The End of Evangelion (1997)

Okay, so back when…

No wait, y’know what, we need to go back in time if I’m going to tell this story right.

Victorian era - Wikipedia

Further than that.

Packing Food for the Hereafter in Ancient Egypt

Further…

Climate Change Killed The Dinosaurs. 'Drastic Global Winter' After Asteroid Strike, Say Scientists

Little more…

Hadean - Wikipedia

Perfect. Okay so.

It’s my third year in college and I’ve started going out with this dynamite gal who will, unbeknownst to her, one day be known as “Spouse of Mouse” to a bunch of randos on the internet. Now we’re at that awkward early stage of the relationship where we’re starting to realise that we can’t just keep kissing constantly and we should probably figure out if we have any actual…y’know…common interests.

So I pull my calloused lips off her and says to her, I says “what are you into?”

And she says “Oh…y’know. Comics. Movies. Animé. That kinda stuff.”

Now, believe it or not, but at this early point in the Earth’s history where the molten surface was still hardening, I had not yet seen that much animé. I mean, Pokémon and Speed Racer, sure, but none of the really big name shows or movies. So I go into a video rental shop, avoiding debris from the recently formed Moon that rained down on the hellish surface of the Earth like so much fiery marble, and I go into the animé section and I see a DVD for a movie called Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death & Rebirth. I had heard the name before, but I knew nothing about it and figured “hey, if it’s so famous that even a total noob like me has heard of it, it must be a great entry point to this exciting world of animé! This will be a great way to bond with my new girlfriend who I hope to one day marry and make a supporting character in a weirdly detailed animation review blog/ongoing comedy series!”

So we sit down to watch this movie together, and around ten minutes in she turns around, takes my arm in a vicelike grip and stares straight into my eyes with a gimlet gaze.

“I’m sorry” she said. “I don’t like animé. I just wanted you to think I was cool. Can we please watch something else?!

And we turned off the movie and watched Family Guy instead. Because, Christ help us, we were young and in love and knew no better.

So that was my first introduction to Evangelion and honestly, I could scarcely have picked a worse one. I know now that Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death & Rebirth is one half clip show with the first 26 episodes of the TV series edited into a single 70 minute cut almost perfect in its incomprehensibility for a newcomer, and the other half the first twenty minutes of what would become The End of Evangelion that was due to be released several months later.

And they did this because…because…

Honestly, maybe spite? Like, just another thing to fuck with people trying to make sense of what often seems like a deliberately opaque franchise? Pity anybody trying to make sense of Evangelion, and that’s before they even have to tackle the plot.

There’s the original 26 episode animé series which ended with a finalé so despised that Gainax received death threats.

There’s Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death & Rebirth which is basically the world’s most inscrutable “previously on Buffy” and which also has two alternate versions: Evangelion: Death(True) and Evangelion: Death(True)2 (and Tigger too!)

And then you have The End of Evangelion, which I will be tackling in this very post, which aims to be the true ending of the TV series.

Then there’s the Rebuild series, an entirely new ongoing four movie cycle re-telling the events of the original show and The End of Evangelion which aims to give ANOTHER ending to this rigmarole (sure, why not?).

Oh and there’s the manga (different continuity), the ANIMA light novel series (ditto) the PS2 game, the parody series, the audio dramas, the commemorative plates and on and on it goes. This thing is a beast.

But okay, here goes, I will now attempt to describe what the hell Neon Genesis Evangelion actually is.

Despair GIF - Find on GIFER

Alright, so the original TV series is not that hard to get a handle on. Basically, it’s like Power Rangers with the following changes:

  1. There are three teenagers not five.
  2. Instead of Zordon, there’s a super shadowy organisation called NERV that recruits these teenagers to defend their city of Tokyo 3 from giant alien monsters.
  3. Instead of being possessed pumpkins and pachinko machines, the alien monsters in this series are terrifying eldritch abominations known as Angels.
  4. The Zords are not robots, but bio-mechanical cyborgs known as EVAs.
  5. If you ever thought to yourself “Hey, wait a minute, doesn’t using teenagers as soldiers in his cosmic war kinda make Zordon a war criminal? And wouldn’t those teenagers be MONSTROUSLY traumatised by having to engage in lethal combat on a constant basis?” then Neon Genesis Evangelion is here to tell you “YA DOY!”.

