“Thrice Upon a Time” is the subtitle and timing is the most important thing on my mind. This is the fourth and final film in the “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” retelling of the 2007 series – which means there has been more time from “1.0” to “3.0 + 1.0. Compared to “1.0” and the original series it set out to remake.
The original “Neon Genesis Evangelion” aired from 1995 to 1996, and has become a part of Japanese pop culture ever since. In shaping the series, creator Hideaki Anno took inspiration from his favorite giant robotic brands, such as “Ultraman” and “Mobile Suit Gundam”. But his key innovations were characters with serious emotional depth and deep psychological problems. Anno’s avatar is the main character Shinji Ikari (Megumi Ogata), a young man who suffers from a feeling of alienation and need.
“3.0 + 1.0” is the third time Anno has come to a conclusion for “Evangelion”. The first are the last two episodes of the TV series, which caused the director to receive death threats from its rushing animation and refuse to give easy answers. The second part is “The End of Evangelion” (1997), a big screen rendition of two better but equally dramatic animated episodes.
“3.0 + 1.0” started as soon as “3.0” ended in 2012. Shinji is an almost extremist, having just witnessed the death of Kaworu, one of the few people he ever felt close to. Meanwhile, the confrontation between two rival powers – NERV, who wants to end humanity as we know it, and WILLE, who likes humanity as good as it is now, thanks – is imminent.
That final showdown, which takes up the bulk of the movie, has some astonishing animation. Time has allowed for incredible advances in CG, and “3.0 + 1.0” blew the first three movies away. Although I think I will always love the hand-drawn elegance of “End of Evangelion”, it cannot be denied that computer animation allows “3.0 + 1.0” to take the scene to a new level.
But under that scene is a very personal story
Shinji was not the only one who was shocked after “Evangelion 3.0”. In a statement apologizing for the long gap between movies, Anno described a severe depression that kept him from working as hard as he could to visit his studio. Thankfully, he has slowly returned to where he can take on the great task of leading this 155-minute epic, with little help from his friends – “3.0 + 1.0 “There are no fewer than three trusted directors, with Anno as director, screenwriter and production executive.”
In this movie, Shinji goes on a similar journey, with old and new friends helping him slowly reach a stronger mental state and participate in the final battle. As the action moves forward, that battle becomes increasingly surreal, eventually breaking the fourth wall with abandonment. Thrice is not a charm for those hoping for an easy, definitive ending for “Evangelion.” Like its predecessors, “3.0 + 1.0” raises more questions than answers. Time is a circle.
For me, that complexity is the real power of “Evangelion”. For all robot action, merchandise and decades-long debates about which character is most adorable (answer, for the record, is Misato), “3.0 + 1.0” and the boys Its younger brother is essentially an art film, the vision of a creator brave enough to expose his wounded soul on screen – and help us look inside ourselves.
Why did “Evangelion” be remade in the first place? There’s a parallel universe in which Hideaki Anno has directed three or four original films since 2007 and that’s where I want to visit one day. The franchise’s continued success, however, is a strong rebuttal against making movies with the lowest common denominator. It’s inspirational to see an audience willing to grapple with a story that requires so much emotion and wisdom over and over again.