Neon Genesis Evangelion is beloved by fans for its compelling characters, psychological drama and philosophical ideas. It's also equally famous for its troubled production, with its television series finale going down in history as one of the most controversial ever.
The latest and slated to be "final" film in the Evangelion series, Evangelion: 3.0 + 1.0 Thrice Upon a Time, is keeping up that tradition. After years of developmental woes, the film was scheduled to be released on January 23 in Japan. Unfortunately, it has been delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. For the time being, the film no longer has a release date. Fans can be forgiven for feeling like this film is cursed, as this is far from the first delay in this film's troubled production.
Evangelion's anime creator, Hideaki Anno, has publicly struggled with issues of depression throughout his career. In truth, a big part of what made the original Evangelion series so special was the way he incorporated his own experience of depression into what would have otherwise been a fairly standard mecha story.
Thrice Upon a Time is the latest in the Rebuild of Evangelion film series. The series retells the events of the original show through a more accessible lens while introducing interesting new characters and concepts. Unfortunately, after the release of the third film in the tetralogy, 2012's Evangelion 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo, Anno found himself back in a state of depression. It was clearly very serious, with him outright thanking the support of his friends and family for helping him "stay in this world," as he stated in a deeply personal piece on the Evangelion website. This battle with mental illness was definitely the initial catalyst in the prolonged production of Thrice Upon a Time.
Anno felt crushed by the weight of the franchise and realized he needed to spend time working on other projects to revitalize his love for filmmaking. As a result, he took on the role of director for Toho's new Godzilla film, 2016's Shin Godzilla. While his intent behind making this Godzilla film seemed to work, revitalizing his creative juices, producing an entirely new film naturally set back the production for Thrice Upon a Time several years.
After Shin Godzilla, the team reunited, and work continued on Thrice Upon a Time, but it was to be several years before it was completed. Editing and compositing work wrapped up between October and December last year -- but, of course, the world was still in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic. With a new state of emergency declared in Japan, the film had to be delayed yet again.