A Look Back at Neon Genesis Evangelion’s Treatment of Depression

In a particularly deep cut for Birth. Movies. Death., Siddhant Adlakha takes a look at 1995’s best-known anime series: Neon Genesis Evangelion.

While the article by necessity gets into topics of mecha, clones, aliens and the end of the world, that’s all in service of more human topics: depression, identity, and self-acceptance.

Spoilers for Evangelion, which ended two decades ago, abound.

Rather than power, what Shinji desires is love and acceptance, but the Eva isn’t an endpoint of his journey. It’s a mechanism through which he’s allowed to be challenged on the slow and painful road to loving himself. That’s Shinji’s internal insurmountable villain, one he eventually “overcomes” in a uniquely abstract sense. Long story short, the show ran out of time and money (one reason is said to be the 1995 Tokyo Sarin attacks baring similarities to an upcoming subplot that had to be dropped), so its last few episodes avoided new footage as much as possible. They instead resorted to deconstructing the nature of story itself, at least story as told through animation, breaking Shinji down to lines and colours as a means to reflect on all the elements that made him, well, him.

These scenes come in the form of conversations between Shinji and what appear to be a combination of himself and other characters, off in the darkness as he sits alone in a secluded room, illuminated by spotlight. It may well be interpreted as him speaking directly to the narrative, the author, or even to the audience, as he flashes back and forth in time to reflect on moments from his past. Not only is trapping Shinji with no one but himself a neat way to avoid spending money, it works thematically too, since being alone with himself forces him to confront all that he is – the worst fear of anyone who truly hates themselves.

The ending of Evangelion is controversial, to say the least, so Adlakha’s interpretation isn’t universal. Read the rest of Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Biggest Monster is You to see his full explanation of how Evangelion dealt with this subject matter.

[Birth. Movies. Death.]
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