Author: Sarah Myer (Enthusiast)
Dated: August 20, 2003
Notes: First, I have to state the fact that I do not consider myself to be a very intelligent individual. This essay is filled with grammatical errors, as well as poor formatting and pacing. Well, what can I say? Sorry..?? ^^ Whoops, conditioned reflex on my part. I appreciate any time that you have put into reading this, whether it was to skim it or to read it intimately. Any comments, questions, or suggestions are more than welcome.
I hope that the story of Neon Genesis Evangelion and Shinji Ikari continues through our lives and our actions.
o o o
One of my friends asked me repeatedly: "Hey, what the hell is going on in 'The End of Evangelion'?? Did *insert character's name* die? Did *so and so* live? Why did Shinji end up on the beach at the end...I thought he was in the Eva in space!" My answer to these questions is; does it matter? Why do you think it's so important to know the story when the actual beauty of Evangelion is in the characters?
"The End of Evangelion" is not about who died and who did not, nor is it about how something happened scientifically (you won't find any of that "LCL can't change like that! It would require a strong chemical reaction-" and the like here). "The End" is about the emotions, the struggle, and the thought process of a lonely human being. Forget about what physically happened to Asuka, forget about whether or not everyone comes back after Third Impact fails. Shinji was given a choice; to start Third Impact, to eliminate pain and suffering in favor of a perfect world where everyone is merged into one consciousness. There wouldn't be any misunderstandings, arguments, or hurt feelings in the Third Impact world because all differences between human beings would have been eliminated through becoming one. The other choice was to stop Third Impact from happening, to accept his life and ultimately the life for all of human kind as it is. Complete with hurt, sorrow, and death, the alternate choice was not an easy one for Shinji to want. Shinji was so upset at the point of Third Impact's beginning that he decided maybe it would not be such a bad idea to destroy all of the hurt and pain in the world. After all, Shinji had just lost Misato, Asuka, Rei, all of his friends, and his true love Kaworu. Shinji, unwilling to make a choice, allowed Evangelion Unit 01 to be captured by the Eva Series; a move that allowed the Eva series to begin third impact as Seele wanted. Upon regaining hold of his consciousness, Shinji saw Misato's bloodied cross and broke down. In short, Shinji was reminded of his pain and suffering and lapsed back into a mental state that would allow Third Impact. Kaworu, however, reminding Shinji of the love that he had recently experienced, appeared. His appearance stalled the Third Impact process by comforting Shinji. While calm, Shinji was asked by Lillith, Kaworu, and his mother (simultaniously) what he desired; to really comtemplate and decide what he truly wanted. At that point, Shinji was truly in a conscious state of thought. He remembered his mother's death, how lonely he was as a child, his confusion regarding Misato and her care for him, his bitter relationship with Asuka. When he explored his thoughts of Asuka, he grew insane with rage and imagined how he would be rid of his heartbreak regarding her if only she would be quiet and allow him to strangle her to death. Thus, he realized that he would be able to express his feelings to Asuka only if she was unable to fight back (note how limp she seems when he lifts her body from the floor; obviously, Asuka is not fighting back like she normally would in Shinji's imagination sequence). Asuka would only be unable to fight back in a world created by the Third Impact. Shinji's mind was made up; he wanted to end the pain in the world through Third Impact. Then, he would be able to do whatever he wanted and Asuka would have to comply. His heartbreak would not exist. When Asuka was pushing Shinji away and Shinji stumbled backward, that was Shinji's thoughts of the real world as it existed at the moment. However, after Asuka said "no" to Shinji and he strangled her, the reality blurred away into Shinji's new reality; a world where he would have the final say all the time and could be rid of pain. His pain was represented through Asuka in his mind.
Outside of Shinji's thoughts (which were the only thing portrayed for the last few minutes; the viewer may have been confused because the characters seemed to change locations very quickly. No, Baka, it really is just Shinji's memories playing back again with a spin on it from his own somewhat demented perspective!) Third Impact had occurred because Shinji chose it. The once invisible egg of Lillith materialized from its home in the Tokyo-3 geofront cavity, and Lillith used the egg to draw all of the humans' souls into one cavern-ness existence. Evangelion Unit 01, acting as a vessel for the new "creator"-Shinji, was drawn into Lillith's vaginal-slit- shaped forehead, entering the place in which all of the human souls were being collected. So yes, at this point, Shinji was actually inside of a giant being and was able to see the human souls. I hope that satisfied all of the nuts out there who just can't watch anime without a physics lesson involved. So the recap is this: Shinji decided to create Third Impact because he thinks his life sucks so badly. Sad, sad Shinji.
