Nothing Prepares You for the End of 'Evangelion'

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.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/xweq8j/nothing-prepares-you-for-the-end-of-evangelion
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I’ve been waiting for this thread to come up all day, but mostly just to say that listening to the latest episode was so draining and that I think I’m done with Evangelion. I came sort of positive off of 25/26, and just numb off of EoE, but I agreed with the takes for the most part and I understood the reads that I didn’t agree with, so no shade to the crew. I just think I’ve exhausted all my want for Eva content for at least another 6 years, and I’m OK with that.

E: To be a bit clearer, I very much enjoyed and appreciated the podcasts and looked forward to them, I’m just tapped out.

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Haha I fee you, I got halfway through last weeks pod and was like “you know what, I think I’m all tapped out on Eva and the waypoint rewatch” I fee bad cause I was on the “ fuck yeah waypoint Eva pods” for several months, but honestly I kinda just wish we had 5 weeks of regular waypoints. I mean I think Danelle, Rob and Patrick all ended up hating the show anyways, so it probably would have been a better use of their time too lol.

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My only coherent take I got out of these episodes that isn’t laced with profanity is that “Duck Amuck” was written by an Augustinian.

Does anyone have any links to the articles that were mentioned in the podcast? I’d love to read them this weekend. I was hoping to find them in the show notes but alas they were not there.

I just want to say I appreciate the Eva rewatch pod a lot, while not a long time fan by any means (watched it after Waypoints 10 barring EoE and liked the series with caveats) it was really informative about the larger culture surrounding it and the things people take away from the show.

It was certainly less Fun than Kingdom Hearts: Lore Reasons largely because of the nature of the content, but compelling nonetheless, and the amount of work watching and examining the show can’t go unsaid.

The crew honestly delivered what I wanted out of an Eva pod; unique varied perspectives and reads, delving into the show’s cultural history, troubling and problematic themes, and giving End of Eva some well deserved shit.

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As someone who has had no interest in watching Eva, I do feel you re: 5 weeks of regular Waypoints, but at the same time I also appreciate the fact that Eva merited a deep dive and a full treatment.

Yeah, the crew did not come off happy with the work, but I’m not sure that this is a sign that they shouldn’t have done the podcast. Sometimes a critical assessment comes away with a negative conclusion, but that doesn’t mean that the assessment shouldn’t have been done in the first place.

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I wrote this in the reddit thread for this episode of the podcast, and I’m reposting it here with minor alterations:

I’m nodding along to Rob’s big speech about how in EoE, Shinji has gone from a character who happens to have depression to the physical embodiment of depression, and how the message of the movie is that Shinji actually is a piece of shit and that everyone was stupid to put their faith in him because he willfully chose to fail over and over again.

I agree with his interpretation of the character, but I seriously disagree with his conclusion.

He meant it as his big statement about why he ultimately finds finds EoE “grotesque” and “irresponsible.”

I would repeat his speech word for word, but my conclusion would be that this is the reason the movie is a powerful, compelling, resonant work of art that has never once left my mind in the 15 years since I first saw it.

As a person who suffers from depression, and whose mother suffered from even more severe depression, the harsh truth, if you really, really want to be honest about it, is that when depression gets really bad, it makes you into a pretty shitty person to be around. Your brain is telling you that you’re a worthless sack of shit, so you believe that you’re a worthless sack of shit, which makes you act like a worthless sack of shit. You will not be reliable to other people because your shitty brain will not allow you to be reliable to other people.

It’s a big taboo to portray people with mental illness as burdensome or harmful to others, but it’s dishonest to pretend that people with mental illnesses are perfect little angel babies whose actions are never hurtful to those around them. I know that when I’m deep in the throes of depression, I suck. I lay around, I can’t do anything productive, I get mad at people who try to make me feel better, I lash out, and I know that I’m hurting the people who love me the most.

That’s why they call it “severe mental illness” and not “minor mental inconvenience.” It’s not just some quirk of the brain that makes me a little flighty sometimes. It causes big fucking problems for me and everyone else around me. That’s why it needs professional treatment and hard work to overcome and not just a pat on the back and a glass of water.

This movie makes you feel what it’s like to be stuck in the bleakest, blackest possible pit of depression. It makes you feel how all-consuming and apocalyptic that feeling is. And it makes you feel how much that hurts both the sufferer and the people around them.

I can watch a million movies with characters who just happen to have flaws. Very few works of art make you feel what it feels like when your garbage brain is telling you that all you are is your flaws.

Sometimes art is ugly.

End of Evangelion is ugly.

And that is why it is so powerful.

