[Anime] Neon Genesis Evangelion – Review

evangelion-poster1This post is the final installation in a series of posts on Neon Genesis Evangelion and has no spoilers.

Part 1 can be found here.

Part 2 can be found here.

Part 3 can be found here.

Part 4 can be found here

Part 5 can be found here

Baring the conceits and contradictions of the human heart to the world has always been central to the success of any story. Even the simplest story needs something for its readership or audience to grab on to, to relate to, to buy into. We no longer live in simple times. Stories in our day and age are complex, cloak-and-dagger games of expectations and counter-expectations, building audience expectations while hiding authorial intent until the last possible moment.  Yet, a plot twist, no matter how ingenious in its conception, will still fall flat without a powerful core concept that resonates with the audience. Much of the success that Neon Genesis Evangelion has enjoyed, rests on its ability to expose in its characters the ugly vulnerabilities that all of us know exist in ourselves. It is an intimately psychological story centring on mankind’s complicated relationship with the very borders that define them yet keep them apart. The greater story of an impending alien invasion and mankind’s struggle to survive is ultimately little more than window dressing, a mechanism that allows for an exploration of the human condition within the bounds of the story.

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[Anime] Neon Genesis Evangelion – Love is Destructive, but still I Need You

 

evangelion-poster1This post is the sixth in a series of posts on Neon Genesis Evangelion and has spoilers for the entire series, including End of Evangelion

Part 1 can be found here.

Part 2 can be found here.

Part 3 can be found here.

Part 4 can be found here

Part 5 can be found here

This post covers Neon Genesis Evangelion episodes 20-26, plus End of Evangelion.

If cliff-hangers at the end of chapters and episodes are a crime, then cliff-hangers at the end of a book or series are surely an unconscionable evil. After finishing Neon Genesis Evangelion though, I had to ask myself – would I rather have two endings, or none? It’s not as simple a question to answer as you might think. I did not like the original ending to Neon Genesis Evangelion, for reasons that I will dive into very soon. I barely considered it an ending at all, especially after the four episodes preceding it did such a masterful job of taking the story’s tension through the roof. The original ending felt like a disservice to the story I had been following and was invested in, not to mention a case of truly awful storytelling and pacing. It was that deep dissatisfaction more than anything else that pushed me to watch End of Evangelion. End of Evangelion was always going to be on my list but I had expected it to be largely supplementary to the series’ true ending rather than a wholesale replacement. I went into End of Evangelion full of certainty that the movie length ending that I was about to watch would be the ending that the series deserved, because after all, there was no way it could be worse than the droning inanity of the original ending. I wasn’t wrong, I don’t think; in almost every single way, End of Evangelion blows the original ending out of the water. While End of Evangelion certainly isn’t perfect, there is simply no comparing the two, not by any measure of quality that I know of. Yet, in my mind, albeit with some reluctance, I am almost entirely certain that I’ll be going with the original ending as the series’ ‘true’ ending. What gives?

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[Anime] Neon Genesis Evangelion – Ambivalent, Introjecting Women Split A Fourth Child’s Breast

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This post is the fifth in a series of posts on Neon Genesis Evangelion and has spoilers for episodes 1-20.

Part 1 can be found here.

Part 2 can be found here.

Part 3 can be found here.

Part 4 can be found here

This post covers Neon Genesis Evangelion episodes 14-20.

Hello and welcome back! Since the last time I posted anything here, I’ve been to the furthest, most desolate corners of the world and back (aka London). I’ve seen some things that have made me question the way I’ve lived my life so far (cheap beer and amazing whiskey, or was it the other way around?). I’ve also been through some stuff that still keeps me up at night (jet lag, I literally just got home). Sorry for the long semi-explained absence, but the good news is that I’m back and not going anywhere for a while. Speaking of jet lag though – I don’t know how many of you have binge watched Neon Genesis Evangelion while severely jet lagged but there really is no better way to watch it. As the insanity increases, your temporally challenged brain just sort of accepts that everything is fucked and no one is going to get out of this mess happy and psychologically healthy. Of course, the odds of them ending the series with a clean bill of mental health were never all that great given that almost none of them began the series all that mentally sound in the first place. The trajectory of the first half of the series left the story enough room for the possibility of a positive outcome for most of the characters but the group of episodes we’re covering today (episodes 14 through 20) all but ensure that we’re en route to a bad ending.

