shinji for these last two scenes. She’s not that close to him and definitely not as fleshed out as previous characters. She can’t be – she only existed in the Rebuilds, movies already too dense for their own good. However, there are a number of dropped hints like her familiarity with NERV’s plan, knowledge of the Eva’s Berserker mode, and, for the most eagle eyed, during Gendo’s resolution, a freeze frame photograph from the past that shows Shinji as a baby with Yui, a younger Gendo, and the bespectacled, ageless Mari.
The prevailing theory with these, along with other clues (mostly around Kaworu), is that, taken as a whole, Eva is a time loop and Mari either retains her memory or exists outside of it. That’s why, in the Evangelion universe, she could be the one to destroy Eva and a perfect fit in the final scenes, even if she’s an imperfect fit for the Rebuild-specific universe.
Similarly, Shinji is still a bit of an unlikable, obsequious loser after all this. We aren’t really shown him coming of age or overcoming that in broad strokes. However, this third time through the loop, he helps everyone else find closure. Maybe this means he is growing with each iteration and that’s where the real growth comes from. You can’t see that just from watching the Rebuilds, but would need to watch the entire series. All this would make the Rebuilds a deconstruction of NGE, which was a deconstruction of the mech anime genre. My head hurts.
On the whole, the work screams about Anno being tired of Evangelion – his most popular work not being his favorite. In the finale, the main character goes to an imaginary dimension, makes a wish that gives fulfilling conclusions to all other characters, a wish that leaves the world without the title Evangelions, and then escapes, as an adult, into a realistic animated version of Anno’s hometown. Again: artistic therapy?
However, like anything when analyzing these series and movies, there are a lot of interpretive paths. Mine may not be correct. Further, I’m not even sure Anno chose certain ones over another deliberately or if he just left it open. And, while it really feels like the series is done after the conclusion of 3.0 + 1.0, any universe that involves the main character rewriting reality can never truly be assumed complete.
To put in perspective how the series creator may have felt at this point, Shinji’s voice actor Megumi Ogata said Anno asked her how she thought the story should end because, in his words: “Now I feel closer to Gendou than Shinji. The only people who can understand Shinji’s feelings now are Ogata and [Anno’s assistant] Ikki Todoroki”. It had taken so many years and so much creative energy that he had lost the narrative thread.
While this movie could have been mailed in or a complete creative disaster, miraculously, it wasn’t. It feels more like a labor of love. As I said at the start, it mostly nails the landing. It’s a flawed and imperfect movie, to be sure, but it delivers the series’ most satisfying conclusion. And does so by a wide margin, finishing off both the rebuilds and the franchise as a whole. There are a few who think it’s a warmed over, less creatively adventurous rehash of EoE (which whistles past the legion of unsatisfying and imperfect aspects of NGE and EoE) and others who hate it just because it’s not like the original. But many think it’s the definitive conclusion to the entire Evangelion story. Count me among the positive reactions.
For the SotD, we’ll continue with the AMVs of Hikaru Utada’s theme songs for the final two movies: