The 5th and final part of our Neon Genesis Evangelion watchalong with Vrai, Dee, and special guests Isaac and Lizzie! It’s time for the Eva Endings Extravaganza as viewers new and old reflect on their feelings about the franchise.
Date Recorded: Saturday 28th September 2019
Hosts: Vrai, Dee
Guests: Lizzie, Isaac
0:02:42 TV End of Evangelion
0:14:23 Slice of life AU
0:21:16 How the movies were made
0:25:23 End of Evangelion
0:52:27 Final thoughts
VRAI: Hello, listeners. Welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast, and the episode that I am calling the “Eva Ending Extravaganza”!
Once again, I am your host Vrai. I’m an editor and contributor at Anime Feminist. You can find all the freelance work I do on my Twitter at @WriterVrai, or you can find the other podcast I cohost @trashpod. And with me very, very patiently are Dee, Isaac, and Lizzie. Remember, you’re going to be nice and civil.
DEE: Was that for us or for the listeners?
VRAI: No, that’s for the listeners. Y’all can say whatever you want. You have the microphones.
DEE: Oh, the power!
VRAI: Yes, but once more, you can introduce yourselves and tell people where they can find your good, good stuff.
DEE: Sure. Hi, I’m Dee. I’m the managing editor at AniFem. You can find all my writings on my blog, The Josei Next Door, and that is J-O-S-E-I. I have discovered that a lot of people don’t know how to spell it. And you can also hang out with me on Twitter @joseinextdoor. Once again, J-O-S-E-I. I get Josie Next Door more often than you’d think, so…
ISAAC: Oh, I love Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
LIZZIE: Okay, I’ll go. Hi, my name is Lizzie. You might know me as ThatNerdyBoliviane. You can find all the stuff I’ve written on ThatNerdyBoliviane.com. You can follow me @LizzieVisitante on Twitter, and my pronouns are they/them.
ISAAC: And yes, once again it’s Isaac, former associate features editor at Crunchyroll, semi-retired aniblogger at mageinabarrel.com. And you can find me on Twitter @iblessall, where I make tweet threads like comforting cute anime pictures after I’ve watched End of Evangelion to help me feel better.
VRAI: That’s a good temperature taker prelim for this. Man, I always forget to tell people my pronouns are they. I feel like I’ve given up that fight on podcasting, where my voice sounds like this.
But yes, so… We are full of End of Eva thoughts. Because, as y’all may remember from the last episode, we got so deep into it with episodes 21 through 24, that there just was not time in an hour to get into the finale. So, now we’re doing both. And let’s start and reach way back in our minds. What were your feelings about episodes 25 and 26 of the TV series? TV ending, we’ll call it.
ISAAC: Well, yeah, I’m trying to remember what I said two weeks ago, because I feel like I maybe got a little bit into it, or however long it was ago that we recorded.
DEE: Yeah. We sort of touched on it, yeah.
ISAAC: And I think I said this, but in case I didn’t: I think by the end of episode 25 and maybe the first quarter of 26, I was pretty checked out. And I think it’s interesting because when we get to End of Evangelion we’ll get the further context for this, but I think for me, one of the breaking points was when in 25 we get those very quick shots of Misato and Ritsuko having been killed and then we just kind of gloss over that and move on to everything else.
And by that point, I sort of just threw up my hands. I was like, “Well, what’s there left for me to care about?” And so, I went into episode 26 just being like, please let this end quickly. But I ended up being actually kind of surprised, because the final 75% of episode 26 somehow pulled it out of the fire for me. And by the end, I was like, “Oh yeah, I like that ending.”
And then I was really confused about my feelings because I thought I hated this and I was ready to just have one feeling, but now I have multiple feelings. And I don’t really know what to do with that.
VRAI: Oh no, complex feelings! The worst!
DEE: [crosstalk] Why can’t it just be simple?
LIZZIE: I think I felt confused, and most of the time, I’m asking “Why?” That was my general feelings of episodes 25 and 26. I think I understood what Anno was trying to say in those two episodes, but in a way I felt like it really missed the mark for me. And I just felt like the positive validation that Shinji got in the end was kind of like, “I get it, but it’s not really hitting me the way I want it to.”
I was more upset with that ending in a way because I wanted Asuka to be there in the center as well—because they go into this whole psychoanalyzing everybody’s thoughts and feelings, and you kind of examine Asuka’s feelings in those episodes, but she’s not really in the center with Shinji at all. She’s clapping for him, too, along with everyone else, which I don’t think is fair because she deserves some kind of a closure, too. But I think, overall, not getting into the movie too much, but after having seen the movie, I 100% prefer this finale than the movie.
VRAI: Yeah. And actually, I’ve dunked on the writing of the new dub a lot on this podcast. One thing that I absolutely unequivocally love about it is it realized that it’s kind of fucked that 25 spends so much time on Misato and Asuka and then kind of dumps them to only resolve things for Shinji, so the dub audio directors decided to layer in Asuka and Misato’s voices at the very end when Shinji has his big revelatory line about “Maybe I can learn to like myself.”
LIZZIE: Oh, that’s nice.
VRAI: And I really like that.
ISAAC: [crosstalk] That’s nice.
VRAI: So, even though you’re not seeing them, you get the sense that, oh, this process is happening for them, too. I thought that was a really smart touch. And I wish that the new recording had been allowed to do more interesting things like that.
ISAAC: Wow, that’s… Not to get too deep into that, but that is just a really fascinating example of how something like localization and dubbing something into another language can actually have… Obviously, it does, but I think that’s a really clear example of how that can have an artistic side to it on its own and making it more interpretation rather than just “We’re doing a one-to-one move from one thing to another.” So, that’s a whole ‘nother conversation, but that’s very interesting and very cool.
LIZZIE: [crosstalk] Me too, I love it.
DEE: Yeah, I like that.
VRAI: Because I think you—and Dee, you voiced some of that same frustration, too, that it picks into all these very ugly things with three characters, but then we only have time to resolve it for Shinji. And that kind of sucks if you’ve been on this ride for an ensemble cast.
