Saturday, March 22, 2014

Evangelion Act 3

There's one sure-fire to kill an angel, and that is to destroy its core, also referred to as its S2 organ. The S2 organ basically gives an angel unlimited energy. It's the next best thing to immortality. To get to its S2 organ, you'll need to break through its AT field, which is basically a force field that both angels and Evas possess, composed of the "light of [their] souls." So in the climax of the series, when Unit 01 goes berserk, becomes aware of herself and her surroundings, takes on a nonsensical sync ratio with Shinji ("over 400%"), shreds the Angel's AT field and eats the Angel's core, it's a good time to consider the possibility that humanity might just be screwed.

In the final act of Evangelion, we're on a rapid ride to the end.

Of the world.

S2 Engines are tasty. *****/5 stars.

Before the plot can take a step forwards, it takes two steps back. It turns out that a 400% sync ratio has happened before -- to Shinji's mother, who was absorbed into Eva and declared dead. And it turns out that as Unit 01 has become aware, Shinji has been absorbed into her. Psychedelic stuff happens ans Shinji spends a month without a body while the staff at Nerv carefully construct a means to reintegrate his body and soul.

Professor Fuyutski is abducted for interrogation, and when that happens we get filled in on a lot of the details about Nerv's past, including the 2nd Impact and the relationship between Gendo and Yui Ikari. We learn that there's a striking similarity between Yui and Rei, Ritsuko Akagi's mother -- who, after Yui's "death," had a relationship with Gendo -- was so delighted by this similarity that she killed Rei and herself. Yes, childhood Rei got dead. Plot hole? Not just yet.

The release of Fuyutski costs Kaji his life. Remember, while Kaji hasn't done a lot to directly influence Shinji, he has spurred Shinji on, helped Shinji to think things through, and was the motivational voice that drove Shinji to man up at the end of Act 2. So, Kaji turns around dies. The man that has been helping to bolster Shinji up is now ripped out from underneath Shinji. But that's okay. Shinji's still got his co-pilots, right?

Shinji's relationship with Asuka: Asuka believes that she needs to be the best in order for her life to have value and meaning. So every time Shinji progresses, Asuka regresses. By the time the 15th Angel attacks, Asuka's regressed so much that her performance as a pilot is slipping ans she's demoted (if you will) to Rei's back-up. But she won't have a bar of that, so she charges on ahead, only to get her mind raped by the Angel. The Angel cuts through all her bravado to expose her for the ravaged, traumatised child that she is, to the point that the next time she pilots Unit 02, she won't even be able to make the Eva move.

Asuka withdraws from everyone, and declares her hatred for Shinji, Misato, "that bitch Rei," and herself. She shuts down, and the search for the 5th Child as her replacement to pilot Unit 02 commences. As Asuka shuts down, there is no longer anything left for her to give Shinji. She can no longer build him up in any way. The girl who became for him the representative of the reality of womankind fades away into oblivion.

Shinji's relationship with Rei: Act 1 ended with Rei putting her life on the line to protect Shinji, but Shinji ultimately saving her and everyone in a big emotional moment. In the battle against the 16th Angel, Nerv are reluctant to send Shinji up to fight. Apparently a self-aware beast that's capable of going berserk and now has unlimited energy is somewhat of a liability. But, when all else fails and the 16th Angel is merging itself with Rei through Unit 00, Shinji is sent up to intercede. However, his efforts are in vain, and in order to prevent the Angel from merging with Shinji/01 as well, Rei opts to contain the Angel within her AT field, absorb it into herself, and self-destruct.

Think about what this symbolises for Shinji. All this time, Shinji's relationship with Rei has been building him up. Now that he's taken his first real step of manning up, Rei sacrifices herself for him, and from that moment on can longer be there to lift him up. Shinji is no longer able to depend on anyone else.

Rei seems pretty dead right now, right?



Noticing a pattern here? Rei dies --> tada! She's alive. Rei dies!! --> TADA! She's ALIVE! Like mother like daughter, Ritsuko becomes jealous of Rei's relationship with Gendo, but doesn't take it out on the Rei we all know and love. Instead, she brings Shinji and Misato down into the depths of Nerv, where the components for the dummy plug system (which almost killed Toji) are made. The "components" being an LCL-filled tank of Reis.

And Ristuko kills every last one of them.

Just for added creep factor, we get to hear them giggling while their bodies crumble and dissolve in the LCL.

Now let's do the math here:

  • Rei has a disturbingly affectionate relationship with Gendo (well, as affectionate as the two least affectionate humans on Earth can get).
  • Rei is protective of Shinji.
  • Shinji identifies motherly qualities in Rei.
  • Rei looks a lot like Yui.
  • On one occasion, Rei has specifically offered to risk her life because: "If I die, I can be replaced."
  • The dummy plug system is a mass-produced series of Reis.
Those are the facts the series gives us at this point. Care to fill in the blanks?

