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This Week in Anime
Saying 'Bye Bye' to All of Evangelion

by Nicholas Dupree & Monique Thomas,

Somehow, before we knew it, Evangelion was over. Evangelion: 3.0+1.0: Thrice Upon A Time took nearly a decade to release but for fans of the series, it's almost unbelievable that it's here. Nick and Nicky try their best to decipher the grand finale.

This film is streaming on Amazon Prime

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @mouse_inhouse @NickyEnchilada @vestenet

Nicky, we like to start these columns off with jokey jokes but considering it's a minor miracle this film even exists, I say we just get into it before it disappears like a mirage on the horizon. This the real deal, actually factually, final EVA film: Evangelion: 3.0+1.0: Thrice Upon A Time.

Do not ask me to explain what that title means.
Now, normally this is the place where I'd try to introduce whatever we're watching to get newcomers up to speed. But being new to Neon Genesis Evangelion means you must've been living under a rock for the past idk, 26 years?

EVA has always felt like some inescapable giant since the original series aired in '95. It's spawned tons of media, movies, and homages for its Wow Cool Robots, Psychological Themes, and #Relatable Teens. Basically everything EVA stands for is an example of what makes anime both pop culture trash and ART, GODDAMN IT. And regarding the Rebuild of Evangelion films, even though they took 14 damn years to finally release all of them, it's still unfathomable to think of EVA actually finished. Are we truly ready to say goodbye of ALL of Evangelion?!

My Answer.

It's genuinely surreal to think about it. I got into anime right around when the Rebuild films were first coming out, and everything EVA had been the background radiation of anime fandom for over a decade. In a lot of ways it always felt like a property I couldn't ever experience clean, since I'd been inundated with opinions on it before ever seeing a single frame.

Then 3.33 came out and set the whole of anime discourse on fire for a good few years, and suddenly EVA was approachable because nobody knew what the hell was in store. Turns out what was in store was Anno and Khara fucking up Paris for like 10 minutes:

Even just as an action spectacle EVA is always super satisfying. They know they gotta give people a real performance. It's a gorgeous thing just to WATCH and probably the most accessible part about it. People often laud EVA for its emotional impact but its visual impact has never been lacking.
Doesn't hurt that Khara's 3DCG game has hit a major upgrade since the last film. However folks feel about CG mechanical animation, they should at least see some of the ludicrous stuff on display in this film as a sign that, in the right hands, it can be just as wild and impressive as traditional animation.
It's also why it was so sad that the Rebuild movies weren't available unless you bought the Blu-rays for a long time. We're fortunate that we just have all of them on Amazon Prime. The original series is also still on Netflix. It's like the first time EVA has truly been so accessible. But the other part of me is just heartbroken that Thrice/4.0 in particular isn't first being seen on the big screen, where it was meant to be.
Sadly, NERV was powerless to defeat the 19th Angel, COVID, so that's the lot we're stuck with for now. But after 8+ years of waiting I'm just glad to finally see how this whole story goes out.

See, the thing about 3.33 is that it basically ends where End of Evangelion concluded all those years before it: with the melding of the literal (almost) apocalypse and Shinji's emotional apocalypse. So the burning question is, where do you go AFTER that point? And the answer is that Shinji doesn't say a fucking word for the first 40 minutes of this thing.

I mean yeah, what if the Third Impact is just the anime equivalent of hitting emotional rock bottom? Where DO you go? What do you do when you've burnt out? What happens when everyone is done with your bullshit? Is there even a possibility for humans to seek atonement, let alone redemption? EVA sometimes feels like one of the closest things to real life because it's a tragedy we've seen but nobody likes to talk about. Fortunately, I think the Rebuild series has a very kindhearted approach to all this. Even though Shinji is at a standstill at the start, there are plenty of people around him who are shown to be understanding and want to see him healed.
I just appreciate how hard they go for it. Even for a two-and-a-half-hour movie, it's a bold choice to have your franchise's central character spend the entire first act as a taciturn mess incapable of even reacting to anything besides trauma triggers.
Asuka has to force this boy to eat so he doesn't keel over and die from acting like a goddamn fungus growing in the corner of the room all the time.

However, the other positive about Shinji being checked out is that we get to check-in with the other characters!

