Neon Genesis {Essay}lion

~ an essay on the anime created by Hideaki Anno, Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995–1997).

The classic anime Neon Genesis Evangelion (“NGE”) is a cerebral, metaphysically visceral experience, filled with brooding cinematography and ultraviolence of the physical and psychological kind. At surface, its 26-episode & a movie run is a submission into Japan’s mecha genre of anime, in which kid heroes trade in coming of age antics in the classroom for transcendent life-or-death experiences in the cockpits of giant robots, typically fighting for the fate of humanity or one of its factions. It features the primary hallmarks of such series, such as a compelling and unique cast of child pilots as series protagonists, acronym’ed extra-governmental shadow organizations with nefarious, slow-burning plots within plots, and terrifying alien adversaries capable of world destruction. Evangelion however, goes deeper and darker with its material, drawn from mythical Jungian psychology and from the personal struggles of creator Hideaki Anno’s own depression. The isolating obsessions with his craft that he experienced up to that point in his career he candidly poured into NGE’s characters and story. Instead of building out a ‘fun’-first universe of excessive action sequence and a linearly progressing power fantasy typical of shonen anime, NGE delves the human soul, seeking out questions of loneliness, existential incommunicability, generational trauma, and the resulting psychosexual complexes of persons being asked to do too much, too soon, with the stakes too high. Here is my essay on some of the themes and conditions which continue to compel me unto the world of Neon Genesis Evangelion.

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Driving Traumas

At the start of the series, it has been fifteen years since an event known simply as “The Second Impact,” in which half of the world’s population was wiped after a mysterious cataclysmic explosion in Antarctica. As a result of the destruction, loss of life, and the global geographical changes from this disaster, such as the rise in sea level, humanity has taken shelter within subterranean fortresses serving as new cities. The narrative follows the defense of Neo-Tokyo against the return of entities known as “Angels” — unique, giant, and terrifyingly monstrous lifeforms hellbent upon causing humanity’s extinction. In this post-apocalyptic world of Evangelion, the decimated human race resists its own extinction at the hands of these otherworldly beings by fighting them with monsters of our own making. Given that standard faire (such as thermonuclear weaponry) is useless against Angels, the Evangelion, or Eva unit, represents humanity’s last hope against the impending threat. And it just so happens that these complex mechs with inscrutable origins must be operated by children.

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“This is the ultimate multipurpose decisive combat weapons system created by man. The Artificial Human Evangelion… humanity’s very last trump card.”

The Eva mechs themselves appear as daemonic humanoids, which the children enter to pilot from ‘entry plugs’ filled with a breathable liquid “LCL” (Link Connect Liquid). It resembles both the amniotic fluid of the womb and the primordial soup of evolution. By acting as the triggering device to the Eva’s power, these pilots are capable of sustaining attacks from these adversaries and ultimately slaying them. However, by linking up physiologically with the mechs to compel them, the children experience the physical stresses and pains of their fighting psychosomatically. They feel the damage, though it is not true to form on their own body within the plug. Nevertheless, this terrifying vulnerability becomes a check on the seemingly unlimited level of power afforded to their simple human frame within the body of these beasts. The true nature of the Evangelions, and the reason why specific children must pilot these organic, soul-bound beings of tempestuous mythological origin, comes to be revealed. But from the jump, the series’ conflicts arise from out of the character, the relationships, and the traumas of these teens tasked with riding these daemonic mechas into battle for humanity’s sake. Each of the individual children tasked with piloting the Evas — primarily Shinji, Asuka, and Rei — are defined by the traumas they carry.

Shinji Ikari is a Japanese student wielding no foundational human relationships in his life, whose sociopathic and neglectful father, Gendo Ikari, happens to serve as director of the Eva program, under NERV (the special organization tasked with combatting the Angels, the creators of the Evangelion). Asuka Soryu Langley is a German/Japanese child prodigy with an aggressive personality and years of Eva pilot training under her belt. Rei Ayanami is a mysterious, quiet, and obedient young girl, who appears to lack volition and conviction in all things. Alongside the supporting cast of NERV agents who prepare, command and commiserate with these pilots through their battles with the Angels — such as Misato, Ritsuko and Kaji — these are our main characters. As the lone individuals of the world capable of piloting Evas, humanity’s last, scarce hope, they are conscripted into war out of necessity. And they are troubled, to say the least. Manic, depressive, lonely, isolated. The further down the cycle of violence they go in the war against the Angels, the more their traumas spiral and their pathologies come to define them. That is, until they are forced to face their shadows, and change.

