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Neon Genesis Evangelion: (Hideaki Anno) Reborn Again (and Again)
February 7, 2011 1:50 PM   Subscribe

Neon Genesis Evangelion was an anime series created by Hideaki Anno, a rather mysterious and reclusive director who has declined most interviews and has been likened to Alan Moore in his attempt to up-end a major genre. Where Moore doesn't want to work on anything Watchmen-related, Anno has returned to NGE in a very major way with Rebuild of Evangelion, a tetralogy of films to re-tell the original story and present a new ending (again).

Though the original goal was a television series, the character designer for the series-to-be, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, released the first "stages" of the related manga in December of 1994. The idea was that the manga would create support for the TV show, which was made into a 26-episode series that ran from October 4, 1995 to March 27, 1996. By the end of the series, the manga was not yet done with the original storyline.

The manga mirrors the series, with it's own tangents and deviations from the TV series (SPOILERS), and it's still going, due to gaps of years between the release of some volumes. Volume 12 was released in Japan at the end of March, 2010, with the 13th and final volume to come out in the near future, approaching the 15 year anniversary of end of the series first televised run.

As for the TV series, Anno was unhappy with way the series ended due to finances and censorship, and he had episodes 21-26 re-worked for commercial release. Each episode was remastered and cuts were reincorporated into the episodes. But the revisions don't end there. A series of three movies provided a new summary of the series, as well as alternative endings. There were further edits, with director Masayuki tweaking the summary movie (titled Death) for three different releases. And there is even a possible draft ending that wasn't filmed. All this resulted in ongoing debates about which is the real ending (SPOILERS).

Even before the movies, there was a lot of commotion around the vague ending of the series, and Anno's comments toward otaku, those who obsessed over specific interests (most commonly anime and manga). A supposed "anime industry dropout" posted a text-only document that claimed to expose various behind-the-scenes secrets surrounding the Evangelion TV airing, Director Anno, Okada Toshio (Gainax founding member), and other Gainax/Neon Genesis Evangelion topics that were only rumors to this point. The document was in Japanese, and some fans translated the non-ranty parts, which provide an interesting look back at the world around Anno, Gainax and Evangelion.

Hideaki Anno took a break from animation, which had been his professional world since 1982. He directed an unusual dramatic film called Love & Pop (1998), filmed almost entirely on hand-held digital cameras from various vintage points (in a bowl of soup, on a pair of chopsticks and attached to a model train). (See: on YouTube in parts [playlist], with English subs and a squished aspect ratio.) A couple years later, he directed a live action version of Cutey Honey in film form.

In 1999, the reclusive Hideaki Anno agreed to return to his hometown and teach school children about animation. The 38 minute video shows a reluctant Anno get excited about animation again (YT playlist). Even if you don't know (or particularly care about) the world of NGE or anime in general, it's a personal look at a rather private (yet publicly known) individual, including a visit with his parents and former class-mates.

Anno didn't stay away from anime forever, returning in 1999 as the series writer for Kareshi Kanojo no Jijō (His and Her Circumstances in English), which was originally a manga series. Then he was the supervising director for Petite Princess Yucie in 2002-2003.

Then on February 17, 2007, Hideaki Anno released a statement about Evangelion returning to film. September 1st of that same year, Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone (SPOILERS) was released in Japan. As with previous NGE material, the movie was re-released as Evangelion 1.01 "with 266 enhancements", on DVD and back into theaters, and later remastered and re-released as version 1.11. The second of four films was released on June 27, 2009 in Japan, and elsewhere in the world in the following months. Again, the video release was re-numbered to version 2.22, digitally remastered and with additional "readjustments." The final two films have no proposed release dates as of yet.

If the whole Neon Genesis Evangelion complex seems too complex, 303 Magazine has a good summary and review through 2.0. If you want more, try out the following fansites: NERV Archives, the extensive Eva Geeks wiki, general ephemera and translated material at The Evangelion Otaku Page, and detailed notes, cross-references and analysis of the first four episodes on Eva Commentary. Of course, with details you'll get spoilers.

And in the "maybe, sometime" file: a few words and visuals from the Live Action NGE project that stalled out in 2003.

Video tidbits: opening, full series, Death and Rebirth, The End of Evangelion; Classic AMVs: Rammstein's "Engel" by Kevin Caldwell, and Evangelion Opus (Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody (Live)", edited by Shonen Productions); New AMVs (featuring footage of the new films): Shadox Our Future (Celldweller - The Wings of Icarus, Digital summer - Morphine AMV), Jagdmeister (Rammstein's "Waidmanns Heil," edited by Cenit)
posted by filthy light thief (110 comments total) 203 users marked this as a favorite

 
Brilliant post. What a ton of fantastic resources and history to dive into. Thank you!!
posted by zarq at 1:52 PM on February 7, 2011


Wowzers. This is extraordinary.
posted by penduluum at 1:59 PM on February 7, 2011


Okay, since this thread is as good a place to ask as any: where should I start with the franchise? These new films? The original '90s-era series?
posted by reductiondesign at 2:01 PM on February 7, 2011


Congratulations on a stunning FPP.
posted by hellojed at 2:02 PM on February 7, 2011 [11 favorites]


Epic post! Favorited with extreme prejudice.

I saw 2.0 ("You Can (Not) Advance") in the theater a few weeks ago, and really, really enjoyed it. The final scene with the Megumi Hayashibara cover of "Tsubasa wo Kudasai" was really... something.
posted by pts at 2:02 PM on February 7, 2011


Why not start with the original series? That's where I started. I didn't like the two movies (what was it, Rebirth and End of Evangelion?) I saw the hi-def movie (one of them new releases?) on my friends HD screen - I forgot I saw that. I should check it out again.

Also? He named his female dog Asuka, and his male dog Shinja.

And guess what? The dog Asuka has precisely the temperament you'd expect. (Shinji, not as much).
posted by symbioid at 2:03 PM on February 7, 2011


Man, I sure did enjoy the 90s series when I was in college. At some point, I decided I'd show them all on campus, one episode per week, so I made a six-foot-tall cutout of Shinji's Eva in order to advertise it (and in order to procrastinate on papers I should've been writing). The cutout disappeared like a day after I hung it up, presumably stolen by someone interested in having a huge armored mecha decorating their dorm-room.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:06 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


This was partially inspired by your Post #100,000, and partially because I saw the new trailers a few weeks back and was confused about these "new" NGE films covering the old material. I thought Anno hated otaku-dom, given his alternate ending films to the series, and I head no idea he worked on Kare Kano (Sugoi!). Or any live-action material. And he was involved with FLCL, including the "voice" of the cat (and I can't remember if the cat talked at all, or just made cat sounds - it's that kind of a show).

reductiondesign - how much time do you have? Revival of Evangelion is everything in the original series and final movies shoved into one film. But the original series is fantastic (and only 26 episodes of ~25 minutes each. But if you start with the newest movies, you'll have to wait until the next two movies come out to find any conclusion.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:06 PM on February 7, 2011


Kind-of-spoiler: Ending scene of original series by all voice actors
posted by MangyCarface at 2:10 PM on February 7, 2011


This post is timely for me. Despite being a anime supporter (I don't watch tones of it, but I enjoy the art form immensely, by and large), I just recently got to see Evangelion (helped by some stunning commentary over at the black hole of the Internet TV Tropes.

I think it broke my brain. My brother muttered something about "never enjoying mecha again, dammit."