DEE: Yeah, it breaks everybody down, but then it only allows Shinji to get built back up, which is unfair to the other characters, who deserve more than that. And it’s, again, I say, poor storytelling, that if you’re going to build up these character arcs, you don’t just drop them because you decided they weren’t important anymore. You have to do something with that.
I had a very viscerally negative reaction to the end of the TV show, which I was not expecting. I have cooled off since then and—especially after the movie—have become fairly complimentary of the TV ending again. I remember having fairly fond memories of the TV ending. And then when I watched it this time and I didn’t, I was like, “What? I know a lot changed. It’s been like 15 years, but I wonder why.” And then I rewatched End of Eva, and I went, “Okay, so yeah, in retrospect, the TV ending is much more my speed and the preferred narrative arc for me.”
My thing with the end of this TV series, other than what we’ve been talking about—that it dumps the other characters to the side, which is a huge issue—other than that, my issue with it is Shinji has what is basically… How did I put it when I was yelling at Vrai? Basically, the end of the TV series gave me an existential crisis and then just patted me on the back and walked away and acted like it had solved the existential crisis. And it definitely hadn’t!
VRAI: “It thinks it solved depression and it didn’t” is, I believe, what you yelled at me.
DEE: Yeah, that was the other thing I shouted at you because it… And Vrai, I think you called this “the paradox of Eva” last week. Whether that was being recorded or not, I can’t remember. I don’t want to come down too hard on the ending because I know Anno was going through a lot and this helped him and this has helped other people, and I think that’s very, very good, and I don’t want to feel like an asshole for criticizing it.
But what got me at the end of it was that Shinji has what is basically his first major breakthrough. And that’s a very important moment, and the sky opens up for him, and that’s great. But then it just ends as if that has solved everything. And that’s not how mental health works, or just health in general, or relationships with people.
I really think if the show had given us just a quick coda, like two minutes with the credits running, showing us what the world looks like after that and what small steps are being made… because there’s continuing to be work. One thing I grumbled to Vrai, too, I was like, “Yeah, Shinji has decided he can like himself, but the world is still a climate disaster and their country is run by fascists.” This doesn’t seem topical at all.
VRAI: Ho-ho-ho! Oh. Aw.
LIZZIE: It almost forgets, like, “Hey, we had a death cult trying to destroy the world.” It completely forgets about that towards the end, and what was the point of all that, almost, you know?
VRAI: Yeah, it pushes that issue that we’ve come back to time and again of the metaphor and the plot details are ever increasingly separating as the plot goes on, and it hits the finale, and it just breaks. It shatters into two pieces.
DEE: Yeah, pretty much.
VRAI: I had a really interesting time watching this, both for the podcast and for the article I did on IGN. I’ve been thinking about the finale a lot. And the very first time I watched the series, I was in college, and episode 25 triggered me really bad. I ended up under my bed having a really bad anxiety spiral.
I think this show can be legitimately harmful to watch if you don’t have a grip on where your brain is. And I think maybe people don’t warn for that in the way they should.
DEE: Yeah, it hits hard.
VRAI: And so, I kind of hated 26 because I was really deep in my depression and did not have a handling on it, so 26 just seemed like these empty platitudes. And I know that that’s not true for all people. But for me, it seemed impossible. But then watching it where I am now, in a much healthier place, it felt nostalgic, like a reaffirmant of “You did this, and mental health is a lifelong journey, and you’ve had breakthroughs like this, and you’re going to keep having them, and you can do it.”
So, I feel like as a tool looking backward to somebody who has actively got a grip and living with their mental health rather than trying to dig their way out, it feels much more complete and comforting to me, which I wonder if isn’t the same for how Anno was feeling when he wrote it.
Although at the same time, there are some very upsetting interview segments of Anno talking about how he had a pretty bad depressive spiral after he finished working on this ending, to the point where he describes going up to the roof of the office and just kind of standing on the edge of the building and sticking his foot out, thinking about it.
LIZZIE: Oof, that’s tough.
DEE: Oof. Yeah.
ISAAC: Well, yeah. The episode itself is like… I guess we’re pretty much just on to 26. There’s a lot of really recognizable patterns of just the way that Shinji talks to himself. And the way that manifests a lot of times… and obviously, everyone’s depression is different, but there’s a lot that’s really recognizable and, I think, true to life there.
But we only get 26 minutes of that. And for Anno, I mean, I don’t know the details of exactly how long it takes to produce a single episode of anime, but certainly, you know this is something that for him he was working on a lot longer than 26 minutes.
And so, it’s almost interesting that for us, from the outside, we could say it seems a little short and incomplete. And for him maybe he was feeling in a similar way, just from a different perspective of like, “I’ve spent so much time on this, and it’s still not complete.” Kind of like you were saying, Vrai, it’s a lifelong journey, these kinds of things.
VRAI: Yeah, there is definitely a fairly famous interview where he talks about getting this kind of 101 psychology book and having this breakthrough about Rei in particular, and all of a sudden what he wanted to say with this was clear to him, having it laid out in black and white like that, which I think is maybe why it’s so insufferably didactic for a big chunk of the episode, because once again, it’s just Anno talking at himself.
I did want to ask how you all felt about the AU section, the high school AU.
ISAAC: Really good. I felt great about that. I liked Rei running with toast in her mouth. I felt great about that. That was good.
LIZZIE: I thought it was okay. It felt a little out of place, considering everything that was happening in the episode. But I guess it was nice to see what could have been if these kids were in a healthier environment. I mean, I don’t think I like some tropes replicated in those moments.
VRAI: Yeah, they could have been in a mediocre harem anime. Phew!
DEE: I mean, that’s basically what it is, right?
ISAAC: There’s a lot in that episode that was very similar to the first episode of Nisekoi. I’m not sure if any of you have seen that or watched it. But it’s very stock in that way.
