At high noon, a desolate Shinji stands under the baking sun at the lakeside overlooking the flooded ruins of Tokyo-3, in the same spot Misato left him the night before, his shirt and hair dripping wet with sweat. Some time later, he visits a sedated Asuka in the Geofront's hospital. He begs her to wake up, saying he cannot face either Rei or Misato because they both scare him. Growing increasingly desperate in his pleas, Shinji grabs Asuka's shoulder and starts shaking her more and more violently; he ends up accidentally ripping her shirt open and exposing her breasts. Shinji stands stunned for a moment before he proceeds to lock the door to the room and masturbate to the sight. Looking at his semen-smeared hand, he despairs at what he has done.
It is night at the Geofront. NERV has sealed off HQ and placed everyone on alert. In Central Dogma, Maya, Hyuga, and Aoba wonder why NERV has gone into lockdown, as Kaworu — the last Angel — is now dead. Aoba believes NERV will be disbanded, but also wonders what will happen to both the Evangelions and NERV personnel. Hyuga says they have no other choice but to wait for the Human Instrumentality Project scheduled by the high command. Meanwhile, Misato is overlooking the Geofront's lake in her car. She quietly contemplates a grim discovery she recently uncovered, namely the truth behind the Instrumentality Project: it is a plan to end mankind's existence as separate individuals via the merging of every living person together into one being — and as Kaji predicted, SEELE needs the EVAs to pull it off.
SEELE meets with Gendo and Fuyutsuki to deliver an ultimatum: With the Lance of Longinus out of reach, SEELE cannot use Lilith to kickstart Instrumentality, so it needs her offspring (EVA Unit-01) to implement and control the process. Gendo refuses to surrender the EVA to them: "Death creates nothing." An upset Keel ends the meeting: "Then you deserve death!" Fuyutsuki briefly talks to Gendo afterwards, commenting that they both need to remain committed to carry out Yui's wishes regardless of what happens. Sometime during the night, Rei awakens, then walks out of her apartment, never to return, but not before smashing Gendo's old glasses, leaving the pieces on the floor. Meanwhile, in Misato's apartment, Shinji lies in bed and stares out into the air to the sound of silence; his SDAT has run out of batteries.
Early the next morning, Misato is hiding in a server room as she hacks into the MAGI. She uncovers classified information on Second Impact, but moments later, the server is suddenly locked. She thinks someone found her out, but quickly concludes something else: NERV has gone on full alert. SEELE cuts NERV's communication lines and places the MAGI under attack from its sister units in other countries; Fuyutsuki deduces that SEELE will use all of its resources to destroy NERV. As Misato heads back to Central Dogma, she is briefed by Hyuga over her phone, who tells her that NERV has lost its special legal status and is under orders to surrender unconditionally to the Japanese government — and that Ritsuko has been released from captivity to help repel the hacking attempt on the MAGI. Ritsuko succeeds in blocking the hack, but Misato, Gendo, and Fuyutsuki all know it was SEELE's opening salvo.
With the hacking attempt foiled, Keel declares that it means SEELE will have to use the more direct and bloody approach, and calls for the invasion force to be given the signal to go ahead. By using their latent control over the UN, SEELE has convinced the leaders of the Japanese government that NERV is planning initiate Third Impact. The prime minister has in turn deployed a large JSSDF detachment, consisting of infantry and tanks with air support, to Tokyo-3 with orders to take NERV Headquarters and capture the EVAs. As soon as they have been given the go-ahead, the JSSDF wastes no time in quickly and systemically taking out all of NERV's surveillance equipment on the surface, before entering the Geofront en masse, slaughtering the unprepared and ill-equipped NERV personnel on sight. "After all we've been through, our final enemy is our fellow man," comments Fuyutsuki dryly, as frantic reports of security breaches and fighting with hostile forces on several levels of the complex keeps coming in. As Misato directs the defense against the invasion, she realizes the EVA pilots will become a high-priority target for the invaders. She has Asuka inserted into Unit-02 and hidden on the bottom of the Geofront lake to keep both the EVA and its pilot safe. The locations of Shinji and Rei remain unknown.
Fuyutsuki realizes the futility of Misato's efforts, knowing NERV will be overrun in due time. Gendo rises from his seat and leaves for Terminal Dogma, asking Fuyutsuki to see the fight through to the end; Fuyutsuki asks Gendo to give Yui his regards. As Gendou leaves, a surveillance camera spots Shinji hiding under a flight of stairs at the border of the front line — with JSSDF soldiers closing in on his location. Misato buys Shinji some time by issuing an order to seal off most of the complex with Bakelite, then hands command over to Hyuga before heading out to save Shinji herself.
