The Baron Re-Watches "Neon Genesis Evangelion" (SPOILERS)

This is one of those anime that is sort of a must-watch if you're an anime fan. Since it's the show's 20th anniversary, I figured I'd  take another look at it.  From what I've read, it was meant to be director Hideaki Anno's critique of the whole mecha/giant robot genre, but that alot of his personal history of clinical depression started to bleed into the series.   Anyway, we shall see.

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We start with Episode 1: "Angel Attack". In the distant future year of 2015, and after a fifteen year respite, New Tokyo-3 comes under attack by a creature called an "angel". It looks like this:

It's name is "Sachiel", although this wasn't given in the episode that I heard. I can't help thinking that it somehow reminds me of Alice the Goon from Thimble Theater

The Angel generates an "A.T. Field" that makes it impervious to most conventional weapons.   UN forces launch an all-out attack on the Angel,  which fails utterly, as it always does in these kinds of stories.  

Next we meet our protagonist, Shinji Ikari, a 14 year old boy who seems not to have noticed that the city was evacuated.

He looks like this:

Take a good look at that smile, because you won't see it again much, he's a mopy little bugger.  Our Shinji has been summoned by his estranged father, whom he hasn't seen in three years. Nothing is yet said on where his mother is. You just don't get many anime characters with two parents and healthy, normal relationships with both.

He is eventually picked up by Captain Misato Katsuragi. She looks like this:

She comes across as a somewhat bumbling party girl, the sort who gets lost in her own headquarters, sort of a slightly more serious predecessor to Yukari Tanizaki of Azumanga Daioh.  She even has Yukari's lack of driving skills.  Misato takes Shinji to the secret underground HQ of NERV, a top-secret organization tasked with fighting the Angels. This is their logo:

Misato gets lost, and has to call for help form Ritsuko Akagi. She looks like this:

She is a scientist who is apparently going to be the Serious One in counterpoint to Misato's Frivolous One. She tells Shinji about the Evangelions  (a.k.a EVA's), which are humanity's only weapons against the Angels. She shows him EVA-01, which looks like this:

Shinji is brought before the Commander of NERV, who happens to be his estranged father, Gendo Ikari, who happens to look like this:

He also happens to be my candidate for the worst father in all of anime.  He never shows the least bit of paternal interest in Shinji.   He is accompanied by his second-in-command, Kouzou Fuyutsuki. He looks like this:

NERV has used an N2 mine to slow the Angel's attack, but Gendo needs Shinji to pilot EVA-01 to fight the Angel, as apparently Shinji is the only healthy person who can pilot the EVA becasue reasons.  Shinji reacts negatively to this, basically feeling that his father only contacted him because he needed him for something.  While this seems to be true, Shinji comes across as whiny and a bit of an hysteric. interesting choice, making your protagonist thoroughly unpleasant.

Anyway, since Shinji refuses to pilot the EVA, Gendo decides to use the only other pilot available, despite the fact that she's still in the hospital from a previous accident. The pilot is Rei Ayanami. She looks like this:

She is voiced by the ubiquitous Megumi Hayashibara.  I'm not sure it's legal to make an anime with her in it.

When the angel attacks, the EVA protects him even though there isn't a pilot in it. Shinji saves Rei from some falling rubble and agrees to pilot the EVA even though he he no idea how, mostly because Rei's obviously in no shape to do it. As the episode ends, Shinji is in the cockpit of the EVA, getting ready to fight the Angel.

Overall:  An interesting start. Lots and lots of questions to be answered. Aren't really any likable characters in it so far. the artwork is real nice, though. The opening theme is called "Cruel Angel's Thesis". The closing theme is "Fly Me To The Moon".  Apparently there's a different version for every episode. Here's one.