So our…”hero” with the biggest quotation marks money can buy is Shinji Ikari, a teenaged boy who was abandoned by his father Gendo when he was a toddler.

J and J Productions: Neon Genesis Evangelion Review

From left to right: Shinji, Asuka, Rei and Kaworu with EVAS 1, 0 and 2 in the background.

When an angel attacks Tokyo 3, Shinji is taken to NERV which his father is running and told that he has to pilot an EVA to save the city. Terrified, but desperate to win his father’s approval, Shinji does and manages to defeat the monster. There are two other children who can pilot EVAs: Asuka Langley, a fiery-tempered German girl who treats Shinji to a near constant barrage of abuse to mask her own massive feelings of inadequacy, and Rei Ayanami a quiet, almost non-verbal girl who was the first child to be recruited as a pilot and who Gendo treats like a beloved child (thereby showing Shinji that his father is capable of paternal affection, he just doesn’t want to waste it on his only son). And they fight monsters in giant mechs.

And yeah, that’s pretty much it. I mean, there’s a load of really obscure lore and conspiracy stuff going on in the background but the meat of the series is watching these three incredibly damaged teenagers being manipulated by the adults around them into risking their bodies and sanity for the survival of mankind over and over again. Shinji in particular. Asuka actually seems to enjoy being a pilot even if it is directly tied to her own sense of self worth. Rei just does it with calm, emotionless passivity. But Shinji hates it. He’s terrified every time he gets in the cockpit. But, because it’s the only time he feels useful and validated by the people around him, he keeps doing it.

Then, Kaworu arrives.  Kaworu is the Fourth Child and forms a close and instant bond with Shinji. For the first time, Shinji has someone in his life who actually seems to care for him and like him just for him. Not for any ulterior motive. And then…it turns out that the 17th and final Angel who is supposed to bring about the end of the world; is Kaworu.

Shinji kills Kaworu [full scene] - YouTube

So Shinji Ikari. The boy who was abandoned by his father. Who is so desperate for the affection and approval of others that he will get inside one monster to battle other monsters.

That Shinji.

He now has to save the world by killing the only person who ever really loved him unconditionally.

That brings our synopses up to the penultimate episode of the TV series. And here’s where shit gets a little weird.

Episodes 25 and 26 of Neon Genesis Evangelion take place entirely inside Shinji’s head as he processes the enormity of what he’s done. These two episodes are surreal, and make heavy use of abstract images, photographs and even simple illustrations in place of fluid animation as well as heavy and repeated use of monologue. The original series ends with Shinji making a breakthrough: he needs to learn to value himself seperate from how other people see him.

And the audience, seeing their cool mech battle show wrapping up with David Lynch’s Masterpiece Fucking Theatre or Some Shit reacted with a collective…

Viewers in Japan were left perplexed, baffled and infuriated. In other words, they got a taste of what animé feels for everyone else in the world all the time.

“Ha! How do YOU like it, Japan?!”

Okay, all joking aside, what happened here?

Well the production of the latter part of NGE, and particularly these last few episodes, was by all accounts a bit of a shit show. Deadlines were running super tight, creator Hideaki Anno was grappling with a major mental health crisis, scripts were being re-written on the fly, the budget consisted of whatever could be shaken out of the sofa cushions, altogether not a fun time.

And episodes 25 and 26 do often feel like somebody found a way to render a complete mental breakdown in animation (well, “animation”). Now at the time, reaction to these episodes was so virulent that Gainax, the studio, were receiving death threats and the edifice of their studio was vandalised. Since then, while these two episodes are still viewed rather negatively there is a healthy cohort of fans who will tell you that 25 and 26 are GENIUS actually and you just don’t get it PEARLS BEFORE SWINE I SAY.

What do I think? Well, I like the idea of dramatising Shinji’s emotional journey as the climax of the series. I like the ending a lot. In concept I think it’s really good. But…I think Anno flubbed the execution.

And no, I don’t mean the ropey animation. I actually think that’s a great example of artists turning weaknesses into strengths and using the limitations they were working under to produce something visually striking. But there is soooooo much of these episodes that is just characters telling Shinji in dull monotones why he’s feeling the way he is and what he needs to do. And these aren’t good monologues either. They manage that awful trick of being simultaneously obvious and needlessly opaque. And, sorry, this is not good storytelling. I’m not a Show Don’t Tell zealot, but this is exactly why that rule exists. Shinji is literally talked all the way to the resolution.