LIZZIE: Putting all those problematic elements aside… Yeah, I guess it was nice to envision what these kids would look like if they were in a healthier environment, and maybe they have better home lives and whatnot. But in the end, we’re still back to them literally being psychoanalyzed, and we’re stuck in their head, trying to get them through the traumas that they’re trying to work through.
DEE: Yeah, I guess the point of it is to show… Because Shinji keeps talking about “All I have is piloting the Eva. I can’t imagine doing anything else and having worth in the world,” which is obviously a terrible place to be in, especially for something that’s as toxic for him as piloting an Eva. And so, this AU is kind of like, “Oh, so there actually are other existences that could be there for me.” So, I guess it’s supposed to give him hope at the possibilities.
But as Lizzie has pointed out, as we have continued to say, their actual physical reality has not changed, though.
VRAI: Right. Hoping things will be better will not bring your dead mom back. Will not break her out of the giant robot.
LIZZIE: Apparently, Gendo would’ve still been a very uninvolved parent, even in the AU.
VRAI: I miss the old dub! The old dub had a time with the high school AU stuff. Just did not give a fuck about the original script.
LIZZIE: Oh gosh, that sounds precious.
VRAI: It’s real cute. Yeah, though, and it is wild for me every time I see it on a meta level, because that kind of almost Rick-and-Morty’d Evangelion as a franchise, because there are eight billion spinoffs that are just AU versions of the characters. There’s one that’s a mediocre harem anime, and there’s one that’s Evangelion characters but it’s Persona. And there’s one where Shinji and Kaworu are part of a detective agency with Kaji and… You want an AU? Eva franchise has you covered.
ISAAC: I mean, that’s what you always want out of a really sad and depressing show, right? You want to see those characters… That part was interesting, yeah, on a meta level, because there’s such an impulse, I feel like, for a lot of dark and very serious shows where people just want to go draw fanart of the characters having a… the coffee shop AU.
DEE: The coffee shop AU. Yeah.
ISAAC: There’s just that impulse where you’re like, “I just want these people to be happy,” so you’re like, “Okay, well, let’s go and create something where they’re totally divorced from all of this bad stuff that’s happening, and they can be happy.” And then you feel better, too.
VRAI: Mm-hm. Yeah, definitely, the instinct is real.
All right, we are reaching about a third of the way and we should probably get talking about the movie. Do you all have any last words you want to say about TV ending?
DEE: Despite my initial, very, very sharp, angry reaction to it, I have calmed down on that front. I still have criticisms, but I think it is undeniably something that a creator poured their soul into. It is a very sincere ending, even if it is sort of overcomplicated at points and oversimplified at points. And I think that that comes through.
Even if all of the meanings and intent don’t necessarily reach the audience, I think that that sincerity of the intent does come through, and I think that makes it one of those things where, even if it did kind of piss me off at the time, it’s much easier to soften on and to look back on more favorably, because it is something that is desperately trying to tell you something. And maybe it didn’t click exactly with me, but I think that is an important aspect of fiction.
And I think that having “the thing” it is desperately trying to tell you to basically be like “Look after yourself and each other and don’t get too down on yourself,” I think that’s good. At the end of the day, that is valuable.
ISAAC: Mm-hm. And that being the resolution, I guess there’s some merit in that. Shinji’s problems are exacerbated by his external circumstances, but inherently they’re internal issues to him. And so, to me, there is some fairness in the fact that the way the TV show ends up concluding is that it’s not about the big conflict of the world outside. It’s just about him working through his issues. And so, there’s something about that I can that I can appreciate.
LIZZIE: Overall, I felt like the narrative is really incoherent and all over the place. And it definitely, I feel like, at the end of the day, missed the mark for me. But at the same time, I feel like I can 100% understand what Anno was going for in the end. And I like the sincerity of what he was trying to say, even though I don’t really feel like it resonated with me the way maybe he intended or whatnot. But that’s fine.
The message is a good one, for folks to take care of each other; maybe, hopefully, you’ll inspire other people to make them realize that maybe they will like themselves someday, even though that moment might not be now. But that’s also assuming anybody will ever make it to 26 and don’t drop it, so…
VRAI: Yeah. All right. So, I want to give a little bit of guidance on how we get to the movie, because I think coming in as a new fan, it can be a little intimidating to look at all of the titles that exist. “What is this? What do I watch next?”
ISAAC: We had a long conversation about exactly where the movie… Off recording, we did.
VRAI: Yes. All right. So, very briefly, it goes like this. They finish the end of the series. As I read that beautiful Anno quote, last time, he regrets nothing.
VRAI: And there is kind of some disagreement as to what happens next. He wants to work on his unused scripts. Toshio Okada, the studio president of Gainax, maybe talks about [how] other people wanted to— That might not be Okada. But there’s discussion of… They at the studio want to do some more with Eva, so let’s look at those scripts and let’s make a movie.
And so, about a year after the finale of the TV series, which was absolutely shredded by fans and critics—well, there was some division, but yeah, there were a lot of people who really hated it—they come out with this thing called Death & Rebirth, which is half-recap film, where you remind fans what happened with the TV series, intercut with about five minutes of new footage, so people will come to see it, and then on the back half of it, they include the first half of End of Evangelion the movie.
Fans were not happy that the movie was not done. There was a lot of raging and gnashing of teeth and death threats sent to Gainax, including graffiti being painted on the Gainax studio. And it was a bad time. So, Anno looked at the response to Death & Rebirth. —By the way, if you look on Netflix, you will see that there’s something called Death (True). That is not what was originally released in 1997. That’s a re-edited version. That’s only the recap film, basically.
So, Anno looks at that, and he says, “All right, motherfuckers. I’m going to make a movie about how y’all otaku need to go outside.” And a lot of the people around it talk about… this is as much a callout for him because he grew up as a major otaku, and he’s talking about how it’s really important to be able to separate fantasy from reality and just live your life. And so, the second half of End of Eva and the film as a whole is released through that mindset, including actual shots of those death threat letters.
