Part 3 of our multi-part Evangelion watchalong with Vrai, Dee, and special guests Isaac and Lizzie! As Shinji starts to break down, so too does the narrative—and the team has some concerns about how it’s all going to shake out.
Date Recorded: Saturday 7th September 2019
Hosts: Vrai, Dee
Guests: Lizzie, Isaac
0:03:51 Let’s talk about Rei
0:06:49 Philosophy stuff
0:13:45 Adolescent angst among child soldiers
0:22:35 What’s it about?
0:25:29 Shinji’s desire for validation vs intrinsic altruism
0:29:49 More toxic masculinity
0:47:36 Misato: the only good adult
0:54:15 Criticisms of Shinji
VRAI: Hello, listeners. Welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. My name is Vrai. I’m a writer and editor at Anime Feminist. I freelance all over the Web. You can find most of the stuff I do by going to my Twitter @WriterVrai. Or you can find the other podcast I cohost @trashpod.
And with me on this continuing journey down the Evangelion watchalong are our three guests, Dee, Isaac, and Lizzie.
LIZZIE: Hi there. My name is Lizzie. You might know me as ThatNerdyBoliviane. You can follow me on Twitter @LizzieVisitante. You can find anything I’ve ever done on my website, thatnerdyboliviane.com. On my “About” page, you’ll have my PayPal and Patreon information if you want to financially support my struggles.
ISAAC: And I’m Isaac, former associate features editor for Crunchyroll, on-hiatus anime blogger, and on Twitter @iblessall—although as I’ve said before, I am locked, so you’ll have to request if you want to see my good, good content.
VRAI: And this week we are doing what I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for at home. We have hit the back half of Eva. This week, we are covering episodes 14 to 20. How are you feeling, kids?
LIZZIE: I surprisingly feel okay. I don’t know what I was expecting. I think when really I started seeing “Oh, I see what you’re talking about now” was in episode 20. That’s when I felt like “Ah, look at that! The imagery from the opening makes sense here.”
VRAI: Good. Yes. I would like to point out once again, now that it may be a little bit more of interest to you, this is the point when Eva started wildly diverging from its original intended planning documents that its sponsors had asked for—which are, may I remind you, to “sell some toys.”
VRAI: New censorship laws literally were invented in the wake of Evangelion, primarily because of the cannibalism scene and also, maybe more surprisingly from a modern perspective, the sex scene between Misato and Kaji. They got in a lot of trouble!
ISAAC: Ah, yeah, that extremely risqué shot of the cup on the counter. Whew!
DEE: Yes, but Sailor Moon made so many sex noises, you guys.
LIZZIE: And those sound effects. I was just like, “Okay. That’s interesting.”
VRAI: Yeah, this aired during a primetime slot. This was not a late-night anime.
LIZZIE: Ooh, I see. That makes a lot more sense.
DEE: Surprise! Yeah.
LIZZIE: “Look, mommy. Look what I’m watching.” [Chuckles]
VRAI: So, there was a real scrambling behind the scenes getting into these later episodes of “Oh shit! Oh shit! We are bleeding sponsors left and right!” Which is why you start to see a lot more use of creative animation techniques. Eva really pioneered and popularized that thing that’s very common now in anime where you shoot a character from the back so you don’t have to animate their lip flaps. And also, a lot of reused footage.
DEE: So many silhouettes, too. That saves you some time and space, as well.
VRAI: All right. Let’s see. There’s so much here. I’m wondering where to begin. Why don’t we start with Rei? Because we haven’t really talked much about her yet, but she gets some really big monologues through this stretch.
LIZZIE: I feel like there’s so much to say about her when— I think it was in the recap episode, I think that’s when it happened, where she really starts talking about the world objectively and is questioning her own existence.
I’m finding the undertones about her really uncomfortable when Shinji’s like “Hm. You sort of have this motherly feeling to you, and I don’t know why.” I’m like, “Hm. I have a feeling that’ll make me uncomfortable later.” We’ll see.
VRAI: Why wait? It can make you uncomfortable now.
LIZZIE: Well, yeah, I’m uncomfortable now, but I’m hoping nothing stupid happens, like she looks like his mom or something. I don’t know.
ISAAC: I mean, she is named the name that Shinji’s dad was going to give him if he had not been Shinji, which is totally okay. Very cool.
LIZZIE: [crosstalk] Oh yeah, I forgot about that.
DEE: Also, she has the same voice actress as Shinji’s mom, Yui.
LIZZIE: Oh, great, so never mind.
ISAAC: [crosstalk, deadpan] That is also cool.
DEE: I’d recognize Megumi Hayashibara from a mile away, and as soon as she started talking, I was like, “Same person!”
LIZZIE: Oh, gosh.
But what do you have to say, Isaac? Because I feel like there’s more that I’m missing here.
ISAAC: Well, I think the two main things I took out of her monologue were insubstantial. One was that she said she didn’t like the color red. So, that makes sense why she doesn’t really seem to care for Asuka much.
DEE: That’s so great!
LIZZIE: I love that.
ISAAC: There is also… This is just a reference, but there’s a show called Martian Successor Nadeshiko that is kind of a parody tribute to a lot of different giant robot shows that came before it, and there is a scene in the Rei episode where there’s a bunch of her all lined up in a line.
And I think I mentioned this before, but it’s kind of interesting coming back to Eva after having seen so much stuff that came after it, and you hook into these little referential anchors that you’ve seen places before, and you’re like, “Oh, I feel like this is a reference to something, but I don’t really know what.” And then you watch Eva and you’re like, “Oh! Okay, so that’s where that comes from.”
It’s kind of fun that those moments continue to crop up even as the show sort of gets less like fun entertainment and more feel-bad entertainment.