It’s not a failure of concept, but it is a failure of execution. And there is a colossal sense of anti-climax at the end of this series. An almost visceral gut punch of “was that it?”.

And reaction to this ending was so universally negative that, in 1997 Gainax released The End of Evangelion, a feature length movie that was meant to be the true, uncompromised ending that the creators had always intended.

What it actually is…well, there’s significant debate over that.

Okay, before we go any further, despite all my snark up until now I actually really like NGE as a whole. Yes, it’s inscrutable and sometimes insufferably pretentious but it’s got an atmosphere all it’s own and I love it far more than I am irritated by it. And if you are down for some beautiful, surreal, shockingly violent, head-scratching, beard-stroking animé you honestly could not do much better than The End of Evangelion. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I find all of the theorising and conjecture surrounding the film to be so, so much more entertaining and fascinating than the actual film itself. Let’s take a look.

The movie begins with its most infamous scene.

So at this point in the story Rei is dead, Shinji has just killed Kaworu and Asuka is lying comatose in hospital having been beaten in battle against an angel. Traumatised by his own actions, Shinji visits Asuka in hospital and begs her to wake up and yell at him like she always used to do. He shakes her, which causes her hospital gown to open, exposing her breasts. And then Shinji…um. Well, a picture speaks a thousand words.

I did not say they were pleasant words.

You will probably not be surprised to learn that, for the purposes of this review, I have created a folder of gifs simply titled “WTF”. Let’s crack that open.

Now, it’s been persuasively argued elsewhere that this movie more generally and this scene in particular is Hideaki Anno’s rather blunt response to his own fanbase in the aftermath of the vitriolic reaction to the original series finalé. Here is Shinji Ikari, the audience surrogate character, being an absolute (and literal) wanker. And when you put it like that it almost seems too obvious. I’m not at all sure that this interpretation is wrong, but honestly I’m not sure that it’s right either. It could just as easily be that Shinji Ikari, the character, finally beaten down by a lifetime of trauma and neglect, has been reduced to this absolute moral and spiritual nadir and that there is no meta-textual commentary intended. Like much of this film, it’s entirely open to interpretation and I think it’s quite possible that no one knows the true answer, least of all Anno himself, who was, rather notoriously, making a lot of this stuff up as he went along.

Okay, so now that the 17th and final Angel is just so much strawberry jam between the finger cracks of EVA 01, the team at NERV are sitting around and wondering what they’re supposed to do now that the apocalypse has been averted. The scientists figure that NERV will be mothballed and they’ll have to find new jobs that will best suit their skills of giant robot repair and experience with massive holographic displays the size of Denmark. Oh shit, I haven’t mentioned Misato yet. Okay. Major Misato Katsuragi.

misato

So she’s Gendo’s second in command overseeing NERV as well as acting as Shinji’s guardian. She’s also a hot, badass, drunken mess and I love her. Misato has gone rogue and started investigating the Human Instrumentality Project which is…y’know what, I’m just going to take a screenshot of the Evangelion Wiki’s super easy to understand explanation.

Screenshot 2021-03-24 at 21.38.28

See, I was confused until they mentioned the Chamber of Guf and then it all made sense.

Alright, as far as I understand it (and that may not be very far) the Human Instrumentality Project is an attempt to unify the entire human race in a single consciousness, thereby eliminating hatred, loneliness and misunderstanding between all human beings. You know, like what happened when we created the internet.

The Project was SUPPOSED to begin when Kaworu merged with Lilith, the giant crucified alien that NERV keeps in its basement.

Lilith - EvaWiki - An Evangelion Wiki - EvaGeeks.org

what the fuck freeman

Just roll with it.

When Kaworu failed as a result of being given the firmest handshake in history, SEELE decided that they needed to get shit done themselves. So they put in a call to the Japanese military and order them to kill everyone in NERV and take all their stuff, including the EVAS, their three super computers called the Magi and the big creepy alien in their basement. They will then trigger the Human Instrumentality Project and kick humanity into one big cuddle pile.

Misato is not cool with this because she believes in free will and all that shit and organises the defence of NERV when the Japanese troops arrive. And honestly, this whole sequence of the movie kicks so much ass. Even if you’re not entirely sure what’s going on it’s a tightly paced, brutal little war movie nestled in the middle of this thing like a swallowed hand grenade. Misato reasons that the invaders will be after the three children to kill them before they can activate their EVAs so she orders Asuka’s comatose body to be placed in EVA 02 and moved to the bottom of the lake while she goes to save Shinji. The team can’t find Rei, however, and Misato orders them to locate her ASAP.

