Theory and Analysis:Final Scene in End of Evangelion

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"Making something... Nurturing something is really great. You can see and learn so many things from the process."
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The final scene of End of Evangelion is, to this day, still hotly debated. It is a culmination of the story's themes and narrative in just a few, earth-shattering minutes, with Shinji's attempt to choke Asuka contrasted with her unexpected response. This article, however, will deal with the more objective aspects of this scene that can easily go unnoticed even to the most observant of viewers, thanks to its cryptic and deliberately ambiguous construction. There are, however, several details present in this scene that can help elucidate Shinji's state of mind.

Passage of Time

Rust in Misato's cross
"Mysterious" pieces of wood, with one of them broken in half
Moon cycles

After rejecting Instrumentality, Shinji is seen emerging in the Sea of LCL. In the following scene, Shinji sees Rei, and seems shocked to see her there, and even more so when he realizes Asuka is there. As Shinji notices the girl, he moves towards her and begins to strangle her, without a clear reason. The generally accepted interpretation is that he was trying to determine whether she was real or if they were still experiencing Instrumentality. [1] Shinji's state of mind can seem a bit jarring, as he seemed content and willing to face the future just a few minutes earlier in the movie as he said goodbye to his mother Yui, even if he was still uncertain he could achieve happiness.

Instead, Shinji seems somewhat unstable and fraught, as attempting to strangle Asuka again seems like quite an extreme action. It is interesting to note that time inside Instrumentality itself is relative, and the sequences presented in he movie don't follow a completely linear fashion, thus, while Instrumentality itself takes less than an hour inside the movie, it is entirely possible that Shinji experienced weeks, months or even decades inside Instrumentality, and only returned to the real world much later, and might have spent some time alone in the beach before Asuka showed up, as some elements in the scene indicate:

  • Misato's cross is rusted, or more specifically, the nail that is holding it. It has been suggested that this could merely be blood washed over on the cross, as LCL is said to resemble blood multiple times. However, the fact that rust is specifically falling from the nail is telling, because it means that either there has been enough time for a nail to rust, or, alternatively, if Shinji found the nail already rusted, the water or humidity could have made the rust spill on the cross. Regardless, there needs to at least have been enough time for the rust to drip down in the first place.
  • There are several pieces of wood of an unexplained nature. Shinji states that the reason he wants to return to the real world is because he wants to see his friends and the people he loves again because at least there he will know his feelings are real, even if he risks rejection and failure. As explained below, those are actually grave markers Shinji has erected in memory of his friends. Presumably, the one with Misato's cross is supposed to represent Misato. Shinji might have believed, for a time, that nobody was coming back and he was doomed to be alone, so finding Asuka on the beach would come as a surprise because it would have proven him wrong. This could also explain why he decided to choke her - to find out if she was real. A perfect "doll" Asuka inside Instrumentality would not react, and accept any of his wishes, including killing her, as inside Instrumentality there is no individuality, thus Asuka might not have a will of her own. But not only does she react, but she also does so with compassion. This proves to Shinji that he is no longer alone, and that she is indeed real.
  • The moon cycles change between the first post-Impact scene when Lilith is dying to the ending scene. They seem to indicate at least two weeks have passed between those scenes. Admittedly, it is possible that the Moon was merely being seen from another angle, and this would give the viewer a different impression of the actual cycle it was in, so it is not very strong evidence.

It is still hard to pinpoint a specific timeframe, but Shinji would take at least a few hours to gather wood and erect the grave markers. Unlike the moon cycles, this is actually mentioned in the storyboards, so we can be certain at least this happened.

Discarded endings

End of Evangelion has two discarded endings, Last A and Last B. While the Last B was far bleaker than the ending present in the final movie, Last A is still very similar to the one in EoE, with the most noticeable difference being Asuka's final line being altered.

Shinji resurfacing in the Sea of LCL. Note he looks much more solemn.
Asuka and Shinji laying on the beach
Shinji when he gets a glimpse of Rei, and notices Asuka by his side. He is clearly surprised and disturbed, very different from his more calm look when emerging from Instrumentality.

Last A
You already know the beginning of this one (a beach, petrified headless Evas, etc).
Then, we see the graves Shinji made (it's stated by Anno it was _he_ who made them). The names of all main Eva characters are written on them, except for "Ayanami Rei".
We then see Asuka's grave.
And Asuka's foot kicking it to the ground. ^^;
(you can still see these graves in the actual ending... no names, but there is Misato's pendant nailed on one of them, and another has been kicked down ^^ )
We then see Shinji and Asuka on the beach... and you know that scene, too (but this draft demonstrates that Shinji and Asuka didn't just wake up there after Third Impact... they've been living here for some times... meaning they _could_ be the two only humans willing to return, after all... ^^; )
When Shinji starts crying, Asuka was supposed to say something like "Idiot No way I'll let you kill me" ("idiot" was removed in the storyboards... and the whole line was modified, eventually).
Then, the ending music (so, there was one... ^^ ) was supposed to begin, and the staff credits were to appear (Anno suggests a horizontal scrolling, like in GunBuster, I guess).
We were to see Eva-01 lying on the Moon, and woman's hair showing from its broken mask (but her face remains unseen).
Behind Eva-01, you could see Earth, entirely red.
And the Black Moon, destroyed.
The camera goes to the sun, then to the stars.
Credits end.

