So, the final fourth installment of the Rebuild of Evangelion movie series came out this weekend, and I (like many any other people), curious about Hideaki Anno’s big ending to his sci-fi Mecha Mega Franchise, gave it a watch.
As I finished watching this 2.5 hour Anime Movie on Amazon’s Prime Video Service (they released all four movies from the Rebuild Series simultaneously this weekend), three rather surprising things were made apparent.
One, I, myself confirmed that Rebuild of Evangelion’s fourth movie came out (something that, trust me, very few of us ever expected to happen). Two, I found that the movie, despite whatever flaws and issues it has, was able to provide an actual conclusion to the overall story that started with the first movie in this series. And Finally, the third thing that was an absolutely insane plot twist for me personally, was that I actually kinda liked it.
The Most Impressive Thing:
The third thing is I think the most impressive, because if you remember my little post from 2013, you’ll recall that I absolutely detested the third movie. My little post on Evangelion 3.33 was an actual full on tirade against something that had totally and utterly disappointed me.
Why I hated Evangelion 3.33, has a lot to do with my history Evangelion as a franchise. Simply put, I’m not a huge fan of the original series. I liked the first half, and absolutely, positively hated whatever chaotic symbolism laden depressive mess the second half was.
There’s tons out there about Hideaki Anno’s mental state at the time, and how it influenced the original series ending. There’s also the fact that the ending got redone a couple of times, with each providing a somewhat different and weird take on what was a rather weird, nonsensical ending.
Many fans of Evangelion, love it because the ending doesn’t make sense. Like any piece of abstract art, Evangelion’s original ending allowed the viewer to kind of derive their own experience from what they were shown on screen. Theory crafting, deep analysis, e.t.c, it all led to fans continuing to ponder and wonder about what exactly the original ending meant.
My personal opinion is that there was nothing ever really there, and we got a rushed, weird ending that squandered the great potential and setup of the first half of the story, but I think I’ll stop reigniting old arguments (Go read my old 2013 post and laugh at how darn emotional I sound in that one!).
The one thing I do want to pull from the 2013 post, and Evangelion 3.33, is the fact that it was just a really rough movie for the overall story. After 1.0 and 2.22 had pushed the franchise and story into a bold, exciting and somewhat hopeful direction, 3.33 like a major backslide into old habits. Evangelion’s second half came rearing its ugly head, and put the story into such a bind, that I wasn’t sure ANYTHING could really finish up this story, let alone a single movie.
Well… As it turns out, Evangelion 3.0+1.0 manages to do just that, something that I considered impossible. It does indeed conclude the story, and manages to handle almost all dangling plot threads and core ideas. Hell, it even gives some characters actual character development and retro-active character arcs, which honestly helps flesh out characters that I felt even the original really shafted.
So for all intents and purposes, I’d say Evangelion 3.0+1.0 is a successful movie. It manages to achieve something that I think many fans never expected it to do. It successfully ends a story that felt like it was beyond help, and it gave a lot of fans and viewers like myself, two things that we never expected a piece of Evangelion to ever do: joy and closure.
The Sentiment Online:
I’ve been reading the sentiments online quite a bit, and I think the general consensus is the same. This movie feels wholesome, its got a lot of heart, and the ending does end up finishing up the story and perhaps even Evangelion itself, in a rather fitting and hopeful way.
A few notable twitter comments that I really agreed with and appreciate, I’ll quote below:
Eva has meant a lot to me, I had made peace with the series already. But when the credits started rolling I was given something I forget that I needed from Eva.
Thank you Anno, and for one last time Evangelion.
Good morning. Good night. Thank You.
— Gigguk (@GiggukAZ) August 13, 2021
I have *thoughts* about Evangelion 3.0+1.0, but here’s the most immediate one: I’m pretty sure Hideaki Anno transformed Ür-text for self-absorbed anime sad-boy antics into the nerdiest/most expensive love letter imaginable to his wife. It’s absurd, barely coherent, and perfect.
— James Beckett (@KickTheBeckett) August 14, 2021
hideaki anno will really make evangelion for 20 years instead of going to therapy, and i guess it worked
— 萌えの哀れ (@uncreativecat) August 13, 2021
My feelings are more or less the same as those above. I think that while the ending works really well, and even the movie as a whole has some really strong areas, it’s also a bit of a mess in a lot of ways.
