(Anno August) Neon Genesis Evangelion: Part 2 – Breaking Under Pressure

Welcome to part two of my little exploration of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Last time I didn’t mention or even cover any of the assorted religious symbolism and there is a massive reason for that. They don’t feel like much besides window dressings. All those crosses that appear when angels die and the talk of dead sea scrolls shouldn’t distract you from what is happening with the characters. Very similar to all the technobabble you hear from launching the Evas, all that sync ratio, and so on. All it does is give the show more flavor. Neon Genesis Evangelion is a series whose premise are broken humans hopefully working together to stop a literal apocalypse from happening while trying not to break. What makes an apocalypse feel more complete then having some biblical, old texts from who knows where leading the show down that road. All the real things that happen are between the characters of the show. With this post, I’m hoping to end Anno August with a bang or an impact if you will.

With that, I left off my post from Wednesday with the world building and set up for the character’s in Neon Genesis Evangelion’s first half. You know, character motivations, world building, character relationships, and other important stuff. Please read that post before you continue with this one, because the context of that last post is needed to know when Evangelion truly becomes Evangelion. This is where everything that was established and created falls apart in more ways then one. The pressure vessel within in Shinji and friend’s sphere of influence are well established and it almost became comfortable. What happens when the Angel attacks aren’t just physical attacks anymore. What happens if the Angels take a more psychological approach to attacking the human pilots in the Evas instead? The human mind can only go so far, so they break. Welcome to hell; there is no escape except for the death of all human kind. This is Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Quiet, you are giving away the plot…

(OMG, I’ve been wanting to write something similar to this line ever sense watching youtube videos that follow WW1 and WW2 on youtube week by week. You have no idea how excited I am by this.) Anyway, back to your scheduled EVA content.

The pressure in this show starts building up very slowly. Just like the beginning of every Angel battle in the first half, the Evas were instantly sent out to deal with the threat. What is the major difference compared to most Eva fights? Shinji is actually confident in his abilities right now. He knows how to pilot the Eva and his father, Gendo, even gave him some praise for it. Everything is on the up and up, so that immediately means that something has to happen to set him back in place. Shinji and Unit 1 immediately falling into a hole as he rushed out to fight the angel was the catalyst for it. He spends hour after hour by himself and only his thoughts to bring back his usual sense of dread before Unit 1 wakes up again and gets Shinji out. I couldn’t imagine all sorts of negative emotions he felt from that happening to him. It’s a subtle (or perhaps not subtle) way to signal what direction everything is going to go. No confidence is allowed around these here parts. No sir.

With that happening, the angel attacks just become more and more psychological because the Angels will use all the power at their disposal to ruin all the foundations each character has built for themselves to stand strong. Remember what I said about Angels taking whatever form is needed for the conflict? Sometimes it takes the form of your friends. Eva Unit three, for example. There was all of this hoopla about Nerv headquarters acquiring another unit and how Nerv has also choosen a new pilot for it from Shinji’s class. Touji. A character that we’ve gotten to know since interacting with Shinji at middle school since he’s been there. That moment of Touji’s eva unit suddenly being taken over by an angel and then, unknowingly, Shinji’s unit is forced to fight/eat the other unit while forcing him to watch it. Imagine having the front row seat to this insanity then finding out that Touji, one of your best friends, was in that Eva. How screwed up would you be in this situation.

Yeah, I’ve got nothing.

The hits keep coming for Shinji, don’t they? Because he couldn’t take any of this anymore, he eventually decides to leave Tokyo 3 forever, except before he can do that the other two Eva units were overcome by an angel again. Shinji needed to show up in unit 1 once again to save the day. The result of which he achieves a 400% sync ratio with Unit 1 and doesn’t want to appear in our physical world anymore. Only a kind Misato voice made Shinji Ikari want to come back in any form. You know, barely holding onto himself in some form until episode 24 where he’s finally, completely broken. Kaworu, the final angel, was able to get closer to Shinji then anyone else in the series physically, emotionally, and whatever. Shinji literally opened himself up to something else for the first time and possibly made him bi. That depends on how you read the text here, but that’s my interpretation. It’s rather unfortunate that Kaworu was an angel and a betrayer that wanted to end everything. The fact that the one time Shinji trusted for the first time is the enemy doesn’t mean his feelings weren’t real. Because of that situation and Shinji not having a place that is seperated from work, he’s constantly in this pressure vessel with no relief valve at all. It’s all horrible, but so emotionally believable. Shinji is probably one of the most realistic characters in anime and seeing his story and arc not take hold like usual mecha heroes is the litmus test for people deciding whether or not they don’t like this show. I really like this aspect myself.

