You Can (Not) Run Away (from Evangelion)

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This post will have at least one major spoiler for Evangelion and at least one major spoiler for Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Big ones. Also, this is not a review.

Hello, I’m one of the new writers here on THAT, and my name is ghostlightning. I’ve been lurking and commenting here since around Spring of 2008, and I mostly do my blogging over at We Remember Love. I’m thrilled to join the first team blog that I’ve ever read.

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I was a poor college student in the ‘90s, and I almost completely missed out on Neon Genesis Evangelion. However, I had only been able to get hold of maybe four VHS volumes and was able to watch maybe the first eight episodes. I wouldn’t be able to watch the whole series until 2003.

But when I finally did, something changed in me. It wasn’t enough anymore that I liked, or had a good time with a show. I suddenly had to know everything about it. I suddenly had to think hard about alternative approaches to how it all meant. I’m a literature major by degree, but up until then I never thought to ‘read’ anime the same way I would read stuff for school (or grad school).

Neon Genesis Evangelion opened the floodgates to a heightened appreciation and a pumped-up enthusiasm for anime. Sure I’ve been a Macross fan since 1984 and have been watching robot anime since 1980 (they were my first cartoons along with Looney Tunes and Disney shorts), but my appreciation and my ability to get into and think about the shows I like now became possible only after I experienced Eva  in full.

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I can’t not enjoy anime the same way again; there now has to be a conscious effort to ‘ease up on experiencing’ a particular show, because my default mode is to approach a show as if it were as demanding as Evangelion.

So, to say I’m an Eva fanboy would be understating things. But enough background!

Of the many departures Rebuild of Evangelion 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance did, the most significant is how Shinji transformed. By the end of this movie, he isn’t the Shinji we remember: the crippled in spirit, the paralyzed in thought, the compromised in being a 14-year old boy – who has the welfare of all humanity demanded from him. The Shinji we see is far more similar to Simon the Driller, resolved to fight the Spiral King halfway through the narrative of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.

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Having followed robot anime throughout the years and Gainax shows in particular, I find it easy to think of Simon as an apology for Shinji. How so? Simon got over himself. Shinji never did. Up to the very end he was never at cause for the circumstances in his life. He never felt powerful and never felt responsible. Simon’s ascendance, his use of Kamina’s death as a means to get better, is so awesome to me precisely because I view Simon under the lens of Shinji.

Ever since Evangelion, viewers have, or have at least been tempted to view teenaged robot anime protagonists under the lens of Shinji Ikari. Mostly the questions revolve around “Is he going to suck as hard?” What more for Simon, who is in another Studio Gainax show? Simon evolved, reaching stupendous levels at the end of his struggle; Shinji remarkably remained indecisive, weak, and damaged even at the very end.

Evangelion 2.22 changed all this.

First, a love triangle: Asuka is tsundere for Shinji, Shinji likes Rei, Rei now likes Shinji and Gendo to be good to each other. Shinji now has no perceptible attraction for Asuka beyond the banal, and his feelings for Rei are highlighted. This will be very important later on.

Here’s the crux of the conflict (it’s done amazingly well):

Misato was on a mission when an angel attacked. This time, the angel (Barachiel?) ‘possessed’ the Evangelion Unit 03 which was being tested with Asuka piloting. Gendo had to assume direct supervision of the operation to fight it. Shinji sortied using Unit 01, but Barachiel/Unit 03 had its way over him, partly or mostly due to his reticence to fight for fear of harming Asuka.

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When Shinji proved to be unresponsive to direct orders and with his synchronization with Unit 01 failing, Gendo activates the Dummy Plug control system, in this instance literally controlling the Unit 01 over Shinji’s shoulder. A great touch of cruelty: Shinji’s hands never leave the trigger/controls anyway. The Dummy Plug control system fastens them in place.

The system itself is unstable, and goes overboard by tearing Unit 03’s dummy plug apart despite how the Eva/angel itself is already dismembered. Now the Dummy Plug system is autonomous – neither Gendo or anyone else had control over its every action. However, Shinji blames Gendo for endangering Asuka, and perhaps for bloodying Shinji’s own hands in the act.

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He threatens to level the base holding Gendo into account. This is already a significant change. Shinji was a character who runs away, as opposed to being one who confronts his problems. It’s still contextualized as a tantrum, and Gendo treats it exactly as such and neutralizes Shinji’s control over the Eva.

As much as Shinji yearns for his father’s approval, he resents him for never loving anyone, never feeling true loss. He resents him for treating people as tools, as things to discard when they’re no longer needed, or useful. He hates the world with this kind of father in it, where all his own efforts amounted to nothing.

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His friends are still hurt, he still suffers, despite following orders and fighting inside the Eva. He rejects the world. This is the Shinji we know, though I feel that even in this aspect of whining there is a decisiveness to him that I never really noticed before. There’s a resoluteness to running away, and he faced his father directly just to say so.

