The title for the second episode begins a pattern that lasts for most of the series, that being that each episode has two titles. For some reason, episodes 1 and 10 don’t conform to this idea, something which I’ve never really understood. For this installment, “Unfamiliar Ceiling” refers to the first half of the episode, while “the Beast” is the title for the half that follows the commercial break.
I’ll open this review by analyzing the mechanics of piloting the Eva, since my first review was long enough as it was. Unlike most giant robots in anime, Evangelions are piloted by synchronizing the child’s nervous system with the control system of the Eva. They think, and the Eva responds. The downside of this is that when the Eva is damaged, the child receives the mental feedback and feels like they are the ones being injured. This is shown early in this episode, where Sachiel breaks Eva-01’s arm and puncturing its eye, causing Shinji to black out from the pain.
The cockpit (actually a long, cylindrical device inserted directly into the Eva’s spinal column) or “Entry Plug,” is also flooded with an amber fluid called LCL. The LCL is completely breathable, and acts as a shock absorber for the pilot during battle, and aids in synchronization.
As the battle is underway, Shinji blacks out and Misato screams his name in distress, when we suddenly cut to Shinji snapping awake in a hospital bed, looking at the titular “unfamiliar ceiling.”
This jarring scene shift completely threw me off the first time I watched the series. Was Shinji dreaming the whole thing? What was the outcome of the battle if it was real? Anno cruelly leaves these answers until the end of the episode, but we are offered teasing glimpses throughout, such as Eva-01’s damaged head and a massive crater in the middle of the city. Seeing as how the rest of the city is still intact, and the supporting cast continue to appear, we know that the battle is won, we just don’t know how.
The next major scene in the episode is Commander Ikari taking part in a discussion with NERV’s financial backers, the Human Instrumentality Committee. The true purpose of the Committee is only hinted at here, but they seemingly have Ikari by the balls, which is quite impressive considering the badass presence he’s presented so far. Apparently, there is something larger at work behind the scenes than just the war with the Angels, but we won’t see much elaboration on that until the second half of the series.
It is here that the bizarre relationship between Shinji and Misato comes into focus. Hearing that Commander Ikari has arranged for Shinji to live on his own in an apartment, Misato instead arranged for Shinji to live with her. Not only is Shinji mystified by this unexpected extension of hospitality, but so is Ritsuko, who wonders if Misato may have ulterior motives. Misato jokingly says that she “wouldn’t put the moves on a kid,” but Ritsuko’s angry reaction to that statement seems to imply something darker beneath the surface.
Misato does her best to boost Shinji’s confidence in one of the more memorable scenes in the early part of the series. She takes him to a hillside where he can get a view full of the city as its futuristic buildings rise from the ground, where they descended during the Angel attack. Not only does this scene begin to establish what kind of city Tokyo-3 is, but really hammers home what was at stake when Shinji entered Eva-01.
Upon arriving at her apartment, Shinji awkwardly thanks Misato for having him, and she has to remind him that this is his home for the foreseeable future. And what a home it is, littered with empty liquor bottles, beer cans and snack food wrappers. We are introduced here to Shinji’s fastidious side as he is quietly shocked/disgusted at Misato’s way of life. We also see a bigger contrast between the Misato at home and the Misato we see at her job. It is amazing how this woman is so keenly focused and professional at NERV while acting like a careless college girl in other aspects of her life. She also questions herself as to the real reasons why she took Shinji in; it seems very obvious that it wasn’t entirely selfless on her part.
Oh, and she also has a pet penguin.
Meet Pen-Pen, Evangelion’s official animal mascot. In this universe, penguins have become practically extinct after whatever event heralded the Angels. Misato states Pen-Pen is genetically engineered to live in warmer climates, and the little guy is basically the main source of comic relief in the series. Enjoy him while you can folks, because that relief isn’t going to be around forever.
After a nice scene where Gendo and Ritsuko debate the ethics of using child soldiers (and which also provides us a glimpse of another one of our starring Mechas, Eva-00), we find Shinji staring at another “unfamiliar ceiling” while he lies in bed and listens to music. On an SDAT player. In the year 2015. Well, we have to remember this was made in 1995, but that SDAT player looks horribly dated in the day and age when the iPod reigns supreme.
However, this is the first instance of many where Anno tells us a LOT about a character by connecting them to an inanimate object. Shinji constantly listens to music when he’s feeling withdrawn, using it to block out the rest of the world and be allowed to retreat into himself. He also is only shown listening to two tracks, 25 and 26, constantly going back and forth between them. This symbolizes his tendency to make progress with his issues, but never permanently; he is constantly going backwards.
And now, we are finally rewarded with the actual events of the previous battle via Shinji flavored flashback sequence. Just after Shinji blacked out, the NERV control room was completely cut off from all control just as Eva-01 reactivated. Letting out a human like howl, Eva-01 attacks the Angel with such savagery that it becomes readily apparent just who the titular “Beast” is.
We are introduced here to another piece of Angel lore, that of the A.T Field. This field manifests as an orange, hexagonal field of light that acts as a barrier to all conventional weapons. This is why the military was so ineffective against Sachiel, and all subsequent Angels manifest them to various degrees of intensity. Knowing this is all the more important when we see Eva-01 effortlessly tear through Sachiel’s Field shortly after regenerating its broken arm.
The next important piece of Angel biology is established as “the Core,” the red sphere located in Sachiel’s solar plexus. Destroying it means the Angel is destroyed, as Eva-01 demonstrates by pummeling it and then tearing off one of Sachiel’s own ribs and using it as a blunt instrument. But the seemingly automnous Angel shows signs of being more than a one dimensional monster when it latches onto Eva-01 and self destructs. With this action, the Angel’s personality shines through: it knows it’s screwed, but wants to take its foe down with it.
So now we know where that crater in the beginning of the episode came from. And the Misato and the other members of NERV watch in awe as Eva-01 strides out of the flames like a boss. Only Commander Ikari seems unphased by the proceedings.
But what happened to Shinji during all this? Immediately after the Angel’s destruction, Shinji awakens inside the Entry Plug, just in time to see Eva-01’s helmet fall off. And in the most chilling scene in the first half of the series, Shinji nervously glances at Eva-01’s reflection in a nearby building, and is greeted with this:
As Shinji lets out a terrified scream (the first of many as delivered by his awesome voice actress, the incomparable Megumi Ogata), we cut back to the present, where Shinji curls up into a fetal position. The same questions running through his mind are no doubt running through the minds of the viewers at this point. Just what the hell is the Eva?
The coda bring the episode to a solid close. Misato, standing in Shinji’s bedroom doorway, offers an awkward but sincere expression of gratitude to Shinji for his role in saving the day. But her words do little to console the troubled teen as he ponders just what he has gotten himself into.
“Goodnight, Shinji. Hang in there.”
*Most images taken from Evageeks.org