It's a powerful work. And that it keeps being re-created is a sign of that -- although there's tons of money in the franchise, I never get the sense they're remaking it just for that. Ironic for such a Crapsack World series, there's some love for the concepts and ideas that keeps trying to shine through.
posted by Asim at 2:14 PM on February 7, 2011


The first ending was still the best ending.
posted by koeselitz at 2:15 PM on February 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


Ah, the series that got me through college. I've seen a few of the manga relaunch, and I like the fact that the main characters (thus far) are not spiraling into emo whinging and self destruction - which is really all that I asked for.
posted by yeloson at 2:17 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


My brother muttered something about "never enjoying mecha again, dammit."

Check out RahXephon, which does an interesting job of reconstructing the giant-mecha tropes that NGE basically razed to the ground. Even on its own merits, it's a terrific story (if a little on the dense side), and the art and music are just glorious.
posted by Zozo at 2:19 PM on February 7, 2011


Speaking of the ending - does anybody else think that Nine Inch Nails' Right Where it Belongs seems kinda tied to Evangelion (with the themes of "what's real" and the whole cheering at the end)?
posted by symbioid at 2:19 PM on February 7, 2011


My brother muttered something about "never enjoying mecha again, dammit."

Star Driver is all sorts of awesome.
posted by reductiondesign at 2:22 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


NGE was my first introduction to a pathetic and whiny main character who actually doesn't seem to want to grow up. I watched all the personalities develop over the course of the TV series, at least as far as my primitive uneducated brain could follow, but at a certain point the main character just seemed to revert and waste all that effort that went into building up his confidence and abilities. I found myself becoming more and more annoyed, at least until the end of the series when everything concluded. At that point I started to think that maybe all of the angst and defeatist attitudes actually had purpose.

I liked both endings that were shown. I felt the movie was dramatic and showed the consequences of one boy's decision, which itself was based on experiences he endured throughout the series. And the TV ending of congratulations seemed to be a good note of "You made it through a real stormy plot! Here's everybody being happy!"

Someone told me back then that the NGE series was Anno's uncaring stab at the world, the product of one man's disappointment and disillusionment with the industry and its fans. I certainly had feelings of being jerked around and toyed with towards the end of the series, almost like I ought to be ashamed of myself for watching it. However, after watching the ending(s), I decided that I would choose to not feel ashamed, that I would choose to enjoy the series and its story. To my un-insightful mind, I thought that was the whole point of the show.

I watched the first Rebuild film via Netflix, and while I felt the content certainly was enhanced, it seemed to gloss over the original in such a way as to leave a first-time viewer completely befuddled. Regardless, I'm looking forward to the next releases if they're ever made available on Netflix. If Rebuild is indeed a product of happier times, perhaps it is an enhancement that will add to the original story, rather than being just a prettier rehash.
posted by CancerMan at 2:27 PM on February 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


The original ending (in the TV series) was a complete trainwreck, and makes NGE one of two series (along with Mahoromatic) to give us the term "Gainax Ending".

The second ending (in the movie "Death and Rebirth") was certainly different, but I can't say it was any better.

At this point I've been burned by Anno enough times, and I have no interest in the new version. (Fool me thrice...)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:27 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just put the first DVD on hold at the library, after reading this comment in my thread about the ending of The Sopranos. Really looking forward to diving into this series.

Man, I love MetaFilter.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:29 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I picked up the DVDs as they were released in the US, patiently waiting for each one. I really enjoyed the series all the way up to the last two slideshows episodes. The day after watching the last disc, I put the whole set on eBay.

The ending made me angrier than LOST ever could. It was lazy and incomprehensible.

The End of Evangelion was an improvement and I'm hoping the new version is better.
posted by eyeballkid at 2:34 PM on February 7, 2011


Was the original series super low budget or something, because aside from the robot fights, 90% of it is people standing perfectly still and talking.
posted by empath at 2:35 PM on February 7, 2011


Chocolate Pickle: At this point I've been burned by Anno enough times, and I have no interest in the new version. (Fool me thrice...)

If nothing else, watch Welcome Back for an Extracurricular Lesson, Sempai!, in which you can see Anno do his best Ultraman, and generally see him go from shy and self-concerned to giddy at moments. Maybe you'll re-think what Anno will do. Maybe not.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:36 PM on February 7, 2011


I still use the theme song (Cruel Angel's Thesis) to get pumped up before I teach a class.
posted by SNWidget at 2:39 PM on February 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was introduced to Evangelion by a couple of friends and have to say I really was repulsed by it. Not intending to dump on the thread, there must obviously be something there with so many intelligent people liking it, but it is something to which I am apparently resistant. Anyway, we only got through a few episodes before I got fed up. The superabundance of bonkers Christian allegory alone was enough to push me away.

I think Evangelion was what established in my head that I might not actually be a fan of anime, or want to be.
posted by JHarris at 2:43 PM on February 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Another Eva memory. I watched this series when I first had my really big bout of depression in high school. I followed it up with Serial Experiments Lain. Needless to say, it took me a while to come out of that one.

The superabundance of bonkers Christian allegory alone was enough to push me away.

See, that was my favorite bit - not just the Christian allegory, but the Judaism symbols, and everything else they could throw in. That was the part that really drew me in initially, because for the first few episodes, it is standard mecha (before it goes off of the rails).
posted by SNWidget at 2:47 PM on February 7, 2011


Anime is so many things, but it can take some work to disassociate the look with the content, especially if you've seen a few shows or movies that put you off. It is not a genre, but a medium.

Ans from the interviews with Anno I could find, it sounded like he wasn't taking any sort of stance on Judeo-Christianity, but using a vague outsider's understanding of it as a starting point, and made up stuff from there. Like someone read a summary of the Bibile and picked the weird parts, then got creative.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:50 PM on February 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Nice. I like the reboot somewhat, though mainly for its visual updates (the mega-rifle in the first movie, for instance). For me, the original series was complete - with the End of Evangelion movie, which really clutched it for me. Asuka's Air scene, the brutality of pretty much everything, and the fabulous religious imagery capably made relevant by just enough hinting and just enough vagueness.

I got the feeling this is what it really would be like if man attempted to usurp the power of god. I'll be checking out a bunch of these links for sure.

Though it should be said that despite Evangelion being perhaps the best example of "serious" anime, it's also the best example of everything that is wrong with anime. From the stock jokes and ultra-passive main character to the relentless commercialization and fetishizing of every. single. aspect. of the show.

But as far as the non-trope portions of the story and their execution, I place Evangelion up there with the various masterpieces of cinema and literature I so enjoy.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:53 PM on February 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Wow, amazing post.

It's hard not to see NGE as being flawed, but brilliant (or is it brilliant, but flawed?) I kinda wish it had never been made, though; it was meant to explode certain tropes of the giant-robot genre, but ended up reinforcing others, and a few of the really bad ones (drenching everything in meaningless religious imagery, main character who can't/won't do anything, angst angst angst) come pretty much straight from there.

I think Patlabor did a much better job of intelligently subverting the genre (and of making sense, for that matter), which is probably why comparatively few people remember it. Somewhere, though, there's an alternate universe in which every other giant robot anime that came out after 1993 is really about Working-Class Tokyo Versus The Decline rather than Space Jesus Versus The Bomb -- give me a call if you ever find the portal.

The original ending (in the TV series) was a complete trainwreck, and makes NGE one of two series (along with Mahoromatic) to give us the term "Gainax Ending".

A much earlier show which helped coin this expression is Gunbuster, famous for having an ending shot in black and white with much of the final battle done in still images. To this day, no one can agree on whether this was an example of High Art or We Ran Out Of Money.
posted by vorfeed at 2:54 PM on February 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


JHarris, the symbolism and allegory also end up getting subverted, but you have to make it at least 12 episodes in before the genius starts showing through.

For example, I don't really go for stompy robots and I was going to give up because the show starts out like the typical children-in-giant-robo-save-the-earth. But I was instructed to keep watching, and ended up enjoying the ride for the most part.

