“Nothing good ever happens”– Shinji Ikari
Neon Genesis Evangelion is considered to be one of the greatest anime series ever. In Evangelion , director Hideaki Anno explores complex themes in religion, philosophy, and psychology. Evangelion is credited with reviving the anime industry in the 90s, as well as influencing future anime series and animation in general. Neon Genesis Evangelion is set on the post-apocalyptic Earth, in the city of Tokyo-3. The U.N. funded paramilitary organization NERV fights against alien beings called Angels, with giant mechs called EVA (Evangelion). These EVA is piloted by the teenagers specifically selected by the secret committee the Marduk Institute, Shinji Ikari, Asuka Shikinami Langley, and Rei Ayanami.
Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time is the the fourth and final movie in the Rebuild of Evangelion. An alternate retelling of the Neon Genesis Evangelion series, Rebuild of Evangelion featured major changes, specifically the introduction of Kaworu Nagisa and Mari Makinami Illustrious. Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time opens with a helpful recap of the past movies in the series. WILLE heads to Paris, France to activate the Anti-L System. They’re attacked by waves of Evangelion Mark.44A, Evangelion Mark.44B, and Evangelion Mark.4444C. Mari and her helmsman Sumire Nagara fight them off using a the Wunder’s complicated cable fighting abilities. Maya Ibuki, Ritsuko Akagi, and several male subordinates successfully activate the pillar which restore part of the city. With the underground storage lockers containing spare EVA parts, munitions, and JA-02 components the crew of Wunder prepare to repair Unit-02 and Unit-08.
The Villagers of Village 3
Shinji, Rei, and Asuka arrive at a living settlement called Village 3. They reunite with Toji Suzuhara, Kensuke Aida, and Hikari Horaki as they try to survive after the Third Impact. Shinji is his usual miserable self. Unwilling to make eye contact or speaking to anyone. He’s reeling from the results of his actions. He feels he should be hated by everyone and wallows is self-pity. Shinji spends a lot of time sitting in the corner ignoring everyone then occasionally vomits when he’s see Asuka’s DSS Choker, which triggers his traumatic experience with Kaworu. Asuka continues to be rude and insensitive. She cares about Shinji even though she tries hides it.
She wears a scarf to cover the DSS Choker and secretly watches over Shinji. When Shinji refuses to eat she force feeds him. Her methods are cruel but you can feel her frustration with Shinji. Hideaki Anno finally shows us how the rest of humanity lives. It was easy to forget they even exists, making it impossible to care about them. He uses Rei Ayanami as the guide to this new world. A clone of a clone, Rei is unaware of the world outside of NERV. She has never had a bath, doesn’t know basic manners, has never seen a cat, dog, or human baby before. Rei settles into the village going to school and learning to farm along some of the older women. As Rei develops her own identity, she’s able to manage an emotional breakthrough with Shinji.
However, her independence is never complete. When she decides to get a new name she doesn’t choose one herself. Instead she asks Shinji to give her one. Sadly, Rei realizes she cannot survive without LCL exposure. Accepting her demise, she tells Shinji she “knows what like is and she’s happy.” She dies wanting more from her life. Wanting to harvest more rice, hold Tsubame Suzuhara more, and be with Shinji. She explodes, never getting her new name. Her death spurs Shinji to fight again, however, the remaining crew members of WILLE aren’t so sure. It’s here in the village we learn what they’ve been fighting for.
NERV heads to a former Calvary Base in Antarctica to reactive Evangelion Unit 13. Misato and Ritsuko prepare to stop them. They hope to restore the world by stopping NERV. Asuka and Mari get new plugsuits and prepare to fight. Before they do Asuka tells Shinji she has feeling for him. The dynamic between Shinji and Asuka feels to distant and toxic to every become a more significant romantic relationship. Regardless, Asuka willingness to express her feelings shows her growth.
When the Wunder arrives in Antarctica they’re attacked by three NERV ships, NHG Erlösung, NHG Erbsünde, and NHG Gebet. Evangelion’s dramatic narrative, trauma moments, themes, and complex story has always been it’s draw. However, it’s combat has always been important. Even though the pilot took the direct physical and mental damage during battle, the crew of NERV and later WILLE were always apart of the combat. Giving orders, managing the EVA’s, encouraging the pilots, and suffering as witnesses to the pilots trauma. With multiple crew members maintain various systems, the combat becomes more dramatic as they attempt to respond to events on the fly. It’s intense. When the Wunder dives into the containment field it’s ambushed by two NERV ships.
Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time’s hectic combat
Despite being overwhelmed and outgunned, the AAA Wunder manages to reach it’s destination and launch all guided Munitions. However, NERV responds by releasing mass Evangelion Mark.07. EVA Unit 02 and Unit 08 are launched to counter. Armed with a variety of weapons, Asuka and Mira work together to defeat the army of Eva’s, and land near EVA Unit 13. One difference from Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time and the past series is the number of combatants. In this movie, NERV sends massive swarms of reproduced EVA Units to fight. As a result, the pace of the battles are much faster, making it difficult to follow at times. In the past, the Angels were the main enemy. They would appear one at a time and be the center focus of NERV. The conflict was more deliberate. In The End of Evangelion, Asuka fights nine winged Mass Produced Evangelion. While there are multiple enemies the action felt better paced.
I still enjoyed the combat in Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time, but the enemies feel like fodder more than serious obstacles. When Unit 02 finally reaches Unit 13 it refuses to attack. Confused by what’s happening, Misako commands the crew shoot the third ship. Suddenly, the Wunder is impaled by a fourth NERV ship, destroying the guns. Desperate, Asuka removes her eyepatch releasing the 9th Angel, transforming herself and Unit 2. Gendo Ikari had planned this all along. He sends a new EVA Unit 09 to attack the Wunder. As it takes over the Wunder, Gendo Ikari descends.
Gendo Ikari’s plan
Misato and Ritsuko Akagi meet him and Ritsuko shoots Gendo in the head blowing a hole in his head. He survives. Gendo used the Key of Nebuchadnezzar to transcend his humanity. Before entering Unit 13, he explains that the second impact purified the sea, the third the Earth, and the fourth will purify the souls. Humanity will abandon their bodies and become a collective intelligence becoming immortal. Misato and Dr. Akagi still have hope for humanity. Shinji appears and begs Misato to allow him to pilot Unit 01. Sakura Suzuhara and Midori Kitakami try and stop them and Misato gets shot. She reassures them that she will take responsibility for Shinji’s actions.
Mari and Shinji head to the Anti-Universe to confront Gendo. Shinji syncs with EVA Unit 01 and fights with his father. Gendo promises that if Shinji gives up he can see his mother again. They face off in close combat in a surreal scene. As they fight they’re transported from the City, the apartment, classroom, and other places from Shinji’s past. Gendo claims the two EVA’s are perfect counterparts and are in sync, resulting in them mirroring the others movements. Shinji pleads with his father to stop. Gendo shows Shinji the “imaginary Evangelion,” or Black Lilith. Humanity can only perceive it if they believe “equally in fantasy and reality.” It’s the only way Gendo can get his wish to reunite with his wife, Yui.
Elsewhere, Misato decides to create another spear, the Lance of Gaius. The crew evacuates, while Misato sacrifices herself. Gendo and Shinji continue to talk. Gendo admits he hated people, whether it was visiting family, or going to school. He wanted to be alone, playing piano, and gaining knowledge. He feared pain, betrayal, and rejection. Once he meet his wife Yui, his life changed. However, he learned what the pain of lonely felt like when she died. He finally realizes that his abandonment of Shinji was wrong and apologizes to him. With the power of the Lance of Gaius, Shinji can now rewrite the world. He tells Asuka he likes her too, says goodbye to Kawory Nagisa, and to Rei. Shinji creates a world without Evangelions, a “Neon Genesis.”
A World without Evangelion
Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time reminds us that it’s just a movie. Hideaki Anno uses the Anti-Universe portion to remind the audience this is just a movie, Shinji falls into what appears to be background, he’s on a soundstage when he’s talking to Rei. In this warehouse we see scaffolding, EVA costumes hanging on the walls, and PlayStation controllers. Before the credits roll we see the storyboard of movie and watch it transition back into animation. Hideaki Anno has struggled with depression and used the experience as a source for the series. Despite the series cult following, fans haven’t been too kind to Anno. He’s spent much of his life creating Evangelion and now has his freedom. Anno is telling fans to live our lives.
The series remains a bit convoluted and I had to rewind a few times to try an understand what’s going on at least at the end. None of this is a problem. Part of the joy of Evangelion is it’s complex story and you can always enjoy the mecha fights while you try to figure everything out. The music adds to the intensity of the atmosphere, the dreary piano playing and the somber religious chanting. The score enters when the stakes are the highest. The animation from Studio Khara, during the portion of the film in Village 3, the animation was it’s most impressive. The scene when Shinji and Kensuke head to his house, the walkway crumbles with detailed realism. While Rei is working on the farm the plants, sticks, and wires feel 3D. The backgrounds are so lifelike it can be difficult to determine if it’s CG or not.
The movie is more hopeful than expected. Despite the complexity and trauma the characters suffered, none of them seemed likeable. The final Evangelion movie gives them a more sympathetic image. Evangelion has been an anime series with a number of problems hindering it’s completion, mainly the cost of production. As it finally ends it feels satisfying. Overall, Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time concludes one of the greatest anime series of all time with an unexpected ending, a happy one.