Image by GKIDS Films

“The End of Evangelion”: The beauty of imperfection and the search for happiness

Violet Lempke




**Spoilers for Evangelion Ahead**

On March 17, I abandoned my educational chains and made the journey to the nearest theater showing “The End of Evangelion.” My friend Abigail and I joyfully made the two-hour trip just to see a movie that finished production over 20 years ago, but never got an international release. Despite this, there was never a doubt in my mind that the 4 hours of my life, as well as the money, spent would be well worth the investment. 

A few hours later, as the lights returned at the conclusion of the film, Abigail turned to me and summed up the entire film in two sentences: “I loved it. Can you explain to me what happened on the way home?” 

For a lot of my life, the idea of not understanding something after a first watch felt unappealing. But this moment made me realize how much joy there is in not understanding. Abigail not understanding meant we had a chance to dive into a story and what it meant to us in ways that I hadn’t since I was a child. To me, the film’s “imperfection” in giving a story that wasn’t easy to comprehend created a moment of beauty that would not have been possible otherwise. 

While we discussed the many interpretations of “The End of Evangelion,” I couldn’t help but think further on what the conclusion meant to me. Many consider “The End of Evangelion” to be a sort of “bad” ending to the series, meant to punish viewers for their dissatisfaction with “Neon Genesis Evangelion”’s more positive conclusion, but I felt the opposite. Shinji’s acceptance of Instrumentality in “Neon Genesis…” is often interpreted as him breaking down the walls that he holds between himself and others, ultimately learning to love himself, but I find this conclusion quite hollow. To me, the peace that Shinji found in Instrumentality was not a true acceptance and love of himself; despite his flaws, Shinji accepted the idea that others could love him and that this is what made his life worthwhile. 

Though Shinji’s rejection of Instrumentality in “The End of Evangelion” is much bleaker visually and tonally, I argue that it holds a more meaningful and hopeful ending to the series than its predecessor. This is because, in rejecting Instrumentality, Shinji’s sense of self-worth ultimately comes from truly connecting with others, despite knowing that it will inevitably bring him pain. Although this doesn’t create the idealistic painless world that Instrumentality brought in “Neon Genesis…,” it gives Shinji another chance at something much more meaningful: being human. Even though Shinki knows that returning to being human means being hurt again and again, he finally realizes that there is an indispensable value in truly connecting with others. In allowing itself to conclude in such a bleak manner, “The End of Evangelion” offers a bittersweet message to those who are willing to accept it: life is going to hurt, but as long as we are alive, there will always hope to be happy once again. Whether or not we take hold of that hope and make it a reality is a choice we must all make. 

“The End of Evangelion” will break your heart and put it back together all at the same time, until the only thing that you’re sure of is that humanity is a venture worth seeing through to its conclusion. It is a beautiful introspection and dissection of our own self-perception and human condition that has stood the test of time. Watching it almost certainly requires making your way through either the television or theatrical release of “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” but the experience is one that is well worth it, and will stick with you for a lifetime to come.

Violet Lempke is a student of Computer Science and Mathematics at Plymouth State University with a passion for politics and storytelling.

1 thought on ““The End of Evangelion”: The beauty of imperfection and the search for happiness

  1. Beautifully written and really sheds light on things we take for granted! The matter of humanity is something we can all relate to but regardless there is still so much we do not understand or know. Not understanding can be exciting because there is only that much more for us to look forward to learning and discovering.

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