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
We’ll be watching the subtitled versions and discussing them here every week without spoilers for future episodes.
The episode begins with a lot of focus on Asuka. She’s the new girl at school. A school, if we remember, which is more known for losing students than it is for gaining them. In addition, she broadcasts that she’s an EVA pilot, which is very different from Rei and Shinji.
They call Asuka a foreigner, comment on her using her Japanese name, how cute she is, and how she’s both cool for having lived abroad and sad because her time in Germany was difficult. All conjecture from Toji and Aida, who are profiting off being kind of pervy. Aida’s selling pictures of Asuka to other boys at their school.
Which, yeah–that’s creepy.
This episode includes a few creepy moments.
Asuka is all about being larger than life. She broadcasts her expertise, her status as an EVA pilot. She loves the attention, even as she rails against those who give it to her. She’s a welcome relief to the show, which is largely filled with depressive introverts.
Asuka lives out loud. And her playful harassment of Shinji falls somewhere between bullying and flirting.
Everyone hangs on Asuka and follows her around the school except Rei, so Asuka chooses to make her own introductions.
Asuka: Hello! You’re Ayanami Rei, the pilot of the prototype. I’m Asuka. Souryu Asuka Langley, the pilot of EVA Unit 02. Be my good friend.
Asuka: Because it’s convenient in many ways.
Rei: If I’m ordered to, I will.
Asuka: You’re strange.
Of all the peculiar interactions Rei’s been a part of, this has to be one of the strangest. Asuka, looking for a friend and a big moment, goes to the First Child, hoping to find another loud, happy friend. Instead, she runs into the brick wall of emotion that is Ayanami Rei. Rei, who gives nothing. No emotion. Barely even a thought. In fact, Rei would just as soon have Asuka not exist.
She cares so little about Asuka–or her classmates–that Asuka’s knocked off balance for a moment.
If we look back on episode 5, which was most devoted to Rei, we see Shinji and Rei struggling to connect with one another. Through a shared pain and alienation, they find one another by the end of episode six. Two broken children, so fractured by isolation that they can’t trust anyone find hope in each other.
But Asuka seems more like the teenagers we’ve known in our daily lives. She wants to be popular and loved, and she gets attention and devotion by having a big personality. It’s like an orbit. She has a gravity to her that pulls smaller personalities within. Shinji’s kind of hopelessly caught in her gravity, for example.
We jump to NERV where Kaji flirts with Ritsuko, mostly as a game to tease Misato, who’s panic-watching from behind glass.
It’s played as humor, or at least as old friends sharing a joke at another friend’s expense, but Kaji’s also kind of creepy in the way this happens. Sneaking up behind her and just taking her.
We’ll talk more about this a bit later.
Misato storms in and tells Kaji to get along to his next assignment, only to discover he’s been transferred to NERV, which throws her further off balance. Misato, who we’ve seen as a brilliant officer with a messy personal life, is out of sorts at the introduction of Kaji, and now that he’s remaining–her panic is obvious.
But the banter and teasing is cut short by the arrival of the Seventh Angel!
Due to the recent Angel battles, the SSDF has no operational backing and NERV’s resources are depleted, so they must rely fully on the EVAs. Sending out Shinji and Asuka in Unit 01 and 02 respectively, Misato expects a decisive victory.
Asuka: This’s my combat début in Japan, why aren’t I allowed to fight alone?
Shinji: It can’t be helped, that’s the plan.
Asuka makes short work of the Angel by slicing it in half.
Battle must always be elegant without waste.
She says this almost as a victory call, the kind of thing you’d see in a later Final Fantasy game. Your characters making their own little victory pose.
Last week I talked about how episode eight was very much a standard anime episode, hitting on a lot of familiar tropes. Right here, this would follow that same pattern. Asuka shows up and the Angels become simple victories until later.
And in many ways that’s what happens, but first there’s a complication.
The Angel, now split in half, becomes two Angels.
The fight continues off screen but Shinji and Asuka are defeated.
We see Asuka and Shinji bicker over the loss as we learn that the UN dropped an N2 bomb on the Angel, annihilating 28% of it, which will take 6 days to regenerate. At the first failure, they find time to make a new plan.
Upon viewing the devastation of the N2 bomb, Fuyutsuki only says:
We’ll have to redraw the map.
He goes on to explain some things to Asuka and Shinji, the way a parent explains to toddlers.
