I think that sometimes the problem I have is what I think Anno's trying to say to the fans. NGE had a message that it was always better to at least try to reach out to people than to keep yourself inside a closed world of fantasy. At the same time, NTE seems to be trying to say that it's a good idea to take others' feelings into consideration rather than to simply think about how you can make yourself happy. By itself, this is a very positive message.
However, I feel like it's given an overly harsh tone. At this point, the only real way out for Shinji is a heroic sacrifice (except I guess it's a good thing for Shinji to not feel heroic while doing it?). I don't think there is any chance for Shinji to find any sort of happiness, for the following reason. Imagine I'm generic self-insert character # 7530 in Evangelion, in the world after Third Impact.
All I know about this guy is that he basically ended my world, destroying almost everything I'd care about. Would I want him dead? Absolutely. In fact, if there's not some other reason Wilie needs Shinji, then they either have to know something else or it's just bad writing. Is there any reason you'd keep him alive?
I never wanted Shinji to find instant love with Asuka/Rei/Kaworu/Whoever, but I didn't think that he deserved NOTHING either.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm more upset by is the fan reaction rather than the movies themselves. I actually thought that the ending of 2.0 was something slightly off kilter for Evangelion, but at the same time the punishment for anything Shinji did is off by several orders of magnitude. And this IS important, because with normal transgressions, the chance to redeem yourself is present.
If we assume that Shinji is responsible for Third Impact (and Fourth Impact I guess) that would make him the most irredeemable person in history, bar none. Forget people such as Stalin or Hitler, Shinji Ikari is far worse. It's almost like he's the puritan conception of the devil, except that he lacks craftiness and wit.
Another issue is that it feels like this is really the worst possible way to go about it if you wanted to help shut-ins integrate to society. One factor is that the characters actually seem much more like "waifus" than before. Asuka has all of her problems removed entirely, and is turned in many ways into a generic action tsundere. And while some people disagree, from what I've seen it appears that 3.0 Asuka is the most popular one ever. People still make unlimited figurines of her, love pillows, etc., and now I'm not even sure if that's the main thing Anno's criticizing in NTE. There's so much fanservice, without any of the context of the original, that it seems hard to be saying that he's criticizing it. And yes, there is fanservice in 3.0 as well, and not just in the form of Kawoshin Yaoi, so it can't be said to have stopped after 2.0 as many would argue. Another issue on pandering is that in a way, showing Shinji in the wrong and everyone else right IS pandering. From what I've seen, most anime-viewers think that they aren't like Shinji at all. Many would prefer an Eva series without Shinji, and frankly this seems to be leading towards that.
There's a lot of talks about how Willie could have handled it better, and while I think they could have, the way they acted in 3.0 was fairly realistic. I don't have a major problem with the way Willie acted unlike many people, it's more of a problem with Anno himself really. I don't think this series, if 4.0 goes as I outline below, will help anyone. I think it will go quite some way towards convincing people that they are worthless, that they shouldn't try, that they'd be better off dead. In real life, time and time again, I've seen this. Giving people "tough love" and talking about how much they suck is NEVER a way to get anyone to change in real life. Neither is just enabling them and giving them what they want, but typically there's a happy medium between these two extremes. I just think that if Anno thinks that he's writing a story with a message that will ultimately help people, he's wrong. If 4.0 goes how I think it will, it will likely be the trigger for many suicides, especially in Japan.
Now how exactly do I think 4.0 will go? I think it will likely began where they left off, walking through the red sand. Somehow Gendo's plan will be heading towards fruition, and one of two things will happen when it gets close to Final Impact. Either Shinji will end up wanting to run away again, resulting in the complete failure of his character arc. He's stopped by someone such as Misato, Asuka, and summarily killed. Maybe they'll go the extra mile and Asuka will slowly and painfully beat him to death. The movie describes how his actions caused the loss of happiness of himself and others, and proceeds to show why most of the issues in Rebuild are all his fault. An alternative is where he realizes how deeply shitty he's supposed to be, and somehow finds a way to give up his happiness for others, sacrificing himself. It would be important of course for this sacrifice to not be seen as something noble, but a consequence for what he did earlier. This is of course how I think the movie would go; honestly, I think the realistic outcome for Shinji is suicide. However, the narrative has to explain why Shinji's wrong some more, so he can't die yet. This is why I have a problem with the movies-because I do think that it is pure criticism meant to alienate people.
In the end, I've looked at all of the arguments about whether Shinji's responsible for Third Impact, and I think that's because those differences are largely irreconcilable. And these differences are almost entirely based upon the ending to 2.0. While the lightshow when he saves Rei is weird, it seems hard to say that he could have possibly had any clue he was wrecking humanity at this point. Some argue the world was destroyed because Shinji unconsciously wished for it. To tell the truth, most people have cruel thoughts about others that they don't reveal to the outside world; in more rational times they later realize those thoughts are stupid and wrong. Unless they have no sense of self-control, they never act on it. But for Shinji, because he had a single thought like this, it ends up damning everything. (In EoE his transgressions appear to be conscious choices). The main issue in the end is that I said I would make the same choices Shinji did, and I think that's true for most people. I think that when placed in the same situation, Anno would do the same thing. Many of the people criticizing Shinji would. Again, I would do it if it was Kensuke, a puppy, or 20 dollars. There's no hint whatsoever that this act can blow up the earth, or have any negative consequences. There was also effectively no other way to beat the angel at this point short of going berserk anyway, considering what it was doing to Shinji. I've learned from fiction before, seen people whom embody negative aspects of myself, and sought to change from them. I just don't really feel that NTE Shinji is one of them.
At any rate, I'm probably not going to post about this any more, because this took way too long to type.
Also, Mr. Tines, you identify with Asuka from the original series, right?
Edit: Spoiler tagged a lot of the comment to remove spoilers for Rebuild 2.0/3.0[/spoiler]
I felt like I was watching a dream I could never wake up from. Before I knew it, the dream was all over... - Spike Spiegel