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[Anime] Neon Genesis Evangelion – Asuka Dances While A Lilliputian Tokyo Stands Still, Hating

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This post is the fourth in a series of posts on Neon Genesis Evangelion and has spoilers for episodes 1-13. Part 1 can be found here. Part 2 can be found here.Part 3 can be found here.

This post covers Neon Genesis Evangelion episodes 8-13.

As a story moves away from its introductory phase, one particularly noticeable change takes place. Instead of introducing new characters and new plot elements, the story itself increasingly becomes a source of complexity. There are, as always, exceptions to this rule but by and large, no writer wants to spend an entire story just constantly introducing new characters and adding backstory. No, the point of the story is to tell it – you want to move the plot forward. Yes, I know that sometimes revealing backstory can help advance the plot but my point is that generally speaking, as a story progresses you want to rely on them  less and less. In this week’s group of episodes, with the introduction of the fiery Asuka Langley Soryu, Neon Genesis Evangelion finishes assembling its cast of troubled teens and begins a slow shift towards the meat of its story. The group of episodes that we will be looking at today is a something of a mixed bag. On one hand, you get the sense that we’re in a ‘monster-of-the–week’ mode in which the main trio fights the episode’s Angel and in doing so coincidentally learns a lesson about themselves. It’s a little formulaic but also gives us plenty of opportunity for character development and inches the plot forward too. Given that we don’t know what the Angels even are, or where they are coming from or how many of them there are, it’s a little hard not to see this formula as a way of intentionally slowing the bigger story down and giving the audience time to get comfortable with our three protagonists. However, despite all that, I’m still enjoying the series and its pacing though that’s at least in part because I’m pretty sure that all these lessons and character development moments are going to have a big payoff at the end of the series. I will concede that it is a little troubling that I feel no closer to understanding the series’ ultimate end-game now than I did half a dozen episodes ago. There are a lot of mysteries hanging in the air and even though we’re only halfway into the series, I feel some of them need to start getting unwound soon.

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[Anime] Neon Genesis Evangelion – Human Work Facing A Hedgehog’s Dilemma

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This post is the third in a series of posts on Neon Genesis Evangelion and has spoilers for the first two episodes. Part 1 can be found here. Part 2 can be found here.

One of the reasons that I moved away from the episode-by-episode format of these reviews was because when I was using the old format, I was missing the forest for the trees. I was getting a series of snapshots – of the plot, characters and themes – but as a result, I was missing the evolution of those same aspects. Most critically, I was missing the characters’ journeys and their personal arcs. In a story like Evangelion, where the characters are so very compelling, that’s a big deal. I felt that at the end of the day, what I wanted to focus on was more the question of how a story develops and unfolds rather than the state of the story at various individual points. For a while I wasn’t really sure how I was going to condense a bunch of episodes into a single review – I’ve done reviews of an entire series, of course, but those rarely dive deep into the details while the episode reviews I usually do probably go into a little too much detail. The good thing about covering a small handful of episodes is that most questions kind of answer themselves and when you tear away that layer of flab in the content, you’re left with what I hope is something much denser and more concise.

Two weeks ago, we covered episodes 1 and 2 of Neon Genesis Evangelion. This week we’ll be covering episodes 3 through 7 and I will be revisiting a lot of the ideas that I touched upon last week – the theme of loneliness, the various psychological issues the characters are struggling with as well as more plot specific questions concerning the setting and how the story is unfolding. More specifically, I want to focus on Shinji’s development as a character and how that development is being created, and the knock-on effects it is having on the other characters and the rest of the story. Ayanami Rei finally gets a proper introduction and we see some sense of familiarity settle into the series after the chaotic opening episodes. By way of introduction, one of the things that struck me as I watched this group of episodes was how Evangelion’s plot is comprised of two interconnected stories. The first is the bigger story concerning the fate of their world and is centred on whether mankind will be able to survive the Angel apocalypse and prevent a Third Impact. The second story is more intimate, but no less important; it is the story of Ikari Shinji overcoming the emotional baggage he has been lugging around with him. In order for both these stories to arrive at satisfying conclusions, it would make logical sense for their outcomes to be interconnected. That means that either the fate of mankind will depend on Shinji coming to terms with his issues or conversely, the state of Shinji’s psyche depending on mankind’s ability to beat the Angels. Given how the latter option runs the risk of extreme redundancy – if mankind loses to the Angels, it doesn’t really matter what Shinji’s emotional response is – I suspect it will be the former. The fate of world will lie on the shoulders of a troubled, depressed teenager who everyone treats like shit. If he does decide to pull the trigger that damns the world – and given the series’ tone so far, that’s far from unlikely – then I can’t say that the world wouldn’t deserve it.

