In the twenty-fourth episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion, the final messenger arrives. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Trigger Warning: For suicide, depression.
A lot just happened, and I think I know what I just experienced, but I AM GOING TO USE THIS REVIEW TO TALK MYSELF THROUGH IT.
Shinji is not the only pilot whose identity is attached to the Evangelions. I’d argue that all of them have been completely affected in this regard by their experience. While that identification manifests in different ways for each of them, I can still see that pattern in them all. Much like Shinji questioned his own purpose in life outside of being a pilot, Asuka does the same thing, too. Unfortunately, because NERV doesn’t really care about what piloting does to these kids, she’s left to suffer completely alone. No one assures her of her worth, no one comforts her outside of Shinji’s attempts, and no one tells her that she matters. Instead, she revisits the memory of her mother’s suicide, which coincidentally happened right as Asuka learned that she would be a pilot. How could she not associate her need for validation and love and affection with piloting? With death? They would always be inextricably linked.
I just feel so sad thinking about Asuka and her fate. She tried to kill herself because she didn’t know how to find self-worth outside of an Evangelion.
Look, it’s not that I wasn’t questioning everything on the screen; I knew from Kaworu’s first appearance that something was deeply, deeply wrong. The episode never tries to hide that. In hindsight, I now see that this script was SCREAMING THE ANSWER TO ME AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY. Right after Shinji realizes all his friends are gone – Tokyo-3 is in ruins and everyone had to move – Kaworu shows up. To be Shinji’s friend. Now, I believed the misdirect, that Kaworu was just like Rei. He was created in order to be a pilot, and the Committee had waited until this time to release him.
Yet his friendship with Shinji is so fucking surreal, y’all. Now that I think about it, he really does give Shinji everything he ever wanted. He is a companion, eager to hang out with him and eager to see him. He greets Shinji repeatedly; he speaks respectfully whenever Shinji says something to him. HE DOES EVERYTHING SHINJI’S FATHER REFUSES TO DO FOR HIM. It’s weird, too, because many of these moments come off either as homoeroticism or a much more explicit example of attraction. I mean, the Angels don’t really have genders, do they? Even if this Angel appears as a young boy, there’s still the fact that Shinji’s love for him is related to the fact that he never received the same attention or affection from his own father.
It’s complicated, for sure. Knowing that Kaworu is the final Angel changes all the scenes they’re in with Shinji! For example, I now realize why Kaworu spoke so strangely. Y’all, they never referred to themselves as a human EVER. Every single time, they were trying to reach out to Shinji about the human condition. So had they learned more about humans from past interactions with other pilots? That bit about loneliness seemed to be pulled directly from Rei’s conversation with an Angel! Right???
At this point in the episode, my understanding of everything is… well, it’s limited. I get that Neon Genesis Evangelion doesn’t hand me answers on a silver platter, and I appreciate how much is communicated through imagery or suggestion. It makes this a very rewarding experience. But I also can’t claim to understand what Kaworu – the Final Angel – was supposed to do. My guess is that SEELE sent him down into the Terminal Dogma to merge with Adam in order to… do something? Bring about the Third Impact? But why would SEELE see the complete destruction of the world as a good thing? How does that help humanity?
I did learn that the A.T. Field is generated by a soul, which confirms that all the Angels and the Evangelions have souls. AND YUI IS DEFINITELY INSIDE OF SHINJI’S EVA. WHICH… JESUS, Y’ALL, GENDO IKARI IS CONTINUALLY THE WORST. It’s a neat thematic idea, too, when you consider how the Angels have interacted with the pilots in the past. Were they just trying to protect their hearts? Were they always just invested in getting to Adam to start the the Third Impact? And… lord, I’m just realizing this as I’m typing this sentence, but did SEELE release all of the Angels or just this last one? Is the script that they constantly refer to some sort of release schedule???
I’m sure you can tell that I’m struggling through this, but that’s not really a bad thing. I’ve got two more episodes to go, and then a two-part film, so I’ve got more time for answers. Yet even if I don’t “get” all of this, I felt the ending to this episode was powerful enough. The whole Lilith thing makes no sense at all to me, though I understand who Lilith is in the Bible. Did Gendo know the whole time that Adam was not down there? Did he deliberately sabotage SEELE’s efforts to end the world??? Again, even without these answers, I still saw the conclusion of this as the Angel’s concession. Kaworu chose to die so that humanity could live. Even if I’m wrong here, I loved the idea that through these battles, the Angels came to see the worth of humanity. We may suffer and hurt and ache and hate and fail, but we also live and laugh and experience joy. The human condition can lead to loneliness, but it can also lead to friendship and love, and I sensed that the Angels never had anything like that.
My heart went out for Shinji regardless. After all of the horrible things he’s been through, he still gets back in his Eva and is the one to kill Kaworu in the end. Yes, Kaworu asked to be killed, but does that necessarily make it easier for Shinji? There’s already been so much death here, and Kaworu is just another body. Maybe Shinji saved all humanity, but at what cost to himself?
The video for “The Final Messenger” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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