VRAI: Yeah, I am also interested to know, especially as we’ve been talking about the translation: how did the heady philosophical stuff—both in Rei’s monologues and in episode 20—how did that hit you guys? Did it make sense? Did you get something out of it?
DEE: I’m making some rude hand gestures that nobody can see. [Chuckles]
ISAAC: See, again, I think this is where the fact that I haven’t seen any translation before this— I feel like I’ve seen anime before that do this kind of philosophical stuff, and it comes across as like mumbo-jumbo. I’m like, “Okay, they’re talking about these heady philosophical things, but there’s not really much rhyme or reason to it.”
And that is honestly how I felt about a lot of that stuff in those moments in these episodes. I was just like, “Well, they’re talking about all these philosophical things, but it just seems more like window dressing than actual substance.” That was my reaction.
LIZZIE: [crosstalk] I think for me it’s like I have a hard time really caring about the philosophical stuff being said in the show. They’re saying really big things and important things about themselves and probably stuff for the future, but I find myself not really caring as much; or maybe it’s just not hitting me the way the show wants me to feel about a certain character or scene or whatever.
I think about other shows that have done talking about philosophy and spirituality, let’s say. The shows have nothing to do with this, but I think of Natsume Yujin-cho or Mushishi that were very heavy in philosophical and spiritual themes. But I feel like because those shows were primarily focused on that, and maybe it’s also the writing, that a lot of themes and ideas came across to me much more strongly in shows like that versus here, where I feel like it’s very empty.
ISAAC: Yeah. Because the thing about philosophical stuff in anime is: to really work, if people are going to monologue about it, it has to really have its foundation in the rest of the show; in the action of the show, in the characters. And I guess I’m just not sure that I’m convinced that… and again, it could be a matter of the translation, but I’m just not convinced that the philosophy stuff has as much grounding as it ought in the action and characters.
DEE: My… [Sighs] This stretch is…
VRAI: Dee, I feel like you have something to say.
DEE: I feel like I’m gonna open floodgates that I’m never going to be able to stop, and so I’m trying to make sure I only hit the things I want to say and also that I don’t piss off folks listening.
LIZZIE: Do it.
DEE: Here’s my thing with this stretch of episodes. It’s very frustrating because, to me, it is very inconsistent. It will have these really good stretches that are similar to the way the show was in the first half, where it is telling us about the characters and their struggles and their relationships with one another through the action, through their interactions, through the dialogue. And there are very good, powerful scenes.
The entire Toji arc is great in this stretch. It’s very, very good. I know we’ll dig into that later. And you get a really good sense of what Shinji’s struggles are and what his growth or development is, and the other characters’ opposing viewpoints and how they impact each other. And the show’s moving along at a really good pace, and you have a really good feel for everybody, and you’re invested in the story.
And then, I think about three times in this stretch… it’s in the recap episode, it’s when Shinji gets sucked into the black hole, and then in episode 20, when he becomes soup.
DEE: Those three, it grinds everything to a screeching halt because, near as I can tell, once I parsed through all the philosophical musings that are happening in those episodes, they’re just saying the same things we already knew from the character interactions that we’ve seen up to this point. We’re not moving anybody forward. We’re not getting anything new out of those. So, to me, they just slow down the story.
Eva gets up its own ass, quite frankly, with the philosophical jargon and the quote-unquote “science.” And I don’t think it serves a point because I think the other scenes are doing the same thing better.
VRAI: Thank you for reminding me, because that was absolutely a point I wanted to make for Isaac and Lizzie, you two. I think it is interesting to ask your opinion, and I’m going to continue to do so because—spoilers—this shit don’t go away.
LIZZIE: Oh, God.
VRAI: [Chuckles] So, I think it’s interesting to know your thoughts on those. But I want to tell you: don’t get too lost in them if they’re not working or making sense to you. There is endless discourse among Eva fans, going way back, of “That’s not what a Dirac sea is,” and then everybody tears their hairs out and a physicist screams.
ISAAC: Oh, that’s an actual thing, not just—
VRAI: Yeah, it’s a real thing.
ISAAC: —anime sci-fi they made up?
VRAI: And I don’t know what it is, but I have read enough to know it’s not what they’re describing it as.
DEE: [Laughs] Excellent.
VRAI: So, the reason I asked about the translation is because I was trying to suss out whether… For me, it’s just because I’ve watched this show so many damn times and had it wash it over me enough that I’m kind of able to pick up at least what it was trying to say. But I also think that the one upside of this translation is the fact that it’s so barebones and lacking in character, it’s actually a lot less up its own ass than the old one.
VRAI: I could make out what theories were being posited. It’s a lot of Lacan, by the way. Fucking Lacan.
DEE: Do you want to give our listeners a quick sum-up?
VRAI: Yeah, so, it’s gonna come back more and more specifically name-dropped, but Lacan is basically this theorist who posits that at a very young age we see ourself in the mirror and we begin to know that there is something outside of ourselves, and that creates an emptiness in our being that we spend the rest of our life trying to fill.
And the first Other is the mother because that’s the other big important person in our lives. So, that’s why there’s so much Oedipal shit in here.
LIZZIE: Whew! Let’s get into… Yeah, we’ll get into that later, yeah.
VRAI: Yeah. But for me personally, there are things I like about these episodes. The philosophy ain’t particularly it. I think some of the imagery is interesting. But mostly what I really want to get off my chest, because it came right back to me this time, is these episodes is when it starts to feel really manufactured in certain ways.
I like to call Eva the world’s most beloved first draft, and I think this is the point where Anno is starting to try to work through his shit, his personal shit, and he’s musing that out on the page. And so, as he does that, the action that is happening, the apocalypse and the fighting and the Angels and the child soldier stuff and the metaphor for adolescence start to split in a way where it starts to become really obvious.
