Part 4: Realization
This final revelation is the realization that the true reason behind choosing the constructed identity over the real is the fear of the real identity itself. In Miyazawa's case this is simple: she knows, as we know, that her true nature is a sweatshirt-clad slob whose favorite Sunday-afternoon activity is sleeping in front of the television; there is no question that she would fear revealing this to the public; she fears enough having revealed it to only one person in the second episode. Arima is somewhat more complex, but still relatively easy to understand: he fears that his real identity is like that of his original father. What is interesting to note at this point is that it is this fear, rather than Arima's oppressive family, which becomes the focal reason for Arima's desire to be the perfect student, as both he and the audience discover: he has been constructing an identity for himself so that he can mask out the potentially disastrous identity which is real. In both cases, we find that the real reason behind choosing the constructed image is to mask the possibly terrible true nature of the self.
In order to see how this fear of the true nature of the self connects to Evangelion, we must first understand the true nature of the main character, Shinji, who, as I mentioned earlier, really doesn't have an identity until halfway through the series. But what is this identity? Possibly it is best seen through consideration of where Shinji tries to hide this nature through cowardliness. Three scenes come to mind immediately: first Shinji's refusal to destroy an Eva possessed by an Angel but containing a human being inside; second Shinji's indecision when faced with destroying the last Angel, Kaoru; third Shinji's reverting to what almost seemed a premature crybaby state in End of Evangelion. Aside from Shinji's weak appearance in these three scenes, they are all connected in a much more important way: in all three ways Shinji was empowered, given the potential to become not a created identity but a creator (or destroyer) of others' identities. In fact, in End of Evangelion, Shinji achieves the power to judge all of mankind in his control of the Third Impact. In essence, Shinji has found his true nature, and it is an identity of power. Shinji has found the power to destroy the father he hates so much; moreover, Shinji has found the potential to create a world of perfection, a world where all people are united and there is no pain. Freud would say that Shinji has become the father. Lacan would say that Shinji has found the Center which controls all, that Shinji has become the Phallus.
For Shinji, as it probably would be for many of us, becoming the Phallus, the center of all power and of all symbolic order, can be a scary thing. As much as Lacan stresses that everyone wants to become the Phallus, he explicitly states that such a state would be impossible to achieve, by its very nature of being the center of symbolic structure. Unfortunately, not only does Shinji achieve this impossible identity, but he also arrives at it, as J.S. observed, without any identity other than those created through symbols-an identity born not of the Real, but constructed by the Symbolic, by the Phallus itself. And most prominent in this constructed identity is Shinji's idea that he is obligated to save the people of the world, an idea drawn both from his father's demand that he pilot the Eva and his own desire to be accepted by others by piloting the Eva. Yet what is he to do with this power that seems now to demand that he destroy first individuals and then possibly mankind, in the Third Impact?
Shinji reacts against this real identity he has found for himself in the most powerful way he can, turning himself into a total coward. Thus he himself constructs the final and most powerful self-identity to protect against this growing power. This "shield identity," in fact, is so strong that it is even physically manifested in both his Eva and his AT Field. After all, the AT Field represents the boundary between one's soul and the outside world-a force field constructed to conceal the real identity from outsiders. And the Eva, according to interpretations by K.G. and A.Y.L., represents Shinji's mother, and possibly his desire to revert back to his mother's womb, so that his true nature may be protected. Although it is true that both the Eva and the AT Field were present from the very beginning of the series, it is only toward the end, where Shinji begins to learn of his powerful true nature, that both the Eva and the AT Field become less objects of attack and more mechanisms of defense, protecting Shinji from the invading Angels. What is most crucial, though, is not the manifestation of this final constructed identity but rather the fact that it was actually created by the individual for that individual, and not imposed by someone else or produced to gain someone else's acceptance.
For it is the realization that we ourselves are truly the creators of our own constructed identities that allows for the potential to break them down. Miyazawa is able to confront her desire for praise and break it down, allowing her to become a silly but happy person who is able to live her life to her own content. Arima realizes that he is not his father, and thus he reveals his true self without becoming a terrible person. Shinji finally accepts his position of power and, rather than cowering away from it, uses it to "save" humanity from the Third Impact. How did these characters all manage to break down their masks of constructed identity?