Nothing Prepares You for the End of 'Evangelion'

The end of 'Neon Genesis Evangelion' isn't incomprehensible, it's incongruous with the rest of the show's character work.

by Ricardo Contreras
Aug 2 2019, 7:49pm

Screenshot courtesy of Netflix

The end of Neon Genesis Evangelion has a reputation that ranges from "unintelligible" to "avant-garde." From rumors of budgets running low to last minute scripts, the production of episodes 25 and 26 have been mythologized to hell and back. The release of a post-series movie that "replaced" these final two episodes has further thrown the legitimacy and intent of these episodes into question. Are they odd because this was the only way to meet a deadline? Or was this the plan all along, as weird as that may be? We discuss the final two episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion and the movie End of Evangelion on this week's Waypoints. You can listen to the full episode and read an excerpt below.

Austin: When Shinji says "I'm a sneak, I'm a coward" I get why he believes that about himself because they've been hammering his bad feelings on himself the whole show.

Patrick: And his actions reflect that. The way he treats others, that is separate from weird psycho-analysis element where we interface with Angels, where we don't know where we're at. How he talks about himself, his actions and agency towards others, reflect someone who believes they are coward whether or not they are or not. He has demonstrated that through his actions.

Austin: And Misato has struggled in her interiority also, that we've seen rendered through action. Things like hey, Is being part of nerve actually making her complicit in something big and terrible, something she wants to stand against. Hey, what is her relationship with with Ritsuko, someone who was once her best friend but is now falling apart because they take different opposing views on things like utilitarianism and how far are you willing to go to pursue science and to save the world.

There are internal conflicts of this could have zoomed in on that they did set up through specific action. Even her concerns about herself as a caregiver have been front of mind the entire show. Is she using these children? Is she provided for these children? Is she keeping them safe? When we've had high moments of drama with Misato the whole show, those have been centered. I'm not saying that she hasn't had sex. Like obviously she has, that has been part of her character. And there have been times when she has said "Ugh, am I just really lonely, am I really just reaching out for someone right wow? Is this is not about Kaji, is this just about my need to connect to people?"

Danielle: And she has said stuff about her dad, and seeing her dad in Kaji, like she's said that for sure.

Austin: For sure, but in terms of dramatic action, in terms of "what does she do?" That stuff is this other stuff, and none of that shows up here. And instead it's what you just said, it literally ends on her being like "Ah, the twist is that I'm really horny for Dad. The twist is I broke up with Kaji not because I saw my dad and hated it, but because I saw my dad in him and I thought that was good. And that made me more attracted to him." And it's like, you are just applying, what are those little like, I was gonna as Cado but this is probably after your time, as a kid there are like little sticky things like me like reusable, they're not stickers.

We used to have these toys that were dioramas, but you can like stick character stickers on them again and again, or just like an overlay right? Ah yes, Freud 101, let me layer this over here. Here's some stuff I read on the Freud Wikipedia page, let me just later this over instead of engaging with what the character has been set up to be. And so when it's her yelling at herself, you know, and saying that she wants to be sullied, that she wants to be made dirty and filthy etcetera etcetera, all that feels like the show is saying "Ah, of course, these are natural thoughts for her to have. Of course this is where her mind would go." When we know her mind is actually on other, has been on other topics besides the fact that she likes to have sex, which like good for her honestly. Danielle you got some more it seemed like.

Danielle: It's just so upsetting, this my favorite character, and obviously it'll go to even far worse places, I think personally in End of Eva.

Patrick: Uh-huh, just character assassination by show.

Danielle: But like, jesus fucking christ, could you have a more simplistic, shity, terrible view of women having sex than "Oh they're guilty for having sex. They feel guilty. They feel guilty in the core of their soul, in their hearts, for having feelings and sexuality. It's fucking infuriating.

