WARNING: SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS!!! THIS IS AN ACTUAL PROPER SPOILERIFIC LOOK AT EVANGELION 3.0+4.0. AS OF WRITING THERE IS ***NO WAY*** TO WATCH THIS FILM OUTSIDE JAPAN. IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS THAN YOU’RE NOT GONNA WANNA READ FURTHER. THIS IS NOT A JOKE.
I feel truly blessed to have seen Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0 in its original run. For those who don’t know, I live and work in Japan! My Japanese isn’t perfect, so I’m not crystal clear on every last detail. But I got the majority of the film! I’ll be going into a lot of the juicy details, and my current feelings about this final installment in the Evangelion rebuild series. So if you don’t want spoilers, THIS IS YOUR FINAL WARNING!!
Okay, let’s do this.
I liked Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0: Thrice Upon A Time (sick title) a lot. Also, I cried a lot. This is it. This is the true final installment of Evangelion, the culmination of over 25 years. It’s still confusing and surreal, but it’s as clear and complete and ending as you’ll ever get from Evangelion.
Now for a mega spoiler dump: TOJI’S ALIVE, KENSUKE’S ALIVE, HIKARI’S ALIVE AND HAD A BABY WITH TOJI, PEN PEN IS ALIVE, TOJI’S DEAD BUT HAD A CHILD WITH MISATO BEFORE THE THIRD IMPACT WHO’S NOW 14, FUYUTSUKI HAS A CONNECTION WITH MARI AND ALSO TURNS TO TANG, THE GIANT REI/YUI HEAD IS BACK IN GLORIOUS TERRIFYING CGI, ***GENDO GIVES SHINJI A HUG***, ALSO GENDO BECOMES A GOD, ALSO, ALSO SHINJI BECOMES AN ADULT WITH AN ADULT VOICE AND I THINK HE’S MARRIED TO MARI AND I STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT’S REAL AND THE PRESENCE OF A LITERAL FILM SET IN A LOT OF SCENES SURE DOESN’T HELP THAT.
With that out of my system, let’s actually discuss the film. Again, 3.0 + 1.0 is a very good film. But if I have one bone of contention, it’s the fanservice. Asuka spends the first act mostly not wearing pants, and we get plenty of different… angles… throughout the film. It settles down when things get serious, but I wasn’t expecting this to outdo Evangelion 2.0 with an even longer shot of Asuka’s rear end. And no, I don’t have the energy to discuss whether or not it’s more okay because she’s technically 28.
Director Hideaki Anno has a complicated relationship with fanservice. I don’t think he’s against sexualisation in itself. He definitely questions the way fans view and objectify these characters, but he knows that these characters are always gonna be sexualised. And I think he’s made peace with that. At least enough to throw them a bone, even if it’s questionable. I guess he’ll always be the guy who did the boob jiggle in Gunbuster.
In general, 3.0 + 1.0 seems to be more at peace with what Eva means to the fandom. It doesn’t walk back on the tough love of 3.0, but it does show the possibility of a happy life for Shinji. We get glimpses of this in the original series (like the very weird episode 26 skit), but 3.0 + 1.0 goes a bit further.
A common theme of Evangelion — especially of the original series — is that nobody can really support Shinji. They’re all wrapped up in their own baggage, unavailable at best and taking advantage of him at worst. That is, except for his school peers. Throughout the series, characters like Toji and Kensuke provide brevity. They come to like Shinji for who he is, without any strings attached.
Shinji, as he was at the end of 3.0, is still a hollowed out husk. Over the first act he slowly pulls himself together. It’s a long and painful road to recovery, but it’s possible because he’s accepted by those around him. His school friends, now adults, live in humble farming colonies built after the third impact. They provide him food and shelter, without any expectations.
When Shinji is despondent, Toji and Kensuke give him space. And while Asuka means well when she forces him to eat, it’s Rei’s gentle support that nudges him towards eating again. In Evangelion 3.0, Shinji is told the harsh truths he needed to hear. By that token, 3.0 + 1.0 is a film where Shinji is given the love and support he needed to hear.
