I finished watching the final Evangelion movie: Evangelion 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time last night, and I’m still in the middle of processing my reaction to it. Neon Genesis Evangelion was one of the first true “anime” series I remember watching. I spent late summers in the ’90s in California, and one summer the local PBS station KTEH began airing this show. I’d only watched a few episodes of it, but dammit I was hooked. The weirdness. The giant robot battles. The angst. I loved it. When I returned to Hawaii, I decided that I should watch the entire thing. And thanks to a very geeky video rental service run by a local comic book shop, I eventually finished the anime.
The story, on the surface about a last ditch effort to protect the Earth from rampaging giant monsters called Angels, but actually about very real, very human trauma, rang true with me. I saw bits of myself in every character. All of them strugging to prove themselves worthy of life. Shinji, the reluctant pilot who only “gets in the robot” because he wants his father’s approval. Rei, the mysterious soft-spoken girl who’s questioning her entire existence. Asuka, a forceful personality hiding a fragile heart. Misato, wanting to prove humanity is still worth protecting. And so on and so on and so on. The series is widely known as the work of one man, Hideaki Anno, who decided to use the show as therapy for his own struggles with depression and self-worth. It’s a deeply personal work that resonates with so many people, including me.
So what do I think of the new Rebuild movies and the Ultimate ending? Let’s keep going. Spoilers abound.
Overall I’m glad the story ended how it did. There’s a timeskip, we see all the kids as adults, and they seem to exist in a world with no Evas or no Angels. They’ve earned it after all the shit they’ve gone through. Shinji seems to have broken the loop of suffering. I wonder if this is because Mari, the only Eva pilot who seems to have no hang-ups about piloting them, exists in this world. Or because this is the only iteration of the story where Shinji’s father finally opens up about his feelings for his dead wife and the true reasons behind the Human Instrumentality Project. Transforming humans into an all-knowing entity and breaking down the painful barriers that keep us separated would mean that Gendo could reunite with Yui. It turns out that Gendo isn’t that different from his son after all. Surprise surprise, breakthrough.
I’m also fascinated with how the final movie portrayed Asuka. She’s much more confident in this version, less hung up about her past and her own trauma. She seems to have gotten over her mother’s suicide. But I have to wonder about some of Asuka’s final moments, where a slew of Asuka “series” pictures is shown on a wall. Also when Asuka comes in contact with someone who calls herself her “mother”, she looks exactly like her. Is Asuka here a clone of the original? Just like Rei? It would mean that both these girls are clones in search of identity. The Asuka of NGE hated Rei because she saw in her the perfect girl that she could never be.
And speaking of Rei, how great is her ending? The clone who finds purpose and learns emotions like love and joy and regret. I’m quite satisfied with her growth and in her “death”, Shinji starts to realize that letting go is okay. His father also learns that learning to let go is okay. One doesn’t need to suffer if you lose someone. One has to move on.
I loved that the final movie ends hopefully, versus the terrifyingly lonely world that Shinji found himself in during the ENd of Evangelion movie. Yes relationships hurt, but so does being alone, and the relationships are definitely worth the pain. That is human and I think that is the final message of Evangelion.
Still not sure what was up with Mari though. She doesn’t seem to have any backstory other than what we see in the movies. Was she neccessary? In a way, she was. Her presence meant the story could go in a new direction because she’s an unknown quanitity. The fly in the ointment. Otherwise, she’s just a cute girl with glasses and a pink plug suit and pink Evangelion and that’s…different. I guess.