It’s not often I say this about something that exists exclusively on the internet, but I enjoy the PBS Idea Channel on YouTube. It often makes me think about things in new ways, and I enjoy being challenged about things in ways that aren’t preachy or condescending. I can say that because, at least by my own estimation, I’m not too hung up on my own interpretations about most things that I feel as if my entire world view is coming under attack whenever someone takes a different point of view. That isn’t to say I necessarily agree with those people most of the time, but I’m at the very least open to a civil exchange of ideas.
If there’s something of little consequence that I feel especially strong about my perceptions of, it’s Evangelion. So, when the Idea Channel asks if series creator Hideaki Anno’s comments about Evangelion matter, not only do I dispute the claim that they don’t, I believe that Evangelion (or at least parts of it) is actually a commentary on itself. Hell, the new Seele logo in the Rebuild of Evangelion movies shouldn’t have been a serpent and an apple, it should have been a snake eating its own tail.
The video’s ideas apply most to the original TV series itself, which would be fine if that’s all there is or ever will be to the franchise, but as we know, that’s not the case. And while Anno’s comments in interviews and the like may not matter, it’s tough to dispute that End of Evangelion and the Rebuild of Evangelion films are just as much a statement about the franchise as any of Anno’s words.
The last scene of End of Evangelion is (in)famously prefaced by a series of fast-moving images, among which include pictures of the death threats Anno received during the backlash created by the original TV series’ ending. It’s one of the more obvious hints that the film wasn’t responding to fan demand for a new ending, but that he was responding to fan response.
Naturally, people who were hoping for an ending that was more clear and definitive than the one that preceded it weren’t satisfied by End of Evangelion’s violent and baffling conclusion, but it seemed as if that was as good as things were going to get. Until 2007, that is, when – 10 years after End of Evangelion’s release in Japanese theaters – Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone was released, marking the first entry in a “retelling” of the story. You Are (Not) Alone and You Can (Not) Advance were both largely high-definition reworkings of existing scenes, but each had some new material that hinted that not only would later movies contain something different, but that the films were a direct sequel to End of Evangelion.
Then, I watched Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo. I said after viewing the film that it was impossible to judge as a stand-alone piece. I still feel that way, but I do feel quite certain in saying that it is another response to response, as it were. I’m certainly not alone in wondering what happened after the screen went to black in End of Evangelion, and statements by characters in the film itself seem to indicate that there was much more that laid ahead for Shinji, Asuka, and possibly others. When at the end of Eva 2.0 and throughout Redo Kaworu states his intentions that “this time” he will make Shinji happy, Anno again teases us with the idea that Shinji may meet with a clean, certain, and happy ending. Yet Redo boldly and deliberately puts that idea, one that which the Rebuild films seemed to be predicated on, into question.
Redo ends with Kaworu dead (again, but not by Shinji’s hands – at least not directly, anyway), and Shinji traversing into unknown and uncharted territory, both for himself and the series. There’s still a chance that Kaworu will return for one last appearance, and that he really might be able to keep his promise to make Shinji happy, whatever that means. Of course, no one expects Anno to deliver a nice and tidy ending, which in and of itself is enough for some to think that there really is a chance that Eva 4.0 ends up being the definitive answer to all the series’ questions.
Regardless of what the outcome ends up being, the answer belongs to Anno, which is exactly the way he seems to like it. There’s also the possibility that Anno leaves the ending just open enough that there could be even more Evangelion at some point in the future. Where does it end, if that’s the case? If my entire point in writing this article is correct, then Evangelion may very well continue for as long as Anno has something to say about what we’re saying about it.