Evangelion 3.0+1.0 is a gorgeous-looking picture with a brain as well.
Published on August 20, 2021
Rating 3.5 /5
As the fourth and final film of the Evangelion quadrilogy, there’s a sense of wholeness to the vision of Hideaki Anno. His finale to the TV series Neon Genesis Evangelion was one of much contention and a dwindling budget. While the show was followed up with the “redo” movie End of Evangelion, it still only felt as though a portion of Anno’s idea ever made it into an anime. Thus began the movie series of the Evangelion rebuild, aiming to provide a theatrical experience for the story with a heftier budget. The results still manage to be a trippy postmodernism take on the mecha genre while delving deeper into emotional areas some anime fears to tread.
When we last left the story, the teenage pilots of Shinji, Asuka, and Rei found themselves on their own after preventing the Fourth Impact event. Shinji, having just witnessed his most understanding friend and possible love Kaworu Nagisa die, has once more slipped into depression and this is by far his worst episode. Kaworu died by means of the choker collars meant to control the pilots and prevent Angel infection and any time Shinji witnesses the collars of Asuka or Rei, he pukes and remains silent further. While Asuka offers little help besides frustrated abuse, Rei tries to show gentle understanding as she slowly learns her own individuality.
A bit more of the world gets to be explored in this film as the trio of pilots seeks refuge in a village of Tokyo-3. We catch up with a few civilian characters who have aged over the years and showcase how while others have moved on with their lives, Shinji seems stuck in a state of constant depression. The world hasn’t fully recovered as the infected areas of the globe are still present considering the secretive NERV organization still wants to complete the apocalyptic restructuring of humanity. But people still live and push forward. Perhaps when lives are threatened, especially those he loved, Shinji will start to recognize a need to push forward and live.
The action continues with the resistance of the Wunder fleet against NERV. Wunder is still helmed by Captain Misato (Shinji’s former caregiver turned cold military leader) and NERV is still the product of Gendo Ikari, Shinji’s father who has become further mutated by his desires to touch the power of God. Battles of Evangelion robots grow all the bigger and even more chaotic, involving robots that wield grander weapons, wild attachments, and even their teeth to rip out the flesh of their cyborg enemies. The spectacle becomes incredibly disorienting at times with the eccentric Mari piloting her Evangelion Unit-8 for missions where there is simply too much going on. And that’s only for the battles in reality. Once the world starts warping with various portals and otherworldly environments, the action becomes even tougher to follow.
Come to think of it, most of the film is rather tough to follow considering how wild the picture becomes with the technobabble and philosophical leanings. Dialogue can quickly shift from Star Trek talk of maintaining AT Fields and hacking NERV alien tech to discussing what it means to be human and having faith in humanity’s existence being inferior to godhood. Thankfully, the film becomes far more grounded in its fourth act where Shinji confronts his father in the anti-universe, where fighting back against his dad will require more than might. Shinji is able to win this fight not by piloting a robot but by confronting his father and getting him to reveal the personal reason for wanting to reshape the world. His motivations turn out to be simple to understand but emotionally damaging that he’s not devoid of sympathy. Only through honesty will Shinji find peace and understanding in others.
Evangelion 3.0+1.0 is a gorgeous-looking picture with a brain as well. The animation looks fantastic and the philosophical leanings of the franchise feel more vocal and emotional here than in any other piece of Evangelion media. While End of Evangelion only felt like a slight restructuring of postmodern mecha, this feature film feels like the complete package and the deserving conclusion for one of the most notable giant robot anime series since Gundam.