Mark Watches ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’: Episode 23 – Tears / Rei III

In the twenty-third episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion, help. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Trigger Warning: For depression, PTSD/trauma, body horror, grief/loss, trauma.

I still don’t even know what to say about this episode, so bear with me.

It’s clear that the writers really DID want to talk about the emotional and mental ramifications of the Evangelion pilots’ experience, and so much of “Tears” deals with the fallout of… Well, practically everything. Yes, this episode picks up after the last one, and much of what we see here is due to it specifically. Misato mourns Kaji’s death; Asuka slips into a depressive episode because she feels like a failure; and Shinji is largely numb throughout this episode. He doesn’t know how to help his friends with what they’re going through, either. (A quiet and sad reference to the fact that he’s a “child” and cannot offer anything to these people.) Hell, none of these people are properly equipped to cope with the ongoing nightmare that’s unfolding around them! Asuka’s only comfort is in Hikari, who ALSO doesn’t know what to do with her friend’s depression.

And then there’s Ritsuko, who listens to the news of the death of her grandmother’s cat without a single expression on her face. In fact, she very plainly states that the cat (or “child”? Why did my subtitles say “child”?) is dead, and that’s her sole reaction to it. It’s not until the very end of this episode that Ritsuko bares her emotions for Shinji and Misato. Yet even then, it’s only after Commander Ikari has her tortured and humiliated by SEELE (WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH HIM) that she finally expresses herself openly and truthfully. WHICH BREAKS MY HEART. How long has she remained neutral and emotional for the benefit of NERV? How loyal has she been to Ikari, only to have him throw her under the bus once it suits him?

It doesn’t help that I don’t understand Ikari at all. I haven’t since the beginning of the show, and now, PRETTY MUCH EVERY CHARACTER IN NEON GENESIS DOESN’T TRUST HIM ANYMORE. Even SEELE is suspicious as to his intentions! Misato turned against him; Ritsuko betrays him at the end of this episode. NO ONE LIKES HIM, HE IS AWFUL, AND I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HE IS PLANNING. Also, what’s with the committee members appearing as weird monoliths lately??? What is that meant to reference or convey?

As if this wasn’t emotionally volatile all on its own, an angel attacks in the middle of this crisis. THANKS, ANGEL. Your timing is impeccable!!! (And thematically appropriate? The last episode, the Angel looked like a pair of wings, and now, it initially appears as a halo. I see what you’re doing, Angels! You think you’re so clever!) Despite that Asuka is depressed, despite that Unit-01 is unavailable for an attack, and despite the BILLION SIGNS THAT MAYBE SOMEONE ELSE OR ONE OF THE DUMMY PLUGS SHOULD BE USED, NERV still sends out Rei and Asuka. I know that depression manifests massively different for each person, but I was blown away by the show depicting Asuka’s depression as immobility. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t even conceive of it! Holy shit, that’s what it is like sometimes for me. And here it is, on screen!

But I want to shift to Rei because she’s the key to what unfolds in the remainder of “Tears.” Her sacrifice is so casual and so quick, and it comes after a major development on her part. I’m pretty confident that she speaks to this Angel during that one sequence, and it helps her realize how lonely she is. BUT ONLY AFTER HELPING THE ANGEL REALIZE THAT THE PAIN IT FEELS IS LONELINESS, TOO. Whyyyyyyy are you doing this to me, Neon Genesis? Especially given the reveal at the end of the episode, it’s so heartbreaking to realize that her development is reset. Again. Her realization about her loneliness and her desire for Shinji are gone. Destroyed. And she’s back at square one again, despite that in any other context, she’d get to grow from this moment.

There’s just so much going on in this Angel fight, y’all. Asuka becomes more depressed when she realizes Commander Ikari doesn’t care as much about her as he does for Rei. Shinji witnesses the ABSOLUTE HORROR of the Angel taking Rei’s form as it fuses with her. And then everyone watches as Rei kills herself in order to take out the Angel at the same time. Now I understand why Ritsuko said the battle site was classified: because Rei’s dead body was there.

Y’all. Y’ALL. I guessed what Rei was and IT DIDN’T MATTER. IT DIDN’T MATTER BECAUSE I STILL WASN’T READY. I found it poetic that Misato and Shinji discovered the truth behind NERV at the same time, especially since Ritsuko believed that they both deserved it at this point. Are the Angels God’s retribution for what NERV has done? Was the creation of the clones and the dummy plug part of the reason why these attacks were happening? If that’s the case, then the Evangelions are also part of that disaster. Man created gods, then created other people in their own image. For what purpose? WE DON’T EVEN KNOW. SEELE exists to help the world follow some sort of script designated in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and I still don’t know what that is. What happens when the final Angel arrives? Or when the twelfth Evangelion is completed? What the fuck are these men planning to do? How will it “better” humanity? And is it worth the cost of the human lives – Rei, Misato, Ritsuko, Shinji, Asuka, and many others – that they’ve destroyed and ruined along the way?

The video for “Tears” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– 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!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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