Hand-holding

Discussion of the new series of Evangelion movies ( "Evangelion Shin Gekijōban", meaning "Evangelion: New Theatrical Edition").
The third installment debuted in Japan on November 17, 2012.

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Jornophelanthas
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[SPOILERS] Hand-holding

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Postby Jornophelanthas » Mon May 06, 2013 8:35 am

This post previously appeared in another thread, which had already petered out by then. (In fact, it was my first post after leaving this forum in November 2012 to avoid getting spoiled.) Since then, I have slightly reworked it, and wish to present it as a new discussion topic in its own right. For reference, the original post can be found in: http://forum.evageeks.org/thread/13591/SPOILER-Recurring-motifs-in-EVA-Q/20/ (page 2).

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I noticed a recurring motif in 3.0 that had previously appeared in the previous movies as well:
REACHING OUT AND HOLDING HANDS.

In 1.0, Shinji breaks open Rei's entry plug, extends his hand towards her. Rei hesitates at first, but then takes Shinji's hand (1) (dropping Gendo's glasses in the process).

In 2.0, Mari picks up Shinji in Unit-02's giant hand (2) and lifts him - against his will - out of the broken Geofront bomb shelter into the wasteland that was left in the wake of the 10th Angel's ("Zeruel's") battle with Unit-02 and Rei's N2 missile detonation.

Also in 2.0, Shinji claws his way into the 10th Angel's core and desperately reaches out towards Rei. She is reluctant at first, having given up on life and surrendered herself to the depths of despair, but finally takes his hand (3) and is pulled back into Unit-01.
Later, we learn that Rei was never recovered from Unit-01's entry plug, and Shinji is left despairing.

In 3.0, we have three moments of hand-holding.

First, when Rei 3.0 locates Shinji inside the WILLE flotilla, Mark-09 breaks open the wall and Rei 3.0 invites Shinji to come with her. Shinji, having lost his patience with WILLE ignoring him and refusing to believe that the Rei he rescued is gone, is relieved to hear Rei's voice and happily goes with her, by jumping into Mark-09's hand (Q1) and letting it carry him out of the cold, harsh, metal surroundings of WILLE, and into the wasteland that was left in the wake of Third Impact.
(Only to later find out that the place Rei 3.0 takes him is even colder and harsher, and that Rei 3.0 is not the Rei he saved, after all.)

Second, when Shinji has hit the depths of despair and has all but given up hope, Kaworu visits him to offer him new hope (which turns out to be false hope in the end, but Kaworu was not aware of that at the time and his offer was sincere). Shinji hesitates, but then takes Kaworu's proffered hand (Q2).
Later, Kaworu dies, willingly sacrificing his own life to atone for Shinji's sins, and Shinji is left with nothing but despair once more.

Finally, Shinji's entry plug is forcefully opened by Asuka, who pushes him around to little effect, and walks away in disgust. However, she then has a change of heart, physically drags him out of the plug and prepares him for a trek across the wasteland. In one of the final shots of them, Asuka grabs Shinji's hand (Q3) and pulls him along with her as they start walking.

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What is noticeable about these instances of hand-holding is twofold:

1. The three moments of hand-holding in 3.0 each correspond to one of the moments in the earlier movies. Specifically, (1) corresponds to (Q3), (2) corresponds to (Q1) and (3) corresponds to (Q2).

2. In both (1) and (3), Rei is on the receiving end of the proffered hand. In (Q2) and (Q3), however, it is Shinji. This illustrates that the new world Shinji finds himself in is the opposite of the world he knows, in a lot of ways.

- Scene (Q2) is the mirror image of scene (3). One character has been driven to give up all hope, and only wishes nothingness. Then, another character steps in as a savior and convinces the first character to go on. In the end, the salvation ends up being a false one, though.
In a sense this is poetic justice, because Q made Shinji experience the psychological development of Rei in 2.0. A case could even be made that Kaworu's music for Shinji and Shinji's cooking for Rei are a similar plot device. (With the difference that Kaworu's music is all about sharing, while Shinji's cooking was only one-sided giving, and Rei did not actually get to reciprocate when her dinner party was cancelled.)

- Scene (Q3) is the mirror image of scene (1). One character has just participated in an Evangelion battle and their fate is unsure until the entry plug is forcefully opened by another character, who then coaxes the first character out into a new and confusing world. This is where similarities end, though (except for the big one that I'm saving for the end).
On the one hand, Rei was gently introduced into Shinji's world, where she was being treated as a real person and taught how to relate to other people. Shinji, on the other hand, was brusquely forced from the solitude of his own suffering and thrust into Asuka's harsh world without his consent. While Rei agreed to come and learn, Shinji was dragged out into the light and forced to behave without having any say in the matter. (But still, this is what passes for kindness in Asuka.)

