EVERYDAY EVA Episode 22: The Great Toppling, or Asuka’s Fall From Grace | Mecha March

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 first pilot to fall in the final act is none other than the girl who once stood at the very top of her game.

For the longest time, Asuka has been my favorite character in anime. Episode 22: “Don’t be” spells out much of her past, and the discovery that she’s from just as messed up a family as Shinji’s and Misato’s and Ritsuko’s and everyone else comes as little surprise. Her interaction with her stepmother over the phone—that is, her German speaking—kicks off the beginning of a bigger rift growing between her and the rest of the world. In a phenomenal breakdown, Asuka curses the bath, the washer, the toilet, and the space she shares with Misato and Shinji. She hates them both, but she hates the Rei even more. She hates her mom. She hates her dad. But the person she hates most of all is herself. Across the hall, Misato is unable to do anything to remedy Asuka’s situation, and so she continues to decline. Asuka’s pride is in shambles, and her toppling from such a high position is utterly heartbreaking.

Rei is a doll, Asuka declares, but Unit-02 is supposed to be just that. “I hate you! I hate all of you!” She screams before the elevator door seals Rei inside. Asuka’s last chance is coming, and she feels it too. For the entire world to fail her—for her EVA-02 to crumble under the 15th Angel’s power—is to reverse all the fortifications she walked into the series with to fall in one go. Anno’s use of rapidly flashing black, white, and red Japanese and German text showcases the stunning realm of Asuka’s psychology. Fear, anxiety, and severe distress form kaleidoscopic visions of suicidal ideation, rejection, and isolation in her heart. What she needs most of all, despite her own claims, is touch and affection. Shinji’s refusal to give her anything is revealed to have only furthered her suffering.

With the 15th Angel having “defiled” Asuka’s mind—and to the classical melody of Handel’s “Messiah,” no less—EVA-02 and its pilot are rendered completely useless. Gendo calls upon a weapon of the apocalypse, the Spear of Longinus, to salvage a victory, much to Misato and Fuyutsuki’s passionate disapproval. EVA-00 takes aim and vaults the spear, and as the 15th Angel destructively funnels inward, Longinus is left adrift in lunar orbit. What appalls the fallen Asuka most of all, though, is that it was Rei who had to save her. The curtain closes on her screams and shouts.

Asuka’s “mind rape” (as it has been called) and subsequent fall from grace strongly parallels the death of the 15th Angel itself. She’ll have another chance to redeem herself in the film, but like Misato, all we can do for now is helplessly watch. More cries are shed for the pilots in Episode 23: “Tears.” Thanks for watching, and ‘til then!

– Takuto

EVERYDAY EVA Episode 21: The Dark History of NERV | Mecha March

Welcome back to EVERYDAY EVA, the blog series where I aim to cover one episode of Evangelion every single day for Mecha March 2022!

We travel back to the past to see how the world came to hang in the precarious balance that it does. Unsurprisingly, NERV’s history holds the answers.

Episode 21: “He was aware that he was still a child” opens without our angelic opening—that’s how you know things are starting to get serious. The “real-time” footage of the 2000 incident in the Antarctic sets a serious tone, but also once again adds unique directorial flare to this treasure box of cinematic animation tricks. SEELE’s ominous floating prisms are also introduced in the interrogation of Gendo’s right hand, Fuyutsuki. It’s about time we got spotlight on the one man who can rightfully criticize and critique NERV’s reclusive commander. Arguably the most needed episode at this point in the series, if you ask me.

These rare shots of the world between 1999 and 2015 have been a treat for Eva fans for decades. They satisfy that which we’ve been dying to see, incidents about the past that construct our precarious present, the conspiracies and the science alike. Fuyutsuki’s life is intricately woven with Yui’s, Gendo’s, Misato’s, and NERV’s own histories. At the heart of it all lie the secrets of the geofront, the Magi, and Naoko Akagi—the woman who coded the foundation of NERV HQ. As eternal summer shines on Japan, information becomes power and a curse for those tied to the shadowy side of the organization.