That’s the thing about Evangelion 3.0+1.0 though, no one expected perfection. After 3.33, I think everyone expected 4.0 to crash and burn, and the fact that it actually manages to communicate an ending that feels emotionally resonant and powerful, is an achievement in itself.
Don’t get me wrong, despite all that passive aggressive praise, I do think this movie is far from amazing. Its got lavish production values, a rather interesting plot, and a solid ending to a franchise, but its also horribly paced, brings out things from nowhere without hinting at or ever developing them, and honestly needed to be three movies instead of one.
See, Evangelion 3.0+1.0 really is the tale of three distinct concepts or ideas, each big enough to be its own movie. I should also note that, at this point, we’re going to dive into Spoilers for the movie, so you have been warned.
While I can’t say I recommend you watch the Rebuild of Evangelion series, or even 3.0+1.0, I think that anyone who’s already seen the first three movies, will have seen this one. The next few bits are about articulating what I thought of this final movie, so if you are on the fence about watching this movie, then well, I’m not sure I want to sway you one way or the other.
Evangelion 3.0+1.0 is a movie that just kind of, exists for those specific people that have seen the original series, seen the Rebuild movies, and then kind of still want to see what this particular movie is going to do. While I don’t consider myself a fan (quite the opposite), this movie did a lot for me as well, so take that as you will.
Alright, enough beating around the bush, lets dive into this movie, and the three distinct parts of it.
Diving into the Details – Part One – Shinji’s Recovery:
As I mentioned earlier, this movie really is three particular stories kinda mushed into one. The first part of the movie, is all about Shinji’s recovery from his depression and the resolution of the Ayanami Rei clone’s story, that was introduced in 3.33.
This part, by far, felt the strongest to me, even if it was a pretty standard story. Shinji’s depression, and Rei’s journey of self-discovery, and how the two stories converged into a rather satisfying conclusion, was really really strong. I honestly never expected Hideaki Anno to actually dive so deeply into what was essentially a sci-fi slice of life story.
To use that, and that traditional agricultural Japanese village life motif, as a way to revive Shinji and bring him out of his despair, was really well done. It felt a lot more natural, and character driven to have Shinji come out of his depression the way he did in this movie.
I still remember how mad I was that Shinji had totally gone off his rocket at the end of 3.33. This never fixed that particular plot point (it really couldn’t), but it kind of rehabilitated Shinji as a character, and used Rei’s development as a device to actually do that.
We were able to experience the calm, peaceful life of Village 3 by looking at it from Rei’s perspective. She grew and learned so much, and it was because of her growth, that she ultimately is able to bring Shinji out from the depths of self-loathing.
Now, while this whole thing actually worked, capping off with Rei herself actually dying, and Shinji being able to accept that, I will say that with the good, comes some of the bad.
On principal, this works, but it also doesn’t actually develop Shinji as a character properly. We see glimpses of Shinji, little snapshots, and then we jump to when he’s actually over his depression and willing to move forward.
The Rei/Village 3 idea is fine, but there’s some shortcuts taken to get to the eventual result. In a proper story, the protagonist of the story would go through that growth arc, and we’d see all of it. We don’t, and I really do believe that that hurts what honestly could’ve been a very powerful and emotional story about recovering from depression and learning to accept loss.
And its clear why this short cut was taken; A simple lack of time. See, Evangelio 3.0+1.0 is a movie, and so, there simply wasn’t time to fully explore Shinji’s growth and maturation in a proper way. So the movie does the best in the time that it has, given that it also has to handle two other huge parts of the story that come after.
Diving into the Details – Part Two – Asuka, Misato and WILLE:
Which I think, brings us to the second major part of Evangelion 3.0+1.0, which is the battle between WILLE and NERVE. This is everything from the point where Shinji ends up going to back with Asuka, to just before the final confrontation between Shinki and his dad Gendoh (which is part 3).
So here, we actually catch up with everyone who used to fight with Shinji, as well as some new characters. Its worth noting that the movie actually opens up with this “part” of the story. There’s a big opener where Mari, Misato and the rest are able to revive another part of the “world” after how everything became red in the N3I (Near 3rd Impact).