Fuyutsuki: Listen, you two, do you understand what your job is?
Asuka: To pilot EVA.
Fuyutsuki: No! To defeat Angels. NERV doesn’t exist to commit such dishonerable actions. Therefore, you must cooperate with each other…
Both: With someone like her/him?!
Fuyutsuki: Oh, forget it.
Fuyutsuki is furious about this but explaining things to children–he may be suited for command, but he’s not suited for that. You can almost hear the silent question: Why must we rely on teenagers to fight?
It’s a question we’ve heard him ask and agonise over before. But here, it’s anger and maybe resentment. He feels humiliated and disgraced by their failure. Their colossal failure.
Blame falls to Misato, putting her job on the line. Ritsuko brings her a plan from Kaji and we see Misato briefly swoon. We hear the questions running through her head. Wondering if he’s better this time. If they can make it work. How he cares about her still. That their love hasn’t died.
Ritsuko, who happens to also be Misato’s closest friend, isn’t blind to this.
Shinji returns home after the mission’s failure, hoping for a peaceful night, only to discover Asuka there, her belongings filling up the apartment.
Shinji and Asuka have a funny relationship on the show. I won’t get into it now but it gives a lot of great shape and shade to the series. Since, as I said, the show is full of introverted depressives, it’s useful to have a big personality like Asuka shine through it all. And it’s always great to see how she confronts and assaults Shinji. Quiet and reserved and proper and thoroughly Japanese Shinji come up against this brash Western foreigner who mocks their tiny rooms, their tiny apartments, the way they sleep on the floor, and their doors without locks.
Misato brings home her plan and explains it to Shinji and Asuka: they must become synchronised!
The plan is to memorise an attack pattern to music, which is perhaps the most anime thing ever, and shows, once again, how even the greatness that is Neon Genesis Evangelion is not immune to tropes of its own genre.
Toji, Aida, and the class rep Horaki all go to Misato’s apartment to give Asuka and Shinji their missed assignments, only to discover them dressed alike in leotards and half-shirts, which is perhaps the most 90s thing ever. It reminds me of Jessie Spano and AC Slater.
Toji, Aida, and Horaki get to see how their plan is going, and Asuka and Shinji are hopelessly out of sync, with Asuka laying the blame heavily on Shinji. She tells Misato that it’s impossible, so Misato replaces Asuka with Rei.
Rei and Shinji are immediately in sync, which shows how close they’ve become, even though they never speak or even share any real space. But they’ve come together since the Fifth Angel. They understand one another and care for each other, limited as it is to observers.
Seeing how she may be replaced, Asuka storms out and Horaki admonishes Shinji for hurting Asuka’s feelings, which is absurd but also the way friends react in situations like that: we defend, almost blindly, the one we love.
We see, for a moment, something pained in Asuka. How quickly this goes from being a game to being her nightmare. So sure of herself, she can’t imagine someone would see their syncing problem as having to do with her, but when faced with reality, she retreats.
Shinji finds her at the convenience store and the following conversation begins there and travels on to a place above the city.
Asuka: Don’t say anthing. I know. I must pilot EVA. I’ll do it. We must triumph over Rei and Misato.
Shinji: Wha…triumph over…?
Asuka: How could you be so naive? You are a man, aren’t you?! I must have revenge for my hurt pride!
I love the way Anno frames that shot. The sun setting over the city they must protect. Asuka standing proud, promising herself–and anyone who can hear–that she’ll succeed. Not for them or for NERV, but because her pride has been attacked. She wants victory to prove to Rei and Misato that she’s the greatest among them.
It’s so drastically different from Rei and Shinji, who are duty bound to a fault.
They devote themselves fully to the training, and begin living together constantly. They eat together, sit together, even sleep side by side.
Of course, the moment Misato leaves them alone for a night, Asuka chooses distance and freedom from Shinji, threatening him if he even thinks about coming near her in the night.
Shinji, as is usual for him, can’t sleep. He listens to his recording, until Asuka wakes up and uses the bathroom.
He pretends to sleep and is shocked to find her now sleeping beside him, almost on top of him.
Flustered and afraid and filled with hormones so common to a teenage boy, he does the unthinkable–he attempts to kiss her.
This is, of course, creepy, but I think we can at least kind of forgive Shinji. This shattered boy, who knows no love in all his life. Now, all of a sudden, there’s a beautiful girl his own age giving him all kinds of attention, who demands distance, but then lays down beside him in the middle of the night. Vulnerable and barely dressed, Shinji sees something in Asuka’s actions she doesn’t intend.
