The last two episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion stand out to me and many others as they are unconventional and serve their true purpose only: to dwell on Shinji’s character.
Neon Genesis Evangelion never really was about the Evas and the world, it was always about the characters. The whole “plot” is just a catalyst or a medium to express the themes shown in the series well. Well then, let’s just get into it!
What’s happening in these episodes?
I’m pretty sure that anybody who’s reading this knows that these two episodes depict Shinji’s psyche during the events of End of Evangelion.
These two episodes focus mainly on Shinji, as the world’s fate rests on his shoulders and he is losing sight of everything. He does not know who he is, why he’s in the Eva again, why he exists and why others exist. A feeling of complete, haunting uncertainty.
We see Misato, Rei and Asuka talk to him in these eps. Shinji lacks a sexual relationship, a parental relationship and a lover and these three represent them respectively. Shinji also tries to find his own identity, through his eyes and theirs.
We always see them during his breakdown scenes as this shows his desperation and fear of a connection with another person.
Almost nothing is shown about what happens in the world of Neon Genesis Evangelion in these episodes, as the series moves away from the “plot” and only focuses on what it wants to show; Shinji’s psyche.
The director of the series went through a period of severe depression while making the series, which can be seen in Shinji too. I personally love it when authors/writers make characters out of personal feelings, as they are nothing but natural and real when done right and Shinji is a prime example of such characters. Oyasumi Punpun is another prime example of such a series, where the three main characters share a dynamic of sorts with the author.
Right and Wrong:
One of the main reasons for the uncertainty Shinji feels in the last part of the series is his loss of what is right and what is wrong. Ever since Shinji killed Kaworu, he doubts humanity’s existence and his decision of killing Kaworu, as he is the only male he ever had a close bond with and the only person to show him affection even though it is manipulative.
This uncertainty can be seen clearly in the episodes as everything is grey to him. For me, nge is about Shinji trying to understand who he is.
Shinji is a person who is scared of society and failure. Due to the early death of his mother and his issues with his father, he always tries to find ways to get people to be with him and also doesn’t want them to expect something from him as he’s scared of not being able to live up to other’s expectations.
This can be seen clearly in his relationship with Asuka, as he always acts like he cares, just so that Asuka would need him, making him a bit more important. He does this even though he hates her; which was made blatant in the sequel movie End of Evangelion.
Shinji has also made himself believe that he is supposed to do what people tell him to as he as no other choice. This is his way of running away from failure and society as he completely submits himself to the choice of others around him.
Even though he has tried to change this, he returns back into the cycle due to his feeling of guilt that he has let people down and fears that they will leave him.
The Human Instrumentality Project:
In the Human Instrumentality Project, everything and everybody become one; so that the “void” which exists in our hearts at all times can be filled. The void according to the series refers to those insecurities and fears we always run form and the part of us we fail to understand.
This gives the psyches of Misato, Rei and Asuka more time and deconstructs them completely.
Misato comes to terms with her “good girl” facade, her parental issues and how they shaped her. Her father’s abandonment has caused some major issues in her life, as he started to think that she shouldn’t be deeply connected with a man and needs to be a good girl so that her father doesn’t hate her. This stems further as it becomes one of the main reasons for the falloff between her and Kaji; whom she started to believe to be similar to her father.
The series also took a few jabs at patriarchy as we saw Misato stating that all men are similar as they only focus on work and don’t care about their wives and family etc.
Asuka has to face her separation anxiety and fear of death which is soul-crushing to watch. Asuka is quite similar to Shinji and isn’t at the same time. Watching her mother strangle the doll she called “Asuka” created a fear too deep in her mind. After being outshined by Shinji multiple times, her fragile pride was shattered; which was one of her only means to survive.
Rei goes through her dilemma of understanding who and what she is; the question which keeps her mind in battle constantly: Is she human? Rei has always been displayed to be similar to a robot and to be Gendo’s puppet, her creator. As time passes, Rei’s constant want of despair starts to fade away as she comes closer to it, knowing that Gendo will abandon her, she feels fear. The feeling of uncertainty is a common depiction in the series and Gendo Ikari almost always plays a role in it; talk about being manipulative.
Here, Shinji also goes on a wild ride as he sees who he believes he is, who others perceive him to be and who he really is.
After this, we see Shinji take many forms and become one and only; no one else exists. While this takes away his fears, his burdens and worries, he is completely alone. Being the only being makes Shinji question his identity, as there is no one with whom he can compare himself and perceive who or how he is.
Shinji doesn’t like this either as he has nothing but empty space now which makes him feel insignificant and hence creates land, to feel grounded and of significance.
After a few more conversations with the trio, Shinji comes to the conclusion that his current self exists because other people exist. This is shown through him taking many other forms of organisms and then a more detailed picture of Shinji.
The alternate reality takes us to a cliche harem rom-com world, starring Shinji as the protagonist, Asuka as the childhood friend and Rei as the transfer student.
This clearly did not fit in well with Shinji, hence “deleting it”.
(ps. There’s a spin-off manga about this called Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days. Thank me later.)
After his realization, Shinji overcomes his fears and insecurities; knowing that he has the power to look at people and himself in a different light.
Shinji’s battle with seeking validation has always been an interesting point, as it is portrayed with care and thought, making it resonate deeply with the audience. As explained to him in the show before, something good can happen even on a rainy day.
Then, everyone congratulates him in the arguably the weirdest yet one of the most satisfying anime scenes of all time.
First of all, I’d like to congratulate you for reading through all of this (yes, I made that joke).
In my opinion, this ending can be considered a masterpiece. I personally don’t consider it to be a masterpiece but an exceptional approach towards the finale of a series. This series and the ending are medium defining and always will be. The End of Evangelion might have been made due to the director’s dissatisfaction with the ending, as the movie does serve as a more conclusive ending for the characters and the plot.
Even if it doesn’t appeal to you, it’s significance and beauty can still be appreciated. Neon Genesis Evangelion has brought a new light and perspective in my life and I hope that it did/does to you as well.
After going through the final episodes with me in detail, what do you think of it? Do you like the ending a little more? Did I highlight some points you might have missed? Do you think it is a masterpiece? Let me know in the comments! (You know that you can watch Neon Genesis Evangelion on Netflix, right?)