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Don’t run away. Not from your father. Especially not from yourself. // Shinji, you can’t run away all the time. At some point, you yourself will have to take the first step or nothing will change. // Live your life standing up. Then you can die! ~ Misato to Shinji

Shinji struggles to connect with anyone, suffering from a profound loneliness (akin to the “hedgehog’s dilemma“, which is adeptly referenced as a descriptor to his struggle by another character early in the series). He cannot get close to anyone out of fear of the harm that will come in him being known, and being influenced in new and unknown ways. Dealing with an abusive relationship from his absentee father to boot, Shinji is unprepared for the task of … being a person. Introverted and passive to the point of being incompetent or appearing cold at times, these conditions depress him and continuously push him away from doing his ‘duty’ — that of piloting his big robot. Like the subject of companionship, as in a paradox, Shinji simultaneously wants to engage and abandon his necessary, life-or-death role in the war against the Angels. Thus, in having to pilot the Eva, in being forced to fight and to kill, he continuously builds self-confidence while he is simultaneously traumatized. Just as the boy wholeheartedly wants to be left alone out of fear of other people, he also wants desperately to encounter others and connect with them on a deeper level. In each scenario, the fourteen year old is confused; he cannot reconcile the unconscious void of loneliness and ineffectiveness within him to the pain, patience, and pride it will require in consciously trying to dispel it. Shinji is highly subject to being influenced by those around him. Having spent his whole life alone and in the solitude of relative friendlessness, he is simply not used to having to interact with so many companions. As a result, as he moves forward within this environment and the conflicts escalate, Shinji stresses and suffers rather profoundly. And it is the kind of suffering most people can relate to.

Shinji Ikari is the Third Child, the main protagonist of the series and the designated pilot of Evangelion Unit-01. He is the son of “deceased” Gehirn bioengineer Yui Ikari and NERV Commander (formerly Chief of Gehirn) Gendo Ikari. After his mother’s...

Shinji, you are hoping you will be sought after by others. That’s the thing actually motivating you.”

Asuka provides a foil to Shinji’s introversion and passivity, as she is loud, aggressive and supremely arrogant. Extremely competitive, and effective enough in her studies and piloting skills to back it up, she doesn’t just speak her mind on these matters but actively puts down everyone around her. With an invective, impulsive style of action in the world and an unwillingness to admit her faults, Asuka rages in order to escape her pain. Orphaned from a young age, she is abandoned or cast out by each of her parents and step-parents, respectively. She cannot trust or rely on anyone, she believes she must make her way independent of guardians, or friends. Asuka pilots her Eva with gusto, because she is good at it and because it provides an outlet away from the unexpressed darkness, and bubbling self-hatred, within her. By her own words, she happily serves as a pilot in order to prove her brilliance to the world. In actuality, she does it to escape an inevitable confrontation with herself. Asuka fights the world so she won’t have to face the unrequited longing in her heart.

Asuka, you seek out a false happiness through pride and attention.”

Rei, we come to find late in the story, is the product of a perverse experiment, cloned into her teenage form from the genes of Gendo’s wife, Shinji’s mother. As a result, she is a human being but one never raised, ever without the warm embrace of loving parents. Frankenstein’s monster-esque, she is an unformed clay of pure potentia. Though the conditions of her original birth are uncertain, just as is her memories and the state of her free will, Rei is devoid of the normal experiences of a person. A blank slate, loyal to her masters and relatively unconcerned with her own mental or physical well-being outside of the conditions of a battlefield, Rei is essentially a human simulacrum. An automaton, tasked with a job that she carries out with the necessary diligence commensurate with her capabilities. At illuminating points within the story, she seems to long to return to the void of nonexistence. She lives only for her creators, only for Gendo, until she begins to individualize for herself. Unlike either Asuka or Shinji, who carry their issues with them into the fight from the start, Rei’s great trauma is experienced within the conflicts alongside them, as she comes to learn of her own humanity, albeit slowly, and eventually grows to protect, cherish, and despair for human companionship. As she does, she learns just how alone and devoid of such concerns she always was, and a tree of existential suffering grows from the seeds sown.

Rei, inside you there is an impenetrable abyss.”

This trio, their classmates, their NERV colleagues and commanders, all come to forge a dysfunctional family borne of indestructible bonds in the heat of their war. Over the cycles of real combat they engage in within their giant killer robots, the battles they fight within themselves inflict upon them emotional violence. The most profound traumas of all are experienced and unlocked from out of the cockpits of the Evas. Their conflicts are front and center, and the extraordinary paths of Shinji, Asuka and Rei providence the meat and the juice of NGE’s true narrative rhetoric:

How does one carry themselves through the arduous and inescapable valley that is human loneliness?