Except the final episodes. The original and re-edits both give me screaming headaches, though for different reasons.
posted by lekvar at 2:54 PM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


See, that's a shame, because judging all anime by Evangelion (or any one series, really) is a bit like judging all, say, primetime television by Lost. It's a great example of what the medium can be but it's also deeply weird and polarizing. It's full of all sorts of symbolism that can be viewed as intense and provoking or as pseudo-intellectual filler. It gains a cult following and an important place in its genre, but there are a lot of flaws that fans gloss over.

On preview, FLT and BLF have said it more succinctly.

Personally, I like anime, but I'm not a fan of the stuff with mechas. Of course, I am a girl, and that may be related. Eheheheh. *hides the copy of Ouran Host Club she just finished watching* And I started with Sailor Moon
posted by maryr at 2:56 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've never watched Evangelion, but His n' Her Circumstances is my favorite animé. It's incredibly well done. A friend of mine just about had to force me to watch it, but I was completely taken with it after one episode. And it never stopped surprising me with how good it was.
posted by Kattullus at 2:59 PM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Somewhere, though, there's an alternate universe in which every other giant robot anime that came out after 1993 is really about Working-Class Tokyo Versus The Decline rather than Space Jesus Versus The Bomb -- give me a call if you ever find the portal.

Ah, now that sounds awesome. (The Working-Class Tokyo thing. Not Space Jesus.) My roommate at the time was a fan of both Patlabor and Gunbuster actually.

See, that's a shame, because judging all anime by Evangelion (or any one series, really) is a bit like judging all, say, primetime television by Lost.

It's not quite like that. It's that the qualities that people seemed to like about Evangelion were also present, to a degree, in other anime, and those were the qualities that I disliked about it. It's difficult to summarize in a way other than animeness. But there are definitely anime shows I adore: Cowboy Bebop, Big-O (and hey, it even has a brainfuck ending), and Irresponsible Captain Tylor. Hell, even Trigun I like quite a bit, even though it has more animeness in it than I usually like.
posted by JHarris at 3:01 PM on February 7, 2011


A much earlier show which helped coin this expression is Gunbuster...
posted by vorfeed


Speaking of which, another (short) series which nicely subverts the tired old kids-in-mecha trope is Diebuster, a sequel of sorts to Gunbuster.

It goes from "yawn, mecha" to "wtf WTF wtf WTF" quite smoothly.
posted by lekvar at 3:04 PM on February 7, 2011


JHarris - I was having trouble finding quite the right example, sorry. But yeah, Cowboy Bebop exists on just such a completely different plane that it would be a shame to avoid it simply because you didn't like Eva.
posted by maryr at 3:04 PM on February 7, 2011


I think Patlabor did a much better job of intelligently subverting the genre...

I agree! Patlabor 2 remains one of my favorite anime movies. I really liked Evangelion, but Patlabor did do something different and interesting with the mecha genre.
posted by pombe at 3:08 PM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


and Irresponsible Captain Tylor

Now there is an example of brilliance, especially in endings. In fact, this show may have the most perfect anime ending ever filmed.
posted by vorfeed at 3:10 PM on February 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Thanks for the recommendations! Me, I'm mostly good, if brain addled (I'm slowly working through Standalone Complex, if that gives you an idea), but I'll pass 'em on to my Bro, and maybe we'll watch some of them together.

...and actually, he just came home, and wants me to inform you all his actual quote was "almost broke me of mecha". So, I sit corrected.

vorfeed, I liked both Gunbuster and Patlabor (just the OVA), and they didn't move me the same way Evangelion did. I think as a Psych minor and someone who grew up around a lot of religious symbolism myself, all that in the work clicked for me in ways that haven't really popped up anywhere else, so far.
posted by Asim at 3:13 PM on February 7, 2011


Kattullus: I've never watched Evangelion, but His n' Her Circumstances is my favorite animé. It's incredibly well done. A friend of mine just about had to force me to watch it, but I was completely taken with it after one episode. And it never stopped surprising me with how good it was.

I didn't want to dilute this post with detailed tangents, but I had the same experience with Kare Kano. I was worried it'd be another High School Drama, but it so good. And it's online as subbed or dubbed episodes from the usual questionable sources.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:16 PM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I probably could have put it better. It's not that I have something against anime, or even that I don't really like some anime. It's that there are certain excesses in most anime that I seem to react to more strongly than most people, and Evangelion seems somehow emblematic of them.

Not that any of you have to worry about appeasing me on this issue. In fact I'm hoping someone will explain what they like about it compellingly enough so that I might get inspired to give the show another shot, or at least cause me to recognize what it is I'm missing.
posted by JHarris at 3:17 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have only seen a few episodes of this anime, and I wonder if someone here would be willing to answer, briefly, the one question I was left with, never having seen the whole thing: Exactly *why* are angels attacking Japan?
posted by kyrademon at 3:17 PM on February 7, 2011


End of Evangelion is incredible - one of my favourite films. For me it captures the overwhelming, incomprehensible awe the eschaton, and the futility of humans trying to control it, in a way nothing else has. It gives the rest of the series, especially the last episode(s), a far greater weight.

The original series 1-24, and then End of Evangelion - that's my recommendation (not having seen the newer stuff). Then you can watch eps 25-26 if you want a kind of abstract meditation on what the characters are feeling during EoE.

Death and Rebirth are just rehashes - only worth it if you don't want to watch the entire series to understand what's happening in EoE.

Also, the HD/remastered versions are definitely worth it. Eva is still one of the best-looking animes ever.
posted by Drexen at 3:18 PM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


(concerning Tylor) In fact, this show may have the most perfect anime ending ever filmed.

Oh yeah. It's like the Newhart of anime in that regard! So wonderful. I'd go on about it but I already wrote a long mefightclub comment on it. I'll just say that it works on so many levels: as a goofy space opera comedy, as an anti-war show, and even a meditation on the nature of genius. At the end of the show we still aren't sure of Tylor is a transcendently-brilliant captain or a bumbling fool with the devil's own luck (although there are hints that seem to point to the former).

Exactly *why* are angels attacking Japan?

Here's one possibility.
posted by JHarris at 3:26 PM on February 7, 2011


kyrademon: Exactly *why* are angels attacking Japan?

See the NERV Archives article on the angels. Caution: spoilers (of sorts) ahead.

If you want to dig deeper, you can check out the NGE 2 RPG for PS2/PSP. It's a Japanese-exclusive title, but the Eva Geeks wiki has translated the "classified information" which sheds some (semi-canonical) light on the over-all story.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:27 PM on February 7, 2011


I think Patlabor did a much better job of intelligently subverting the genre

Martian Successor Nadesico was a fantastic, satirical take on the conventional mech anime. The whiny main character was nearly as irritating as Shinji.
posted by eyeballkid at 3:30 PM on February 7, 2011


I remember when I watched Evangelion, I was renting it a VHS at a time from the local video shop. They went out of business before I could see episodes 25 and 26. Everyone I knew who'd seen it said I totally dodged a bullet, so I never bothered to hunt them down elsewhere.

However, I've recently started seeing pictures of the Evangelion kids, but with the inclusion of a new character -- a chick with long brown hair and glasses. So I've been wondering what's going on. I guess I'll avoid spoilers till the rest of the new movies are out, though.
posted by rifflesby at 3:37 PM on February 7, 2011


This was my first anime too! ...Well, my first "serious" one, that wasn't a children's TV show. There was a video rental place going out of business near my house and I bought the entire series for next to nothing, then copied all the tapes for my then-boyfriend, who was a huge fan and the reason I started watching anime in the first place.

I remember really enjoying the ending. It's like it's all become too much for Shinji, he has a complete psychotic break and reverts to his childhood. I don't think I understood the ending on any level other than emotional until I saw End of Evangelion, at which point I (vaguely) understood the actual external plot ending (aka What is Happening Outside of Shinji's Mind). Anyway, budget constraints or not, I really enjoyed the experimental cut-n-paste ending.

