Thanks to Amazon doing the rest of the world a dandy during a global pandemic, I got to see the latest Evangelion movie: Evangelion 3.0+1.0: Thrice Upon a Time. It dropped on Friday, August 13, along with the other Rebuild of Evangelion flicks on the Amazon Prime Video service. As others have said, it’s probably a smart thing to watch 3.0+1.0 and Eva Q in order back to back, since it does work well as a double feature. Do know Thrice Upon a Time is also nearly 2.5 hours long, so budget wisely.
Personally I subscribed to a 30-day trial of Amazon Prime to catch this movie, so I took the opportunity to also catch up on The Expanse, a SF TV series that I’ve been following on and off. In season five of The Expanse, the main crew of the show visits some folks they have left behind in their past, and oddly this is a familiar vibe with 3.0+1.0 as well. It’s more like, “wow it’s been a hot minute since I last saw a Hideaki Anno flick and this is every bit just like every other one he made.” It’s like some famous old guy you knew 20 years ago made house calls across the globe, and catching up with someone who you’ve not seen in a long time just makes you feel 1) old and 2) this guy hasn’t changed a bit, besides getting on in life with less hair on his head.
I guess that’s enough spoilers for The Expanse, which is a fun sci-fi romp. And I don’t get why people call this hard SF it’s really not hard enough for me lol. Spoilers ahoy, in any case.
Evangelion, is hard SF. And for those of us who have spent the time to watch and digest the work and ingest other’s analysis of their own, there isn’t a lot of surprises left other than a curious wonder on how will Evangelion’s Rebuild land. Given that the original story didn’t really land, in a technical sense, even if emotionally it is a bit all over the place, at the very least, I think we are on the same page here in that Anno should pen a work that lands the story more like, say, a cogent adult. Maybe this is what people say about therapy when they talk about Evangelion in that context.
As I plow through the film, the SF elements really struck me as the thing that sets the tone, the pace, and frames the work. When empathy and acceptance has a measurable value like air pollution, when fear, respect, and holiness exhibit themselves as AT fields, and when we plaster Christian lore like the names of Fate GO attacks, we are squarely and solely in an Evangelion, rocking those handle bars trying to get the robot to move.
It’s cute how 3.0+1.0 makes those neck bombs into something, when Asuka wore them plus the thing in her eyepatch as a point of contrast. And man, what’s up with foreign objects going into eyes? Where were we going when the final lance runs up against Giant Naked Rei-Head’s right eye? There is a psychology, a raw reaction, that runs against the SF-ness. Some may say having to deal with orbital mechanics in your SF makes it hard, but when terror is literally manifested as a scientific concept, somehow it is a lot more, I don’t know, personable? I don’t think anyone deserves the kind of torment Shinji went through, even if some, surely in our awesome yet terrible universe, has had worse–certainly not something far majority of us had even tasted a fraction of. Perhaps when we get gassed into the dead vacuum of space, not only we are lost in it, we die due to exposure. This is terrible, but not as terrifying as getting contaminated with L2 particles and turning into a pile of LCL goop.
And what’s beautiful about 3.0+1.0 is not only this terror is a level deeper than very understandable methods of death, but also painted in a beautifully-sad kind of way. In as much as the End of Evangelion and this particular film being the end of Rebuild, are about emotions wrapped up in technobabble, the meta is where all these emotions come into focus. Maybe it’s the simple difference between a teenager and an older adult being that the older person has many years to reflect upon their own existence, the regrets, the good times, and finding a way to walk that path for so long. In Eva, with the kind of death counts it has, maturity is self-selecting: if you aren’t you probably won’t make it that old! And it is just sad, pitiful, and the worst case of misfortune. The intensity of End of Evangelion gives way to 3.0+1.0, such as the parallel moments when Asuka waking up to Shinji by her side, but he isn’t feeling it either way–because, I guess, he grew up.
[I can make more comparison with The Expanse here, but to spare you the spoiler for another nice SF story I’ll just not-name drop two crucial characters from Naomi’s backstory here.]
As we have walked with Evangelion for 20+ years, I think I will still find time to watch 3.0+1.0 again, to gleam more from this final hurrah from an old friend, and the trauma it so succinctly described, before saying goodbye for good. It is a blessing that the world is in such a place, or at least, a good part of the world is in such a place, to enjoy a work like this, where the psychology is so overwhelmingly the front and center that we are all suffering, standing in the intersection of western and eastern storytelling norms, because there isn’t anything else you can do. The Rebuild series is not the same as the original; or rather, it is the small glimmer of hope that the adults in the room would do in response to what the original was. It’s just that by this point, it all really doesn’t matter anymore. The fact that 3.0+1.0 is a work that is still so signature of all things Evangelion is already a massive win.