Then there are other characters to talk about before discussing the finale of Evangeion. So, let’s talk about the other human Evangelion pilot first. Asuka. In the first half, she was the typical teenage girl that constantly pushed for her attention from others and that was all to support her broken ego. Asuka tried to get Kaiji see her as a woman through sex appeal along with pushing a relationship with Shinji by flirting with him and even kissing him too. Here we see why she’s so mentally fragile. Asuka doesn’t know what being a woman or maturity really means. After an Angel attack’s light mind screws her to hell and back plus losing one fight against an angel attack after another, Asuka loses her mental façade and her confidence. Kaiji says she’s too young, Shinji has failed to make a connection with her, and suddenly she’s nothing. She can’t pilot an eva because of lower sync ratios, so where did her heroism go. Down the drain of the bath she was found in. All the secrets about how her mother confusing Asuka for a doll and then dying by hanging herself with the doll leaving Asuka to see this happening make their way out into the opening where doesn’t know what to do anymore. Asuka is such a great character, everyone. I refuse to accept anything otherwise. Asuka returning to Nerv in the hospital sets her up for the finale of this show.

Or is it?

I guess there are the other adult characters and the secrets of Nerv. Ritsuko, the scientist in the other trio, has inside knowledge on what the Evas are and what Gendo Ikari’s motivation to end the world. Secrets that Kaiji and Misato start to figure out after they’ve connected together (physically and mentally) again. Misato is an adult figure that falls in love with people like her father. You know, people like Kaiji who are scumbags and constantly hit on other women. I guess Kaiji was using that sort of upfront personality to hide his investigation of Nerv that lead to his death, but that outside point of view was still incredibly scummy. Kaiji and Misato’s connection makes sense in that case, even if it kind of, sort of feels a little forced. Kaiji’s inevitable death does eventually lead to Misato sort of breaking, but she’s had so much more years of life experience then Shinji to keep herself afloat more. She’s still at her station to complete her job still doing whatever it takes, even kissing Shinji, to make sure he pilots the eva to save the world. Such dedication. There is something to be said about Neon Genesis Evangelion having some sort of cyclical nature here with newer generations not learning a damn thing from the weakness of the older generations. It’s only a biting bit of commentary, but good commentary none the less.

With that, we get to see what Nerv’s secrets behind Rei and the Evangelion are. Is anyone really surprised that Rei is a clone that can be easily replaced, until she isn’t, because of her lack of personality? She doesn’t have any connection to anyone, has no distinct personality besides liking Shinji and Gendo in different or similar capacities, and she’s creepy and as inhuman as possible from a mental and physical level. Then there are the Evangelions which are not robots at all and are instead almost 100% human beings. Which is the true operating system behind these units? Mothers. Rei is supposedly a clone of Shinji’s mother, Yui and the personality transplanted into units zero and one are also of Yui. Isn’t it interesting how parallel the logical members of the trio are deeply attached to Gendo’s plots? There is a reason why Evangelion Unit 1 goes berserk or protected Shinji in episode one during a quick scene in the very beginning. It’s protecting him. Only a personal relationship like the one between Shinji and his mother could or Asuka and her mother are able to run an Eva unit. There is some obvious womb symbolism in the first half that sort of gives it away subtly, but that doesn’t make the reveal any less powerful. All of that does make me question whose personality they were using to run Unit 3 for Touji though. Oh, I don’t even want to think about that actually. Yeah, never mind. Forget I asked that.

Kaworu, a character that appears only in one episode.

With all the characters as broken as they can be, let’s talk about the last two episodes of Eva, the End of Evangelion, The Human Instrumentality Project, AT Fields, and Gendo’s finale plan because they are all attached to each other. Yeah, going to do a bad job by summing up my plots on everything in a couple paragraphs. Woo. So AT fields. If you have even heard of Evangelion, then you’ve must of heard of AT Fields or Absolute Terror Fields which are shields that protect Angels from getting hurt and pretty much the same thing for the Evangelion units. (This term also became a term for the skin between long socks and skirt hems on a high school girl too, but that’s besides the point. It’s still very Gainax though.) With Seele (the side villain group of Eva) and Nerv’s plots, and instrumentality, one of the things Eva pushes is how human kind also natural has AT fields. They separate humanity by giving each person a form of some sort that is called being human. Seele and Gendo’s plot, by using the third impact as a catalyst, is to breaking down all AT fields on everyone and connect everyone together physically and mentally which so everyone can finally understand each other mentally while turning everyone into orange tang. The concept of barriers is heavily prevalent through this show. Shinji likes to keep everyone at arms length, Asuka is the same way, and the lack of lockable door and actual barriers in Misato’s apartment where they all both live together is very prevalent in the show itself too. I guess we were seeing the introduction of human instrumentality in the show all along, huh?