The characters in Evangelion were supposed to be extreme versions of fan "types", so extreme you could not actually enjoy them. But the awful/hilarious thing is that fans latched on to the characters (and character merchandise) anyway. There was a point in the 90s when you couldn't watch a mecha anime without seeing the indebtedness to Evangelion, especially in how suddenly everything was about EXISTENTIAL ANGST, when previously it had been more about giant robots fighting each other. Some of that existential angst felt pasted on, but Anno's was the real deal.

I always wanted to read more of the AU where they are normal high students, though. That was a manga, right? Anyway, I heard this reboot is going to keep Kaoru around for more than a few episodes, which I am massively in favor of. Kaoru, the mysterious smiley-faced androgynous transfer student who challenges the main character's sexuality, was Evangelion's one totally new contribution to the Fan Favorite Character Type pantheon, I think.
posted by subdee at 3:48 PM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jharris: In fact I'm hoping someone will explain what they like about it compellingly enough so that I might get inspired to give the show another shot, or at least cause me to recognize what it is I'm missing.

Short answer: it's artfully made.

Longer answer: what makes Eva so good is that as the series goes on, the deeper frameworks behind it become more and more apparent. It goes from a fairly standard 'plucky teens in mechas vs giant monsters'; to a drama with explorations of growing up, shyness, cowardice, love, heroism etc; through a conspiracy reveal with betrayal and intrigue; to an all-out, reason-defying, biblically-proportioned eschaton.

It's an effort to transcend the limits of the genre, not by avoiding its clichés, but by chaining them to a rocketship and seeing how far they can fly.

It's also transfused with a certain intriguing madness that erupts climactically in End of Evangelion.

#### SPOILERS #####
#### SPOILERS #####

Kyrademon: Exactly *why* are angels attacking Japan?

They're part of an occult, Kabbalistic mythology which we only catch glimpses of through most of the series, but which becomes much clearer in End of Evangelion.

Each Angel (including humanity, the '18th Angel') is a slightly different form of life, spawned from two 'progenitor' angels, Adam and Lilith. At some point in the past, reflected in the Expulsion from Eden story, all life was separated into individuals, who are kept apart by an "AT field" (a manifestation of the 'absolute terror' of truly knowing another being).

One of these 'angels' is destined to reunite with the progenitors and become part of a transcendent, all-encompassing new existence. When the angels attack Japan, they're trying to get to Adam and Lilith and fulfill this destiny. This would cause the 'third impact', destroying all life on earth.

Most humans only understand that the Angels cause vast destruction, and that NERV exists to fight them. However in reality, NERV is the tool of both SEELE and Gendo Ikari, who each want to control the third impact - implementing it differently for their own ends. They want to eliminate the angels so that they can enact their own plans.

SEELE want to ensure that it is humanity who transcends, both to avoid extinction, and because the secret Dead Sea Scrolls they possess tell them that humanity has reached the limit of normal evolution. Gendo Ikari wants to control the event such that he and his dead wife will be reunited, and reborn into the position of gods.
posted by Drexen at 4:06 PM on February 7, 2011 [20 favorites]


When I was a kid, I somehow managed to watch End of Evangelion before even knowing much about anime, let alone NGE, so that was a hell of an introduction. I still find myself reluctant to watch the series beyond episode 20 or so.

I've really enjoyed the new movies so far (and the theories they're spawning are epic), but I think the thing I love most about Evangelion is just the feeling of the universe, or the atmosphere - I'm not sure how to describe it. The depression and callousness can get a bit much, but you see the hints of such a wide spectrum of life in this post apocalyptic world that you actually do care when the Gainax ending hits.
posted by lucidium at 4:08 PM on February 7, 2011


Oh. Well, that makes sense.

Thanks!
posted by kyrademon at 4:08 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Repeating the non-desire to thread dump, NGE basically forever made me gun-shy of anything anime. It reinforced the idea to me that anime was just a medium, not a genre, because there was (again, IMHO) no way an entire genre could be so... bleh.

It was inflicted upon me by a good friend who really liked it and I felt terrible telling him I couldn't stand it. That said, I choked down the episodes and the movie. I hope that the creators have made it more palatable, but I, for one, won't give it another chance.
posted by Fuka at 4:11 PM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've tried to inflict Eva on a number of my friends. My thoroughly unscientific experiment suggests that depression is the link between thinking it's the bee's knees and thinking that Shinji is a whining do nothing protagonist.
posted by khaibit at 4:16 PM on February 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


I've been holding off on watching the Rebuild films until they're all released, mostly because the raging Evangelion fangirl inside of me will demand to watch them all through in one marathon viewing, as that is the traditional way my people view the series: in one epic marathon session, ending with me crying while everyone else around me has no clue what's going on and/or they've fallen asleep. Then that same fangirl will cause me to rant incoherently about how the series didn't need to be made again because episodes 25-26 are the true ending to the series because it is SO PERFECT OH MY GOD SCREW ALL OF THESE REMAKES, AND TO ALL THE CHILDREN, CONGRATULATIONS!

Um, I have to go have a moment to myself now. For the next 13 hours, plus or minus Death and Rebirth.

(Also: awesome post, really. So many sites I've never seen before!)
posted by Maya Cecile at 4:16 PM on February 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


khaibit: I've never suffered from clinical depression. In fact, I'm pretty well known for being intensely upbeat and positive -- although I did have a fairly dump-y childhood in parts, and I also went for a Psych minor in college.
posted by Asim at 4:20 PM on February 7, 2011


like I said, pretty unscientific. It is however, a pretty beautiful meditation on needing to do stuff and not being able.
posted by khaibit at 4:23 PM on February 7, 2011


khaibit: "I've tried to inflict Eva on a number of my friends. My thoroughly unscientific experiment suggests that depression is the link between thinking it's the bee's knees and thinking that Shinji is a whining do nothing protagonist"

I think it IS the bee's knees, AND that Shinji is a whining, do-nothing protagonist. What's that make me?
posted by symbioid at 4:33 PM on February 7, 2011


This is a really impressive post!

Personally, when I see that a creator (1) created a work (2) then went back to keep fiddling with that work and (3) made a career out of not ever moving on from that work, I personally wonder if maybe the creator didn't do such a hot job in the first place, and if maybe I shouldn't waste my time elsewhere.

That said, I did watch the show with subs and the final cut of the first movie. I didn't care for it.
posted by paisley henosis at 5:02 PM on February 7, 2011


I just bought the 1.11 DVD the other day, and I'm waiting for an evening when I have a lot of headspace available to watch it. Evangelion, the three Patlabor OVA's, Cowboy BeBop and the entirety of the Ghost in the Shell ouvre are the only Anime that I still find myself coming back to and thinking about years later.
posted by KingEdRa at 5:07 PM on February 7, 2011


Maya Cecile: So many sites I've never seen before

Indeed - I'm happy that Eva Otaku didn't fade away with the termination of GeoCities, even happier that it's been years since I've seen the series and movies, and all my memories are hazy.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:09 PM on February 7, 2011


I just want to say that Rebuild is not really just a 'HD' or prettier version of the series.

Yes, the first movie is somewhat of a rehash with only some changes (Shinji has more of a backbone, for example) but the second movie changes everything.
posted by Memo at 5:11 PM on February 7, 2011


I was auditing a graduate student class in Japan and almost started a brawl by voicing my opinion that the religious terms and imagery used in Evangelion are purely surface level and have no deeper significance. (All of the students in the class were foreigners)

Don't know if this adds anything to the discussion, just that I was surprised at how serious Evangelion fans can be.

