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I.    Introduction

perhaps a better heading for this section is not synopsis, but rather an inquiry to the matters purported by the series.  After seeing eva in its entirety, it left somewhat of an aftertaste, I was not exactly sure if I could rank it as the best anime of all time, nor could I dismiss it as merely mediocre. I say with all honesty that visually, its not the best of animes, and the musical accompaniment, in my humble opinion could have been better. However, after much introspection and personal deliberation I find that the value of Evangelion is not in its outer shell, but rather what is implicitly suggested.

Additionally, in terms of the effect of the series on the viewers, Phillip Corbett sum it up quite accurately. He writes: "where should i start? well i had bought an evangelion tape in 99 and i was confused. i don't really remember what episode it was but it definitely threw me off. i'm a man of the 80's so MACROSS really hit me hard when i first saw it. but now this. i was home on leave last xmas and very hung over one thursday morning. i woke up at about 9:30 am and i just felt like hell. i remembered the nite before that my friend i was staying with had mentioned something about having all the evangelion episodes on 2 tapes. i was kinda like whatever. at any rate i popped the tape in, still quite drunk, and preceeded to watch. i think when i saw rei all bandaged up, i knew that something was bad. after about the 5th episode , i was stuck. i couldn't move. this series had me in a trance. it was now like 2 pm. anyways i still hadn't moved but to get an occasional glass of water and i was sorta in a stupor. it was now 9pm. and can u believe that my friend didn't have the last episode. i bought the last episode the next day. so what am i getting at? evangelion did something to me that no other anime has done. it really made me think about who i am and what i'm doing."


II.    Of the philosophical religious element     

the following excerpt is sent to me through e-mail by a friend.  she said that she found it somewhere in the net and found it quite interesting. So if the reader happens to be the author of this, please let me know who you are so I can rightfully credit you. For the mean time, it is credited as anonymous.

The writings of French historian and social critic Jacques Ellul (1912-1994) cover a vast range of topics relevant to the human experience. From technique (Ellul's term for what is commonly called technology) to the history and meaning of phenomenon of the city, from thoughts on propaganda to linguistic exploration.

Given the scope of his thought, I have found it most fruitful to examine various aspects of the human experience and condition through the lens of Ellul. It is my desire to turn this powerful instrument upon the EVA universe in hopes of a more informed understanding of the sociological phenomenon this series represents.

"Technique is a means of apprehending reality, of acting on the world, which allows us to neglect all individual differences, all subjectivity. Technique alone is rigorously objective. It blots out personal opinions. It effaces all individual, and even all collective, modes of expression. Today, man lives by virtue of his participation in a truth become objective. Technique is no more than a neutral bridge between reality and the abstract man."

Four observations of Jacques Ellul concerning the nature of Technology:

First: All technical progress has a/its price.

Second: At each stage technology raises more and greater problems than it solves.

Third: Technology's harmful effects are inseparable from its beneficial effects.

Fourth: Technology has a great number of unforeseen effects.


How does the central psychological dilemma of EVA, i.e. that of the realization/creation of the Self, reflect the modern/post-modern human condition; a condition brought about, in part, by the universal nature of technique?

Does the fate of the world really lie in the mind of the individual self? Do we create reality, or are we products of things above and beyond the human?

The central psychological dilemma of EVA revolves around the fragile mind of Ikari Shinji. Shinji is confronted with the always difficult task of realization/creation of the Self. I believe this particular manifestation of the human condition is a reflection the modern/post-modern human condition; a condition brought about, in part, by the universal nature of technique and human action.

Questions include: Does the fate of the world really lie in the mind of the individual self? Do we create reality, or are we products of things above and beyond the human?

Here are excerpts from a few authors I find most illuminating on the topic at hand.

David Wells on the fabrication of the self:
"The reality of change, even of change in our own personae, has greatly fueled hope that the self can be freshly reassembled and refurbished. Across a broad front we gather materials for the construction of ourselves. We build a public self in what we buy and what we voluntarily choose to do. This front runs from cuisine (Thai, French, or Mexican tonight?), to fashion (Ferragamo shoes or faux furs?), to particular products (antiques or Swedish contemporary?), to music (Bach or the Grateful Dead?), to sexual lifestyles (monogamous or casual, heterosexual or gay?), to beliefs (Christian, New Age, or postmodern doubt?). Beneath it all is the same compulsion to be in a state of constant inward evaluation, taking an inventory of needs and wishes, and then reaching out for a "product" to satisfy the felt emptiness and to project who we are."

Michel Foucault (1926-1984) on modern man:
"Modern man is not the man who goes off to discover himself, his secrets and his hidden truth; he is the man who tries to invent himself. This modernity does not 'Liberate man in his own being'; it compels him to face the task of producing himself."

