Throughout all this, the animation style shifts to pencil sketches in a white void, and, at one point, Shinji is shown what his life might be like as a domestic high school comedy where Rei is the new girl in school, Asuka is his childhood friend, Misato is his teacher, and his mother is still alive. Alternate forms of his life exist, which must mean that there is a world in which Shinji doesn't have to be an EVA pilot if he doesn't want to. He decides that he wants to be himself after all, rejecting Instrumentality to the joy of all his friends, who, in the series' weirdest scene, which also happens to be its final one, stand in a circle and congratulate him.
During its original run, the finale alienated a lot of Evangelion's fans, who were nonplussed at the bizarre, postmodern clip show that makes up most of the final two episodes. It's a far cry from a theme as straightforward as "Get in the robot, Shinji!!!" of Episode 1. Some who worked on the show cite production issues and budget cuts, which forced the animation studio to rely on cheaper options to finish out the season. Plus, creator Hideaki Anno himself apparently hadn't decided how he was going to end the show until the last minute. He tried out a few alternate or complementary endings later, first with the film Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death & Rebirth, which adds some more context to the details of the Human Instrumentality Project, plus the introduction of the terrifying Mass Production EVAs (notably, all its dummy plugs are branded "KAWORU," implying that Kaworu, too, was one of many clones harvested for his soul to pilot EVAs). Then came End of Evangelion, a sweeping, depressing alternate finale that shows what physically happens to the planet when Human Instrumentality occurs.
It's widely known that the arc of Neon Genesis Evangelion follows the progression of Anno's own four-year depression he sunk into in the early '90s. It's also known that halfway through working on the series, Anno got really into psychology, and the character work in the back half of the series reflects his own growing interests in psychoanalysis. (This has kinda always been the case: In Gunbuster, Anno's 1988 directorial debut, he created a character named "Jung Freud.") Evangelion is a frightening, violent, and brutally sad series, whose end, while insanely unexpected, is quite uplifting, above it all -- just not in the gung-ho friendship-and-love way that traditional mecha anime series usually are. Instead, Anno shows us how the possibility of love -- self-love and love from others -- is achievable. Shinji, crippled with doubt and fear and self-hatred, opts for life as an individual amongst the rest of humanity with an Absolute Terror Field around our hearts, choosing the possibility of happiness rather than giving up on himself.