As the bridge crew arm themselves, Hyuga notices how NERV is ridiculously underequipped to handle a human invasion. Aoba points out how NERV's funding for self-defense equipment dropped over the past few months, believing this entire scenario has been in the plans for a long time. A JSSDF squad breaches Central Dogma, and the personnel frantically return fire. Maya freezes up, refusing to shoot at other people, but Aoba angrily scolds her and reminds her that "kill or be killed" is the only rule now. In Terminal Dogma, Gendo finds Rei meditating naked amongst the destroyed corpses of her clones. He tells her, "It is time." Though Rei glares coldly back at him, she still decides to follow him. Meanwhile, Shinji is found by three JSSDF soldiers, who prepare to execute him. Misato arrives before they can pull the trigger; using the element of surprise, she is able to kill them, before taking an unwilling Shinji away to get him into Unit-01.
Despite heavily casualties, the remaining personnel in Central Dogma manage to hold the line against the invading soldiers. Hyuga wonders why the JSSDF have not just outright nuked NERV, seeing how they appear unwilling to take any prisoners. Aoba guesses that the only reason they are using any restraint at all is because they want to capture the MAGI intact, he just hopes they won't be using any bio-chemical weapons to achieve it. "That or a N2 mine," replies Hyuga — at which point the JSSDF drops an N2 mine on top of the Geofront, which blows away the protective dome. In the meantime, the JSSDF commander receives updates from the ground forces, namely that they have been able to locate and "capture" Unit-01, and that they have discovered Unit-02 on the bottom of the Geofront lake. The commander orders that the EVA is to be bombed with depth charges. Asuka finally regains consciousness inside the EVA (much to her surprise), but the JSSDF's bombing sends her into a panic; she declares in a mantra that she doesn't want to die. As she does this, another voice in the entry plug starts softy whispering to her, telling her that she will survive and it will help her and protect her, and Asuka recognizes the voice as her mother's. Making mental contact her mother's soul, Asuka realizes that she had been inside the EVA, watching over her all along. Reunited with her mother, Asuka synchronizes with Unit-02 and rises from the lake, then annihilates a heavy portion of the JSSDF ranks, who cannot get through Unit-02's AT Field. After desperately trying to hammer the EVA with everything they got, but to absolutely no effect, the soldiers instead focus on Unit-02's power cable and manage to cut it, but Asuka refuses to let a little thing like a lack of power to the EVA stop her now.
Misato drives Shinji towards the EVA cage, and along the way, she tells him that SEELE initiated Second Impact — and they plan to trigger Third Impact by using the Evangelions. SEELE knew all along about the fundamental conflict between Angels and humans: Just as the Angels spawned from a source of life named Adam, mankind spawned from Lilith (which makes humanity the 18th Angel). Though Lilith and Adam's offspring were, at their core, the same kind of creature, the latter gave up its human form and therefore couldn't co-exist with humanity. Misato tells Shinji that humanity's only chance of survival is using the Evangelions to hold off the invasion, as SEELE will surely use the Mass-Produced Evangelion series to capture the EVAs and start Instrumentality. Shinji stays unresponsive until news of Asuka's re-awakening reaches Misato.
SEELE also becomes responsive when they hear about Unit-02: They order the Mass-Produced EVAs into battle. Dropped from specialized airships, nine white EVAs — marked as Units 05 through 13 and all equipped with S2 Engines and controlled by dummy plugs — hover down on bird-like wings and land in the Geofront. They waste no time in surrounding Unit-02, which is running on battery power — but despite this setback, Asuka boasts that she can and will destroy them all.
Misato and Shinji close in on the elevator to the EVA cage, but they are ambushed by a JSSDF patrol. Misato is shot in the torso as the two manage to escape; the soldiers consider pursuing them for a moment, but retreat when they learn the area is scheduled for demolition. Misato and Shinji reach the elevator, but Misato nearly collapses on the spot from her injuries. Mustering up what remains of her rapidly dwindling strength, she puts on a brave face, forces herself to her feet, and tells Shinji he must reach Unit-01 and pilot it if he wants to survive — and that, from here on out, he will be on his own. Shinji breaks down crying and refuses, calling himself a horrible person for what he did to Kaworu and Asuka, and declares he'd rather do nothing since piloting Unit-01 has only resulted in misery and led him to hurting and killing people. Misato answers that he must face what he did and accept it instead of giving up, or she will never forgive him. She then leans in and kisses him deeply — "That was an adult kiss. We'll do the rest when you get back." — then hands a shocked Shinji her pendant and pushes him into the elevator. Misato gives Shinji one last smile as she presses the elevator button. As soon as the doors close and Shinji is out of view, she collapses from exhaustion and bleeds out on the floor. With her least breaths, she asks Kaji for forgiveness, wondering if she did the right things. The last thing Misato sees is a ghostly Rei standing over her...right before the floor explodes and tears her body into pieces. In the elevator, Shinji wipes his mouth and realizes he has Misato's blood on him. He cries as he travels, alone and afraid, to the EVA cage.