Nit

“Waaaait a minute, you said Rei was dead!”

 

[Comm] Unshavedmouse alt

“I DID say that.”

BUT Rei is actually one of a seemingly endless number of clones that can be replaced at will. Oh and she is ALSO a clone of Gendo’s wife and Shinji’s mother Yui which of course you know because that particular bit of vital background information was disclosed in a pamphlet sold to Japanese cinema goers who saw The End of Evangelion in its original release almost a quarter of a century ago. It’s not my fault if you don’t put the legwork in guys, I’m not here to hold your hand.

Anyway, Shinji is by this point in a near catatonic depression and doesn’t even react when some soldiers show up to ice him. At the last minute Misato arrives and takes out three heavily armed assault troops with a fucking handgun because she is that much of a stone cold badass. Misato tells Shinji that he needs to get to EVA 01 and go Godzilla on these fools but he’s so far gone she has to literally drag him every step of the way.

Screenshot 2021-03-27 at 22.13.19

“C’mon Shinji! We need to…why are your hands sticky?”

As they drive to the bay where EVA 01 is kept Misato gives Shinji some of that good, old-timey exposition. SEELE are trying to take control of the EVAs so they can trigger the Third Impact, y’see. But it turns out that the Angels were actually just…alternate forms of humanity. Like, they were what humanity could potentially have evolved into.

symbolism-in-evangelion-2-gnosticism

Well, Darwin. I imagine you’re feeling QUITE the fool.

For you see, humanity was the 18th Angel all along! Or something.

what-the-fuck-gif-2015_1

Meanwhile, Asuka awakes from her coma inside EVA 02 at the bottom of the lake. At first she’s terrified but she hears a voice in her head and realises that the EVA is speaking to her and that it actually contains the soul of her mother who committed suicide in front of her when she was a child. This trauma, incidentally, is the reason why Asuka is driven to excel at everything she does, because she’s trying to prove herself to the mother who she feels abandoned her for not being good enough and JESUS CHRIST CAN SOMEBODY JUST GIVE ONE OF THESE KIDS A HUG?

Anyway, we now get an astonishingly awesome fight scene where Asuka, now empowered with the knowledge that her mother was watching over her and protecting her the whole time, just wrecks shop on the entire Japanese military. It’s just…I struggle to describe how astonishingly satisfying this scene is to watch. It works so sublimely because, as well as being just a phenomenally visceral and kinetic sequence of giant robot action, it’s also hugely emotionally satisfying. This little girl finally knows that her mother really loved her and that makes her an invincible goddess of DEATH.

BEAUTIFUL

In response, SEELE launches a squad of nine mass-produced EVAS who have some of the most beautifully creepy monster designs I can recall seeing.

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“Why so serious?”

Via radio, Misato tells Asuka that she will have to destroy all nine knock-off EVAs despite being low on power and Asuka’s all “what, like it’s hard?” and leaps into battle.

While literally dragging Shinji to EVA 01, Misato gets shot but tells Shinji that the wound is minor. She pushes Shinji into an elevator and tells him that he will have to finish the journey on his own. Shinji, filled with self-loathing and grief over what he’s done to both Kaworu and Asuka, tells her he can’t do it. Misato tells him that he hurts other people because he’s filled with self-loathing and hurting other people actually hurts him more than it hurts them which is actually a pretty dickish thing to say to a kid who killed his boyfriend to save every human being on Earth. But she gives him some good advice, saying that his decisions matter and have consequences, and that she knows from experience that its possible to break out of the cycle of self-loathing. And then she kisses the horribly traumatised 15 year old boy.

Screenshot 2021-03-28 at 22.42.18

The English dub is even worse, she actually says “we’ll do the other stuff when you get back”.

wtf

Shinji’s erection then goes off to battle, closely followed by Shinji. And Misato succumbs to her wounds, which were much worse than she let Shinji know, and keels over dead in the corridor. Ohhhhhh…okay. So, she wasn’t actually going to rape Shinji, she was just using the promise of sex to manipulate him into risking his life in brutal combat against eldritch horrors one last time.

Well, that’s alright then, carry on.