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[Anime] Neon Genesis Evangelion – An Angel Attacking An Unfamiliar Ceiling

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This post is the second in a series of posts on Neon Genesis Evangelion and has spoilers for the first two episodes. Part 1 can be found here.

I didn’t have a particularly good 2000. There wasn’t anything wrong with it really; it was just a pretty mediocre year, all things considered. What these first two episodes of Evangelion have shown me is that as meh as my turn of the millennium was, it could have been infinitely worse. If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you read my introductory post earlier in the week last week (I swear, I’ve been working on this for that long). If you read that introductory post, I’m going to assume that you’re wondering why I’m posting again so soon when I mentioned that I’m covering around 4-5 episodes per post. Here’s the thing: by the end of just two episodes, I realized that I had so much to talk about that it was going to be nigh impossible to hold all of that till I reached episode 4 or 5. Now, to be fair, part of the reason that I have so much to say is because these first two episodes are all about introductions and first impressions. Hopefully, the pace picks up from here, but seeing how rich this show looks to be, I make no promises. Finally, a note on comments and spoilers – until I’m done with the series, I’m probably not going to watch videos/read articles about the series because I don’t really want them affecting my perception of it too much. I’m fine watching non-spoiler videos but I realize that it’s a little onerous for me to expect spoiler warnings for a show that is 20 years old. Instead of expecting others to tag spoilers for me, I figured it would just be safer and simpler to abstain from all of it till I’m done with the series.

Episode 1: Angel Attack

When I first wrote this review (this is version 3, in case you’re wondering), I really struggled with the structure. On one hand, I wanted to talk about the various aspects of the series – the themes, the setting, the symbolism, the characters – but on the other hand, I didn’t think was any point in taking such a broad approach and tackling all those topics so early into the series. What I decided instead would be to run through the episodes themselves and highlight some of the more interesting scenes and my thoughts on them so far. I’ll bring up some thoughts that aren’t episode specific and then we can see how those thoughts evolve as the series proceeds. For example, in today’s post, I’m going to bring up the topic of isolation and loneliness as a theme in Evangelion and while I obviously won’t be bringing in examples from throughout the series, I’ll be building on the foundations I lay down today and seeing how that theme develops as the series progresses.

First Impressions: Throwback to 1995

The series opens with a gigantic bipedal creature attacking a city – or what’s left of it, anyway. The monster, known as an Angel, is wreaking slow havoc throughout the city (I suspect it’s Tokyo, but we aren’t told explicitly, unless I missed it) and nothing in the United Nations’ arsenal is able to even scratch it. This first scene does a great deal of legwork in establishing the setting, but it does it without a lot of explicit explanation. The opening shots show us the Angel swimming through the ruins of a city and defence forces assembling in the hopes of defeating it. Almost instinctively, given the post-apocalyptic vibe, the audience can infer that that it is the Angel that the army is assembling to defeat, that it is most likely responsible for the destruction it is wading through and that it is a serious threat. All of this seems obvious, I know, but consider the alternative, where we get a solid 10minutes of slow, excruciating exposition while watch nothing happening on screen. The introductory scene is a mixture of intriguing and familiar; it tells you just enough to leave you wanting more.