Like, if we take “Get in the robot” as “facing your problems in life,” telling Shinji he can’t just run away from shit makes sense. Fine. Your metaphor works. But you have to deal with the on-the-page plot shit that he’s a child soldier and these are reasonable reactions for him to be having.
DEE: Oh, absolutely.
ISAAC: Yeah, I think “manufactured” is… I’m glad you said that word, because I was just thinking because, as I said in the very first episode a lot, I can’t come at this not having heard what I’ve heard from other people all the time. You know, Shinji needs to get in the robot, blah blah blah blah; Eva’s about depression; it’s this deep emotional character study and whatnot.
And I was just thinking at one point—I don’t remember what episode it was; I think it was earlier in this batch—that there are lots of concrete moments where Shinji grows, and I think he’s grown a lot from where he was at the beginning of the show. And it feels like in some ways there’s a tension between his personal character issues—his depression, his daddy issues, all of that—and then, sort of like you were just saying, Vrai, the broader conflicts of the world.
And so, when we have to put Shinji through an external trauma to push him back down to where he was, that’s where things start to rub me the wrong way, when I feel like there’s a universal exterior threat that’s beating him down when he’s growing at the same time. I was worried that was what was gonna happen with the Toji arc, and then Shinji comes out of that and he’s grown again. And I’m like, “Okay, so that’s good. Why do people want Shinji to get in the robot again? Because he was forced to play part in almost murdering his friend? Okay…”
VRAI: Yeah, no, I think you really hit it on the head. I think it certainly does the show a disservice that it does a deliberate parallel of the train station scene, where the first time that happens, there are no outward stakes. Shinji makes a decision to reach out on his own because he wants to get to know Misato better and to try with this family that he’s tentatively started to make. And it’s a really great scene. We talked a lot about that in the first episode.
Whereas it comes to this moment and Shinji has made a decision. He’s gonna leave, and he has no doubts about that because he has a moral objection and just a lot of mental trauma. So, the universe has to contrive a way to make him stay. And it’s real obvious.
DEE: I… Hm.
LIZZIE: [crosstalk] Yeah.
DEE: I have kind of conflicted feelings about this. Go ahead, Lizzie.
LIZZIE: I was just gonna say… It’s frustrating that for the majority of this arc people tell Shinji what to do, but also they don’t tell him necessary information that he probably needs to know.
It was frustrating that nobody was telling him that Toji was the pilot for the other Eva. And I’m like, that’s actually really crucial information that he should know about. Because when he does find out, it should come out from somebody he trusts. But no one did, and then that’s when he sees Toji almost beaten to death and he does something really awful to him. That scars him.
And it goes to show how little his opinion really matters in the grand scheme of things. Everybody’s plotting secretly behind his back, and he’s left to not really know what is happening in the background. But meanwhile, he’s dealing with the brunt of those decisions in the background on the front lines.
VRAI: Meanwhile, the metaphor is like “Shinji, you can’t run away, though. None of this is in your control and no one tells you anything, but also we do expect you to take responsibility for it.”
DEE: [Hums skeptically]
VRAI: Sorry, go on, Dee.
DEE: No, uh… Okay, two things, two things. The first one, them not telling Shinji. And the other thing, when he ends up getting back in the robot.
So, I agree that I think that this arc you can see the strings of the writer. Like you guys were saying, we have to get him back in the robot, so the universe is basically conspiring against him, where there are so many times where anybody could’ve told him it’s Toji, and it shouldn’t have been as big of a deal as everybody made it out to be. But they didn’t. And it feels like it’s being done more for specific narrative purposes, so I think that is kind of a weakness when you can see the strings on the puppets.
That having been said, I like the way that scene turns out with Shinji not knowing Toji is the one in the berserk Eva, because I think it tells you a lot— It’s obvious and a matter of course that if a character’s close friend is in the other robot, he’s going to refuse the order to take him down, obviously.
I think it’s very telling of Shinji’s character that he refuses to attack this person, thinking it’s just some random stranger. He has no idea who’s in there. But he still makes that choice like, “No, I would rather die than kill somebody else.” For me, for Shinji’s character, I think that’s a wonderful scene, and I think it makes Gendo’s complete override of his will that much more traumatizing and horrifying, and a powerful moment.
And Shinji’s a good boy. I mean, he’s a mess, but he’s trying! In spite of everything, he is trying.
LIZZIE: Just to add to that, I am very grateful that the decision was made for us not to see the immense pain that Toji was probably going through as Shinji’s Eva was literally tearing Toji’s Eva apart. I feel like the series could’ve easily gone there—us hear all those painful screams and all this blood everywhere and Toji just suffering—but thankfully we were blessed to not see that, because, whoof, that would’ve been a lot.
DEE: Sometimes Eva chooses to be very restrained, and I think it has more impact when it goes that route. Especially because then when it decides not to be restrained, you’re like, “Oh shit!” Like when he starts cannibalizing the robot or Shinji’s scream when he sees Gendo in there. Whoof!
LIZZIE: That was a lot.
VRAI: That actually reminds me. Because I’ve dunked on Rebuild before. Why stop now? The second movie actually redoes this scene with Asuka in the corrupted Eva and Shinji knows it’s her. And it’s a brutal scene in abstract, but I feel like it doesn’t have that emotional weight for his character because, you’re right, it does mean something that it doesn’t matter who it is; he doesn’t want to hurt people. He’s a good boy!
DEE: He’s doing his best.
LIZZIE: I still like him in this stretch. We’re already 20 episodes in, and I still really like him. And his monologue with Rei really hit me about… one of the reasons he’s still piloting is because—his depression’s coming out—“I want people to notice me and like me and give a damn about me, because if I didn’t pilot this, nobody would give a damn about me.”
And I’m just like, “Whoof!” How many times anyone who’s ever been depressed has done things in order to get people to notice them, even if they’re not doing said things for 100% good reasons?