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The decision (I guess this is a spoiler for the end of the podcast?) to include the ten minutes or so from the original Eva Waypoints where they were all so excited about doing the big rewatch was a really fantastic touch after four hours of (mostly) everyone sounding absolutely exhausted and done with this entire enterprise, so thanks Cado I suppose for that gem. I’ve loved the pods. I hope the team isn’t too exhausted and that all of them get some rest.

The simple version of my thoughts on the show itself is that it’s is incredibly fucked up in a lot of regards and also pulled a kind of emotional reaction out of me at the end that an extremely low number of fictional pieces ever have. I could probably count them on one hand.

More than anything, it was the point where Austin talked about Episode 26—in particular Shinji’s realization of it simply being okay for him to exist. I’d put it like… I have had a lot of days, some coincidentally while going through this rewatch, where I just feel throughout my being that my presence is a net negative on the world around me, and that the act of existing is in itself some kind of malicious act I’m perpetrating on the universe. So a show pushing through everything it pushed through to deliver a message of not “you can be happy again” or “you can beat depression” but instead “it is okay to exist” was just… an immensely meaningful moment. It felt far more authentic to my own experience than most of the media around depression that I’ve experienced. Of course, sandwiched around a bunch of awful misogyny and the like.

I hate the term “problematic fave” because it implies the possibility of an unproblematic fave, which is, well, bullshit. But I guess that’s what I’ll have to call this, because idk how else to express that it’s absolutely horrible in a lot of respects and also incredibly important to me on a deeply positive, personal level.

(also, @TheEoEDefender, very on the nose name, but I agree completely with your read.)

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I don’t think they hated it, they just hate what happened to it.

You can say this about any number of popular shows… Battlestar Galactica has an incredibly weak ending, but the journey is incredible. Dexter had a really good first few seasons, and then dived into absolute garbage.

Hell, the show Heroes was critically acclaimed when it came out, and then capitulated with the second season.

Ending shows is REALLY HARD. Of the major programs released to TV, I can maybe think of two that had good endings? The Wire and Breaking Bad, maybe. And I have problems with the BB ending.

I think most people appreciate shows for the journey rather than how it wraps.

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So this was pretty exhilarating. The past five weeks have been, genuinely, some of my favourite Waypoint podcasts, and I really want to thank Danielle, Rob, Cado, Patrick and Austin for doing this. Is part of that because it was so much shitting on a film I largely had negative feelings over that is nonetheless exalted in Anime circles? Yes.

Overall, this really brings me to a place with Evangelion where, since it kind of wormed it’s way into my head when I was 16, to where I kind of don’t need to care about it. It’s bad, nihilist, and awful towards women. There are better things out there, whether it’s about inferiority, or giant robots. The thing I appreciated the most is having Rob, Danielle and Patrick there, as well read and smart non-Anime fans, that helped to cut through all the hype and hedging I think Anime fans give Evangelion because it’s such a big franchise, and created with such craft.

While I was watching Eva, I as also watching Gundam ZZ. And they basically have nothing to do with each other, but ZZ is this really good show about a group of kids who become really strong characters, while also being about how cycles of oppression and violence are perpetuated by people in power. It explores and issue, says something about, and then the main character DOES that thing! I love it!

Anyways, Evangelion can be good or bad, but there’s are things you can care about other than Evangelion. You don’t need to try and reverse engineer the series bible, while ignoring the sexualization of 15 year olds to enjoy anime.

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The thing that lets me tolerate End of Eva is I think of it as the cautionary tale of what could have happened had Shinji not come to his realization at the end of 26. He was in an extremely dark place the whole movie and in that moment inside his eva cocoon he had the choice of what to do post instrumentality. I believe in 26 he’s also in that situation but is able to will himself to continue living in the world as it is, if only for the moment. My take is that once he emerges the third impact is negated. Then EoE shows us how high the stakes were and what a horrifically selfish act going the other way was.

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I think Austin was referring to these Willow Catelyn Maclay essays.

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This whole process with everyone on the podcast has been A Journey and I can’t wait to listen to it. Evangelion was important to me at like 16 in some ways, but End Of Evangelion was one of the most aggressively ugly things I’ve ever put myself through watching, and I’ve seen Funny Games. I’m 34 now and I find it even worse than I did at 16. Evangelion, to me, is a cautionary tale about missed opportunity. It could have been good. It ended up being deeply personal but it wasn’t until the last that I became aware that this intensely personal piece of art was taking me on a trip with someone I do not want in my life.

But then again, I smiled when I heard “decisive battle” play during Shin Godzilla.

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this is the IGN article danielle mentioned


more of an explainer but it helped me a bit

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I’ve written and discarded a bunch of takes on this rewatch series and the finale/EoE. I’m going to go with this one.

