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.