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26 episodes. Six movies. Two and a half decades. The cult classic mega-hit Neon Genesis Evangelion has finally drawn to a close with its hotly anticipated final installment, Evangelion: 3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon A Time, released internationally just last month.
We’re delighted to report that it was more than worth the nearly nine-year wait. Rather than “tumbling down, tumbling down”, the film has been enthusiastically received by audiences, boasting a coveted perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer, as well as a healthy 8.74 average rating on MyAnimeList. What else is there to say except… “Congratulations”!
To celebrate the resounding success of Thrice Upon A Time and the all new ‘End of Evangelion’ (for real this time, probably), we caught up with a few of our favourite Eva pilots, legendary voice actors and Supanova alumni Amanda Winn Lee, Tiffany Grant and Spike Spencer. Buckle yourselves into the robot and check out what the English voices behind Rei, Asuka and Shinji thought of the film below!
SPOILERS AHEAD, SUPA-FANS. If you haven’t already, you can stream it now on Amazon Prime. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Amanda Winn Lee (Rei Ayanami)
First and foremost, you’re back in a plugsuit! How exciting!
Yes! Very!! I’m shocked and pleased that I still fit in it! 😉
Your voice as the original Rei Ayanami was such a formative part of so many fans’ earliest experiences of anime. What was it like to resume the role and protect the Third Child again after so many years?
It felt like coming home, or like slipping into an old, favourite dress. I didn’t realise how much I had truly missed her.
Thrice Upon A Time’s “Rei” is not quite the character you originally portrayed. Did you take a different approach to Miss Lookalike?
Yes, Joe [Fria, English language Voice Director] was very diligent about which Rei we were recording in any given session. We talked about the balance between her “awakening” to human emotions and being “back to square one.” I think this is my favourite iteration of Rei yet.
Rei’s maternal instincts have been increasingly emphasised as the Evangelion franchise has gone on. Enduing such warmth and compassion into a famously understated character must be no easy feat, how do you balance that? Does having a teenager around their age help with the “mum vibes”?
I’ve always been a nurturer, so I just let some of my real Amanda Love Vibes shine through. Though having a teenager of my own certainly gave me an interesting new perspective – character behaviour that might have made me go “what an annoying brat” in the past, I recognize and understand a little better now.
Tiffany Grant (Asuka Langley Shikinami)
There were some pretty wild revelations about Asuka in this most recent film. Were you surprised reading the script? What were your thoughts on the reveals?
There certainly were! But as with nearly all anime projects, we do not get the scripts in advance or even read the whole script while we’re in the recording studio. We only see the bits that our character is in just before we record them. So the surprises happen in real-time! Plus, we never see any shots of our characters where there’s no dialogue, which means we really have to wait to watch the finished film to see ALL the surprises!
One of the biggest reveals is what’s under that eyepatch! Now THAT was something I was totally unprepared for, and involved visuals that were certainly NOT written in the script.
More than perhaps any other cast member, you’ve always lent into your character, wearing Asuka-themed apparel and cosplay at conventions. We’ve heard you even have an impressive figurine collection! Aside from sharing the German language, what makes you connect so much with Asuka?
I do in fact have a large collection of Asuka merchandise, figures, apparel and much more (I’m actually wearing an Asuka t-shirt as I type this)! I love Asuka’s confidence and her assertiveness. I’m a pretty assertive person myself, and I aspire to her level of confidence.
I have a great deal of empathy for Asuka’s struggles and ordeals. I know her aggressive personality can rub some people the wrong way, but it’s just how Asuka tries to protect herself: The Hedgehog’s Dilemma.
3.0+1.01 is purportedly a celebration of Evangelion finally coming to a close. Are you as satisfied as Hideaki Anno to see the series ending, or would you like to go another round in the robot?
I’d be interested in exploring the 14-year gap in-between the second and third [Rebuild] films. I want to know what Asuka was dealing with during that time period.
Spike Spencer (Shinji Ikari)
One of the last times you visited, you shared that you never watch anything you’re in. Surely you’ve snuck a peek at this latest movie, though, given its incredible reception?
Nope. I do love the ending though!
You’ve been on our side of the world for a while now. How did that impact recording?
I had a great sound guy with a home studio in Pimpama to work with. Most VO these days is done remotely, so I could have just as well been back in Burbank.
Shinji has historically been a strenuous role, given all the yelling and not running away; however, Thrice Upon A Time finds him to be much quieter for the majority of the film – was this a relief on your vocal cords?
Well, we actually re-recorded all three of the [previous] Rebuild films after we did four. So it was a nice warm-up before getting set on fire, yet again…
Your character embarks on much the same hero’s journey as he has previously but yields an entirely different outcome. What are your thoughts on his burgeoning maturity and, ultimately, where he ended up?
No spoilers, let’s just say I am very happy with the way it turned out. As you know, I am a voice actor, and a relationship coach in my real life as well. I have used Shinji’s character to show the Reluctant Hero’s Journey and teach people confidence, self-esteem, empathy, clarity and success for years.
I think the wrap up of Eva shows that no matter how dark things may get, there can always be success on the other side. Never give up!
Favourite ‘Thrice Upon A Time’ Moments
Cliché? Perhaps, but we couldn’t NOT ask these voice acting legends to pick out their favourite moments from the most exciting anime release of the year… and their choices might surprise you! (Once again, spoilers ahead).
Amanda Winn Lee: I absolutely loved all her interactions with Hikari (beautifully portrayed by Kimberly Yates). Watching Rei try to wrap her brain around the basic concepts of human interaction was fascinating. I think her watching Hikari nurse the baby and grabbing her own boobs in confusion was classic.
Tiffany Grant: I really liked the quiet at-home moments with Toji, Hikari, Shinji and Miss Lookalike. I also liked Miss Lookalike’s total innocence and her agricultural experiences with the older ladies of the village. As for my favourite Asuka moment, it would have to be when she has her final confrontation with Eva Unit 13. She was heroic and selfless – what a way to go!
Spike Spencer: Oh, the last scene. I frickin’ cheered in the booth!
LEAD IMAGE: Tiffany Grant, Amanda Winn Lee and Spike Spencer on stage at Supanova 2020 – Gold Coast. Photo by Abby Smith.