- Scene (Q1) is the mirror image of scene (2). In both cases, Shinji is lifted out of a cold, lonely place that has nothing for him into a larger world by the hand of an Evangelion. In both cases the Evangelions remind him of people he cares about, but are piloted by someone else. (In scene (2), Shinji recognizes Unit-02, but it is not piloted by Asuka; in scene (Q1), Shinji recognizes Mark-09 as Unit-00, bu it is not piloted by Rei 2.0.) Also note that in scene (2), Mari picks up Shinji despite his protestations, while in scene (Q1), Shinji willingly - determinedly even - jumps into Mark-09's hand.

These scenes are all symbolic births. Rei and Shinji are both pulled from the entry plug (symbolizing the womb - nothing new since NGE here), and need to face a new, large, scary and unfamiliar world that they need to learn to deal with somehow. The person that pulled them out is a midwife figure, who guides them through this first step of life, and may evolve into a (surrogate) parent.
Look at it like this:
(1): Rei is taken from Gendo's world of death (symbolized by her letting go of the glasses) and introduced into Shinji's world of boring school routine, pilot training, carefree friendship, and cooking.
(2): Shinji is taken from a place of death and introduced into Mari's world of blood, war and death. He even gets some of the blood on his hands.
(3): Rei is taken from a place of death and introduced into Shinji's new world of divinity and unbirth as Near-Third Impact begins - whatever that means.
(Q1): Shinji is introduced into Rei 3.0's world of meaningless routine and blindly following Gendo's orders. When he actually learns to understand this world (through Fuyutsuki), he violently rejects it.
(Q2): Shinji is introduced into Kaworu's world of magical hope and metaphysical salvation. Shinji is truly happy here, but he remains blind to the things that threaten it. Kaworu's parting gift to him is that Shinji may live on, even though Kaworu's world dies.
(Q3): Finally, Shinji is introduced into Asuka's empty world of conflict, loneliness and red sand. It is a harsh and unforgiving world that involves getting kicked and scolded a lot, but there is warmth there, and even a reminder of Rei.

Also, note that the movies presented hints of two more of such birth scenes that were not meant to be:
(A): In Rebuild 2.0, the bedroom scene with Asuka and Shinji shows them with their backs to each other, and their hands in front of them. Shinji's hands are bandaged, rendering him unable to hold anything. Asuka explicitly forbids Shinji to face her. This is the opposite of a hand-holding, suggesting that Asuka would not be introduced to Shinji's world of school routine and cooking, which was sealed by Asuka becoming Unit-03's test pilot (regardless of there even being a Ninth Angel ("Bardiel") attack or not).
(B): In Rebuild 3.0, when Shinji visits Rei 3.0's room for the first time, he extends his hand to her, holding the music player and thanking her. She just stares blankly at him and does not move. Shinji may have expected her to smile, take the music player, and thank him back. Again, this is the opposite of a hand-holding, suggesting that Rei 3.0 will not reciprocate by becoming a part of Shinji's world. It is also the start of the undoing of Shinji's birth into Rei 3.0's world in scene (Q1).

I shall end this lengthy essay with a tiny bit of speculation. I believe that the whole point of this continuous rebirthing of Shinji and Rei is twofold:
- On the one hand, Shinji must learn to create a life of his own that leaves him capable of dealing with others from a position of strength.
- On the other hand, Shinji must learn to deal with loss, and to let go of others he loves. The final test of this will likely be that he must choose his own life over his Rei Ayanami who may attain godhood during Final Impact.

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Postby ElMariachi » Mon May 06, 2013 9:46 am

Very interesting analysis, I never noticed the similarities of those "holding hands" scenes!

Although respecting Q3, you should note that Asuka isn't taking Shinji's hand, but grabbing his wrist. That could also mean that like Shinji was Rei's savior in 1.0, going to look for her and take her to the real world(in opposite of Gendo's world of death and painful memories), Asuka is Shinji's savior in 3.0, going to look for him(she was panting when she reached his entry plug, meaning she was running to see what happened with him) and dragging him to the real world.

As for the scene (A), I didn't saw the fact they were with their backs to each other as the sign that Asuka refused "Shinji's world"(i.e. his network of friends),but just Asuka being Asuka, admitting grudging that she misjudged Shinji's worth, but still too proud to properly face him when she say that. Her later conversation with Misato clearly indicates that she actually wanted to bond with other people, but fate decided otherwise...

But if this trend or mirroring of recurring motives is kept in Final, I could see another scene where Asuka goes to Shinji's bed after a scene where he did something right(like saving her life, or even the life of the whole under who knows), forbid him to face her, and tells him that he have again the authorization to call her by her name, while from now she will calls him "baka Shinji"(or whatever other nickname) instead of "gaki Shinji" which is the nickname she uses when her contempt for him is at its peak, and thus showing that she's beginning to forgive him, and that Shinji has successfully made a step in gaining back the love and trust of the people he cares about.

