Sometimes I wonder ‘Would it have been better if the Americans and the Russians had blown us all to kingdom come, or not come, as the case may be?’
The End of Evangelion is the sequel movie to the Neon Genesis Evangelion TV series. It is also the most beautiful depiction of an apocalypse that I have seen. This is one of those anime where the explicit message is contradicted by its implicit message. Many things are simply asserted through monologues without any evidence, of course if you take out the in series explanations and look at the historical context it makes sense. Japan in the 1990s was going through an economic crisis and many young men lost hope in being able to live better lives than their parents had so many of them retreated into anime and manga full of cute girls, manly men and ambitious, strong-willed and inspirational honest heroes living in fantasy worlds where good guys always won completely detached from life in Japan. Hideaki Anno was one of the otaku who helped to create the world those young men escaped into, he and Studio Gainax were very ambitious to create the best anime that they could but the economic crisis hit the anime industry hard as well and a mixture of being unable to create the anime he wanted and seeing that his fans were just using his works just to escape reality rather than grasp greatness with their own hands made Hideaki Anno depressed. And out of that depression came one of the greatest anime criticising escapist tendencies. The only thing that nearly comes near to this in anime is Welcome to the NHK (although there are some manga criticising escapism as well.)
And yet the bleak fatalism in The End of Evangelion deflects any attempt by the cast or the protagonist to present a convincing argument that it is better not to escape from reality into the comfort of fiction. It is taken for granted that such escapism leads to pain… even though it is suggested that in a stage of complete escapism from reality any pain is cancelled out by the complementary parts of the rest of humanity- just like otakus seek their the parts that they lack in fictional characters who are not fully rounded people. Shinji decides that life with others was not worth continuing because it offered him too much pain so he merged all life into one effectively ending all life but his own, fair enough, but then in a very overt way Shinji is told that he is wrong because…. it is a lie? ‘A dream’? It is never made clear. An obvious point that nonetheless bears to be said is that what convinced Shinji to go on with his first course of action was hearing the rejections of the women around him who he fancied. It is a very selfish act, which in a way makes him similar to his father, well except his father was obsessed only with one woman in particular, but it is much better I think than couching his self-interest in the terms of selflessness, compassion and love the way utopians like SEELE do. For example by saying that bringing life to an end is to end all suffering or some other frivolous argument that an anti-natalist bring up. I am not saying that it won’t end all suffering but the reason that people who want the apocalypse to happen want it to happen is always to end their own suffering. In the end however all those who did pursued greatness and excellence in one way or another in Evangelion like Ritsuko and Gendo and SEELE were also not presented in a positive at all. The only milldly positive character in the series was Misato but even her motivations were screwed up. Because of the lack of agency of most characters to prevent the apocalypse (or to make it happen their way) and due to a lack of a presentation of an alternative positive outlook EoE negates its hopeful outlook and makes everything seem out of anyone’s control despite what our ptsd’d protagonist might say in the monologues in his head — it is not convincing. What is shown to the viewer contradicts with what is told to the viewer. In the end the only ones who truly were able to end their existances happily with a smile on their faces without illuding themselves by fake Ayanami’s and Waifu’s were SEELE.
What does this mean? It looks pretty.
I will not waste any single breath discussing the symbolism in EoE, that has been done to death, just search for ‘evageeks’ and you will find everything you may want to know about it.
Notes: For those of you who live in the dark the title of this post is a reference to Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
EoE: degenerate normie propaganda intended to destroy otaku culture
Is this a hall full of otakus? I can’t laugh at them because I want those plushies too.