In the ninth episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion, YES. I ADORED THIS. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Trigger Warning: For talk of sexuality of teenagers, gore, stalking, and misogyny.
I’m getting the sense that Neon Genesis is deliberately trying to discuss teenage sexuality through this show. At this point, I can’t ignore how frequently sex or sexual themes make an appearance in these stories, so I’m less inclined to think this is an accident or unintentional. Even at the start of the episode, we see how Toji has been secretly photographing Asuka and selling prints to other boys. Which is terrifying and gross and apparently entirely normal in this specific environment. This is the first time we get a confirmation of the grade these kids are in – eighth – and it helped me make sense of the way everyone behaves.
Look, it would be foolish to assume that teenagers at this age wouldn’t be talking about sex or desire, and I’m hoping that’s why we’ve had so many examples of it. At the same time, there’s an exploration of Misato’s desires for Kaji within this episode, as well as Shinji’s burgeoning desire for the women around him. What is the connection to the greater story? Is there one? I’m still pretty early into the show, so I’m mostly wondering aloud about a lot of this. But I recognize how awkward much of this episode is and why it happens, at least up to this point.
There are a lot of tropes jammed into “Both of You, Dance Like You Want to Win!,” and yet I feel like it works. Asuka and Shinji are set up as the main character conflict, and then Kaji and Misato mirrors that in a quiet way. The show establishes that they both greatly dislike one another, and then immediately crafts a situation in which they’ll need to get along perfectly. Now, I’ve admitted many times on this site and on Mark Reads that this specific trope is one of my absolute favorite things ever, so yes, I’m biased in this regard. But here, the Angel that rises up from the ocean and heads for the city is the means to an end. Yes, there’s a bigger story here, but I loved the idea that the Angel was a metaphor, that it existed to show Shinji and Asuka the value of putting aside differences to work together. Indeed, the first fight with this Angel went disastrously because Asuka rushed forward to prove herself to the Japanese team. There was no cooperation at work here at all, and look what happened!
Asuka’s stubbornness is part of that problem, though I also found it interesting that the show so openly portrayed her as an outsider to Japanese culture. She repeatedly insults the way that the Japanese live and behave without ever stopping to consider the value in a different culture. She despises sleeping on the floor, she doesn’t seem interested in any of the food, and she’s so rude! It doesn’t help that she’s forced to live with Shinji and Misato in order to help her better synchronize with Shinji, but she doesn’t seem open-minded about any of this.
I wonder if she thought she’d just swoop into this place and be a perfect Eva pilot and everyone would adore her and nothing would go wrong. Well, that is not what happens AT ALL. WHOOPS. I think that’s a huge reason why she felt so humiliated by Rei’s demonstration. This did not come easy to her, and Shinji feels like a roadblock or an obstacle to her instead of a peer.
Well, maybe not all the time? The relentlessly awkward sequence where she and Shinji are alone in the apartment suggests that there’s a lot more at work here. What exactly did Asuka mean when she told Shinji that they were alone? Did she stomp off and sleep in the other room because Shinji didn’t react as she thought he would? And then there’s the scene on the floor, which was SO DEEPLY UNCOMFORTABLE. Yet in the midst of it – as Shinji leans in to kiss Asuka – the show painfully reminds us that these characters are children. How much of a facade has Asuka kept up? Does she have nightmares? What sort of trauma has she faced as a pilot?
The past seems to define the characters in Neon Genesis, even if we don’t know what that past is. We still have no idea what happened between Kaji and Misato eight years prior, and I’d be curious to know why he thinks he can just waltz back into her life and treat her as he does. He knows that there is some lingering desire in her, and he appears to toy with her solely because he can. Look, relationships end for a reason, and while being physical with Kaji might make Misato feel good, I still want to know why he infuriates her so much. What did he do?
Which leaves us with one last thing: the beautifully, spectacularly, expertly crafted battle sequence at the end of this episode. Holy shit, y’all, what a masterpiece. It was brilliant to include the countdown on the screen to give us a sense of scope and time, and the music was PERFECT. I’d mentioned in the video that the use of music as a mnemonic device was clever, but seeing it actually unfold? Worth every second of this episode, my friends. Especially since Shinji and Asuka immediately descended into bickering after killing the Angel. Look, I like that they don’t get along perfectly after this experience. It makes a lot more sense to me.
THIS EPISODE RULED.
The video for “Both of You, Dance Like You Want to Win” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
– I am now on Patreon!!! MANY SURPRISES ARE IN STORE FOR YOU IF YOU SUPPORT ME.
– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
– Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!