REVIEW: ‘Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time’ Is a Hopeful Goodbye

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Evangelion 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon A Time

Evangelion 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon A Time (Evangelion 3.0+1.0) was released on Amazon Prime on August 13th, 2021. Produced by Studio Khara, with Chief Director and writer Hideki Anno, this is the fourth film in the Evangelion Rebuild series. Spike Spencer voices Shinji Ikari, Tiffany Grant voices Asuka Langley, Amanda Win Lee voices Rei Ayanami, Deenan Melody voices Mari Makinami, and Daman Mills voices Kaworu Nagisa.

This film picks up right after Evangelion 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo, where Shinji attempts to reverse the Third Impact 14 years later with Kaworu but instead witnesses the death of Kaworu, one of the only people who explicitly tells Shinji how important he is to him. 

Traumatized and alone, Evangelion 3.0+1.0 goes straight to emotional storytelling, having viewers witness Shinji’s intense grief as characters all around him ponder how to help him. Asuka and Rei have led him to a village where the first hour of the film takes place. The village is a good way to ease viewers into what other characters have been up to since the Third Impact, which permanently cursed Shinji, Asuka, and Rei from aging physically. It’s tear-jerking how viewers can see the growth of side characters, Toji Suzuhara, Hikari Horaki, and Kensuke Aida. They all deeply care for Shinji, allow him space and time to unload his grief, and continuously remind Shinji that he will be okay. Likewise, Anno uses the time when Shinji remains catatonic and unresponsive to those attempting to help him to explore Rei’s character growth. 

In the fleeting slice-of-life moments, we witness beautiful landscape shots where Rei engages with the people and culture of a small village farmer for resources. Vibrant greens, golden yellows, and clear blue skies are the backdrop as Rei forms bonds with women who want her to be her own person. It’s the first time the series allows for Rei to be a person with no influence of Shinji’s projections or Gendo’s programming of her as a clone of his wife/Shinji’s mom, Yui Ikari. Themes of self-love, will, acceptance, and identity have Rei reach personal heights never before seen in the entirety of the Evangelion series. She is treated with such care that it makes a super-fan like me start the waterworks as it begins the farewell party both in film and on a personal level. 

Once the focus shifts away from Rei, the bulk of Evangelion 3.0+1.0 begins. The animation team brings the atmosphere of the central conflict to the forefront as Wille, Misato’s paramilitary group, set on destroying NERV and Gendo’s goals to bring about an apocalypse seeking to merge every human soul into one to be reunited with his dead wife, Yui. With Asuka and Mari, Studio Khara delivers bombastic and colorful fighting sequences. The designs of each artificial Eva by Nerv are fought off with neon crosses from our duo Eva pilots.

Evangelion 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon A Time

These are some of the cleanest action sequences that show fluid motion and depict every punch, shot, and stab with oomph. Asuka and Mari work together in a sea of eerie red and flashing AT-fields providing one of the most immersive and jaw-dropping sequences sure to please any fan of the genre. The voice work of Tiffany Grant and Deenan Melody shines through as their screams of victory, their declarative enthusiasm for fighting, and their sighs of hardship can be felt reverberating in your seat. They embody these characters perfectly and make viewers heavily invested in their well-being. 

As Shinji has to deal with the aftermath of Mari and Asuka’s attempts at stopping Nerv, it’s time for him to enter the fight. One of the most famous lines of the series is, “Shinji, get in the robot,” because his previous iteration ran away from responsibilities due to fear of rejection from others. It feels monumental to have Shinji want to aid and pilot Unit-01 to save humanity and those he cares about, not because he is indoctrinated to become a child soldier but because he wants to help his friends of his own free will. Anno strikes the heart, and Shinji amazes audiences with his emotional maturity. Even the dialogue from before Asuka heads out with Mari feels as if viewers can finally glimpse the long-awaited conversations you wished these characters had. The viewing experience is only heightened by Spike Spencer’s phenomenal delivery making this version of Shinji the best he has ever been. 

Unlike The End of Evangelion, the climax of this film isn’t a visceral, tragic, and traumatizing exploration of the human psyche, and Shinji pilots his robot one last time to save humanity. Instead, Evangelion 3.0+1.0 vision is a bold statement on perseverance and hope. Flipping through iconic imagery and scenes from End of Evangelion, Shinji and Gendo are at odds as NERV initiates its Human Instrumentality Project. It’s through this sequence that much of its in-universe lore is dropped on audiences. The sci-fi aspects feel confusing in a few bits of dialogue as so much new information is thrown at audiences while also attempting to balance critical, emotional dialogue. It is the only aspect that keeps this film from being perfect as the exposition feels overly complicated and confuses viewers this late into the series and the film. 

Despite this single flaw, the ending is a breath-taking blend of hand-drawn sequences, storyboard panels, meta-commentary, and heartfelt moments. Anno and his team at Studio Khara have poured their souls into making Evangelion 3.0+1.0 feel like this is a personal send-off from them. It’s poised, refined, and astonishing that a film can be elevated by animation, dialogue, and voice acting to feel as if they are telling viewers that it’s okay to process your anxiety, depression, and grief and come out the other side. It’s bursting with maturity with Shinji’s acceptance of himself and his place in this world as he learns to talk to others on the precipice of Human Instrumentality. I didn’t know that I needed hope as much as I did because it was both moving and transformative to see on screen. 

Evangelion 3.0+1.0 was well worth the wait for this re-imagined conclusion to one of the most influential and important anime. Anno and Studio Khara have taken on a huge feat to showcase some of the most beautiful mecha action with intense character depth, which hits every emotional beat. I have wept, hurt, and loved these characters with fervor. In a world where there is no more Evangelion, viewers are left knowing that there is hope, love, and self-acceptance on the other side. Evangelion 3.0+1.0 gives us a personal, warm, and tender goodbye and has created a film experience that viewers will cherish for years to come. 

Evangelion 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon A Time is now streaming on Amazon Prime. 

Evangelion 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon A Time
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

Evangelion 3.0+1.0 was well worth the wait for this re-imagined conclusion to one of the most influential and important anime. Anno and Studio Khara have taken on a huge feat to showcase some of the most beautiful mecha action with intense character depth, which hits every emotional beat. I have wept, hurt, and loved these characters with fervor. In a world where there is no more Evangelion, viewers are left knowing that there is hope, love, and self-acceptance on the other side. Evangelion 3.0+1.0 gives us a personal, warm, and tender goodbye and has created a film experience that viewers will cherish for years to come.