That's probably the most striking thing about this whole movie. After 3.33 was so locked into Shinji's perspective and headspace, it's practically disorienting to spend time observing everyone else. There's of course Asuka and Nu Rei, but we even see some unexpected returning characters.
I can't tell you how happy I was to see Tohji, Shinji's former classmate, all grown up, and with a family! The Rebuilds, being a speed-run, don't really focus on Shinji's school life too much. But in the original that kind of slice-of-life aspect was always an important facet to offset the tragedy and how the actions of NERV affected the people of Tokyo-3. This movie goes in the same direction with WILLE, led by Misato, and the common folk still trying to salvage as much life on Earth as they can. It's a way to remember what's actually at stake here.
It's also a stark reminder of just how frozen in place Shinji and the other EVA pilots have been in all of this. People they knew as kids have lived entire lives in their absence, and it's a really cool way to demonstrate that even the end of the world isn't actually the end. Life is determined and persistent, and humans will find a way to build some semblance of a home wherever they have to.

Plus all their buildings are built around train cars which is just cool. I wanna go to the Train Library with Rei.

Man, speaking of Rei. Or I guess Not!Rei. We see this version of "Ayanami" after the last one went kaput and she actually learns to live independently of Gendo or Shinji. It is SO satisfying. It is indeed "cute".

Also, Shinji sulking in the corner there is perfect comedy.
It's kind of wild, honestly. Rei's original incarnation, both in the TV and film versions, always revolved around the Ikari boys. But in keeping with the shift in perspective, I Can't Believe It's Not Rei gets to slowly learn to embrace the larger world, even as she still takes time to try and support Shinji. The first act of this movie is so pastoral and idyllic it almost feels like watching a Ghibli film.
I'm convinced you could hang this in a museum. Look At This Shit.

It's disgusting how beautiful it is.
The whole Village-3 section is a kind of beauty I never expected to see in this franchise. EVA has been defined for so long by stark, bleak, and abstract imagery, yet here even the weird sci-fi shit at the fringes feels welcoming. I can easily imagine taking a quiet midnight walk past the floating red architecture under the Thrice Fucked Up Moon.
But even they know that kind of peace is an achievement of constant work. The only thing keeping humanity from the apocalypse is the effort of a group of ragtag humans. It might not even be enough. While Rei hangs out with Tohji's family, Shinji gets picked up by his other former classmate, Kensuke. He's always been a bit of a tech-head in the series. He mentions that he can band-aid the barriers, but there are limits to what he can do.
Meanwhile Asuka is...well, being Asuka.

Though boy does that "Ken-Ken" bit raise a lot of questions.
Asuka Put On Real Clothes Challenge. In this movie she's only ever seen naked, in a plugsuit, or barely dressed. Kensuke or Shinji just never bat an eye about it, but the T&A is almost gratuitous. Even minor female characters are mostly just wearing plugsuits.
It definitely trips the line into gratuitous at points, but I do like how it meshes with what we know about Asuka. This is a character who was constantly trying to "grow up" when she was a teenager, and is now trapped in that same 14-year-old body even as she's lived twice that long. The fact that Kensuke doesn't bat an eye is a constant reminder that she'll never be seen as the adult she is.

Though there's still a...lot of ass shots in this thing. Like a lot a lot. In very weird places sometimes:

I still like Asuka's character to be clear, but the framing of the female characters has always been an issue I've had with the Rebuild series. So I can't help by wince even though she's nothing more than a gamer girl gremlin here. She's just as isolated as Shinji. She doesn't get involved with the people in town. She doesn't sleep. The only difference between her and Shinji is her small level of self-awareness, her disgust at how similar the two are, and her claim that she's got some sort of purpose for being that way.
Yet even that disgust isn't enough to get her to stop trying to help him, even if she's roundabout as all hell about it and sends Rei to do home checks – well, ruin checks, really, since Shinji wanders off to become one with the penguins for a while.

And when it finally feels like Shinji is ready to budge, to accept love, his opportunity to be loved turns back into TANG!