ISAAC: Vrai, you may be able to answer this—because this is something that I’ve been wondering about since the first episode—but just in terms of primary sources, has Anno or other people come out and explicitly said, “Eva is about my experience with depression or me working through my issues”? I assume there’s something like that because it seems like that particular aspect of it is taken for granted.
VRAI: Yeah, Anno’s talked more than once— I mean, Eva primary sources are a thing to always take with a grain of salt because there are so many of them over so long that there are flat-out contradictory things— But yeah, Anno has talked more than once about the fact that he was depressed during the show’s creation, and a lot of the finale in particular was borne of stuff that he read while he was working through stuff.
ISAAC: Yeah. That’s interesting because just watching it—and again, this is sort of a reaction to people’s reactions—in some places, I think especially in the first six episodes, when people say Eva’s about depression, I’m like, okay, yeah, I can get that.
But then like we were saying earlier, I feel like in a lot of other places, it doesn’t always feel to me like the show itself is supposed to be… or maybe it’s supposed to be, but it doesn’t come across necessarily as an intrinsic expression of depression, if that makes sense. I just put some words together. I’m not sure it did.
But even like you were just talking about, Lizzie, where Shinji’s on the train and he’s talking about “I’m piloting the robot because I want people to like me,” I think you’re right and that can be certainly something that people who are depressed—like an instinct that they have—and maybe this is just something that makes the show richer, but I don’t feel like a lot of things, including that, are necessarily exclusively expressive of depression as an experience. And even just the internal monologues and stuff.
So, I don’t know if I really have a point, but maybe just for other listeners, maybe people who feel like me, just because everybody tells you Eva’s about depression doesn’t mean that if you read certain scenes or certain things that it’s like… There’s more nuance to it than “This is just Anno being depressed.” You have company. You’re not alone.
VRAI: I think a lot of people with varying types of mental illness can and have found something of themselves in this show over the years.
LIZZIE: I can definitely see that, especially in this stretch. But yeah, I can see why this show means so much to a lot of folks.
DEE: Yeah. But I think I see where Isaac’s coming from, though, because I think it’s a pretty common experience for especially young adults, kids, to want to impress and be told a “good job” by adults and authority figures around them. You want to be acknowledged for doing good.
And the thing that really stuck out to me about the episode 20 monologue and Shinji’s little arc here—and I’m curious to see if they end up backtracking or not—is there is a very good moment in the Toji arc (even though it is kind of manufactured to force Shinji to get back in the robot). He makes a decision to leave, and when he makes the decision to come back, it isn’t for the same reason it was the first time, where it was about “I don’t really have anywhere to go. I want my dad to notice me and care about me.” He doesn’t give a— He’s still pissed off at Gendo when he comes back. It’s not like he’s forgiven Gendo.
He comes back because he sees Asuka and Rei struggling and suffering, and Rei looks like she maybe just died. And he makes the choice to come back because there’s people he wants to help and keep safe. And I think that’s a big moment for his character, to move from “I’m doing this because I want somebody else to tell me I’m doing a good job” to “I’m doing this because I want to be a part of this community and there are other people I want to look after and help.”
And then in episode 20, when we drag ourselves through all those monologues again—the one you mentioned—I do really like that scene with Rei, because one of the things he says there isn’t so much “I’m doing this so people will like me.” It’s “I’ve been working so hard, so would it kill you to just tell me ‘good job’ and be nice to me? What’s wrong with wanting that after fighting as hard as I’ve been fighting?”
And I think that’s an extremely apt moment for him there, to say, “You know, I’ve done all this. I’ve made these decisions to come back. Could you guys please just tell me I’m doing a good job and be nice to me for a fucking change?” It’s that sense of “I really have been working hard and doing my best here.”
Yeah, it’s a really subtle shift for his character that I liked a lot. And again, I don’t think we needed an entire episode of Shinji talking to himself to get there, but…
LIZZIE: That was a lot.
DEE: So, I am curious to see if the last stretch moves forward with that or if it doubles back on Shinji wanting his dad to notice him, because I really hope it doesn’t.
VRAI: Honestly, before we… I have other stuff I want to ask you guys, but I do have to air my personal burning bugbear with that train scene because it drives me up the wall, because I feel like that monologue really squanders an important part of what should be a big part of Shinji’s growth, because he is a teenager and teenagers don’t empathy good.
DEE: [crosstalk] Up and down.
VRAI: Shinji’s not very good at understanding that other people— He gets it in an abstract sense, and I think he’s a sweet kid, but he’s still learning how to be like, “Oh, other people have problems. Other people are suffering, too. Maybe my suffering should not necessarily override.”
When he asks people to be nice to him, that’s fair and that’s valid—to use that word. But also, Rei and Asuka are suffering, and they would like someone to praise them, too.
And he’s kind of falling into some traps of toxic masculinity in these episodes, where before he gets sucked into the shadow he talks about how “Fighting is a man’s job!” because he finally got some praise. And there’s the weird naked hallucination and shit. So, that’s all shit that Shinji should address to become a decent, empathetic adult!
But the show brings it up by saying, “Haven’t you ever thought about how your abusive father feels?” No! Fuck that guy! You have taken a good question and set up on these horrible grounds! A silt ground!
DEE: This show keeps pushing up against a really, really good conversation about how gendered expectations and toxic masculinity are super harmful for everybody. It keeps bumping right up against it, and then it doesn’t quite realize what it’s doing and it slides around it.
ISAAC: Yeah. And we talked about this in an early episode, about how a lot of the adult males suck. Gendo’s terrible, Kaji is terrible. And it’s like the show has this vague idea that there are these patterns of masculinity that are bad and harmful, but I don’t think it has a clear idea of what the alternative to that is. And maybe that’s something that’s going to come up. I know we’ve got another still major male character to introduce in the last couple episodes. But that’s the sense I get.
