A very long journey for anime fans has finally come to an end, with the release of Shin Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0 Thrice Upon a Time, the final and irrevocable end to the Neon Genesis Evangelion series that began 26 years ago. Eva came out just as I was founding J-List, and it was one of the first popular series we sold on our site back in the day. As a lifelong fan of director Hideki Anno, back from has Macross days, here’s a blog post about the final Eva film, and Hideki Anno, my favorite anime director.
Spoiler-Free Shin Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0 Mini Review
While I know that my view of any important work like Shin Evangelion is going to evolve and change over time, just as our first impression of a new Gundam or Star Wars work will shift and change as we re-evaluate it in the future, I have to say that I loved the final Eva film. It avoided the story elements that made Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo less than a hit with core Eva fans, without backtracking or being untrue to that story.
Shin Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0 continues the plot with all the characters we know and love, telling an enjoyable and original story set in the aftermath of the “Near Third-Impact” which occurred at the end of the second film. And I mean all of the characters. One of the best aspects of the new film was that no matter which character you’ve emotionally connected with over the years, that character gets an opportunity to shine in the new film, with lots of on-screen time and an opportunity to pull the story in their direction.
And yet, this promises to be a completely new story, and it delivers on that promise. It’s not a re-hash of the (excellent) End of Evangelion films that completed the 1995 series, and it’s not anything like the bizarre original final episodes of that series. It’s fresh and new, and I enjoyed it a lot.
— 鷺巣詩郎 (@ShiroSAGISU_twi) March 23, 2021
The music, composed by genius composer Shiro Sagisu, was also fantastic. We’ll be carrying the Japan CD release on J-List for fans who want to pick it up.
A Very Dark Journey for Hideki Anno
I caught an outstanding NHK documentary “Professional” about the making of the final Eva film, which detailed the incredible stress and difficulty the staff had to deal with. While there were many challenges, the biggest one by far was the emotional state of the director, who was diagnosed with depression in part as the result of seeing threads on 2chan, with fans discussing how they wished for the director’s death. “After I saw that, I didn’t care about finishing Eva, or ever making animation again.” He considered suicide by jumping in front of an oncoming train, but decided against it because “it looked like a painful way to end things.” Happily, he received lots of emotional support from Studio Ghibli founder Toshio Suzuki as well as his loving wife, manga-ka Moyoko Anno, and was able to circle back around to re-start the stalled project in 2017. Unfortunately, this meant a near-total rewrite of the script up to that time, adding additional difficulty for the staff.
A Totally New Way of Making Animation
As was detailed in the NHK Documentary, Shin Evangelion was made in a new way compared to anime in the past. Rather than having artists imagine scenes and record them on storyboards, which would be fleshed out in 2D animation later, the character action for the new film took place with actors wearing motion-capture suits. This allowed for the staff to basically create a 100% CGI world with characters inside a computer, and take “screenshots” of this world when they’d gotten the camera angles and framing just right. The character animation was then properly drawn by hand following the “digital storyboards.” As a card-carrying hater of abuse of CGI in traditional animation, I was very happy with the results.
One of the joys of watching Evangelion over the past quarter-century has been seeing how the mechanics of animation have changed during that time. In the original series, everything was completely hand-drawn, even things that would have been handled by CGI just a few years later, like Misato’s car. Whenever I re-watch the original 1995 series, I love comparing the grit of the old hand-painted cels with the digital coloring, CGI-enabled animation fight scenes and now, a new “motion capture-storyboard system” that has defined the long-running series.
Six Facts About Shin Evangelion Director Hideki Anno
- As a boy, he was drawn to one of the first giant robot anime, Tetsujin 28. He especially enjoyed the way the robot could still fight even if one of his arms or legs had been cut off. This was because his own father lost his leg in an accident and felt like he was “missing” some important aspect of humanity because of his disability.
- He is a vegetarian, avoiding eating both meat and fish, subsisting mostly on junk food.
- After participating in legendary animated shorts like the Daikon III and IV opening animation in university with his future Gainax colleagues, his first commercial animation work was on 1982’s Super Dimensional Fortress Macross. His big break came when Hayao Miyazaki needed someone who could animate the “God Warriors” sequence in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and Anno, whose specialty was animating explosions, fit the bill perfectly.
- After becoming the lead animator for Macross: Do You Remember Love? (the best anime film ever, ahem), Anno went on to make such impactful works as Wings of Honneamise, Aim for the Top: Gunbuster, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and the live-action Shin Godzilla.
- He also worked on classic hentai: Cream Lemon: Pop Chaser. I think I need to re-watch this tonight to honor this great animator.
- Hayao Miyazaki said of Anno, “The man doesn’t just make anime, he bleeds while he makes anime.”
Thanks for reading this post on the Shin Evangelion review, and Hideki Anno. What’s your favorite work by the director? Tell us below, or on Twitter!
These are stressful times for all of us, but happily, Japan’s ero toymakers are constantly bringing out innovative new products to help us manage that stress. Click here to browse today’s new offerings from Tamatoys, one of our favorite ero companies!