Naoko Akagi, to me, holds within her the darkest aspect of NERV’s history. The organization, formally known as Gehirn, literally wipes this old name away following her shocking and mysterious suicide, as if to sweep the evil under the rug. Absolutely chilling the way the scene pans out to show the white tape marking the body and the trail of blood dripping from the Magi. Watching this episode again, I am inspired to propose a new way to watch Eva for those who intend to only stick to the Rebuild films. I’ll probably write more about this in a future post, though you can definitely count on this episode making the cut.

The future looks bleak as Kaji sacrifices himself for Misato. From here on out, only one hue paints the path ahead: red, the color of blood. Action returns to this fourth and final part of the series in Episode 22: “Don’t be.” Thanks for reading, and ‘til then!

– Takuto

EVERYDAY EVA Episode 20: A Woman’s Lust, A Mother’s Love | Mecha March

Welcome back to EVERYDAY EVA, the blog series where I aim to cover one episode of Evangelion every single day for Mecha March 2022!

As Dr. Akagi tries to reconstruct Shinji’s body from outside the entry plug, Shinji plunges into the world of his mind.

Gendo’s act of placing an S2 Engine into the core of Unit-01 goes against SEELE’s scripts, surprising not only everyone at NERV but the Human Instrumentality Council too. Misato lashes out at Ritsuko to “fix the machine” that she built, but the science of the EVA is more complex than that. Along with being a clone of “something they found in the Antarctic,” EVA also resembles a human and has a soul. Shinji’s 400% sync rate causes his assimilation with the L.C.L. in the cockpit, and while he plunges deeper into the primordial liquid swirling in the entry plug, everyone else’s relationships with one another start deteriorating.

Like the previous “Weaving a Story” episode, most of Episode 20 utilizes recycled footage to convey a narrative. We are reminded of how far Shinji has come in his story, and also how his relationships with Misato, Asuka, and Rei comprise the main image of “woman” in his mind. This episode’s commitment to exploring the human mind in visual form involves the usage of new animation tactics—rapidly flashing images, overlaid sequences, and intentionally washed out details. Dramatic soundtrack cuts add to the drama of the episode. Days pass on the outside, yet Shinji maneuvers through a constant dream.

Misato’s screams to have Shinji back are painful, especially as Ritsuko is the target of her anger. After he is “reborn” from the L.C.L., Ritsuko notices how Misato is content with running off to her “secret lover.” After all, desiring intercourse is “especially” okay when the child has returned home safely. Eva is hypocritical and cruel like this. (Note how she doesn’t blame Misato for acting on lust here, though . . . Is she hiding her own secret affair?) Misato’s love scene with Kaji is definitely bold, enough to make a person flush red, and the reliance on dialogue alone to carry this spicy scene is a genius tactic.

With this critical episode behind us, the birth of NERV is disclosed in Episode 21: “He was aware that he was still a child.” Some of our biggest questions finally receive answers. Thanks for reading, and ‘til next time!

– Takuto

EVERYDAY EVA Episode 19: The Decision We All Must Make | Mecha March

Welcome back to EVERYDAY EVA, the blog series where I aim to cover one episode of Evangelion every single day for Mecha March 2022!

While Shinji vows to never pilot EVA again after his father’s betrayal, the 14th Angel carves a path of devastation to NERV HQ.

By the start of Episode 19: “Introjection,” Shinji has already committed to acting against his father’s orders. His dream sequence in the train car reveals that he tried to understand his father, but the Rei in his mind insists otherwise. This marks the second time Shinji runs away from piloting, and he seems more certain this go round. He’s realized that his want to please everyone cannot be satisfied at NERV. Misato’s earnest wishes to keep Shinji in Tokyo-3 are rendered moot by is resolution.