George Steiner (1929-) on the relationship of the self to others:
"A reflection on or (as German grammar allows) 'a thinking of' meetings, of encounters as instrumentalities of communication, comports a morality. An analysis of enunciation and of signification - the signal to the other - entails an ethics." Real Presences, p. 141.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) on how to truly know oneself and one's place in reality:
"Not only do we know God only through Jesus Christ, but we know ourselves only through Jesus Christ. We know life and death only through Jesus Christ. Apart form Jesus Christ we cannot know the meaning of our life or of our death, of God or of ourselves. Without Scripture, whose only object is to proclaim Christ, we know nothing, and we can see nothing but obscurity and confusion in the nature of God and in nature itself." Pensees, 417-548.


What is the nature and origin of the various religious elements in the Evangelion series, especially those of Judeo-Christian origin? How are these elements defined within their original contexts of the Bible, Kabala and other sacred systems? How is the Judeo-Christian mystic system of Cabala used in NGE and what are its implications?

The extensive use of Judeo-Christian elements, imagery, and symbolism is to me one of the most striking features of Neon Genesis Evangelion. All of the major issues are present either explicitly or implicitly: Christ, the fall of man, angels, the city as a human creation, technology, salvation, death, evil, good, Adam, the origin and destiny of human life...the list goes on.

To un-pack the multi-layered symbolism, imagery, and dialogue of this series and to formulate a response from a any one perspective is a daunting task...but that's never stopped me from trying. Here is just one example of a rather massive thread:

"God's in His heaven. All's right with the world."

Is contrasted with...

"God is in heaven and you are on the earth." Ecclesiastes 5:2

In context, it reads:

"Guard your steps as you go to the house of God, and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil. do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few." The Holy Bible, Ecclesiastes 5:1-2


Techno-Gospel and the Gospel of God: How do the opposing forces of human effort and divine grace address the issues of transcendence, redemption, and ultimate salvation? -- "God is in heaven and you are on the earth." Ecclesiastes 5:2

Techno-Gospel and the Gospel of God: How the seemingly opposing forces of human effort and divine grace address the issues of transcendence, redemption, and ultimate salvation is a question of the ages. Can man redeem himself though the instrumentality of human effort in the face of a perfect and righteous God?

I believe this question to be the core of the NGE story, "Terminal Dogma" if you will. This entire series is driven implicitly by this one reality; a perfectly framed question which begs an answer that only God Himself can give.

Also implicit is the the four-fold question of the ages: Origin, Meaning, Purpose, and Destiny. With in the traditional Christian framework, these answers are provided by God through the Messiah, "...who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, in that He became like men and was born a human being. And after He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and has freely bestowed on Him the name that is above every name. That at the name of Jesus every knee must bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. And every tongue confess and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:6-11)

In this reading of the Christian Bible, the only means of true salvation is to receive divine gift God's righteousness through/by the instrumentality of faith in Jesus Christ, not through the instrumentality of human effort.


III.    A journey into one's self ?

Again, this is sent to me by e-mail, and again uncredited... so please, if you are the author of this work, please let me know.

The latter half of Evangelion TV series, especially the last two episodes clearly had intention to break the closed domain of anime that keeps on offering narcissistic pleasure to otakus, that is, Evangelion had intention to crack the closed domain of anime, not from the outside, but from the inside, remaining within it, just as its purity is highest, or to make joy of anime self-destruct at the utmost limits.

The last part of Evangelion TV series-in which the progress of the story was stopped by Shinji's interior monologue and he came to affirm himself groundlessly, saying "I can stay here!"-was not a play for the salvation of the self-some people misread it so-like brainwashing or psycho-therapy, but something like harassment with malice and irony to some anime fans. I think the last message of the last episode of the TV series-"Congratulations to all the children!"-was a quotation from the last scene of Yoshiyuki Tomino's anime movie The Ideon (1982), as many people have already pointed out it. In the last scene of The Ideon, after the human race had died out, the souls of the dead characters were drifting in outer space and they heard the singing, "Happy birthday dear children!" That is ironic, in short, the last episode of Evangelion TV series implies that closed and self-sustained interiority is nothing other than a kind of "death." It is death of the self as loss of the other. It also implies that the world of joy for otakus such as the first half of Evangelion TV series cannot help coming to a death on account of its closeness.

In a sense, Shinji, the hero of Evangelion, is not a personality audience can have empathy with, but an introspective mental state itself. Shinji is also a visual point that interprets the world as a whole. The world of Evangelion, in itself, is a closed interiority. This is represented distinctly by the monologue in the last two episodes of the TV series.

For Shinji this closed interiority appears as immovable actuality he has already fallen into. The theme that rises to the surface in the latter half of Evangelion TV series and movie versions relates to such a closed interiority. The theme is this. What do you do with this closed interiority, or prison of self-consciousness? Should you affirm it as actuality, or should you slough off it? In other words, the theme is something like inevitability and limits of an attempt to interiorize the world.