Since we’re on the topic of first impressions, I feel like I should also mention the visual aspect of it. Most of you will be aware that the last series I saw was Fate/Zero. I bring this up because in terms of art and animation, Evangelion and Fate/Zero are nothing alike. I won’t lie – I can’t say that I objectively like the art, but somehow, I do feel like it fits the show really well. For example, I’m not the biggest fan of the dull, muted colour scheme – I know, it was fairly typical of the technicolour animation of the time, but like I said, I can’t honestly say that I like it, aesthetically, all that much. Similarly, the animation makes the scenes feel much more stationary and still than in other series I’ve seen and gotten used to. Yet, those very same faded colours feel very consistent with the tone of hopelessness I’m picking up from this series and, looking at silver linings, the lack of general movement on the screen lets me digest the various shots without too much distraction. It’s clear that the characters are the focal point here and the animation isn’t meant to get in the way of that. I don’t know if I’ll ever come to love the visuals of this series, but hey, it’s early days yet.

Character design hasn’t really been something I’ve talked a whole lot about and in the past, largely because I felt like I wasn’t qualified to. I’ll give it a shot today, however, especially because I have a point to make. Shinji’s character design is pretty much as bland as it gets. He’s spectacularly ‘meh’ – he’s just a normal school kid, in uniform and with really no features to set him apart. He has no real features to set him apart – he’s not particularly tall, short, thin, fat, for example. He’s just your generic everyman. He doesn’t even have weirdly coloured hair to make him pop out – in fact, surrounded by blue haired and blonde women, he really fades into the background. It’s very appropriate however; the take-away from these first episodes has been that Shinji is just an ordinary kid who has been bullied into extraordinary circumstances and everything from his clothes to his appearance reflects that. He’s in well over his head and the character design really rams home the absurdity of it all – he’s a schoolboy piloting a giant organic robot trying to fight a monster that could destroy human civilization. Then we have the EVAs themselves – I’m not a huge fan of their colour schemes, but I love their designs otherwise. They are a great mix of intimidating and awe-inspiring. When Shinji’s unit arrives on the scene, it looks badass enough that you can believe right away that it can fuck shit up. At the same time, it has a look that is at once both bestial and somewhat human. I’ll circle back to the rest of the characters’ design if something strikes me, but first, I want to get a better feel for what their characters are really like.

Keep calm and get in the damn robot

As I moved from the introduction and into the meat of the first episode, one of the things I noticed was this feeling of emptiness and isolation in the show, especially in Shinji’s scenes. I wasn’t sure if it would be a one-time thing but then when I moved from the first episode to the second and got a better feel for the show’s tone and emotional atmosphere, I realized I was on to something. Of course, it could just be a two time thing but we’ll see. First, I’ll explain how two different aspects of the show created that atmosphere of loneliness and isolation.

Visuals: Compare the sequence of scenes of the UN trying and failing to destroy the Angel to any scene with Shinji in it (with a couple of notable exceptions, both of which I will get to in a moment). The UN scenes are relatively unremarkable – indeed, the UN there is depicted as stereotypically and almost comically inept. One thing that makes it unremarkable is the number of people involved; there is plenty of hustle and bustle, a lot of background noise and chatter. Now, in most of Shinji’s scenes, it’s just him and maybe one or two other people, tops. In the early part of the episode, this is justified with the warning sirens and all of that jazz but this trend continues throughout the rest of the episode (and the next, but I don’t want to head there just yet); even inside the base, we barely see any of the other personnel beyond the named characters. Now, I mentioned a couple of exceptions. One of them is from the next episode, so we’ll hold off on that for a second, but the other is at the tail end of this first episode. The only time we really realize that there are other, non-named characters involved in Shinji’s life is when the adults around him are turning the pressure on him up. They don’t say anything but he notices their looks of judgement and disappointment. It’s important to note that we see all this from his perspective; those unnamed characters might not actually be judging him at all, but he thinks they are and that perception makes an important reality because they are part of his decision to get into the robot.

