I don’t know if it’s just from the media I’ve watched, but over the past four years or so I feel like there’s been this steady increase in a certain kind of nostalgic sequel/remake. These are different from your A-Teams and your Transformers movies and such, where the works are designed to tap into fond childhood memories and bring them screaming into the modern age; they’re more about addressing the previous work more directly, whether as a sequel or as a remake or in some hybrid form.
The first example that pops into my mind is Rocky Balboa, the sixth movie in the classic series about an underdog boxer, while more recently Toy Story 3 gives off a similar vibe. Anime is no exception, either. The Rebuild of Evangelion movies, while acting as a story reboot, also feel like direct responses to what came before them.
In all of these cases, it is as if there was some unfinished business left by the previous work which the original creators felt needed addressing, something simply beyond “the last thing made some mistakes.” For Rocky Balboa, it was a combination of Rocky V being a terrible way to end the saga of the Italian Stallion and Stallone himself realizing how old he was getting. With Toy Story 3, it seems like Pixar realized just how many years it’s been since the original Toy Story came out and wanted to bring it back one more time and use it to address both the people who grew up on those movies and Pixar itself and talk about growth and change and passing things on to a new generation. And the new Evangelion movies take the raw material of the original series, puts it through the lens of a decade and a half of anime post-Evangelion, and uses it to try to more deeply explore the relationships between the characters, to talk about all of the new concerns that have cropped up in Japanese society since then.
Again, I don’t know if it’s just that I’m at the age to really notice this sort of thing, or if it’s that this generation of adults is especially keen on discussing the topic of change and resolution, but I can’t help but feel that it could be a defining feature of this time period in creative entertainment.