NOTE: This feature contains spoilers for Evangelion 3.0+1.0: Thrice Upon a Time — in particular the very end.
Neon Genesis Evangelion is officially over. It will likely continue in the form of merchandise and collaborations, but the story as we know it has been wrapped for good. In more ways than one.
Anyone who knows Eva and its director will tell you that the two are inextricably intertwined. The series came out of a dark place for Hideaki Anno, and addresses his personal and industry struggles. So seeing the franchise end on a high note is a good sign.
But for some fans, it’s not easy. They’re experiencing a phenomenon many are dubbing “Eva Loss,” and it’s as complicated as you’d expect anything related to Evangelion to be.
The term “Eva Loss” has been springing up around the Internet lately, especially Twitter — a rallying cry for fans who feel left behind by Evangelion. For some, it’s the knowledge that they won’t have as many people to trade merchandise with. For others, it’s knowing they won’t be getting anything new related to their favorite characters (except perhaps lipstick commercials).
But bigger than that is the idea that the series and characters haven’t just gone away — they’ve left fans behind. As Thrice Upon a Time ends, Shinji literally grows up, voiced by your name. star Ryuunosuki Kamiki. He escapes the cycle of sadness that is a world with Evangelions in it. And in the real world, Anno seems to have done the same. He’s off making Godzilla and Ultraman, just like he always wanted.
As fans are happy to see Shinji move on, these same fans say they feel moved on from.
As one fan put it, “I want to see Shinji happy, but I also want to see Shinji depressed.” Evangelion offered fans an avatar in Shinji: someone who, like them, feels put upon and misunderstood. “I want to see a good story,” the same fan says, “but I want to empathize with someone who has the same problems as me.”
Rather than seeing Shinji’s ending as a hopeful one — a sign that happiness is available even to one of anime’s unfortunate mecha pilots — many fans simply feel abandoned. The movie’s final behest to “Go back to reality” also hit some fans hard, as though they were being kicked out of their own favorite series.
So what does this mean? For Shinji (and Anno) to be happy, do his fans have to be abandoned?
Bear in mind, though, one important point: Shinji lived in fear of Eva Loss himself, and it took him multiple timelines (and multiple iterations of the story) to brave it. There were many failed cycles, but only one time when Shinji finally decided to leave it all behind: this time.
Shinji’s story is still the fans’ story, and his “abandonment” of the fans could be seen instead as him leading the way. He’s not abandoning Evangelion, because the life he has couldn’t exist without the experiences that informed that final choice. He found his way to something better, and someday hopefully we all can.
All that said, missing a beloved series when it ends is normal. Even if you didn’t have any emotional stakes in it, it’s all right to be sad when something ends. And in the meantime, you can follow what Anno is up to in the worlds of Godzilla and Ultraman.