around this time last year, i was writing about the series “goodnight punpun”- a manga a close friend recommended to me that changed my life (and also ruined it.) well, apparently this friend can’t help sending me into episodes, because over the summer they convinced me to finally watch neon genesis evangelion. everything was fine. i was enjoying the show, for a while. i really enjoyed the graphics and i was very happy there wasn’t too many episodes, as it’s really hard for me to commit to a long-running show. everything was great, then i got to the final two episodes. i don’t think i’ve ever had such a strong emotional reaction to something like i did to the ending of neon genesis. i was hyperventilating, sobbing my ass off, on the floor WRITHING. my eyes were bloodshot. the ending of the show touched me in such a life-changing way (no, like, literally- my philosophy on life changed after i watched this show). so it’s no surprise that when i saw people absolutely hated the way the show ended, i had some thoughts. well, here are those thoughts. enjoy.
a quick explanation of the plot for context
so, the plot of evangelion can be hard to understand. i caught on pretty quickly, but i was also actually watching the show, not just reading a blog online. i’m going to try my best and explain the premise of the first part of the show. so, the show starts in 2015- 15 years after the “second impact.” the second impact was a global disaster that led to the death of half of the earth’s population. it was believed that the second impact was the result of a meteorite landing that changed the earth’s axis, but this was later proved to be false. the actual cause of the second impact was contact and experimentation with what would later be the first of the angels, adam. the angels are beings that are destroyed over the course of the series- they are adam’s offspring. these experiments were done by two organizations: SEELE and Gehirn. in 2010, Gehrin changed into a paramilitary organization called NERV. it is located in tokyo-3, which is a militarized civilian city. NERV’s mission is to destroy all angels predicted by SEELE, but the higher ups of NERV have a different mission. commander gendo ikari- the main character’s father- is the head of the human instrumentality project. the human instrumentality project is an effort to unite all human minds into one entity, effectively ending all human problems and loneliness. associated with NERV is the Marduk Institute. the Marduk Institute has the responsibility of finding pilots for their giant mecha machines: the evas. the most capable of piloting the evas are children born after the second impact: 14 year olds. the evas are used to destroy all angels.
a quick retelling of the story for well… for context
okay yeah i know: lots of lore, but it’s essential. so basically the story of neon genesis evangelion follows 14 year old shinji ikari who is summoned to tokyo-3 by his father, gendo ikari. the year is 2015, and tokyo-3 is being attacked by the third angel. shinji doesn’t know much about his father– just that he works for something very important. shinji later finds out that he’s been summoned by his father to pilot the eva unit 01. he reluctantly agrees and lives with captain misato katsuragi in tokyo-3. shinji and fellow pilot rei ayanami defeat the third angel and are the two main pilots until they are later joined by asuka soryu, the eva unit 02 pilot. later in the show, there is a fourth pilot, but these three are the main characters. for the majority of the series, these three (and then four) go off to defeat each angel, getting increasingly more injured as the days go on. while this is happening, the true intentions of NERV become more apparent. also happening includes the deterioration of each character’s psyche, self esteem, physical body, etc. relationships grow tense and fall apart. visuals and story go haywire and almost unexplainable, and it all leads up to the final two episodes. those last two episodes are pure peak film, and i believe they end the series perfectly, despite popular opinion.
the end: instrumentality is completed
shinji kills the final angel and the instrumentality project is set into motion by his father. SEELE wants instrumentality to happen because of the spiritual belief that life is not fit to live in its current state; ikari wants instrumentality to happen to carry out the plans of his late wife– shinji’s mother. gendo has a desire to see her again and allow humanity a better future whereas SEELE desires a permanent reset. as the instrumentality project is set into motion, the show begins to look wildly different. each main character in the series begins to confront themselves in what can be described as an animated schizophrenic manner. shinji travels deep inside of himself and confronts the parts of him that he ignored throughout the show. he faces the reality of becoming his father, and he faces the comforting thought of being able to change his reality by accepting himself and redefining his worth. instrumentality is working, and dark is explored before light is found. as shinji slips deeper and deeper into his own mind, he realizes that his self worth has not only altered himself, but his friends and partners. visually, everything is stripped from us except for the image of shinji (and other characters and they too are depicted going through instrumentality). he begins to imagine him and his friends as normal teenagers in high school, and he begins to realize that this is only an alternate reality: an impossible possibility. shinji finds self-freedom, and he is able to realize his own self worth. there are two main endings to this series (i have not seen the others), and this one can only be described as the most hopeful and positive ending possible. shinji has a breakthrough and realizes his worth; everything is brought back and shinji stands surrounded by characters in the show. he has changed his path and is congratulated by all characters in the show. here is the final moment in a transcript.