"Shûgeki" ("the end").

Unlike Last B, Last A does not clash with the ending as present on EoE at all, except for Asuka's final line - changed when Anno asked for Yuko Miyamura's (Asuka's voice actress) suggestion, as he was still unsatisfied with this line, which lacks the ambiguity and duality of the final line.[2] However, the graves are still around. As such, adding to the evidence present above, it is also possible to extrapolate the meaning for these elements in the scene from Last A that are still present:

  • Lilith "dies", Shinji re-materializes in the Sea of LCL, he swims/walks to the beach, and spends some time there, enough time to gather some wood and erect these graves. He also finds a nail and uses it to fix Misato's cross on one of them.
  • Last A happens, or at least in part. Asuka herself returns from Instrumentality, she goes to the beach (instead of just materializing by his side), and finds the markers Shinji set in her and the other character's memory. Immediately she assumes Shinji thinks she's dead, so she kicks the marker with her name to signify she's alive, as well as her will to live.
  • She finds Shinji asleep on the ground. Instead of waking him up, kicking him or yelling at him, she decides to sit and sleep by his side.
  • The actual ending scene happens: Shinji wakes up - the camera seems to be in the first person momentarily, as Shinji is looking upwards to the sky, but then it quickly pans to the side, as if he is turning his head. Shinji then gets a brief glimpse at Quantum Rei, and is surprised to find Asuka by his side. He chokes her, she caresses him, he stops.[3]
  • There are also unconfirmed claims that the EoE poster is canon, which would seem to indicate that Shinji at the very least got off Asuka, got up, Asuka sat up, and both of them spent some time looking at the horizon and Lilith's head.
Shinji, again surprised as Asuka caresses him. This seems to wake him up from his stupor.

This has some implications as it contradicts other theories that Asuka merely materialized out of nowhere because Shinji willed it or because Rei somehow "gave" her to him as companionship, instead, she returned out of her own free will, which reinforces Yui's earlier statement about how anyone can come back, as long as they have the will to do so and to imagine themselves back in their original forms. (although according to this [1], Asuka was the one Shinji had "hoped/wished for") However, the fact that Asuka imagines herself with her arm bandaged seems to indicate she is not completely healed yet, much like Shinji's fraught mental state does.

Nonetheless, the fact that she has chosen to lay by Shinji's side at her own initiative and chosen to react to him with open affection, instead of aggression and hostility like she has done many times before, symbolizes, at least, the beginning of her growth. Because Asuka is now able to accept herself, she is now able to accept him as well, instead of pushing him and other people away out of fear of intimacy and rejection, much like Shinji, unable to accept himself, ran away from people in order to avoid the pain inherent to human connections. Not only does this make Shinji stop as he has realized that it is indeed Asuka and he is indeed in real life, Shinji, who has realized he can find worth is himself and is now willing to reach out to other people, is taken aback by this sign of compassion, which mirrors Yui's own caress a few minutes earlier in the movie as he leaving Instrumentality, it also shows how overwhelmed he is to be accepted himself, and might be ashamed of the way he has treated Asuka.

Asuka's final line, "kimochi warui" can be translated as "I feel sick" or "How disgusting". It is an expression used many times before to express shock, dismay or disapproval - for instance, when Shinji is first immersed in LCL in Episode 1 and in a sense embraced by Yui, and when Asuka complains about sharing a bathtub, and a house with Misato and Shinji in Episode 22, as she is unwilling to belong). Asuka seems to be expressing disapproval at the situation they are in and Shinji acting meekly again.[4] This does not change the fact, however, that she has just chosen to show him compassion, to give him a chance and lay by his side. When hostility would have been a far easier choice - and the fact that she has kicked her gravemarker implies she might not actually be in a frail and weak state as some assume, she has instead chosen comprehension and compassion, she took a risk, just like Shinji did by choosing to return to reality, as Asuka has. The ambivalence and duality in this scene represent the fact that they are not yet completely healthy and changed, but are beginning to open themselves to this change. The movie leaves open where they will go from there, if they can grow and learn to love themselves or not, but even after all the grievous death and destruction throughout the movie, and even though they are still only starting to grow, it still gives them this hope, as long as they pursue it.