The world of the first half of Evangelion TV series, which had been full of joy of anime, collapsed gradually in the latter half: In the 18th episode, Evangelion Unit-01-Shinji was inside it-attacked Evangelion Unit-03 as an "Angel," and Touji, the pilot of Evangelion Unit-03 and Shinji's classmate, got badly wounded and lost a leg. In the 22nd episode, Asuka, the pilot of Evangelion Unit-02, became as good as the living dead because of Angel's psychic attack, getting non compos mentis. In the 23rd episode, Rei, the pilot of Evangelion Unit-00-in the episode it was found that she was something like a clone created from Shiji's mother-blew herself up in order to protect Shinji from Angel's attack, and the city Shinji lived in-Third New Tokyo City-became a ruin. In the 24th episode, Shinji was forced to kill Kaoru, a boy who was Shinji's beloved friend, as an Angel, or enemy. In the last two episodes, the progress of the story was stopped and the work Evangelion itself broke down as if to reject a completion of itself as an anime. It is, as it were, closing of the world, or "death" itself.

In this closed world, former pleasure is turning into displeasure in reverse, and it is becoming new pleasure to break the closed world... There is a twist like this in the progress from the latter half of the TV series to the movie versions.

The latter half of Evangelion TV series, in which a world of joy was collapsing and closing because it was simply hedonistic and regressive, reminds me of Mamoru Oshii's anime movie Urusei Yatsura 2 Beautiful Dreamer (1984). In Beautiful Dreamer, an endless slapstick comedy at a high school like Urusei Yatsura TV series-Oshii himself had directed the TV series-is depicted as an ideal world to Lum, the heroine, or an occurrence in Lum's inner space. In the world, the progress of time has stopped and one and the same day-the day before the school festival-is being repeated over and over. In the inner space, the people who were hindrances to Lum vanished one after another, and the town she lived in became a ruin except for the house Ataru Moroboshi-the hero and Lum's "darling"-lived in and a convenience store nearby. The more the purity of the world as Utopia to Lum is enhanced, the more the closeness and fictitiousness of the world become prominent. Ataru wandered about in the world of inner spaces like this and then tried returning from the infinite chain of the inner spaces like "dreams" to "actuality."

The End of Evangelion presented the thesis that actuality is the end of a dream. Concerning the thesis, Oshii's Beautiful Dreamer precedes Anno's Evangelion. If the world of Urusei Yatsura TV series had switched suddenly to the level of Beautiful Dreamer, it would have been similar to the last two episodes of Evangelion TV series. The reason that Evangelion TV series seemed to break down at the conclusion was that the shift-from fiction to meta-fiction-was too sudden and self-destructive. It may be that the people who showed rejection reaction to the last two episodes of the TV series could not bear its irony and self-referentiality.

The world where Shinji operated Evangelion Unit-01 and fought against the Angels, the world of a comic love story at a junior-high school, in which there were no Evangelions or Angels (the last episode of the TV series), the world where the people congratulated Shinji and he came to affirm himself groundlessly, and the world where Shinji, Asuka, Rei and Kaoru were rehearsing a string quartet at a hall of school (Evangelion: Death)... It can be thought that each of these worlds was an occurrence in inner space, or one of parallel worlds. The theme of Evangelion is, so to speak, the world as interiority.

It is almost impossible to tell this theme as a story on account of its self-referentiality. Now that the work Evangelion itself is an interiority, it demands necessarily that Evangelion as a story should break down.

Maybe Evangelion gave up being a story at a certain point in time, I think. In the 6th episode of the TV series, Shinji and Rei, who were "closed-minded children," fought together against an Angel and "opened their minds," exchanging smiles with each other. Although this scene was probably first climax of the series, maybe Neon Genesis Evangelion as a story of "growth and independence of a boy"-like a Bildungsroman-ended there once. Evangelion as a story has stopped there. In the latter half of the TV series and movie versions, the progress of time like a story has stopped and the world of Evangelion has approached self-referential actuality gradually. There are no developments of a story there.

Most of the people who criticize Evangelion indicate that it has a defect or breakdown as a story. To be sure, in fact Shinji is not a hero of a story, namely, he does not try to do anything for himself, and he does not "grow" nor does he become "independent." That sort of indication in itself is correct. Yet, as I have already mentioned, what Evangelion deals with is a self-referential theme that relates to interiority of itself, and it cannot be told as a story. It is wrong to estimate or criticize Evangelion as a story.

The End of Evangelion, released as a movie, is a remake of the last two episodes of the TV series, and it is the last program of Evangelion series. I think the largest point in dispute connected with the evaluation of this last program is this. Did Evangelion only end in a self-affirmation of closed interiority, or did it show the way to get out of prison of self-consciousness?

