Welcome back to EVERYDAY EVA, the blog series where I aim to cover one episode of Evangelion every single day for Mecha March 2022!
Instrumentality continues to unravel Shinji’s narrative, weaving his consciousness with the minds and hearts of others. A discovery is made, and love is found.
The second half of Human Instrumentality, and the “Third Case” presented by the series finale: “The Story of the Boy Named Shinji Ikari.” The Unit-01 pilot confesses to living for himself, yet he bases so much of his identity on what he believes to be the opinions of others. Shinji assumes others think he is worthless (because he runs away from piloting), and thus projects his self-worth onto EVA. If he stays and pilots, his worth is confirmed. If he runs away, however, he’d be better off not existing at all. No one ever directly states they hate Shinji, yet he thinks others are thinking this anyway. Consequently, EVA starts to define him precisely because he lets it. Same goes for Asuka, though. Value must come before happiness for the two of them. Thus, they never become happy because they fail to recognize their own value.
This special Episode 26—“FINALE: take care of yourself.”—is comprised of live film stills, paper animation, and illustration among other artistic methods. It is perhaps one of the most experimental episodes in anime, and certainly one of the most unconventional. As the series’ themes are dissected and displayed, visual shape and form are broken down into their most essential components. The only “normal” animation cuts are found in the “other possible world” presented by instrumentality to Shinji. It’s a cartoonish, foolishly ideal world, the kind one would totally expect in any anime series that wasn’t Eva. “If it’s possible to have other versions of me, then there must be a world where I’m not an EVA pilot!” Once Shinji realizes this—that life is all about interpretation and that assumptions should not be taken as truth—the opportunity to love himself finally presents itself.
Still, “this ending must be happening only in the world where it was told,” according to the production notes. Once Shinji becomes aware of his own existence and feelings, the fog beneath his feet dissipates to reveal a giant coral reef. We must assume that everyone wishing Shinji congratulations—including Shinji himself—have become part of the “sea” residing on top. (This was an observation I never fully realized until this latest rewatch!) With this epiphany, we instantly realize that although we’ve reached the end of the series, the story still needs a proper conclusion. In other words, Shinji still needs to leave the collective behind to become an individual once again—to leave the lake of souls behind and return to the shores of nascency. Even though the “theme” has been completely developed, the “story” will only feel complete once Shinji has rejected instrumentality . . . We need one last scene before we can kiss Eva goodbye . . .
This officially marks the end of the EVERYDAY EVA’s original mission—to visit one episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion every day of March 2022 as per the Mecha March celebration. We did it, we really did it, and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome of this project. “Congratulations” for making it this far. 🙂
However, with five days to go in the month, I’m thrilled to announce that I will be EXTENDING EVERYDAY EVA to cover Death and Rebirth and The End of Evangelion, as well as the entire Rebuild of Evangelion film tetralogy!! I’ll group D&E with EoE together for the 27th, but each Rebuild film—1.11, 2.22, 3.33, and 3.0+1.0—will have their own post. In other words, we’ve still got A LOT more Eva to go, and I hope you’ll be joining me on the final stretch of this journey as we see how Anno ends Eva twice more. Thanks for reading, and ‘til then!