I, and many others, still wait for Evangelion 4.0, or Evangelion 3.0+1.0, or Evangelion:||, or whatever it will be called when it finally gets released. It has been a long wait but one I still have a lot of hope for.
To the best of my ability, there will be no narrative/plot spoilers for the Evangelion franchise...just thematic spoilers.
Anime has always had a place in my list of hobbies. While I initially loved the fantastical elements and fun animation, as I grew older I started to appreciate the various themes and ideas that some anime tackled*. One series that had a huge impact on my youth was Evangelion. While I watched the original series a few years after it was originally released, I was, like many fans, drawn in by the big robot battles and intriguing story, but later I fell for Shinji’s plight. Hard.
When I first realized that one of Evangelion’s themes was human connection, I could only note it with simple acknowledgement; ‘Wow, these people sure are screwed up,’ ‘distance between a man and a woman huh,’ ‘so Ritsuko found her connection with mum.’ It was all fine and adequate, but I signed up to Eva for big robots fighting big monsters. It was by episode 24 that I became extremely sympathetic to Shinji’s situation, and the episode’s end was quite the shocker...the sheer loss that Shinji must’ve felt loomed on my mind. Then I watched the the television versions of episode 25 and 26...and there was a sense of closure. Like Sakura from Cardcaptor Sakura always says, “Everything will be alright.”
When I watched End of Evangelion (EoE) soon after...oh boy. That film left me numb as hell. I wasn’t quite sure what to think; was this the real ending? Just an alternate retelling? What? Why. Why did Hideaki Anno write this...
So I went online and read online discussions and things fell into place. While many have tried to explain their interpretations of EoE, the most basic theory was that it was written in response to some of the negative fan outcry over the television versions of 25 and 26, answering some questions while raising others. However, as it turns out EoE’s ending was more in line with what was originally envisioned for the television series’ end, but got changed due to budget (and censoring) issues.
Years later, the Rebuild movies were announced and released. 1.0 was a fun reminder that Evangelion was always about a boy’s relationships with the people around him and his own journey about finding self-worth. 2.0 started the divergence of what the Rebuild movies were, while also giving Shinji a much needed confidence boost. Then silence. Myself amongst the fanbase, we waited for 3.0. We waited with bated breath to see where things would go.
I’m not sure anyone expected to get what we got. 3.0 wasn’t just new, it was radically different. It was confusing, it was unexplained, it was a hot mess, it was beautiful (not just visually), it was pure, distilled Eva (of which has been wonderfully written about here, which is chock full of spoilers).
Side note: the AniTAY review for 3.0 is here, also full of spoilers.
After watching the movie, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Over time though, I started to appreciate it and now, I love it. The film has flaws, a lot of flaws. While I like the story that it tells, it is a hot mess from a narrative standpoint. However, it works because, as many have pointed out, the film puts higher priority on its themes than, well, anything else (and if you find that it isn’t a coherent story, that’s a perfectly understandable opinion).
As noted earlier, one of Evangelion’s core themes has always been about interpersonal relationships: how people treat each other, how people need each other, how people depend on others to find meaning in life.
When the audience first meets Shinji, he’s meek, nervous, unsure of himself. As he changes over the course of the series, his interpersonal relationships change as well and he comes to terms with his own life and his place in the world. He starts to define himself according to what others see him as: an Evangelion pilot, a peer, a friend. Of course, across all versions of the story, things change as he gets thrust into new and different situations.
In 3.0, we saw what would happen to Shinji when his place in the world was ripped away from him. Of course, he sought to find his place again; he tries to understand the situation, he asks questions, he demands answers, but he gets rebuffed at each turn.
Shinji is only able to start moving forward again by forging new relationships with the people around him. In time, he defines himself again through his new relationships. However, while he gets some answers and starts to ground himself in the new status quo, a part of him still wants to return to how things were. After all, it’s safe and comforting in familiar territory. While I can only speak for myself, whenever I moved to a new country or city and didn’t know anyone in the area, I would reminisce about the life and people I left behind. However, this wasn’t always the case as the first time I moved abroad, I remember wanting to go back home to my friends and family very badly. To that, I can relate with Shinji’s desire to return to his familiar life.
However, as time moved on, I realized that I couldn’t go back to the familiar. Similarly, by the end of 3.0, the subtitle’s lesson is violently taught to Shinji: you can not redo. He can not go back to how things once were, he can’t keep living in the past. He has to look forward toward the future. He has to grow up and become an adult like everyone else.
3.0 was 2012. It has been 6, long, years.
I, and many others, still wait for Evangelion 4.0, or Evangelion 3.0+1.0, or Evangelion:||, or whatever it will be called when it finally gets released. It has been a long wait but one I still have a lot of hope for. I want to see where Anno decides to take Shinji for, presumably, the final film in the Rebuild series. How many answers will we get to the questions 3.0 raised? Which musical symbol is that at the end of the title (return and repeat or is it end)? Will there be a “good” end like the television series, or a “bad” end like End of Evangelion? Will Shinji realize he needs to grow up? Will he learn to not depend on others and stand on his own two feet?
Everyone else has walked onward by themselves, secure with their own independent selves. Shinji though, is still standing in the back, waiting for someone to tell him who he is and what to do.
Evangelion:|| currently does not have a scheduled release date, but is currently in production.