It is the night before Asuka and Kaji's arrival in Japan. The two of them are stargazing, as Asuka tries to not-so-subtly flirt with Kaji. He remains unresponsive to her advances, and instead tries to not-so-subtly redirect her, telling her that he is sure she will find a boyfriend her own age in Japan, and he has even heard the Third Child is a boy. But instead Asuka goes all out, telling him that he is the only one she loves, and that she is ready for "kissing and the stuff comes after!" But Kaji shoots her down as gently as he possibly can; "Asuka, you're still a child," he says. "Those things can wait until you grow up a little." Asuka tries to prove him wrong, ripping open her dress, and exposing a part of her chest. She assures him that she is an adult and begs him to look at her.
The narrative flashes further back in time and memories from Asukas childhood is shown. Years ago, while Asuka was still a child in Germany, her mother had initiated a contact experiment similar to the one that Yui enacted with Unit 01. However, the results were less than favorable. While she was not absorbed directly into the unit, part of her mind was, leaving her a shell of her former self. Kyoko Zeppelin Soryu now cradles a doll she calls Asuka, while she calls the real Asuka "that girl over there." All the while, Asuka watches on, loathing the attention the doll receives and desperate for her mother to look at her as she once did. She hears her father and her mothers doctor pity Asukas condition while flirting and having sex. Once her mother dies, she refuses to cry at the funeral, saying that she has to take care of herself now.
Back in the present, Asukas sync ratio is dropping alarmingly. Ritsuko, annoyed at having to deal with yet another issue, decides to focus more on fixing Reis unit rather than a possible lost cause. Since Unit-01 is frozen until further notice, Unit-00 could soon be the only combat-ready Eva in NERVs arsenal.
Misato continues Kaji's search for the truth about NERV and SEELE. She meets in secret with Hyuga, who tells her that, according to his sources, the production of Eva Units 05-13 has begun in several locations around the world. He speculates it to be means of defense against multiple Angels attacking at once, but Misato is skeptical towards this explanation, since there is no reason for them to be preparing for Angel attacks outside official channels. She suspects that there is more to it.
Waiting on a train platform, Asuka tries calling Kaji on the phone, but an automated response tells her that his number is no longer in use. She then spots Shinji on another platform, engaged in a casual conversation with Rei, and expresses her annoyance, feeling that she has once again lost to Rei.
Back home at Misato's apartment, the household sits down for a meal together, but there rests an oppressive silence over it. It is interrupted when the phone starts to ring. Misato asks Asuka to get it, but she refuses, pouting as she says its probably just Kaji wanting to talk to Misato. Misato just quietly replies that it is not very likely. Shinji then goes to get the phone, and finds out the call is from Asukas stepmother in Germany. Asuka quickly snatches the phone from his hand, and goes on to talk in German. Shinji stands mesmerized and watches her talk, thinking to himself that there is different side to Asuka while shes speaking this other language, like she "becomes a total stranger." After a long conversation, Asuka bids her stepmother goodbye and hangs up with a morose look on her face. This, however, goes unnoticed by Shinji, who asks her about her conversation and comments that it must nice to have some family to talk to. In a unexpected moment of earnestness, Asuka goes as far as admitting to him that she only talks to her stepmother to keep up appearances, but at the same time she doesnt truly hate her. That is, before realizing that she is confiding in him, and she instantly reverts back to shouting at him. Her anger grows as the night progresses and leads her to have a complete breakdown in the bathroom, shouting out her hatred of everyone including herself. Misato silently overhears the whole thing.
Back in NERV for another sync test, Asuka's rate has declined even further, and is now barely above the activation minimum. Misato tells Ritsuko that Asuka is currently on her period, but Ritsuko dismisses this, explaining to Misato that the synchronization cannot be influenced by superficial physical conditions, meaning that Asuka's current difficulties must be rooted in her subconscious. Ritsuko privately considers that soon there might not be any choice left than to find a replacement core for Unit-02. After the test, Misato sits down in the cafeteria to chat with Ritsuko, but it is clear that their old friendship is at an all-time low. Misato tells her that the situation at home between Asuka and Shinji is at the breaking point and she contemplates having the three of them go their separate ways instead of living together. "Is this the end of your merry game of house?" asks Risuko with a just a hint of viciousness. Misato snaps back that it comes from someone who lives alone with a bunch of cats, at which Ritsuko gets miffed, and Misato quickly utters a half-hearted apology.
