Welcome back to EVERYDAY EVA, the blog series where I aim to cover one episode of Evangelion every single day for Mecha March 2022!
The penultimate 16th Angel fuses with Unit-00, and, in Ritsuko’s tearful outburst, the truth of Rei Ayanami is finally disseminated to Misato and Shinji.
Kaji’s dying message opens the dismal Episode 23: “Rei III.” Misato’s sealed herself off in her room, and with Asuka’s retreat to Hikari’s house, Shinji and Pen Pen are left to fend for themselves. The only thing that can bind the once happy family now is an Angel attack. Fortunately or unfortunately, the 16th Angel arrives, but its immediate contact with Rei and Unit-00 catches everyone off guard. Fusion with others reemerges as one of the motifs deeply connected to the greater themes in Eva. This episode, as the previous was for Asuka, must be about her. It’s finally time to crack into the mystery of Rei Ayanami.
Try as she might, Rei is unable to completely contain the 16th Angel within Unit-00’s body. Thus, Unit-01 is launched to protect her. Asuka’s realization that NERV didn’t send out Unit-01 (AKA Shinji, the savior) when she was in trouble is immediately a poignant one. As Unit-00 ascends into its final angelic form, a burst of light from the halo shining above its head reveals Unit-00 quickly shift into the form of Rei herself. A “vessel of hope” for Gendo—that’s what Rei represents. What her sudden return “to life” does, then, is force us to challenge Rei’s existence. Does she serve a greater purpose in Gendo’s plan?
Speaking of replacements, Ritsuko finds out that she was sent to SEELE as just a proxy for Gendo himself. This is also upsetting news. Ritsuko has been the lynchpin for the entire Evangelion project, and her removal from power allows her to detach herself from the bindings of the organization. In the process, she exposes all of NERV’s darkest secrets to Misato and Shinji and destroys all of Rei’s soulless clones. Ritsuko cries, having realized she could not compete with “property,” and that she had fallen for the same trick of Gendo’s affection that her mother before her did. “This is the tragedy of those associated with the EVAs,” Misato remarks. “And I am no different.”
The women in Shinji’s life have all but crumbled in their individual hubris, self-loathing, and jealousy. Thankfully, love still has one final chance to bloom for Shinji with the arrival of a saint in Episode 24: “The Beginning and the End, or ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.’” Thanks for reading, and ‘til then!