ISAAC: Right. And wasn’t there some footage of people in a theater? And I feel like I read at some point that that was actual footage of people watching the original recap or something like that. That might not be right, but I feel like I saw that somewhere sometime.
VRAI: I don’t have a confirmation on that, but I would believe it.
Ah. So, here’s the quote from deputy director Kazuya Tsurumaki for the End of Evangelion theatrical program book, which honestly, I would love to have a copy of. They’re probably so rare. For example:
“Hideaki Anno said that anime fans are too introverted and need to get out more. Further, he should be happy that non-anime fans are watching his work, right? But when all is said and done, Hideaki Anno’s comments on Evangelion’s two endings are his message aimed at anime fans, including himself and of course me, too. In other words, it’s useless for non-anime fans to watch it. If a person who can already live and communicate normally watches it, they won’t learn anything.”
So, I can’t see this movie as anything but this beautifully righteous rage at the ‘90s version of anime avatar incels, and consequently, I love it very much. [Chuckles] I get the impression y’all did not have the same feelings.
ISAAC: Well, I mean… [Chuckles]
LIZZIE: You want to go first, Isaac?
ISAAC: Sure. Yeah, I guess. Because of everything that you’ve just said, there’s two ways that I have to look at the movie.
And there’s one… And I know you talked about, Vrai, just now, Anno was looking at the response to the first half and the recap film when he was making the second. But I think you get a pretty good sense that even the first half is aimed at some of the response from the original Evangelion, because I think if that opening scene isn’t a callout to say, “Hey, don’t fetishize female characters who are in the midst of serious trauma,” you know, what else is there?
So, I can look at it that way and see a lot of the things that are going on and be like, “Okay, I see what you’re doing there,” and I guess it works on that. And that’s one side.
And then there’s my personal emotional response, which is, “Oh, I don’t really like this very much.” And maybe it’s because I don’t feel like I really qualify as a ‘90s anime avatar incel. And maybe being lectured over if somebody was like, “Okay, you shouldn’t do this, this, and this,” and you’re like, “Well, I don’t do those things. So, could you please let me just have a happy ending for these characters I like? No? Oh, okay.”
LIZZIE: As for me, even knowing all of that, I try my best to look at the movie just as a movie on its own. And I immediately checked out within the first few minutes, because it’s when Shinji was masturbating at Asuka’s boobs in the hospital room. Yeah, it was a lot.
VRAI: [crosstalk] It’s rough!
LIZZIE: And immediately, I was like, these are… I hate the movie for a lot of reasons, but I hate that so much of the time throughout the movie, I was thinking: Shinji just feels extremely out of character in the movie, because even though he has had moments in the TV show when he’s been super depressed and sad, but even then, he’s always pushed himself to do the right thing to help others when they see they need help.
In this one, all that stuff that was remotely likable about him is thrown out the window. And yeah, I get that Anno was really mad. But at the same time, did you have to take it out on these characters that are in constant pain?
DEE: Yeah. So, quick aside. That opening scene that we’ve been talking about… When I first saw this movie, I had no damn clue what had happened in that scene. None! I was like, “I don’t know what’s on his hand. What? What just happened?” It was years later, years later that I finally realized what was going on in that scene.
LIZZIE: [crosstalk] You had a moment in the supermarket.
VRAI: That’s amazing.
DEE: I was so young and innocent. [Chuckles] If only I could have stayed. No, I’m kidding. But anyway.
No, Lizzie, I completely agree with you. I think the film turns Shinji and Rei, especially, into symbols. They stop being characters; they are symbols or mouthpieces for an idea. And it becomes a spite movie. And, personal feelings about the value of spite movies aside, it undoes the past storytelling. The layer of the series that was a character drama, that was about people in this situation trying to live their lives and communicate with each other, is basically gone for the second half of the film.
I think it’s there for the first half, because I think Misato and Asuka manage to maintain their personhood. They’re treated like shit, but they do maintain their personhood. And then Asuka gets ripped apart. I cried a little bit this time.
VRAI: [crosstalk] It’s so upsetting, that scene.
DEE: And then I just didn’t care. I didn’t care in the second half, because I was like, “These aren’t people. It’s just Anno shouting opinions at me.” And the TV show definitely has moments where it turns into a lecture, but it’s a lecture that comes out of what feels like the characters’ actual mindsets. It feels like the train of thought that these characters would actually be having.
And I don’t know if maybe there’s an idea here about how genuine depression, if left untreated, can spiral into this rage that Shinji ends up feeling in the film. I don’t know if that’s what he was trying to go for, or if he just didn’t care about character consistency at all at this point and was just yelling at his toxic fanbase.
LIZZIE: And even then, his solution for solving Asuka’s depression was so… That’s another thing that I checked out of completely, when she all of a sudden felt better that her mom was part of the Eva and her mom was with her this whole time, and all of a sudden, she’s back to being Asuka that we love. And I’m like, “No, the stuff that you’re angry about and are reacting to is legitimately valid. What are you all of a sudden fine about?”
ISAAC: And she has that great awakening and then fights this epic battle and does really good, and then, well, it didn’t actually matter anyways, and…
DEE: It made no difference. Yeah.
ISAAC: Yeah. I wrote in my notes… at that point, I’m like, “Man, it really sucks to be a girl in the”… I felt like this especially, when we were talking about the other ending and how all the other major characters who are all women basically kind of get pushed to the side. And now you’ve got this movie, and instead of just they’re getting brushed aside, now they’re having lots of very visceral violence enacted on them.
And again, I can see where you say, “Well, okay, that’s the point. You know, that’s Anno looking at the fans and saying, ‘Oh, you wanted the end of the movie, and you wanted to see what actually happened in the physical meatspace. Here you go. Do you like this? Are you happy?’” And I’m like, “I was cool with that first ending, and I didn’t need this. Now I’m sad.”
VRAI: [Chuckles] Let me just poke this hornet’s nest a little more. How do you feel about the kiss?
VRAI: I hate it so much. I hate it more than anything else in the whole series! I hate it so much!