Meanwhile, Asuko is fighting a losing battle against the mass produced EVAs and angrily screaming that she could never rely on that “idiot Shinji”. All of which Shinji can overhear over the base radio because of course he can.

While that’s going on, Gendo and Rei stand before Lilith. See, Gendo is planning on using Rei to trigger the Third Impact so that he can be reunited with his wife Yui who he has already cloned multiple times and whose soul is powering EVA Unit 01 and (I think?) EVA Unit 00 so like, dude, how much dead wife do you need? Another thing I don’t get? SEELE and Gendo both want to trigger the Third Impact so what are they even fighting about? If they both want the same thing, what’s with the frickin’ military intervention? Maybe why you want to trigger the apocalypse is the important thing?

here for the right reasons

Anyway, he’s held at gunpoint by Ritsuko Akagi who is one of the scientists who oversaw the EVA project. Ritsuko tries to trigger the base’s self-destruct in order to stop him. But it fails because one of the base’s supercomputers, Caspar, is actually the consciousness of Ritsuko’s mother who was also Gendo’s lover. Ritsuko is distraught, saying to her mother “you chose your lover over your own daughter?”

magi

“Bitch, maybe I just don’t want to blow up? You ever consider that?”

Then, in a scene that has driven the fans mad with speculation for years, Gendo points his gun at her and they have an exchange where his dialogue is muted so that we only see her reaction. I really like this, because you can imagine he’s saying whatever makes the scene most meaningful for you.

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“…think Kingdom Hearts had a great story.”

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And Gendo shoots her, despite the fact that Kingdom Hearts is a glob of sputum spat in the eye of narrative herself.

You know, it doesn’t surprise me at all that NGE has such a rabid cult following. The show and movies seem tailor made to be treated like religious texts. They’re full of battles and great deeds and stunning imagery, but also maddeningly vague, esoteric and laden with symbolism that can interpreted 101 different ways. If, 1000 years from now, there’s a major religion based around this show I would not be surprised in the slightest.

On the surface, Asuka puts up a valiant effort but is overpowered by the mass-produced EVAs who tear 02 apart like seagulls eating a ham sandwich. 

Shinji hears the whole thing but can’t do anything because Unit 01 is encased in bakelite and he can’t get into it. But suddenly, 01 activates on its own and busts free.

On the surface, the Japanese soldiers watch in horror as Unit 01 strides towards them like something out of Revelations.

Screenshot 2021-04-01 at 20.02.59

And then Shinji sees the remains of EVA Unit 02 and what the seagull-EVAs did to Asuka.

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Oh F*** GIF - OhFuck KevinHart God GIFs

And Shinji. Loses. His. Frickin. Shit.

He melts down so hard he temporarily ends the movie. Seriously, the credits start rolling in the middle of the film. Really weird orange, screensaver font too. I mean, obviously it’s brilliant. To put a movie’s credits in the middle of the movie is plainly a darkly satirical meta-commentary on…

anno

“Nah. Editor was drunk off his ass.”

[Comm] Unshavedmouse alt

“Yeah, that was my second guess.”

Okay everyone, kindergarten is over. Now the movie gets a little weird.

In fact, what follows is something that Wikipedia simply describes as “several dreamlike contemplations” because they are quitters. Here is how it goes down, listen close, I am NOT going to repeat any of this.

EVA 01 gets crucified in the sky by the mass-produced EVAs which triggers a massive explosion that reveals a black moon buried in the surface of the Earth that is apparently Lilith’s Egg, the source of all human life.

Rei merges with Lilith who turns into a massive Rei who keeps growing until she towers over the very clouds and sees Shinji who is still in EVA 01 which (as previously mentioned) has been crucified in the sky.

Screenshot 2021-04-03 at 21.07.31

Man. Who’d want to be reviewing a normal movie? Not me. No sir.

Shinji starts freaking out and screaming like he’s never seen an alabastar white, 10 mile high, glowing red eyed clone of his dead mother standing naked in front of him while he sits trapped in a cyborg miles over the Earth that was crucified by the evil cyborg seagulls that ate the girl whose comatose body he was masturbating over just this very morning. Because he is a little bitch.

But here’s where things get a little weird. The mass-produced EVAs begin to resonate with Rei and turn into clones of her while Shinji watches with an entirely appropriate expression.

