I have, at long last, watched the (to date) final Evangelion film, Evangelion 3.0+1.01: Thrice Upon A Time. I have some considerable thoughts about this – and I’d like to talk about them with spoilers, so the entirety of my review will be below the cut.
A Momentary Lapse of Reason
In the past, in some forum post or Reddit post that I made, likely lost to time, I posited the thesis that what Evangelion, particularly the original series, and to a degree the first three rebuild films, was all about, thematically, was communication. That, to paraphrase the British Telecom commercial that was sampled for Pink Floyd’s “Keep Talking” – “It doesn’t have to be like this. All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.”
To be specific, the way the argument is basically posited in both the series and in the films is that by communicating and connecting with others, we risk being hurt. Emotionally – and, to a certain degree, physically. By closing ourselves off, cutting ourselves off from each other, we make certain we won’t be hurt, but also lose that sense of connection.
The TV series brings up the Hedgehog’s Dilemma, the idea that it is difficult for hedgehogs to be intimate without bringing harm to each other – and ultimately presents the idea that the risk is worth it – that it’s important to form those connections, but also that we keep our sense of self in the process. We come to our own definition of what we are and what makes us valuable, informed by what others view of us, but not dependent on that.
Physical Therapy is Mental Therapy
Having watched Evangelion 3.0+1.01, now that it’s available on Amazon Prime, I’d say this point still stands. However, I’d add an additional theme specific to the Rebuild series – the need to move on. Not meant with frustration and malice, like Shatner yelling at Star Trek fans in that one Saturday Night Live sketch. It’s like recovering from an injury sustained by doing something that’s difficult and important, that you maybe haven’t done very much. You’re hurt, you’re scared you’ll hurt yourself again – but you have to get up and do it.
We see this come across through multiple characters. Shinji, after nearly ending the world at the end of 2.0, and then nearly doing it again in 3.0, and in both cases losing people who are important to him – learning he’s alienated Misato and Asuka (and presumably having killed his friends from school) during the time skip between 2 and 3, and then straight up seeing Kaworu die bloody in front of him – has basically shut down at the start of 3.0+1.01, not opening up until after, basically, he’s learned that no his friends from school are very much still alive, and are willing to open up to him. Misato, with her believed failure when it comes to taking care of Shinji, has lead to her not only cutting Shinji off when he returns in 3.0, but we learn in 3.0+1.01 that she’d also cut off contact with the son she’d had with the now-deceased Kaji. And then there’s Gendo Ikari, whose unresolved grief over the loss of Yui into Eva Unit 1 has lead him to seek to burn the world to get her back, both in the TV series and in the Rebuild movies.
Both these themes come strongly to a head with the climax of the film. Sure, we get some big Eva fights, full of epic and surreal imagery. However, the last two episodes of Evangelion were about sitting down and talking. A big chunk of the climax of End of Evangelion was a conversation inside of Instrumentality between our various characters. And ultimately, while we have those wonderfully animated fights, the resolution comes through talking.
In particular, what makes Evangelion 3.0+1.01’s resolution different, is where all those other finales are, often, Shinji talking about his issues (with occasionally other characters interjecting theirs) – this is very much Shinji talking things through with his father. It’s Gendo talking about his issues, and then, importantly, Shinji responding with how his actions as a parent, the ways in which he was negligent, made him feel, forcing Gendo to get outside of his own head possibly for the first time in 24 episodes of television and 5 (maybe 5 and a half depending on how you count it) movies. Ultimately, the conclusion falls to Shinji generally communicating how he feels to almost everyone else, and how he feels about them.
Fly in the LCL
This is not to say the finale of Evangelion 3.0+1.01 (and the series as a whole) is flawless. We do get this universe’s Asuka’s backstory with a similar degree of brevity that we got in the TV series, and while she gets a better outcome with more closure than she did in the TV series timeline, it’s still very truncated. The last scene of the film has our protagonists scattered around the various platforms of a train station in this new, Evangelion-free world. While we get some glimpses of characters at the platform that we know – particularly Kaworu and Rei together, meaning that this time they get to share this world, and it’s possible we see a very small glimpse of Asuka and Kensuke.
Probably the most significant bummer for me is with Misato. She isn’t present in that scene, or is she present in the therapeutic scenes in Instrumentality. While we didn’t need a Where Are They Now montage for everyone we’d met so far in this story, I feel like Misato deserved better than to basically die tragically in all of the timelines – especially since both Kaworu and Kaji get dialog scenes in Instrumentality, with Kaworu dying in the last film, and Kaji dying off-camera between films 2 & 3. I didn’t need Misato to be part of Shinji’s life in this new world, anymore than any of the other characters needed to be. It just feels like they did dirty by her.
There is no best of all possible Evangelion films. So, expecting Evangelion 3.0+1.01 to be that, even with all of the wait for its release, is putting too much pressure on it. And, arguably, expecting that from it would be missing the point. I did enjoy the film, and it is very much a film that is greatly enriched from all the Evangelion that came before. The earlier films, the television series, even the manga. If we never get any more Evangelion works, I’ll be fine. It’s a work I feel comfortable coming back to and enjoying what we’ve got at points in the future, but what we have truly is a cohesive narrative, and I’m glad we got what we have.
As of this writing, Evangelion 3.0+1.01, along with the rest of the rebuild trilogy is currently available for streaming on Amazon – buying anything through that link helps to support the site. As yet this film hasn’t received a physical media release, and only 3.0 is still in print. Considering that Amazon’s streaming releases were fully redubbed, I do hope that we’ll get a new set of physical media releases in the future with the new dub, and maybe some new cast commentaries.
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