Tackling something as big as Neon Genesis Evangelion is always a little daunting given just how much impact the series has had on the industry as a whole, and given the large gap between 3.0 and this release, called 3.0 + 1.01 because 4.0 is clearly not allowed, the anticipation was high. Obviously the film came out in Japan in March 2021 and has been streaming on Amazon Prime since August of that same year so it’s not new but seeing it on the big screen as intended should not be ignored, especially given the grand scale of some of the latter third of the film.
If you’ve ignored the Rebuild films up to this point you’ll be quite confused at this film as 3.0 jumped ahead 14 years from the original series and went off in new directions entirely, though with some themes and plot elements retained, and 3.0 + 1.01 picks up right where the last film left off. A “Near 3rd Impact” has left a lot of the world buried under red crust with a few pockets of survivors, including Evangelion pilots Asuka, Rei (well, a copy of Rei anyway) and our lead protagonist and everyone’s favourite emotional punching bag Shinji, who spends the first 40 minutes of the film’s runtime in a despondent daze after the events at the end of 3.0, which not only saw his new best friend explode in his face but also having to deal with nearly causing the apocalypse, if not accidentally. As Rebuild-exclusive pilot Mari and her Evangelion unit help access Nerv Europe’s Paris branch for some spare parts in a stunning opening sequence the first hour is actually just the three previously mentioned Evangelion pilot leads living a quiet life in a small Japanese village that managed to avoid the “N3I”, with not-Rei finding joy in living a normal life, Asuka still convincing herself that she doesn’t need other people in her life, and Shinji… managing to actually talk to people again and find just that little bit of hope, and then… yeah.
Anyway, after that slower paced opening hour Asuka and Shinji reunite with Misato Katsuragi and her anti-Nerv group, that being the still-active Nerv led by Shinji’s father Gendo, and we rejoin the insanity as we hear Gendo is trying to cause a Fourth Impact deep underneath the Second Impact site in Antarctica and soon the ship they’re all on heads to the site to stop him, which leads to a final hour of classic Anno-style action blended with thought-provoking inner monologues and trippy imagery. I won’t go into spoilers but it’s safe to say that after an ending that many felt was too ambiguous and unsatisfying and a second that was often said to be equally ambiguous but way too heavy on gloom and despair, this third ending is more straightforward (for a Hideaki Anno film, anyway) and much more pleasant. Now I’m sure a debate as to which ending is better will go on for all of time and will entirely be based on how you view Neon Genesis Evangelion as a whole or how your mind matches up to Anno’s at the three very different points in his life that he made them, but I for one enjoyed this one, it actually gave the series an actual ending that was satisfying rather than leaving things up in the air.
The visuals are often breathtaking with very smooth traditional animation mixed in with CG, though I will say there are moments in the film where it goes way too heavy on the CG and took me out of the moment (well, apart from one part where it being entirely CG was the point… that final fight sequence sure was something…) but I can’t say it wasn’t well directed or the shots well framed. Music from original series composer Shiro Sagisu impresses though I’ll admit it was only really the remixes of some of the classic tracks that got my attention. Voice cast obviously bring their A Game, and if you’re interested in the Amazon Prime release the film (and I believe the up-coming Blu-ray release as well) is dubbed by the original series cast, which is good for nostalgia if nothing else.
Evangelion 3.0 + 1.01 brings the latest iteration of the legendary franchise to a close with a grand-scale finale that actually puts an understandable and definitive end on the series as a whole, whether that’s what you want or not is entirely a different question. I can say though that if you head to your local cinema/theatre and watch this on the big screen you’re in for quite the spectacle across its two-and-a-half hour runtime.
EVANGELION:3.0+1.11 THRICE UPON A TIME is released on DVD, Blu-ray, Steelbook Blu-ray, and AllTheAnime.com exclusive 4K UHD & Blu-ray Deluxe edition on 20th November.