Going Down The List: Neon Genesis Evangelion

(MAL LINK)

So, what do you say about Evangelion that hasn’t already been said by someone else? And if you found a train of thought that works, where do you begin the narrative? Episode 1 is a good place to start, sure, but if I were to start there, I’d have to rewatch the entire show and then spend a week writing about it. And I’m not going to do that right now. I might do a more comprehensive post on the series in the future, but then again and as I already said, everyone and their mother has already written about Evangelion.

There is one particular thing that I can talk about, though, and that’s the comparison between episodes 25 and 26 and End of Evangelion. I love both versions of the end of the story, but for very different reasons. Firstly, the original ending appealed to me because I was greatly interested in the idea of the Human Instrumentality Project. Whenever it was directly or indirectly referenced in the earlier episodes, I got this feeling that it was something mysterious and wonderful and extremely powerful. And that is what it turned out to be. When the Human Instrumentality Project is put into action, all of the mundane issues in the world disappear. The Angels as physical beings who bring physical destruction also become meaningless. The only thing that remains is the collective of souls belonging to Shinji and all the people near and dear to him. The Earth as a physical place ceases to be important, and instead a whole new world opens itself to everyone involved in the Project.

In contrast to that, End of Evangelion is much more of a “normal” story. The battle against the Angels and the new EVA units rages on, and people are killed in much more usual manners. In the end, the Human Instrumentality Project does come into the picture in a similar way to the TV ending, but in EoE Shinji manages to “break free” of it. Sure, the world he ends up in has undergone an apocalypse, but at the end of EoE he is still very much alive, and he’s still very much on the surface of the Earth. In that way, and regarding many other scenes, EoE is a fairly standard kind of story about people pushing themselves to their limits in a time of crisis in order to fulfill very human needs such as survival and/or revenge. Asuka doesn’t manage either one, but she stays true to her emotions until the bitter end (well, the apparent end, at least).Rei manages to get revenge on Gendo, which sets off the whole apocalypse. And Shinji, he struggles against his fears in order to survive, which he does. The way the stories in EoE are told may be spectacular, bizarre and grand, but the underlying character stories actually didn’t feel that new to me.

Which is not the case with the TV ending. The TV ending, at least according to my interpretation, results in everyone losing. Rei never gets her revenge, and she shows up as basically a spectre who haunts Shinji. Misato and Kaji end up together, but in their happiness they forget that Kaji, and possibly Misato as well, is already dead. They’re happy, but also no longer human. And then there’s Shinji. It’s difficult for me to say exactly what I think his thought process was because it’s been so long since I saw the ending, but considering he ends up in a place where Kaji exists, I drew the conclusion that he, too, gives up his humanity in order to get to that place of love and comfort that he’s looking for. And so he ends up in the middle of an ocean. His peers congratulate him and they welcome him to this place where he now belongs. But, the fact remains that the ocean is no place for humans.

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2 thoughts on “Going Down The List: Neon Genesis Evangelion

  1. I always saw the two endings as existing in sort of parallel rather than being alternatives. The revelation prompting the congratulations at the end of 26 was Shinji realizing he can love himself because the person of Shinji Ikari is a valuable existence to the people around him and even himself no matter what he felt before. To me that fit in line with the EoE ending where he realizes the value of living with pain and suffering so people could connect as who they are rather than an amalgamate sea of tang. To live and feel joy. Both of these together where what nailed the conclusion of Shinji and Asuka returning to themselves, they both are still hurt, but they want to live for themselves now.

    • I agree that the two endings complement each other and I kind of saw one as what was going on externally whereas the other was happening internally. Though, that doesn’t make a lot of logical sense, from a narrative and character point of view it gives the most satisfying interpretation. Either way, I really enjoy this series and I enjoy watching it again to learn more about the characters and their world.

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