When it comes down to it, all people really want, is to matter.
— Adam Zucconi
..

The Inevitability of Playing God

Much of NGE’s lore is deep, esoteric, and maddening. Just consider for a moment the name of the series — “Neon Genesis Evangelion.” During and after watching the series I recommend reading up on Evangelion’s various wiki articles on the Angels, Adam, Lilith, NERV, SEELE, etc. if only to expand one’s appreciation for the at-times hidden world-building in play within Anno’s series. {https://wiki.evageeks.org/}

Chocked full of spiritual and mythic imagery and themes, NGE’s narrative arc spans the genesis and the extinction of humanity’s efforts on the planet. The Angels, Evangelions, and humanity itself are all interrelated, born from the seeds of life upon earth from an inscrutable progenitor race. The birth and destined conflict with the Angels, our evolution as a species, the ending fate of Mankind — are all unstoppable and inevitable and bear out with perfectly predictable accuracy inside of ‘The Dead Sea Scrolls,’ which SEELE (the primary “shadowy and mysterious organization” maintaining a global power cabal, secret backer of NERV) uses to model all of their long-game decisions from. The final stage of any species’ evolution, so say Gendo and Fuyutsuki, is self-destruction. Humanity seems unable to summon the discipline to not pry at the edges of Pandora’s Box. But the major players of the world, such as this duo, ask the question: how can fated destruction instead meld with a kind of rebirth? How might humanity wrest control of their species’ denouement and change it for the better?

These prophecies come to be known by humanity, and to be used by the machinations of shadow organizations filled with hyper-intelligent persons weaving complex, long-term plots to control events and circumstances to such changes, or simply to their own nebulously profitable ends. To match with the mystic nature of these Scrolls, NERV employs artificial intelligence technology in the form of Evas and ’The Magi’ — a trio of cooperative supercomputers tasked with churning out logical chains of decisions for humanity to follow. In the case of the mystic prophecy or the artificial unconsciousness of a machine, one can discern without difficulty that in this story Man is dealing with something he does not fully understand and can never hope to be in control of. All of humanity’s efforts following The Second Impact are hubris. And yet is in our human nature to try.

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Proving out the trope within anime (and in real life too), NGE contemplates the inevitable endgame of Man’s compulsion to play God, to try to become God, to kill or one-up God. The God-complex is alive and well within the tale to be told, from the cockpits of the Evas, at the round-tables of power-brokering cabals, behind Gendo’s steepled fingers and unflinching spectacled eyes.

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Humanity came across a God and tried to make it our own. The Second Impact was God’s wrath.

~ Gendo Ikari

Mirroring the terrifying, endlessly misguided yet perhaps inevitable discovery of the power of the atom and of nuclear weapons, it is revealed by the end of the series that humanity caused The Second Impact on purpose. In so doing, SEELE brought about the conditions for a future in which they can execute their grandly designed “Human Instrumentality Project.” Humanity purposefully interacted with the remnants of the first life on the planet in Adam, buried away within Antarctica, which brought about the deaths of billions and irreversible changes in the landscape of the world and its climate… all for this envisioned special project’s parameters. Definitionally, this is God-play. Described both as the “only glimmer of light in a desperate situation… Humanity’s only hope” and as “the path that leads to divinity,” Human Instrumentality is the top priority of the individuals pulling the strings on all of reality. From their reading of the Scrolls’ foretold lore, SEELE tries to shape humanity and NERV’s responses to events in an optimal fashion unto bringing about this Instrumentality. Gendo Ikari, seemingly under the jurisdiction and control of SEELE’s ongoing scenario, of course has a rogue agenda of his own that he works towards. While Gendo plays the part of the willing puppet to SEELE’s will, he actually seeks to undermine their grand plan for Instrumentality unto his own selfish, yet simple, design: to reunite with his dead wife Yui.

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Of course, desperate times do call for desperate measures, and it seems reasonable to entrust the fate of humanity in the hands of those most powerful and capable of charting a course into a future against nigh indestructible monsters. However, those wielding that kind of world-shaping power become especially susceptible to corruption and to the desires of their own egoic whims. NGE presents a man in Gendo Ikari who is willing to sacrifice everything — including the love of his only son and the life of his wife — for the sake of his personal mission.

