Just an update here from the valley of despair. We’re doing fine. Last week, we got attacked by a weird sorta colossus lookin’ snake horse. We’ve lost a couple readers. Supplies are looking fine. But now night is falling. And I’m worried that here in the desert of the real, the nights are colder than winter in Calgary. There’s nothing. Eventually, we’ll make it out of here. Until then, we’ll keep on walking. See you on the other side, spoiler-frees.

A Man’s Battle:

Shinji’s mental state has taken a turn for the worse, as this week opens with him hijacking Unit-01 and threatening to rampage through the geofront in revenge for his father forcing him to kill Toji. Hey, you remember episode 4? Hedgehog’s Dilemma? No lie, this is that episode over again. Shinji runs away, and the ramifications of that action. Let’s see how far we’ve come, shall we?

When Shinji ran away last time, the consequences weren’t that harsh. There were some harsh words exchanged, sure, but nothing at all truly awful befell anyone. This time, when he decides to run for it so he can never kill another human being with an Evangelion–well, stuff gets majorly wrecked. There are no delightfully complex character interactions this week. There is no emotional message. There is no overall theme to events being portrayed. The fact is, this is the week when the real world hits harder than the psychological world in every way.

Left without a pilot in Unit-01, an Angel attacks (best timing, these guys). It immediately breaches eighteen layers of shielding around the Geofront. That’s a lot. I think there are only forty or something. In any case, back in the first ten episodes, the Angel with a drill couldn’t get that far. Embracing this, they send Asuka out in a giant robot that she shares her feelings with. Not happiness or stuff like that. Pain. The Angel lops off both of her arms in two fell swoops and then beheads her. Beheads her Eva, I mean. She can feel all of that, but she gets to keep her head and limbs. That’s… that’s awful, man.

Rei is sent out into battle next, saying that it’s fine if she goes on a kamikaze mission, as she can be replaced. Replaced by whom? What the hell is that girl? As such, she runs into the fray carrying an N2 mine (remember those? the things that are as powerful as nukes but TOTALLY AREN’T NUKES OKAY), reaches through the Angel’s AT-Field (it’s like a forcefield, made of terror) and puts a nu–not nuke in its eye. Which blows up, seemingly obliterating Unit-00, and leaving the Angel intact.

Rei and Asuka are gone, leaving the Angel rampaging through the Geofront, heading straight for Central Dogma. Shinji’s spent the episode running away, but through a spectacular coincidence has seen this battle happen. Kaji–who’s watering his melons–says that he can choose to pilot or not. For the first time, Shinji runs into battle of his own choice. It’s an honestly inspiring scene, seeing Shinji finally embrace his destiny.

Until the power runs out, Eva goes berserk and eats the heart of an Angel, spraying blood and gore across the Geofront and gaining an infinite power source. Eva is made of flesh and bone, just like the Angels, and now, Unit-01 is unstoppable. Is now the time to mention that the closing theme every week is “Fly Me to the Moon”? God I hate that song.

WEAVING A STORY 2: oral stage:

Much like last week was a bigger, angstier version of an early arc episode to let you know how far we’ve come, this episode is an updating of one story in the place of another. For all intents and purposes, the second arc concluded last week. Now, there’s just the matter of Shinji reaching a 400% sync ratio with Unit-01, which has left him in a tight spot. Specifically, he’s merged with the LCL in his cockpit and abandoned his corporeal form.

I know we have only the old guard here, but I always account for people reading further than they should. It’s what I do, after all. What I wanna say is: hey, old guard, when I review End of Evangelion, I’ll be referring to this episode to explain why it’s a happier ending than everyone thinks. Hugs may blow on New Year’s Eve, 2015, but everyone’s gonna share the hangover.

This episode is the sequel to Weaving a Story, the clip show that came in the middle of a plot arc for no reason. That episode was an investigation into the mind and motivations of Rei Ayanami, a fascinating character. This week, it’s Shinji’s turn in the hot seat. Cos when you lose corporeal form, you tend to have a lot of time left to think. But first, what everyone else is doing!

Ritsuko and Misato fight so intensely, it’s like Misato values Shinji as more than a pilot, but also as a lov–son. Unit-00 is revealed to have stayed whole through the fight, Rei survived, Unit-01 is being held in the cage. Seele are going around having their multicolour meetings, cryptically talking about how everything blows. Okay, quick question: The dudes on the committee and Seele, two different groups? I’ve never understood that. Everyone at NERV spends an entire month trying to rescue Shinji from the pool of LCL he’s trapped inside.

Misato asks Ritsuko what an Evangelion really is. I suppose it’s time I say it out loud: They aren’t robots. They’re living, breathing, bleeding beings, restrained by what NERV passes off as armour, with a “living will” inside it. And Unit-01 feels like Shinji’s mom. Put two and two together at will, I think it’s gonna be spelled out soon.

Now, the ham of this sandwich: Shinji’s mental voyage. Okay, I think I can start busting out the “this is what makes Eva incredible” routine. What make Evangelion incredible are the sequences where giant robots give way to storytelling achieved through pure emotion. Granted, they also make it a headtrip to behold. Shinji’s realizations in this episode go beyond what words can say. Last episode, he asked why running away from life is a bad thing if life is a terrible thing to live. He ended up coming back that time, just like in the end, he emerges here. But not without us realizing the extent of his Oedipal issues and seeing the first glimpse of how truly broken Shinji is as a person.

It is purely emotional storytelling, and I’ve never seen that done successfully anywhere but Neon Genesis Evangelion (<-DVD box quote).

Second arc overall: THREE AND A HALF STARS. The series is really ramping up now, introducing plot elements left and right, new narrative methods and psychological complications. The train’s speeding up, but where’s it taking us?

PS: Misato’s reunion with Shinji in WEAVING A STORY 2 is a beautiful moment. Then, the moment Shinji’s back, the first thing she wants to do is have sex. SUBTEXT GALORE