Shinji: The real world might not always be bad. But, I hate myself. Makoto: It's your mind that conceives that the reality is bad and hateful. Shigeru: The mind which confuses Reality with the Truth. Maya: The angle of view, the position. If these are slightly different, what is inside your mind will change a lot. Ryouji: There are as many truths as there are people. Kensuke: But there's only one truth that you have, which is formed from your narrow view of the world, It is revised information to protect yourself, the twisted truth. Touji: Oh, yes. the view of the world that one can have is quite small. Hikari: Yes, you measure things only by your own small measure. Asuka: One sees things with the truth, given by others. Misato: Happy on a sunny day. Rei: Gloomy on a rainy day. Asuka: If you're taught that, you always think so. Ritsuko: But, you can enjoy rainy days. Fuyutsuki: Through different ways of conceiving, the truth will change into very different things; it's a weak thing. Ryouji: The truth within a person is such a cheap thing that people wish to know deeper truths. Gendou: It's only that you're not used to being liked by people. Misato: So, you don't have to look to others' faces. Shinji: But, don't you hate me? Asuka: You idiot! It's only you who is always trying to believe that. Shinji: Yet, I hate myself. Rei: Those who hate themselves cannot love or trust others. Shinji: I am wicked, cowardly, weak and .. Misato: If you know yourself, you can be kind to others. Shinji: I hate myself. But, I might be able to love myself. I might be allowed to stay here. Yes. I am nothing but I. I am I. I wish to be I. I want to stay here! I can stay here! People: Congratulations! Shinji: Thank you! Thank you, my father. Good bye, my mother. And to the all the children, Congratulations! End
these words completely destroyed me– but in such a great way. i too felt like i found a new worth in myself, and have been carrying that idea ever since. it’s truly like philosophy to me, and the final two episodes of this show completely changed my life and reality. everything about it is perfect.
final thoughts: the end of evangelion ruins every good thing about the ending of neon genesis
so, small fact, a lot of people really didn’t like the ending of neon genesis evangelion. they weren’t happy with the metaphorical and different approach it took– they would have much rather seen the true action-based ending. i am not one of these people, but oh well. in response to the backlash from the ending, hideaki anno basically said oh, you want a different ending? and gave us the disaster (but really great) that is the end of evangelion. to sum it up without explaining every detail, the end of evangelion is the ending in which shinji is not able to grow and expand himself. it is the ending in which instrumentality begins and he is unable to accept growth. everyone is shrouded in a disgusting and appalling light, much like shinji himself. nothing is positive about this ending, and instead of all characters being redeemed, they just get worse. one notable scene from this movie includes shinji choking asuka after she simply tells him the truth about himself. later, in the very final scene of the movie, he chooses to choke asuka once more. they are two washed up beings from the sea of humanity– the only two people– and he chooses to choke her once more. he does not grow. he becomes disgusting.
end: reality is not linear
while i like to tell myself the original ending of neon genesis is canon, i have to remind myself that there are infinite possibilities and endings in the evangelion universe. there are even some more recent movies that i have never seen with COMPLETELY different endings. it’s like a grab bag of endings, and you can pick which one you like the most and attempt to rid your mind of the other endings. hideaki anno described the series as a jigsaw puzzle with no reference photo: everything fits in the end, but every person who completes the puzzle will have a different finished piece. no two completed puzzles will be the same, just like no two perspectives and ideas of evangelion will be the same. there are infinite ways to analyze this series, and the implications are beautiful. it is truly a perfect and devastating series, and while i do love the end of evangelion, nothing compares to the final two episodes of neon genesis evangelion. absolutely nothing.
thank you to my father, goodbye to my mother, and to all the children, congratulations!