Mark Watches ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’: Episode 20 – Shape of Heart, Shape of Human / WEAVING A STORY 2: Oral stage

In the twentieth episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion, WHAT??? Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Neon Genesis Evangelion

Trigger Warning: For discussion of trauma and PTSD.

So, this is a visually and thematically dense episode, so I’m going to break this up into two parts so I can (hopefully) address as much as possible. SO MUCH JUST HAPPENED.

External

I think the best way to tackle this episode is to examine the two stories based on where they are happening. When Shinji disappears inside his Evangelion, the writers give us a chance to see both sides of this experience. I’ll start first with the reaction from the NERV personnel because I HAVE A LOT OF QUESTIONS. It’s obvious the committee never expected this development, despite that they all knew that the Evangelions were sentient humans created to fight the Angels. And like, that reveal is so fucking casual and non-dramatic, and this show is determined to ruin my life, y’all. But whatever “script” these men are clinging to was just ruined, except that Ikari and Fuyutsuki knew that the Eva would wake up? Apparently, Kaji did, too, and that confuses me as well.

But let me ignore that for now. Shinji’s disappearance is not a total mystery to these people, and I can’t believe I didn’t notice the signs that this would eventually happen. Didn’t Ritsuko once mention someone getting “absorbed” into an Evangelion??? Or did I imagine that? Regardless, if I’m wrong, there’s still plenty of evidence here that the NERV people new this could happen. How else could there have been an experiment run ten years prior about this very issue? They always knew the time would come. And given that the truth of the Evangelions is linked to this complicated dance between biology and souls, I’m curious just what these people expected. Did Ritsuko know that the Evas could “wake up”? Is there a contingency plan in place to deal with them in that state??? I mean, I do wish the writers had shown us how they captured and restrained Unit-01, since that would help me understand this.

At the same time, it’s clear that Ritsuko and Misato – as well as the rest of the main NERV crew – have very little idea what they’re doing here. Most didn’t know what the Evas were capable of, first of all. Add in a “reconstruction” of Shinji, which includes bonding his soul back into his body, and I think I’m safe in saying that many of these characters know about as much as the audience. That’s an exciting dynamic, though, because it allows the audience to feel like they’re on the same level as some of the people here. Plus, there’s the conflict that exists because of who holds knowledge and who doesn’t it. So how are these characters going to react to future events? We get Shinji back in this episode, but I’m sure the others will want to know what happened to him! What of the Evangelion, who is now fully awake and clearly a sentient being with its own willpower? Are they really going to restrain a living creature in NERV central command???

Let’s also talk about Misato because FEELINGS. First of all, I was destroyed by her emotional breakdown over Shinji’s empty plug suit. There’s no single character in this show who cares more about Shinji than her. That’s not revealed in this episode, of course; she’s cared for him for quite some time. But she breaks down out of fear that he’s gone forever, and SHE IS THE ONLY PERSON TO EXPRESS THIS LEVEL OF AFFECTION FOR HIM. And it makes me feel A GREAT NUMBER OF THINGS, mostly admiration for her kind heart. And yes, she’s selfish at the same time. I don’t really see a problem with that. If she is pursuing a sexual relationship with Kaji because she knows she can get more answers from him about the Evangelions, my only concern is whether he knows this or not. They’re both remarkably upfront about it, and Kaji seems willing to provide Misato with what she wants. Though… does Kaji have an ulterior motive here too? Is there something he wants from Misato that he’s not being truthful about?

Internal

Y’all, Shinji was stuck inside the realm of the Evangelion (I don’t even know what to call it) for A FULL MONTH. I’m sure the length of time felt different to him, blending in as one single experience. What we see of Shinji’s time in this place is erratic, confusing, and illuminating ALL AT THE SAME TIME. The episode rapidly flashes from one image to the next; themes and motifs repeat during surreal sequences; Shinji talks to Rei and his mother. Are these the actual people? Hallucinations? Glimpses of an Angel’s mind or something else? I suspect that somehow, that was really his mother’s consciousness or soul in that place, but I don’t have any absolute confirmation. Perhaps his subconscious was working out these issues through familiar faces, though I can’t ignore how similar these scenes were to his time inside that Angel.

Once you start thinking about the conversations Shinji has, it’s also clear how meaningful they are. Whatever they are, they’re important to his development. He ponders why he is alive. He associates his identity and all positive validation with being an Eva pilot. Which is distressing in one sense, you know? Like, there’s more to Shinji than just this one thing, and yet, I can’t deny that all of the kindness he’s received started once he became a pilot. But might there be a danger in attaching your identity to only one aspect of your entire life? What about the desire he feels for Rei, Misato, and Ritsuko? Is that an extension of his need for validation and affection, since those three characters – in their own way – have all expressed interest in Shinji?

I just love the idea that identity plays so much into Shinji’s characterization. He has consistently asked himself what his purpose is, what kind of person he is, and what he deserves from life. They’re intense thoughts to have, but Shinji is going through an intense, traumatic experience. I’m not surprised that they trigger him into such an existential crisis, you know?

The video for “Weaving a Story 2” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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