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Thematically, Gendo engenders a sharp contrast to his son, Shinji — Gendo wishes to control the world, to bend people, and the chaotic actions of the Evas and Angels themselves, to his will; Shinji wishes for simple companionship, a simple happiness, and cannot even control the image of who he is as a person. He doesn’t know what he wants, and he struggles to influence anyone or anything within his life to the ends of even his transient desires.

Gendo desires godhood; Shinji just wants a father and some friends.

And yet, by the end of the storyline, their fortunes are reversed, the efficacy of their efforts through the course of the story seized to disparate fruitions. After all of Gendo’s ruthless manipulations and machinations come to a head, he ends up getting betrayed by one of his own pawns in Rei. ‘Pride comes before the fall,’ as they say. In perhaps her first act of true volition, she does not simply go along with his plan in “The End of Evangelion.” And it seems likely she does so out of a newly conscious observation of his continuous abuse and abandonment of Shinji, whom she has grown to love. Whether this arises out of a motherly love, due to her genes of her conception, a sisterly love of shared bonding, or a romantic love unto a lonely, kindred spirit, is up to a particularly Freudian, or Jungian, analysis of the events.

At any rate, NGE’s arc seems to reflect upon the irony of fate, and natural denouement for Man’s lofty hubris within this world: No matter to the grand schemes of power and intellect and the pathological pursuit of one’s goals, fate may ultimately come down to the small, singular choices of lone individuals. In this case, the fate of the world in The End of Evangelion ends up resting firmly in the hands of our lonely little boy, Shinji.

Communicating Your Condition

The Human Instrumentality Project presents the thesis of Neon Genesis Evangelion’s narrative arc. Instrumentality, in short, is the forceful melding of all human consciousness into a single, collective being, where all individualized loneliness and despair will be annihilated, all of humanity ‘filling each other’s gaps’ unto completeness, unto perfection. To the eyes of the Dead Sea Scrolls, SEELE, and Gendo and Fuyutsuki, the human race is a forlorn, doomed collective of individuals endlessly longing for togetherness. The Third Impact is an inevitable eventuality, and so their goal is to bring it about under their control, in the process destroying all misunderstanding within the human condition. The “instrumentality” of humanity is in our individual longing to return to the void of nonexistence, from the place we originally came from, back to the ‘mother’ that birthed the species. As a result of this unconscious return, all human hearts can become one and all the rampant darkness, anxiety, and despair will simply be dispelled within us. Human beings are much too fragile to live alone, and we are damned anyhow… so this is our way out.

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A paradoxically entwined message, in the fantasy of this ridiculous, God-like aspiration, one arrives at a universal human truth: every individual’s yearning for reciprocation, to understand and be understood by your fellow Man.

At its heart, beyond all the myth and monsters of Evangelion, the premise and the conflicts are quite simple: People are lonely / communication is hard / humanity is inherently fearful, often misguided, and ultimately self-destructive. And yet, these are still just my assumptions and my interpretations concerning what this particular piece of art is about. I am trying to communicate them to you, because this is what resonated with me. And at times, during the course of the conception of this writing and the action of it, it has been quite difficult. I believe articulating yourself is always a challenge, out of fear of misunderstanding from others or from a lack of understanding within yourself and what you are trying to convey. Trying to communicate about the human condition — trying to communicate your condition — is hard. This is no controversy.

This struggle is part and parcel of the human experience, played over one’s lifetime in the process of individuation. Individuation can be described as the process of coming to inhabit one’s self, the forging of a distinct, singular identity as a person. It is not just about telling the truth about yourself — it’s about coming to an understanding of what that truth is within yourself. Communication is a significant aspect of such a process. As people, we evolve over time in the context of others, by overcoming our fears and making ourselves vulnerable before them, and we are influenced and we change. Due to our connections to those we encounter, from interacting with the people that love us or antagonize us, dealing in the world of circumstances we face, we are individualizing. In all this, one comes to the continuous realization that it is only natural for that truth we hold about ourselves, and how we choose to try and communicate it, to change over time. Everyone experiences this process relatively differently, with more or less ease, time, and connections, and on through some degree of an existential kind of suffering.