In a bathroom, Asuka laments having to go through her period when she "doesn't even want kids." Heading back, she, much to her obvious displeasure, runs into Rei, who just so happens to be riding the same elevator she needs to use. After a long period of uncomfortable silence between the two, Rei quietly tells her that her Eva wont move if she continues to block it out. Refusing to be helped by Rei, Asuka ridicules the notion. But Rei just tells her that the Eva has minds and souls of their own, and she should have noticed this by now. But Asuka instead changes the subject by attacking Rei, mocking her "doll-like" obedience. When Rei, without absolutely no change in her quiet tone of voice tells Asuka that she is "not a puppet", Asuka becomes even more ireful, asking her if she would die for Gendo if told to do so. When Rei nonchalantly answers that she indeed would, Asuka becomes furious, slaps her, and storms out the elevator as she loudly declares her hatred for Rei and everyone in general.
Inside the school, Kensuke and Hikari takes a grim around look at the many empty seats in the classroom. Kensuke notices that Toji is still in the hospital, and they haven't seen neither Shinji, Asuka, or Rei in ages. "I guess it's gotten so serious they can't come to school anymore," he says resignedly.
Alone in with the newly repaired Unit-02 in the Eva cage, Asuka talks to the Eva. "You're my doll, so move like I tell you, and don't argue," she lectures it. But she soon realizes that the Eva can't talk to her, and decides that what she is doing is foolish. At that moment, the alarms blare signalling the arrival of the fifteenth Angel, Arael.
The Angel, a luminous, cloud-like being in the shape of a bird, is floating in far orbit, severely limiting NERV's means of attacking it. Misato plans to send out Rei first, with Asuka as backup. Asuka, however, is angry about Rei getting chosen over her, and goes out alone on her own incentive. Misato, realizing that this will be Asuka's last chance to prove herself, lets her, but Ritsuko quietly makes an aside comment to Maya that they should start to look for a replacement pilot for Unit-02. Hyuga asks Misato if they should trying send out Unit-01 to assist, seeing how Shinji is already present and on standby, but Misato says they cannot, since Gendo has ordered it to be put in suspension for the time being, adding that it is not surprising with what happened last time.
Once outside, Asuka repeatedly attempts to target the Angel, but cannot get a clear shot. The Angel notices her presence, and Asuka screams in surprise and panic as a beam of light suddenly projected by the Angel descends upon her, while all warning sensors go off. Asuka and her Eva soon start squirming in agony, while her psychograph gives off unusual readings. Ritsuko concludes that the attack must be of a psychic nature. This is confirmed as Asuka continues to squirm and scream in pain and beg the Angel not to enter her mind, as her suppressed memories start bubbling to the surface. Misato orders her to retreat, but she refuses, preferring death to another defeat. Rei, meanwhile, has taken up a sniper position with the Positron rifle, and she manages to land a direct hit on the Angel, but the attack is ineffective as its A.T. Field proves too strong.
As her mind is unraveled by the Angel, Asuka is forced to face the memories of her mother's madness and suicide. She remembers a doll she ripped up after receiving it from her father because she believed she wasnt a child anymore. She makes another attempt at begging the Angel to stop forcing her to remember her all this, saying she tried so hard to forget this "bad stuff" and doesn't need it in her life anymore, but to no avail. She hears her younger self pleading with her mother to not forget who she is and is even willing to die with her if that would mean her mother considering her as her own daughter. But the vision that Asuka sees is the doll dangling on a noose while her mother asks who it is that is calling her mama.