Still, this is pretty much the Shinji I remember hating.

He does run away, and when Tokyo 3 is laid waste and the most dangerous angel has breached Central Dogma… only then does Shinji come back. What made him come back? What made him beg Gendo to let him pilot the Eva again?

Alone in a emergency shelter, he is informed by the AI that the shelter is no longer secure and that he must move to a safe zone. Evangelion Unit 02’s head plunges through the shelter’s roof. The European pilot gives him a hand and takes him outside where he sees Tokyo 3 laid waste by the battle with the angel.

Then he saw the angel devour Unit 00 and Rei Ayanami in it. The angel practically revived itself with the fusion with both Unit 00 and Rei. Without further prompt, Shinji ran to pilot the Eva and rescue Rei, which he did, in the fashion of Evangelion.

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So here we are, Shinji turns GAR. This narrative rebuilt the Evangelion story and its lead character. At 14 years old, Shinji found courage and resolve. This is the Evangelion I’ve always wanted. Or is it?

I realize that as much as I hated Shinji all these years, I never hated Evangelion, quite the opposite. It could even be that Shinji for all his failures, made the narrative as powerful as it is. It was grounded in such a way that it never forgot that Shinji (and Asuka) were 14 year olds.

The real fantasy is to have a 14 year old kid become a man and save the world. Fantasies aren’t bad nor wrong, but they are fantastic. They aren’t representative of humans being human. Rebuild 2.22 did this to Shinji, and made him a better man. But did this make him a better character? Did this make for a better Evangelion?

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Think about all the elements of the TV series and End of Evangelion that are contingent on the immaturity of Shinji: Gendo’s cruelty (he’s still pretty callous in Rebuid, but ways to go to match the totality of the TV series), Misato’s love, courage, and sacrifice (where has it gone?); Toji’s tragedy; Kaworu’s temptation?

Am I leaving something out?

So are all of these things that make Evangelion what it is, worth giving up just to have Shinji stop running away?

UPDATE:

Relevant post on Evangelion: Does Hideaki Anno Remember Love? (by otou-san on WRL)

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64 Comments

  1. Posted May 27, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    I suffered a punch to the stomach from my brother over End of Evangelion. He did not like it, Sam I Am, he does not like Sealed Evil In A Can, he does not like the Longinus Fork, he does not like how it’s adored by dorks…

  2. ExecutiveOtaku
    Posted May 27, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    I guess I’ll have to reserve my judgement until I see 2.22, but it sounds like they’ve made Shinji better, but in doing so fundamentally changed what was at the heart of the show. For as much as I hated Shinji, his failings made the show what it was for me, and made his final decision all the more powerful. The reason why I haven’t watch this yet (but I now plan to) is because I was content with how Evangelion went with just the original anime. Having Shinji not be so psychologically weak, and all that that trait produced, just doesn’t seem..natural for Eva. Well now I guess I’ll check out 2.22. Even if it sounds like I’ll still prefer the original, this has piqued my interest.

    • Posted May 27, 2010 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

      Even if the changes eventually prove disagreeable to you (as they could for me — I’ll reserve judgment until the other 2 movies are done) this cannot be missed by anyone who says they like Evangelion.

      The Evas themselves look too good, move to fluidly, the battles so incredibly exciting — you’d be denying yourself one of the best animated robots in a long time.

      This particular movie just showed me that this show can take the spirit of the preposterous scales of Diebuster! and TTGL and execute it in terms of the finest real robot anime sensibilities.

      I am skeptical of those who would claim to enjoy Eva and not care for the robots themselves in any way.

      • Posted May 28, 2010 at 5:49 am | Permalink

        Sweet dicks the Eva movies are not Anno’s Eva?

        Now I need to watch the show.

  3. Posted May 27, 2010 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    I may have to comment again after seeing the movie (only skimmed through the video since I had to go to work today), but it is as if they answered all my complaints when I reviewed the first movie. I felt that Eva 1.x didn’t have too much inter-character development (many of the Shinji@school scenes were cut off) but it has many of those here. The first movie was too serious and about the only comic scene was the one at Misato’s apartment, yet this has a bit more humor splattered around. Coupled with of course the supposed excellent action and mindfreak craziness, this second coming of Evangelion is really looking good so far.

    I still reserve judgment for the new hawt girl character, but what I heard from you about the changes made are nothing short of BRILLIANT. Having Asuka instead of Toji, and whatever happened to Rei in that scene will really flesh out the three Children relationship. And as a bonus highlight, Shinji being GAR is gonna be a sight to see. This movie literally blew through the original TV series plot and made HD sandwiches out of its ingredients. If I was really entertained by 1.x even though it’s just a carbon copy of the original, what more when 2.x captures the essence of Evangelion and makes it BETTER?