Dialogue: Now, the dialogue is going to be a harder sell because it’s going to seem like I’m making a big deal out of nothing and reading way too much into way too little, but bear with me for a bit. When Shinji is rooted to the spot in terror of getting into the scary looking robot, we see that the way everyone speaks to him is designed to isolate and single him out. I’m paraphrasing of course, but the gist of what they say is stuff like “Only you can do it”, “You have to do it or we’ll all die”, “Look at this poor girl on life support. She’s willing to try even in her state but you won’t?! You suck”, “You’re useless, you’re a whiny little bitch”, “Why can’t you do anything right?” They don’t say all of this of course, at least not in so many words, but you can tell that it’s all that Shinji is hearing. It’s not hard to imagine that a teenage boy, hopelessly out of his league and already lacking confidence, would hear such sentiments in their harsh words. At no point does anyone offer any support or even an acknowledgement of what they are asking of him; naturally, the tone of the scene starts feeling like Shinji vs the rest. The scene does a great job of showing the pressure bearing down on Shinji and explaining, in great non-verbal fashion, just what convinced him to finally take action. I guess isolation isn’t the right word here. It’s more like Shinji is all alone and everyone is against him; my brain is more than a little fried and I’m blanking on the exact word for it. Suggestions welcome in the comments.

I’ve already written way more than I originally planned to for this episode, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given how this has happened for literally every other episode review I’ve ever written but somehow I still never see it coming. Analysis is all well and good but I also need to get my own personal response to the events of the episode off my chest. You see, I found this episode pretty captivating despite a lot of it being set-up and world-building but I also have a couple of gripes with it that I need to voice.

We also don’t have a proper training program. The health insurance seems legit, though

Someone call child services

The biggest gripe is with how the episode kind of plays jump rope with its tone. For the first three quarters of the episode or so, the Angel attack is treated as no big deal. There is no wide scale panic, there is no real sense of urgency. Misato escorts Shinji around, calm as can be; even when they see the nuke go off in the distance, it’s treated as more of an inconvenience than as a legit moment of fear or anything like that. All of which is fine; Gurren Lagann didn’t take a single thing seriously and turned out just fine. However, once Shinji gets into Geo-Front (I believe the next episode establishes that it is New Tokyo 3?) things change quite soon after. Suddenly, things have gone from very much under control to an extreme code red. It gave me a little whiplash, really. It’s honestly pretty disorienting for the audience to suddenly be told that things are going very poorly and that Shinji is the only one who can save the day; I can only imagine what would be going through the character’s mind, in-story. To be fair, stories can certainly have different mood and tones at different points and you can even argue that Misato probably thought that everything was under control until she got to the base, but the way the episode tells it just felt jarring to me

What the fuck is wrong with everyone?

This isn’t a gripe so much as an emotional response to the episode but, seriously, what the fuck is wrong with half the characters? Let’s recap mankind’s full set of line of defences against an Angel attack (as shown in this episode anyway):

  • Tanks, bombs, explosives, bullets
  • Nukes
  • Evangelion robot
  • ???
  • Mankind = saved

This is a little like throwing a kid into a gorilla cage and hoping it doesn’t get killed out there

I’m not even kidding. The fact that Gendo, who took a spectacularly short amount of time to establish himself as a piece of shit, is willing to dump an untrained teenager into a robot that’s about to fight for mankind’s survival is either a sign of desperation or gross, staggering incompetence. The episode’s tone (see above) does not treat give the impression that things are that desperate (most people hard seem bothered at all) and Gendo doesn’t seem like the kind of character who we are supposed to think of as incompetent (though he very well could be).

It feels like I’m missing something because everyone in that room looked to Shinji like it’s perfectly naturally to expect him to just obediently jump into a terrifying, possibly sentient robot, get drowned in robo-juice and go fight a monster that just shrugged off a nuke. Unless this isn’t Shinji’s first time at the rodeo, this whole incident seems more like an indictment of the way NERV is running itself than anything to do with Shinji himself. The one thing I haven’t touched on just yet is the characters, but we’ll get to that too.

Episode 2: The Beast/Unfamiliar Ceiling

Episode 2 actually has an interesting story structure – we pick up right where we left off in the previous episode, but Shinji blacks out soon after his fight with the Angel begins. It is only at the episode’s end that we realize just what transpired after Shinji fainted. There is a fair bit of misdirection too – we see a shot of Shinji’s robot’s damaged head and that gets us thinking that Shinji lost and he was robot was thrashed while he himself survived. There isn’t as much to discuss in this episode, so we’ll take it scene by scene.

