What Did the Ending of "Neon Genesis Evangelion" Mean?

Mike Crandol of the Anime News Network notes there are many possible meanings for the ending of "Neon Genesis Evangelion," including protagonist Shinji learning to love himself so that he may love others. Crandol notes the psychoanalytic ending focuses on the idea that truth is subjective and that Shinji can make his world into anything that he desires, allowing him to confront his fears and fully embrace the real world.

Part of Shinji's realization about subjectivity is the realization that he is using his ability to pilot the Evangelion as a crutch for his social and psychological issues. Shinji believes that piloting the robot and defending those around him gives him a greater meaning and purpose than his inability to interact meaningfully with others does.

However, the ending uses Freudian connections to make it clear that Shinji must learn to live on his own terms and to connect with the world. Specifically, the revelation that his Evangelion has a personality imprint of his mother makes clear that Shinji's reliance on piloting the Evangelion to give him a purpose is similar to a young boy still clinging to his mother as he enters young adulthood. Crandol contends this has affected Shinji's ability to have positive interactions with women and that Shinji's burgeoning relationship with Asuka in the end illustrates his maturity and growth.