Asuka sees repeated scenes of herself introducing herself and acting arrogantly, and every time she desperately protests that the shown image isn't the real her. Suddenly she finds herself walking through a set of railroad tracks before becoming overwhelmed by a crowd of hooded figures. She sees a shadow in the distance and cries out for Kaji to save her. But then she remembers that Kaji belonged to Misato from the time she smelled the lavender perfume on his sleeve. She sees Kaji looking dismissively back at her, stating once again that she is "still a child." She suddenly notices that Shinji is in the scene too, partly obscured by Kaji, and her gaze then falls upon him. She snaps, furiously asking him why hes there. After all the time he has spent with her, Shinji has never once shown any sign of getting close to Asuka. She feels that hell never do anything like help her or even hold her. She shows that she still holds the same desire she has had since she was a child: for people to just look at her. However, she cant admit that openly.
The scene shifts to show Asuka sitting naked in fetal position on a dark and abandoned playground. An apparition from the Angel in the form of a young Asuka appears in front of her and asks her if she is lonely. She denies it fiercely. She reiterates her desire to be independent and no longer be a child. She says she doesnt need anyone. The apparition then begins to grin, as its face turns into the doll her mother held, and it simply says, But youre lying, leaving Asuka with nothing to do but scream out in pointless denial. Inside the cockpit of the Eva, she lies, sapped of her will to resist, whimpering for Kaji to save her.
As Unit-02 starts to shut down and Asuka's vital signs starts fading, Shinji desperately pleads with Gendo to be allowed out to save her. Claiming that the risk is too great, Gendo denies Shinji's request, orders Unit-01's lockdown to be maintained, and sends Rei in Unit-00 down into Terminal Dogma to retrieve the Lance of Longinus. Fuyutsuki starts protesting, but Gendo insists that the Lance is the only way they have to break through, let alone reach, Arael's A.T. Field. Misato questions this order, stating that contact between an Eva and Adam can cause Third Impact. As the Commander makes no response to her objection, Misato realizes that what she thinks she knows about Adam is just another lie. Contact with an Angel wasnt what caused Second Impact, so she wonders about what really went on in Antarctica. Meanwhile, Fuyutsuki privately asks Gendo if they are not getting ahead of themselves, but, referring to SEELE's latest moves, Gendo tells him that this is the perfect chance to advance their own schedule, saying that they need to get everything together before SEELE begins to act. Fuyutsuki warns him that SEELE will undoubtedly be very upset by this move, but Gendo answers that it would be unwise to lose Unit-02 right now and that getting permission to use the Lace would be "troublesome", which Fuyutsuki scoffs at, saying that Gendo was just looking for a convenient excuse for getting rid of the Lance.
Rei, inside Unit-00, descends through a shaft to Terminal Dogma, where she retrieves the Lance which is being used to pierce Adam. Upon the removal of the Lance, the white giant's legs spontaneously regenerate, but the creature still appears to be as motionless and dead as ever. Like a soulless body. Returning to the surface, Rei throws the Lance at the Angel. After some resistance, its A.T. Field collapses, and the Angel is annihilated. The Lance continues its travel into space, and ends up in orbit around the moon. With the attack stopped, Asuka is confirmed to be alive.
On a rooftop, Shinji carefully approaches the recovered Asuka, who has been placed under a temporary quarantine. "I'm glad you're okay," he says, trying to comfort her. But in a voice dripping with venom, she shouts angrily back at him that she isn't even remotely "okay." Being saved by Rei is yet another massive humiliation for her, and once again she shouts out her hatred of everyone.
- Abandoned Playground: Part of Asuka's nightmarescape.
- Battle in the Rain: The fight against Arael takes place on an overcast, rainy day, though when Rei throws the Spear of Longinus it immediately clears the clouds away.
