Welcome back to EVERYDAY EVA, the blog series where I aim to cover one episode of Evangelion every single day for Mecha March 2022! This NEW segment dives into the films of the hit sci-fi franchise.
Shinji, shocked into despair at Kaworu’s death, slowly starts to move forward thanks to friends both old and new. Finally, his nostalgia, spirit, and tragedy will lead him to joy.
Over the course of this long journey spanning almost three decades, Evangelion has traversed some of the rockiest terrain imaginable in an industry like anime. Personal struggles, conflicts between creatives, production issues like budgeting only scratch the surface of Eva’s rough past. Why someone would want to write a new ending for their work not once but twice more after completing the original can only come down to one primary influence—the fanbase, and oh boy does Eva also have a tough one of those. You won’t be able to make everyone happy with your work. But, people like Anno sure try to test that ideal. So here we are at the very end of a new saga for Eva with Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time, a film has the rare challenge of attempting to tie up two daunting legacies with a conclusive third ending. And given the highly probable odds of failure, Anno really outdoes himself with the finale of the Rebuild.
Beginning with structure, 3.0+1.0 borrows much from 3.33 in its attempt to flesh out the bleak, red world that Earth has become since Shinji started the Fourth Impact. (I’ll skip the opening sequence because I already discussed the first 12 minutes of the film here!) Asuka leads Shinji and Rei to where they can be taken to Village 3, and for the next 45 or so minutes, we primarily shadow Rei Q as she tries to find purpose before inevitably “expiring” (which results from being disconnected to NERV’s life support systems). This entire segment of the film offers some of the most beautiful, wholesome moments in Eva. Rei explores the value of living in natural aspects like farming crops, working up a sweat, and raising children—efforts which she eventually reports to the boy she likes. Asuka, meanwhile, attempts to sustain Shinji’s nourishment and physical well-being by dealing with his depression in her usual passive-aggressive way. But it’s almost more like a mother tending to her pouting children, an analogy that Asuka herself makes when she says, “He doesn’t need a lover. He needs a mother.”
I think this dynamic is perfect for showing how much they have changed, too. Rei’s endeavor to become more human are contrasted by Asuka’s phasing off of humanity. After all, she’s part Angel now; she doesn’t have the same base urges and desires that the Lilin do, hence her lack of embarrassment for walking around half or full naked at Kensuke’s place. Speaking of, Kensuke, Tohji, and Hikari are back!! It feels super weird to interact with them following the timeskip, but their characters, too, seem more complete now that we see how they reacted to N3I and Fourth Impact. They were the ones who kept on rolling with the punches, who stayed optimistic even as the world ended, and now they’ve found peace in helping improve the lives of others. They’re a special trio, much like our pilots.
I say trio as if that doesn’t include Mari—worry not, she’s still here, and just as mysterious and horny as ever. Reuniting with Mari on the Wunder takes us to the next 40-minute segment, which includes happy reunions, some not-so-happy reunions, a space battleship fight, a free-fall dive into a swarm of scary Mark.07s, and Asuka’s transformation into an Angel. I wish more personal interactions were recorded on the Wunder, especially between the crew or Shinji and Mari. As for the battleship chase, I love all of it. This isn’t an opinion shared by many, but it has such a cool and upbeat energy to it (largely thanks to the musical score used) that I simply can’t say no. It would’ve been nice if Ritsuko played a bigger part, for a showdown between Ritsuko and Fuyutsuki would’ve been legendary. Ritsuko is so underutilized in general, and the Paris Operation, while still exciting, lacks the personal tension between both NERV officers.
This leads me to the actual fights between the EVAs, which are simultaneously badass and wasteful. I’m still torn. Asuka and Mari’s free-fall combat against a SWARM of EVAs goes to show the ridiculous proportions the Rebuild has gone to. At the same time, Asuka’s fight against the EVA Series in EOE is easily two times more intense and impactful. (Not to mention features a fraction of the number of enemy combatants.) When I watch a lot of the combat in 3.0+1.0, my eyes kind of glaze over. Also, I hate how Asuka’s amazing sacrifice to become an Angel to take down Evangelion 13 is so quickly shut down. It’s such a bold power move on her part—a noble confrontation of fate—and I can’t help but find that her bravery was overshadowed by Eva 13’s very abrupt reawakening. This scene, like many others in the Rebuild, just did not last long enough for me.