Also:

Another student wrote his doctorate on stages in Lacanian Psychoanalysis as demonstrated in the story arc of Evangelion.

Also:

It's an anime about robots.
posted by Enigmark at 5:14 PM on February 7, 2011


JHarris, I think I can take a stab at defining "animeness". I think it's just "melodrama."

I've watched NGE--twice now, actually--and both times I've come away thinking that the characters were some of the most self-important, self-centered, egotistical people I've ever seen. Some of it was just bad writing--though I'll admit I don't speak Japanese, so the translation may be a factor there--but a lot of it was the pervasive assumption not only that one's internal emotional state is the ultimate justification for all one's actions, but that other people can be expected to give a shit about it.

I mean, look, I'm a Christian, and all that religious imagery? Didn't bother me a bit, because it doesn't mean anything. Hideaki Anno has, at root, very little to say about religion or the supernatural, surprisingly enough. At least not in NGE. It just kind of looks cool, but he never really did anything with it. But Freud? Man, Freud's all over this thing. Just about everybody's motivated by some deep emotional pain caused by insecurity related to a past relationship, frequently with their parents. Shinji, Asuka, Misato, Ritsuko, possibly even Gendo. The only people who aren't somehow fixated on their relationship with their parents either don't have any (Rei), are dead (Yui), or are almost complete ciphers (Kaji).

Okay, yes, your relationship with your parents is kind of a big deal. But mature people get a handle on that, frequently between ages 15-25. NGE is kind of like what would happen if people spent their entire lives going through puberty.

I guess you could say that with me, Anno made his point: these people are really pathetic.
posted by valkyryn at 5:17 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't like what you're implying about anime or robots, Enigmark.
posted by mhjb at 5:18 PM on February 7, 2011


Nobody loves Serial Experiments Lain?
posted by Ritchie at 5:20 PM on February 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


When I was 15, depressed, and in a college for 'smart kids' (Simon's Rock) the anime club showed the entire series over two days. Including both movies.
By the end of it I briefly hallucinated that I WAS Shinji.
I was also studying religion and Kabbalah, so....
And any scene where the Evas act 'organic' still gross me out
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:40 PM on February 7, 2011


I used to think that the original NGE ending represented the worst ever disappointment in the history of anime. But Ghost in the Shell 2 came pretty damn close.
posted by moorooka at 6:10 PM on February 7, 2011


I was auditing a graduate student class in Japan and almost started a brawl by voicing my opinion that the religious terms and imagery used in Evangelion are purely surface level and have no deeper significance.

Well - the religious imagery is almost a Macguffin, so as far as macguffins are "surface level" that might be arguable. The point of the kabbalah and revelations stuff, combined with obscure physics and so on, isn't to be relevant in and of itself, but to provide a framework inside which this stuff happens.

It's a bit like saying that the worldwide war and even the barrenness of the women in Children Of Men is purely surface level. Because really, it has little to do with the events of the film except setting them up, giving motivation to the characters, and providing a tone.

The religious stuff in Evangelion is inconsistent and co-opted in such a way that your information is simply incomplete. When someone says "it's a Dirac Sea" or "the room of Gauf is opening!" It's not just to name drop - it's their way of saying that the story behind the story is operating on a level of maximum obscurity and significance.

But personally, I think the "technical" breakdown of "religious" principles (like the boundaries between souls being redirected to affect the physical world, the use of Lillith and Adam as actual biological manifestations) is brilliant and inspired storytelling. What does it mean to say that it has no deeper significance? It frames and drives the story, and is written in in a way that is clever and original.

Another way of thinking about it is this: religious stuff like crosses, angels, the tree of life and so on, have a natural weight. What some people say is that Evangelion's use of them doesn't live up to that weight. But the whole point of the story in Evangelion is that when man gains the ability to manipulate those things, they become just like any other forces and are just as prosaic as other technical details.

I know I sound like an Eva apologist, and I am somewhat since I really think it's amazing and original, but I tend to find people who dislike Eva either dismiss it in ways I find unconvincing, or just don't really like anime to begin with, and can't get past the tropes that are, unfortunately, very present in Eva. Also, a systematic draining of my otaku humours is the only way to prevent myself from recommending this and other really nerdy stuff to everyone I know.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 6:11 PM on February 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


I adore Serial Experiments Lain, Ritchie -- it's probably my favorite anime.
posted by kyrademon at 6:32 PM on February 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


I really, really like The End of Evangelion. It's warped, it's messy, the atmosphere is wonderfully delirious, the structure is delightfully brain-breaking (seriously, fakeout closing credits right in the middle, throwing Anno's own hate mail onto the screen, random live action what) and the story at the heart of it all--a teenage boy trying very hard to unravel the Hedgehog's Dilemma--is surprisingly bittersweet. It's one of those movies that makes me feel both uplifted and emotionally drained once it's over, and I like that feeling a lot.

I never liked the series, really, but it had its moments; it just never overlapped with my own taste (I like Ghibli and Yoshitoshi Abe stuff) much. Since a lot (or, okay, some) people are waxing nostalgic about Evangelion being the first anime they ever saw, probably as teenagers, I kind of want to pipe in and say that, for me, that was Serial Experiments Lain.

Lain impressed me in a way that nothing else really has, and a lot of that is to do with my age. I was thirteen years old. I was a little odd and socially awkward but I had friends. I had an interest in weird, counterculture-y topics and I liked spending time on the internet. I more or less was Lain. Lain showed me myself in many ways (not all of them flattering or comforting), while also broadening my horizons more than anything else ever had up to that point. There was both an intimacy, a familiarity, and an alienness to the experience of watching the series for the first time. It's an emotion tied tightly to that sensitive age, no longer a child but not quite a teenager and with most of my life still unlived, an infinite ocean of deep possibility. It felt like having a secret lover who knew you better than anyone else, but who was also quite a bit smarter than you.

I could ramble about this forever, honestly, but the reason I bring it up is because this initial exposure to Lain left me with a very different idea of anime than what most other Western kids had. I'm honestly pretty clueless when it comes to "anime-as-genre" (which seems to be all the anime nerds are into) but Lain was a stepping stone that led me to many, many wonderful, beautiful, extravagant films in the "anime-as-medium" world.

Haibane Renmei, Angel's Egg, The Sky Crawlers, Tokyo Godfathers, Millennium Actress, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Pom Poko, Only Yesterday, Whisper of the Heart, Night On the Galactic Railroad, 5 Centimeters per Second (swoon with me on that one), Voices of a Distant Star, FLCL, Mind Game, Kaiba, um...M-Metropolis?

There is anime for everyone. The tropes that so annoy thoughtful people--the shouting, the giant sweatdrops, the objectification of women--belong to a genre within a medium, and can't and shouldn't speak for everything the medium represents. It's a little weird to me that anyone talks as if they do. I blame the nerds for that, but if it weren't for the nerds, I might never have seen some of my favorite films, so I can't really muster more than a gentle tap on the wrist.

So, anyway, guess who's been on a total anime kick, lately?

P.S. This is an awesome FPP.

posted by byanyothername at 6:39 PM on February 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


Oh. I had an impassioned rant sort of hinging on Lain (and a little bit colored by lack of sleep) just sitting there, waiting to be posted, while you guys were expressing love for it. I less than three you, MetaFilter
posted by byanyothername at 6:43 PM on February 7, 2011


#### SPOILERS #####
#### SPOILERS #####

I just realised I'm a big stupidhead and left out the most important detail from my answer to kyrademon. Adam and Lilith are held underneath the NERV headquarters, which is why the Angels are attacking *there*.
posted by Drexen at 6:51 PM on February 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is a great resource, thanks. Glad to hear about the manga continuing. I stopped looking for it a few years ago. Kaoru seems more accessible in the manga to me.