This part of the story, which really is shown before and after Shinji’s whole recovery from depression arc, is all about developing the supporting cast and their motivations.
Again, there’s a lot to appreciate and like here. There’s a rather delicate and beautiful interplay between Shinji and the important women in his life here, without really Shinji being the focus. Through a good chunk of scenes, the movie is able to tell us about Misato and Asuka, and how they felt and feel about Shinji after everything happened.
Asuka being kind of like the “high school” love-interest for Shinji and vice versa, is a really well done idea, as is her eventual realization that she “liked” Shinji, but eventually outgrew him.
Misato, for her part, is a bit more messy, but I get how survivors guilt and her own past decisions have led her to basically separate herself from any form of happiness. Her one focus is attornment and saving the world for those still left within it, and that kind of works, even if her change of heart towards Shinji feels like a bit of a leap.
Some of the other characters like Ritsuko and the others get a few scenes here and there, and while its not enough to call them anything other than side characters, it does add some color to the WILLE organization and the world as a whole.
The battle itself between NERVE and WILLE? Its okay, I suppose. Honestly, this is the part that I felt was really just to show off the animation, and provide some battles for both Mari and Asuka to kind of shine.
It was fine I guess, and while I honestly don’t think it adds too much to the story, and does mess with the pacing, I get why its there. This is a movie, and it needs to have them jaw dropping action scenes, and female mecha pilots being badass.
I wish it had been more, cohesive with the overall story, instead of a kind of opening act for Shinji to ultimately take the stage again.
Which of course, brings us to the last part, which is Shinji’s battle with Gendoh and the resulting epilogue of the story after.
Diving into the Details – Part Three – Shinji and Gendoh:
Again, color me surprised, but Evangelion 3.0+1.0 and Hideaki Anno really really delivered here. Gendoh and Shinji never having a proper confrontation in the original series, felt like such a friggin huge missed opportunity to me. Gendoh as a whole, despite being the main antagonist of the story, never got enough development or exploration in the original story, with things and the world kind of just ending instead.
So to really peer into Gendoh’s motivations, his backstory, his obsession with his wife, and his lack of understanding of where she was once she was dead? It was all quite well done. The battle of wills between Shinji and Gendoh, and Shinji ultimately both embodying the love of the wife that Gendoh had lost, and growing to accept pain and loss?
Man, the execution of all of that was amazing. Seeing Shinji be more like the confident, hopeful character we saw in the first two movies, and having him finally confront his father? That’s the stuff that I had personally been waiting to see since I saw the original series.
Granted, Shinji’s transformation into such an impressive dude felt a bit unearned, but at the end of it all, I was onboard with how he ended up resolving things.
The fact that its Shinji, who ends up giving every single surviving character a happy ending is in itself just so awesome to see. Shinji, the wimpy kid who hasn’t been able to do anything in a story that called for him to grow, is finally able to do just that.
To see Hideaki Anno finally let Shinji become “better”, is something that I honestly never expected I’d see. Its such a surprise, and a pleasant one at that, that it honestly elevates the movie for me.
Mileage may vary here, but this really was what I wanted out of Evangelion all those years ago. Its not delivered perfectly, and there’s a lot of the actual explanation of the Human Instrumentality project that’s complete gibberish, but overall, the actual end result is something I vibe with.
Diving into the Details – Part Four – The Ending:
Which of course, brings us to that end result. I will say this first, I love how hopeful the ending of this movie is. Shinji doesn’t reset everything back, he keeps the loss and the death of those that have since died, respecting the meaning of their sacrifices, and he just puts the world in a state where all the sci-fi stuff like Evas and the Angels and all of that, is gone.
We close out the movie with a few scenes, showing us some of the characters in what is most certainly a new, hopeful future. There’s the unlikely coupling of Rei and Kaoru (Which, well, interesting, given the romantic vibes between Kaoru and Shinji that are even in this movie).
And of course, there’s the fact that Mari comes out of nowhere and becomes the girl that Shinji is going to move into the future with (as a grown young adult at that).
Again, its that place where the good and the bad kind of exist beside one another. I love the idea of this ending, I love the idea of Shinji moving on from Misato (his mother figure), Asuka (The older high school crush) and Rei (his actual high school flame?) and going for a new, more adult person that fits the person that he is now.
