Alone at the End of the World in 'Evangelion'

The apocalypse hit 15 years ago. But today, you'll go to the movies anyway.
Screen shot from Neon Genesis Evangelion Episode 4, Eva-01 and Eva-00 stand on the outskirts of Tokyo-3 as the sun sets.
Image courtesy of Netflix

With Neon Genesis Evangelion’s launch last Friday, the crew here at Waypoint Radio has finally had time to dig into and talk about the first seven episodes of the series. We talk about all the show’s larger-than-life battles (against both its surreal “angels” and its very real trauma), its messy handling of gender and sexuality, and, of course, its lore.

One thing that stood out to first-time viewers Patrick Klepek and Danielle Riendeau was the way the show slowly developed the details of its world through tiny comments made on the periphery of a scene. Yes, there’s the occasional lore dump, and there are lots of proper nouns. But these small asides make the world feel lived in, and importantly, make many of the characters feel at home in the crisis they’re living through. Even after the Second Impact, those left alive keep living.


Read an excerpt of our conversation and listen to the full podcast below.

Patrick: I will say that one of my favorite sequences right in that little introduction bit is the way it presents a bit of exposition, of world-building about the second impact on what we know of it so far. Which is brilliantly just panning over this classroom of students bored out of their fucking mind as the teacher is revealing, fundamental (what at least we know what the time in that episode) truths about what happened. Which is that there was a meteor that immediately melted the ice caps and whoops, the world went into a bad place, 50 percent of the population died, all economies just crumbled, and everyone's just giggling and sharing notes.

It was a really interesting way to convey something that's really true, right? I think there are all sorts of things in class that lots of us like "We're being told about horrible atrocities and you're more worried about if that person around the corner has a crush on you," as it goes over your head. Now granted, this is something that happened 15 years ago, it's not like learning about the Civil War or something that is so far removed from your emotional context.

Cado: But it's like if the extinction of the dinosaurs happened 15 years ago or something, right? It's the level of event that is so world shaking that I feel like that it's past even an individual history level.


Austin: But importantly none of these kids remember the world before.

Danielle: [None of them] were alive right?

Austin: Right, they're 14.

Danielle: Is this more like 9/11? I know it's not cataclysmic on the same level. But for Americans it's almost like, yeah, kids now wouldn't have been born at the time.

Patrick: Right, yeah. I think everyone has those things. For us it's World War II or Vietnam. I just liked how something that every generation has experienced at one point or another and then the way it just conveys that very cleverly, both on an emotional level, and then also giving a little bit of world building. It's doing both those things at once while also looking beautifully shot and it's a really good example of how the show is often operating on multiple levels.

Danielle: I think that really underscores the thing I like the most about the show. That's a really perfect example of how the show feels like "Oh, in a slow-motion horrifying apocalypse people are still going to try to live their lives." And kids will still be kids, even if they are fucked up by the trauma. They will still be a 15 year old.

Patrick: "Oh, Susie's dead this week? Eeehhhh."

Danielle: It's very messed up but it still feels emotionally resonant in that way.

Episodes Discussed: 1: Angel Attack, 2: Unfamiliar Ceiling, 3: The Silent Phone, 4: Rain, After Running Away, 5: Rei, Beyond the Heart, 6: Showdown in Tokyo-3, 7: The Works Of Man

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