LIZZIE: [crosstalk] I’m looking at my notes, and I have in all caps, capitalized, underlined, everything: “WHY?” It’s like, everything that I loved about that relationship, in one kiss—crap, a deep-throat kiss, I think, at that—was thrown out the window. And I was like, “No.” Ugh, hate it.
ISAAC: And she has that great line right before that: “You won’t always be the same person you are now.” Which I felt was, of all the lecture-y type things we get, something that was unique and sort of profound in a way that a lot of other things weren’t, because it addresses the root cause without being so direct about it.
And then, yeah, that happens. And then she dies right after that, so that’s cool.
VRAI: Yep. It sucks.
LIZZIE: No, that made me sad. I was like, “Ugh.” I didn’t even care that she died, and that’s what made me so mad. I was like, “Wow, you really did it, movie. You made me not care about one of the few characters that was like a beacon in this damn show.”
VRAI: Yeah. I disagree with none of the words that you have said.
VRAI: But may I put on my hat for a minute.
LIZZIE: Go for it.
DEE: Go ahead.
ISAAC: What hat is this?
VRAI: This is my very jaunty “I’ve spent too long thinking about this movie” hat “and come around on it.” Because, yeah, I disagree with none of these things that you have said. As a narrative conclusion that one would expect to resolve the characters’ conflicts in a satisfying matter congruent with the TV series up to that point, it sucks ass. It’s bad at it, and it’s bitter, and Anno’s decision to do a spite film pretty much kills any interest it has as a narrative property.
I mentioned—I can’t remember if it was on podcast or not—ages and ages ago that I really, really, really, really hate the kind of fandom obsession with trying to figure out “How do you consolidate the TV ending and End of Eva and make them one contiguous thing that both happened?” I hate that because they are so incredibly thematically antithetical to one another.
LIZZIE: Yep, I agree.
DEE: Yeah, I would agree with that.
ISAAC: Yeah. [Chuckles] Right?
VRAI: So, for me, the way that I finally… I keep getting stuck on that image of… In the TV ending, there’s the shots of all the production equipment and the stage lights, and they turn on as Shinji has his revelation. And then in the movie, there’s baby Shinji playing in the park, and there’s a light there for no reason, and it is just deliberately dark, like we are refusing to realize anything now and you’re going to sit through it.
So, for me, the only way I was able to come around on the movie eventually is to think of them as two divergent paths that could have happened for Shinji as a character. He kills Kaworu, and he hits bottom, if you will, and either he faces up to what’s going on and has his breakthrough, or he lashes out and capitalizes on those things that I think are there in the TV series where he gets angry at Misato and Asuka for the fact that he’s horny at them and they don’t want that from him, and he turns that into being their fault, or the fact that his father abandoned him.
And he has those moments in the series where he’s like, “I don’t understand. And why won’t you do this for me?” And instead of realizing that, “Yes, other people can be awful, but also, I need to take care of myself, and I need to work on my mental health issues,” it becomes this thing of “I’m not wrong. They’re wrong, and I need to inflict violence on them.”
And you’re right. I think I would agree with you, Dee. Shinji is absolutely a symbol. He is a vehicle in the movie, but also, it’s this very believable, ugly worst-case scenario that I buy and that has never stopped being relevant to anime fandom, I don’t think, maybe because we work on the internet and we deal with the kind of people who turned into Movie Shinji every day.
And so, it kind of resonates with me on that front, that horrible… the scene in the kitchen where Asuka just lays him out with “You don’t actually want me. It could be anyone. I’m just the only one here.” And rather than be able to face up to that, he strangles her. And it’s so upsetting. It is this mental health toxicity becoming masculine violence just in a way that I find compelling.
And I like the fact that… I don’t think it entirely is a spite film in terms of Kaworu and Rei. A thing I totally forgot to mention last episode… The reason I ended up bringing up manga Kaworu and all of those other adaptations is I think it kind of does matter that the fandom has been so dedicated to saying, “Well, maybe Kaworu is something shifty. Maybe he actually was in it to hurt Shinji all along,” because there’s something very insidious about the fact that the largely cis male fanbase has taken this relationship that by all terms was something really important and loving and said, “No, this this has to be devious somehow. This has to be toxic somehow, because it makes me feel uncomfortable about myself.” That’s an aside.
But I think there is hope in this movie. Rei and Kaworu show up to offer it to Shinji, that people can understand each other, and essentially they reiterate a potted version of the end of the TV series. And Shinji doesn’t want it. He doesn’t want it the same way [the fans] didn’t want the TV ending.
So, we just end up back to that moment where he floats out of the sea, like “I’m just going to repeat these same mistakes over and over again, because mental health is just an endless spiral that you can’t break out of until you face up to your own shit. I guess we’re doing this again.” I don’t know. It’s just bitter in a way that I respect as I’ve gotten older.
And now I’m gonna take my hat off.
DEE: Yeah, I… [Sighs; tiredly] That’s fair. I… How do I move forward from here?
DEE: [Speaking carefully] I don’t have a lot of use for stories that end with “Well, humanity sucks and we’re just gonna keep doing the same things wrong over and over again,” because what’s the fucking point of your story?
Now—Vrai, you’ve pulled some hope out of this one, which was nice to see—I appreciate what Devilman Crybaby did, but I hated it viscerally and with a passion for similar reasons, because the devastation of the ending, especially building up to the final scene, is relentless.
You can read a newspaper if you want to hear about how bad things are. And again, this is very much kind of a personal philosophy: I think fiction should provide something more than that.
And so, Shinji has this moment with Rei and Kaworu, who are talking to him about… There’s this really good line about the gap between your truth and another’s reality and trying to bridge that; basically talking about empathy, trying to understand where other people are coming from and respecting that.
Which seems like it’s leading us to, “Oh, Shinji was spiraling down this path of toxicity, but he’s going to move forward from that and things are gonna get better now.” He’s made this decision, “I do actually want there to be other people in the world, and we can try to communicate with each other as individuals.” He has this conversation with Rei when they’re halfway merged in the soup. And so, it feels like it’s building to: “Here’s the worst timeline, but it’s gonna be okay. We’re gonna veer you back in.”