“Does what goes on inside show on the outside? Someone has a great fire in his soul and nobody ever comes to warm themselves at it, and passers-by see nothing but a little smoke at the top of the chimney.” ~ Van Gogh

So much of adolescence is an ill-defined dying
An intolerable waiting,
A longing for another place and time,
Another condition.
– Theodore Roethke

In NGE, people like Shinji, Asuka, Rei, Misato, Ritsuko, Kaji, Fuyutsuki, Gendo… hell, just everyone … every single principal character struggles with individualizing, and with communication. Through lives fraught with miscommunications, sorrows, silence, they have all become quite adept at hiding and repressing their pain, each in their own unique way. Each of them has grown used to living under the weight of their burdens, integrating it into their day-to-day lives. Though this makes them functional for the roles they undertake in the human organization of civilization, and the war, it also renders them invulnerable to sincerely sharing themselves with their companions. As a result of this invulnerability comes loneliness, repression, and then something like depression. It is only after the walls start to come down due to the heightening violent conflict with the Angels and interpersonal conflicts with one another, that real progressions are made with regard to their psychological health.

You idiot. You see her as she really is, not the image she puts off, right? That’s what families do. ~ Kensuke to Shinji

(Honestly, in an apocalyptic future, where humanity is constantly under attack by mysterious god-like monsters, why wouldn’t everyone even slightly involved in fixing such a world be depressed? After the Impact, the world is irreversibly damaged, lessened not only of its people but of its spirit. The whole world is one big, repressed trauma. But I digress…)

In the original end of the series (Episode 25 and 26), before “The End of Evangelion” put it all into much darker, more epic, and more mythic territory, we witness Shinji’s internal struggle to come to such individualizing realizations concerning himself and his relationship to the people in his life. I personally interpreted this controversial, avant-garde episode to be an artful construction of one facing down their shadow, “the shadow self” (or ‘the unconscious aspect of the psyche which the ego does not identify with‘). This involves the tricky act of facing up with your ‘dark,’ or unknown side, unto eventually integrating it with your self, for the sake of personal betterment.

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Shinji’s shadow makes its presence felt while he pilots his Evangelion. Throughout the series, with Shinji’s fighting with Unit-01, we see in times of extremis, when his back is against the wall and the moment is truly life-or-death, the dark, unconscious, bestial, and ultimately more powerful ‘shadow’ visage of the Eva taking over —  and it helps him to defeat the latest Angelic adversary when all might’ve been lost. Here in episode 26 specifically, the same happens with Shinji’s psychology, turning his penchant for under confidence, self-pitying and self-hatred on its head out of necessity. Without such realizations, Shinji would be forever lost, psychologically. We witness this happen as his internal walls begin to crack and shatter. With his inner voice, we see him turn a corner, he becomes optimistic, hopeful, finally willing to believe in who he is and what he can do in the world. At this dawning, the internal manifestations of all his companions, his “found family,” and even his father, gratuitously congratulate him.

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In The End of Evangelion, the masterful reimagining of his story’s ending, we get Anno’s true conclusion. Violent, tragic, more bloody and traumatic than anything than preceded it in a series full of such things, the End is 90 straight minutes of terminal carnage. After the last Angel is defeated, Human Instrumentality kicks off — SEELE betrays all of NERV personnel, shooting to kill — at her wit’s end, the psychologically fragile Asuka is tasked once more with defending NERV HQ against new and devastating mass-produced Eva units — in the ‘Terminal Dogma’ red room, before the mythic body of Lilith, Gendo sets his final masterstroke in motion — all the while, Shinji shuts down, dramatically refusing to pilot Unit-01 one last time. Everyone important to us is making their final move, is dying, or is soon to be dead. On the other side of an apocalyptic pep talk from Misato, Shinji finds his courage out of necessity. Right after, Misato dies hoping she did right by her soul mate, Kaji. Asuka dies after violently killing all thirteen of her final foes, only to have them revive and impale her Eva with the Lance of Longinus. Gendo dies with regrets in his heart and a final, unrequited hope for redemption. Rei ascends to a kind of godhood. Shinji acts as an unconscious participant in the ritual commencement of The Third Impact.

With the help of Rei and Kaworu urging him into consciousness, Shinji’s role soon becomes one of consequence. With his choice, the fate of the world lies in the wake of this final impact: to live as one collective world-soul, Instrumentality realized, misunderstanding, anxiety and despair eliminated from within the human condition — or — to live as individuals once more, all of the suffering returned. At the last, it is within Shinji’s power to make this choice. It is only with the experiences suffered and the lives of his loved ones sacrificed that this small, lonely boy comes to make his choice and accept the very thing he has been running away from his entire life: That all-consuming fear of “the other.”

The revelation comes in the understanding that it is everyone’s fear, not just his. Sooner or later, in the chaos of life, everyone gets betrayed and abandoned. But this hurt — and the possibility of its opposite — is actually what makes life meaningful.

