In the second half of The End of Evangelion, WHAT THE HELL. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to finish Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Trigger Warning: For blood/gore.
I am guessing that all I need to truly understand Neon Genesis Evangelion as a whole is actually in this film. It is, admittedly, a very difficult thing to analyze because so much of it is metaphorical and based heavily in different forms of mysticism or religious ritual. There’s a lot here, y’all, so let me work through it and see if I can figure out what it is that I just watched.
(And if this isn’t clear yet: this truly is a lot of fun.)
- I was only just informed that I did not watch the Director’s Cut of episodes 21-24. To be fair, my good friend Will, who loaned me his copy of the series and the film, did tell me about the Director’s Cut episodes back before I started this, but I simply forgot! So, I’m wondering now if there were things in these episodes that would have helped me understand events in this film.
- I say that because I was super confused by Gendo saying that he was going to use Adam to begin Instrumentality with Lilith. Why? Because where the fuck is Adam? I had been led to believe that Lilith was Adam, and I do understand that was how Gendo betrayed SEELE. But that means Adam was always the embryo, right? Where is Adam this whole time?
- I will also state that one of the cool things about getting to watch the original ending and then experiencing this is comparing the two and seeing all the similarities. So much of episode 25 and 26 concerned choice and perception, and you can see the same things here. Namely, free will matters so much. No one here is without a choice for the most part, though I admit most of the humans are sent into Instrumentality without their consent. (Fuck SEELE, seriously.) So when Gendo kills Ritsuko and approaches Rei to use her to obtain Instrumentality, she makes a choice. (That confirms that the soul within her is Lilith, right??? Not Yui, but Lilith!) She refuses to be a puppet, and she acts of her own accord. She chooses to return to Lilith, and the two of them become a super God.
- TAKE THAT, GENDO. YOU WERE BETRAYED AT THE LAST SECOND, TOO.
- Visually, the second half of this movie treads heavily in Christian imagery. Shinji’s Evangelion is crucified by the Mass Production Evas, and the theme of sacrifice is heavy-handed, but I feel like it’s necessary. I mean, if you’re going to have Rei merge with Lilith and turn into the biggest mega-God of all time, then criticizing the absurdity of a lot of this seems kind of ridiculous. The size and scope of this final “battle” helps to convey just how important it is to humanity.
- Whatever SEELE or Gendo planned, the truth is that in the end, Rei initiated Intrumentality, and watching it unfold was both utterly horrifying and strangely comforting. I found it touching that many of the characters saw Lilith/Rei as whomever they loved most. (Which… oh shit, did Maya love Ritsuko the most? HELLO, I SHIP IT.) Then, each of them returned to the ooze humanity was born as, and I was so fucked up by how visceral this sequence was.
- Much like the final episode of the show, the final conflict switches entirely to Shinji’s point of view, and it’s how we get a personal look at the struggle of Instrumentality itself. He begins to de-evolve, too, though it’s not represented in quite the same stunning way as it was in episode 26. Still, Shinji questions his purpose and his worth. In many ways, it’s still just as disturbing as the first time.
- I actually got really, really worried that Shinji’s loneliness would prevent him from ever stopping Instrumentality. I DID. And would I blame him? No, not at all. Look at how much trauma he’d been in this whole time!
- Hell, even other characters got to realize why they suffered so much in life. While it’s not exactly an exoneration of Gendo’s behavior, there’s finally a scene where he reflects on the cruelty he has inflicted on his son. Ironically, his problem is not all that different than Shinji: in order to avoid getting hurt by anyone, he pushed all humans away from him. It helps to explain why he saw everyone in his life as nothing but a pawn, but it also makes Rei’s actions a million times more powerful. SHE REJECTED HIM.
- There’s not a scene where everyone awkwardly congratulates Shinji for choosing to live, but when he rejects Instrumentality, it’s still seen as a victory of sorts. I actually found the resolution here to be way more unnerving. Shinji doesn’t break through to a reality that is serene or celebratory; no, he’s returned to the same Earth that was utterly obliterated by the Third Impact. Now, I can’t claim to understand all the Lilith’s Egg stuff (perhaps it’s a physical manifestation of where humanity came from?), but I could clearly see how fucked up the world had become. In a weird way, the color choices and the background art was beautiful, even if I was looking at a literal wasteland. The Sea outside of NERV was red and orange, as if soaked with the blood of humanity. And it was on the shore of that beach that Shinji met the first human besides himself who chose to reject Instrumentality.
- I WAS SO PLEASED. I WAS SO HAPPY. I wanted her to choose to live SO BADLY, and I think this is one change that vastly improves the story from the original ending. She’s allowed character growth, too.
- I will fully admit that I don’t understand why Shinji sees his friend and then immediately tries to strangle her. WHAT THE HELL. Is that some sort of instantaneous reaction based on… I don’t know what???
- But then the motif of tears appears again, and this time, Shinji cries as he realizes Asuka is real and alive and she says, “How disgusting,” AND I AM DONE.
- That’s pretty satisfying.
- The show also ends on a weird cliffhanger of sorts because we don’t know if anyone else will come back. I imagine that Ritsuko and Misato cannot, since they died before the Third Impact, which kind of makes me angry. IT’S SO UNFAIR.
- But what of the others? What of the hellscape that is Earth? Is there now going to be a giant Lilith/Rei head that just slowly decays? Will the humans who choose to come back have to rebuild everything? WHAT THE HELL, NEON GENESIS.
- Okay, maybe I understood more of this than I thought I did, but even I know I still missed a lot of shit here. I imagine I have missed a lot throughout my first run. A second viewing would probably be extremely illuminating!
I think Neon Genesis Evangelion is the most challenging thing I’ve had to cover for this site, especially in the latter half of the show. Normally, I can grasp things better, but the deliberately bewildering nature of this makes it harder to do. That’s not to say I did not enjoy this experience. I think I’m beginning to understand why this is a classic. Like, who else was doing shit like this in the 90s??? Not only that, but the show was written to be full of layers and meaning, when it could have been a straightforward mecha anime about destroying Angels. Yet all the emotional exploration brings it to a much higher level of storytelling for me. Y’all know how much I love character development, and this show devoted its entire second half to it! The original ending cares more about character closure than plot closure, and even this one explores Shinji’s characterization quite explicitly.
I had a lot of fun doing this, and I’m really looking forward to reading comments on this post specifically. WHAT ARE YOUR THEORIES. WHAT THINGS DID I MISS. TALK TO ME, FRIENDS.
Up next on the Mark Watches schedule: Hannibal, season 3. I CAN FINALLY NOT BE CLIFFHANGER’D.
The video for The End of Evangelion, part II can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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