- Broken Record: The sequence of Asuka saying the same lines that repeats six times. Although it is somewhat the result of a borderline Dub-Induced Plot Hole; yes, Asuka does indeed repeat herself in the original Japanese version, but each repetition has a different voice actress from the cast reading the lines in their best Asuka impersonation, resulting in Asuka sounding somewhat like (in order) Misato (Kotono Mitsuishi), Rei (Megumi Hayashibara), Maya (Miki Nagasawa), Ritsuko (Yuriko Yamaguchi), and Hikari (Junko Iwao), giving more meaning to her "No! It isn't me!" response. In the ADV dub however, it is Tiffany Grant who voices all the repetitions until the Netflix dub corrects this by having the other actresses (Carrie Keranen, Ryan Bartley, Christine Marie Cabanos, Erica Lindbeck, and Abby Trott) voice Asuka like the Japanese version.
- Call-Back: In Asuka's Mind Rape scene, she recognizes the lavender perfume on Kaji's shirt, which was used in "Lies and Silence."
- A Day in the Limelight: The whole episode is pretty much Asuka's episode. Many of the scenes are seen from her point of view, and even the ones that aren't still focuses on showing her inner thoughts and feelings, and there is even an extended insight into her Dark and Troubled Past. The Director's Cut version especially strengthens this feeling, as it completely does away with the Shinji-centric Title Sequence.
- Foreshadowing: Misato is informed that multiple branches of NERV around the world have begun production of a large number of other Eva units, all the way up to number 13. We'll be seeing all of those new mass-produced Evangelion units in action in End of Evangelion.
- Heroic BSoD:
- Kyoko suffers one after her contact experiment with Unit-02 backfires.
- Asuka goes into a major one shortly after Arael uses its Mind Rape on her, to the point where she doesn't want to be touched by the end of the episode.
- Hold Your Hippogriffs: A subtle version. Asuka reacts with surprise to Rei actually engaging in conversation with her with the line "Fancy you starting a conversation! Maybe it'll snow tomorrow!" Quite appropriate for a world cast in an eternal summer.
- Leave the Camera Running: Rei and Asuka's 53 seconds long Uncomfortable Elevator Moment is perhaps one of the most (in)famous examples in anime (maybe except for that other moment in Episode 24).
- Mind Rape: Trope Namer. The "rape" metaphor is especially strong here; Asuka repeatedly screams things like "No!" and "It hurts!" as Arael makes contact with her mind and drudges up her worst memories, she says outright that she feels as though her mind was raped and that she has been "defiled", and she refuses to let anyone touch her towards the end of the episode.
- Oh, and X Dies: The preview for Episode 23 straight up says that Rei will have to choose between sacrificing herself or allowing Shinji to be attacked. Then again, as it turns out, that is not actually the most important event of Episode 23.
- Oh, Crap!: Asuka gets one when she sees Arael's beam of light coming straight for her. Seconds later, Ritsuko has one when she realizes that Arael is using psychological warfare to Mind Rape Asuka.
- Once More, with Clarity!: During the Mind Rape sequence, scenes of Asuka and Shinji's interactions from Episode 09, 10, and 15, are shown, this time from Asuka's point of view, highlighting her disappointment with Shinji's passiveness and her need for love.
- Sanity Slippage: Asuka begins to lose it after her earlier defeat by Zeruel. It goes From Bad to Worse in the episode's second half when Arael uses its powers to Mind Rape her.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The Amor Artis Chorale and the English Chamber Orchestra's rendition of the "Hallelujah" chorus from George Frederic Handel's "Messiah" in all its epic glory begins playing when Arael starts its mental assault on Asuka and plays over the entire sequence until it shifts into Asuka's POV.
- Shoo Out the Clowns/Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The short cutaway between Kensuke and Hikari. It is the last time Kensuke make a proper appearance (until Episode 26 anyway), and his last line is basically the writer's way of saying; "No, there won't be any more high-school hi-jinxs in this series, okay?"
- Title-Only Opening: The Director's Cut version of the episode forgoes the usual "Cruel Angel's Thesis" opening, instead opting to use a brief, silent Eyecatch. This especially strengthens the idea that this episode is focused on Asuka, rather than Shinji.
- Troubled Backstory Flashback: Asuka's history (watching Kyoko suffer from her contact experiment gone tragically awry, not crying at her funeral) is summarized at the beginning of the episode.