How does this connect to Eva’s last two episodes and End of Evangelion? In my mind, the last two episodes and End of Evangelion are the same thing. The last two episodes are just an inside point of view of Shinji’s mind during the all weird, pretty fantastic, very sexual visuals of the End of Evangelion film. The budget and resources went away from Eva during these final episodes, so this is the result. Shinji is the catalyst of human instrumentality and nobody ever thinks about how bad that would be, huh? A completely broken teenage boy who currently has a strong absolute hatred of humanity has to make the decision on whether or not humanity lives or not is far from a wise choice, but this is Evangelion after all. Of course he causes instrumentality to happen. Whatever choice is there left for him at this moment. You would think that this would just lead to one very plain and very bad ending, right? Excellent, I can’t really say that. One word that the ending of both the last episode and the End of Evangelion give off is hope.

The end of the world is pretty beautiful, isn’t it?

As I’ve stated before at least a few times in these posts whether on my blog titles or just references, but Neon Genesis Evangelion is a pressure vessel with “mecha”. In it’s purist form, Eva inserts broken but functional characters into the ultimate hellscape environment and keeps pushing on them until they can no longer function. Shinji is the main character, so of course he deletes everyone else from the world and gets the loneliness he wants so they can’t judge him anymore. Of course, he notices how he misses everyone and everything after it happens, so it’s possible that everyone might come back. This connects with Shinji’s “maybe I don’t have to pilot the Eva for anyone” and “Maybe I can learn to love myself” in the last episode. After all that breaking, maybe he can find some parts of himself to fuse together into something stronger. Of course, the series never gives a complete answer to this because that’s where Eva trullys ends or does it? That rebuild cyclical theory is still in motion isn’t it? With that being said, In my mind, this is a brilliant place to end Eva because we don’t have to know whether or not Shinji becomes happier. It’s open for interpretation and it’s completely beautiful. Does everything absolutely need to be completely over? Eva has given us that answer no so many times, so I’m going along with that too.

Even after all of this writing and talking about it, I just have to say that Neon Genesis Evangelion isn’t on my list of favorite anime series ever, because I think that RahXephon and Martian Successor Nadesico are a little better in my eyes. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect the hell out of or recommend it to everyone to at least watch once, because I do. It’s thematically strong, knows how to build it’s mystery plot and narrative at the same time, and has some great characterization, because it all connects together well even if not every episodes connects together well. There is a reason why Neon Genesis Evangelion saved anime from dying in the mid 90’s when it was at it’s lowest point production and viewer wise and why I feel like Studio Gainax apologized for it’s existence later on for having similar narratives, but mentor characters that push the main protagonist out of his or her angst. There are plenty of details that don’t work or take away from it’s narrative like the religion stuff that distract from the show’s plot or the vagueness of Seele, but it’s a very powerful solid emotional piece. Either the rawness of the emotions of will move you towards it or push you away. There is no in between as far as I’m concerned.

Congratulations on making it this far!

Like I said before, I’m not going to write two posts about each series I talk about ever again. At least right now. There is a possibility that my focus on approaching series will change and I will decide that more focused pots will be norm, but I doubt it for now though. Still, Maybe I shouldn’t end my Anno August posts with such negativity. Thank you for reading my two too long Evangelion posts and following me through Anno August everyone. I’m glad that most people have been enjoying what I’ve been putting out because it makes me feel like all of this hard work of writing continually longer and longer posts have paid off. If you want to watch more Eva, it recently appeared on Netflix recently. It’s not a perfect depiction of how many other people have watched it before, but it’s still there and that’s what is important. It might be Hideaki Anno’s magnum opus.

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  1. I liked this post. Despite some of my issues with EVA (and we agree on some of them), I recognize it has its place in anime history. You brought up points I didn’t think about with Shinji and Asuka’s character development. Like you, I preferred RahXephon over EVA (I haven’t seen all of Nadesico yet), but I don’t think Anno’s creation is bad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, it’s not a bad creation. I just think that a lot of things that came after Eva are better then it. Not that I don’t like Eva. I do. It’s a solid product in a lot of ways.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Of course. EVA is solid, but it’s far from my favorite anime series. It does annoy me how RahXephon and Gasaraki get lumped as EVA rip-offs which isn’t true. Yes, there were shameless clones, but those two aren’t examples of them.

        Liked by 1 person

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