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Neon Genesis Evangelion: 2D culture and more (Part 1)

Table of Contents

WHAT IS REAL? HOW DO I KNOW I AM SO?

In Evangelion, you can easily see the characters constantly asking themselves “what is reality?”. They ask themselves, is it the right thing to do? And above all, if right or wrong, who will decide as well as what standards they will base on?

For example, in ep 25, after Kaworu’s death, director Anno did this very well by asking a series of questions for his characters, starting with three kids driving EVA.

“Why did I kill Kaworu?
Because he is an Angel.
Because if we don’t, we all die.
Because I have no choice. ”
Sounds very convincing. Right?

Right after that, the movie changes scenes, Shinji gets lost alone in the mist. He became desperate because there was neither Rei nor Misato there. There was no one there who made a decision what he SHOULD do. Right now, Shinji admitted that he drove EVA for everyone. That by helping others, you will be praised. At this point, we find that the “standard” for “living rightly” is “living for everyone”.

Immediately, Asuka appeared and pointed out that Shinji was deceiving himself. That he drove EVA because he wanted to be praised by others. And because of that, Shinji was really just for himself. Asuka thought that what Shinji was looking for was just fake happiness. That instead of being alive by the pity of others, Shinji should actively seek his own happiness like Asuka.

At this point, the “standard” has shifted to “living for oneself” and from “passive” to “active”. However, this “standard” was immediately challenged by Rei. When she thinks that Asuka’s “way of life” is still “wrong”, because in essence, Asuka’s “existence” is still dependent on the perceptions of others. Asuka relates her “identity” to EVA driving. So if she could no longer have EVA, Asuka’s being would simply not exist. “Living right,” says Rei, means accepting yourself. Simply accept that “I am” even though that “I” is caused by the interaction between countless other “molded”.

However, Rei herself realizes that her existence is still dependent on someone else’s gaze. Rei in Shinji’s eyes, Rei in Asuka’s eyes, Rei in Misato’s eyes or Rei in Gendo’s eyes were all different Rei. So which Rei is the real one, the “true self” of the name Rei Ayanami?

By giving the character after the “bash” the previous character’s way of life, Anno has succeeded in confusing viewers on how to “properly” see reality. Suppose, I say, Shinji’s way of living “sacrificing” for others is correct. Then what reason is it right? We can easily answer that, is “moral”. So why is “sacrifice” moral? “Because it benefits the community”, “because it helps us to protect the people we love”, “because it gives us a sense of virtue” or “because, that’s what God teaches. “. It is easy to see that we fall back into the dead end above. We have no way of knowing “which Rei is the real Rei” or which reality is the right reality. We are no different from Shinji, also in a mist called “awareness”.

One of the solutions of the ancients was that they relied on a “higher authority”.
It could be “God”, “Creator”, some perfect and perfect Supreme Being. It can also be “world”, “natural”, is “one” speaking in metaphysical language. But how can people perceive what those “entities” really want? How do we know the “God” we standardize as “good” or “bad”? Is it possible that the world we live in was created by a demon, that the moral, caring actions we thought would be rewarded by a “higher authority” was just that my own illusion?

“Cogito Ergo Sum”
I think so I exist. That is Rene Descartes’ answer (1596-1650). Along with Leibniz and Spinoza, Rationalism thinks that our actions should only be based on reason. They believe that by reason, humans can finally perceive reality and the world around them.

But Hume, Locke and Berkeley, the Empiricists, think differently. They argue that reality cannot be fully realized using only reason, but must be accompanied by sensations and experiences. And this is subjective to each being. An example of such an objective event is an apple falling from a tree. Many people will only find it as an ordinary apple to fall. But if that person is Issac Newton this will be a different story. The experimentalist’s idea is that an objective world exists. But what we perceive, is just the subjective “reflection” that our senses and experiences bring.

The conflict between these two schools of Epistemology is easily seen in the case of the character Shinji. By reason, Shinji knew that Kaworu was an Angel. If Kaworu lived, mankind would suffer the 3rd Shock and end. But through his senses and experience, through his interactions with Kaworu, Shinji assumed that the person he regarded as a friend was a Human, a being. In the 18th century, a German philosopher tried to solve this confusion.

Thanks for reading!!

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