You can (really) mark the end date for the entire Evangelion anime franchise on your calendar now.

The hottest anime in Japan right now is Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, so it’s no surprise that a lot of people were excited for the release of its first theatrical feature, Mugen Train, on Friday. But it’s not just Demon Slayer fans who’re feeling amped up, but otaku in general, because the previews that precede the film contain a brand-new trailer for the fourth and final Rebuild of Evangelion movie, and it finally gives a release date for the long-delayed conclusion to the landmark franchise.

Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time, as the movie is officially titled in English, will open on January 23, an easy-to-remember 1-23. Given current chaotic cinematic conditions, that might not seem like such an excruciating delay from the previously planned release date of last June 27, but bear in mind that the last Eva movie came out all the way back in 2012, the Rebuild tetralogy began in 2007, and the Evangelion anime franchise itself, which Thrice Upon a Time is supposedly bringing to a final ending, got started in 1995.

The third Rebuild movie ends on something of a cliffhanger, and the new 3.0+1.0 trailer doesn’t give too may hints as to what’s going to happen next. We do see the core three characters (Shinji, Rei, and Asuka) continuing their lonely track across a desolate, deserted landscape, plus plenty of scenes of Asuka and fellow mecha pilot Mari fighting, shouting, and surfing on flying aircraft carriers. There are also brief glimpses of Rebuild’s famed dystopia food, plus new color-cycling rainbow trim plugsuits, which seem like they were designed purposely to throw down a gauntlet to cosplayers.

“But will Evngelion get freaky-creepy?” you ask. After all, the franchise owes as much of its notoriety, if not more, to its disturbingly raw expressions of hopeless emotional isolation and unguided rage as it does awesome robot-versus-alien fights. After shuffling much of Eva’s characteristic traumatic angst to the sidelines for the first two Rebuild movies (if you need a refresher, the first three films are getting a 4-D theater revival) Shinji’s emotional struggles once again became a major focus in the third, and it definitely doesn’t look like Thrice Upon a Time is going to be all sunshine and smiles.

Speaking of Shinji, he’s almost completely lacking from the preview, appearing only twice: once in such an extreme close-up that little more than his eyes and the bridge of his nose can be seen, and once as an insignificantly small presence trudging past an abandoned train station, with Asuka and Rei leading the way and the series protagonist pointedly following the path someone else is setting. We never see him piloting an Evangelion, nor is there any sight of Shinji’s father Gendo, whose strained relationship with his son drives much of Eva’s psychological conflict.

From a technical standpoint, Thrice Upon a Time looks absolutely gorgeous. For a theatrical anime, this is pretty much as close to a sure box office hit as anything outside of a Hayao Miyazaki-directed feature, and for anyone who was watching at the time of Evangelion’s TV series finale in 1996 when the production budget ran dry and resulted in some very limited visuals, it’s truly impressive to see Evangelion effectively have an unlimited amount of resources to put into its final finale, especially when the wait has been so long.

Source, images: YouTube/株式会社カラー khara inc.official
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