Sunday, August 15, 2021

Hideaki Anno's "Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time" Streaming Premiere: Aug 13

After a many year wait, and innumerable delays, this week the final installment of Hideaki Anno's Evangelion Rebuild tetralogy has its streaming premiere in the west. Unlike the previous films in this theatrical retelling of the influential 1990s anime, the fourth chapter will not be receiving a theatrical exhibition. While those films were distributed by Funimation and given short theatrical runs at select independent theaters, such as Seattle's Grand Illusion Cinema and the SIFF festival, this final film is instead another prize feather in the hat of "How Amazon Came to Dominate Everything". This comes during a year in which much of the world struggled, and "Amazon Won without Really Trying". Outside of Amazon's ongoing amassing of cultural influence, the film's streaming premiere in relatively close proximity to the smashing theatrical run in Japan is something to celebrate. The particulars of its online release are unfortunate though, as is the byproduct of there being no theatrical screening run here in North America. The extended path to this moment for Hideaki Anno, his Studio Khara, and the quartet of films that comprise this Rebuild hit its largest stumbling block between the third and fourth installment. The almost nine year year delay between films was compounded by exhaustion, uncertainty, other production obligations for the studio, and the opportunity to direct an installment in the classic kaiju franchise, Gojira. Anno found that this stopgap reinvigorated the production, and in an uncharacteristic statement announced his return; “The only way for me to describe Evangelion is to say that it is my soul. I make it by scraping off pieces of myself, and I made three movies in a row like that, putting everything I could into them and not thinking about what would come next. After finishing "Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo", I thought I’d never create anything again. At that time, I went into talks with Toho for "Shin Gojira", and it saved me. I think this is how I’m able to keep making Evangelion. However, since it is a fact that I’m making everyone wait, I deeply apologize for that.”

The British Film Institute's feature issue on Japan's legacy of animation, centering on the works of Studio Ghibli and its founders, posited where the future of new non-commercial animation in Japan may arise. With Ghibli's Toshio Suzuki himself offering outspoken support for the Evangelion director and Khara maven, "Studio Ghibli Co-Founder Points to Hideaki Anno". Anno might be considered an untraditional choice to hold such a mantle, he is known to be foremost as a storyteller focused on the existential, or as The Japan Times called him, "Hideaki Anno: Emotional Deconstructionist". Nowhere is this more evident than the closing chapters of his hit television series "Neon Genesis Evangelion", and its 1997 theatrical conclusion "The End of Evangelion". Yet in returning to the material over a decade later, the shortened duration of the theatrical retelling allowed for less developmental space, and fewer occasions of inward-looking existentialism. Only in the third installment "Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo", would a shift in focus begin to become more apparent. A tour-de-force of technical brilliance, the third Rebuild film expresses itself with visual flair in a manner the previous two installments only hinted at. Not only the action sequences, but the sense of scale, desolation and expansiveness seen in "You Can (Not) Redo" are immense, often thrilling, and upon reaching its conclusion, assertively morbid and surreal. Where the first two installments felt like an assured, but safe, retreading of the series' themes and settings, the third installment goes some ways to establish an identity for Rebuild of its own. Desolation is the core of this installment, shifting between moments of rest and conflict, its cumulative weight is measured against a world that is equally gorgeous, touching in its fragility, and at times celestial in it's reverie. These last components are what bring us to the final film, beguilingly titled, "Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time". This delicate, beautiful, humanistic world is what hangs in the balance at the tale's conclusion, The Japan Times finding it a, "‘Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time’: Anime Epic Gets a Fitting Finale". Now in its closing chapter, much of the inner lives and the interconnectivity of the protagonist's shared decades of life, hardship and loss are more substantially explored, and in this way, “‘Evangelion’ Director, Hideaki Anno, Explains How He Finally Found His Ending”.