And then we just basically smash-cut to that hellscape on the beach, and Shinji is strangling Asuka for reasons that don’t seem to gel with any of what happened prior to that moment. It feels like there was supposed to have been a breakthrough in that conversation, and then there wasn’t.
And we just end with Asuka saying “How disgusting”—which, again, from a spite film perspective, I get it. But from the perspective of “What is this narrative trying to tell its audience?” I think it’s just presenting us with the worst-case scenario and then walking away, and I just don’t see the value in that.
ISAAC: Yeah, when you were talking earlier, Vrai, and you were saying that this worst-case Shinji resonates with you in a lot of stuff we see on the internet—kinda like Dee was saying—I was like, “Well, I don’t need a movie to show me an unhappy male person inflicting violence on a woman.” That shit gets retweeted into my timeline on a daily basis where people are quote-tweeting somebody being like, “Oh, look how bad this person is.”
So, yeah, similar to Dee, where I come down is, again, like I said at the beginning, as far as it being a lecture, I don’t have much use for it personally, because I feel like the things that it’s lecturing about are either not relevant to me personally… which is fair enough and not everything has to be resonant or specifically aimed at me. But I guess I just question the broader effectiveness of that approach.
DEE: Well, and what are we supposed to do with it at the end of the day? If the movie is this “Look at how much these incel toxic fans suck,” okay, I see that. Now what? It just seems like it’s like, “Well, there’s nothing we can do. They’re just gonna be terrible forever.” And that doesn’t help the audience it’s maybe trying to reach, because, again, Shinji’s 14. I just want to back up to… Shinji’s 14. This is not like a 28-year-old who’s more or less fully formed. This is a 14-year-old.
And I don’t know what to do with a story that tells me terrible people exist and they’re just gonna keep inflicting violence forever. I don’t know what to do with that film.
LIZZIE: No, I was pretty much gonna say I pretty much agree with the two of you, and that there’s two decent things I have to say about the movie. One, the visuals towards the end were really nice to see.
VRAI: Aren’t they beautiful?
LIZZIE: Well, some were. I was like, “Oh, okay, I can see why this film’s iconic, sort of.” And the other one’s Gendo’s head being ripped off. That was nice.
VRAI: Wasn’t it good?
LIZZIE: But beyond that, that whole thing when Shinji was having that conversation with his mother and his mother being okay leaving her son to his own devices now… I mean, yeah, we get this whole spiel about how he’s gonna be okay. Rei and Kaworu come and give him some kind of hope, and humanity restores itself, kinda.
But that whole thing felt really hollow to me, because everything prior to that was so spiteful and awful, that when the movie goes back to trying to be “Hey, we can be hopeful again” or whatnot, it doesn’t carry that weight I’m supposed to feel, and by the end of it, yeah, I don’t know what to do with that ending. Like, okay, so Shinji’s going to make this mistake over and over again? I don’t know.
Stories like that, when time goes in a loop, it can be good, depending on what story it is, but in this case, I feel like there’s so much pressure on Shinji to do the right thing. He’s only 14. He’s not even being allowed to really grow up. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a child, and that’s one of the things that the movie brought up, like “We’re leaving our hopes and futures to Shinji.” I’m like, “Why? He’s just a kid!” I don’t want my hopes and dreams to be on his shoulders. That’s too much.
DEE: Yeah. And then Asuka’s just stuck with him. Again, the film kind of forgets that Asuka also has a perspective. Even though the movie is yelling at the audience for treating the characters like objects, the movie is also treating the characters like objects.
VRAI: Yeah. I guess for me—because honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of bleak or spiteful media—catch me on Twitter yelling about Lars von Trier every other Tuesday—but I think, for me, the answer to it is that the TV ending is the companion answer to the film.
And I think what leads me back to it is that speech that Rei and Kaworu give, is that all this could be avoided if we just loop on back to that honest conversation and breakthrough moment of the TV ending. That is the solution he’s offering. It would be different, I think, to me if the TV ending didn’t exist and we only had End of Eva, but as a unit, I find them very interesting.
ISAAC: And I guess a thing that maybe plays into that—and I think this comes explicitly in the film—is basically everybody on Earth who’s been jellified into… people are gonna have their own specific internal option to decide “Can you envision yourself as an individual apart from other people enough?” and then you’ll be reinstated on the world. At least that was my interpretation of what’s going on. And now I have lost my train of thought.
LIZZIE: I just felt this movie kept slapping me in the face where it could. And when the credits for, I guess, episode 25 in the movie started, when Anno goes into that whole spiel about “I want to thank the five women that helped me out with this movie,” that feels so empty considering there’s so much violence that happens to the women and girls in this movie.
DEE: With seemingly no real point to it. I mean, there’s a point, because we’ve talked about the criticisms the film is making. But the point is all in service of the male main character. Again, the girls end up getting treated like objects for the main character’s storyline.
VRAI: At what point does “I’m saying a thing” stop being a protection of “While saying a thing, you’re also just replicating the bad thing.”
DEE: And I think it could’ve been something simple, like Asuka fighting back or getting up and walking away or something at the end. But instead, we just end with her just sitting there and allowing… And like, she says she’s disgusted by it, but it’s just happening. The movie is just allowing this to happen.
LIZZIE: It just ends.
DEE: It’s hard to put into— And then it just ends. And it’s hard to put into words, but it’s just this gut feeling of “Everything you’ve done with this character is wrong for her and sets up this toxic precedent that I just don’t like.” And again, I’m having a hard time putting it into words, but it really bothers me.
ISAAC: Right. And that’s not even getting into Rei, who rejects metaphorical sex with Gendo, and what she does with that is she just goes back to Shinji, because he said she was like a mom. That’s what happens there, and that’s why she decides that “Yeah, we’re gonna let Shinji handle it again.”
