Neon Genesis Evangelion easily comes off as one of the most successful and controversial anime series. It appeared in a period when the anime industry witnessed a great slump and almost singlehandedly made the anime genre famous worldwide. Between the period of 1980s-1990s, not many great televised series were produced. And with the coming of Evangelion, new Japanese animated serials began. Even the otaku culture became a mass phenomenon because of Evangelion’s popularity. Many later animes took inspiration from the character designs of the series. Also, the various cultural references to the Dead Sea Scrolls and the mystical traditions of Judaism and Christianity increased the interest in the show. The ending to the series was also a topic of interest in the anime community. Because there existed two of them. In the sections below, we will explore the ending of Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Evangelion started during a period when the writer and director Hideki Anno suffered from depression. Anno agreed to collaborate with King Records and Gainax to make a show. He was also guaranteed a time slot. Hideki created a story based on his years of depression. After settling upon making a television animated series, the long work of Evangelion’s production began. Anno used the notion of “not running away” as the underlying theme. More changes were made to the original plot as Anno made it too close to reality. The mecha elements of the show take inspiration from several earlier works like Mobile Suit Gundam and Devilman. The first two episodes of the series were screened during the Gainax festival in July 1995. In October 1995, the series aired on television. You can watch the trailer here.
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What Is The Premise Of Neon Genesis Evangelion?
The main backdrop of the story relates to the creation of life around the universe. Two alien beings, Adam and Lilith, have white and black eggs respectively. The black eggs created humans or humanoids and animal life, while the white ones spawned alien forms. Earth accidentally ended up with both the eggs, resulting in the First Impact. Adam’s eggs lay dormant after that until Gendo Ikari discovered them. He bonded Adam’s DNA with that of human’s which resulted in the Second Impact. This cataclysmic phenomenon wiped half of humanity and results in the birth of Angels. Ikari’s wife, Yui, bonds with the EVA Unit 1 created from Lilith’s DNA to prove humanity’s existence.
Fifteen years after the Second Impact, Gendo brings his son Shinji to pilot EVA Unit 1. Here he first meets Misato Katsuragi. After his battle, he comes across the pilot of EVA Unit 00, Rei Ayanami. Later he meets the pilot of EVA Unit 2, Asuka Langley Sōryu, and the three of them team up to defeat Angels together. However, in one battle, Asuka faces defeat and the resurfacing of her childhood trauma. Then in another battle, Rei sacrifices herself to save Shinji. But when Shinji and Misato visit the hospital, they find Rei alive, who now claims to be the 3rd Rei. Shinji battles his friend Kaworu Nagisa, who is the final Angel Tabris. After killing him, Shinji falls into a pit of guilt and trauma. The story describes humanity’s desperate struggles in the face of an apocalypse alongside the personal trauma of the characters.
What Happens At The End Of Neon Genesis Evangelion?
The ending of Evangelion is one of the biggest reasons it is despised even within the anime community. Viewers watch fantasies to detach themselves from their daily lives. But the characters portrayed in Evangelion showcase heavy similarity to the traumas faced by many people. Even the main character, Shinji Ikari, is always laden with self-doubt and his past traumas. After killing his best friend in the 24th episode, he spirals deeper with guilt. And after that, his father and the SEELE begin the Human Instrumentality Project. This project aimed at melding all humans as one. However, the 25th episodes focus more on the emotional aspects of the cast. Each of them, including Shinji and Misato, are psychoanalyzed, and they uncover more of themselves. This was an inkling to creator Anno’s interest in psychoanalysis.
The 26th episode shows that Instrumentality is already heading towards a conclusion. Shinji overcomes his self-hatred by realizing his beliefs were what he created for himself. The series ends in a rather positive tone, with Shinji coming to peace with himself and choosing to remain as an individual. Many fans of the show didn’t like this since the earlier parts addressed heavier themes. Over the complaints of fans, Anno created another movie titled End of Evangelion. This shows a Shinji who rejects any option of emotional growth. He keeps growing more abusive, obsessed, and misogynistic. Even during the final scenes, he ends up strangling Asuka upon seeing her. Although he stops himself, this might well be due to his self-loathing and depression paralysing him. As fans demanded, End of Evangelion brings no hope for the apocalyptic world. This is completely opposite to the optimistic end of the TV series.