In the twenty-fifth and penultimate episode ofÂ Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shinji discovers what his father has been planning all along. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watchÂ Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of depression, death, and trauma/PTSD.
Well, that was fucking weird. I think that goes without saying, and it’s not likeÂ Neon GenesisÂ had been straightforward all the time. We’ve seen plenty of surreal sequences and images in the past 24 episodes, but this isâ€¦ next level weird? I think I understand it, and now I realize I’m saying the same thing as I did in the last review. I’m going to do my best to get through this, but that was a challenging episode to watch. TO SAY THE LEAST.
I am guessing that it might be easier to unravel these threads if I focus on each character. Given the shocking ending of “Do you love me?”, though, I still have to wonder: how much of this happened? Did it all happen in Shinji’s mind or in the solitary world that happened? Initially, this actually made a lot of sense to me. After killing the final Angel, Shinji slipped into a deep existential crisis. Like each of the pilots and like Misato, he had assigned so much of his identity to being a pilot and to the perceptions of others that without them, he hadâ€¦ well, nothing.
That word seems important, though. With no one who loved him in the way he wanted, and with no one to give him the affection he craved, Shinji believed he had nothing. WasÂ thatÂ intentional? Did Gendo Ikari treat his son with derision and neglectÂ deliberatelyÂ to create this sense of nothingness in his heart? Everything here points to an uncomfortable reality: GendoÂ wantedÂ everyone to return to nothingness. The Human Instrumentality Project was always about returning human souls to their “natural” state in the void, and Gendo’s betrayal of SEELE led to this point. And if Gendo was the mastermind here, is it so ludicrous to suggest that he used each and every one of these people â€“ including his son â€“ as a pawn to achieve that end?
Regardless of the truth of Gendo’s involvement, Shinji still has to suffer through the experience. His guilt and shame torments him. The show conveys much of this through the repetitive visual motif of black title cards, many with the same question directed at the person who is questioning their own sense of self. Shinji is tormenting by his time as a pilot, which is then linked to his hatred of his father. I felt like these scenes were likeâ€¦ super cruel therapy sessions? There’s a lot of psychological theory referenced in this episode, and while some of it went over my head simply because I didn’t know certain words or phrases, I understood the overarching message:
These people were deeply unhappy.
Again, which makes me wonder: were these scenes conveying truths about these characters, or were they beingÂ manipulatedÂ into coming to these conclusions? I think that Shinji was in denial about being a pilot and about his need for love and attention, but when I look back on this episode, I also feel like he was slowly pushed towards accepting nothingness. Indeed, the final image in the theater (HOLY IMAGERY, THAT WAS SO COOL) of Shinji’s supreme isolation showed us that he had believed so wholly in his loneliness that he had cast everyone out of his own world. Where that power came from isâ€¦ unknown, I guess. But even if this is just a metaphorical exploration rather than a literal one, it was still powerful. Shinji wanted to protect himself so badly that the only way he could do it was to GET RID OF LITERALLY EVERYONE ELSE.
It was kind of validating to see her “Case” unfold in this episode because I feel like I got a lot right about her need for validation. The show continues to tie this to her resentment over her parents. First, she despises her father for not caring about her, and then she develops a bitterness over her mother’s suicide and being abandoned. In the end, AsukaÂ alwaysÂ cared about being needed because she felt so neglected by everyone around her. Like Shinji’s case, she is also asked the same question: Why did she pilot an Evangelion? Her conclusion is eerily similar to Shinji’s: for praise. For love. For attention. Yes, this manifests differently in her, but I saw the same desire in her as in Shinji.
In the end, though, she comes to a much different conclusion. She doesn’t want the world to disappear; she desperately wishes she wasn’t alone anymore. MY HEART.
Yet when the episode got to the Case of Rei Ayanami, the theme took a sharp turn. That’s understandable, given that she has long had to deal with the bizarre existence of being a clone created by Gendo. Her reason for piloting an Eva isâ€¦ well, it’s complicated. She was created toÂ beÂ a pilot, and her identity resets with each new “version” of her original self. Yet aren’t each of these Reis their own person? I loved the logic that Rei used here: the experiences of interacting with the world around herÂ madeÂ her a unique person. That’s who Rei is. Yet it’s also hard to ignore the fact that she exists to be used by Gendo. She knows it, and he’sÂ veryÂ open about it here.
Given that the final scene was in a theater, I found it significant that Misato’s Case focused on her need for performance. She was caught between the dichotomy of pureness and filth, desperate to be a “good” person for her parents and others, but aware that this was a lie. I admit to feeling weird about how this is positioned as a sexual thing, not because this something people don’t struggle. I certainly did, but that was because of my strict Christian upbringing. Misato’s relationship with Kaji was definitely a major part of her character, and like the others, it was also linked to issues with her father. (SURPRISE, FATHERS ARE THE WORST IN THIS WORLD.)
So were each of these cases unfolding in Shinji’s head? Are each of them suffering in a world with no more angel attacks? Will they all return to that peaceful void willingly? WHAT WAS THAT IMAGE OF MISATO AND RITSUKO WITH GUNSHOT WOUNDS?Â What is happening on this show?
The video for “Do you love me?” can be downloadedÂ here for $0.99.
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