The fact that Asuka and Shinji will have to work in other to achieve happiness and even survival is reflected even in other ways: it could take a while before civilization can rebuild, if anyone even comes back in the first place, so they will inevitably have to deal with each other and at least come to terms with one another in other to survive: ultimately, whether Shinji and Asuka can grow and be happy also depends on whether the viewer thinks humanity can go back and learn from its mistakes - it is entirely possible that no one will come back, or that very few will. Much like Shinji and Asuka can grow and change, this also applies to humanity and even the world at large: it is impossible to even know for sure about the physical state of the world and its fauna and flora, availability of food and clean water, the preservation of buildings and infrastructure, etc. It is uncertain where they are, as well - possibly on the outskirts of the ruins of Tokyo-3, which has been flooded after Rei self-destroyed her Eva and later when the Black Moon emerged and created a crater. The physical damage might be limited to Tokyo-3's vicinity, or beyond, similarly to how Second Impact seems to have limited physical damage and LCL in the water to Antarctica.[5]

All possibilities are open: as Shinji has learned (and presumably Asuka as well), even if reality is harsh and uncomfortable, if he does not try to break out of the cycle of misery, despair and escapism which has encompassed him, he will only have the certainty of more failure and more suffering. However, if he decides to face reality and face the risk of rejection and failure, even if he will not have the certainty of success and attaining happiness, that is still the only way he can be happy in the first place.[6]

See also

Theory and Analysis:Shinji and Asuka's Relationship - One More Final

Theory and Analysis:List of Common Misconceptions - The Adam & Eve Scenario

Resources:End of Evangelion Screenplays

This article was mostly built out of the following forum threads, please refer to them:

Passage of Time (EoE Final Scene)

Did Last A actually happen?

Notes and References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Evangelion Cardass Masters Card Game "Shinji renounced the world where all hearts had melted into one and accepted each other unconditionally. His desire... to live with 'others' -- other hearts that would sometimes reject him, even deny him. That is why the first thing he did after coming to his senses was to place his hands around Asuka's neck. To feel the existence of an 'other'. To confirm (make sure of) rejection and denial."
    "In the sea of LCL, Shinji wished for a world with other people. He desired to meet them again, even if it meant he would be hurt and betrayed. And just as he had hoped/wanted, Asuka was present in the new world. Only Asuka was there beside him. The girl who he had hurt, and by whom he had been hurt. But even so, she was the one he had hoped/wished for...."
  2. Interview with Yuko Miyamura (BS AnimeYAWA) "I had been thinking directors should convey their ideal how the show should be to us. But Anno pitches us questions such as "What do you think for yourself if things went on such and such ways to you?" After recording all the lines of the movie, I was called to the studio because the final line needed to be revised. Ogata came there too as it was Asuka and Shinji's scene. Asuka's final line was "Anta nankani korosareru nowa mappira yo!" in the film scenario. Anno didn't live with my line no matter how many times I tried. Ogata and I were at a loss of how we should play what Anno wanted to express; she even tried to ride on me and choke me to meet his demand. He must have been pursuing reality. Concerning the final line we adopted, I'm not sure whether I should say about it in fact. At last Anno asked me "Miyamura, just imagine you are sleeping in your bed and a stranger sneaks into your room. He can rape you anytime as you are asleep but he doesn't. Instead, he masturbates looking at you, when you wake up and know what he did to you. What do you think you would say?" I had been thinking he was a strange man, but at that moment I felt disgusting. So I told him that I thought "Disgusting". And then he sighed and said "... thought as much." He said. " I thought as much. "
  3. Some speculate that the unused but fully produced song Everything You've Ever Dreamed was going to be used as a credits song. It seems to allude to this very scene:
    Did she promise you the world and did that
    Girl just throw your love away
    Leave you like a lonely solitare
    With just despair for company
    Do you think you'd find revenge so sweet
    Make it so you hearts will never beat
    Squeeze the very last and dying breath from
    Everything you've ever dreamed
  4. Keep in mind she is also fully aware of his masturbation in the hospital earlier, in fact, she not only tells him to do it again for her to watch, she even implies she knows it is a habit. In fact, in one of the earlier EoE drafts, Shinji would just go home after seeing her exposed breasts and then masturbate in his room, thinking of her
  5. Second Impact was an Impact of a very different nature, with an actual physical explosion caused by Adam's partial awakening. The 3 billion dead include subsequent natural disasters like tsunamis (provoked by the explosion itself and possibly the change of the Earth's axis), earthquake and rising sea levels, and nuclear exchanges like one between India and Pakistan. The show hints that the post-2I world is politically untable but perfectly habitable. The "eternal summer" is specifically mentioned as existing in Japan, which means it was probably a result of the change in the axis, and does not necessarily apply to everywhere else. This lack of certainty applies to the post-3I world as well.
  6. "I still don't know where to find happiness...but I'm here, and I will keep wondering why I was born."