Evangelion: 3.0 1.01 Thrice Upon A Time


Reviewed by: Donald Munro

Evangelion: 3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon A Time
"It is not the innovative experience that some have made it out to be."

The original anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion was ground breaking. It pushed boundaries in terms of animation and storytelling. It originally aired in 1995/6 with an additional two episode Complementary ending in 1997. In the 2000s the Rebuild Of Evangelion was envisioned. The writer-director Hideaki Anno wanted to remake the original 26 episodes in four films. The idea was to have the first three films retell most of the original story with the final film being a radical departure from the original narrative. The first of these films, Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone, was released in 2007. The second, Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance, from 2009, was a massive departure from the original plot. A third, Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo, followed in 2012, and after a nine year wait the 2021 conclusion Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon A Time.

In the original series there were giant bio-mechanical robots piloted by teenagers battle angels. It all has something to do with a cataclysmic event that destroyed a lot of the Earth. It is all a metaphor for mental illness. The series ends as Shinji, the main protagonist, achieves a state of mental well being. In completing Shinji's character arc, the series abandons any pretence of following a driving narrative.

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Fans hated it: hate mail; death threats; the studio vandalised. Two more episodes were released. The world is destroyed and Shinji follows his death drive to the point where he becomes truly loathsome. There is a third ending in Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance. Shinji and Rei, a 14-year-old clone of his dead mother, turn into angels and have incestuous sex which destroys all life on earth. With slightly over four hours of film left to go there is going to have to be at least one more ending.

After resurrecting characters, rowing back on the last ending, going into space and triggering another Earth-annihilating event, we come to what is hopefully the final finale in Evangelion:: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon A Time.

By this point the plot is a total cowp. We are back on Earth, in Paris. Flying World War II battleships and a spaceship of impracticality defend a device that is going to unannihilate the City of Light. In the original series doomed warships were used as a metaphor. Here the film is more like The Wreck Of The Hesperus. The inconsistencies are dealt with by shotgun denouement. We see the stagecoach plunge over the cliff. Oh, that didn't happen: you didn't see what you just saw. Why? It's because the horses stopped to spy on a semi-clad 14-year-old girl writhing sexually in her sleep[1].

The treatment of female characters in Neon Genesis Evangelion has been viewed as problematic. That was to do with the ways that some characters behaved towards other characters. In Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon A Time, it is to do with the way that they are portrayed: the way they are written; the way they are filmed. In the original, female characters are complex. Here they are just sexual cyphers. There is the passive one you can get away with anything with, the bolshie tomboy who hates you because she can't express how much she fancies you, and the out of your league beauty that has to fall for you in the end. Most of the main characters are young teenagers, still children, and they are filmed in a disgustingly voyeuristic way.

When it comes to the animation, it is of good quality and it is in places inventive. It can be admired for its craft if not its subject matter. It is not the innovative experience that some have made it out to be. It doesn't compare to the phantasmagoric and narratively cohesive assault on the eyeballs that is Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. If you've played a couple of levels of a game like REVOLVER360 RE:ACTOR from 2014, you'll be thinking "So what?" A film like Paprika puts it to shame.

The Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise has gone from a story about teenage wish fulfilment colliding with depression and the death drive to a disturbing nonce fantasy.

[1] Asuka Langley Soryu was born in 2001. The events of Neon Genesis Evangelion start in 2015. She is 14. It is clearly stated in the film that she has not aged between then and Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon A Time. Why this is the case is explained in the film.

Reviewed on: 22 Oct 2023
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Evangelion: 3.0 1.01 Thrice Upon A Time packshot
The fourth and final instalment of the Rebuild of Evangelion. Misato and her anti-Nerv group Wille arrive in Paris, a city now red from core-isation. Crew from the flagship Wunder land on a containment tower.
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Director: Mahiro Maeda, Katsuichi Nakayama, Kazuya Tsurumaki

Writer: Hideaki Anno

Starring: Megumi Ogata, Megumi Hayashibara, Yûko Miyamura, Akira Ishida, Fumihiko Tschiki, Kotono Mitsuishi

Year: 2021

Runtime: 154 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Japan


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