Asuka, engaged with the MP EVAs in a bloody fight, wonders where Shinji is. Shinji, who hears her over the radio, has arrived at the EVA cage; the JSSDF has covered Unit-01 in Bakelite, which prevents him from getting inside. In Terminal Dogma, Gendo and Rei reach Lilith's chamber, but they are confronted by Ritsuko, who used the confusion of the invasion to sneak away in safety. She tells Gendo how she rigged the MAGI to trigger the base's self-destruct mechanism, considering it her ultimate revenge against him. But when she tries to trigger the self-destruct and nothing happens, she looks at her remote: Caspar has rejected the command. "Mother, how could you choose your lover instead of me?!" Risuko asks in disbelief...right before Gendo points a gun at her. He delivers some last words to her ("Dr. Ritsuko Akagi, I truly..."; the rest of his sentence is muted). Ritsuko considers his words for a brief moment, before she, as tears swell up in her eyes, bitterly calls him a liar. Gendo shoots Ritsuko; as she falls into the pool of LCL, she sees a ghostly Rei.
In the fight against the MP EVAs, Asuka has gained the upper hand; she has maimed almost every one of the EVAs to the point where they can't fight back. Then one of them throws a copy of the Lance of Longinus at her. The faux Lance penetrates Unit-02's AT Field and slams right into the EVA's face, forcing Asuka to scream out in pain and panic. Unit-02 falls over backwards, but in spite of the pain, Asuka makes a frantic attempt to get back on her feet — just as the EVA's battery runs dry and leaves her helpless. The downed MP EVAs, still fully active due to their S2 engines, rises to their feet despite their injures, before they converge on Unit-02 like a flock of vultures and brutally rip the EVA apart.
The bridge crew and Shinji can do nothing but listen to Asuka's cries of pain over the radio. The MP EVAs eventually take to the sky, leaving a heavily-mutilated and barely-functional Unit-02 behind. A physically and emotionally devastated Asuka reaches out for them and swears that she will kill them all. She manages to force Unit-02 into berserker mode, and the EVA roars in defiance as it raises its hand towards the sky.
The MP EVAs throw their remaining spears at Unit-02, brutally killing both the EVA and its pilot.
As he hears the bridge crew panicking about Asuka's death over the radio, a distraught Shinji says there is nothing more he can do—at which point Unit-01 breaks free of the Bakelite by moving on its own. Shinji decides to enter the EVA, knowing his mother moved it. Gendo senses "Yui's" awakening and realizes he can now carry out his plan for Instrumentality.
Unit-01 deploys a massive AT Field, which annihilates the NERV HQ pyramid; the JSSDF command looks on in shock as the EVA hovers out of the wreckage on gigantic wings of light, calling it "The Devil himself!" Inside the cockpit, Shinji quietly calls out for Asuka. When he looks towards the sky, he sees the MP EVAs carrying off Unit-02's mutilated remains — and promptly screams out in horror and despair.
Episode 25: Air/Love is Destructive contains episode-specific examples of the following tropes:
- Badass Boast: Asuka gives a brutal one to the JSSDF when Unit-02's umbilical cable is severed during their scuffle and she easily destroys the ships.
- Battle Discretion Shot: Throughout the episode, there are several fights that the audience only get to see brief bits and pieces of. Two notable instances are the JSSDF's attempted assault on Central Dogma, of which only the beginning, a brief scene of the fighting, and the aftermath is shown (with no explanation as to how Hyuga, Aoba, Maya, and Fuyutsuki apparently was the only ones managing to pull through), and another violent run-in between Misato and Shinji had with JSSDF on the way to the EVA cage, but this one is only implied to have happened by the fact that they are taking cover behind Misato's car which is both crashed and riddled with several bullet holes.
- Big Damn Heroes:
- Misato saves Shinji from an unceremonious summary execution at the hands of the JSSDF in the nick of time.
- Asuka's arrival in Unit-02 to take out the JSSDF before it could damage NERV HQ any further certainly counts.
- Book-Ends/Call-Back: The shot of Shinji's semen-smeared palm in the Cold Opening is a subtle one to the shot of his blood-soaked palm in Episode One. Only this time, the bodily fluid is his own.
- Additionally, both shots feature Shinji standing beside a helpless girl in critical condition (the injured Rei II in Ep. 1, and the comatose Asuka in Ep. 25).
- A Date with Rosie Palms/Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!: Shinji does this over Asuka's comatose body in one of the most infamous examples of the trope by far.