DEE: Yeah, Rei has that really great moment when she says, “I’m not your doll. I am my own person.”
VRAI: It’s good.
ISAAC: “I’m gonna go be Shinji’s doll instead! Ha!”
DEE: Yeah, the fact that she, again, just kinda becomes this symbolic figure… It’s cool that she breaks out from Gendo’s control, and at least with Rei, I can make the case that Rei realizes what she wants and then she goes for it. And yes, it’s centered around the male characters, but at least it is focusing her agency and desires as the center of that.
Asuka spends this entire movie calling Shinji out, fighting back against her fate, and for apparently nothing. Apparently, she’s just stuck with this guy she hates.
VRAI: Yeah. It’s rough. I have no defense for that. Yeah.
LIZZIE: I guess I don’t know where to go from here. I don’t want to bring up the Rebuild films too much, but at this point, I’m like: what else does he want to say with Evangelion aside from just making money? The only positive thing I have to say about Rebuild is that Utada Hikaru is involved with the music. But that’s it. I haven’t seen the movies, but I’m just throwing that out there.
VRAI: Um, it’s nice that Kaworu gets more screen time. That’s the end of the nice things I have to say about Rebuild.
LIZZIE: That’s the thing. You said he dies, right? Aw. Or does he?
VRAI: I mean, there’s one more movie, but yep, he still dies.
DEE: I will be curious to see how Rebuild ends, because the ending of these various versions that Anno has himself worked on seem to tell you a lot about Anno’s headspace at the time. So, I am kind of curious to see how the Rebuild franchise shakes out.
My solution to “Where do we go from here with End of Eva?” is: just watch the TV ending again and go, “Well, that was a little over-simplistic, but at least there’s hope for these characters.”
VRAI: Yeah, honestly, as much as I’ve grown fond of End of Eva, I couldn’t really recommend it except as an interesting historical piece and a genuinely stupendous visual marvel. I think that the “Komm, süsser Tod” sequence is still one of the most memorable and beautiful sequences in anime.
DEE: Oh, it’s a gorgeous film, and the imagery is very striking.
ISAAC: Is that the one where they’re singing “Tumbling Down”? Is it that song or another one?
VRAI: Sometimes I sing that song in the shower and make my wife very upset.
ISAAC: Well, not to plug my own Twitter, but if you follow me on Twitter, you can catch me making jokes like “Hey, what about that scene, but instead of that song, it’s ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay?”
DEE: Oh, Lord.
ISAAC: That came from the fact that… you know, what if Netflix had also not licensed that along with “Fly Me to the Moon”? Maybe that scene would’ve been even more impressive.
DEE: [crosstalk] Completely different.
ISAAC: Who knows?
VRAI: Yep. Well, let’s close things out by asking: how do you feel, Isaac and Lizzie, having finally seen this large touchstone of anime culture?
ISAAC: I’m tired.
DEE: We’ll bring you both on to do something joyful next time we have you on the podcast. How’s that?
ISAAC: Thank you!
LIZZIE: I have a feeling there’s a lie in there. But anyways… How do I feel? I feel, yeah, tired, a little confused, and annoyed. Yeah, it’s sort of mindboggling to me why this— I mean, I get why it’s popular, but from a narrative standpoint, I’m like, “Why is it popular?”
If we’re going into recommendations, I don’t think I could really recommend it, because I wouldn’t even know how to have this conversation with people about it. I’ve already told a couple of friends, “If you want to hear any thoughts I have on this show, just listen to the podcast, because I won’t be able to coherently talk about it in a normal setting.”
But I already have friends telling me they won’t listen because they hate Eva. [Chuckles] Yeah, one of my friends was like, “I love you, Lizzie, but I’m listening to that, because I hate Evangelion.” I’m like, “Okay, that’s valid. Z, I love you.”
DEE: [Chuckles] That’s fair, yeah.
ISAAC: In one sense, I have an appreciation for it as a historical artifact, within the broader culture of anime. I don’t know that I have a lot of appreciation for it on personal terms. It’s definitely not a franchise that I’m like, “Okay, I want to know more about this and engage with other stuff from it.”
But I think I talked in the first episode about recognizing some of the visuals that I’d seen in things that came afterwards. So, I appreciate that element of it, and I think Eva is sort of a predecessor of the sekai-kei genre, which is all about the fate of the world rests on the resolution of people’s relationships. In Eva, obviously, it’s Shinji’s relationship with himself. But then you get stuff like Eureka Seven, where the romantic relationship between the two leads is tied into the resolution of the story.
So, there is still value for me on a personal level in just being able to make those kinds of connections and tracing this historical arc between Eva and things that I like a lot more than it. But yeah, as a self-contained thing, like I said, I can appreciate in a lot of places what it was going for, but it’s in the end probably just not for me.
VRAI: What about you, Dee, revisiting it after such a long time?
DEE: Boy, my opinion on this series has changed dramatically. I think I kinda had this idea that I just didn’t get it, because it throws around so much philosophical language and pseudoscience that’s not actually accurate. But I had a positive experience with it and then also this feeling of “Man, I want to read more about it and get other people’s opinions about it, because it’s so complicated and smart!”
And I don’t think it’s actually as complicated as I thought it was. I would reevaluate my previous… I have occasionally offhandedly named it in the “anime masterpieces list”—a very, very short list. I would not be doing that anymore.
I think it’s a very messy, very personal story. I appreciate certain things about it a lot more than I used to. Other than the movie—which I think I have made very clear on this podcast that it is definitely not for me—I think overall my opinions on it are still fairly positive, but I see it as a much messier story than I did in the past.
A lot more flawed that I think a lot of people discuss with it, and I think those flaws are interesting. So, I think those conversations are worth having. In the same way, I love Fushigi Yugi with all my heart, but boy howdy, does it have problems! But talking about those problems is very valuable, because there are interesting conversations that can come out of those criticisms.