Screenshot 2021-04-03 at 21.14.45

Okay, but here’s where it gets a little weird. A giant white Kaworu emerges from the giant Rei’s body and Shinji’s overjoyed to see him. But then the Spear of Longinus, which was an alien artifact left on the moon, flies down and pierces EVA 01, transforming it into a gigantic crucifix covered in eyes.

Screenshot 2021-04-03 at 21.22.47

I’m just going to say it. My religion teacher was asleep at the fucking wheel.

We now move into a surreal sequence of flashbacks and internal monologues that feels a lot like the original final two episodes of the series but with, y’know, an actual budget. And it’s here that the central question of whether or not this movie is just a massive “fuck you” from Anno to the fanboys really comes to the fore. Having watched the movie a few times now, I’m more inclined to think that the answer is “no”. Or rather, that it’s not so much a “fuck you” as an “I love you son, but sit down. We need to have a serious fucking talk.”

Shinji Ikari…

Shinji Ikari is one of the most heart-breakingly real fictional characters you will ever come across. And what I think this movie does so, so well is to walk an incredibly fine line: One the one hand; Shinji is awful. He’s entitled and self-pitying and full of rage and resentment. He needs, he demands love and affection from others but is so clearly mired in self-loathing that others instinctively pull away from him. And he objectifies the women in his life, unable to see them truly as human beings but simply as things can provide him with what he thinks he wants.

Affection, love, sex, respect.   

He is a pretty terrible teenage boy well on the way to becoming a truly terrible man just like his father.

But on the other hand.

Well, he’s not wrong. He does deserve love. Because he’s a child. And all children deserve love. 

Shinji Ikari is a child who has been subjected to truly horrific emotional and physical trauma and abuse. How the hell was he ever supposed to become a good, happy person? When what was that ever an option? It’s a rare movie that can make a protagonist who feels simultaneously abhorrent and deeply, heart-breakingly tragic and even sympathetic. Which is why I shie away from the “fuck you, fanboys” hypothesis. Because it feels that what Anno is doing here is far more thoughtful and sincere. Maybe he is trying to hold up a mirror to those kids who sent death threats to his studio when they didn’t get the ending to they wanted to their show about teenage girls in skin-tight uniforms having mech battles with giant aliens. But maybe he’s also trying to show the rest of us that monsters aren’t born. They’re made.

Shinji hallucinates (dreams? experiences?) an encounter with Asuka in their kitchen where he begs her to love her and she furiously rejects him, saying that he doesn’t want her to love him, he just wants anyone to and she’s just a means to an end for him. And Shinji reacts by strangling Asuka.

Screenshot 2021-04-03 at 22.06.28

Okay, here’s where the movie gets a little weird.

Back in the real world, everyone starts seeing visions of the person they love the most and then exploding into orange goo. Gendo sees Yui and tells her that he never believed that he could truly be loved and abandoned Shinji for his own protection. But Yui calls him out on his self-serving BS and tells him that he was just too much of a coward to ever risk loving anyone. And then Yui makes it very clear how she feels about how Gendo treated her son.

Look, I don’t like to see ANYONE eaten by a giant cyborg but if it has to be someone…

Meanwhile, in space:

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[Comm] Unshavedmouse alt

“Alright Wonka that is QUITE ENOUGH!”

wonks

“There’s no earthly way of KNOWing which direction we are GOing…”

Shinji awakens to find himself and Rei floating in a pool along with the souls of every other human being. Rei tells him that this is the world he wanted, where the barriers between people have been let down and everyone is as one. Shinji now has a moment of revelation similar to what he had in the last episodes of the TV show; basically that he has to be nicer to himself and not put the responsibility of defining his self-worth on to other people. He tells Rei and Kaworu (who’s now there too) that he wants to return things things to how they were. Rei and Kaworu say that this will bring back the old pain and misunderstanding that arose from people seperate entities, but Shinji says that that’s the way it’s gotta be. 

The Third Impact ends, and Shinji and Asuka are transported to a beach somewhere on Earth.

So great, right? Shinji learned a valuable lesson, the apocalypse was averted, everything’s wrapped up in a neat little package, right?

So it’s here that the movie becomes a tad ambiguous and open to interpretation.

Shinji’s just about the luckiest kid in the world right now. He was able to save the world, he made a vital emotional and psychological breakthrough and the girl he loves is still alive. So what does he do?

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He starts choking her again. Because he can’t change.

But he’s so physically weak he can’t even do that.

Asuka raises her hand and touches his face. Maybe trying to push him away. Maybe trying to show him some tiny gesture of affection.