And another scene mirroring (B) were Shinji extends his hands to ReiQ to make amends about his harsh comments about how she's not "his" Ayanami, and after some hesitation, this time she will react and take it.
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Postby Xiel » Mon May 06, 2013 11:22 am

There are more than those instances:

In 1.11, Misato holds Shinji's hand after he learns about the truth (that Misato knows): about Lilith and the reason of Nerv, before leaving his old ignorance behind. In 2.22, Kaji is the one holding Shinji's hand, before he takes him to the outside world, a vast green of nature to help him with his watermelons and to give him advice.
In 3.33. Kaworu offers his hand in two extra instances: when he leads Shinji's hand on the piano keys (and they brushed once or twice when Shinji clumsily tried to match his tempo), introducing thing to new things, encouraging him to change for the better and be of open heart. Change can be fun, give it a chance, that's what Kaworu wants to convey, that the new world can be fun and exciting. And later, when he offers his hand to Shinji (and he presumably takes it) when he's weakened in that difficult road before he leads him to the truth to help him stand. Shinji leaves his old ignorance behind, but he's afraid and shaken after learning what he did and the weight of his actions (we also see the destroyed watermelon patch). While Kaworu gave him a world of peace, companionship and bright days; he also show him the harsh truth outside the piano room. The third and last is an instance of not hand holding, Kaworu and Shinji discuss their plans on Shinji's bed. There is an emphasis on their hands nearly touching on the mattress but separated by the sdat. Shinji hadn't listened to Kaworu's request (Do things with me, rather than do things for me) and foreshadowed Shinji's falling from the sync to make the biggest mistake of his life.

Shinji failing to reach for Asuka when he was imprisoned. His attempts to claw on the wall that separate him from Kaworu in the end of 3.33 could be also moments like these.

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Postby Jornophelanthas » Wed May 08, 2013 9:35 am

View Original PostElMariachi wrote:As for the scene (A), I didn't saw the fact they were with their backs to each other as the sign that Asuka refused "Shinji's world"(i.e. his network of friends),but just Asuka being Asuka, admitting grudging that she misjudged Shinji's worth, but still too proud to properly face him when she say that. Her later conversation with Misato clearly indicates that she actually wanted to bond with other people, but fate decided otherwise...

This scene is odd to the extent that there is a mutual reaching out (figuratively), but there is no reciprocity.

1. Shinji reaches out to Asuka by confiding in her. (I believe this is mostly out of habit; he just answers whatever question is asked of him(*)). Even though his words strike a chord with her, she says nothing to acknowledge this to him, and he is unable to see her non-verbal reaction. She merely changes the topic to how they should address each other as far as he is concerned, and Shinji is unable to see through this to realize that she is being kind to him.
2. Asuka is troubled by her insecurities and seeks some kind of support in Shinji (even though she would admit this to herself). Learning that he is equally plagued by his own insecurities helps her. She reaches out to him by offering a truce; she will stop using her derisive nickname "daddy's boy" and instead will use the more benign "baka Shinji", while he gets to call her by her first name. While she expects Shinji to show some spine and tell her to just call him "Shinji" instead of "Baka Shinji", he just passively (and cluelessly) accepts her demand.

What we see here are two teenagers trying to reach out to each other, but being too clumsy to succeed. Specifically, Shinji is too fragile and clueless and Asuka is too proud for them to truly connect. This is signified by Shinji's bandaged hands, and Asuka's insistance on Shinji not turning around to look at her. The gap between them narrows, but is not bridged. They stop being enemies, but they do not become friends. They just become peers.

Note that Shinji's bandages are also a direct clue to the hands theme as discussed in my first post. (There's much more to the hands theme than just holding hands, but that has already been discussed in the general Rebuild forum over the past years.)

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(*) We already know about Shinji that he is very bad at non-verbal communication and hidden meanings, and that he tends to take everything said to him at face value (e.g. "I thought this was a date" when Kaji takes him to the melon patch). This illustrates that Shinji is probably also unable to pick up that Asuka changing her derisive insult "Daddy's Boy" to the more benign "Baka Shinji" is a sign of empathy.)

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Re: Hand-holding

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Postby squall183 » Wed Jan 29, 2020 9:25 am

Great insights. All the hand holding reminded me of a contrast between the rebuild movies and one of the final shots in End of Evangelion, where Shinji and Asuka’s hands were so near each other but unable to touch.

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Re: Hand-holding

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Postby pwhodges » Wed Jan 29, 2020 12:46 pm

In the manga, during Shinji's last meeting with Rei (in instrumentality) they hold hands for a moment, as a farewell handshake.
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