Adult life is full of transactional relationships. Even the supposedly ‘unconditional love’ of a parent has financial and emotional costs. And if the parent sucks as much as Shinji’s dad, the child might end up taking on a lot more costs (like piloting a giant robot for the bare minimum of praise). But it doesn’t always have to be like that. Sometimes you meet people who just think you’re cool, people like Toji and Kensuke. People who help you because they want to, not because they have to.
Back on his feet, Shinji starts helping out in the village. For once, he’s able to feel helpful for something that he chooses to do. He learns what it’s like to be a healthy adult, living as normal a life as you can in a post-post apocalyptic wasteland. While his biggest problems may be far away, Shinji isn’t running. He’s taking time to work on himself, and learning bit by bit to open up to the people around him.
A time comes where Shinji has to go. Having pieced himself together as best as he can, Shinji is ready to face WILLE. And… it’s not a heartwarming reunion. Immediately Sakura tells him off, and he’s put into isolation. As painful as it may have been, and no matter the consequences, he knew he had to face Misato and the others.
In the final act of the movie, Shinji gets in that dang robot one last time to fight his dad. As Shinji and Gendo battle it out in identical Evangelions, their reality fall apart at the seams. They battle it out in all the iconic setpieces, at one point even busting through the walls of Shinji and Misato’s apartment onto a film set. Once more, Evangelion emphasises that its fictional canon is fragile.
Stunning as it may have been, the Evangelion TV series ending was a mess for a number of widely documented reasons (read: not budget). But its dabbling in the surreal wasn’t one of them. The answers to the lore and plot points that fans have argued over for decades are mostly superficial. What truly matters is the characters, and their struggles to engage with each other. When the setpieces literally crumble, the characters are the only thing left to reflect on.
The battle between Shinji and Gendo is nothing if not a difficult conversation. Gendo is an irredeemable piece of garbage, and a pretty crap dad to say the least. But underneath all of that, Shinji finds a scared little boy. A boy who can’t connect to the people around him, who’s given up everything to bring back the one person he thinks will fix him. Shinji and his father aren’t too different, it turns out.
By talking to each other, they find closure. Gendo hugs Shinji for the first time, and apologises for everything he’s done. Shinji and his father have a broken relationship, too far gone and painful to ever be healthy. But in that moment, they accept each other as father and son. It’s one of the most beautiful and profound moments of the series, one that I’m not ashamed to admit made me cry.
When Shinji sees Mari earlier in the film, she remarks that he smells like an adult. Frozen for 14 years, he had a lot of growing up to catch up on. And gradually he steps up to that challenge. In his last act, Shinji decides to reset the world and erase the Evangelions. The film ends with Shinji and the others as adults, zooming out from the animated train station to an overhead shot of the real life Tokyo. It’s time for Shinji to leave the Evangelions behind and return to the real world. And it’s time for us to do the same. On a crumbling planet where pop culture is dominated by escapes into nostalgia, Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0 is a reboot that tells us to leave our beloved franchise behind.
When Anno said that Japan had become a society of children, it may have seemed bitter and mean-spirited. And at times, he may seem to hate his own fans. But I think he cares deeply. He accepts his role as a creator, and the way people have been inspired by his art. But at the same time, he knows that art alone can’t change the world. At best, it can only nudge people in the right direction.
You can rewatch Evangelion and painstakingly analyse its messages forever, but that won’t help you understand others. We can retreat to our hobbies from time to time, and they can bring us a lot of joy. If Anno didn’t believe that, he wouldn’t still be making cartoons with cool robots. But the only way to love and be loved in this world is to be a part of it. No matter how much it hurts.
So that was my messy feelings about Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0. If you’ve managed to bear with me, thank you! I might come back to this after a repeat viewing, as there are some details I skimmed or may have not caught at all (again my Japanese is decent, but intermediate at best lol).
I think there’s some things that might bother people. But I think it’ll get a lot of love. At over two and a half hours, it really is the culmination of Evangelion — warts and all. Not just the Rebuild films, but also the original series and End of Evangelion. You’ll get some nice callbacks, and maybe a few questions will be answered. Don’t expect all the details, though. After all, this is still Evangelion.
In any case, I think Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0 is a stellar film. And more importantly, it’s the ending that Evangelion deserves. After 25 years, it’s time to say goodbye to one of the most important anime of all time. It’s time to live our lives, and take in everything that comes with that.
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