Shinji releases her and begins to weep.

Asuka whispers  the last line of the film: “気持ち悪い” (“Kimochi Waru”) which has been translated as “I feel sick”, “How disgusting” or simply “Ugh”.

And that’s the end of the movie.

tom cruise wtf

***

Okay, but seriously what the fuck? 

What exactly do we have here? Is this the true End of Evangelion and how does it relate to the original ending of the TV show? Is this what Anno intended all along? Or were the final two episodes really the ending that he intended and this movie is just a spiteful “fuck you” to the fans who threw their toys out of the pram after the series ended?

Firstly I suppose it’s possible to reconcile the two endings by saying that episodes 25 and 26 were all happening in Shinji’s head during the movie, you can’t really get around the fact that they are radically different endings, almost polar opposites.

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There’s definitely a difference in tone, I don’t know if that’s coming across.

Truth is, I don’t think E of E is what Anno originally intended as the ending for his series because I don’t think he knew what he intended. Dude was constantly re-writing the scripts for those final two episodes and I get the feeling he hadn’t figured out how he wanted to end it. The movie feels less like the uncompromised version of that original finale, and more like a quite radically different second draft from a writer who’s had a chance to reflect on what he really wants to say.

Is it really a “fuck you” to the fanboys? Maybe in individual scenes, but I think the whole is animated by something much grander and more powerful than simple petty spite. It is by far the superior ending.

Episodes 25 and 26 may be more uplifting, but the resolution also feels unearned and not a little cheap.

The ending of End of Evangelion is savagely, breathtakingly bleak. But its final moments feel at once shocking and the perfect culmination of what has gone before. It has an austere, painful, transcendent beauty and puts this weird, baffling thing over the line into the realm of a masterpiece.

Scoring

Animation 17/20

Uneven, but incredibly visceral and absolutely, stunningly beautiful.

Leads: 18/20

DISCLAIMER: Unshaved Mouse’s high score for Shinji Ikari should be taken as a reflection of the layered and deeply effective characterisation of an extremely damaged young man and as a study of toxic entitled masculinity and should in no way be taken as an endorsement of jerking it over coma patients.

Villain: 19/20

Is he fun? No. Is he deliciously diabolical? No. Is he depressingly realistic? Yes. Fuck you, Gendo.

Supporting Characters: 18/20

Not gonna lie, around sixteen of those points are for Asuka.

Music: 14/20

End of Evangelion continues the proud NGE tradition of beautiful classical music choices coupled with…really incongrous pop music that’s incredibly distracting. Oh, and while I’m slaughtering sacred cows, I NEVER LIKED A CRUEL ANGEL’S THESIS!

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FINAL SCORE: 86%

NEXT UPDATE: May 11th 2021

MOUSE ARE YOU TAKING THE PISS: Please don’t make a scene, let’s discuss this in the next post.

My book, When the Sparrow falls, is now available for preorder! Links here.

27 comments

  1. This might be the only analysis of End of Evangelion I’ve read that didn’t assume that Shinji and Asuka were the last two humans alive. Seriously, almost everyone thinks they’re basically Adam and Eve, and it’s their job to restart humanity. I never thought that was the case; I assumed that Shinji willed humanity back to the way they were before the 3rd Impact and essentially saved the world. It’s nice to finally find someone who also thinks that.

    1. While i think it’s possible for more humans to crawl out of the primordial soup, at the end we only see shinji and asuka, with the mass production evas, giant rei‘s cracked head looming in the background, and the Earth pretty much destroyed. I don’t see how humanity can be saved under those circumstances. Although, what is diagetic and what is a metaphor/visualization of shinji‘s psyche is rather fluid at that point in the movie, so who really knows? Guess it depends on how you interpret it.

    2. I always interpret it as “whoever wants out, gets out, whoever wants in, stays in”. So it’s unlikely Shinji and Asuka would be the only two, but I don’t think the entirety of humanity will be there either.

      Also, nice “saving the world”. There’s now a giant rotting corpse falling from low Earth orbit, the ocean looks like blood and the sky somehow too. Earth doesn’t seem to be exactly in a healthy state. I’m going to guess that anyone who got out of the collective consciousness thingy is going to be dead in a month tops. Just time enough to run out of canned food in supermarkets and start with the cannibalism.