As someone who dug NGE as a teenager (it’s hard not to love its ambition and dark imagination), and later saw how gross it was and walked away, this rewatch series was immensely satisfying. I was able to both vicariously revisit the good parts, and do a few cathartic fist pumps when Rob (particularly) rightfully held the show to account for failing its setup so thoroughly. It writes so many cheques (and I loved those cheques too!) the show runner simply cannot cash. And I have some sympathy for Anno here. To be depressed and have people waiting on you, expecting you to deliver some genius finale must have been awful. But I think of it like when I was a younger tabletop GM. Sometimes I’d have a cool setup, and I just couldn’t close it. Not all great starts have great finishes. Sometimes you just don’t have the sophistication to follow up.

Listening to the crew honestly engaging with what NGE is as text was GREAT and I really have to thank Austin, Cado, Danielle, Patrick and Rob for going the distance.

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Long rant, I apologize, it poured out of me:

I’ll start I guess with 25 and 26, which I think suck. Frankly 25 is the worst episode of the show, and Misato’s ■■■■-shaming is awful, the Freudian crap was pretentious to me even at 13, and if those had been the final episodes with no further content, I would never think about Evangelion again. (26 gets a small pass since the very ending is heartfelt and the Slice of Life parody is hilariously done in the original Dub.) I’ll go back to skipping 25 and 26 on rewatches from now on, probably.

There’s a thousand animes with really bad, unfinished, or nonsensical endings like Soul Eater or Deadman Wonderland or Gantz or Elfen Leid that I never think about anymore.

Evangelion I rewatched about a month ago with just around a ten year break since the last time I saw this show, and a lot of my opinions are still the same. If you want a 26 episode giant robot anime about a teenage boy caught in a weird mystical conspiracy that centers around a giant robot and his relationships with his parents and women, watch RahXephon. You get a happy(ish) ending, a consistent story, something that isn’t so psychologically damaged or problematic, and it has a better opening. Fight me.

Yet End of Evangelion is, even 15 years after I first watched this show, something just goddamned incredible. It might still be in my top 5 of favorite movies ever, maybe even have the top spot. It is aggressively brutal, unpleasant in every possible way, and one of the most singularly important works of art in my life. It is bold and ruthless in a way that even anime stories almost never get to, I can’t imagine a Western franchise ever going to this place. Imagine if End Game had been this and the reaction the world would have given.

And you know, maybe that relationship with that movie is problematic. Like a lot of people, I connected to Evangelion through my psychological issues. Shinji represents a lot of things to a lot of people, to me he’s my troubles through all of childhood and even adulthood to connect with people. I still don’t have a lot of friends, romance still terrifies me on a fundamental level, and I wonder how much my inability to get my shit together to the next phase of life is some deep immaturity I can’t help but cling onto. Maybe this wasn’t the best guiding light, I can see in my own rewatch how hideously angry this movie is, especially towards sex. This is a movie where I think Anno’s own issues with women come in at a point which replace Shinji’s voice. I wonder if maybe if the fucking universe hadn’t imploded during this if Shinji would have grown up to be an Incel. I don’t think the worldview of this series is so much that “women suck especially” it’s that everybody sucks. Anno isn’t better for hating everybody equally as some shitlord might defend him, he’s still sexist, but his view of the world is so despairingly bleak. Relationships don’t work, humanity can’t communicate, failure is inevitable. How many of those lessons have I taken with me in my life still?

What shocks me is that EoE still means so much to me because it’s a movie about, of all things, hope. Like everything Austin gets from the last moments of 26 I get from the finale here. It’s a long bitter temper tantrum of despair that ends with acts of true love from Yui to Shinji. That in spite of everything, all of the failures that Shinji in particular has, he still has a chance.

EoE is truly a systematic breakdown of everything an audience could possibly want. For all you shippers, the moments of Asuka x Shinji, Misato x Shinji, and Rei x Shinji are grotesque beyond comprehension. Misato x Shinji is easily the worst, since its perverse, desperate, and ultimately “bloodless” in that I do not believe either character felt any attraction at that moment and meaningless. It’s just awful. For all you fans of a traditional hero narrative, Shinji fails completely in this movie, and when the movie goes for truly awesome with Asuka, the movie then takes it back with even more horror than ever before. If you wanted clarity on the lore it’s dumped without much interest and still has a billion questions. If you wanted clarity you instead get incredible David Lynch-esque moments of Shinji playing on a staged playground and live action footage. The movie is still legitimately beautiful on aesthetic level, twenty years later, but it is not fun. “Rape-y” is the least of the words to use. I don’t believe in the “Anno hates his audience” theory, I believe he wanted to tell a story for himself and not to get back at you, you nerds. But he also told a story where it seems like hope is impossible, Shinji in particular is the person least able to handle the strain of saving us all, and doom is certain.

