ReWATCH of Evangelion:06

Decisive Battle in Tokyo-III

The Battle of Yashima was a skirmish long ago in Japan’s history in which a great many famous personages figured. The central figure, however, was a guy by the name of Yoichi, whom you nerds may recognize from the weapon in Final Fantasy IV called Yoichi’s Bow. This is where it’s from: Yoichi was an archer who was dared by his opponents to shoot a folding paper fan high atop the mast of their boat, so he rode out into the sea on horseback and did precisely that.

Neon Genesis Evangelion‘s sixth episode revolves around Operation Yashima, a battle to be won or lost based on a similarly improbable act of sniping: Shinji has to use an Evangelion-sized particle beam rifle to pierce the Fifth Angel’s energy shield (“AT field”) and core in a single shot from a sufficient range that Unit-01 won’t be melted to a puddle before Shinji can even draw a bead on it. It’s a simple premise for an episode, with the looming threat of the Angel’s attempts to drill down into the Geofront and destroy (?) NERV headquarters providing a hard deadline, and the clear simplicity of the linear story path offers a number of opportunities for character shading on the side.

We see Misato acting as an actual professional for the first time. Not only does she bark out orders to her young roommate, she’s also in charge of NERV’s tactical planning. Once Shinji and the battered Unit-01 are retrieved from the Angel’s line of fire — Episode 06 follows immediately on from the events of Episode 05 — Misato’s role is to oversee the development of a strategy capable of countering the marauder, then presenting it to her roommate’s dad. She’s very professional about it, but all the weird family stuff that provides much of Evangelion’s central drama can feel oddly out of place in these tense moments.

You also begin to develop a sense of NERV’s place in the grand scheme of things. Misato’s plan involves the aforementioned giant particle rifle, which is a device currently being prototyped by Japan’s Special Self Defense Force. Moreover, the rifle requires such a tremendous amount of energy output to snipe the Angel that it has to be plugged into the sum total of Japan’s power resources. NERV evidently has the clout to requisition the SSDF’s secret project, rewire all of Japan to feed a gun, and enact a nationwide power outage.

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Rei II

The most important developments, however, happen between Shinji and Rei. Things are still weird between them after Shinji’s intrusion at her apartment, but the reality is that things are weird between Rei and everyone and haven’t become particularly weirder with Shinji as a result of what transpired earlier in the day — which makes it all even weirder. If that makes sense. Shinji, though, doesn’t really seem to understand the utter emptiness that is Rei and mistakes her complete apathy and lack of self as courage. In part, this is because he’s unaware of exactly what kind of trauma Rei has suffered in her short stint in Unit-00′s cockpit; he somewhat selfishly assumes she hasn’t suffered the way he has, perhaps thinking her head injuries came from a car accident or something.

But Rei tells him she has no purpose in life but to pilot her Eva. “It’s a bond — a bond with all people,” she explains. This sounds high-minded and noble, though she’s probably referring to her own nature, of which she seems vaguely aware if not fully conscious: She’s a cloned human body containing the soul of the being that spawned the entire human race. Though of course the series never actually explains this fact in any clear terms.

This remark, along with her flat promise that Shinji won’t die in combat because she’ll protect him, seems to cement his comprehension of her lack of emotion and ego. So when she sacrifices herself to buy him time to gun down the Angel, he leaps into action to rescue her from her damaged Entry Plug. Just like his father, of course — except that instead of calmly taking in Rei’s injuries like Gendo did weeks before, Shinji breaks down into tears. Nonplussed, Rei admits she has no idea how to respond to the fact the Shinji came to her rescue and immediately began crying.

“Just try smiling,” he says, and she does, and a bond forms between the two of them. It’s a touching moment, perhaps the most touching in the entire series, as two damaged children find strength in one another and begin the process of emotional healing by becoming friends. Because this is Evangelion, this is one of the last moments they’ll either one be happy in one another’s company, but the series hasn’t really bared its fangs yet and thus you can feel good about their breakthrough. You also don’t really appreciate the vaguely oedipal overtones of Rei bonding with Shinji as a mirror of her bond with his father, since Rei’s clone donor’s identity isn’t revealed until much later in the series. Suffice it to say that this episode reads as rather sweet on a first viewing and somewhat discomfiting the second time through.

11 thoughts on “ReWATCH of Evangelion:06

  1. Thank you for writing such a good article, the original series to me is the best so far the remake to me does not have the charm the original does or the impact Misato did

  2. Vega – I would assume so, considering it was a single season of the show and most of that work has to be done before animation starts.

  3. Eh, it didn’t find it that discomfiting. It’s not like it was the same person per se. But that conversation opens a hole bag of discussions so I’ll leave it at that. Has this series been out long enough to talk about spoilers?

  4. Sean C.,

    Seeing as how Jeremy semi-spoils the nature of the soul of Rei in the text of his write up, I’d say it’s all fair game.

  5. Oh man, getting hyped just reading this blog post. Only thing that could make things better is if I was listening to this song while reading:

    Remember when anime used to have music like this?

  6. I am finding that reading these articles and their synopsis are far more interesting than the actual watching of the show. I managed to get through about 26 episodes of the first series before I couldn’t take any more of the recycle “Shinji on a train” or “Shinji in a plug” scenes. And the ambiguous way they tell the overall story was just not my cup of tea.

    But maybe it was because I actually enjoyed the giant robot genre a lot back then and didn’t need to watch someone dissect it and analyze it.

    Thanks for the interesting articles, Jeremy.

  7. @Reggie There was no first series! 26 episodes was the whole danged show. You made it to the end.

    “Congratulations!”

    “Congratulations!”

    “Congratulations!”

  8. As a 19 year old watching this episode for the first time many years ago, it was like a great revelation where I realized where all my favorite sequences from Final Fantasy VII were originally born. All the parts involving Shin-Ra’s obsession enormous guns that ward off giant monsters seem to come from here.

    Square even lifted the “plug the entire electrical grid of a future-metropolis into one super-packed shell” bit. It was enough that I made a friend who liked FF7 for most of the same reasons sit down and watch this, though he later told me that he didn’t dig the show and it was essentially a waste of his time.

    The similarity was something I stumbled upon by accident, which wasn’t bad for a kid who still had no idea who William Gibson was.

  9. Notably, this is also the end of the first movie. I still haven’t watched Eva 2.0 (the thought of watching Eva being eternally exhausting), but to my understanding, after following each other pretty much to the letter up to this point, the series and the movies start to diverge significantly from here on out.

  10. Hmm, maybe I didn’t make it to 26, then. It sure didn’t feel like there was any “ending” per say when I finally called it quits. And by “first series” I meant everything before the movies and additional video game plots. Most fans of the series told me things still don’t get explained through all that supplemental material, so I kind of left myself hanging. Hopefully these articles will give me some closure, since I am not motivated to revisit Evangelion on my own.

    Also, the Rei fetishism that surrounded this period of anime history didn’t help my distaste for the series. Come to think of it, it never really went away. :(

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