Episode 2 is "The Beast".  Shinji's attempts to pilot the EVA lead to it falling flat on its face. The Angel breaks the EVA's left arm, then stabs it in its head. Pretty gruesome stuff! We then cut to Shinji waking up in a hospital bed. Elsewhere, Gendo is getting called on the carpet fpr spending too much money, and for delaying the Human Instrumentality Project, whatever that is. It's described as being humankind's last hope.  Misato insists that Shinji come to live with her, rather than living alone. From the state of her apartment, she seems to be an alcoholic slob who make sShinji do most of the chores.  It's weird how this story seems to go back-and-forth between "apocalyptic robot drama" and " wacky sitcom". We also meet Pen-Pen, Misato's  pet and "one of the new hot springs penguins", whatever that is.  It looks like this:

Shinji  first encounters Pen-Pen in the bath, and is so startled that he runs out naked, in what surely the least welcome bit of "fan service, ever.  Misato tells Shinji that he saved Tokyo-3, but he remembers nothing. That night, in bed, (Side note: It's 2015, and Shinji is still listening to an old "Walkman"-style tape player. I guess they didn't foresee MP3's at that point.), Shinji remembers the end of the fight After beign stabbed in the head, EVA-01 went berserk, regenerated its broken arm, and broke through the Angel's AT Field, really hammering the crap out of it. The Angel self-destructed, but the EVA and Shinji survived. We end with Shinji in bed, twitching.

Overall: OK, some plot developments, at least. Obviously, the EVA's are more than just robots.  As I noted above, it is weird how the mood of this piece shifts.

Watched episode 3: "A Transfer". We get some exposition, here. In 2000, the Antarctic was struck by a meteor, which melted the ice cap, and knocked the Earth off its axis, killing half the human race and messing up the weather so that it's always hot, with no seasons anymore.

Shinji is sent to the same school that Rei attends, where we meet some of his classmates. First we meet Kensuke Aida, who is something of a military hardware fanatic. He looks like this:

Next we meet Hikari Horaki, the class rep who fights a losing battle to get the others to take school seriously. She looks like this:

Finally, we meet Toji Suzuhara, something of a tough guy. He looks like this:

Toji is upset because his little sister was hurt during the last Angel attack.  Shinji becomes something of a celebrity when he admits to being an EVA pilot. However, after school, Toji punches Shinji out for what happened to his sister.  Meanwhile, another Angel shows up.  Other sources give  its name as "Shamshel", but here it's just called "the Fourth Angel". It looks like this:

Everyone seems particularly piqued that an Angel showed up while Gendo away away, which they treat as though it were merely rudeness.

As Shinji goes into battle, Kensuke persuades Toji to seek out of the shelter with him to watch the battle.  Shinji sees his two classmates and tires to defend them. Misato orders him to take them aboard the EVA and then retreat. He takes them aboard, but refuses to retreat, instead going berserk and stabbing the Angel with his progressive knife, which is a weapon the EVAs have. We end with Toji and Kensuke back at school, wondering why they haven't seen Shinji in several days.  At Kensuke's urging, Toji goes to cal Shinji...

Overall:  Interesting stuff, as they slowly expand the cast and reveal more about the world the characters live in.

Episode 4: "Hedgehog's Dilemma"  - Shinji runs away after being bawled out by Misato for disobeying orders.  We get lengthy scenes of him riding a train out into the countryside.  Kensuke and Toji come looking for him, but Misato lies and says he's busy at NERV.    We get some exposition that only 14 year-olds can pilot EVAs.  Later, Kensuke is out in the boonies playing war when he encounters Shinji. They spend the night out there, and Kensuke reveals that he no longer has a mother, either. In the morning, NERV agents haul Shinji back to HQ, and he quits after a fight with Misato.  Kesnuke and Toji see him off at the train station, and an apologetic Toji insists that Shinji hit him one to make up for Toji hitting him.  A repentant Misato races to the train Station just as Shinji's train leaves, but after a long reveal we see that he didn't get on the train. The episode ends as Misato and Shinji reconcile.

Overall:  Another OK episode, as we see that Shinji has grown enough to begin making his first friends, making him a touch less unsympathetic.

Watched Episode 5: Rei I", in which we flashback 22 days to see the original test of EVA Unit 00, which looks like this:

The test went badly wrong, and Gendo burned his hands rescuing the badly-injured Rei. We learn that all of Rei's personal history has been erased and that the test failure was attributed to mental instability on her part. 

Back in the present, Ritsuko is looking over the remnants of the Angel Shinji stabbed. She say that it shows a 99.89% match to humans, which seems unlikely.

Later, in  gym class, Kensuke and Toji tease Shinji for staring at Rei. Shinji is wondering why she's always alone.  At NERV, he sees her chatitng cheerfully with Gendo.