For me, as far as recommendations go, it’s the kind of thing where, from a historical perspective, almost an academic perspective, it’s the kind of thing I would give to somebody if they’re interested in the genre as a whole—in the medium, sorry (I know it’s not a genre; it’s a medium)—the influences behind that; the historical significance of Eva. I think there is a lot to talk about in it, as these podcasts have suggested.
If somebody came to me and was like, “I’m just looking for a fun anime to watch over the weekend,” Eva would not be on that list.
LIZZIE: Yeah, no.
DEE: Or even on the list of “What’s a show that you just love and you think I’ll love?” because Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju is not a fun show to watch over the weekend, but it’s still one that I will recommend loudly.
VRAI: It’s a better show than Eva.
DEE: Well, it’s much more coherently put together and gracefully narrated and actually gives all of its characters satisfying arcs instead of forgetting about them at the end for various creator reasons, some of which are valid—very valid, in fact.
So, yeah, I would say my feelings about Eva are a lot more complicated than they were before we started this, and my “shrug” attitude that I had going into this is a little bit stronger now, I would say.
DEE: But I still think it is a series that it’s important to talk about; it’s valid to talk about. I’m glad that we’re still talking about it. But let’s also maybe not treat it like it’s a flawless work of untouchable perfection, because it’s definitely not that.
LIZZIE: It’s not. It is not a masterpiece.
ISAAC: Oh! [Chuckles]
LIZZIE: I know. I’m going there. I’m trying to be kind. I’m trying.
VRAI: Well, it’s interesting to me, Dee, that you brought up Fushigi Yugi, because I feel like you and I are through the mirror on how we ended up at the end of that podcast.
VRAI: Except that Evangelion is overhyped, as opposed to overtrashed.
DEE: Yeah. That is a big difference, huh.
VRAI: Uh-huh. Because I agree: it does Eva a tremendous disservice to call it a flawless masterpiece. I think its flaws are as interesting as what it does well.
But rewatching this with new people has been really fun and special for me, as somebody who has not watched Eva in full since I was in college. And I will never be able to separate myself from the show just because of how very, very much I see myself in Shinji at that age and just all them gender feels, though.
DEE: [Chuckles] Yeah.
VRAI: And so, to me, it’s a show that’s both very personal, and where those accomplishments it makes stick out more and where the flaws… some of them are intensely frustrating, almost all of them around the female characters, but a lot of the stuff around its handling of mental health have become almost endearing to me over time, just the sheer earnestness of it and—
DEE: Oh, absolutely.
VRAI: Eva’s still… It’s not in my top ten anymore like it was when I was younger, but it’s still solidly in my top 20, and I think I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for it. So, thanks, all of you, for doing this, even if it didn’t end up being for you.
ISAAC: Well, I really have to commend you for taking a show like this and watching it with a couple of newbies who may or may not have liked it, because what you’re living through right now is like my worst nightmare for my favorite shows. To go on a podcast and be like “I love this thing!” and then have people be like, “Yeah… Yeah, no,” that is my worst nightmare, so I…
VRAI: Oh, I had this coming.
ISAAC: [Chuckles] I commend you for that, because I don’t know if I could do it myself.
VRAI: I did this very thing to poor Miranda Sanchez when I watched all of Kill la Kill, which she adores, and did not like it very much, so it’s fine. I had this coming.
DEE: That’s part of the watchalong format. But yeah, I agree with Isaac. Thanks for inviting us on and taking us on this journey.
We’ve talked about this a little bit in the past episodes, but this is a show that tends to ignite passionate feelings because it is so personal, and if the messiness of that clicks for you, it clicks really hard. And if it doesn’t, it just doesn’t. And I think fandom has a tendency to get into this sense of… how do I word this? “You’re criticizing this, you’re criticizing me.”
[Noises of agreement]
DEE: “You’re saying that I’m not valid.” And I just… I need to make that as 100% crystal-clear as I can, assuming that people haven’t ragequit by this point after the criticisms we’ve been launching this past hour, but that’s not what’s happening. It is 100% valid and important that this show resonated with you, Vrai, and with other listeners, and that’s great. I never want to take that away from people. Sometimes I’ll criticize stuff and people will come at me, like, “Well, I liked it.” I’m like, “Good! I’m glad!” [pained chuckle]
VRAI: “That’s good for you!”
DEE: “Excellent! If you want to write an article about why it resonated with you, we might publish that.” But that’s never the intention, it’s just, you know, everyone has their own perspectives on things.
I think this was a good group to get together, because it does seem like we had pretty diverse reactions to it a lot of the time, and I like that. I appreciate that. I think that that is one of the reasons Eva has value, is because of the way different audience members respond to it.
VRAI: Yeah, and I think the fact that it continues to spark such different responses no matter how many years pass is what’s always gonna make it kind of special, if not an unimpeachable masterpiece. I’m sorry. I made it all the way to the end, but Utena is a much better anime.
LIZZIE: Oh my gosh. Isaac and I were talking about it off mic, about the comparisons. We made so many comparisons about Eva and Utena.
VRAI: I mean, all I’ll say is that allegedly Ikuhara was the basis for Kaworu, and that’s very sweet.
LIZZIE: Aw. See, we should’ve ended on that note. [Chuckles]
VRAI: Yeah. They’re friends and it’s nice.
DEE: We ended on an “Aw.”
LIZZIE: Aw. [Chuckles]
VRAI: All right, well, thank you so much, listeners, for joining us on this very interesting and special watchalong. One last time, I will remind you to be civil in the comments.
ISAAC: We’ve been civil on the podcast. You can do the same. We believe in you!
VRAI: [crosstalk] Good job.
LIZZIE: Listen, I’ve tried my best.
LIZZIE: If I can do it, you can do it, too, listener.
If you really liked this episode, why not go to our Patreon at patreon.com/animefeminist and consider pitching us a dollar a month? Every little contribution really helps us to create more content on the page and in your ears.
And remember: it’s okay to like yourself.
DEE: Hey, guys. We completed the watchalong. Congratulations!
LIZZIE: Do we stop now? [Chuckles]
DEE: Yes, we press stop now.