Hey, is the music in the reboot films different than the TV series? Or a better question is, how do you like the music in the reboot films?
posted by dragonplayer at 7:07 PM on February 7, 2011


If you haven't been keeping up with anime and want the bizarro world opposite of Evangelion, I highly recommend Gurren Lagann, it deals with similar themes of humanity and overcoming one's fears, but without any of the pretension. It's also by Gainax Studios.
posted by amuseDetachment at 7:16 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


BlackLeotardFront
But personally, I think the "technical" breakdown of "religious" principles (like the boundaries between souls being redirected to affect the physical world, the use of Lillith and Adam as actual biological manifestations) is brilliant and inspired storytelling. What does it mean to say that it has no deeper significance? It frames and drives the story, and is written in in a way that is clever and original.


Yeah I just re-read my post and it seemed like some straight-up thread dumping so let me apologize/extrapolate.

The person who was presenting Evangelion to the class was a religion/sociology major who was trying very hard to tie-up the religious themes in Evangelion into a cohesive Christian narrative about belief. Which I do not believe it is. And when I said this it made him very angry.

My opinion is that the creator of Evangelion used those symbols because they are pre-existing terminology and symbology which has the shape and weight of meaning, instead of being used for their meaning, moreso that they are religious terms and symbols. In the video where Anno visits the school kids he admits that he chose the word because it is complex. Also it has the legitimizing effect of being katakana'd into something exotic and alien.
Which is totally lazy in my opinion. (But in Japan that is par for the course, and I know that)
Shouldn't an artist who creates something and borrows heavily from an established work/world have an understanding of it?
It's a minor point but it irks me.
posted by Enigmark at 7:20 PM on February 7, 2011


I saw 1.1 the weekend it opened in Tokyo. I had some hours to kill between the night bus and an appointment, saw that it was playing at 9am, and so I thought the place would be empty. Who goes to the movies at 9am? It was absolutely packed, with an audience that was 100% male until my arrival. About 5 minutes before the movie started, a middle aged woman carrying a gucci carrier bag walked in. She looked around, then sat next to me. The gucci bag was filled with candy, but the sound of her chewing was drowned out by the audience. There was a lot of clapping whenever Shinji actually did anything, and in the end when [spoiler] Kaworu shows up, the audience exploded in a chorus of !?!?!?!?!?
posted by betweenthebars at 7:23 PM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


paisley henosis: Personally, when I see that a creator (1) created a work (2) then went back to keep fiddling with that work and (3) made a career out of not ever moving on from that work, I personally wonder if maybe the creator didn't do such a hot job in the first place, and if maybe I shouldn't waste my time elsewhere.

Part of my intrigued with Hideaki Anno in this post is that (1) the creator wasn't the only one (2) fiddling with the work and (3) went on to do some other odd (and fantastic) projects. The re-edits of the original movies were done by the director, Masayuki (Yamaguchi), not Anno.

But I am also a fan of remixes, the seemingly endless reworkings of a single idea, so my point of view might be significantly different from yours =)
posted by filthy light thief at 7:39 PM on February 7, 2011


Shouldn't an artist who creates something and borrows heavily from an established work/world have an understanding of it?

Hell yes.

But just like my use of the term "Hell", much of Christian symbolism is already "understood" by many Christian-minority cultures, because of the influence of the West (and Missionaries). One of the links above points out that they deliberately used the term "angel", even though there's another term that is the usual translation, because "angel" would have resonance, and fits the entities in the show better. I don't think the symbolism was completely blind -- but neither was it deep. It exists as flavor, and I'll agree that's usually oft-putting.

I'd contrast it with another show I love, Samuari Champloo, where the...



SPOILERS



...struggles around the emergence of Christianity in Edo Japan are the fairly subtle motive for the entire show. That's someone who Did Do the Research, and presents Christianity in a very positive light, in a very popular series in Japan. Compare and contrast.

All that to say: I generally deplore "cultural borrowing" done against groups that are under-represented in the culture that's "borrowing", esp. if there's a history of systematic oppression. There's a case for it in japan, yet I don't think NGE triggers my feelers for that quite as intensely as for you; there's a case there for some reflection from the story on, for example, how we see divinity and our actions in reaching toward sit (or not). I don't think that's really rising to the level of allegory in the work, yet I think it's more than just borrowing without any understanding of what the symbols used mean.
posted by Asim at 7:40 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not a Christian nor offended by it, I just think it is lazy art.
If you are going to use your allusion, you might as well understand it.
posted by Enigmark at 7:48 PM on February 7, 2011


Oh dear god, Eva. My husband and I were such hardcore Eva nerds when we got married back in '97 that we used the Eva Mincho font and printed out this as our "got married" notice to friends. We still laugh about it.

Great post, as always, flt.
posted by misozaki at 8:04 PM on February 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


People in Japan who like NGE and/or Anno should also be checking out Aoi Honō, a really funny dramatization of Big Otakudom's (partial) gestation in pre-Bubble Osaka. Anno is a character in the story -- arguably the antagonist. This has been a public service announcement.
posted by No-sword at 8:22 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was absolutely devoted to Eva in my senior year of high school / freshman year of college - it was simply the greatest thing I had ever seen and possibly ever would. A friend showed me the movies in a fansub, and I loathed them for about a year, because it really screwed up the story and characters I'd grown to love.

Looking back at it, the whole thing kind of makes sense. The Japanese have a much better sense of how much war fucks people up in their pop culture than Americans. Even when the characters are outright heroic there are deep anti-war sentiments in the work; for instance I think the whole senelessness of war came across really strongly in the UC Gundam series. Eva took the psychological edge of how much having damaged teenagers pilot giant mecha would suck, and rammed it home with a vengeance - rather than being "cool" it's absolutely the most horrific thing imaginable. On another level, it's a brilliant deconstruction of anime tropes; on a third level it actually does its own mecha thing very well.

The reason I hated the movies was that they seemed to invalidate the triumph of the original televised ending. Shinji in the TV ending overcomes his crippling social anxieties and accepts himself as a worthwhile person! For a teenager who had some social anxieties, that's priceless. Screwing with that was tampering with some very deep catharsis. I was an absolute partisan of the TV ending and still prefer it.

Also - noticed Serial Experiments Lain mentioned above. That was another brilliant one. I actually parlayed researching the real comp sci topics mentioned in the series (specifically the knowledge navigator and the memex) into several college projects.
posted by graymouser at 8:24 PM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Aoi Honou is hilarious. Kazuhiko Shimamoto is hilarious.
posted by misozaki at 8:27 PM on February 7, 2011


I've always rather enjoyed the way the text has been rewritten in a palimpsest-like fashion...layering and overwriting. For me it has added a texture to the work that emphasizes its abstract psychological aspects...that the ideas it deals with are less about distinct individuals and more about archetypes and deep resonating concepts. Identity boundaries, the abandonment of the self, the fragility of the biological and the retreat into technological shells, the invasion of the truly alien and its reflection in the mythology of the self, all the Oedipus/Electra meta-text, the lingering on very, very Japanese hang-ups and concerns, the distillation and deconstruction of generic tropes, the crystallization and ultimate shattering of idolatry....blah blah blah....I could go on forever.

In my mind, Eva is a work of inspired genius.

And this is an inspired post! Thank you FLT!
posted by jet_manifesto at 8:35 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


(MASSIVE SPOILERS)

Okay, yes, your relationship with your parents is kind of a big deal. But mature people get a handle on that, frequently between ages 15-25. NGE is kind of like what would happen if people spent their entire lives going through puberty.

??? This particular criticism seems a bit vacuous on its face in context with the actual series. Most "mature people" who move past their childhood don't necessarily deal with the level of trauma dealt with by characters in the series (and, hell, many reasonable folks would say we don't ever really escape the influence of even more comparatively minor features of our childhoods IRL).