We veer back into sitcom territory as Ritsuko has dinner with Misato and Shinji. We get a bit of comedy business as it turns out that Misato is a terrible cook. Ritsuko asks Shinji to bring Rei her new security card. Shinji brings the card over to Rei's quarters. Receiving no answer when he rings, and finding the door unlocked, her lets himself in. (This is one of those things that bugs me worse than any amount of giant robot nonsense. You don't go letting yourself into someone's place if you're not sure whether they're there or not!)  Anyway, Shinji looks around- the apartment is sparsely furnished and messy.  He notices that Rei has a pair of Gendo's glasses that broke when he rescued her.  Rei wanders into the room with only a towel draped around her shoulders.  Shinji somehow contrives to fall on top of her.  What another anime might have played as a Wacky Misunderstanding Fan Service moment instead is made creepier and more awkward by Rei's utterly emotionless response.

Later, at NERV, Shinji tries to apologize, and then asks Rei if she is sanguine about testing Unit 00 and when he says he has no faith in his father, she slaps him.   The test goes well, but a new Angel, Ramiel, appears. It looks like this:

Not one of their more inspired designs, I think.  Shinji is sent out in 01, but the Angel blasts a hole right through the EVA...

Overall:  Things progress as we get more backstory. The pacing feels glacial.

Next up is Episode 6 "Rei II".  NERV retrieves the damaged EVA as the Angle drills down to get at NERV HQ.  NERV soon realizes that the Angel has advanced weapons and shielding that makes a close-in attack impractical. Misato concocts  a plan to conduct a long-range sniper attack using a positron cannon borrowed from the Army and Japan's entire electricity output.   Rei is sent to tell Shinji the plan, and he gets all whiny but agrees to do it in the end. He is disturbed when Rei tells him that she has no reason to live other than piloting the EVA. Kernsuke and Toji watch as the EVAs launch. Shinji is the gunner and Rei acts as his shield.  His first shot misses, but Rei shields him when the Angel counterattacks.  His second shot takes the Angel out.  Shinji rushes to make sure Rei is safe, and gets a smile from her...

Overall:  A fun episode, with both Shinji and Rei getting humanized, a bit.  If nothing else, the part where Shinji asks Rei to smile provoked the following amusing gag:

Episode 7 is "A Human Work". We see Gendo scheming with various shadowy types to cover things up and to get funding. "Shadow government" types turn up in alot of anime/manga.  The idea that the people we see on TV aren't the ones really running things seems to be big in Japan.

Another running theme in this episode is that despite her glamorous public image, at home Misato is a slob who likes a can of sake with her breakfast.  She in turn is happy to see Shinji becoming good friends with Kensuke and Toji, but she still orders him kept under surveillance.  She later comes to the school for a parent-teacher conference, where Shinji's two friends drool over her.

Later, at  NERV, we hear that EVA 02 is coming over from Germany. Shinji is told that the Second Impact was not a natural disaster - mankind found an Angel and it blew up.  Misato and Ritsuko go to Tokyo to attend the demonstration of Jet Alone, a corporate-made, nuclear-powered giant robot designed as an alternative to the EVAs.  It looks like this:

Ritsuko spars with a corporate type, and the two NERV agents are distressed to learn that he knows about the AT Field. When the test commences, Jet alone immediately goes out of control, and marches towards a nearby city. There is a danger that its reactor may melt down. Misato summons Shinji in EVA 01, and has him place her on JA so that can get inside of it and shut it down. Shinji tires to restrain the rogue-bot, but Misato cannot get it to shut down. At the last minute, it shuts down by itself.  Back at NERV, we see that Gendo was behind Jet Alone going berserk.

We end with Shinji complaining to Kensuke and Toji that they wouldn't be so hot for Misato if they saw how sloppy she was at home. they suggest to him that the reason she's willing to show them that side of herself to him is because she thinks of him like family.

Overall: Another interesting episode.  Good to see a little more of the world outside NERV, that not everyone is relying on the EVAs alone to stop the Angels.

Episode 8 is "Asuka Strikes!"  Misato flies Shinji, Toji and Kensuke out to the fleet that's escorting EVA 02 and the Second Child to Japan.  (How bringing the latter two along squares with NERV being a secret organization is beyond me, especially with the ecstatic Kensuke filming everything with his camcorder.)

The UN ships are oddly-named. The flagship is the carrier Over the Rainbow, and there are other ships called CymbelineTitus AndronicusTempest and Othello.  The commander of the fleet resents the duty, deeming it babysitting.