It’s like, okay, we know Gendo’s bad, we know Kaji’s bad. Clearly, Shinji should not be modeling himself after either of those. But it’s not like there’s another male presence there to pose as an alternative. It’s just like, “These are bad and it’s really shitty, and it makes Shinji feel really bad, and that just sucks, so how are we going to get him out of it? Well, we don’t really know. Maybe the three naked ladies will mother.”
LIZZIE: No, I was just gonna say… And that’s why even though I can definitely see why a lot of people would be annoyed with Asuka in this stretch… I mean, I get it. She pushed my limits a lot.
But I understood her frustration and why she performs this hypermasculinity that I’m so used to seeing around me, or at least I was used to seeing it a lot growing up, because she’s frustrated that folks are not paying attention to her and, as well, not giving her the praise that she obviously wants, too. And she’s also frustrated that everybody’s kind of coddling Shinji and ignoring the other girls around him, who also need that support equally.
Now that I have nephews now, I’m starting to see how that can be easily placed on young boys, this toxic sense of masculinity, at a young age. Meanwhile, the other little ones… because I have little nieces, who are unfortunately often ignored in the place of wanting to teach boys to be this certain kind of manhood, which is not great, especially if you don’t have really good role models there to show you an alternative. So, I got where Asuka’s frustration was coming from.
DEE: Oh yeah. Asuka is an extremely self-aware version of Trinity Syndrome, which I find pretty fascinating. So, folks at home, if you don’t know, Trinity Syndrome is coined from the Matrix movie, which is the super-competent, hardworking female character who basically gets pushed aside for the sake of the chosen one, who is inevitably a male character. You see it in the Lego Movie, as well, actually, is a more modern example.
DEE: And it’s this idea of “But it’s destiny, so they’ll naturally become the stronger figure by the end.” And that is very much the sense that you get from Eva. And while it is kinda frustrating to play out, I do appreciate that the show allows Asuka to be aware of that and really, really angry about it, because she should be.
She has worked extremely hard for this, and Shinji hops in the robot on his first day and achieves these ridiculous sync rates and has now surpassed her—which isn’t necessarily a good thing, because achieving those goals of being the hero and that kind of aggressive action hero—again, toxic masculinity sort of thing—isn’t healthy, and it’s messing Shinji up pretty bad.
But at the same time, Asuka feels like she deserves it, and she’s not getting it because that’s what the story told us is happening, functionally.
ISAAC: Right, and she says something that really caught my attention.
After Shinji’s gone down into the Shadow Angel and she’s talking to Rei and Rei asked her something like “Do you pilot your Eva because you want other people to praise you?” or something like that. And she says, “I pilot it because I want to praise myself.” Which, to some extent you wonder how much of that is bluster, because I think that is definitely true, and when she says that I believe it; but I think there are also signs on the side like she also wants praise from other people like Kaji.
But I think, just again looking at what you were saying, she’s doing some of this for herself, not just to please others, and in that way, she’s sort of justified in her frustration. She’s not doing it for the same reason Shinji is, and that doesn’t mean structurally in terms of the plot that she should be diminished, or even diminished in the minds of viewers.
VRAI: Yeah. And she gets upset by this stuff, too. It’s just that she gets upset in a very outward, angry way. When we cut back to her room and Toji and Shinji are in the hospital, she’s just broken stuff and she’s all alone at home. Nobody’s thought to take care of her, and she doesn’t know what’s going on and it’s frustrating and she feels so powerless, and my heart breaks for this child.
I always really liked the background friendship she develops with Hikari. That’s like the one healthy relationship at this point!
DEE: Yeah, those poor kids trying desperately for normalcy in the midst of all this, and then it just pretty much immediately gets shattered.
LIZZIE: Yeah, it’s also sad that Rei… I like that in the stretch we see her expressing more emotions. She’s showing some concern, even for Toji and for those around her. I like that she’s, in a way, reaching out, because nobody has paid attention to her, because look at her apartment. It’s a mess. There’s blood everywhere, too, from all her wounds.
No one really checks in on her as much. Even though everyone thinks Gendo cares about her, obviously he doesn’t. He doesn’t go to her apartment and clean up her place or check in on her. She’s all alone.
DEE: Just stares at her when she’s naked in a tube like a big creep.
Oh, but one thing I was gonna say… Vrai, you were talking earlier about how Shinji doesn’t empathy good, and I get where you’re coming from, but at the same time, I think we’ve seen a lot of signs that he is a thoughtful kid at heart. Because when they go over to Rei’s apartment, his first thought is “I should help her clean things up. She clearly needs a hand here.” And Rei, I think, appreciates that.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Oh yeah, I think it’s normal teenage empathy not good, but you know… Sorry.
DEE: Yeah, no, I guess my point was just Shinji has shown on multiple occasions, especially with Rei, he really keeps an eye on her and is trying to understand her better. He doesn’t know how to do it yet, but he is making some attempts.
And so it is frustrating to see the scene after he achieves that best sync rate and decides to be like “Fighting is a man’s job.” It’s upsetting to see that after we’ve seen that he is a pretty sweet, considerate kid who hasn’t really… He’s starting to internalize all the gendered bullshit around him, and I want it to stop.
ISAAC: You definitely feel like he’s repeating it because it’s something that he’s heard, not because it’s necessarily something that he actually believes.
DEE: Mm-hm. Yeah, because up to this point he’s been visibly uncomfortable with a lot of the gendered talk. But now he’s strong and impressive and people are praising him for it, so he’s leaning into it more.
