Third Impact (サードインパクト) is the event, as predicted by the Dead Sea Scrolls in the possession of Seele, which will usher in a new stage of evolution and existence. Third Impact is a prerequisite for the Human Instrumentality Project.
The event is termed "Third Impact" in reference to "Second Impact," when Adam was awakened by the Katsuragi Expedition funded by Seele. "Second Impact" itself was so termed due to the ruse that it was a meteorite impact.
There are actually several alternate versions of "Third Impact," with different outcomes. Also, some versions can be achieved through several alternate scenarios. Roughly, the potential versions of Third Impact which could occur are:
The Angels' version
In the TV show, the information about the Angels' version of Third Impact comes from Kaji and Kaworu. It is stated by both Kaji and in particular Kaworu that contact with "Adam" (actually the white giant Lilith placed in Terminal Dogma and misidentified as Adam by Kaji) will result in Third Impact and the end of humanity. The classified information contains more details on Angels' intentions: "Some of them were trying to access Lilith and reset all life, some of them had nothing in mind, and some were trying to recover their progenitor Adam," although nothing is said about the Impact here. The section of the CI on Third Impact states: "It is thought that Third Impact will occur if an Angel comes in contact with either Lilith (in Terminal Dogma) or Adam," which means that the possibility of Third Impact from Angels is not known precisely. In the 22nd episode, when it was necessary to send Adam-based Unit-00 into Terminal Dogma, Misato suspected that this information may have been a lie: "It's a lie? Second Impact wasn't caused by contact with an Angel."
Seele wanted to initiate Third Impact to bring about Instrumentality. They would use an Anti A.T. Field to neutralize the A.T. Fields that separate human beings from each other, causing all of humanity to revert into a giant ocean of LCL, freeing their souls. All the souls of Earth would then be collected inside the Adam/Lilith hybrid being and her Egg. This could be achieved through several alternate scenarios involving the Mass Production Evangelions, the Spear of Longinus, Lilith or Evangelion Unit-01 as Lilith's substitute.
Seele's objectives are revisited in the game Neon Genesis Evangelion 2. The Classified Information and the Seele ending of the game discuss a very different form of Instrumentality than that seen in the original series. Rather than forming a sea of LCL, Seele wish to be merged inside an Evangelion unit with its own S² Engine, after destroying the Spear of Longinus. By placing their own souls within the body of a godlike being, and destroying the only weapon that can harm the body, they would effectively create an immortal God with a human soul that would represent the pinnacle of human existence and would live through all of eternity. The game also suggests that Seele intend for Instrumentality to be only for their own council members, though the original show made it clear that their plan was to include all life forms in complementation.
Gendo Ikari's version
Gendo's version of Third Impact involves the use of Rei Ayanami, (a clone of Yui Ikari who serves as a vessel for the soul of Lilith); Lilith herself; the Adam embryo (which he had fused to his hand); and lastly Eva-01 which carried the soul of Yui Ikari. It is assumed that his plan was to reunite with Yui again inside Eva-01. Rei may also have allowed him to end complementation, as she ultimately helps Shinji to do. Gendo's plan apparently does not involve the Mass Production Evangelions. Indeed, Fuyutsuki is surprised by their arrival and Seele's intention to initiate their own version of Third Impact during the attack -- possibly in an effort to beat Gendo to it.
It is not entirely clear what the full scope of Gendo's version of events would entail for the rest of the human race (in all probability, all he cared about was Yui). Judging from Gendo's remark during his conversation with Seele at the beginning of The End of Evangelion that "destruction creates nothing," it is possible that Gendo's version of Third Impact would still have resulted in the Complementation of humanity, but that Eva-01 was to be used to ultimately undo the process.
As Gendo's full plan was ultimately not realized, it can not be determined with certainty exactly what would have happened. It is notable that before being "tanged" Fuyutsuki wonders whether Gendo has met Yui again, suggesting that he believes things are "going according to plan." However, Fuyutsuki also notes that the final decision in Third Impact is now Shinji's to make.
In the Neon Genesis Evangelion 2 game, Gendo's plan culminates with all human souls merging inside Eva-01. Gendo and Shinji are at last reunited with Yui.