They meet Asuka Langley Soryu.  She looks like this:

She is brash and headstrong, which covers up a deep insecurity. She tosses occasional words of German into her language.  There follows a distasteful scene where she slaps Toji after he bends down to pick up his fallen hat and sees up her skirt. He responds by dropping trou in front of her and she slaps him again. This is the sort of thing that makes me cringe as an anime fan.  Asuka is aggressively unimpressed by Shinji.  

We also meet Kaji Ryoji, who appears to be a former lover of Misato.  He looks like this:

He teases Misato and Shinji, to Misato's distress. Asuka is obviously crushing on Kaji. Asuka insists on showing Shinji EVA 02, which looks like this:

She brags on it being the first real combat-ready EVA.  they are suddenly attacked by Gaghiel the Sixth Angel.  It looks like this:

The navy attacks it, but has no luck.  Asuka launches the 02, with Shinji as unwilling passenger.  While this is going on, we see that Kaji is up to something.  EVA 02 is apparently programmed for German thought patterns, as Shinji's Japanese thought patterns interfere with it, so Asuka has to re-set it. Asuka hooks 02 up to a power cord, so that it can operate longer. As the Angel drags the 02 overboard, Kaji takes of fin a plane, saying he has to make a delivery.   The Angel swallows 02, and Misato decides to try to reel the Angle in like a fish.  They scuttle two battleships so that they'll be sucked into the Angel's mouth, after which they'll be detonated, killing the Angle. Shinji and Asuka manage to pry the Angel's mouth open, and escape. the plan works, and the Angel is killed. 

We see Kaji delivering a sort of weird embryo thing to Gendo. It is described as "the first human being", "Adam" and "the key to human instrumentality".  We end with Asuka showing up as a pupil at Shinji's school, much to Toji's dismay.

Overall: A good episode.  Asuka and Kaji are both innteresting characters.

Episode 9  is "Both of You, Dance Like You Want to Win!"

We start at school, where Kensuke's been selling photos of Asuka, while she attempts to make friends with a reluctant Rei. Meanwhile, at NERV, Kaji playfully smooth-talks Ritsuko.  Meanwhile, the seventh Angel, Israfel, attacks. It looks like this:

Misato sends out Asuka and Shinji. Asuka charges ahead on her own, cutting the Angel in half. However, the two halves grow into complete beings, and defeat the two EVAs humiliatingly.   The UN stops the Angel temporarily, and Fuyutsuki bawls the two pilots out.  Misato makes Asuka move in with her and Shinji. Only a coordinated attack can defeat the Angel, so the two must live and work together so that they can learn to work as a team.  Kensuke, Toji and Hikari visit Asuka and Shinji, only to find Misato and Rei observing as the duo utterly fail at synchronized dancing. When Asuka complains that no one could coordinate with Shinji, Misato calls on Rei, who synchs with Shinji perfectly.  Asuka storms off, humiliated, and Hikari makes Shinji go after her.  Asuka determines that she will succeed in order to show up Misato and Rei. We next get a parody of a sports anime training montage, showing our heroes learning to work together.  

The night before the attack is due, Misato is working all night, so Asuka and Shinji are left at home alone. When they go to bed, Asuka warns Shinji to stay out of her room.  Later, she gets up to use the facilities and then (accidentally?) lies down next to Shinji. He hears her calling for her mother in her sleep. He moves as if to kiss her, but then backs down.  At NERV,  Kaji kisses Misato, who isn't sure how she feels about it, later talking it over with Ritsuko.

When the Angel attacks the next day, Asuka and Shinji coordinate perfectly, destroying the Angel. However, afterwards, they go right back to squabbling...

Overall: An interesting, if weird, episode. It's alternately heavy and light-hearted.

Episode 10 is "Magma Diver".  Asuka goes shopping with Kaji to pick up swimwear for the class trip to Okinawa. However, she soon discovers that the EVA pilots can't go because they have to be on standby in case of Angel attack. Misato suggest they use the time to catch up on their studies, as they're both doing badly in school. We cut to Shinji studying physics while Asuka and Rei use the NERV pool.  We learn that Asuka graduated from college in Germany, but is having trouble in high school in Japan because she hasn't learned the necessary kanji yet.    She teasingly tries to teach a flustered Shinji about thermal expansion, using her breasts as an example.

