This year at Entropy we’ll be rewatching the legendary Neon Genesis Evangelion. Join us on this tremendous journey through one of the best television series ever made.
- Episode One
- Episode Two
- Episode Three
- Episode Four
- Episode Five
- Episode Six
- Episode Seven
- Episode Eight
- Episode Nine
- Episode Ten
We’ll be watching the subtitled versions and discussing them here every week without spoilers for future episodes.
After a few Asuka-centric episodes, we dilate back to look at the world these characters inhabit.
The episode begins pretty innocuously. NERV employees doing chores, making their daily commute. It’s not inherently interesting, but I think these details are what makes Neon Genesis Evangelion so special. The focus on the minutia. The focus on real people. Showing how they interact with an apocalypse. How they survive. Why they keep going. How they find meaning. How they find each other.
But, of course, Anno’s doubling up too.
The city council is just a puppet. Magi is truly in charge of the city.
Fuyutsuki says this in response to the city council election coming up.
Those three computers decide everything by majority rule. The system follows the fundamentals of democracy.
Essentially, humanity is given an illusion of power. An illusion it’s buying into, supporting, and feeding. The city council knows they’re not in charge, but they carry on with elections, with their civic duties. Citizens may not be aware of the fact that they’re governed by three powerful AI, which strengthens the illusion.
Much of Evengelion is about choice, I think, and what we’re learning here is that NERV has taken choice away from an entire city. And since Magi powers NERV, they may have even taken choice away from themselves, and since they are, in essence, the governing body of Japan and kind of the world, they’ve handed over humanity’s agency to three AIs.
We’ve seen Magi before, though only in reference. Data is constantly fed to and fed through the Magi. We’ve heard them called Melchior and Balthazar, so presumably Casper is the third Magi, since they’re apparently named after the three Magi from the bible.
According to Fuyutsuki, they behave democratically. Everything is put up to a vote and a consensus must be made. So these three AI vote on everything and guide humanity.
We cut to Shinji calling his father, Commander Ikari, who reacts unpleasantly to this intrusion.
But I want to linger on this scene. Look at the way Anno shows this conversation. A tight close up on Shinji’s hand clenching and unclenching at his side. The only sound is Ikari’s frustration and Shinji’s fear and anxiety. Shinji’s stumbling over his words.
He’s asking Ikari is he’ll show up to school as his guardian. I don’t think Shinji believes Ikari has any interest in this. I don’t believe Shinji even thinks Ikari will agree to show up.
I think Shinji’s trying to reach out. I think what he’s really asking is, Do you care about me? I’ve done everything you’ve asked. I’ve fought monsters. I’ve nearly died over and over again, all to make you proud. Are you proud?
Do you care?
And the answer Shinji gets is, No, I don’t care.
Ikari tells Shinji that Misato is his guardian and will take care of these trivial matters.
And we wonder why Shinji’s so broken, so emotionally frustrated. So Shinji even brings this up to Asuka and Rei.
Shinji: I wonder. It was like I failed or something rather than his hanging up.
Asuka: Geez. You’re a man, why don’t you stop worrying about the small stuff?
Asuka just pushes Shinji’s fears and anxieties aside. Tells him to man up.
Asuka’s a very on the surface kind of person in many ways. She doesn’t understand Shinji’s reticence or the way he bottles up his emotions. She just thinks this is a simple problem. Ikari’s busy saving the world so Misato will talk to Shinji’s teachers.
And that may be true. That may be exactly how Ikari means this.
But we’ve seen him interact with Shinji. We’ve seen how he abandoned Shinji as a child. We know that Ikari’s interest in his son is locked into Shinji’s ability to be a weapon. When Shinji fails as a weapon, Ikari will toss him aside and pick up a new one. A better one. One not so emotionally attached to him.
Meanwhile, at NERV, all the power systems are going down and they have a full scale blackout.
Fuyutsuki: The Geofront was designed to be self-sufficient even if it’s isolated from the outside. Theoretically, it’s impossible for all the power supplies to fail.
Ritsuko: Which means somebody did it deliberately.
Ikari: I guess their purpose is to investigate this place.
Ritsuko: They want to examine the structure of HQ through its recovery procedures.
Fuyutsuki: Annoying guys.
Ritsuko: I’ll run a dummy program on Magi to make it difficult for them to grasp the whole.
Ikari: I’ll leave it to you.
Ritsuko: Yes sir.
Fuyutsuki: The first damage to Headquarters was done by humans rather than an Angel…I can’t bear the thought.