Again, I think the show keeps bumping up against these very good portrayals of how people can start to internalize that kind of sexist bullshit. I feel like the series… I’m trying really hard not to compare Eva to Utena, because they’re very different shows that just happen to be made around the same time and have huge cultural impacts on both the anime industry and fandom in general.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Now, in fairness, they share a lot of the same crew. [Chuckles]
DEE: Okay, they share a lot of the same crew, too. That’s true. But I’m still trying because they’re very different shows exploring very different things.
But one of the things that makes Utena so good is it is very aware of the power structures in place. And Eva is hitting on all of the things that these oppressive power structures create, but it keeps zooming back into it being a very individual thing. It doesn’t seem as aware of the broader scope of discussions; of the fact that this internalized sexism is everywhere and is not specifically a Shinji/Gendo thing. Does that make sense?
VRAI: Yeah, no, I think you’re absolutely right.
DEE: And I think that’s why it keeps touching on these subjects in really good and realistic ways but never quite makes that final step into pulling back the curtain and outright condemning it or outright really discussing how this is working for every character. It keeps zeroing it back in to just Shinji.
VRAI: Yeah. And it’ll also do stuff with the female characters, too. Like there will be that really good stuff with Asuka and her frustrations—and then the thing that kicks off Rei realizing she maybe has a little bit of a crush on Shinji is him telling her she’d be a good housewife.
DEE: Ugh, yeah.
VRAI: And Kaji’s whole “Men and women are like” stuff, convo at the wedding, which I’m not entirely sure the show wants us to think is bullshit.
DEE: I don’t know what to do with Kaji. Does anybody here know what to do with Kaji? Isaac, you just said he sucks, and that was your answer, and that’s maybe a solid answer.
ISAAC: I mean, he does say women are aliens at one point, which, Vrai, I remember you talking about that last time.
LIZZIE: [crosstalk] They’re mysterious.
ISAAC: Yeah. Because I feel like it’s really backed off on “He’s a shitty flirtatious dude,” and now… He has almost had some scenes that were framing him as a role model, like when he and Shinji are sharing the room; when he’s out watering his watermelons, even though he’d rather be hanging out with Misato, apparently.
VRAI: [crosstalk] “Between her melons.” R.I.P. that line from the old dub.
ISAAC: Ah. So… Yes. I don’t really like him and I don’t trust him, but it seems like this show’s framing of him has just shifted a little bit. And so, I think that’s part of what makes it hard to pin him down, is because when he came in he was just this flirtatious womanizer, and now he’s helping unravel some mysteries and maybe being sort of a role model for Shinji. But no, Shinji, don’t use him as your role model.
DEE: [crosstalk] Kaji is a roller coaster.
VRAI: But while also still harassing poor Maya on the job.
ISAAC: Oh, that poor girl. She’s seen enough Angel gore for one lifetime. And these last two episodes, there’s multiple scenes of her just covering her face, looking away. She just wants to type into her computer.
LIZZIE: Yeah, Kaji is all about… Yeah, his whole line about “Women are mysterious. I don’t get them. They’re like a river.” I’m like, “Calm yourself down, guy. It’s not that deep or complicated.”
The only admirable thing about you is I wish to reach your level of unconcern while every— He’s there watering his watermelons while there’s Angels and Evas fighting right in front of him, unconcerned. I’m like, wow, that’s a mood. As well as Gendo. He doesn’t care blood is splattering all over him. He’ll just keep watching, unconcerned.
VRAI: It’s a metaphor.
LIZZIE: I was like, “Okay. You two have a level of unbothered I want to reach at one point in life.”
ISAAC: Yeah. Well, I think you want Kaji’s, because Gendo’s is more like “I’m a psychopath. That’s why I’m not bothered,” and Kaji’s just like “Eh. The world’s going to shit anyways. What the hell.”
DEE: The Kaji abides.
VRAI: A little bit.
LIZZIE: I think we’re getting there now, but what really actually made me uncomfortable throughout this stretch was all this underlying tone, like, “I’m going to sleep with people who sort of remind me of my parents.”
It’s like, okay… When Misato revealed one of the reasons she was dating Kaji is like, “You kind of remind me of my dad.” I’m like, “Stop talking. Stop right there.” And then when we see the nude imagery of Misato, Asuka, and Rei, and then you see a shadow, which I assume is his mother, I’m just like “Oh my God.”
VRAI: Yeah. So, what do y’all think about Shinji seeing his mom while he’s in the soup?
ISAAC: I guess I can’t say from the show because I don’t know if I would have figured it out yet, but I know the spoiler for why he’s seeing his mom. And I made a really good… well, I say “really good,” but really bad joke about it on Twitter one time.
ISAAC: But I’ll save that.
DEE: Save that for later.
VRAI: I think all of the data is there now, but you’d have to be a very close watcher to have picked up all of it.
ISAAC: Yeah, I think so.
LIZZIE: I think for me, it just reminded me of the mommy and daddy kinks some folks are into. And psychologically, I get where that comes from, but that doesn’t mean that I’m comfortable with it. I get that you have a lot of things to work out, especially if you’ve been kicked out of your home for a lot of reasons and you want this connection with somebody, and older folks preying on young ones. But still, I don’t like daddy and mommy kinks. It’s so… [Hums dubiously]
VRAI: There’s a lot of Oedipal stuff because Lacan was reacting to Freud specifically. Did I mention that? He was also a psychoanalyst.
LIZZIE: Ah, Freud. Ah, Freud.
ISAAC: You can tell. You can feel the Freudian stuff, too, for sure.
LIZZIE: Ah, Freud. He needs to just stop.
LIZZIE: [Through laughter] He’s dead, but still…
DEE: [crosstalk] I feel like he did stop.
VRAI: [crosstalk] He’s not stopped enough.
LIZZIE: He still needs to stop.
VRAI: Not sufficiently stopped.
DEE: Can I… Sorry. Can I just circle back to Kaji real quick because I—
VRAI: Yes. No, please.