No one’s judging

Baby Steps

Shinji gets into the robot, tries his luck to fight a monster with literally no training. If there were any other show, they would suddenly realize that Shinji is some kind of piloting genius who can move his robot instinctively. To be fully honest, I thought that the reason for the whole mind-meld mechanism was to explain away how he could use the robot without any guidance, but I guess that’s not it. Instead of giving Shinji a pass on the basics, the scene makes a point of how desperate his situation is but what annoys me is how the folks back in the control room had absolutely no back-up plan and how their advice was basically the equivalent of “Do something!”

She’s totally judging

So Shinji wakes up in an unfamiliar place and sees Rei being carted around, still grievously injured. I think it’s time we had a chat about Rei, actually. This is the third time we’re seeing Rei – in the first episode, she appeared in this mini-vision that Shinji had while waiting for Misato, before he even met her later in the same episode. The mysterious, shady council behind NERV tells us that the Angels are back after fifteen years, but in that case, just how did Rei get herself so badly injured? It was mentioned that Shinji’s unit was under repair as well, which leads me to think that Rei was piloting it (actually, that might have been explicitly stated) but what was she piloting it against? Regardless, the presence of the mind-machine linkage between the pilots and the robots got me thinking that there is a lot of potential for some mind/emotion sharing shenanigans. Shinji saw Rei unharmed in his little daydream and we saw that Shinji and Rei’s robot have some sort of connection (based on how it shielded him instinctively). I don’t quite have enough to form a fully-fledged theory here, but it’s got my gears turning. I’ll be paying attention to Rei in the future.

We’ll double back to the shady council meeting in a bit because since we’re on the topic of characters, there are three more characters that need to be discussed. First up: Ikari Gendo. So this guy is clearly an asshole: he pretty much disowned his son and seems to be showing absolutely no regrets about it. The thing is, that as emotionally abusive and distant as he is, it also seems that he’s not really all that savvy. If he was, he would have realized right away in the previous episode that the best way to get Shinji into the robot wasn’t by bullying him and beating his already low self-confidence into a pulp but rather by just applying to Shinji’s abandonment issues and need for affection by just throwing him some support. It probably didn’t even need to be genuine – as the saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I’m not sure what it says about the character that he couldn’t even fake affection to get what he wants. I feel like that’s the bare minimum you need to be able to fake if you want to me to take you seriously as a manipulative bastard. Gendo’s appearance in this episode also makes it clear that not only does he absolutely not care what Shinji thinks of him, he is also apparently trying his best to get Shinji to despise him. If that’s the case, then it seems he’s well on his way.

Shinji himself isn’t particularly big on sticking up for himself and as a character, I kind of feel that he’s walking on a knife’s edge at the moment. Sure, I (and I’ll assume, the rest of the audience) has a lot of sympathy for him at the moment, but there’s only so long that he can just accumulate sympathy before we expect him to fight back and do something badness. Now, to be fair, there is no indication that that’s not going to happen but my point is that even with his sad backstory and his numerous self-confidence issues and his stressful environment, there is only so long that he’s going to get a pass before the audience just turns it around on him and blames him for his own situation. It’s not fair and in real life, that would kind of be a dick move to make though it wouldn’t be totally unreasonable there either. We should probably take a closer look at his issues, though, just to be fair to his character. He grew up pretty much an orphan from the looks of it – he doesn’t mention his mum, so I’ll assume she’s dead or not in the picture – and I don’t see Gendo being much of a doting dad. Shinji’s personality seems like the kind that would be a good target for bullies so between all of that, I’m not surprised that he is the way he is. Like I said, I have a lot of sympathy for him – for now.