- Dub-Induced Plot Hole: Manga's English translation has Misato say the following on the nature of Adam and Lilith: "Mankind was spawned from a being called Lilith, just like Adam was." A more correct translation of the original Japanese would be "Mankind was spawned from a being like Adam called Lilith." Needless to say, it spread a bit of confusion in the English-speaking fanbase about the relationship between Lilith and Adam.
- Go Mad from the Revelation: Shinji loses it when he sees the MP EVAs with Unit-02's remains.
- Half the Man He Used to Be:
- This happens to one of the MP Evas by hands of Asuka and Unit-02. The upper half of said MP Eva literally goes flying and spins at the same time.
- A rather grisly Freeze-Frame Bonus shows this happening to Misato as she gets blown up.
- Homage: The scenes of JSSDF's invasion are heavily inspired by the scenes of the American attack in Battle of Okinawa, right down to the use of flamethrowers.
- Hope Spot: Asuka and EVA-02 staves off the JSSDF assault on the surface, then demolishes the MP EVAs, making it seem as if NERV stands a chance. Then the MP EVAs get up.
- If You Can Read This: The file that describes the truth behind Second Impact that Misato uncovers is actually an English biography on Studio Gainax, but with every instance of the word "Gainax" replaced with the word "GEHIRN", along with other all-caps words such as "ADAM", SECOND IMPACT", and "SEELE" inserted at random to make it look plot relevant to the casual observer.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Unit-02 gets stabbed in the head by the Lance of Longinus, blinding Asuka's eye. Seconds later, more replicas of the Lance run through the Unit, mutilating it.
- Irony: The Japanese government and the JSSDF attack NERV, operating under the impression that the organisation is attempting to initiate Third Impact and must be destroyed to prevent it from happening. Unbeknownst to themselves, SEELE are using them as a blunt instrument to remove the only obstacle that prevents them from initiating their own version of Third Impact.
- Leave No Survivors: In a quick scene of an unarmed NERV technician trying to surrender, the JSSDF quickly makes it clear that this is their intention. The poor sod is shot in the head and then Double Tapped for this attempt.
- My God, What Have I Done?: After masturbating to Asuka at the beginning of the episode, Shinji laments at what he just did to himself.
- Non-Dubbed Grunts: In the Netflix European Spanish dub, Shinji's screaming upon seeing Unit-02's remains is left in by Megumi Ogata. Few can tell the differences due to the similarity of Carlos Larios's voice to Ogata's.
- No Pronunciation Guide: While the Manga dub pronounces Longinus as lon-geh-nus with a short i sound, the Netflix dub uses the traditional "lon-gy-nus" with the long i sound.
- Nothing Personal: The JSSDF soldier who almost kills Shinji says this in the English version while holding a gun against Shinji's head. (In Japanese, he says something more along the lines of, "Don't hold it against me.") Misato fires the line back at the soldier as she pins him against a wall and blows his brains out (though in her case, it clearly is personal).
- Oh, Crap!:
- Asuka has an expression of horror and realization when the Lance of Longinus penetrates Unit-02's AT Field and is about to head straight for its head.
- Shinji when he sees Asuka's remains at the end of the episode.
- Plot Armor: Hyuga, Aoba, Maya, and Fuyutsuki survive the attack on Central Dogma. This example stands out because every other member of the Central Dogma personnel, all of them unnamed Red Shirts, appear to have perished in the attack (judging from the establishing shots), and we don't see how the survivors managed to pull through.
- Precision F-Strike: In the Manga English dub:
- Shinji complains that Misato doesn't understand what it's like to be him. Her response?So fucking what if I'm not you?!
- Shinji himself also gets one. After he finishes masturbating to Asuka's exposed body, he says, "I'm so fucked up."
- Shinji complains that Misato doesn't understand what it's like to be him. Her response?
- Screw Your Ultimatum!: Gendo says as much to Keel when he demands the surrender of Unit-01.
- Slasher Smile: The MP Evas all have a permanent one.
- Speak of the Devil: Hyuga wonders why the JSSDF hasn't used N2 mines on them seconds before they do just that. Aoba blurts out the trope name as NERV HQ is rocked by the explosion.
- The Un-Reveal: The film never reveals what Gendo says to Ritsuko before shooting her.
- Where's the Kaboom?: Ritsuko's plan to activate the self-destruct through the MAGI fails — not because of a technical issue, but because of a love triangle.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness
- SEELE stages the attack on NERV HQ after Gendo refuses to hand over the Evangelions.
- When the MP EVAs are called in to fight Unit-02, some of them casually land on top of JSSDF vehicles and soldiers. SEELE seemed to no longer care about any collateral damage, so long as it could take control of (or take out) NERV's EVAs.