DEE: I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s a little uncertain with him, because I do not know what the series wants me to do with him. Because this stretch I kept going, “Okay, Kaji, that was a pretty good thing. Oh no, Kaji, that was a shitty thing. Okay, Kaji, that was a pretty good thing.” Just cycling like that.
Because the conversation we keep talking about, him and Shinji in the bedroom, it starts with Shinji talking about trying to understand other people, and Kaji’s like, “Well, at a certain point, you’re never going to know 100% everything about somebody else, and you probably won’t know everything about yourself.” And then he basically says, “That’s okay, though. Makes life interesting: the communication and trying to reach a point where you can sort of understand each other.”
And I’m like, “Hey, Kaji, pretty solid advice for a 14-year-old trying to figure this stuff out. It’s okay if you don’t understand somebody 100%, but the effort is important in trying to empathize with people. Good job, Kaji.”
And then immediately he goes, “Oh, but women! Them, they’re the worst! Am I right?” And then I’m like, “No, you fucked it up! You fucked it all up in Kansas City, Kaji! What’re you doing?”
So, I don’t know what to do with him, and I think the most frustrating thing for me is I don’t know what the show wants me to do with Kaji.
VRAI: Yeah, I don’t think the show knows either. [Chuckles]
DEE: So, he’s all over the place this stretch, and I can’t get a read on if I’m supposed to see him as a decent mentor. Maybe he’s supposed to be as complicated and messy as Misato, who is also at times wonderful and at other times a self-loathing spiral of a mess, even though I love her and she’s the heart of these episodes, I feel. Her genuine concern—
ISAAC: She’s kinda rough.
DEE: Her genuine concern for Shinji in both of the moments where it looks like he might be dead or soup is really affecting to me, because so many of the adults in this very clearly don’t give a shit about the kids outside of “What can they do for me?” and Misato genuinely wants them to be okay. And she’s not always good at expressing that, but I think it is important to have her there as this emotional balance to all these very distanced and logical authority figures on the other side of things.
LIZZIE: And I like that she gets mad, too, especially when she slaps Ritsuko in the face a couple of times in this stretch. Because now she’s very much aware that a lot of stuff is being kept secret from her and it’s clear to her that Ritsuko and everyone else in the higher-ups, they really don’t care about the kids. It’s all about the data; what that data can do for them. If their life is gone, then whatever.
And then you find out that apparently Shinji’s entire class, they’re candidates to become Eva pilots if need be; if one of them goes down. That was a surprise, by the way.
But beyond that, she cares about them. I feel like she’s the only one who genuinely cares about saving the pilots, no matter what the situation is. But it’s also really eerie to see that they’re expendable if something happens to them.
VRAI: As much as I love Shinji and I have intense empathy for him, I’m prepared to call Misato the hero of the series. She’s not just smart and caring, but she’s the only one actively trying to get to the bottom of things.
Everybody else mentions time and time again that “Well, we’ve got this stuff. I don’t really know where it came from or what it does. It was here when I came on.” And there’s this sort of unsettling lack of curiosity as to the progeny of this science and what it took to get it.
ISAAC: Yeah, she’s really the only one going like, “Does no one else think it’s kinda weird that these giant robots have teeth and are eating the Angels? Anybody? Anyone?”
VRAI: [crosstalk] Very upsetting teeth!
ISAAC: She’s looking around and Ritsuko’s like, “Ah. It broke out. That is bad.”
LIZZIE: [crosstalk] Oh, hey, they also grow a human arm? I was like, okay, what is that?
DEE: Apparently, that’s what’s under their armor, so that’s terrifying.
VRAI: Big teeth!
DEE: The Evas are terrifying. Yeah, Misato… Vrai, I’m glad you said that, because I had a note that I sort of snarkily wrote down this time around that was “Misato should’ve been the protagonist.”
Yeah, she’s a very well-written character, and I think she’s one of the few characters in this stretch who they don’t— This stretch very much zeroes back in on Shinji to, I think, sometimes the show’s detriment, because the last stretch did such a good job of expanding the cast that zooming back in now feels like we’re taking a step backwards.
But the show keeps checking in with Misato and giving her an arc and internal conflict, and this relationship where she’s trying to look after these kids even though she also has to send them out into danger, and she’s trying to figure out what’s going on.
So, I think she comes across the best in this stretch beyond Shinji. Because Rei gets a little bit, Asuka gets a little bit, but it feels like they get pushed up on a shelf more to act as vehicles to make Shinji do things than as proper characters, which was a bit frustrating.
VRAI: Mm-hm. Yeah, I think when we talk about thematic frustrations with this arc and not being sure what the show is trying to say or what the hell Kaji is there for, I think that is a symptom of the fact that Anno is working through things through Shinji, and so everything is filtered through Shinji’s neuroses and point of view, and that’s not where the show was heading.
DEE: And I super don’t want to come down on Anno for that, because good for you, dude. I’m glad you worked through your depression. This was cathartic and therapeutic for you, and I don’t want to… Again, this show is very important for a lot of people, and one of the reasons a lot of people are very defensive of it is because it also had that deep personal, emotional connection.
I think we talked about this off recording the other day, and I was like “Damn, we should’ve talked about this on recording.” But Vrai, you were saying you know people who have said, “Eva literally saved my life.”
VRAI: Yeah, people on the site. We did a talk post when the Netflix premiere dropped, and there was more than one person who said, “I would be dead if I hadn’t had Evangelion.” It is an important show for people.
DEE: And I feel like I’ve been extremely critical this stretch, and I do not want to minimize that or take that away from people. I think that’s wonderful that Eva has done that for so many people.
