Since I have been reviewing this series one DVD at a time, it has finally occurred to me that readers are tired of being told things like 'even better,' or 'adds a whole new level.' There isn't much question but that is exactly the effect that Gainax and director Hideaki Anno intend. We have reached the stage where the mysteries will be peeled away in layers like an onion, and this isn't intended to be a 'comfortable' process.
The twin focus of these episodes is the nature of the EVA, and the still developing character of Shinji. In a sense, the series comes into its own now, shedding any remnant of the children's mecha appearance that it initially wore as a disguise. We are being drawn into a startling investigation into what is human, and what is not.
In 'The Judgement of Life' Toji Suzuhara, the fourth child, is set to testing EVA 03. But the terrible happens, and the 13th Angel (Bardiel) interferes, seizing control of the EVA. When Gendo Ikari orders Shinji to destroy the EVA the boy refuses to kill his friend. Gendo orders EVA 01 into auto pilot mode and Shinji mush watch in horror while his father forces the EVA to become a raging killer.
'A Man's Fight,' find's Shinji repelled by everything his father stands for and refuses to pilot an EVA again. He is on his way home when a new Angel (Zeruel) appears and makes short work of Rei and Asuka. Shinji forces his way back to NERV headquarters and demands to pilot EVA 01. When the Angel nearly destroys EVA 01, Shinji achieves total integration with the EVA as it develops a life of its own... as a cannibalistic killer!
'Form of the Mind, Form of the Man' finds Misato and the NERV staff desperately trying to separate Shinji self back out from the creature that EVA 01 has become. Inside, Shinji is forced to deal with all aspects of his personality as he strives to understand his own purpose.
I often see Shinji referred to as a weak character that flees from difficulty and is overly dependent on what others think of him. I have to disagree. While the boy is not a willing hero, he has proved repeatedly that he will do what has to be done with his own sense of ethics. Considering his age, and the enormous responsibility he bears, I think he does extremely well. With a father who is always either cold or abusive, Shinji's need for approval is more than understandable.
As I've already indicated, these are pivotal episodes, intense and compelling. Entirely rewarding.