With even Unit-01 refusing Gendo, mankind’s hopes are left to up to Asuka. The way she cradles her shoulders after EVA-02’s arms are sliced clean off ignites a phantom pain in me every time. Thankfully, Ritsuko is quick enough to sever nerve connections before the unit is beheaded. As Rei plans to sacrifice herself to their greatest threat yet, Kaji reveals to Shinji that an Angel’s contract with the giant sleeping under NERV will trigger the end of everything. Kaji admits that there is little he can do now, and that Shinji should endeavor to live without regrets, to do only what he can do. The image of the 14th Angel breaking through the familiar walls of Central Dogma’s command center is another image that looms in my mind. You’d never think an Angel would dare to reach such an intimate location for the viewer, yet the 14th is a cut above the rest.

The Angel continues to assault a deactivated Unit-01, and the core of the EVA—the secret behind the machine—becomes abundantly clear to Misato: the armored plating around the EVA isn’t for strength, but for restraint. Everyone watches in horror as the Beast is unleashed. Unit-01’s glowing eyes and cannibalistic behaviors evoke wonder and disgust alike. What is NERV really trying to accomplish with the EVAs? The answers are soon to come.

Shinji left to escape the ‘hurtful things’ that come with piloting EVA, but he returns after realizing that some things can be even more painful. This episode ends the ‘Fourth Children trilogy’ and temporarily pauses ‘the story of Shinji’s maturation’, according to the production notes. His body may be detached from him, but his mind wanders in Episode 20: “WEAVING A STORY 2: oral stage.” Thanks for reading, and ‘til then!

– Takuto

EVERYDAY EVA Episode 18: Shock and Horror | Mecha March

Welcome back to EVERYDAY EVA, the blog series where I aim to cover one episode of Evangelion every single day for Mecha March 2022!

EVA-03’s startup test goes horribly wrong, and Shinji is torn between surrendering his life or eliminating the enemy EVA—along with the pilot inside.

Episode 18: “Ambivalence” opens with an eerily striking image: an enormous military plane carrying a crucified EVA-03 through a sparking cumulonimbus cloud. Surely, this is a bad omen for all. Another ominous cue for Shinji befalls him when Misato announces she’ll be away for four days, and that Kaji will be watching over him. Asuka’s temper is hotter than normal, which Misato chalks up to a feminine matter (that glosses right over Shinji’s head), and then she’s off to lead the large test operation ahead.

This short introductory sequence reveals that Shinji is still the only one in the dark about most affairs concerning his life, including that Tohji is set to pilot EVA-03. What makes Tohji different from the other pilots is that his motive is noble and clear—his sister will be transferred to NERV’s superior hospital unit should he agree—whereas the motives of Shinji and Asuka are intrinsically complex. Speaking of, Shinji tries to further understand his father (his motive) by asking Kaji directly about the man. Kaji’s answers are unhelpful to Shinji, however, who still refuses to understand the actions of adults. It would seem that even when Shinji endeavors to understand someone, a separate part of him instantly detaches from any kind of “normal” sympathetic urge. He might be more like his father than he wants to admit.

The next day, dramatic irony holds everyone in suspense as the startup test for EVA-03 fails horribly. This is where Shinji comes face-to-face with the horror that has been brewing. One Eva is ordered to take down another as the 13th Angel takes over Unit-03. In other words, Shinji must defeat Tohji or face his own demise. Shinji would rather die than be a murderer, though, leading Gendo to order the initiation of the Dummy Plug System, another terrible experiment that Gendo has been working on. The scene is painted red by the evening glow, and the tense, vivid battle in the mountains begins. At its end, we witness one of the most brilliantly animated yet gruesome scenes in the entire series: EVA-01 tears apart EVA-03 limb by limb, and it is Gendo using Shinji’s hands to do it. It’s awful, really, and we are left with a totally distraught Shinji as he finally discovers who the Unit-03 pilot was.

To everyone’s concern, Tohji lives, but no one is pleased with the means used to accomplish the day’s victory. The ‘Fourth Children trilogy’ wraps up in Episode 19: “Introjection” with the arrival of ‘the most powerful’ Angel yet. Lots more action await us as this new Angel tears through Tokyo-3. We’ll have to see if Shinji returns to the cockpit. Thanks for reading, and ‘til then!

