Evangelion 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time, the 4th and last of the new Evangelion movies, is now streaming worldwide on Amazon Prime. It's a huge but flawed undertaking. Creator Hideaki Anno took 4 years to complete it, requiring the services of 4 directors and countless changes to achieve his definitive ending for the saga. It's Anno's definitive statement on the story, capping off a series that began 26 years ago with the original weekly animated TV series.
All 4 Evangelion movies are now on Amazon Prime. You actually need to watch them all to understand the story. Ideally, you should also have watched the original TV series and 2 movies first, which are on Netflix. If you're new to the series, just watching the 4 new movies might not mean that much to you. You actually need to have been immersed in the 26 episodes of the show, then the 2 movies, Evangelion: Death and Rebirth and End of Evangelion, to experience the characters and their issues until you feel like you know them in order for the movies to have any real impact. That's a real commitment. For some fans, it's practically a religion. The series has that effect on some people. Well, a lot of people. Creator and director Hideaki Anno made public his struggles with depression when he made the series. To watch the series and movies is like watching his personal therapy sessions. Mind you, Anno is not the only Japanese anime or manga creator whose mental health is inextricably tied to his work.
The Rebuild of Evangelion movies is simultaneously a remake, a reboot, and a sequel to the original series. This can sound confusing to anyone who's new to the series, but Evangelion has never been simple. Like most Japanese geek pop culture, it's needlessly complicated and convoluted. That seems to be how fans like it.
This final movie reveals what many fans have suspected for a long time: the entire Evangelion saga is on a time loop, and the story plays out repeatedly with different outcomes. It's a multiverse, and the seemingly endless manga spinoffs during the 2000s are actually as canonical as the TV series and the new movies. The new movies are actually Anno's conversation with his younger self, who made the last version of the story back in the 1990s. He's aged, matured, and done some work on himself to address his depression, even if he still suffers from it. He answers and resolves every issue for all the characters in the story and grants them all closure. The script isn't perfect – there's still too much telling, not showing, which is a common flaw of a lot of anime screenwriting. The biblical, gnostic and quasi-mystical references are once again in service of granting a pretentious and near-impenetrable layer of pretentiousness to what's really a Freudian story about learning to grow up and look beyond oneself, shot through the lens of teenagers piloting giant robots.
Yet it's all intensely personal for Anno – he put everything he wanted to ever say in anime into these movies, stretching the medium on a technical and artistic layer to say he's spent. He wants to concentrate on directing live-action after this. Evangelion is not just an anime to be watched. It's an experience to live through as much as its creator, Anno, did, and many fans have literally grown up on it and with it, as much as Anno did. And now it's over, and everyone can talk about it and move on.