It's like crushing a Capri Sun.
So that exact moment was when I knew we were in for a ride here. The entire first hour of this film is the slow, tender process of Shinji crawling out of emotional paralysis, and part of that is thanks to how Rei and the others try to offer support. But one of the harshest lessons EoE ever taught was that other people can never be your permanent crutch. In real life, it's because we're all flawed humans with our own lives and problems to sort out. In this case, it's because The Artist Formerly Known as Rei was designed with planned obsolescence, like an iPhone.
Not to mention, everything about Rei and Shinji's relationship is steeped with Mommy Issues.
Oh for sure, like even the idea that she likes him is questionable because—according to Asuka, anyway—she was literally made to be in love with him.
EVA uses a lot of old-timey psychology as the basis for its relationships. So the implication here is that Rei sees Shinji as not just a peer but also a child she's supposed to take care of. People often associate mothers with unconditional love, but Shinji never had his parents present in his life, so his love reserves are goddamn empty from the start and that's the stem of most of his actual problems.
And you'd think, from every other thing we've seen of this character in any iteration, that losing TWO sources of unconditional love in the span of a month would turn his brain into LCL. Yet somehow that doesn't happen, and somewhere in that timid, cortisol-riddled cerebellum something finally clicks with Shinji:
Speaking of motherhood. MISATO'S A GODDAMN MOM!! SURPRISE!!

I knew Kaji was a dedicated gardener in the first movie, but I guess those weren't the only seeds he planted.
Honestly, I think that revelation is what finally kicks Shinji off his ass. Here is another surrogate mother who's now lived an entire life outside of him, who's gone through her own struggles and triumphs and failures wholly without his presence. And now there's living, talking, proof of that. Having to consider what all that means is a lot, but it's also one of the lessons you have to learn to grow into an independent person.
As kids, we really struggle to imagine what goes through the heads of the adults in our lives. Misato is an extremely reluctant adult – she couldn't even raise her own kid – but she still carries on in a way that Shinji can't even imagine for himself. To imagine a life beyond our own pain while you're still in it feels so out of reach. You know what is imaginable, though? MORE EXPLOSIONS!!
This film is quite long but TBH most of it is flourish. I can't even screencap most of it because there's so much going on in these CG action scenes that seeing it out of motion means it stops making sense.
It's also kind of difficult to talk about in detail because it is absolutely slathered in EVA Lore Jargon.

Which hey, if you're the kind of person who likes to maintain fan wikis, god speed to you. But my attachment to EVA has always been to its human drama rather than its Bible-laden worldbuilding. So while it's probably really cool to see more of this, I'm more concerned with questions like "Hey, are Asuka and Mari like...you know...'Good Friends'?"
Yeah, I think the Bible gobbledygook is fun flavor text for the action scenes, like butter on my popcorn. Same with stuff like recreating scenes from Space Battleship Yamato whole cloth. It's just another form of set dressing, but it doesn't really need to be there other than it's part of Anno's interests and extremely indulgent. Though, EVA doesn't exist without Anno's indulgence, I say glancing over at Mari.
Oh we'll get to Mari and why this framing of her and Asuka is absolutely hilarious in hindsight.

But first, who wants to see Asuka go absolutely apeshit?

So Asuka goes to destroy Unit 13 from the last movie but she can't so she just goes FUCKING NUCLEAR! Also how do we talk about the fact that Asuka is in almost the same position as Rei in that she's a series of clone babies?
Only took three movies for me to figure out why they changed her surname in Rebuild! But we'll get to all that in the actual climax of this thing. Because somehow, Asuka turning into an Angel-Eva hybrid and tearing her own AT Field apart with itself is just the closing of Act 2.
Oh God. How do we even broach the third act. After Asuka fails, Gendo rears his ugly head for the first time because this was All According to Plan. Misato and WILLE confront him but he fucks off into Unit 13 because he's no longer human, and instead chose to become a goddamn cyclops. Those Star Trek glasses really weren't just for show!
Also shout out to Ritsuko. A casualty of these movies' revamped scope means she doesn't really get much to do compared to the TV story, but she makes up for that in one scene. Every other person is ready to have a long Anime Villain Talk with Gendo about all this insanity and she just immediately puts a bullet in his skull.
Anyways, Shinji has finally decided that he's ready to fight his father, but some of the crew of WILLE do not think that letting the emotionally unstable adolescent boy be our last resort is a good idea, including Tohji's sister. You know, considering how it all went down last time. But fortunately for Shinji, Misato steps up in support for what feels like a way of making up for how things were before.