Next, we have Shinji’s new mother figure, Misato. I’ll be honest, Misato seems like the kind of character that is supposed to be likeable but then turned out to be really fucking annoying. In my case, I think she left a really poor first impression – from her immaturity as an adult to her berating Shinji to fight the Angel even though he was clearly too scared to move, I just really didn’t like her. Most of her appearance in this episode didn’t do much to help that impression – from the borderline alcoholism to her presumption that she is even capable of caring for Shinji. I’ll be fair; I do think it was nice of her to take him in, especially since he has no one to go to for support but I don’t actually think that she is in a position herself to give him the kind of help he needs. She seems to have issues of her own – no one should be drinking that much shitty beer – and it seems like her immaturity is a cover for something deeper. Is she worried that if she’s not seen as fun and happy-go-lucky, no one will talk to her? There’s also this weirdly sexual vibe between her and Shinji, which is kind of uncomfortable since it’s coming from her (she has to be at least twice his age) and not from the hormonal teen. It’s sort of played for laughs, which is fine, but I’m not sure how seriously I’m supposed to be taking this. It’s probably not healthy for the kid with parental issues to have a new parental figure that has iffy sexual tension with him. Just saying. Then again, maybe I should wait and see how this goes because I can’t say that having someone lively and energetic like her would be bad for Shinji – plus, she does seem to be trying her best to get him to come out of his shell and you could tell that having a real home and an adult who actually gave a damn about him was important to him. I guess what I’m trying to decide on (and this is probably also going to decide where I come down on whether I like Misato or not) is whether this situation is two damaged (though Misato isn’t really damaged so much as she is just immature) people helping each other out or two drowning people trying and failing to save each other.

It’s a small, small world filled with only named characters

We will get to the shady council, but not before a short detour. Previously, when talking about isolation and loneliness in this series, I mentioned that there was a scene in this episode that I wanted to talk about. Notice that throughout this episode, in every scene with Shinji, we hardly ever see any ‘extras’. It’s always named characters, or characters with previous speaking roles. It’s all a part of what I was getting at earlier. There is a scene where Shinji walking into a supermarket and overhears a couple of people talking about the battle earlier. This is different from the previous exception I mentioned above because there is no malice in what they are saying – their words are not meant for him, but I can’t help but think that even small instances like those serve to set him apart from the rest of the characters. Shinji doesn’t have the option of moving away – that’s an option that most of the other characters do have, I’d think – nor does he get the blissful ignorance of not knowing what is going on. Instead, he has to be right in the thick of things, actually fighting the monsters that have everyone else freaked out. It’s weird; when I type this all out, I feel like I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, but otherwise, I think it’s a solid point. I’ll leave it to you lot to decide.

Ok, so coming back to the shady council – actually, you know what? Till they give us a name, I’m hereby christening them the Shady Council. Anyway, the Shady Council scene offered tantalizingly little in terms of real information but at the same time, a great deal by way of insinuation. What we essentially learned was that the EVAs are not seen as the real plan to save the world/humanity – instead, that’s this Instrumentality project. This explains why Gendo wasn’t particularly concerned one way or another if Shinji fought the Angel and why he was willing toss his other asset (Rei) away by sending her out even when she was injured; it’s all just a side-project to him compared to Instrumentality. It’ll be interesting to see just what this project is all about. I also noticed that a Shady Council member asked how much of their money Gendo and his family intend to waste – not just his son. Again, might be reading too much into it, but given that there is a question mark hanging over Shinji’s mother and her fate, this will be something to keep an eye on. Lastly, speaking of Rei again, we were told that Shinji was the third Chosen Child, so we’re still missing one.

It’s all a matter of tone

Not to bring this up again, but this episode has a really good example of the range of tones that this show seems to have. There are times, like the end of this episode, where the show offers a fairly sombre treatment of anxiety and PTSD, but then the show also has a penguin that showers on a regular basis. I don’t really have an issue with this when it comes down to it, but it’s going to take some getting used to. The issue I’m having is that the character’s actions and the show’s treatment of those actions are giving me mixed signals. On one hand, Shinji’s stay in Misato’s place is shown to be awkward for him (not least because Misato is actually a pig in human skin) but also emotionally important to him in what it represents. Yet, that aspect of it is sort of underplayed when the penguin appears – it basically tells me that it’s all light-hearted and not really important. I think I’m going to need a few more episodes to really understand the show’s personality.

