Mamerto Adan is an engineer by profession, but a writer by night. He loves toys and knives. He also has a martial arts background.
I did a piece months ago on how horrible it is to die as a mobile suit pilot. The Gundam series never missed a chance to remind the audience that piloting a giant robot is not glamorous. Inside the confines of the cockpit, you will be flying into battle facing the morbid possibility that you could be blown to pieces, burned to death, crushed, impaled, vaporized or get shredded by shrapnel. You could consider yourself lucky if you just lose a limb. If you're really lucky, you might die a quick death, though your friends may risk their sanity by looking at your burned and unrecognizable corpse.
So how about being an EVA pilot?
People admit that Shinji had the right to cower at the prospect of piloting an EVA. The intense training sometimes failed to protect the pilots from a grim fate. And Shinji wasn’t even an elite pilot to begin with. He was just a school boy being forced inside the confines of the entry plug. Throughout the show, he only received basic pilot training; he never had a mental or emotional health check. Was his father actually trying to kill him?
I always thought that Shinji was unqualified as a pilot, though I did try to put myself in his shoes. I listed some of the worst ways someone could perish inside the bowels of an EVA unit.
EVA Pilot Deaths Are Not Glamorous
In terms of pilot casualties, the Evangelion series boasts the lowest. I still remember the relatively graphic deaths of Gundam SEED/SEED Destiny, while the recent IBO series included the unfortunate lead character as a victim. Even in Macross, someone had to die to add drama to the show. Aside from the many nameless Veritech pilots getting blown to bits, Roy Focker was among the many to fall in battle.
However, the depressing EVA series has had low pilot casualties.
In the original NGE, the only true “casualty” was the clone Rei Ayanami (the second cloned formed) when she blew herself up to save Shinji. Nevertheless, she was an artificial likeness of his mom, and a new clone was on the way. Toji received a good beating in his first piloting attempt, but he only lost a leg. And during the notorious End of Evangelion, the loud Asuka survived the brutal end of her EVA. Yes, she lost an eye, but she was still very much alive.
Most of the deaths in the series came from the Special Forces massacre and during the Third Impact (or as I like to call it, the orange juice apocalypse).
As frightening as it is to get stuck inside the entry plug to face the horrors of the rampaging Angels, being an EVA pilot is a relatively safe occupation, at least when compared to other mecha series. The vast size of the unit itself serves as protection. A pilot is armored within layers of binders and flesh, and there is the entry plug that could be ejected in times of emergency. The pilots are also supported by a huge staff that monitors everything, including their health. And since they fight Angels and not armed mechas, the risk of artillery-related injuries is greatly reduced.
But their safety measures can't offer absolute protection. People will eventually die.
With that said, let’s move on to the many forms of death Shinji and the EVA crew faced.
1. Being Boiled Alive
Because the EVA units immerse their pilots in LCL, there are strange ways to perish inside their fleshy bowels.
We saw one potential way to die when Shinji first faced the Angel Ramiel. As his Unit 01 made it to the surface, the oversized ornament shot a high-powered particle beam that went straight through a building and nearly melted the EVA’s chest. Inside the entry plug, the intense heat of the beam basically boiled Shinji in his vat of LCL. Thankfully he survived as he was removed from his potential entry plug coffin in time.
Being boiled alive is a nasty way to go. Burning a finger on a gas stove hurts a lot. Imagine that happening to your whole body in the cramped confines of an entry plug.
2. Ripped to Pieces
This almost happened to Asuka, and this is how Toji lost a leg. The Angels come in odd shapes, and a few of them appear in humanoid or beastly forms. If that’s the case, you can expect them to fight like an MMA fighter or a predatory animal. We all know how cage fighters dispose of their opponents with kicks, punches and submissions. Just look how Sachiel and the Unit 01 slug it out in the episode two. The EVA almost lost an arm, but it went into berserk mode and gave Sachiel a good beating. Ripping a unit apart is the preferred combat method if the Angel is in a bestial form. This was the fate of Asuka’s unit (in the hands of mass-produced EVAs).
Thankfully, despite having close calls, no one has died in such a horrific manner. It seems that the entry plug does a fantastic job at protecting the pilots. The EVA’s use of weapons also help minimize the chance of a close-quarter wrestling match.
3. Blown to Bits
I’m not sure how exactly the second clone of Rei met her end. When she self-destructed her unit, she would have either died from the explosion or the intense heat. What remained of her was a charred corpse that Ritsuko destroyed. What is certain is that the LCL fluid will prevent someone from being barbecued inside their entry plug. They will just boil and perish. But when you are inside any working machine, be it mechanical or flesh and blood, when it explodes, you will be blown with it. Just look what happened to Rei II.
4. Intense Pain
This is perhaps the biggest shortcoming of the EVA technology. Why did the developers let the pilots experience the pain of their units? Honestly, I see no practical application on the battlefield for this aside from extreme masochism. Feeling unnecessary pain is a potential handicap. It can debilitate pilots and affect their ability to operate their unit. It could potentially lead to their deaths.
Asuka was almost ripped to shreds when her unit was devoured by the mass-produced EVAs. As her unit got dismembered, she just curled in agony in her cockpit.
5. Psychological Torment
Along with being boiled in LCL, this is one of the more unique deaths in EVA. Some Angels have ability to mess with your mind, as if they are Hideki Anno himself. Arael almost drove Asuka mad when it rained down beams of light on her unit, which was its way of probing deep into her mind. And before Rei II blew herself up, the Angel Armisael managed to connect with her mind.
While the direct attack on one’s mind is not lethal, it could lead to death in some other ways. Asuka could have turned suicidal out of depression. She is thankfully discovered by NERV personnel and taken to a hospital.
Special Mention: Other Grim Possibilities
While no one got any shrapnel injuries, the possibilities are still there. Yes, EVAs are flesh and blood, but the pilots are still confined inside a steel entry plug.
Rei Ayanami got creamed during the testing of Unit 01. Her unit just went berserk, but she was already in bad shape when Gendo extracted her from her entry plug. The impact of the crashing plug probably gave her all those injuries.
This is an over-sized mecha we are talking about. People could get crushed during a brawl with an Angel, or even impaled.
Did we miss anything here? If you know of any other tragic EVA pilot deaths, just comment below.
Happy Lee Chillin' on August 03, 2020:
Falling of the platform before entering your Eva.