– Takuto

EVERYDAY EVA Episode 17: Sowing the Seeds of Tragedy | Mecha March

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 next phase of the Drama Arc rolls out over a trilogy of episodes, and this first stages the tragedy to come.

As laid out in the production notes, Episodes 17-19 comprise the ‘Fourth Children trilogy,’ which serves as the grand climax for the middle part of the series—also known as the Drama Arc. Tohji is chosen as the Fourth Child, and this first episode shows his coming to terms with his selection. Shinji continues to mature, and Hikari’s love for Tohji blossoms. Meanwhile, NERV’s entire U.S. branch explodes in a catastrophic accident along with EVA-04 and thousands of lives. The S2 Engine, known as the core of the Evas and the Angels, is under immense scrutiny here, much as it was with the Jet Alone project. If this is the ‘calm before the storm’ as the production notes describe, one can only imagine the potential outcomes doomed for Shinji ahead.

Interestingly, Gendo also becomes more of a key player in these episodes. He continues to use Ritsuko, exploiting her knowledge and desire to complete Project E to suit his own plans. It’s transparent to us, and Ritsuko is only now starting to question his ambitions. Of course, Gendo’s invitation for a dinner date with Rei is what triggers this realization. Afterwards, Rei discovers a hint of feelings for Shinji after he cleans up her “Spartan” apartment (quoted by Tohji), and Tohji himself calls out the Eva pilots for what they are: a bunch o’ weirdos. Prepare to join the club, my friend.

When Misato swindles info from Kaji, we discover that the Marduk Institute is yet another construction for NERV’s own end, a facade just like the city itself. Naturally, the same goes for Shinji’s school. This insight made more relevant now given that Ritsuko just denied Misato of any recent word from Marduk. Suspicious. Shinji and Kaji take a different discussion on what it means to enjoy something and endure pain outdoors as they water Kaji’s melons together. (If that wasn’t innuendo enough, Shinji had denied a tea-date with the man. For shame, Kaji, for shame.) Still, we’ll have to remember this scene not only for later episodes (since it mirrors the inner-space scene of Episode 16), but also how it impacts the decisions made in the Rebuild tetralogy. Between flirting with Misato and playfully chatting with Shinji, however, Kaji seems to have no time for Asuka, much to her dismay.

And now the groundwork is set for the action to ramp up once again over the next few episodes. A new disaster awaits Shinji in Episode 18: “Ambivalence,” but with tragedy also comes more answers about NERV’s mysterious plots. Thanks for reading, and ‘til then!

– Takuto

EVERYDAY EVA Episode 16: Dramaturgy and the Human Mind | Mech March

Welcome back to EVERYDAY EVA, the blog series where I aim to cover one episode of Evangelion every single day for Mecha March 2022!

As the 12th Angel swallows Unit-01 and parts of Tokyo-3 into its shadow, Shinji is pulled into the space of his mind.

If the first arc is the Prologue and the second is the Action, the third arc of the series is the Drama. The human mind, a prominent theme in Eva, especially becomes present in the Drama Arc (as stated in the production notes). Episode 16: “Splitting of the Breast” is an especially psychological episode for its prenatal imagery and metaphors for childbirth, making it a highly symbolic episode as well. This is most noted especially when Unit-01 breaks out of the 12th Angel’s spherical body and blood sprays everywhere in a grotesque display of the Eva’s power, but perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. After all, the mystique of the 12th Angel itself is the real intrigue of this episode.

As the 12th Angel expands the shadow lurking underneath its floating body, Shinji and several buildings of Tokyo-3 are pulled under into the darkness. Its body is an abyss of space, a “Dirac sea,” and outside interference is rendered useless. Women are pitted against one another in their differing opinions on whether to salvage Shinji, Asuka vs. Rei and Misato vs. Ritsuko. These dichotomies aren’t new, but the disparities heighten as part of the stirring drama. Shinji, meanwhile, confronts the self hiding in his mind in a symbolic train ride that becomes emblematic of the entire franchise. His real battle here isn’t with the Angel, rather it is with his conflicting desires.