Ikari: After all, humanity’s enemy is a human.
There are two driving forces behind this episode: character interaction and the overarching conflict, which just became more complicated.
The episode is putting people together, making them talk, and teaching us more about the world of Evangelion and about these characters. This episode most closely resembles the pre-Asuka episodes. It’s less fun and bubbly and more introspective. For example, it’s not a very visual episode.
The most important thing that we learn from the conversation above is that humanity is sabotaging NERV.
We’ve seen that NERV is one of many organisations vying for power in the post-Second Impact world. NERV has flaunted its power and actively sabotaged other agencies and organisations (episode seven) in order to keep its power and control. What we’re seeing in this episode, as revealed by this conversation, is that NERV is now on the receiving end. Someone or some organisation is trying to learn what they can about NERV to potentially undermine it or just to know. To force some oversight on an organisation that has unlimited power in its war against the Angels.
This, I think, shows something so devastatingly true about humanity. Humans, even when staring down an apocalypse, are still jostling for power over the rest of the doomed. We want to be in control of the world. We want to rule, even if all we rule is a scorched planet inhabited by ghosts and dust.
Angels keep coming and NERV appears to be the only effective deterrent, yet someone has essentially shut them down for the sole purpose of espionage. For the sole purpose of more power.
This all cycles back to one of the central questions of the show:
Shinji: Say, what do you think the Angels are?
Asuka: What’re you talking about?
Shinji: Angels, messengers of God. Our enemies with the name of Angels. Why’re we fighting them?
Asuka: Are you stupid? Unknown enemies are attacking us. It’s natural that we have to ‘get rid of sparks raining down on us.’
As usual, Asuka dismissing Shinji’s anxiety without even acknowledging its implications, but that’s just her being her. What’s more interesting is that Shinji’s asking this question, something no one else has really asked during the course of the show.
What are the Angels? Why are the enemies named after god’s messengers?
And why are they so fixated on NERV HQ? What is their connection to the EVAs, which also seem to hate Ikari?
Is this entire war just a grudge between Ikari and the Angels? Or is Ikari really the protector of humanity?
Both seem just as likely to me right now. The problem, of course, is that we’re ignorant of so much. We don’t know Ikari’s true motivations, so we can just trust his mission. But we’ve also seen EVA 00 try to attack Ikari, though maybe it was simply trying to escape. And then there’s the question of why the Angels are searching for NERV. It could be that they recognise their enemy, just as NERV recognised them. Or it could be something else.
Who’s to say?
With NERV shut down, the pilots can’t get inside. They’re also unaware of the Angel attack at this point. There’s been no announcement due to the power being off.
Since we’ve been talking about shot composition in this series, it’s interesting that Anno fisheyes this moment. The pilots can’t get into NERV and the image distorts to show the imposing obstacle they’re looking at. We’re also seeing them close together, with three very different reactions.
Asuka’s raging. Rei’s calm. Shinji’s somewhere in between.
Which is really the constant state of Shinji.
Rei is so detached from the world as to be almost frightening.
Asuka’s so volatile and emotional that she’s ready to blow at any moment.
They’re two extremes, and so you’d think being somewhere in the middle would make for a healthy person, but this is Shinji. I think his place between them is a bit complex. In temperament, he’s much closer to Rei. Detached and distant. Broken by the trauma of his life. But he’s also not as strong as Rei.
Rei, as much as she’s a broken teenager with serious undescribed trauma, is very certain of herself. She doesn’t back down or jump up to make points. She knows who she is and accepts it.
Shinji is uncomfortable with himself. He wants to be different. He wants to be loved and admired. He wants people to be proud of him. In that way, he’s much more like Asuka. He seeks praise but is simultaneously extremely uncomfortable with the fact that he seeks it. I think this is actually what makes Asuka and Shinji close.
But I also think Shinji wants to be like Asuka. He wants confidence. He wants to be able to say what he means, but he’s so tied up and beaten down by his own anxieties that he can’t express anything.
Anyrate, the pilots wander through the labyrinth that is NERV to try to get to command.
And they’re unaware of the Angel.
Which presents another interesting shot. The nature that’s taking back the land. The water that’s risen so high it drowns a skyscraper. A broken skyscraper.
Once again, this Angel doesn’t resemble the ones that came before. The other military organisations spot it and try to reach out to NERV but can’t.
So NERV has been sabotaged and now an Angel’s attacking. When NERV is most needed, it’s incapacitated.
