March 8th, 2021 was the premiere of the fourth installment in the Evangelion New Theatrical Edition film quadrilogy, titled 3.0 + 1.0: Thrice Upon a Time. With the film’s release, it brought to a close a production that spanned almost fifteen years (not helped by the COVID-19 pandemic that delayed the film twice). However, it turns out that the path between the release of the End of Evangelion  and the first film in the New Theatrical Edition series could have been much different. Tucked in among the reams of illustrations, interviews with the staff, official guides, and other production material uncovered and published over the years is the revelation that there was to have been another film made after the release of the End of Evangelion–one that had the potential to take the franchise in a very different direction.
Alternate film versions of popular TV anime are nothing new. The films Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love  and Escaflowne  are quite different when compared to their TV progenitors in terms of design and characterization, while still retaining familiar elements that would be recognizable to the audience. This was supposed to be the plan for Evangelion as well. Two distinct proposals, one from artist Ikuto Yamashita and the other from Evangelion‘s creator Hideaki Anno, are known to exist for this never-produced film.
After the final episode of Evangelion aired in late March of 1996, Gainax announced that they would remake the final two episodes for home video and produce an original film for theaters. Later that year, they changed course and decided to release those two “new” final episodes theatrically and pair them with a compilation film using retakes of some earlier scenes from the TV series. The plan for the all-new original film, at that time, was kept in place. As production proceeded on the first project, its story content grew to such an extent that they decided to split it into two films.
The first of these films, which contains the compilation footage along with a small portion of the conclusion, would be released as Evangelion: Death & Rebirth on March 15th, 1997. The second film would be the two “new” final episodes in their entirety and was released as the End of Evangelion four months later on July 19th, offering a proper conclusion to the series. Both movies were eventually combined as intended as the Revival of Evangelion in May of 1998.
As you’d probably expect, the scaled-up production resulted in increased stress on the staff. In a joint interview with the online magazine SF Online, series character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto and series animator Hiroki Sato spoke of how exhausted the staff was by the end of the production of the aforementioned films.1 This staff fatigue ultimately leads to the cancellation of the original film by May of 1997.
Two different pitches for this canceled film project are known to exist. The first proposal comes from Ikuto Yamashita, Evangelion‘s mecha designer, via an illustration book by him and Seiji Kio entitled Sore o Nasumono – Shin Seiki Evangelion Concept Design Works (“That Which Forms It – Neon Genesis Evangelion Concept Design Works”), released in March 1998.2 The book presents early design concepts that contributed to the overall look of the TV series, including the Eva units themselves, the entry plugs, various weapons, and even multiple early versions of the NERV logo. The book also contains two endings, one for the final episode of the TV series, and one for the movie proposal we’ll discuss.
Entitled “The Long-Awaited People,” Yamashita’s movie proposal presents a world that, after the final Angel had been defeated, descended into conflict as various nations began using their own Evangelions against each other with NERV in Tokyo-3 fighting its branch based in Germany (though not mentioned in the proposal, the TV series and End of Evangelion state that there were two cities in that country with NERV installations, Berlin and Hamburg), leading to said base getting destroyed by a neutron bomb. This devastating war, however, was only a prelude to even greater horrors as worldwide mental contamination began to affect the world’s remaining population, brainwashing a particular group of people into constructing another Eva unit named “Fortune.” The contamination also began to turn people towards a bestial state, not just mentally, but physically as well. Yamashita refers to them in the proposal as “wolf-men.” Only the area surrounding NERV HQ remains unaffected thanks to jamming technology used to neutralize the contamination.
At the same time, NERV notices changes to Unit 01 connected to what is called a “Deep Stage Incident,” a point at which Shinji and the Eva were one. And unbeknownst to them, Shinji sneaks out to where the wolf-men gather. When he arrives, they bow…
While this story never went beyond the proposal stage, it’s interesting to note that several concepts from it made their way into Yamashita’s spin-off novel Evangelion Anima, which was serialized in Dengeki Hobby magazine from 2007 to 2013 and published in five collected volumes. English publication of the series is currently up to volume 4, released by Seven Seas Entertainment. Oddly enough, while the original magazine serialization featured illustrations by both Yamashita and Hiroyuki Utatane, the latter’s art doesn’t appear in the Japanese or English collected volumes.
The enemy Eva Fortune in the film proposal is now named “Armaros” in Anima, and as in the proposal, battles between Evas take place at several locations throughout the world using weapons such as a field sinker gun codenamed the “Spine of the Death God” in the film proposal but renamed to the less flashy sounding “Angel’s Backbone” in Anima.
The second known movie proposal comes from director Hideaki Anno. In 2014, the Tokyo International Film Festival held “The World of Hideaki Anno” event showcasing the director’s work over the last forty years. During an interview connected to the event, Anno discussed his idea for an original project. According to him, the setting was to be a city that was surrounded by an AT Field with only one bridge in or out. Outside of the city live Angels who prey on humans. “What we couldn’t do on TV was show human beings being eaten because being eaten is extremely terrifying to people,” Anno explained.
He also stated that the Evangelions would have more human-like features than they did in the TV series and that in order to pilot them, the pilots would have to be surgically attached to the Eva units in some way. Anno remarked that the concept was similar to Hajime Isayama’s manga Attack on Titan.
Thankfully, Anno isn’t the only source we have on this particular proposal. At a panel held during the 1996 Anime America convention, Gainax co-founder Toshio Okada stated that Anno wanted a scene of Eva units fighting in the snow, saying “[Anno] wants to make a masterful scene of a battle in the snow.”3 This statement echoes the earlier interview we mentioned with Sadamoto and Sato, in which Sadamoto stated that “Eva takes place in a world of summer…The art style would change drastically, and you would all of a sudden have Misato and the others appear wearing coats on a snowy mountains.”
However, it must be stated that in Okada’s interview, he implied that such a scene would have been in what is now End of Evangelion, while Sadamoto stated that the scene was meant for the planned original film. This snowscape scene lives on in both the final chapter of Sadamoto’s manga, which takes place on a snowy day, and the first battle in Yamashita’s Anima novel where Unit 01 is fighting multiple enemies in an artificially-created snow environment.
Knowledge of these two proposals does raise a few questions: If either had been produced as an original film, would Anno still have had any desire to create the New Theatrical Edition films? Would the Evangelion franchise have lost any staying power if there was more material produced made right after End of Evangelion? Would these movies have been any good? These questions are impossible to answer, but based on the reaction to all four New Theatrical Edition films, the debate in the fan community would have been extensive, to say the least.
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- While SF Online is long since defunct, the original text and translation of a portion of this interview were shared on the Evageeks forum in 2012.
- A partial translation of this book can be found on Evageeks’ wiki.
- Long since disappeared from the internet, this interview as published on j-pop.com can be found on the Internet Archive.