Anno implements lots of visual tactics to create the world of Shinji’s mind. White stripes representing character dialogue flash against a stark black backdrop. We really get a feeling for how Shinji views himself through the viewpoints of others—how he internalizes mistakes even beyond his reach as his own and sees himself as a failure. Meanwhile, new images from Shinji’s past are flashed before us, providing us with more info about Shinji’s mother. It’s an intense and creative visual design that will come to occupy other episodes of the series’ second half, for better or worse.

“The secret of the Evas” is the other main item addressed by Episode 16. Misato’s suspicions are reared several times, adding to her slow distancing from Ritsuko and NERV itself. Episode 17: “Fourth Children,” more closely explores the true purpose of the Evas, and more horror is unleashed. Thanks for reading, and ‘til next time!

– Takuto

EVERYDAY EVA Episode 15: The Shadow Tells No Lies | Mecha March

Welcome back to EVERYDAY EVA, the blog series where I aim to cover one episode of Evangelion every single day for Mecha March 2022!

Kisses are swapped and secrets are shared in this otherwise unsuspecting episode.

Episode 15: “Lies and Silence” (it has a longer subtitle, but I find this one more fitting anyway) isn’t one with much action, but it’s still worth watching. Important terms like Marduk Institute and SEELE are tossed around by a covert Kaji, though what matters more to us is finding out more about his divided associations. Misato and Ritsuko share woes about all of their friends and coworkers getting married which I always found relatable, even as a teenager. Trust me, it hurts even harder going into my twenties.

Another standout moment is Shinji and Gendo’s visiting of Yui’s grave. It’s just a stone, no body buried underneath, but as Gendo remarks, “Everything I need I keep in my mind and heart, and that will have to do for now.” With little else to say, they depart, and Shinji returns to Misato’s to play the cello. This is interesting. Not so much that he plays an instrument, but that the reason he never quit was because no one told him to stop. Very Shinji-like indeed, Asuka retorts.

On the adult side, Misato, Ritsuko, and Kaji share their first drinks as a trio in years. “I make it a point not to talk about myself” is what Ritsuko lays down. Misato, however, can only overshare about herself, as seen in her drunk walk home with Kaji. It’s emotional, being forced to watch our beloved captain fold in on herself and confess to all her flaws, but it ends in a kiss so hey. Speaking of kiss, Asuka dares Shinji to pucker up as she lays one on him. Their experience is less than romantic, but Asuka’s reaction to the whole exchange is hilarious.

At the end of this episode, a new curse is cast upon us by NERV’s shadow, Kaji: the secrets of “Adam” are revealed to Misato, though even she is unsure of what to make of NERV’s secret-keeping. Although we return to the battlefield in Episode 16: “Splitting of the Breast,” we certainly will be coming back to the haunting image lurking in Central Dogma’s lowest depths. Thanks for reading, and ‘til then!

– Takuto

EVERYDAY EVA Episode 14: Recapitulation and Experimentation | Mecha March

Welcome back to EVERYDAY EVA, the blog series where I aim to cover one episode of Evangelion every single day for Mecha March 2022!

A recap of the series’ first half is provided, followed by another pilot test that goes horribly wrong.

At the halfway point in the series, Anno and his team opt for a unique kind of recap episode that both offers new insight on old experiences and a more intricate understanding on the psychology of the pilot. Music and dialogue are intentionally sparse in the first half as Anno’s signature black stills with bold white text stylistically record key terminology like a mission briefing. In the A Part, Gendo and the Human Instrumentality Council revisit each encounter with the Angels, starting with the 3rd from Episode 1. From there, we start “Weaving a Story,” assessing each Angel encounter in sequential order. The episode title here is a direct play on the function it performs and the outcome provided, marking it as a very Eva-like recap episode.