Over the next 40-minute segment (see a pattern yet?) Shinji finally confronts Misato and Gendo, ironically the two parental figures in Shinji’s life at NERV, on the Wunder’s stern. Misato’s farewell to Shinji is too short. I wanted them to talk about so much more together, to embrace in bigger smiles and bigger tears and cry out their misunderstandings together. But alas, their confrontation is short and bittersweet.
On the other hand, Gendo’s explanation of the prophecies contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls (WHICH WE ACTUALLY GET TO SEE, THANK YOU ANNO) kicks off the road leading to the “Additional Impact,” a horrific shock to all of WILLE. This is where the Human Instrumentality Projects reaches fruition, and the world is changed once more. I like the metaphor of the headless Eva Infinities and the floating Rei head—it shows how Fourth Impact started the instrumentality process but not fully completed it, hence only the “heads” have merged as one (and why they are missing). EOE’s instrumentality is much more elegant, but 3.0+1.0’s feels more . . . optimistic? Black space becomes radiant gold light, white beams become rainbow—it’s as if Anno is trying to show us an inverse of his previous apocalypse, one marked by a true elevation of spirit.
And CG Rei? Yeah, it’s crazy as hell. Thus, it needs to stay if not for the sole purpose of making us say, “If EOE’s giant Rei was weird, wait until you get a load of this.” I was secretly hoping the final film would have something just like this in it. Godspeed, CG Rei.
As for “moralizing Gendo,” I think his fate is finely met. I do find it humorous how Gendo immediately cannot handle Shinji’s newfound self-love once their minds start merging. Here, we see the struggle and pain of the first half of the film start paying off. Shinji’s real weapon isn’t Unit-01, but rather his own self-esteem. Had Shinji not realized the important things that he did in Village 3—and had he not had with him all of his friends, old and new—Gendo’s ambitions likely would have swallowed Shinji whole. It could have been a very different outcome.
The last 15 minutes of the film are where emotions start running high for me. Shinji basically has to tell everyone that they will be okay in the real world, and that they don’t need something like instrumentality to fulfill themselves. I loved learning about Asuka’s brutal efforts to become the best Shikinami pilot, but what I loved even more was returning to that beach in EOE. It is so fulfilling to see Shinji admit the words he always meant to say to her. For Kaworu, I crumble to pieces when he says, “Our names are written beside one another in the book of life.” Instant tears. Kaji’s reappearance in memory here also makes me crave another film to explain the time gap, though time will tell. “Well, you’re the only one left,” Shinji says as he faces a sad Rei cradling a baby doll. If I wasn’t already teary eyed, this moment makes my heart break. It is only Shinji’s determination to push forward with “Neon Genesis” that can mend the emotional damage dealt.
And finally, Mari returns to Shinji just as she said she would, and together they end the story. I like to think that Shinji and Mari return to their world of Village 3 in the brown train car, and that the two people leaving the station are just manifestations of them both from Shinji’s instrumentality. (Because technically, he also has to undergo the process . . . theorists will hopefully find us a concrete answer.) Regardless, the film leaves off on a note of hope—of joy to the world, for the end has come.
Evangelion is a story of repetition, one in which the characters fight over and over again until the can make things right. It is the tale of the struggle to connect, even if bonds can be beautiful, painful things. At its core, it is the hymn of finding love for oneself—of finding purpose and atonement for our transgressions. “There is hope, there is always hope,” an angel once told a grieving young boy. And so this boy followed hope, sought the ties that bound him to others, and was able to reach a joy that he himself had suffered for. Eva is the story of cycles, but more crucially how those who break them can sometimes be blessed by the universe itself.
I wanted to dedicate this longer post for Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time because I realize I did not write a review or reflection for it following my first viewing. I couldn’t back then. It was too soon, too difficult for me to say “Eva is over” even if that is, in fact, a very good thing. With this post and all the writing I did for EVERYDAY EVA, I hope to preserve some of my fleeting thoughts as record for future me to look back on and laugh and cry and smile about how much an anime can mean to a person. There won’t ever be another series quite like Eva in my life, and, in part thanks to EVERYDAY EVA, I’ve become happily content with that fact.
If you stuck out EVERYDAY EVA until the end, or if you just now joined for the franchise’s final bow, I want to thank you for stopping by and checking out my work. Blogging every single day of the month for Mecha March has been an immense challenge—and an even greater joy. I plan to collect some project statistics and brief reflective notes into one last post, so please look out for that! Until then, thank you very much for reading!