One topic that often occurs when I get into discussions about anime is the final episodes of Evangelion. Evangelion is a popular anime show and it's ending is very confusing. In fact most people can't understand it at all. Many people hate the ending, perhaps for that very reason. However I understand the ending, or at least I think I do, and as writer of a webzine about anime I guess it is my function to share my insights with you.
First off there is no final battle in the television series of Evangelion. The reason why is that there is no such thing as a good anime show about Giant Robots. Although there is several good anime shows that include Giant Robots (a number which includes Evangelion), to be a truly good show it must be about something else. Thus the conclusion of Evangelion is poorly served by being simply a final battle. Even though there is a giantic battle in the movie version of Evangelion, that is not the point. Even then on top of the battle we are given more confusing images, or at least that is what they are if you think that Evangelion is a show about Giant robots.
First off the preface of the final two episodes is the four episodes beforehand. In those episodes nearly the entire cast undergoes a mental breakdown of some sort. First Misato with grief over the death of Kaji, then Asuka after losing the ability to pilor an Eva, then Rei for dieing and being brought back to life for yet a second time, then Ritsuko due to the betrayal of Gendo Ikari, and then finally Shinji caused by the betrayal of kaoru and his murder by Shinji's own hand.
It is this last tragedy that the focus of episode 25 begins.Shinji is left contemplating the morality of killing Kaoru. The fact was that Kaoru was an angel and It is Shinji's duty to kill the angels for the good of humanity, yet deep down this fact brings him no solace. He faces a relentless inquisition at the hands of his own self. Eventually he comes to a conclusion that he is an Eva pilot and nothing more. In fact if he were to no longer pilot an Eva he would lose any point to his existance. The inquisitor changes to Asuka who states that he must find his own meaning and his own happiness. However as this is not what Asuka believes, at the time she ends her speech she ends up as the one being questioned.
Note the fact that throughout these two episodes the character's are often given questions by the sceen prompting. This prompting is actualy the character's own doubts and inner voice. Some of the questions are repeated two or more times. When a question is repeated the character will often answer the first repitition with a comfortable lie. The fact the cast of Evangelion will lie to themselves about their own most basic motives is very central to both the final two episodes and the whole story of Evangelion as a whole.
After Asuka's inquisition we switch to Rei. Rei's ultimate doubt is that she does not exist as a human being. She refutes this stating that she is real because she has interacted with other people she is infact a real person. She calls this Instrumentality. It is unclear whether this is her true feeling or a comfortable lie, however the idea of an indentity shaped by experiences is another core idea to Evangelion.
After Rei's monologue Gendo Ikari comes for her, for the purpose she was made. This project is the human instrumentality project. The nature of this project has been secret until now. It is revealed that the purpose of the human instrumentality project (sometimes called the human complementation project) is to fuse all of humanity into one being. The idea is that human being are fundamentally insecure because they are alone. If humanity is fused into one concious entity this despair will disappear.
We are then shown the mental inquisition of misato. Although this ties into the movie we see her corpse just before this scene. If you were wondering her ultimate fate it seems that she was asborbed into the instrumentality project as well.
The inquisition starts with shinji appearing before Misato saying that "I am the Shinji that resides in your mind, Misato." This is another important Idea for Evangelion, the idea of sophilism, which will be explained more fully in the second episode. The source of the inquisition seems to have changed from simply being the character's onw inner doubts to the process of instrumentallity. However it's nature is unchanged. We find out that Misato at some level despises the idea of being a good girl. This comes from her father. As noted Misato hates her father. Things get interesting when we find out that to Misato, Kaji is very similar to Misato's father. Knowing this she pushed Kaji away. Also we find out that Misato does not want to be disgraceful. This is another defense mechanism she put up for her self.
After Misato we get another round of Asuka's deep dark feelings. At the end we see Shinji, Misato and Asuka together, each saying not to leave them. This is important for the second epiosde since it enforces the idea that all three characters, and by extension, the entire cast and the rest of humanity share this problem. It is just that it is more obvious in the psychological workings of Shinji Ikari.
In the end of the first episode we see Shinji sitting in an empty theater. Any interaction he recieves is from the other characters in still frame. They say that this is the world that Shinji wished for, since he does not like to be with other people. Yet the idea that that world is Shinji's ultamate wish deeply troubles him.
Episode 26 starts out by stating that it will focus on the pyschological process of Shinji Ikari. Since the previous episode stated that all people are fundamentally like Shinji this makes sense.
Shinji states his reality as this: Shinji Ikari is unworthy of existing, thus people hate him. Since others hate him he must hate himself. However he is the pilot of Evangelion unit 01. Since he pilots it, people like him. Shinji only exists and can only exist as an Eva pilot. He is told that this need not be so but as is the case with many deep seated delusions, he refuses to listen.
Eventually Shinji is taken to a place of perfect freedom, in other words a world with nothing other than himself. Eventually he dawns on the fact that if nothing other than Shinji exists it will be the same as Shinji not existing at all. This reinforces one of the most profound ideas of Evangelion the idea of instrumentality, the idea that humanities' need for other human beings extends even to the very formation of an Indentity. Can someone truly gain sentience without the presence of other sentient beings? It is hard to say.
Then we are showed an alternate world of Evangelion. All the characters are there but everything is different. It is a happy world not much different from any other anime high school comedy. There is very little meaning to the world itself (maybe it is there to throw the viewer off) except that it is another possibility. Indeed this is what Shinji is shown at the end.
Shinji now knows that being entirely alone is not an acceptable option but is still locked into his idea of having no worth. The other charaters ( or the processes of instrumentality) is trying to show Shinji that it is simply an illusion which he wished to be true. This is the other big idea behind Evangelion, the idea of sophilism. It is the idea that the world is just simply a creation of the mind. Even if true sophilism does not exist (another hard thing to determine) it is true that things can change depending on the way you look at them. This is made very plain in Evangelion. Eventually Shinji gets this fact through his thick skull. When he says that he does have worth and his life truly is worth living his empty theater world shatters and he is congratulated by the rest of cast.
The real meaning behind Evangelion is hard to determine. In my watching of the show I have seen two themes that while they interact they seem to contradict each other. One is the need for other people. The other is the need for ones own will. Perhaps it seems that those two needs contrast but in fact they are complimentary too each other.
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