Shinji's Mom is absorbed by an unfathomably weird God-machine, abandoned with cruelty by his Father, and then alternatively ignored (prior to series start) and manipulated from then on out to pilot said weird God-machine that, uh, ate his mother. Asuka's mother had her mind eaten out by another God machine, surviving as an awful husk for years before killing herself (which a young Asuka discovers). Katsuragi gets all of her quotidien daughter-father issues complicated by the fact that she gets to see daddy blown up by the mini-Apocalypse, which by the by he helped start. It's almost banal by comparison that Ritsuko's mother just kills herself (though the circumstances leading to said suicide, well). It seems that, within the fictional universe, it's understandable that these experiences would be definitional to the experiential and psychological core of each character. Perhaps there is something negative to be said about an overabundance of melodrama inherent to the construction of most main characters' personal histories.

But, there certainly is something crucial to the series itself w/r/t how characters choose to deal with these histories to live their lives and relate to others. I think we can both pity or empathize with and simultaneously feel repulsed by the characters. I think it's probably intentional that the characters evoke these mixed responses from us, some seeming to have more hope (e.g. Shinji) than others (e.g. Ritsuko, who gives in to her own private Thanatos) for transcendence from their past that has shaped their ways of relating and being. That's the reality of the situation; for reasons both plain and inscrutable, some people rise, and some people fall, and some people bounce back and forth between the two, which is perhaps even more heartbreaking. This general sentiment of mine is part of the reason I actually liked the bizarre "Episodes 25 and 26" ending. We've seen Shinji, often within the same episode, both struggling to make connection (with Rei, with Katsuragi, with Asuka) and also firmly within the isolation of his own selfish, catastrophic fears of self and other. Then, at the very end, we have Shinji choosing—finally, wonderfully, despite the odds—to be something other than what his circumstances made of him. To return to reality, I find that many people in my life struggle with things like the Hedgehog's dilemma. It was rather lovely to see an example of someone struggling with and then succeeding in resolving it, even an idealized depiction in an anime.
posted by Keter at 8:37 PM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


(To throw in another somewhat mindfucky deconstructive psychologically-aimed anime that I have yet to see mentioned in this thread, I'd really recommend anyone who liked Eva but could do without the giant robots to watch Revolutionary Girl Utena. Which has probably one of the most singularly great endings to any fictional work, ever. Do not spoil yourself on it.)
posted by Keter at 8:42 PM on February 7, 2011


Misozaki, just to keep our meta-nerd high-five party going: that wedding card is hilarious. I hope that if you held a reception you held it in a vast, darkened cavern, with a raised platform at one end from which you barked insensitive greetings at your guests.

(I guess now is as good enough a time as any to link to this, too.)
posted by No-sword at 9:11 PM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Confession: I love Shinji and Misato. Their relationship, it's rise and tragic fall, is everything that NGE is about. Everything and everyone else is sideshow.
posted by SPrintF at 10:25 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man, this reminds me of the post I've always meant to write about Gundam and its cultural relevance in Japan. Eva definitely makes more sense if you watch it and view it as a sort of deconstruction of the original Gundam (much like how Venture Bros. shows what happens if you put Johnny Quest and his ilk into a realistic scenario), especially as regards the effects on a middle-school-aged kid being given responsibility for the fate of mankind, as well as what sort of father would basically ignore his son to focus on his research until he needs him.

Great series that has the unfortunate tendency to be liked just a little too much, to the extent that its overfandom can be a bit off-putting at times (see also: Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Big Lebowsky). Great post, too.
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:57 PM on February 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


DoctorFedora: would love to see your post on Gundam's cultural relevance in Japan.

This post is amazing. Best of the web!
posted by gen at 12:11 AM on February 8, 2011


Most "mature people" who move past their childhood don't necessarily deal with the level of trauma dealt with by characters in the series... It seems that, within the fictional universe, it's understandable that these experiences would be definitional to the experiential and psychological core of each character.

See, that's where I get off the train: there are plenty of people whose mothers died when they were young and whose fathers were distant or abandoned them, and a lot of them don't end up as emotional trainwrecks. Shinji had no idea what had happened to his mother aside from the fact that she was dead until late in the series, so the whole "god machine" thing is kind of irrelevant unless he's also Nostradamus or something. Sure, losing a parent sucks, but come on.

More than that, it's the idea that experiencing a certain "level" of trauma somehow justifies that level of self-absorption and entitlement is just lost on me. People have responsibilities, and having a rough childhood does not make those responsibilities go away.
posted by valkyryn at 2:49 AM on February 8, 2011


I'd always figured it was less a matter of "justifies" and more so simply "causes." Happens here in japan with middle-school kids from bad homes an awful lot, at least.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:08 AM on February 8, 2011


I think it's a risk that a writer takes with a character, with the stakes being that the audience will cease to identify with the protagonist, and thus distance themselves from the story as a whole. So when Shinji indulges his trauma, it has the result of putting the whole of humanity in peril. It's hard to sell that.

I had the same reaction to the movie Sunshine, where we're meant to believe that scientists who are a mission to literally save all life on earth are going to bicker and carry on like schoolkids.
posted by Ritchie at 3:28 AM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


valkyryn, I'm not quite following why you're attacking Shinji for "self-absorption" and "entitlement". The writer of the series has explicitly stated that he wrote the character during a period of profound clinical depression, as a representation of that condition and state of mind. Are you suggesting that people with depression are just "self-absorbed" and feel "entitled"?

And anyway, it's a melodrama. The emotions are larger-than-life, just like the robots.
posted by jet_manifesto at 4:58 AM on February 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


having a rough childhood does not make those responsibilities go away.

No, it's not, and I don't think anyone here would argue that.

But I'm thinking of shows like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, or even Seinfeld. These kinds of self-absorbed characters, people who are train-wreaks in their lives, aren't unique to this show. What is, is the attempt to explain them -- and I think the divide here is that you seem to conflate "explain" with "forgive" or "excuse". And I, for one, didn't see that in Evangelion. As Richie notes, Shinji's self-absorption risks the world, and that's not shaded over or excused in the series.

Indeed, given that him resolving to not give into it is the climax and end of the (original) show, there may be a point there in what they're trying to say about exactly that problem. There's a case there for saying the "message" is that not being able to overcome these kinds of issues have repercussions outside your own head -- in this case, failing to save the world.

And, for the record, I know what I went through, as an adult, with the loss of my mother, whom I had a...complicated relationship with. Asserting how people must react to the passing of a parent isn't going to fly real far with me. I'd ask you to reconsider that part of your critique of the work.
posted by Asim at 5:12 AM on February 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


And yet no love for Yuusha-oh Gaogaigar, which is a glorious reclaiming of the Giant Robot Tropes, where after hearing that something that the hero wants to do is impossible, says "He will overcome the odds with his heroism!".

It has immense love for everything giant robot, for heroism, for trust and friends and heroic sacrifice for others. It's crazy-fun.
posted by mephron at 7:40 AM on February 8, 2011


NGE... one of the first things I rented via Netflix years ago, and what really set my now-wife down the path of anime fandom. I believe Pen Pen is one of her all-time favorite characters, no joke.
posted by owtytrof at 8:34 AM on February 8, 2011


While its easy to be put off by Shinji keep in mind that the orphan protagonist trope is a fairly common one in anime, and is one of the tropes that Anno wanted to point out the ridiculousness of in the context of "we must save earth from aliens" themes. So he makes Shinji extra whiny while making him the key figure in deciding the fate of humanity. As others have pointed out, EVA has a lot going on it, including criticism of its form. Just another reason why its so awesome.
posted by KingEdRa at 9:02 AM on February 8, 2011


FLT: Posting overlord. this is great work. It is like a compendum post of wondermints.
posted by clavdivs at 9:58 AM on February 8, 2011


valkyryn: More than that, it's the idea that experiencing a certain "level" of trauma somehow justifies that level of self-absorption and entitlement is just lost on me. People have responsibilities, and having a rough childhood does not make those responsibilities go away.