Then Shinji’s mom saves the day, basically tells him it’s alright, and that still touches me. Shinji after everything should be the person to just turn his back on humanity on all existence and force everybody into this grotesque version of the Book of Revelations where all the good souls are joined with God, except against their will. (Even if by accident, I’ve found this movie’s religious message to be fascinating, it’s basically a strong case to reject joining with God or a Higher Power and instead find your own mortal happiness. I still follow that in some way, and always pick the Chaos Routes in SMT.)

Shinji’s rage and incompeteness and sexual inadequacies and antisocial fears should be the damnation of us all, and yet after everything, he still decides to keep on living as himself, in his ruined life, to find his own happiness. EoE says being alive, even for another day, even alone in the apocalypse with a chick who hates you for good damn reasons, is worth it.

His Robot Mommy still loves him, and even now that she’s gone, he can learn to love himself. The story is hardly over, Shinji isn’t suddenly happy or fixed, the world is still fucked, but he’s survived this. Is he excused for being a coward? Should we even consider him a coward since he was fucking fourteen and what more could you expect out of this kid when the universe has done everything to destroy him the entire series? Is the movie excused for what it’s done? I don’t know. He has hope, the text says everybody has hope, even I have hope…

…except Gendo who is burning in Hell forever like he always deserved. Fuck Gendo.

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25 and 26 were very pseudo-psychological and at points a bit difficult for me to buy into but overall I came away disturbed appropriately as I expected was intended. I was also moved to years by the representation of depression mirroring my experience, if abstractly.

The crew seems deeply judgmental of Anno, to the point that they are willing to make assumptions about his intentions while simultaneously suggesting that they (or at least Austin, specifically) don’t care what he intended. What we’re left with is unfortunate. It didn’t come across as critique so much as an airing of grievances over one particular take on the show. I suppose that is fair if that’s what they all felt, but the continuous interruption of Cado with grunts and groans at each attempt he made to vocalize an alternative take called into question, for me, the power dynamics at the table, and the freedom the team had to express themselves openly.
I appreciated your takes, Cado. Don’t feel pressured into assuming another person’s perspectives! Do not give into astonishment over a well articulated attack on something you value, either.

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Listening to this series of podcasts has been an absolute joy, and I’m really grateful to the whole team for putting in the time and energy to contend with such a fraught piece of media. I learned a lot from it, about what makes challenging art successful and what makes it fail.

Also, lowkey, helped me cope with the dreadfulness of the Homestuck ending that went live earlier this year, which was another creator tantrum that character assassinated the cast and flattened everything to metaphor.

I find it weird and strange how this is a recurring thing, a creator of something big and challenging falling into the same pitfall of… essentially murdering the Watsonian reading in favor of the Doylist.

Rob’s example of Utena and how it just never pretended to be “real” in that sense was eye-opening for me. I, like Rob, hit Utena at a formative age and have spent a significant amount of this podcast wondering why one ‘worked’ and the other was just frustrating me. I think for some people there is more of an offense to the idea of breaking characters in service of a Big Idea than for others. I even kind of feel like if the conclusion of Eva didn’t do the flattening of character it did with everyone but kept the same basic plot, it would have succeeded.

Regardless: Thank you so much to the team for these podcasts, and to Cado for producing such loooooong goddamn discussions. I hope y’all treat yourselves with fun stuff in the immediate future.

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I haven’t finished this episode of the podcast yet, but I have a couple of thoughts on why I like episodes 25 and 26 a lot more than the crew does.

First, I am extremely stupid, and have no problem with the show just saying what it means. I am not good at interpreting metaphors, or at close analysis of fiction. I try, but I am, frankly, really thick, and appreciate being beaten over the head with a message, especially when that message is one that hits extremely close to home. (Accepting that I am allowed to exist has been world-changing each time I’ve done it, and I stopped the podcast in part because I was in tears just listening to the discussion surrounding it.) It may have been really bad experimental art, but I do not have the skill to appreciate good experimental art, or discern the difference.

Secondly, I had already checked out on Misato’s plotline as “internalised misogyny written by someone who clearly doesn’t experience or understand it” back around her being carried home by Kaji, so that whole thing offended me less in the end here because I’d already accepted it was garbage. I just didn’t care about it anymore. It is certainly badly done. As someone who doesn’t understand women’s attraction to men under patriarchy, doesn’t understand desires to be degraded, and certainly doesn’t get the intersection between the two, I do not write those things, and I think Anno would have been well served by also not writing those things. I definitely understand why it made the Waypoint crew so angry, and if I hadn’t been upset about it a dozen episodes ago, I could certainly see myself being far more incensed by it.

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