Actual Third Impact
Third Impact occurs during the climax of The End of Evangelion. At the beginning of Episode 26', the Mass Produced Evangelions capture Shinji along with Eva-01. With the Spear of Longinus, a ritual is performed that creates an inverted Tree of Sephiroth in the sky, and Eva-01 merges with the Tree of Life. The Mass Production Evas unleash their A.T. Fields, causing a giant explosion around the Geofront. In its wake, Lilith's Black Moon is revealed.
Meanwhile, in Terminal Dogma, Gendo attempts to fuse the Adam embryo in his right hand with Rei. Rei rejects Gendo, taking his hand along with Adam's embryo, and merges with Lilith, thus achieving the "forbidden union of Adam and Lilith."
After assimilating Adam, Lilith begins to merge with Eva-01. During this process, Shinji's states: "Nobody cares whether I exist or not... Nothing will change. So, everybody just die." This wish seems to manifest itself into reality, as Adam/Lilith proceeds to create an Anti A.T. Field which spreads across the globe, reverting all Lilith-based lifeforms into LCL. The liberated souls of humanity are gathered by Lilith and funneled into the Black Moon (her "Egg"). When this process is completed, Instrumentality begins.
This is clearly not what Gendo had intended, but the Seele council seemed fairly content with the outcome (even if it had not happened quite as they had planned). However, Shinji Ikari ultimately rejects Instrumentality, and the Black Moon is destroyed, dissipating the souls back across the Earth and into the oceans. Lilith's body falls apart and descends to Earth, and she apparently dies.
All disembodied individuals are left with the option of recreating their bodies and returning to a life in the physical world, regardless of the pain it would inevitably entail. Shinji, and later Asuka, return to the vicinity of Hakone, but the fate of everyone else is left open.
Rebuild of Evangelion
"Making something... Nurturing something is really great. You can see and learn so many things from the process."
In Eva 1.0, Misato tells Shinji that Third Impact would occur if an Angel came in contact with Lilith in Central Dogma.
Near Third Impact
In Eva 2.0, Evangelion Unit-01 enters an abnormal power state (unconfirmable as a berserk) against the 10th Angel, developing such capabilities as an A.T. Field arm, optical beams, and a halo. Once the enemy is incapacitated, the Eva's halo turns into a dark vortex and the Eva begins to levitate and develop wings. Shinji dives into the Angel's core through the Eva's palms and retrieves the core of Eva-00, containing the soul of Rei Ayanami. The 10th Angel explodes into red fluid, which coalesces around Eva-00's core into the form of a giant red Rei who then fuses into Eva-01 and becomes a second core.
The vortex expands over Tokyo-3, decimating it and recreating the cross-shaped incision in the earth and "black hole" present at Second Impact. Eva-01 now appears as a being of flaming energy, with a dark "Angel face" and a third eye recalling one of the Adams. Ritsuko identifies the scene as Third Impact, which would transform Eva-01 into an energy condenser that would "spin all of heaven and earth into its giant swell" and annihilate all life on Earth in order to give rise to something new. Misato recognizes the giant wings' similarity to those of the Adams.
The event is stopped by a Spear of Longinus-like weapon wielded by Kaworu Nagisa in Eva-06, and subsequently dubbed Near Third Impact.
There is little explanation as to the nature of the event or how it came about in such a fashion, but it is implied that had Kaworu not stopped it from proceeding, Third Impact would have wiped out all life on Earth and elevated Eva-01 to godlike status. Also, according to Gendo and Fuyutsuki, Eva-01 was awakened as a result of Shinji and Rei's interactions.
Third Impact in New Theatrical Version
- Instrumentality is a reference to Instrumentality of Mankind, from Cordwainer Smith's sci-fi novels. Although the English term is the intended reference, it is translated in Japanese as 補完 (Hokan). "Ho" translates literally to "supplement, supply, make good, offset, compensate, assistant, learner" and "kan" to "perfect, completion, end". translate literally to "complete" or "completion", in this context, complementing the separate, individual egos of humankind with others to create a superior being. In the absence of the clear reference to "Instrumentality", early fan translations and the ADV dub of Episode 02 translated it as "Complementation".
- Episode 19
- Kaworu, in Episode 24, also mentions that "Because it's my destiny to continue to live even if it may result in the destruction of humanity," implying that his goal to reunite with Adam would cause the end of humanity