I like that idea, but I also don’t think Mari and Shinji were ever even remotely developed as a couple. Mari keeps mentioning in this movie that she’ll find Shinji wherever he goes, but that one line of dialogue, repeated multiple times, does not equal an actual setup for the romantic pairing that we get at the end.
The idea is sound, the gist of it works, but the execution is certainly a little lacking. Which I think, really does sum up my feelings on this movie as a whole.
Final Thoughts on Evangelion 3.0+1.0:
I love the intention behind this movie. I like what its trying to communicate and show, and honestly, at times, I think it manages to really nail some parts of the story really well.
In the end, however, its also quite clear that this movie tries to do too much, in too little of a time frame. There’s a lot of development and hard work that just gets skipped over, with the audience left to kind of fill in the blanks and just “roll” with it.
Ultimately, that makes the experience of watching this movie bittersweet. Sure, its more sweet than bitter, but that little hint of bitterness is hard to ignore. Its pervades every part of this movie, but at the same time, you really can see how much everyone who made this movie, cares.
That’s the thing that really comes across to me, and it really shows in Evangelion 3.0+1.0; There’s a lot of love and care put into this movie. This isn’t some cash grab, or hack job trying to just finish things.
This is a movie that really is setting out to end things properly, and while it can never fully realize all of its ambitions, it does a stellar job overall. Color me both surprised and really really happy about that.
For me, as someone who could never really call himself a fan of this franchise, I’d say that the Rebuild of Evangelion movies ended up being what I wanted them to be; An actual proper alternate take on the potential that the original series had established.
That clearly won’t be the case for everyone, and I feel like different people will take different things from this movie. That really is the argument for this movie being a piece of art though, since art really does move people in different ways, based on their life perspectives and background.
Will Evangelion 3.0+1.0 resonate with everyone? Most definitely not. For those people who shipped Shinji with Rei or Asuka, this ending is going to feel bad. For those who were fans of the original and how obtuse and weird it was, well, this may very well be the anti-answer to that.
The future of Evangelion as a Franchise:
All of that, brings us to the final question. Where does Evangelion go from here? Is the franchise over and truly finished like everyone says? It this really the end?
Well, to reference something Guardian Enzo said from a podcast I did with on Notaku, I think that the future is that some day, we’ll get a remake, in the form of an anime series.
The story in the Rebuild of Evangelion series is messy, rough and suffers a lot from the fact that these are movies, and thus, have a limited run time.
A part of me can see Hidaeki Anno maybe going back to this project again, and really fleshing out and properly executing on a lot of the ideas he gave us in this movie quartet. A 50 episode series that explores everything from these four movies, would ultimately be quite the undertaking, and could have the story be told properly, with ample time given to each part of it.
Will that happen? I’m not sure. The potential is there, both in terms of storytelling and of course, in terms of being able to make money. A part of me would like to see Hideaki Anno tackle some new idea, create something truly unique and interesting after all the growth he himself has undergone as a person and creator.
Another part of, is totally fine with getting more Evangelion, a fact, that I honestly didn’t expect to say until I watched this movie. If I can get more of those flashes of brilliance that were littered throughout this movie, then well, I’d say, sign me up.
To conclude, I guess I’ll say that Evangelion and Hideaki Anno never fail to surprise. If this is indeed the last bit of Evangelion that we ever see, then man am I glad things ended the way that they did. As always, I’m also curious about what other people think of this movie, and if you read this entire piece of rather self-indulgent writing on this movie, then please, share your thoughts in the comments below.
I may also make this into a video essay at some point, and finally jump into the world of Anime Video making, so potentially look forward to that?
Posted by setsuken
Posted on August 15, 2021 at 11:26 am
Tags: evangelion 3.0+1.0, evangelion 3.0+1.0 analysis, evangelion 3.0+1.0 anime movie review, evangelion 3.0+1.0 movie, evangelion 3.0+1.0 review, evangelion 3.0+1.0 thoughts, rebuild of evangelion 3.0+1.0, rebuild of evangelion 3.0+1.0 review, rebuild of evangelion final, The End of the Rebuild of Evangelion – Evangelion 3.0+1.0
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