What’s perhaps more interesting, then, is the B Part, wherein Rei gives us a monologue of her thoughts on the world and her relationships with the people in her life. This is the first time Eva uses the human mind as the main tool for narration, and it certainly won’t be the last, either. This transitions us to Shinji’s failed sync test with EVA-00—the true subject of this episode—and a postulation about the significance of the EVA-pilot number pairings. If the Second Child pilots EVA-02, why does the Third Child Pilot EVA-01 and, likewise, why does the First Child Pilot EVA-00? Ritsuko’s experiment with Shinji and Rei swapping units is critical, but we’ve yet to unravel the mystery of the pilot system NERV has invented. The entry plug sure does feel suspiciously warm and cozy, though . . .

With this recap episode behind us, the third leg of the Eva journey will segue us into enhanced character drama and greater psychological turmoil. Forewarning that these posts might also become less coherent as the narrative starts to erode and unravel until it is left with but the solitary mind of one young boy. Shinji’s struggle to connect with others yields far more drastic consequences in the series’ second half. Having an episode like this, thus, is helpful for establishing the world’s history as we know it.

I’m sure there’s more to say about the human mind component of the story, but that theme will continue to steadily build as we progress. Episode 15 will also dive into deeper issues from a psychosexual angle, an uncomfortable territory but one we must explore nonetheless. Thanks for reading, and ‘til next time!

– Takuto

EVERYDAY EVA Episode 13: Computers. Corrosion. Casper. | Mecha March

Welcome back to EVERYDAY EVA, the blog series where I aim to cover one episode of Evangelion every single day for Mecha March 2022!

When a new kind of Angel hacks its way into NERV, only the good Dr. Akagi can secure humanity’s victory.

Technology. Computers. Data. Science. Achievement. Hacking. Personality. Theory. Magi. Ritsuko Akagi. The subject of Episode 13: “Lilliputian Hitcher” is each of these factors, but perhaps none suit it as best as “corrosion” does. Things go south in this latest Angel invasion, though the enemy’s method of attack this time around is most rare indeed. Central Dogma is hacked by the 11th Angel, and the EVAs are rendered useless because of the risk of contamination. Instead, NERV must rely on the intelligence of an unexpected hero in the good doctor, the cat-loving Ritsuko Akagi herself.

What the 11th Angel seeks is a direct pathway to the Magi System, and its takeover is almost completely successful. As everyone at NERV stands in shock at the horror evolving before their eyes, our usual rely-upons—Misato, Shinji, Asuka, Rei—are useless here. Ritsuko is placed in the tough situation of preserving the Magi System at the risk of NERV itself. Her determination, intuition, and knowledge guide everyone to safety. But, Ritsuko is only able to take the pieces of the situation apart and put everything back together again thanks to the groundwork set by her mother. The division of the three Magi Supercomputers as the three parts of Ritsuko’s mother is a very helpful character model for understanding Ritsuko herself. As a mother, Ritsuko can’t relate. As a scientist, she is flawless. However, as a woman, she lacks a sense of dominance that is wielded by characters like Misato and Asuka.

And maybe that’s the main theme foreshadowed in this episode—that science will only be able save the day for so long, and eventually, we will have to encounter ourselves as adults, as parents, and as sexual bodies. It’s an abstract metaphor, but all the clues so far lead to the idea that Commander Ikari is definitely using technology as a tool for completing an objective other than terminating the Angels. The “Screw you Ikari” message left behind in the dark catacombs of the Magi’s machinery is all the proof we need. Something sinister is happening at NERV—something is rotting, corroding, and at a rate faster than we may suspect.

With polysomes and Pribnow now behind us, this most science fictional episode of the series closes out the ‘Action Arc.’ In Episode 14: “Weaving A Story,” we reflect on all that has happened so far and turn to see what new challenges await our characters next. We’re halfway done, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the EVERYDAY EVA so far. Thanks for continuing to humor me, and ‘til next time!

– Takuto