It's kind of an amazing mirror of what happened at the end of 2.22. There it was Shinji "getting in the robot" out of a reckless and impulsive choice that damn near wrecked the whole world. But here, it's Shinji deciding to shoulder this responsibility to help the people who have always helped him. This, more than anything, is the moment Shinji starts to really become an adult.
And being an adult means going to confront your dumbass dad and then playing with action figures against him. Shinji gets in Unit 01 (that looks almost the same to Unit 13), chases after his dad, and then everything goes topsy-turvy. They encounter The Imaginary, which basically accumulates into a metatextual battle for the TRUE EVA while also being really psychedelic, absurd, and on the nose.

Also this is a bit late but if you have problems with epilepsy or a similar sensitivity like, be really careful watching this film.
And if by some poor judgment anyone reading this had made it this far WITHOUT seeing the movie, stop right now and go correct yourselves because the last quarter of this movie needs to be seen as unprimed as possible.
It's unbelievable. Shinji cycles through all his memories. Gendo sets off an impact that releases a weird photorealistic giant Rei ala End of Evangelion.
Something I haven't had time to mention—because god this is a dense movie—is how much the script feels like it was written with a critical and attentive audience in mind. There are multiple sequences that feel like they were written to elicit a certain reaction just to undercut it seconds later. Like the weird, wonky CG that feels like an old Ultraman kaiju fight...that ends with Unit 01 tripping over set dressing and displacing the cloth painting backdrop.
Again, when I meant metatextual, I MEANT IT! It's basically trying to propose all of EVA as some sort of farce, but also real. Because that's all fiction actually is. EVA is fiction, but it's also very much the real feelings of both Anno and the audience.
Plus it wouldn't be a proper sendoff without some visual references to EVA's long, long history.

Sadly they couldn't think of a way for the piano to choke anyone out. But seriously, even the characters recognize that this big generational Evangelion fight can't actually solve anything. There's only one way the decades-long history of this series could possibly end.
Can I mention that the music is ALSO amazing? Just banger song one after another.
It's fucking great, and there's a mic drop I will absolutely mention at the end of this.
Anyways, Gendo turns everyone into SOUL SOUP but this time we actually get a good look at his character. It's always been implied that the reason he's a terrible person and father is because he never moved on from the loss of his wife, Yui.

This is the only correct take to have about that.
And this, right here, is what makes this movie for me. After 26 episodes, four feature-length movies, and 25+ years of being locked inside Shinji's head and being unable to even scratch the surface of who his inscrutable father really is inside, we step into somebody else's mind palace. The EoE references are just there to be clever. This is the mental confessional from that movie, but for everyone except Shinji.

Agreed. One of my biggest criticisms of EVA as a franchise is the emphasis that everyone around Shinji has their own problems but we as the audience aren't ever allowed to see the same level of interiority as Shinji. Maybe it's because part of growing up means you can fully understand other people, but I think that kind of frustration is what lead to all of EVA's previous endings still feeling unsatisfying compared to this one.
It's absolutely amazing, and really does make this feel like the conclusion EVA—and Anno himself—has been trying to reach for so long. Shinji is finally able to look at his father and look past the cold, reclusive exterior and recognize the same pain he's felt for so long.
From an even more abstract perspective, part of why it feels good is because EVA characters aren't just characters. Everyone in Shinji's life represents a part of himself, but also they're all Anno. Shinji is just as much his dad as his dad is him. Kaworu is also his dad, just like Rei is and isn't his mom. We get everything about them. We get to say goodbye to them. Through this, Shinji finally showed how he learned to care about others.

Also just, holy fuck this moment. This is a visual I don't think a single EVA fan ever realistically believed we'd see.
There are so many moments.
Gendo "That Asshole" Ikari, a name synonymous with Bad Anime Dad, kneeling down and realizing the love he's been desperately trying to recapture was always there in his son, if only he'd ever actually tried to foster it. I was gobsmacked seeing it the first time.
I also particularly loved the solace we got for Asuka. This may be the same beach but the relationship between Shinji and Asuka in these final moments couldn't be more different. Shinji finally realized all the ways he hurt others, Asuka included.

