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.
We’ll be watching the subtitled versions and discussing them here every week without spoilers for future episodes.
I know it’s crazy, but there’s no other way.
Misato says this pretty late in the episode, but I think it sums up the ideology of many of the characters in Neon Genesis Evangelion.
They’re caught up in a fight between giant monsters and their only weapons are piloted giant monsters. Humanity is facing extinction and giving away their rights to a secret military organisation which is also taking control of the national government. It’s insane! It’s ridiculous, but there seems to be no other way.
And so they keep fighting.
This is an interesting episode for a lot of reasons, though it’s mostly connective tissue. But it fills in the gaps of Misato’s personality.
Time is devoted to showing her in her natural state. She wakes up out of sorts, barely alive until she cracks open her first can of sake. Then she’s alive! She’s ready to meet the day. She’s a slob and, in Shinji’s eyes, acts very unladylike. He calls her uncouth often, which is a funny insult from a kid, but there it is. We could talk about the politics of this kind of insult but I’m more interested in what this all reveals about Misato. She’s a hardworking, hard drinking single lady who doesn’t care about perception but also can’t seem to care for herself super well. And anyone who starts the day drinking is in at least a little bit of inner turmoil, yes? It’s something that makes Misato fascinating, I think. Because much of her uncouthness is played for humor and her banter with Shinji’s always good to witness, but it reveals some deeper and darker damage to her.
The deeper we get into Neon Genesis Evangelion, the more we realise how damaged its characters are. And Misato, who is, I think, our best example of an ‘everyman’ in the show, is also not saved from the almost universal inner pain of the characters.
We see this in contrast to who she is when duty calls. About halfway through the episode, Misato is called to an important demonstration in Tokyo, which is largely underwater after the Second Impact–more on that later. What we see on this day is a Misato who’s up early and ready to face the day. She’s dressed and prepared for the day, which, we gather, is an important one. I mean, it must be, in order to throw her so far out of her usual routine of waking up late and drinking sake, yes?
But Misato’s all business and when crisis strikes at the demonstration, she jumps in with a plan, ready to face any danger, taking on the responsibility everyone else is dodging.
This episode is, on the surface, about who Misato is. Because she’s both of these people. She’s someone who’s inner life is in disarrary but who is accomplished and exceedingly proficient at her job.
She’s kind of our Mary Tyler Moore, in a sense. Everyone constantly underestimates her. She deals with gendered attacks. She’s seen as flighty and ditzy and often just a sex object, but she’s great at her job. More than that, she’s capable and strong.
Then, when the crisis is over, we come back to Misato and Shinji’s routine. Misato waking up late, drinking sake, and shirking feminine expectations.
But what else is happening in this episode?
We learn a lot about how the world actually works here. I’ve said it before, but Neon Genesis Evangelion is probably the only mecha show that deals with the economics of having giant mechas fight giant monsters.
We learn that 20,000 people are starving. We learn that the budget will barely make room for fixing Unit 00 after it got damaged in the fight with the Fifth Angel. We learn that cleaning up the dead Angels costs a fortune in and of itself.
So much comes down to money here.
Can they fix the EVA?
Only if the government votes in favor of expanding the budget, which they do.
And juxtaposed with the information about starvation–should the money go towards people or the military?
I think this brings us back to the quote I started this with.
It’s crazy but there’s no other way.
Because feeding people is absolutely important, but if the trade becomes humanity’s survival and the death of 20, 000 people–I mean, that’s the kind of thing no one wants to have to choose. It’s also something I don’t want to delve into right now, but we will later in the series, because the philosophy of this is pretty interesting.
We also have the information about the Second Impact confirmed by Ritsuko. It was an Angel, the original Angel, not a meteor strike. It exploded! This melted the polar caps and flooded the world, changed the seasons, and devastated the global human population. We also learn that NERV’s main function is to prevent a Third Impact.
We also learn from Commander Ikari’s discussion with someone in the UN that several more EVA units have been built or are under construction. Unit 02 from Germany is on its way to Japan. Unit 06 and 08 are under construction. So we know that Japan is not the only entity working to fight against the Angels, though it seems to be the driving force behind it all.
Too, Shinji asks some questions we’ve been speculating about.
Peace on Earth. That’s what EVA is for.
What’s EVA? The entry plug smells like blood but I feel relaxed for some reason.
After all, I don’t know anything.
I mean, this is how we feel watching this. What is EVA? Where did it come from? Why does it work? What is the LCL?
We’re seven episodes in and we’re not that much closer to understanding this than Shinji is. We know the EVAs are more than just mechas but they’re not wholly organic, yeah? I mean, they have cockpits inside them.
It’s all quite mysterious, which is unlikely to change soon.
Anyrate, back to why Misato went to Tokyo.
Another entity has built something to fight the Angels. They give a well reasoned presentation explaining why this is preferable to the EVAs.
Ritsuko argues with him and they fight over the dangerous things that have happened with the EVA and its limitations.
It can only fight for 5 minutes.
It can go berserk.
Pilots make errors.
While the JA, this unmanned unit, is completely remote controlled, can fight for 150 days on its nuclear reactor.
Ritsuko becomes angry in the discussion and is subject to gendered insults while Misato remains indifferent and calm.
We jump to their room after the presentation and Misato’s in a rage while Ristuko’s found her calm. NERV intelligence has been leaked, which is how these other people know that Unit 01 went berserk.
And then the demonstration. The JA works! It walks and presumably would be able to fight, but something goes wrong. It stops receiving commands and just starts running forward. Its nuclear core is also at risk for a meltdown.
Misato jumps into action and demands they implement the shutdown code, but, after a series of phone calls, none of the bureaucrats with decision making power want to make the decision, and so the JA runs on.
Misato makes a plan utilising the Unit 01 and her own hands, subjecting herself to potentially lethal amounts of nuclear radiation.
But she succeeds in shutting down the JA and saving the day.
But this episode is also bookended by two meetings with Commander Ikari. The first is opaque and about covering up the Angel fight, like usual, and disseminating dummy information to block the Freedom of Information Act, which they also want to shutdown.
Then they mention a script.
The rest of the episode follows this and we come back to a secret meeting where Ritsuko reports to Ikari.
She says everything went according to plan, except Misato’s actions, which were unanticipated.
So, to put this another way, Commander Ikari sabotaged the JA in order to ensure NERV’s function and power. In sabotaging the JA, he risked countless lives with a potential nuclear meltdown.
So once again we have to wonder what Ikari’s real goal is here. If it were simply human survival, wouldn’t he jump at having some help? Another tool to use against the Angels?
Commander Ikari is a difficult character to read and harder to know, but he has all kinds of secrets and plans up his sleeve. His endgame is anyone’s guess.
For now, he’s all about fighting Angels, but we’ve seen how willing he is to sacrifice the life and wellbeing of others in order to achieve his goal. This is the first time we see him put thousands of lives at risk, however.
And a question we may need to start considering is who are the real monsters here?
The EVAs, Angels, or humans?