Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.


The end of the world by way of environmental destruction. The instability of the very ground we walk on. The end is near, it’s too late.

The end of the world by way of human-made violence. Bullets, blades, bombs, or any other bodily harm. The unreliability of our corporeal form. Shit happens, just the wrong place at the wrong time.

The end of the world by way of spiritual dissolution. I’m not good enough. I’m worthless. I don’t deserve to live. I don’t want to live. But I don’t want to die.

Nobody wants me, so they can all just die.
Then what is your hand for?

Nobody cares whether I live or die. Nothing will change... so they can all just die…
Then what is your heart for?

The precursor to Twin Peaks: The Return, but notable because it was made prior to the current manifestation of ennui in the world, the former is a response. Self-loathing is the original apocalyptic mindset, but now the planet is literally dying and the democratically elected bomb what’s left so the concern has become noticeably more tactile. Granted, all of this was happening anyway, but it’s only recently that the ennui has truly set in (or so it looks to me). End of Evangelion presents the human mind's fear of all this phenomena as the catalyst for apocalypse, rather than the phenomena itself. Maybe that’s why the series resonates with my mind so easily, I also resort to Shinji’s end-of-days thinking when confronted with all the bad things in the world. I have a preoccupation with “endings”, so to speak; be it entropy, death, global warming, or whatever else. These sorts of things tend to worm their way into my brain at the worst times.

That’s why it’s so hard not to relate to Shinji, all he wants is to curl up into a ball and wait out the end. “I want to die.” He doesn’t really want to die, but to keep saying the words gives him the false illusion of having finally made a decision, when really it’s just a brief, cathartic respite. This would be opposed to Asuka, who recovers from the “Shinji path”. “I don’t want to die” becomes “I’ll kill you”, but something is different this time. Asuka is no longer angry because she hates herself, she’s angry because she’s finally ready to live. Even Misato and Gendo, while never fully self-actualized, manage to confront themselves before the end.

The characters of Evangelion form an intricate spider’s web with Shinji at the center. As everybody moves closer to self-acceptance so does Shinji. Nobody can mentally progress without the others doing so in unison. He only reaches the point in which he can embrace life once everybody he knows has completed their own spiritual journeys, Eva Unit-01 couldn’t even wake up until Asuka was already dead. Once all of this occurs Shinji is free to reject Instrumentality knowing full well the pain he will continue to endure, but he chooses this because he knows happiness cannot exist without pain. He saw no comfort in Instrumentality, he wants to be himself and he wants others to be themselves. He frequently claims that he hates connection with other people but really he fears making that first step towards understanding. Other people are scary but what is a life without those connections?

I feel guilty haphazardly trying to explain away what I think the images of the film mean. I don’t have a plan or a thesis, I’m just trying to navigate how End of Evangelion moves me. To me the series is more of a feeling which should wash over you and, even if only for a moment, free you of your isolation and pain. I know I see myself in Shinji, Asuka, and Misato all at once (and maybe fear Gendo as my future). For better or for worse Evangelion feels like a mirror and I know so many others watch it feeling the same way, which is a testament to the power of Anno’s images. If the suffering conveyed in the first half is some of the worst I’ve felt (I couldn’t stop crying for much of it), then the ending is an unparalleled freedom (the tears continued, but for different reasons).

If Ikari Shinji can choose life in the face of apocalypse, why can’t we?

I’m stopping now because I think if I continued I’d get way too personal and also I'm not qualified enough to articulate what's going in this lol. End of Evangelion is one of the most liberating films I’ve seen, it’s a film that makes me want to live even when I try to convince myself I don't. I suppose knowing that is all that matters.

I wish that I could turn back time
cause now the guilt is all mine
can't live without
the trust from those you love
I know we can't forget the past
you can't forget love & pride
because of that, it's killing me inside
It all returns to nothing, it all comes tumbling down, tumbling down, tumbling down

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