Rob: It' one of the things that sorta made me deeply on edge, and this is some of the shit that will stop me from like ever giving the show the time of day again, is because this is the stuff where I'm like "Actually I don't need to know what this guy's thesis is, I don't even know what like, I don't need to know more about your perspective on this." Because the other thing that makes me think this this show ultimately is going to have very little meaningful insight on anything, is that it is a show so utterly lacking in empathy and the ability to imagine other perspectives that I don't think, it's just not going to illuminate anything useful or interesting or affecting about the human condition. The way Misato is treated here at the end is like the end of the fucking incel post.

Austin: Well, we'll get to that in general for the rest of the show.

Rob: The fact that she redefines all her relationships through this lens of "I just need to feel filthy. I'm just dirty. Oh don't show Shinji, don't show Shinji me having sex." And Shinji is just like standing there seething and it's like, yep that's going in his Manifesto for sure.

I also think this is these characters introspecting and their deepest heart of hearts. Like the Shinji that is there is maybe a little bit of Shinji, but it's also the Shinji that Misato has perceived him to be. But I think that's all kind of relevant because ultimately at this point all these characters begin to feel like, the things the character building has been done to this point, it's been gutted. it's a gut renovation so they can be transformed into the shity little sock puppets for this fucking misanthrope to have his characters just utter garbage. And that hits hardest with Misato because to your point, Austin, there were interesting conflicts with her.

There were things that were, there were tensions within her. There were things to regret and feel ashamed about. The act of sex was not one of them. And this this redefinition, there were always toxic elements with her relationship with Kaji, even setting aside the fact that he commits sexual assault. When she begins to like consensually like re-involve herself with him, there are things that she's dealing with the make her feel regretful or weary of or very ambivalent about why she's doing this or how it makes her feel.

But even when that stuff was being done, we didn't get to this real ridiculous, like Misato to this point has not been established as a 1990s Christian youth group leader who is all-in on purity. Like purity doctrine and stuff like that, but that is the only way to make this fucking leap at the end work. It completely betrays what we seen before and also diminishes it because now Misato just gets flattened. The character gets flattened and becomes "oh, Misato is sex. And shame. 'Cause Sex is shameful."

And it's like, is it man? And that's the thing, if this one of the big psychological conflicts that Anno's unearthing here at the end? You looking in the wrong place my guy. And at that point I'm like, "oh there's a hundred 20 more minutes of this shit? Great. Awesome. Let's really dig deep on your thesis about about The Human Condition."

Austin: The thing I want to briefly say is, If you were listening and you're like "Yeah, but like people have hang-ups about stuff like sex all the time and they don't externalize it. It doesn't show up in their words, you know, maybe it doesn't even show up clearly in their actions that you see day to day." One: absolutely that is totally true, one hundred percent. However, the thing about a piece of media, the thing about an artistic work, about fiction, is that one: you are able to access the interior any of the characters in a way that we cannot in real life.

Cado: Which we do throughout the show. When you get Misato thinking about that moment with Shinji saying like "Is it just because I want [attention]?" you know? So like.

Austin: Yes, one hundred percent. There are moments in times when they could have done that. There's plenty of Misato voice over throughout the show giving us access to that. Two: the thing about fiction, again, is you're able to externalize things in artful ways that produce thematioc resonance. You're able to tell a story that produces an effect in the viewer or reader such that the world is intelligible.

Or you can decide no, I don't want it to be intelligible at all. I want to make something that's so aggressive and so experimental that it, you know, it breaks the idea of intelligibility. And I imagine there people who are big fans of these episodes are like "And that is what Anno is doing, Anno is avant-garde artists." That's not true. This is also intelligible. This is also him giving very clear answers about visions of the world.

For all the ambiguity around what instrumentality is, the ideas presented here about the human psyche are very coherent, they're just a vision that I don't like. There are judgments being made that are very coherent. They're just not, like if you sit down and go "Ok, what is Anno saying here about sexuality? What is Anno saying here about the individual and about what fear is," you can answer all those questions.

Cado: It's not a difficult read, it's just a bad one!

Austin: In fact, my beef with it is that the show is better when it's ambiguous because it forces you to read character actions, instead of someone sitting in a room and just telling you what the themes were for the last [24 episodes]. Instead of someone just giving you a reader's guide to the show for 30 minutes or whatever.

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