It's been a while since I watched the series. I do agree that most of the characters are self-absorbed and have feelings of entitlement, but I don't think anybody else really cares about how they're feeling. I don't think the universe these characters inhabit attempts to justify their feelings or cater to them in any way.

Shinji whines and wants a validation of his existence, wants to be praised by his father, wants to feel needed. Nobody gives him that. The only attention he gets is to make sure he can pilot the Eva and defeat the Angels, following orders all the while. Misato is probably the only one that seems to give him "motherly love" but even she admits that she's really only using him to further her own goals (or perhaps to solidify her own position of importance in the government heirarchy). Granted, Misato seems to change her mind about that towards the end, but by then it's a bit too late.

Asuka's need for attention is similar to Shinji's, except she just expresses it in a very overt way. She wants to be important and relied upon, and you can see how threatened she feels whenever anybody shows some skill. Yet the people in authority that Asuka tries to impress only value her contributions so long as she can continue to provide them, and have displayed a willingness to cast her aside as soon as she's unable to. Her reliance on that only causes a downward spiral to a catatonic state, until the very end when she realizes her self-worth.

It's true that almost every character in NGE have chosen to handle their inner demons in a particularly whiny woe-is-me manner. However, I think that's really the crux of the series. Maybe I've overthunk it, but I felt the series exemplified the consequences of a person's choice in whether or not they owned their faults and insecurities.

In the series, Shinji chose to "man up" and accept things, to try and break out of his shell and mature. Hence the congratulations he receives at the end, and the welcoming of his self into the group collective. In the movie, he chose to go the other route, and had to accept the consequences. Given some of the questions we see in AskMe every other week, I think most of us in the real world have also made this choice, one way or another.
posted by CancerMan at 10:14 AM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


jet_manifesto: ... it's a melodrama. The emotions are larger-than-life, just like the robots.

I can hear a variation on this as the tagline for one the US release of the movie series:

NARRATOR: Neon Genesis Evangelion - The Movies.
[over scenes of people dying and Shinji breaking down] The emotions are larger-than-life,
[cut to mecha vs angel battles] and so are the robots!
posted by filthy light thief at 11:04 AM on February 8, 2011


filthy light thief:

"NARRATOR: Neon Genesis Evangelion - The Movies.
[over scenes of people dying and Shinji breaking down] The emotions are larger-than-life,
[cut to mecha vs angel battles] and so are the robots"


I thought that was Transformers.
posted by Memo at 11:50 AM on February 8, 2011


The person who was presenting Evangelion to the class was a religion/sociology major who was trying very hard to tie-up the religious themes in Evangelion into a cohesive Christian narrative about belief. Which I do not believe it is. And when I said this it made him very angry.

Ah, that makes more sense, Enigmark.

I hear you there, and the choice of some of the symbols is arbitrary and not informed - "Neon Genesis Evangelion" is pretty much just nonsense. But others have a system to them - I feel the way Anno and the team "understood" the religious ideas they were using was by basically saying "okay so this is the 'great secret knowledge' of christianity and so on. what if their version is just an interpretation of the world's real form?" In this way they're able to use all the references but interpret them more freely - Lillith and the geofronts, the meaning of "Adam" and "Angel" and so on. They don't want to be informed on it because the whole premise is that all the information Christians have is wrong!

That said, it would be better to be doing that from a state of knowledge rather than one of ignorance.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:05 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Huh. I'd always figured the Judeo-Christian mythos was more just a set of imagery and concepts to start with when world-building, since Greek/Roman and Buddhist mythos/imagery have been so overdone by this point.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:21 PM on February 8, 2011


Huh. I'd always figured the Judeo-Christian mythos was more just a set of imagery and concepts to start with when world-building, since Greek/Roman and Buddhist mythos/imagery have been so overdone by this point.

At least it's Japan, so Shinto beliefs are native. When Japan mines Judeo-Christian imagery it comes across as really forced and fakey, like Super-Jesus, cyber-devils and evil magic popes, and there's actually a lot of that stuff in anime too, and it's not like it isn't done to death in our own culture to boot.
posted by JHarris at 2:13 AM on February 9, 2011


Also, I wanted to respond to this:

Most "mature people" who move past their childhood don't necessarily deal with the level of trauma dealt with by characters in the series

This is true, but it is actually one of the problems I have with it. From what I've seen, no one on the show should be able to behave in a healthy way given all the massive crap they've been through. But that's just the thing: it's not a feature, it's a bug. That amazingly downer backstory and all the extremely weird and bad stuff that happens to the characters and their relations and that justifies their emoing all over the place. It is difficult enough to watch non-fiction about real-life horrors. This is goofy pseudo-religious Jesus-tech giant robot fightan.

That might work for me if it played up the weird setting for laughs, but instead it's supposed to be serious. I don't seek out downer shows where things even worse than the kind of awfulness that happens in real life occurs, generally.
posted by JHarris at 2:24 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Neon Genesis Evangelion" is pretty much just nonsense.

I used to joke about how it must be part of a series with Xenon Second Corinthians Apostleopard and Radon Leviticus Bishopuppy, but if you stop for a minute it's obvious that it's trying to be "gospel of the new beginning."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:46 AM on February 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


In Japan, nonsense is a feature, not a bug.
posted by jet_manifesto at 6:11 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, we're done here?
♩ ♪ ♩ ♬♪ ♪ ♬ ♬ ♩ ♪ ♬ ♬ ♩ ♪ ♬ ♬ ♩ ♪

Fly me to the moon,
And let me play among the stars,
Let me see what spring is like
On Jupiter and Mars
In other words, hold my hand
In other words, darling, kiss me.

Fill my heart with song
And let me sing for ever more
You are all I long for
All I worship and adore
In other words, please be true
In other words, I love you.


♩ ♪ ♩ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♩ ♪ ♬ ♬♪ ♪ ♬ ♬ ♩ ♪
posted by zamboni at 1:05 PM on February 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is it too late to add a rec? I was left utterly underwhelmed by NGE. No offense meant at all to those who love it. and I won't critique it here...de gustibus non disputandum est, etc.

But for those who felt similarly to me, I want to recommend the works by Masaaki Yuasa, who *did* have the effect on me that it seems NGE had on a lot of other people. He plays around with lots of shifts in art style and general creative exuberance.

Mind Game blew me away visually. Kemonozume (odd show about demons), Kaiba (gorgeous science-fiction about mind transference between bodies), and The Tatami Galaxy (the best long-form Groundhog Day plot I've seen) all struck me as some of the most interesting television of the last ten years. Yuasa also seems to be reasonably upbeat and life-affirming in a non-saccharine way, though with plenty of dark. But very little overbearing teen angst.
posted by waggish at 6:16 PM on February 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Masaaki Yuasa

Absolutely. With the passing of Satoshi Kon, he's become the top god in my animation pantheon.
posted by lekvar at 6:56 PM on February 18, 2011


My first real exposure to Evangelion was End of Evangelion. I watched it with a friend who had already seen the entire TV series; I was familiar with the characters but that was it. I was confused and frustrated by trying to figure out what the hell was going on because I had missed nearly 10 hours of the plot. Then, this sequence came on. (Major spoilers!)

I still think it's one of the best 8 minutes in motion pictures.
posted by clorox at 4:31 AM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


New character designs unveiled
posted by Greg Nog at 8:57 AM on March 3, 2011


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