The unaware pilots have a few interesting conversations while they wander. Asuka takes charge or at least believes she’s in charge. This goes unchallenged, due to Rei and Shinji’s personalities, but Rei is really the leader here. Driving them in the right direction and keeping them moving.
Asuka: You’re Commander Ikari’s favorite, aren’t you? You see, the beloved honor student is different from us.
Shinji: Stop saying such things at a time like this.
Asuka: You always stay calm. Hey, don’t screw with me just because you’re the favorite!
Rei: I’m not screwing with you…nor am I the favorite. I know it all too well.
This is interesting for a few reasons. It’s interesting that Asuka has also picked up on the relationship between Ikari and Rei. It’s interesting that she flaunts this in front of Shinji, and it’s interesting that Rei disagrees.
We’ve seen the relationship between Rei and Ikari (episode five) and how painful that is for Shinji. I don’t think Asuka says this to hurt Shinji, mostly because she’s selfish and doesn’t have a lot of regard for the people around her. But it would be difficult to imagine Shinji’s not hurt by this, especially since he was just talking about how he feels like his father doesn’t care about him.
Asuka is confirming that Ikari cares more about Rei than he does about his own son.
Before, Shinji may have been able to believe that only he saw how close Rei and his father are. How that contrasts so powerfully with his own relationship with his father.
But now it’s in the open, being discussed in front of him.
Asuka, unknowingly, is telling Shinji that his father doesn’t care.
What I find even more interesting, though, is how Rei acknowledges that she’s special to Ikari but isn’t his favorite. Her acknowledgement isn’t verbal, nor is her sorrow over not being his favorite. I think that pause says a lot. Her expression. Her body language. She wants to be Ikari’s favorite and it hurts her to know that she’s not.
So who is?
No idea. But it’s interesting to know that Rei feels this way. She may see their relationship as subordinate to Ikari’s mission. That NERV and the EVAs are his first love or at least the focus of his life, and it leaves little for those around him. Including Rei. Including Shinji.
Eventually they overhear that an Angel is attacking and they even see it.
Terrifying Asuka, who quickly tries to compose herself and take charge of the situation.
But Rei asserts herself when they come to a dead end. A battered and broken down doorway, damaged, surely, by the Angel stomping through the city.
Rei begins attacking the problem, to which Asuka says to Shinji:
The First is scary. She’s the kind of person who stops at nothing to achieve her objectives. She’s a self-righteous one.
Cut to Ikari manually readying the EVAs. Since the system isn’t coming back online, he takes things into his own hands. The EVAs need to be ready to defeat the Angel and the machines and computers aren’t capable of doing anything during the NERV blackout, so he literally uses his own hands.
We see, here, what makes Ikari a leader. He’s charismatic when he’s in action. He inspires those around him, and they admire him. His brilliance. His determination.
Too, what we get from that cut to Ikari from Asuka’s description of Rei is a clear visual connection between Rei and Ikari. They resemble one another. Their singular focus and determination and unwillingness to give up.
Even Shinji looks at his father with admiration. He can’t help it. Ikari commands it.
Once they get the EVAs ready, the battle with the Angel goes pretty quickly.
It’s not really the focus of the episode, though it does leave us with one powerful image.
Asuka comes up with the plan and they make quick work of the Angel.
Eventually everything comes online and power is restored. Misato and Kaji, who have been locked in an elevator the entire time, are discovered in an unintentionally compromising position after she spent the episode swatting away his attempts at affection.
And then we have the three pilots sitting above the city. Their postures are all different, contrasting with one another. Asuka’s lying back in delight, proud that her plan led to success. Happy that she will get recognition for it. Just enjoying her life in this moment.
Shinji’s lying back but appears more pensive, still uncomfortable with the revelations of the day.
And Rei’s more closed in on herself.
Their conversation, too, says so much about who they are. Their anxieties. Their fears. Their attitudes towards life.
I’ll leave you with their words and that image.
But I do think this is the best episode we’ve had since Rei’s inclusion. We fold back onto the characters, onto the very real dangers of the apocalypse. The Angel fight is, once again, a matter of course and causes no real problem. But the Angels are only part of this conflict. They’re almost the background to the trials and chasms of humanity.
Shinji: It’s ironic that the stars look so beautiful without artificial lights.
Asuka: But, I don’t feel like people live there without the lights. See? That makes me feel better.
Rei: Mankind fears the darkness and scrapes it away with fire to survive.
Asuka: So philosophical!
Shinji: I wonder if man is a special creature because of that. Is that why the Angels are attacking us?
Asuka: Are you stupid? How’re we supposed to know?