Neon Genesis Evangelion is a critically-acclaimed anime, recently reigniting fans’ excitement when Netflix got the rights to stream it and provided an English dub version. A timeless classic, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to this anime. Evangelion’s plot revolves around a few 14-year-old characters who have been tasked with piloting mecha suits called (not-so-suprisingly) Evangelions or Evas. They protect what’s left of a post-apocalyptic world by fighting “Angels” using these Evas.
More than just mecha suits and aliens, it also reveals deeply psychological facets of the characters – what can we understand about depression from them?
The “unseen” condition
In the first episode alone, the main character Shinji is thrown into a large-scale battle, literally feeling the pain of every single hit the mecha suit takes. After this traumatising fight, he wakes up and is immediately put through tests and training again to perfect the piloting of his Eva.
Throughout this whole process, no one acknowledges his pain or fear, simply focusing on the fact that he saved the world. Even his commander realises how empty of a compliment it is when she reflects about it briefly, but goes on anyway with giving Shinji orders.
In this fast-paced world, we tend to just go ahead with our daily tasks and goals – even when something emotionally damaging happens to ourselves or others, we soldier on anyway without pausing to simply acknowledge it. Take some time today to check in with your friends and talk about your emotions, and while things may not be easily solved, you can at least feel more emotionally ready to move on afterwards.
It manifests itself in different ways
Shinji fights alongside other young pilots like Asuka and Rei, all of whom are fighting their own battles that aren’t just Angels. Eventually, as the series develops, we understand that each of them are carrying other emotional baggage.
Some may immediately relate to Shinji’s constant cycle of guilt and feeling like a burden, leading to his tendency to escape by hiding in his dorm room. However, Asuka’s overconfident demeanour also serves to act as a mask for her insecurities driven by depression – a coping mechanism to make up for “lost time” and a never ending chase for self-worth by completing tasks. On the other spectrum, Rei is constantly in an emotionless state, just going with the flow and doing what is told. However, this isn’t just her being relaxed, but more of her feeling helpless and unable to be in control.
We tend to have a preconception of what depression might look like, but we all have different coping mechanisms. It’s important to not judge a book by its cover, but spend time listening to those around you and see them for the people that they are.
The small things matter
During the anime, Shinji unexpectedly makes friends with two of his classmates, Aida and Suzuhara. At one of his lower points where he gets constantly guilt-tripped for not wanting to pilot his Eva, these friends took the initiative to show their appreciation for the sacrifices he makes to fight Angels.
In the grand scheme of things, it may seem like these two people mean nothing compared to the pilots, Evas, world destruction and whatnot. Yet, we cannot discount the fact that these little moments help to ground us as people, reminding us that we are more than just the work we do. These 2 friends see past his role as a pilot, and truly root for him because they acknowledge and recognise his struggle.
There is always hope
We can draw many parallels from Evangelion about depression. It is a constant battle, sometimes unseen and takes on different forms. Yet, there is always hope at the end of the tunnel – talking about your emotions with a trusted person, taking pauses to fight another day or distracting yourself with other activities are all valid. As we live our lives, let’s start to be more mindful that everyone is fighting their own battles.
If you have been experiencing negative or flat emotions for some time, do a mood check to see what level of help you need. Depression can be treated, please seek professional help if you have similar symptoms.
If you are engaging in self-harm and feel like ending your life please seek help immediately.
SOS – Samaritans of Singapore (24 hours)
Mental Health Helpline ( 24 Hours)
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