Yes, that's also the only tasteful shot of her ripped up plugsuit.
It's because she's finally grown up, okay! Honestly I could write an essay on the emotional journey I went on seeing these two, in the spot of Shinji and EVA's darkest low point, having a genuine moment of loving vulnerability before saying goodbye. But this column is already marathon length so just imagine watching me sob for a couple minutes.
That's okay, everyone should get their last guttural cries out while you still can because after this we'll never get to talk about EVA again!

The true EVA was the post-EVAa world all along.
You really cannot get more meta than the characters actively saying they're going to get rid of all of Evangelion while the god damn show is projected over them, can ya?

It's perhaps 1 1/2 steps removed from the cast of a sitcom turning to the studio audience, saying goodbye, and turning the lights off on set.
In the end, Shinji is able to undo everything that Gendo did and free everyone and everything from the oppression of EVA, while he himself stays behind while everything unravels. But there's still one last thread we haven't really touched on! Shinji says he's only okay with doing this for everyone because of one thing.
This fucking movie threw me for about eight different loops. But for them to use Mari, the most extraneous character in all of EVA, as its final thematic right hook, and make it work? Put me over the ropes. And that's not even getting into the ridiculous implications to the few details we get about her backstory.
My brain refuses to even rumble with that one. I don't see it. All I see is that "WOW ANNO REALLY LOVES HIS WIFE, HUH?"
So yeah, in a scene that has been bouncing around in my brain like a DVD screensaver for days on end, it turns out Mari barely being involved or connected to Shinji was the whole god damn point. Because that means she's the one person not so weighed down with baggage and guilt and angst that she can join Shinji in the new world.
Yeah, like you shouldn't think of your partner as just some weird extension of yourself like most of the other characters are to Shinji. Good partnerships have some sort of independence for both parties! So weirdly, I get how their relationship could actually be the most healthy even though it has basically zero buildup.
People have argued for decades about whether End of Evangelion was "revenge" against the show's own fanbase, or if Anno hates anime fans, but this? This is undeniable, master level trolling of every single person who ever got into EVA ship wars. I salute you, sir.
Also for those of you who don't know. Hideaki Anno is actually married to famous mangaka, Moyoco Anno. And knowing a lot about her work and how cool she is, I totally can't blame Hideaki Anno for being a complete and unapologetic Wife Guy and staking the whole ending of your beloved franchise on just that. She seems like a very cool and amazing lady. We also get a few cameos of her work throughout the film.
The subtext is absolutely there, but even if you never knew a thing about Anno's personal life, it's a beautiful way to end this whole franchise as Shinji finally manages to grow up and become someone new, with someone new. That it's all punctuated with possibly Hikaru Utada's best track ever is just that sublime cherry on top.
It's not perfect, but it's probably the happiest ending I could wish for, and it doesn't even have to come from Shinji's head. For once, he's finally being pulled out of his shell and into the real world. One without EVAs, or agendas, or emotional baggage!
It just floors me that we went from this being the final image in EVA:

To this:
It's one of the best things I could wish for anyone, really. Including Anno. No one wanted to give EVA a big happy sendoff more than him. It's impossible to acknowledge EVA without recognizing how much it changed, built, destroyed and rebuilt Anno's life. The guy has been through a lot as both a creator and a person, clearly.
This whole movie is just...so much. It's a finale decades in the making that we didn't even know to expect for half the time. As a cap to not just the Rebuilds but to ALL of this series, the culture surrounding it, and the personal journey of the man behind it, it's as fitting and satisfying as I could hope for.
Most of all, I'm glad he's still around. Nowadays it feels like the world just exists to grind creators to dust before they can ever reach this level of self-fulfillment. Even before I saw this I knew talking about it would feel weird because I was associating it with an extreme sense of loss. Surprisingly, I don't feel that way at all. It's like all the grief that was in my heart surrounding this film got swept away. Goodbyes don't always have to be sad. They can set you free.
It's been a very weird journey, but I'm glad to have been on it, and I'm excited to see how other people took it. So one last time, Congratulations, and

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