We are in the unenviable position where we are also media critics analyzing and criticizing a show, and so if there are hiccups within the show itself, I want to talk about those, but I don’t want that to sound like I’m snubbing my nose at people who have had these important personal one-on-one experiences with the show that it helped them. Because, again, I think that’s wonderful, and there is no interest on my side of taking that away from anybody.
ISAAC: Yeah. I know I have had many, many occasions where somebody’s talked about a show that I loved and they’ve had criticisms or whatever, and I’ve just read those or heard those and been like, “You just don’t get it.” And I’m sure to an extent that when I say some of the stuff we’ve talked about this episode, there are gonna be people who will watch this and be like, “Wow, you people have missed the entire point of what this show is about. You don’t understand anything.”
So, yeah, I appreciate what you say, Dee, and I just want to echo that for myself, that I certainly don’t want to come down against anybody’s personal experience with the show; and just recognizing that to some extent, like the show itself has said, I can’t understand what other people’s experiences—especially the really intense ones—I can’t understand what those experiences are like or were like for you. It’s just not possible for me to sit in your shoes in that way.
And just to acknowledge that that’s okay, and you’re right: I just don’t get it. I have missed the point, and I apologize. I deeply apologize. But not really, because that’s my experience of the show, and we’re all going to have our own reactions.
LIZZIE: Yeah, I can agree to that. It’s definitely important to acknowledge that, “hey, I totally get it. This show meant a lot to so many people, and that’s 100% valid.” But we are going to have our own critiques of the show, and hopefully people will be receptive to it.
But as of now, I think Eva’s doing a lot of interesting things. There’s a lot to critique so far, but so far I’m having a pretty decent time, if that makes any sense. I like that Shinji’s such a soft boy. Maybe it’ll change in the last stretch and I might hate him, but it’s frustrating now that I’ve seen so much criticism about him being so soft. And as of now, I’m like, “Okay, what is wrong with him being so soft? This is a valid way to be in the world.”
ISAAC: And he’s not soft all the time. After he threatens to blow up the entire HQ—which, to be fair, may be a little bit of a hissy fit from a teen—but he’s very assertive and stands up. His dad’s like, “Do you have anything to say for yourself?” and basically he says, “Yeah, piss off. I’m leaving.” And I’m like, “Yeah! Go, Shinji!” How do you not like the way he makes that decision for himself and then takes action and then follows through?
And then, obviously he changes his mind later, but we’ve talked about that already. I don’t know. There’s a lot more to like about Shinji than to dislike, I think.
LIZZIE: Yeah, I like that he finally is at a point where he doesn’t need this man’s approval anymore. He can make affirmative decisions on his own, and that’s valid.
I mean, how many of us have been in that position where we feel disenfranchised against people who are toxic in our lives? And then to make that decision to say no, like “I don’t have to deal with your crap or deal with whatever you’re telling me. I can walk away,” that’s a really empowering thing for a kid like Shinji to say and do to a man who’s brought him nothing but misery.
VRAI: [Fondly, like a proud parent] Yeah.
DEE: [Chuckles] Yeah, I don’t know if this was intentional of the show, but I think folks coming down super hard on Shinji is those same gendered expectations in the show itself manifesting in the real world, and it might be a good idea to examine that, if that’s your first instinct.
And I say that as somebody who watched this when I was about Shinji’s age, 14, and got frustrated at him for not “getting in the robot,” as the saying goes. And I have since examined those feelings and realized that they were unfair.
And like you guys said, I like Shinji this time through, and I think he’s a really well-written character, and it sucks that both the people in the show and the audience are trying to hammer out those compassionate, soft points of his.
ISAAC: Yeah. Plus, just factually, he gets in the robot a lot.
DEE: He does!
ISAAC: He’s in the robot probably more than he’s not in the robot, overall. So, you hear these memes, and I’m expecting scenes and scenes of him being like, “No, I’m not getting in the robot!” But that really doesn’t happen. He’s in it all the time!
LIZZIE: Yeah, so that fact is incorrect.
DEE: [crosstalk] [Chuckles] True.
VRAI: Ah, this warms my heart, and I’m sad that I have to wrangle us all in now. Rapid-fire quick shot. Do you all have any last predictions for this final stretch of episodes?
DEE: I still got my fingers crossed they’re gonna talk it out.
LIZZIE: That’s how we have to end it. [Chuckles]
DEE: Well, unfortunately we have to do our housekeeping, so Peter can’t just bring in the music right there.
ISAAC: I have no predictions. I just want Asuka to get to actually win a battle for once. That would be nice. But I don’t think it’s gonna happen.
DEE: That would be nice, wouldn’t it?
VRAI: [crosstalk] It would!
ISAAC: But it would be nice.
VRAI: It would be nice. Oh…
LIZZIE: Yeah, I want the young girl pilots to get equal attention and love, but I don’t feel like that’s gonna happen.
VRAI: Yeah, that would be super nice.
LIZZIE: Yeah, I have a feeling Kaji’s gonna die, because he said so. Well, not really. He’s just like, “This is the last gift I’ll give you.” So, I was like, “Okay, so I guess you’re gonna die.”
It’s probably gonna get more trippy from here, because I felt episode 20… that’s when it started getting really trippy. I was like, “Okay, so I’m expecting a lot more annoying trips on this one.”
DEE: You’re not wrong.
VRAI: I love this so much!
Okay. So, if you are watching along with us at home, next time your homework is for episodes 21 through 26, which is the TV ending of the series. It’ll be fun and exciting, and I’m sure everyone will have a lot to say.
If you really liked it, why not toss us a dollar at patreon.com/animefeminist? Every little bit helps to help us pay our contributors and our editors so we can keep making content on the page and in your ears. You can get hold of us on social media.
And remember: it’s okay to stop giving a fuck about your toxic parent figures.
ISAAC: Piss off, Gendo!
DEE: Piss off, Gendo! [Chuckles]
VRAI: Hell yes!