During Third impact, Shinji hears the voices of every human being in the world, angry, sad, upset, frustrated, devoid of any love or hope. The voices rushing by him, for example, were mostly women turning men down, saying "I could never love someone like you." and "I hate you. Go away and never talk to me." etc. No wonder Shinji wanted to start Third Impact! Life on earth really seemed to suck ass. Or, at least, that's what he thought. At this point, I want to make it clear that my perspective on Evangelion is not necessarily pessimistic. Evangelion does not depress me. As a result, I believe that Shinji's final decision was to live his life the way it was in hope that things can always get better. Last time we left our "hero" Shinji, he was right in the middle of Third Impact. Now, we'll continue his story.
Shinji had finally released all of his responsibility. The hurt and pain were being asphyxiated to death before his eyes, just as he strangled Asuka in his mind. Shinji had been waiting for this moment all his life- he could truly just turn around and quit. Becoming an Evangelion pilot had been something so symbolic of everything in his life that he did not want, and now he could destroy all future possibility of being forced into that situation ever again. Thus, he imagines Misato and Rei telling him what he had always wanted to hear from them: "If it's so hard, you can just run away." "You can just quit at any time." Shinji was truly blissful. However, remember that bliss is not always true happiness because it often comes from lying to oneself.
It looked like everything was transformed into what Shinji wanted. However, as he laid motionless underneath the incarnation of his mother, Rei, he realized that he had made a poor decision. He remembered that he often caused more pain by running away and not truly relaying his feelings. Misato and Shinji's relationship is a key issue that probably sparked this thought in Shinji. Imagine how different things would have been if Shinji were there to comfort Misato after Kaji was killed, if Misato had understood Shinji's intense desire for a mother. All of this caused regret for Shinji after the fact. Rei prompted him to think about the real world that could have been. "But...people will continue to hurt each other." Shinji then did something that I have always found to be very emotionally stirring. He held Rei's hand and said, "That's okay." Shinji's actions not only showed that he was willing to open up and literally come into contact with other people (something he never did willingly in the series), but that he was mentally and emotionally willing to accept the fact that he realized the truth. The truth, filled with pain, with sadness, but with happiness as well. The truth that Shinji realized encompassed all emotions possible. The truth for one person, as Kaji pointed out in the parallel episode 26, meant a million different things for different people. In this case, I believe that the truth means facing pain and hurt, but knowing that it truly is happening in the hopes that just as much happiness and comfort can be faced as well.
Once Shinji made this decision, Lillith was destroyed through a blow to her jugular vein, and Evangelion Unit 01 broke free from her eye. I feel that this scene is compatible with the last scene in episode 26, where Shinji breaks out of a foggy background and into the world. He can see things clearly without the fog of false happiness and of uncertainty. Never mind how Shinji got into the sea of LCL and blood below Lilith's head. What I'm focusing on is why. Shinji was no longer sheltered nor trapped by Evangelion Unit 01, which had already become a separate entity floating in space for eternity. He was there to say goodbye to his Mother. He said that he did not know where his happiness lies, but he was already close to finding it because he acknowledged his new found perspective. Even if Misato wouldn't help him, even if he no longer had Evangelion to make him feel worthy, even if his Mother would not be there to protect him any more, he knew that he would still look for happiness and one day grasp it. Also, take note that Shinji could not and would not attempt to swim earlier in the series (his inability to do so was noted in Episode 16), but he was floating just fine in the water. Swimming? Floating? Carried? Who knows. Either way, though, he's definitely not frantically sinking like he did in Episode 16. Whatever Shinji does from this point on is his decision, and his only. Because he can keep his head above water on his own.
The Shinji and Asuka finale scene brought some more questions from myself and the people watching the movie with me. I myself to this very day am not entirely sure what I think that the strangling means. However, I do have a theory. Though it is morbid and disturbing (not to mention somewhat contradictory to Shinji's attitude just seconds earlier), the strangling of Asuka showed his willingness to see the truth. He knew that there would be pain, and what better way to be reminded of that than to strangle ones friend out of hurt and rage. Sometimes, I think that maybe Shinji strangled Asuka in the perverse hope that she would do something to let him know that it was not the fake world that he imagined earlier. And do something, she did. Asuka did not just stay limp like she did in his mind, but rather she caressed his cheek gently. Very out of character for Asuka, but it was a sign that Shinji could not and would not just do anything to eliminate pain. Asuka was still there, and she could interact with him however she pleased. Most people think that Shinji cried out of sadness. I don't know. Isn't it possible that he might have cried out of joy to know that Asuka was still alive and that he could face her? The only thing that is certain is that Shinji and Asuka will determine what happens next at their own will. This scene, to me, demonstrated exactly what the real world is: uncertain, disturbing, and without true conclusion. No one knows for sure what the motivations of either character are, but it only taught me to incorporate an awareness of The Truth into my life. I loved "The End of Evangelion" and have no wish whatsoever to see a "true" conclusion or continuation because it already exists in my heart.