NERV detects an embryonic Angel in a volcanic, and they decide to try and capture it. They send Asuka down in 02, which is wearing a special thermal protection suit. The pressure is on, as the UN Air force is standing by to blast them all if they fail, rather than let the Angel loose.  Asuka loses her prog knife, but succeeds in catching the Angel. However, the Angel hatches and goes on the attack. The Angel, which is called Sandalphon, looks like this:

Shinji drops his knife down to her, and she catches it, but it's ineffective against the Angel's hard shell. Shinji reminds her of physics, and she fires so coolant against the super-heated Angel, rendering it vulnerable. The Angel is destroyed, but Asuka is trapped in the volcano. Shinji manages to rescue her in 01, and Misato, Asuka and Shinji go to a local hot springs resort, where they are joined by Pen-Pen. Shinji overhears Asuka and Misato frolicking in the women's side of the bath, and undergoes some thermal expansion of his own.  (I give them credit for avoiding the usual manga cliche of the boy "accidentally" seeing the women naked.)  We end with Asuka noticing Misato's car, and asking if Misato knows about her past.    Misato says she knows because it's her job, but that they both have things they need to move beyond.

Overall; One of my favorite episodes, lots of action and interaction, and nothing horrendously bad happened to anyone.

Episode 11 is "The Day Tokyo-3 Stood Still".  We get a glimpse of how the lesser NERV types live their daily lives, and learn that NERV's threw "Magi" super-computers actually run the city government.  Shinji is havign yet another painful conversation with Gendo, when the phone line goes dead. The power goes out for NERV and Tokyo-3, in such a way that it is obviously sabotage by some human agency.  Just as someone at NERV says, "It would be bad if an Angel attacked right now", an Angel attacks. It is Matarael, and it looks like this:

The three EVA pilots decide to make their way to NERV by themselves. Asuka appoints herself the group leader, although it becomes increasingly obvious that Rei is the only one who knows where they're going. Asuka gets them comedy lost, and when Rei eventually commences leading the wya, Asuka tries to pick a fight with her.   One of the NERV peons commandeers an election truck and races to NERV to warn them of the Angel's attack, while Misato and Kaji are stuck in an elevator. Ritsuko, Fuyutsuki and Gendo work out that whoever did it wants to observe how NERV will respond Gendp personally oversees prepping the EVAs manually, and the pilots finally arrive just as they are done.  The EVAs must physically climb the exit shaft, and the Angel starts pouring acid down it. Asuka come sup with a plan to fight the Angel, which works quite well. and the Angle is destroyed.  Afterwards, we see the three pilots outside, looking at the night sky and philosophizing as the powers comes back on....

Overall: another good episode.  I'm a sucker for "people pull together in the faceof unexpected adversity" stories.

Episode 12 is "She said 'Don't make others suffer for your personal hatred.'"  We start with a flashback to the Second Impact, with Misato's father setting her adrift in an escape pod.  In the presnet day, Kensuke and Toji visit Shinji, and notice that Misato has been promoted to major. Later, the three pilots have a harmonics test, and Asuka is angry because Shinji has done well.  That night, Kensuke, Toji and Hikari through a party for Misato. Shinji isn't used to being around so many people, and Misato seems ambivalent about her promotion.  Kaji shows up with Ritsuko, much to Asuka's discomfort.  

Gendo and Fuyutsuki are at the South Pole, examining the dead sea where Antarctica used to be.  An Angel is detected in orbit, using an AT Field as a weapon.  It's called Sahaquiel, and is fairly goofy-looking:

NERV works out that it intends to drop itself on them, wiping them out.  Left in charge, Misato orders the evacuation of Tokyo-3.   Ritsuko accuses her of seeking personal revenge against the Angels.  Misato wants the pilots to catch the Angle when it falls from orbit. She promises them a steak dinner if they win. they pretend to be enthused by this, except for Rei, who won't eat meat.   Shinji asks Asuka why she's an EVA pilot. she says it's to show off her skills. When she asks him back, he doesn't know.  We flashback to Misato telling Shinji why she joined NERV.  She talks about how her father ignored her, but then died to save her.  The pilots catch the Angel when it flls, then Asuka stabs it.  Gendo praises Misato and Shinji.   The pilots take pity on Misato's budget and have her buy them ramen instead of steak.  Shinji admits that he pilots the EVA in order to win his father's praise.

Overall: Another good episode. Everyone seems to be getting along well, for once.

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