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Humans constantly feel pain in their hearts. Because the heart is so sensitive to pain, humans also feel that to live is to suffer. You’re so delicate, like glass, especially your heart. 
Me? 
Yes, and you have my regard for it. 
Regard? 
In other words, I love you. 
~ Kaworu and Shinji

For me, it was not until the final frame of the anime in my rewatch that I came to realize that everything in Evangelion, perhaps in the whole human condition, can be boiled down to Asuka and Shinji’s frenzied relationship. Their maddening interactions, their psychological turmoils and their methods of coping, their duality, their inability to learn or change themselves for the better unto the last — it is the great story of humanity.

The End begins and ends with two stark scenes of interactive fuckery between Shinji and Asuka. In the beginning of the film, while Asuka is unconscious and recovering from her latest battle, truly fraying at the edges and no longer psychologically stable enough to pilot her Eva, Shinji stands over her bed and tries to wake her. In doing so, he sees her and proceeds to masturbate to her, releasing the psychosexual tension he has felt for her since their very first encounter. After, he declares himself, rightfully so, as utterly “fucked up.” At the end of the film, when Shinji has released the souls of humanity back to their individual bodies in the aftermath of The Third Impact, on the shores of blood-red LCL now landscaping the whole of the world, while Rei’s godhead smiles and splits down the middle of her face in the distant background, Shinji encounters Asuka once again. This time her eyes are open. And this time, he proceeds to strangle her. Though his reason is truly unclear, this is certainly the first time that he has reciprocated her aggression and her rage, filtered down further in a cowardly act of violence upon her prostrate form. Yet in a twist of fate, while she watches him with her one good eye left, whilst she is being killed, she raises a hand to caress his cheek. This is the first time in all of their interactions that she has ever outwardly showed a quantum of kindness and concern towards him. As a result, Shinji loosens his grip and begins to weep. There is no dialogue, no grand declaration beyond the apocalyptic scenery backdropping these movements toward one another. And yet the audience must understand the level of progress and regress that has been achieved between the pair’s interaction. Through these actions manifested here at the end of the world, the wholesale influence that Asuka and Shinji have had on one another becomes plainly visible. With this image played out, the final line of the series is Asuka’s single word: “Disgusting.” It can be interpreted as description for either of Shinji’s acts of fuckery towards her, here at the end or in the beginning. And it marks a regression to her invective browbeating of him, just as his weeping is a relapse to the Shinji of old.

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For me, this interaction – the duality of it – is the final word on the series, its meaning, its message.

Shinji and Asuka are the ones most in need of their individuation, the most filled with trauma, and the least capable of handling it all. Shinji and Asuka are equivalent in their psychological turmoils and the level of profound loneliness they inhabit within their lives — they just project it differently, intrinsically and extrinsically, respectively. The exemplar introvert in Shinji and the exemplar extrovert in Asuka, the Jungian archetypes employed on the canvas of human experience. As a result of their problems and the view of the others’, they grow to hate each other for how they choose to deal with said problems. They resent themselves too, for the reflection they see in the other, and for their seeming lack of courage to inhabit the necessary balance they can envision but cannot grasp, to live just a little bit better.

anicastes:
“ Friends. I don’t have anybody left I can call my friend.
”
In addition to my other numerous acquaintances, I have one more intimate confidant… My depression is the most faithful mistress I have known — no wonder, then, that I return the...

For Shinji, it is asserting himself, communicating his inner voice, believing in his own abilities; for Asuka it is letting herself be vulnerable, admitting she needs help, acting with kindness. Every time they attack one another throughout the series, whether with thought, word, or deed, they give in to their pathologies and spiral themselves further away from the beginning of a solution to their suffering. And even through all this, they also can’t help but love one another because of that understanding of each other’s pain and trauma and aloneness in the world, and the empathy they feel as a result. Theirs is truly a unique shared experience in piloting the Evas. That kind of struggle engenders love like nothing else. But nothing comes easy for them. They desperately need the other to bridge the gap so they can express and experience that love.

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Alas, communication is fucking hard, even at the end of the world. Perhaps Asuka and Shinji are set to perform their infuriating dance all the rest of their lives. Perhaps more progress is on the way, with Shinji merely confident instead of strangling, and Asuka merely smiling instead of caressing. Theirs is a mythic relation now, unarticulated beyond the crimson shores of this hopefully final impact, and it is up to your interpretation to project their relation onto the remainder of the human condition. ~