  2. I had a roommate in college who was big into anime. I’m a casual fan myself (hence the Lupin username), but this guy was hardcore. We’re talking shelves lined with elaborately constructed mech models, vinyl figures of suspiciously youthful looking schoolgirls in short skirts, wall scrolls, and I don’t think I ever heard him listen to a single song that was in English. He was from Cleveland and the whitest guy you’ve ever met, btw.

    So naturally he was obsessed with Eva and tried on multiple occasions to explain it to me, and everything he said sounded straight out of that wiki passage (shit, he probably wrote some of that). It was just completely inscrutable.

    So I must congratulate you, Mr. Mouse, for not only a fine and entertaining review, but for also getting me the closest to actually understanding this franchise I’ve ever been (and I used to actually watch it with this dude).

      1. You should, the first 3 are great time capsules of the early-mid 2000s Online Anime Fandom. The 3rd is a longer one then most, I watched it on the internet Archive.

  3. So…back in ye olden days when I lived overseas and watched all my anime via internet piracy, I watched all of the original Evangelion TV series, this movie, and the first two Rebuild films. My reaction to End of Eva can be summed up as “What the ever-loving f*ck did I just watch?”. I wish I could watch it again, but I don’t have the money to buy the original ADV set, and I can’t watch subs because of a sensory processing disorder.

    Also, which English track did you watch again? The fact that they dropped two f-bombs in the ADV dub makes it all worth it in my opinion.

      1. I don’t blame you at all. Again, the fault is with Khara for their micromanagement over the whole thing. For what it’s worth Amanda Winn Lee (the ADV voice of Rei) has stated on Twitter that the Netflix script was an old translation that the original dub crew refused to use. I highly recommend you search for the old dub because I promise you it is SO worthwhile (even if you have to sell your organs). Or you can search for clips online. In particular, there’s an outtake of Spike Spencer as Shinji just ranting over the credits of the last episode that is hilarious.

      2. Update: Excellent news! The original ADV dub of End of Eva is available for free on Archive.Org! Go watch Shinji and Misato say “f*ck”!

    1. When I watched EoE, my computer overheated and at some point during Instrumentality the video player just went crazy. Started showing weird static and making horrible screeching noises.
      It took me five minutes to realise that wasn’t the movie any more.

  4. the movie reminds me of the series. starts out pretty strong and cool, then ends in “wtf is this shit”.

    1. And then Rebuild does it all over again a third time around.At least the ending is much happier this time, although it also feels much more contrived.

  5. I thought i had a pretty good idea of what NGE was. Now I’m thinking maybe it got mixed up with a few more straight forward mecha animes. If there are any.

    What would you actually recommend to start with? So far I’ve watched Cowboy Bebop and Fullmetal Alchemist, plus their movies, and some of My Hero.

    1. If you like Cowboy Bebop you might like Outlaw Star and Gun X Sword. Maybe Black Lagoon too.

      Slayers is always good for an action comedy, I think.

  6. As Little Kuriboh once said in his parody for charity for Evangelion.
    “Nonsense Smithers, there’s nothing remotely pretentious about this show!”
    [Angel explodes in the shape of a cross]

  7. This film is something I have wanted to see but clearly it’s too weird and sexually disturbing and just a lot of work apparently.

  8. “There’s definitely a difference in tone, I don’t know if that’s coming across.”
    This was the perfect cap on an hilarious review.

    The only anime I was able to get into was Serial Experiments: Lain, and that’s weird enough for someone who doesn’t have the cultural background to pick up on symbols unfamiliar in the U.S. It’s good to understand what’s meant by a Gainax ending and understand why NGE is such a touch point for the anime crowd

  9. I don’t entirely understand what I just read. I liked. Great review. Makes me want to give it a try. But I am very confused.

  10. Reading this, I can tell Rebecca Sugar took a good amount of inspiration from Evangelion for Steven Universe Future, especially in depicting how a lifetime of being trained to be a Gem Messiah had left Steven damaged and traumatized. Now if only she’d managed to work in a giant, naked Lapis in there somewhere…

  11. Seeing you say that stuff about Shinji makes me wonder what you would think about Takumi Nishijou the protagonist of the visual novel called Chaos;Head. They are both pretty similar characters. A lot of people who’ve read Chaos;Head say “it’s like Eva if it actually had an understandable plot”. Unfortunately the anime adaption is shit, so you’ll probably never see it unless you want to read a visual novel, and even then it only has a fan translation.

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