Four movies, and fourteen years later, we’re finally at the end of Mister Anno’s Wild Ride. When I first reviewed Evangelion 1.11 back in 2010, we hadn’t yet reached that terminal dogma of where the familiar meets the reimagined. For the most part, the film tracked closely to the first half of the original television series, with modern animation touches, CGI, and gratuitous use of the color red. Even Evangelion 2.22 stuck to the page, adding a new fanservice-y character in Mari Illustrious Maki. A lot of the fluff from the television run was removed and some additional context related to the overall story added, which made for a solid film with an even more solid musical score.
Then came the deep shit, Evangelion 3.33
It has been eight years since I wrote my take on 3.33, eight long years it took to finally get to the end on what was supposed to be a much shorter timetable. A lot of us were betting on Half Life 3 coming out before the final Eva Rebuild movie, but fortunately for GAINAX, Valve isn’t interested in making games anymore. In 3.33, we began to see the story unfold after what would be the television series, and the two movies prior. Most of NERV’s staff are either killed or escape to form an organization called WILLE, the origins of which tie back to Ryoji Kaji having successfully obtained the truth behind the Human Instrumentality Project, and one of their unfinished ships, which is cobbled together by WILLE with Unit 1’s core and commanded by Misato. Shinji is retrieved, taken back to NERV, almost causes Fourth Impact, and then winds up with Asuka and Rei at the end of the film, which is where we start in this, the final film.
Shinji is brought to Village 3, where he reunites with some old friends, spends half of the time being a whiny closed-off emo kid in the corner, while Rei Clone discovers a different purpose in life besides taking orders from Gendo. It’s a nice sort of slower-pace exposition of how everyone survived after “Near-Third Impact”, and the role WILLE played in trying to secure humanity’s future ahead of their final confrontation with Gendo and NERV. When that inevitable confrontation does come up, Shinji decides he is going to face his father and try and stop his plans.
I contemplated writing this spoiler-free, but as I really thought about how this film unfolded, especially against the entire Rebuild project, I concluded there really isn’t anything here to spoil. Everything you saw in the original television series and movies kind of plays out here, just with additional content and spectacular fight scenes. To be so very honest, apart from the fight scenes, which were obviously the highlight and spectacle of the last half of this film, I found the entire thing incredibly underwhelming and mostly predictable, but worse, still unexplainable. I’ve watched Evangelion probably four or five times through, and the Rebuild movies at least twice each prior to the finale. I know the show is steeped in a lot of biblical references and religious orthodoxy, but even Gendo’s Big Bad Plan was confusing. Second Impact, Third Impact, Fourth Impact, Additional Impact, Shrimp Impact, Tiddy Impact, Real Evangelion, Fake Evangelion, Real Fake Evangelion, Imaginary Evangelion, Final Evangelion. I think the closest Gendo got to actually monologuing the plan was when he told Shinji you either let the Angels kill everyone, or you kill all the Angels and Gods and… reformat the world? Even Gendo himself decided humanity wasn’t worth shit and discarded his humanity…
The whole “battle” between Gendo and Shinji wasn’t even really a battle, other than full-3D CGI shots of the two Unit 01’s fighting each other in scenes from the previous films. I did think this was a somewhat neat homage to the series overall, and it fit the narrative of “minus space”, but then all the sudden we got the train car, and you knew then that this was going to end like the television series and original films. Gendo realizes he’s been Worst Dad of the Year for the past thirty years. That’s it. He saves humanity by realizing he’s been a piece of shit putting everyone through hell just to get his dead wife back, whose soul HAS BEEN IN THE FUCKING ROBOT THE WHOLE TIME, and once reunited with her, they spare Shinji the need to sacrifice himself to save everyone and do so themselves.
And I guess seeing all of that, it just did not really do a whole lot for me. When you read a lot of the development that went into the film, after all its delays, you can kind of tell that Anno was kinda burned out by the end of the third film, and for a good reason. We’ve had over twenty years of baka Shinji really fucking it up for the people of Tokyo-3 amidst not being able to grapple with his own problems. He’s teenage angst and a weird bio-chemical weapon. There were so many places in 3.33 and 3.0+1.0 where I found myself feeling bad for him, because no one will give the boy any kind of grief counseling or therapy, won’t tell him what’s going on or what to do, but get full mad with him after he pilots an Eva and almost bricks the universe, because he’s been conditioned by so many people to believe it’s the only goddamn thing he can do. His final wish to remake the world without Evangelion completely validates everything about his character at the end, he wanted out of this shit, and so many people were like FUCK YOU KID, GET BACK IN THE FUCKING ROBOT, BUT DON’T ACTUALLY OR I’LL BLOW YOUR HEAD OFF YOUR BODY!
Conceptually, these films do not really do anything to change the overall disposition of the story or its characters. They’re all roughly the same as they were, though maybe the ones that do stand out are the classmates, Toji Suzuhara, Kensuke Aida, and Hikari Suzuhara. Their whole sub-story in this film about how they keep the village together while furthering a family ended up probably being the best part of the entire Rebuild project. I could probably watch a lighter rom-com slice-of-life television show of the weird shit Kensuke finds to repair while Hikari gives Toji shit all day. Unfortunately, while it does help to show our troubled Shinji how humanity is often too stubborn to be completely wiped out by religious bullshit on the regular, and that he outta nut up, it kind of ends up being a lot of extra running time just to process another one of Shinji’s regressions. It’s one thing to waste television time, but another to waste film time, especially to a Rei clone that ultimately dissolves at the end anyway. I know it does serve WILLE’s secondary mission of preserving all of the life on the planet in case shit goes south, but that scene lasts all of about five minutes, it’s the first time we hear of it, and then it’s never talked about again.
As I opined about eight months before the pandemic, when the remastered television series hit Netflix, Evangelion has a significant cultural impact (haha, impact). It’s a series that began as a simple monster-of-the-week mecha series, and jacked it up with high-concept science fiction and religious undertones. It was novel stuff back when it aired alongside other mecha series that pushed that envelope. Now we have all sorts of sci-fi stuff that pretends to blow your mind in some twisted or convoluted fashion. I’m not really sure how much influence Eva has had on other works, but when you watch series like Love, Death, and Robots or Black Mirror, you can sort of see how those high-concept stories influence media after it, and in turn, influenced how Rebuild would end. Unfortunately, it does not move the needle much for me overall. I enjoy the franchise for its place in mecha history, but it still continues to be Rick and Morty tier convulsion for no real reason other than to be deliberately obtuse. Shinji may have had a lot of hurdles to overcome, but you knew he wasn’t going to go out like Ned Stark. You knew Gendo was either going to lose, or win by losing. You knew Asuka would be spared somehow. Or at least you knew Shinji would get his “Congratulations”, and begin life again in whatever new universe Additional Impact created.
Does this make Ikari Shinji a time lord?
But hey, at least this guy gets it.
Evangelion 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time is available on Amazon Prime in the US now, or wherever you view your weeb shit. This is now the FINAL ADDITIONAL FOURTH FINAL POST to ever be written about Evangelion. Get fucked, Shinji. You stay, Asuka.