Written by: Miguel Galang
Published on: August 14, 2021 at 6:59 PM PHT (GMT+8)
It has been almost 21 years since the world was introduced to Hideaki Anno’s dizzying post-apocalyptic world of Evangelions: towering, mecha beings piloted by mere high school kids to defeat the bizarre Angels—mankind’s greatest foe.
Originally slated for a 2008 release and was subsequently delayed multiple times after that, “Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time” was finally released earlier this March albeit in Japan only. For us living in other parts of the world, we had to wait patiently (painfully?) for over five months. And the wait was definitely worth it.
The fourth and final film in the “Rebuild of Evangelion” series can be read in two ways: First, it’s one long cathartic therapy session. The events of the last film were devastating to say the least and left our main trio Shinji, Asuka, and Rei in various states of wreck, Shinji, especially.
In Thrice Upon a Time, we spend most of the film navigating the aftermath of the Fourth Impact through the “recovery” phases of these three. Rei, though not really Rei, goes on an unexpected journey of self-discovery à la slice-of-life; Asuka...well you could say the fire in her has all but mellowed and matured down ever so slightly; and then Shinji.
Never has an anime character been so ridiculed, meme-ified for their depressive tendencies; it's become a running joke at this point. Until Shinji says no more. Until he finally gets over himself towards the last half of this film in a moment of cathartic clarity: I’ll go. Undeniably, a triumph both for Shinji and the entire series.
Second, you can also read this finale as opening a photo album of memories. Indeed, during the first few minutes of Thrice Upon a Time, we are treated to a supercut of the previous films. It’s like Anno is reminding the viewer that this is indeed the end of Evangelion (not to be confused with the film of the same name).
Besides the main Evangelion trio, we also reunite with the rest of the cast although not in the way that any of us could have expected. Toji and Kensuke, Shinji’s school buddies, are now adults and were actually the ones who found the three wandering aimlessly in Tokyo-3.
We also reunite with former NERV personnel Ritsuko and Misato, both of whom wear the tragedy of the past 16 years not just in their appearances, but also in how they carry themselves as the primary leaders of Wunder.
It felt so bittersweet, especially when we arrive near the end where, and in typical Anno fashion, all of these characters, the memories and the tragedies that intertwine them with one another, culminate in a sort of breaking-the-fourth-wall moment (if you know, you know).
Before finally, we bid goodbye to all of Evangelion.
Overall, Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time is a bittersweet and triumphant end to a beloved anime series that has stood the test of time when newer and exciting shows came out and amid the series’ multiple delays in production and release.
And the fan reception online has nothing but good things to say as well:
Beyond its critical achievements and rankings on best-of anime lists, this is the legacy of Hideaki Anno's Neon Genesis Evangelion and will live on in the years to come.