Back to Reviews

Reviews Comments: It's the philosophy that gets me. Neon Genesis Evangelion whole series review by Marowmerowmer

The series was touted as a deconstruction. If I want one of those, I'll go watch {Anime/Bokurano}. I have to admit, I enjoy "art" movies. My favourites include Donnie Darko and Inland Empire. One of my favourite anime is Serial Experiments Lain.

I liked the final episodes of Evangelion. They were the best episodes in the entire series. Honestly, the episodes immediately preceding them were very much tedious.

I disagreed with the message.

The philosophy of the show draws on obsolete pseudoscience such as psychoanalysis and "humanistic" psychology. These have already been shown to be non-empirical, and have been supplanted by theories like radical behaviourism. These are manifested in the show's message of a need for "self-esteem".

The next paragraphs will be much more Your Mileage May Vary.

My personal philosophy derives heavily from utilitarianism (both classical and preferential) and Comtean altruism, i.e. "I" only matter because "I" have the capacity to do good to others. I also believe that all questions boil down to a matter of ethics. When I think about any particular subject, my first question is "Is it the right thing?"

From my own personal study of psychology, I have combined this with my ethics to deduce that the logical extension of utilitarianism and altruism is to kill the ego. The ego basically is the illusion that all things are extensions of one's own self. Shinji seemed to have realised that this is only an illusion, but couldn't jump that barrier. This is what made me upset with the ending. Instead of finally rejecting his ego and living a life incapable of hurting others, he restores the ability to experience pain to everybody. Some Fridge Horror there: he ended Instrumentality. His father started Instrumentality to reunite with his dead wife. Shinji is taking his mother away from his father, after reuniting them for about a day.

It probably depends on interpretation. My interpretation is that Instrumentality means ego-death. Self-hatred is only natural when one realises the reality that the ego is the source of all suffering. The logical extension of that would be to try to remove the ego. But Shinji's attempts to, ultimately, get rid of suffering for all humans and make us all one are dismissed as "running away". He just changed reality for the better. Run away from what?


  • Muphrid
  • 10th Feb 13
I think one of the main points of Shinji's rejection of Instrumentality is that, while there is no possibility for suffering, there is also no chance for joy or love. Going back to reality is to accept the risk of hurting other people for the chance of sharing in joy with them. Is that part of the impression you got (at least for Anno's intent), and if so, do you specifically reject that point as well?
  • doctrainAUM
  • 10th Feb 13
I often see Instrumentality - and Shinji's rejection of it - as a criticism of the Hindu/Buddhist conception of Nirvana. Sometimes I wonder if I see things that aren't there, but I can't help viewing it that way. There's no way to know for certain.
  • Scherzo09
  • 13th Feb 13
As an existentialist I find that philosophy abhorrent. And existence without self would be death by another name; it is our individual struggle to exist and find meaning in a reality unsympathetic to our individual existence that we derive our own meaning of being; our individual textures enriching one another. You would have use be a homogeneous mass of existence that doesn't aspire, doesn't seek to transcend, but merely exist as a beast without reason in dull ignorance. that isn't living A life without pain, a life without experience, a life without the unique textures because of our differences, is just a dull, thoughtless mindnumbing existence, no different than death. Code Geass R2, as idiotic as it generally is, articulates this refutation of instrumentality more directly than NGE, though I still think it's there in NGE as well.
  • Marowmerowmer
  • 19th Feb 13
I find it interesting that "reality" is separated from "truth". The entire philosophy of "there is a different truth for every person" is idiotic.

And people who disagree with me might want to try LSD.

"Today, a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration – that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There's no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we're the imagination of ourselves. Here's Tom with the weather." —Bill Hicks, on a "positive drug story"
  • doctrainAUM
  • 19th Feb 13
Bill Hicks' quote is rather perplexing to me. Personally, of course there's a different truth for every person! Otherwise, we wouldn't have different opinions and philosophies.

@Scherzo: I could never understand how one could have such a strong reaction to another's philosophy of the self.
  • nrjxll
  • 19th Feb 13
And people who disagree with me might want to try LSD.

...There's probably a less compelling argument in defense of a philosophy out there. But I haven't heard it.
  • fenrisulfur
  • 19th Feb 13
If we are to split hairs, an individual can /interpret/ material in a specific manner. However, that does not undermine an objective truth such as, say the acceleration due to gravity is 9.81 m/s squared. So, the philosophy does not work well in that respect. Otherwise, we are getting into the area of "how do I even know I'm perceiving anything?" which lends itself to the school of thought that Shinji could be in a dream the entire show, and undermine any significance of the non-Shinji characters to the audience.
  • MrMallard
  • 20th Feb 13
Lol, philosophy arguments on an Evangelion review.

Stay respectful of each other's opinions, folks.
  • Marowmerowmer
  • 26th Feb 13
Okay, may I recant?

This anime helped me to accept myself. I finally tried self-therapy (REBT to be specific), and it worked wonders for my depression. I acknowledge that I used to be depressed, and now Ican be happy.

Thank you, Hideaki Anno!
  • Scherzo09
  • 4th Mar 13
@ doctrainAUM: To me it's because that conception of self can easily allow for monsterous things to happen to people, for the sake of some illusory whole (Sophia Lamb from Bioshock 2 comes to mind). Now I'm not an Objectivist, I believe to a certain extent the society you exist in is a discrete entity which affects you. It's just that you're also a discrete individual yourself, simultaneously as you exist as an aspect of society as a whole.

@fenrisulfur: Well you already sort of covered that experience could be completely illusory due to the Cartesian 'Problem of the Bridge', but as you said that'd be a profoundly unhelpful position to take. I think though Truth, as its referred to here, isn't about scientific facts but more about Existential Truths, why am I here and what should I do and et cetera, stuff that can't be derived from empiricism because of the 'Is-Ought' problem. Since we each have our own perceptions of reality, everyone will come to a unique conclusion about what it means to exist.
  • BornIn1142
  • 5th Mar 13
Instrumentality is pure escapism. It's metaphorical suicide. Even if you're comfortable with a world where all of human progress ceases because all humans have become a happy soup, the inherent badness of Instrumentality should be quite obvious from the motives of those that engineered it - simple fear and unhealthy obsession.
  • Scherzo09
  • 1st Apr 13
^Yeah, though I'd go farther and suggest it's a 'Return to the Womb' impulse; a rejection of the world.
  • theduck
  • 15th May 13
Don't take philosophy in TV too seriously. Just laugh at everything you see.
  • porschelemans
  • 30th Aug 13
While a lot of what you are saying is valid, I can't help but feel that you're reading into NGE a little too deeply.
  • MHMhasf1998
  • 23rd Nov 13
....I sorta wanna go up to the next psychologist I find and tell them to use this series as a case study now.

In order to post comments, you need to

Get Known