Speaking of sombre treatment of anxiety and fear, we come to the end of the second episode as Shinji recalls the terrifying events of his fight with the Angel. The one thing I’m really liking about this show is that it doesn’t sugar-coat the violence – when Shinji’s robot goes on auto-pilot (for the lack of a better term) and fucks the Angel’s shit up, it’s not really seen as cool so much as it is just brutal. What we see isn’t one combatant gracefully defeating another through superior technique – this is far more animalistic, like the bear in The Revenant ripping through Leonardo DiCaprio. Shinji doesn’t walk away from his experience full of confidence and swagger – he walks away more troubled than he was going in. It’s not even surprised really – he could feel the Angel hurt the robot and really, the stress of a situation like that alone would be enough to do a number on someone’s psyche. Shinji’s got a lot of fights ahead of him and he needs to harden himself if he’s going to have any shot of not crumbling like an apple based dessert.

With that you have finally reached the end of this ridiculously long piece. You can probably see why I decided to stop with just two episodes (and why it took more than a week to write it). Having said that, I do think that the pace will pick up since a lot of this post was me talking about first impressions and what not. As always, feedback is appreciated as is your support on Facebook. I’ll probably drop a submission to /r/anime later this week but if anyone knows a better sub for it, the karma is yours to claim. Lastly, here’s my weekly beg appeal to your sense of charity: if you feel the work I do is worth even a dollar, I’d be happy to have it. If nothing else, it’d help with the cost of keeping this site up – I dream of the day where I can get myself a nice wordpress theme and maybe even a better banner picture (preferably one that I didn’t make myself in MS paint). If you decide to part with that dollar, you can get it to me through Patreon (let me know if you have alternative billing needs, I’m sure we can work something out). Till next time!

[Anime] Neon Genesis Evangelion – Introduction

evangelion-poster1Neon Genesis Evangelion isn’t my first tango with Studio Gainax. Anyone who’s familiar with this blog knows that one of the first anime I reviewed was Toppa Tengen Gurren Lagann. It was only after watching Gurren Lagann, specifically when I was doing a bit of research on it for my final review, that I discovered that it was itself a response to the more dramatic somberness of its elder sibling, Evangelion. I put Evangelion on my ever expanding list of shows to watch for that reason but then subsequently forgot all about it until I recently had to decide what show to cover next.

Announcements

I’m not going to be covering a full episode today. Instead, the idea was for this post to be an introduction. I’ll cover what I know and expect of the show going in and then we’ll see how totally off I was in a bit. I am also happy to announce that I’m no longer doing episode-by-episode reviews. Instead, I’ll cover a handful of episodes at once and then tackle them all at once. The reason for this is simple – it’s virtually impossible for me to discipline myself enough to only watch one episode a week, especially when I have the whole series downloaded and waiting for me. I managed to do it for Fate/Zero and the other shows I’ve covered in the past but now, with less time than ever on my hands, I just don’t want to spend another 6 months on a single show. Also, it’s pretty disruptive to momentum too – you start forgetting what happened in the early episodes and basically, it’s hard to keep the focus going that long. So, long story short, the first post is going to cover episodes 1 through 5, though I may cover more or less depending how much I have to say.

Expectations

I won’t lie, I have really high expectations of Neon Genesis Evangelion and not just because I’ve heard so much about it. The last Studio Gainax show I watched was amazing – Gurren Lagann had what I felt was the perfect balance between emotion, humour and dramatic tension. It had a charming, goofy and lovable cast of characters and was able to deliver some really hard hitting moments despite never taking itself too seriously. To be clear though, I’m definitely not expecting Evangelion to be exactly like Gurren Lagann. I already know that it’s going to be darker, more dramatic, more ‘serious’ but I expect it to be just as good on the whole. I mentioned to a friend a while back that I’m probably going to be covering Evangelion for this blog (the results of the poll were pretty clear from rather early on) and he told me that it is considered one of the most influential anime series ever created. Even after discounting for bias, that is high praise.

That’s pretty much all I have for today, but we’ll jump into Evangelion proper this week. In the meanwhile, I would love some input on view order. From what I understand, there is the series itself and then there is a reboot/remake movie? If anyone has any thoughts on this please let me know.

Plugs and Pleas

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