"In sickness unto death, and..." is the sixteenth episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion.
A new and extremely bizarre Angel, Leliel, appears in the sky over Tokyo-3, apparently a black and white sphere. All three Evangelions move in to attack, but Shinji's attack is useless, and he in Unit-01 is absorbed into a growing shadow that has engulfed the city. Ritsuko determines that Leliel exists on a higher dimension of existence, which can only be explained by mathematical concepts. The shadow on the ground, described as being 600 meters wide but only three nanometers thick, is the actual body of the Angel, and the sphere in the sky is its true shadow. Fearing that Unit-01 has been completely lost, NERV prepares to drop all of its remaining N² bombs into the Angel, hoping that this will destroy Leliel even though it could easily kill Shinji as well. While trapped in Leliel, Shinji goes on an introspective mental journey. As the battery power completely drains and life support runs out in Unit-01, Shinji falls unconscious, and a pair of glowing arms reach out to embrace him. Outside Leliel, Misato and Ritsuko witness Unit-01 violently tear its way out of Leliel's shadow, thereby killing it.
Early in this episode, the three pilots undergo a synch test, in which Shinji emerges the best synchronized pilot, a fact that greatly annoys and disturbs Asuka and causes her to leave, fuming.
Later on, a bizarre shadow emerges from the street in the city, seemingly out of nowhere. An alert is declared at NERV and personnel observe as a sphere with Zebra-like black and white stripes floats over the city.
Confused about whether or not this peculiar apparition is an Angel, the three Evangelions are dispatched to draw it out of the city airspace before engaging it. Asuka's goading prompts Shinji to take point position, closest to the target. An overconfident Shinji attacks the sphere without waiting for the other two Evas to get into position, and the sphere simply disappears. The target is confirmed to be an Angel, and to everyone's horror, a dark shadow materializes under Unit-01 and sucks it in.
Despite attempts to recover Shinji, he and Unit-01 remain stuck in the shadow, and it is estimated the Evangelion can uphold life-support for about 16 hours. If Shinji is not out by dawn, he will die.
Ritsuko soon explains that the Angel is the shadow on the ground, not the floating sphere, and that it exists in another dimension in a form that can only be explained by higher mathematics. She concocts a plan that involves dropping all 992 N² mines in existence into the Angel, and while deploying the A.T. Fields of Units 00 and 02 around its edges; this will hopefully create enough energy to push Unit-01 out of the shadow and kill the Angel. Misato interjects, pointing out that the plan carries with it a massive risk of killing Shinji in the process, but Ritsuko merely states that getting Unit-01 back has the highest prority. This angers Misato, who slaps the scientist, and she demands to know why Unit-01 is so important that its recovery thrumphs Shinji's health and safety. Ritsuko refuses to answer, and relieves Misato of command for being too emotionally involved. Misato notes to herself that the number of secrets kept from her seem to keep piling up.
Meanwhile, Shinji goes through a depressing introspective journey inside the Eva, when another entity (The Angel Leliel) interrogates him about the shallowness of his own existence, before finally accusing him of only living on bits the praise of others and making himself blind and deaf to those things that cause him pain, telling him that he cannot go on living like that. Anguished, Shinji asks the entity why this way of living is wrong if it makes him happy, and shouts for it to leave him alone. He suddenly awakes in the plug, moments from death, and is met by a womanly apparition, and he realizes that she is his mother.
Outside, both Evangelions are in position and a huge swarm of aircraft prepares for the mine drop, and the plan is just about to go into action when the shadow on the ground shakes and rips apart as though hit by an earthquake, and the sphere turns black and solid. To everyone's utter horror, Unit-01 tears out of the sphere and bellows in a horrible parody of birth, killing the Angel. Shinji is recovered from the Angel, and wakes up in the hospital with Rei at his side, where she had spent the night with him.
Glad to see that Shinji has recovered, Rei opens the door to leave the room, revealing Asuka to be lurking in the hallway outside. Pretending not to care, she quickly hides. Amused, Shinji puts up his hand to his mouth to surpress a chuckle, but he pauses as he notices that it smells of blood.
- Shinji attacks Leliel with a pistol which appears to be an Eva-sized version of an IMI Desert Eagle. This is the only time in the series this weapon is shown.
- Asuka uses the Sonic Glaive axe to climb up a building and escape the shadow. An axe is never seen again for the remainder of the series.
- Shinji's interaction with Leliel is conducted in a strange vision in which both of them appear seated in a train car.
- Unit-01 is hosed down with high-pressure water to clean off the Angel's blood. The scene of the Eva bursting out of the Angel is evocative of birth; by extension, this scene evokes baptism, the symbolic washing away of sins after birth.
- Rei is visibly concerned when Unit-01 and Shinji are sucked into Leliel, even questioning Misato's order to retreat. She is extremely annoyed with Asuka for berating Shinji, and even spends the night with him in hospital when Asuka waits outside, too embarrassed to be with him.
- Rei and Yui utter the same line, "Sou, yokatta wane." (In the English dub: "Oh? I'm glad to hear it.") Whether or not Rei has any of Yui's personality traits, this line underlines, in Shinji's mind, the eerie similarity between Rei and Yui. Since Yui's face is either in shadow or glare (The long-haired female form that embraces Shinji does not look like Yui), it is hard to see that Rei and Yui look practically identical. Nevertheless, Shinji has come to sense the connection between the two, one that proves of vital significance later.
- The episode title is a reference to "The Sickness Unto Death" (Sygdommen til Doden, 1849), the most important work put out by the father of existentialism, the philosopher Soren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813-1855) of Denmark. "The sickness unto death" refers to "despair," and in the introduction of this work, Kierkegaard says that for a Christian, "Even death itself is not 'the sickness unto death.' Not to mention any of the suffering on Earth known as destitution, illness, misery, privations, misfortune, pain, anguish, grief, or regret." The English episode title, "Splitting of the Breast" refers to a psychological process by which an infant's impression of the breast becomes split into two, a "good object" and a "bad object." - Platinum Episode Commentaries
- The "Dirac's sea" that took Shinji and Unit-01 in is a concept that the British theoretical physicist Dirac (Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac: 1902-1984) used in his hole theory. A vacuum is filled with negative energy electrons, and this is what is called "Dirac's sea." - Platinum Episode Commentaries
- It appears as if Shinji is in contact with his own subconscious during his introspection, however, it is actually the Angel, Leliel, who is making contact. Similar to how Arael and Armisael's contact with Asuka and Rei, the communication is seen as Shinji talking to a younger version of himself. In Tsurumaki's interview printed in the End of Evangelion Theatrical Program, he states the following about episode 16:
“ However, amidst the flow of the mysteries surrounding the Angels gradually being resolved, we decided to insert an episode where an Angel appeared to take an interest in humans. The first draft of the scenario was actually a dialog between Shinji and the Angel. However, we felt it would be too anti-climactic to have an Angel start talking like some pulp fiction alien (speaks while tapping his Adam's apple with his hand) "Your analog mode of thought is incorrect." So we came up with the idea actually used in this episode, which was to have Shinji converse with himself. ” —Kazuya Tsurumaki
Also note that in the next episode, SEELE interrogated Misato and considered the possibility of the Angel making contact with the pilot of Evangelion Unit-01.
- Leliel's own striped appearance corresponds to little Shinji's striped shirt, very likely a hint at who Shinji is really speaking to.