Evangelion: 3.0 + 1.0 Film Once Upon a Time: The Ending Explained & Dissected
Neon Genesis Evangelion, one of the flagship works of the mecha anime and a franchise that has baffled and thrilled fans for over a quarter of a century, finally got a fitting conclusion with the movie Evangelion: 3.0 + 1.0 It Was once.
Once Upon a Time is the fourth film in a tetralogy that serves as a reboot or narrative of the original 1995 series, which ran for 25 episodes and chronicles the apocalyptic battle between giant “angels” and teen-piloted mechas. The show is loaded with Judeo-Christian references and continues to spark debate about its ultimate meaning today. He’s also influenced films like Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, while his Eva robots are iconic in Japan.
The original show was infamous for leaving fans with an ambiguous and seemingly half-full ending, which inspired the new film series, called “Rebuild of Evangelion.” The first of these, Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone, was released in 2007, and the last film before Once Upon a Time, Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo, was released in 2012.
To say that fans were eagerly awaiting this film is an understatement.
After several delays, Thrice Upon a Time premiered in Japan in March. But most Americans didn’t get a chance to see it until it debuted on Amazon Prime Video on Friday. CNETers Roger Cheng and Oscar Gonzalez, both longtime Evangelion fans, watched it over the weekend and ultimately treated it enough to expose their thoughts. Spoiler warning: this piece dives into everything.
Roger: So Oscar, it’s been a really long time coming. Overall, what do you think?
Oscar: I’m glad there are some YouTube videos that try to help me figure out everything that happened with the movie. Funny enough, the ending made a lot of sense as the whole series was about Shinji (the main character) overcoming his own fears. We finally have some big reveal about his father Gendo that was seemingly the last puzzle in this whole franchise. And you?
Roger: You hit him on the head about his father. As far as this show is known for its giant robots and crazy monsters, the real key themes are isolation (it touched on the subject of social distancing long before the pandemic) and how to bond without fear of getting hurt. Having Shinji confront his father and getting Gendo’s point of view after all this time has provided a huge source of catharsis for viewers. It shouldn’t take the end of the world for a father and son to argue, but there you go. Speaking of which, can you explain what happened at the end?
Oscar: Oh are you really gonna put this on me? Shinji finally understands his feelings and realizes that he is the one who can literally save the planet, as well as the universe. He does this by confronting his father and becoming at peace with him. Then he does the same with all the other key characters: Rei, Asuka and Kaworu. He then essentially recreates the universe where he’s a little older, and he, along with everyone else, leads a normal life. What do you mean ?
Roger: It’s an impressive summary of such a complex ending. Let me try to add some context. As different as the different versions of Neon Genesis Evangelion are, the same general storyline unfolds: someone (usually Gendo) triggers another “Impact,” a cataclysmic event where all life converges into a single soul, usually described as de liquid sludge (no stain). In the midst of it all, there are some big mecha fights, but mostly they’re just a metaphor for the characters’ emotional struggle. Visually, they look amazing.
Example: Shinji and Gendo fight in their Evas in some meta-fight scenes. When Shinji sees that they are equal, he stops and does the sane thing and talks to his father. Gendo admits that he does this to find his wife, Yui, the only person he truly loves. But after speaking with Shinji, Gendo realizes that Yui’s last piece is in his son, whom he rejected after his death. He gives in and lets Shinji recreate a reality without angels or Evas, undoing all that mess. The film ends with Shinji and a character named Mari walking through a train station which is actually a live action sequence filmed by a drone. What do you think of this whole reboot?
Oscar: It reminded me of how in some games you have the good, the bad and then a “real” ending. The first two are obvious, but the third is where all the details come together. The latest live-action shot, which has already been done in End of Evangelion, told us to go out and live our best lives. It’s clear that series creator Hideaki Anno wanted this movie to bring the franchise to a halt so that he and everyone else could move on. What do you think of this series – something we’ve both been watching for decades – finally coming to an end?
Roger: I got a little moved when I realized that the person who appreciates Evangelion now is very different from the geek in his twenties who first put a pirate copy in his DVD player for the first time. For the first time, I was not confused or disappointed by an end of Evangelion. In these dark times, Anno luckily opted for an unusually upbeat ending that gave me the release I needed after all this time. You could argue that Shinji hitting the reality reset button is trite or too easy, but after this past year and a half, it seems deserved. You can really see Anno saying goodbye to this franchise. How do you feel about this?
Oscar: I felt the same as you. I bought my first Neon Genesis Evangelion DVD when they started releasing in 2000 while I was a salesman in Circuit City. This was the first animated series I went online to talk about and try to understand all the symbolism that was packed into each episode. Most anime and manga creators tend to create content that they find cool while adding a bit of their own personal feelings to their work, but it has become pretty clear that Anno has put so much into it. Evangelion was so personal, and I think so many people have connected with the story in their own way, which is why they have stuck with the show for so long. In the end, that was the right way to end the book on the story that took decades to tell.
Roger: I was really nervous before I started this movie, but it managed to exceed my expectations and keep me happy. If you’re interested, the original series is on Netflix and all four films are available on Amazon Prime Video.