It seems some people anticipated that the movie version of Evangelion would end as a story of "growth and independence of a boy," like a Bildungsroman, but The End of Evangelion avoided such a popular ending and was completed as works that renewed the last two episodes of the TV series in another way. The End of Evangelion is a repetition and variation of the theme presented in the latter half of the TV series. It is not an ending of a story.

Some people construed that the last program of Evangelion series did not end as a story of Shinji's "growth and independence"-Shinji never changed-and criticized Evangelion on the grounds that it only ended in a self-affirmation of otaku's mentality after all, but I think Evangelion consciously avoided telling a story of "growth and independence," its simplicity, or its impetuosity.

When "The Human Instrumentality Project as abandonment of individual personalities, or organic integration of all personalities-was being realized, Shinji refused a luscious fusion with Rei-his mother, and chose that he should be with Asuka, the other he could never fuse into one with (The End of Evangelion). For Shinji, Asuka is now the other who takes a cool attitude toward him, and there is no room to play in a comic love story like the first half of the TV series between them any more.

In my view, The End of Evangelion ended on the phase when Shinji, the hero, found Asuka as "the other." For Shinji, Asuka is an ambiguous existence. On the one hand she lectures and inspires him because she minds him, but on the other she is also an existence beyond his control-the other that can never be interiorized. Asuka's ambiguity is also the ambiguity of the work Evangelion as it is.

The last two episodes of Evangelion TV series and The End of Evangelion have a relation like a Möbius strip. They are the two views of one and the same theme. The discovery of the other in The End of Evangelion is the reverse expression of the loss of the other in the last two episodes of the TV series. The unsophisticated people who could not read the irony in the last two episodes of the TV series will probably overlook the critical essence of The End of Evangelion as well.

In a philosophical context, the work Evangelion resembles Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness. In Being and Nothingness, Sartre tried introducing the subject of individual and accidental relationality with the other-we can never interiorize(ideate) it-into his philosophy in order to criticize Hegel's or Heidegger's idealism. In The End of Evangelion, Asuka said to Shinji, "If you don't become all mine, I don't want anything," and Shinji was going to strangle Asuka, who did not treat him tenderly and was beyond his control. Their relations are, in short, all-or-nothing. What Sartre called "conflict (conflit)"-between the self and the other-is such a situation. It is a relation in which each tries treating the other as his own "thing."

In this context, "The Human Instrumentality Project" corresponds to the system of Hegel's philosophy. It is a system like a ring, in which the beginning is the end, and the end is the beginning. It is an ideal thought, because it is only a "self-realization of concepts" after all-though it involves every contradiction and confrontation dynamically-and it integrates(assimilates) all contradictions and confrontations monistically. In this thought, individuality and accidentality are reduced to universality and inevitability. As a result, relationality with the other is interiorized, and exteriority of existence to ideology is extinguished.

In Hegel's system, all is nothing more than a process to the end (conclusion/purpose). The whole is grasped from the end, namely, the end is presupposed at the outset. In this system, the process in which a child grows into a man and even the history of mankind are regarded as a process like this. It is the process of phased evolution to the realization of idea (Idee). Needless to say, this thought is nothing but a bourgeois ideology as an ideal interpretation of history, as Marx criticized it in German Ideology. Sartre tried sloughing off such an idealism.

In Being and Nothingness, Sartre refers to Kierkegaard's thought on "the individual" in order to criticize the Hegelian idealism. What Kierkegaard called "the individual person facing God" is the way of being an individual in the relation with God as "the other"-not the universal concept of God, but a concrete individual named Christ. Needless to say, the title of the 16th episode of Evangelion TV series-"Sickness Unto Death, And..."is a quotation from the title of Kierkegaard's book. Evangelion grasps the ethical significance of Kierkegaard's thinking correctly, like Sartre's Being and Nothingness.

However, Sartre's thinking on "the other" generally has a tendency to approach an ideal humanism (bourgeois ideology), because it basically presupposes the identity between the self and the other. In the philosophical context of France, structuralists-anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss was at the head of them-criticized Sartre about it. Sartre's thinking is, as it were, shut up in prison of self-consciousness. As Lévi-Strauss put it, it is a "captive (prisoner) to cogito."(La Pensée sauvage) Yet, it has a look to individual and accidental relationality with the other-we can never interiorize it-that Hegel and Heidegger did not have. The same thing can be said of the work Evangelion.

Here I'm not going to talk on the critical essence of Evangelion any longer, because what Evangelion deals with is an actual situation, which we cannot talk about objectively as a story-we can only live in it. The answers are in our own minds. Anyway, Evangelion series, which was the greatest anime work in recent years, was completed finely in The End of Evangelion. Finally, I would like to offer my heartfelt "congratulations" on its completion.