And then he hears her whisper, “Mama,” in her sleep.
The next frame is Asuka alone in the bed, Shinji curled up in his blanket far away.
We immediately cut from this intimate but uncomfortable scene between teenagers to one equally intimate and uncomfortable between adults. Kaji and Misao kissing in the elevator. Misato’s in front of him, her neck turned so he can reach her mouth with his, but he’s holding her wrists. It’s an awkward scene to witness, because it implies some kind of physical struggle which resulted in a passionate kiss. The first thing Misato says when she’s free is that he shouldn’t do what he did. And then Kaji says:
But your lips didn’t say stop. Your lips or your words…which should I trust?
Which is a tremendously creepy thing to say.
If we look back at Kaji’s first interaction with a woman this episode, this seems to be a pattern. We can understand the creepiness of teenage boys in this episode when we look at Kaji, whose behavior is more likely to influence them. Anyrate, this episode is full of creeps.
Aida selling pictures of Asuka. Kaji’s touching Ritsuko. Shinji almost kissing a sleeping Asuka. And now Kaji maybe forcing a kiss on Misato and then saying the rapiest thing I’ve ever heard in a cartoon.
Misato’s thrown off by Kaji, and it’s difficult to say how she feels about Kaji. It seems like a mix of hatred and lust, maybe love.
We then get this conversation between Ritsuko and Misato:
Ritsuko: Still in love?
Misato: Don’t be ridiculous! Who could love that kind of guy?! Even though I was young, it was my biggest disgrace that I hung around with him.
Ritsuko: Well, I was talking about Kaji. Did I upset you?
Misato: You are..
Ritsuko: Your anger proves I hit the mark. You should be more frank. Things are different from 8 years ago.
Misato: Nothing’s changed. He’s still immature. Oh well, I’ve got work to do. The final battle is tomorrow.
I love how this scene reflects the one where Asuka and Shinji talk above the city. Ritsuko and Misato, beneath the city, the skyscrapers plunging down into the earth. Their posture’s different too. Ritsuko and Misato are sitting as equals, whereas Asuka stood above the city and Shinji. Where Asuka monologued, Ritsuko and Misato discuss.
This also implies a lot of history between them and Kaji. Kaji and Misato fell in love as young people. It’s hard to guess how old they are, but I’d say eight years ago, they were between 16 and 26. I’ve always imagined them as being in their late teens, which would put them all in their mid to late 20s.
Next comes the Angel battle. They have 62 seconds to complete the battle according to their synced up plan.
And it’s gorgeous. They’re flawlessly in sync and they annihilate the Seventh Angel.
And then, after the win, Asuka and Shinji bicker once more.
Asuka: Besides, why were you awake so late last night?
Shinji: I was doing image training for today’s battle!
Asuka: Liar! You tried to kiss me while I was sleeping, didn’t you?
Shinji: It’s not fair to pretend to be sleeping!
Asuka: That’s terrible! I was only joking! So, you really did it! You kissed me!
Shinji: No, I didn’t! I stopped!
Asuka: Lech, molester, pervert! I can’t believe this!
Shinji: It was your fault for sleeping in the wrong bed!
Fuyutsuki: They’re humiliating us again.
We’re seeing Asuka and Shinji’s relationship develop here. Where Rei and Shinji are more like kindred tortured souls, Asuka and Shinji are like siblings. Asuka brings out a lot in Shinji. She brings out his emotions, which have been so buried and protected for so long. Even though it seems like Shinji is full of rage, it’s actually good for him. It’s good that Asuka tears down these barriers within Shinji, purely by pushing through them.
They don’t have much in common, the way Rei and Shinji do, but this is what Shinji needs, I think.
But, yes, a lot happens in this episode, but much of it is only hinted at.
Also, this episode reflects the larger genre of anime more than the first six did. I think this continues for the next couple episodes as well. The show, which begins so unsettling and intense and bizarre, rolls towards a more familiar and palatable and traditional anime structure.
I may make that a full discussion later, but it’s something worth keeping an eye out for. The way the show changes when Asuka steps into it. The way Asuka pushes the rest of the characters and changes the shape of each relationship in the series.
That’s all for now.
I’m taking next week off because it’s St Patrick’s Day, and my Irish ancestry won’t allow me to do much that day.
See you all in two weeks!