The Fifth Child:

Asides from Shinji, each of the other Children have been decimated. Toji has lost limbs. Asuka has lost her mind. Rei has died repeatedly. And Shinji can no longer relate to any of them.

Enter Kaworu Nagisa, the 5th Child.

Kaworu will appear to Shinji as a fulfillment of all of his needs, and the perfection of the roles of each of the other Children. Kaworu immediately connects with Shinji and offers Shinji his love. This is love that crosses all definitions. This is brotherly love. This is the love of friendship. This is unconditional love, which Shinji will never have to earn. And this is romantic love.

I should interject here and point out that at no point thus far has Shinji shown any hint of romantic interest in males. At one point, Kaji (jokingly?) flirted with Shinji, to get the flat rejection: "Kaji, I'm a boy." This is somewhat out of character, but I feel that to make sense of this relationship, we shouldn't be looking at how it fits with the characters, but how it fits thematically. And how it fits thematically is, in one person, to fulfill the needs that every other person in Shinji's life has failed at.

To top it all off, as an Eva pilot, Kaworu is exquisite. Shinji showed some real Chosen One potential early in the series, and the story has kind of progressed around that ideal, but while Shinji has had to "work hard" and undergo endless trials to grow as a pilot, Kaworu has such mastery as a pilot just by showing up that it is fair to say he pilots Unit 02 as naturally as any normal person breathes.

Kaworu might even be able to mend damaged bridges. After all, while Shinji can't relate to Rei any more, that won't stop Kaworu, who tells her that she is like him.

Everything looks so good...for about 10 minutes.

Kaworu is almost looking like a Messiah, but perhaps he's a little bit closer to an Antichrist. If it's too good to be true, it probably isn't. It's probably Kaworu, instead. Kaworu is the 17th and Final Angel.

While the 14th Angel managed to make its way into the outer regions of Nerv, Kaworu makes his way into the deepest part of Nerv, where Lilith (the 2nd Angel, who has previously been presented as Adam, the 1st Angel) is hung up on a cross. And Shinji must make a choice: kill Kaworu and save the world, or let Kaworu destroy the world for his own personal gain.

Finally, Shinji commits to what he couldn't commit to with Toji.

The End of the World:

Everyone wins!

Most fans were not happy with the last 2-3 episodes, seemingly because of the direction they went in. My main complaint is just that there were only 3 episodes when the story needed more like 6: an extra episode or two to make me care about Kaworu ("Hi, I just met you, and this is crazy, but I love and now I'm going to destroy the world" just doesn't build the character up enough for me to feel the betrayal); and an extra episode or two to get us from that battle to the Human Instrumentality Project which unfolds in the final two episodes.

Now, while I haven't talked about it much, the Human Instrumentality Project has been mentioned consistently throughout the series. What have we been told about it? Jack diddley squat, which is exactly why I haven't told you anything about it.

The final 2 episodes give us a somewhat positive representation of the Human Instrumentality Project. It's still messed up and weird, but through the Human Instrumentality Project, Shinji learns to stand on his own two feet and not just be in the world having life imposed on him, but to become proactive about his life. Yay, happy ending.

The movie, which I don't recommend watching unless you like having a cartoon rape your face, decided to show us how we actually got the that point. And just how did we get there? Just a little thing called 3rd Impact, which the Eva pilots and most of Nerv* have been trying to prevent all along.

*Most of. As in, not all of. In fact, Gendo has been orchestrating everything all along so that 3rd Impact will happen, but on his terms. What a nice guy.

The movie gives us a less positive outcome -- while the series leaves us in a state of hope (or confusion, for most fans), the movie takes Shinji back out of the idea of what could be, into the reality of what is.

The Mechanics of 3rd Impact:

When Kaworu faced Lilith (though he was targeting Adam), the Nerv systems had already identified him as an Angel. Then two more AT fields exploded onto the system, each wielding incredible strength. One was Lilith's. The other...was Rei.

This is how he and Rei are the same. Both are human. Both are angelic.

Rei is made from Yui Ikari's body. Unit 01, after absorbing Yui, possesses her soul.

In Nerv, Lilith is on the cross, while Adam, still in chrysalis form, is merged into Gendo's hand.

Gendo's goal appears to be:

  1. Merge with Adam
  2. With Adam, merge with Rei
  3. With Adam and Rei, merge with Lilith
  4. With Adam, Rei and Lilith, merge with Unit 01, to become a god with his wife, Yui.
That doesn't go according to plan, and so Rei absorbs Adam out of Gendo, but refuses to merge with Gendo. He misses out. Ha!

Once Rei, merged with Lilith and Adam, becomes a god, projections of Rei appear everywhere to collect the souls of mankind. This function occurs retro-actively: as a god, she's no longer limited in time, and so prior to this event we see her projections collecting the souls of characters who have already died. This also explains why we saw a living, healthy projection of Rei at the start of episode 1, despite her being all but dead at the time.

When it's time for Unit 01 (with Shinji inside) to merge with Rei/Adam/Lilith, instrumentality begins.

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