Love is the Drug: Neon Genesis Evangelion

I don’t think it’s an original observation that the fundamental driving force in Neon Genesis Evangelion is love. The basic plot is driven by Gendo’s love for his lost wife Yui and his desire to find/recreate/rescue her. The resolution, at least as expressed in the manga version and The End of Evangelion OVA, is driven by the love between Shinji and Rei.

Plus you got all sorts of combinations going on: the unrequited love between the Akagis, mother and daughter, and Gendo; the doomed love of Koji and Misato; the sad puppy love between Toji and Hikari; whatever’s going on between Shinji and Kaworu; and the inability of Asuka to love herself. Oh, yeah, and there’s Gendo/Shinji and Gendo/Rei. Now, Gendo, Rei, and Shinji…that am one funky Eternal Triangle.

What’s interesting, to me at least, is all the different types of love that are represented. Those loves aren’t all the same, you know. I mean, seriously, that’s obvious, right? If all the love relationships were the same as Koji/Misato, for instance, Evangelion would have been a porno.

Neon Genesis Cast

All these people, and almost all of them in love with someone else in the series.

The Greeks actually talked about five different kinds of love: Storge, Philia, Eros, Xenia (No, not Xena!), and Agape. ALL FIVE OF THEM SHOW UP IN EVA!!

Now that’s cool.

Storge is familial love, as between brother and sister or parent and child.

Sound familiar? I mean, Shinji shows up in Tokyo-3 seeking his father’s love. It’s the relationship between Shinji and Gendo, and Gendo’s utter refusal to love (storge) Shinji that drives Shinji’s dramatic mood swings.

Then you have Gendo and Rei. Gendo and Akagi are as close to parents as Rei has, and, if you remember her possessiveness around Gendo’s shattered glasses, she looks at Gendo as being someone she desperately needs to feel herself. More storge.

The whole Shinji/Rei thing is even deeper and more nuanced. As it happens, Rei is a clone of Yui, so genetically they are related, and it’s clear that at times Rei reminds Shinji of his mother, although he’s not aware of it. In one episode of the anime, for instance, Rei wrings out a cloth. Shinji watches her and tells her she wrings it out like a mother. No, Shinji: she wrings it out like YOUR mother.

At the same time there are more direct feelings between Shinji and Rei… Let’s look at another kind of love:

Philia, or friendly love.

It’s clear, especially in the manga, that Rei and Shinji clearly love each other. At the end of the story she loves him so much that she is willing to recreate the world – let me say that again – she is willing to RECREATE THE WORLD as he likes. And the heartbreak is that whichever world he chooses the two of them cannot be together.

At the same time it’s not a romance, not a ‘first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Gendo in a baby carriage’ kind of love. (Given the level of incest that would involve, be glad they didn’t go there.)

Nope. What Rei wants from Shinji is to be treated as a person, not a tool (which is how Gendo and Akagi see her). It’s less clear what Shinji wants from Rei, but it it’s hot lovin’, well, there’s this hawt babe he lives with. (I mean Asuka, not Misato. Although Misato has her fans, too.) No, what Shinji and Rei have is philia, love between friends. It’s especially strong, given their genetic relationship and the insights they have into each other, but it’s philia.

There IS romance in Evangelion, of course.

Eros, or romantic love.

Okay, everyone, repeat after me: Misato and Koji.

Something about this bothers me. When they are making love they act out the classic Rape Myth: Woman says no, man does not take no for an answer and keeps going, and woman likes it. For the record, that’s rape. The Rape Myth says, “When she says no she means yes.” It’s a trope so pervasive you almost don’t notice it, but it even shows up in EVA. Koji rapes Misato.

Back to eros: there’s also what the Akagi’s, mother and daughter, have for Gendo. They are both in love with him, and that love’s not storge or philia; that’s eros.

Then there are Kaworu and Shinji. The homoerotic elements of their relationship are downplayed in the new Netflix dub but you don’t have to watch carefully to see – body language, right – to see Kaworu is hitting on Shinji, and Shinji does not back away. Shinji is desperate to be loved; he might be viewing what he develops with Kaworu to be philia. But Kaworu is clearly thinking of eros.

Or it might be something more. Karowu turns out to be an angel. See agape, below.

Xenia is the love – “sense of hospitality” might be a better term – between a host and a guest.

Xenia is defined by mutual obligations: the host provides housing and food and such, and the guest returns the courtesy with chores and possibly a gift.

You see xenia in action in Misato’s home, of course. She takes Shinji in, gives him a room to sleep in, buys food for him. She also takes care of him as best she can given that she doesn’t really know how to raise a kid.

He takes over the cooking (possibly in self-defense; it’s hard to see Misato being a good cook) and the cleaning (also in self-defense). BOOM. Xenia.

What’s interesting is the contrast between Misato’s two guests, Shinji and Asuka. Asuka does NOT show xenia; she insults the living quarters, acts like she’s in a hotel, does none of the chores. It’s just another way there’s no love in Asuka’s life. She wants storge but her mother is dead; she wants philia but she drives the others away with her arrogance; she wants eros but Koji’s having none of that and she doesn’t know how to get it from Shinji. She got no xenia, neither.

The fifth kind of love, agape, is the love of humans for a god, and the love a god gives humanity.

No, I don’t mean Zeus getting it on with every hot looking babe in Greece. But I remind you of the Christian ethos: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Remember that guy, I think he was named Rollen, who used to wear a rainbow afro wig to sporting events and hold up a sign that said “John 3:16”? That’s what John 3:16 says. THAT’s agape.

Agape is the entire context of Evangelion. Seriously: the angel Adam? Eva/Eve? Seele (means “soul”)? The NERV motto (“God’s in his heaven/All’s right with the world”)? That’s from a Robert Frost poem, by the way; it’s not biblical.

Agape oozes through all the seams of Evangelion until at the end Rei recreates the world – which she can do because she has god-like powers. Rei Anayami becomes a god, and because she feels agape humans get to live again in a brand-new, angel-free world.

There’s love and love and love and love and love, five kinds of love, and in Neon Genesis Evangelion you see all five, front and center. It’s a show pervaded by not just by love but by loves.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

3 thoughts on “Love is the Drug: Neon Genesis Evangelion

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