    We’re 2 movies away from history.

    • Posted May 27, 2010 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

      I don’t really have much to say about the new character. What we can tell is that she has more experience being an Eva pilot compared to the pilots of Units 00-02. This I find remarkable/strange since she started off with unit 05…

      How can Unit 05′s pilot be more battle tested than team Japan? Well, after all she did come from Europe who provided Asuka who immediately did well against her first encounter with an angel (compared to Shinji). Rei didn’t have much fighting to do since all her work has been about fire support and defense support.

      I’m not sure what you mean about character development. Do you mean exposure in slice of life situations? Do you mean departure from the original TV series script?

      In any case, I’m not one to over-value character development (by this I mean the changes or growth a character undergoes throughout the narrative). After all, in the original series, no one really changed. They were pretty much the characters they were at the beginning of the narrative.

      What made things work though, is how the characters were revealed. We knew Gendo was cruel, but not how much, and not how depraved — and certainly not how all of his actions were done out of a perverted kind of love — but love nonetheless.

      We can even say that Shinji’s stagnation in the original series the ‘tragedy’ of the narrative — that despite all the work and sacrifice put in by the likes of Kaji, then Misato he never became the man they hoped he would become.

      Character development (or the lack of it) is no deal breaker here.

      • Posted May 28, 2010 at 12:00 am | Permalink

        I meant character development in terms of the fleshing out, or as you say, “revealing” the character’s traits. I pointed out that I didn’t see much of the slice-of-life stuff in the first movie, while in this second one I expect to see a bit more balance between the hardcore action and character development. I agree that there isn’t any major change in all the characters but I really like how they were revealed.

      • Posted May 28, 2010 at 12:10 am | Permalink

        Yeah… I’m definitely not a fan of Eva… for how well the character of Shinji is done, I can’t stand him. Watching his struggles just isn’t something I care to watch. There’s this feeling of pity that I want him to succeed, but I’ll still despise him when he finally mans up.

        On the other hand Simon, I still hate his moment of weakness, but I have this stronger feeling of respect for him and his actions. Especially when compared to Shinji.

  4. Tenryu
    Posted May 27, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    its probably because i’m kind of detached watching anything visual these days (i mean how could anyone say Avatar has a good story? Personal Opinion) but i really really felt this movie fit very well in the bubble that is the Eva’verse, if you also consider the other stuff thats come out (the games and manga) then this is really no different from those, if not more so because gainax decided to be serious about this.

    From what little i read around the internet some people don’t like this because its so different from the original. If the movie was exactly the same as the original but with only better graphics then i would guess that those people would go ‘so whats new? thats it?’ more than anything one could consider this movie as a response to fans and probably some fandom as well.

    if you watch this movie and expect it to be the same as the original then you’ll be very surprised. i mean Gainax have the balls to change, for me, a very significant part of the story and you know what, it kind of made snese.

    And like ghostlighting said, if your an Eva fan give this at least one viewing. Seriously it actually felt like watching TTGL watching this movie. And you know what? depending on how the other 2 movies pan out, this might be a sequel and not just a ‘remake’

    • Posted May 27, 2010 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the thoughts.

      I’m wary of getting the ”pulse” of the internet opinion, as there’s a lot of posturing and inauthenticity to filter through. This is also why I don’t preoccupy myself with reviews. I’m here to discuss the elements and speculate rather than to declare a subject ‘good’ or ‘bad.’

      I think a visual update of any older show is not a bad idea, as long as nobody claims it is anything else. So many robot shows I like have awful and dated animation (that gets re-used throughout the show!). I also wouldn’t mind seeing Crest of the Stars and Aria with superior production values.

      Perhaps it’s not so much a sequel, but as you say it could well be a complete remake. This makes it very interesting doesn’t it?

      (Avatar had a great story; personal opinion)

  5. Matt
    Posted May 28, 2010 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    I did recently watch it, and after picking my jaw off the floor I can definitely see where you are coming from.

    I only in the last 5 years got to see Evangelion, and it seemed to lose lustre after seeing different shows, and see other forms of character development, but now that I think about it, Eva kinda comes back around and becomes more powerful. I would agree that in the original Shinji just becomes a target for so much hate, but I cant say he doesn’t deserve it. From the point of view of a person that battled depression, his actions are fairly in line with someone who would actually have to deal with those problems, I just dont think they end up on the screen well. By changing his character a bit, it makes things flow that much better.

    The thing that stood out to me above all else, was the pacing and I think that helped to deliver the message and create a better outcome with a better product. In the original, Shinji just whined and whined for every 25 minute episode, by having only 2 hours, and having to fit in so much new material, there is less time for that hate to build up, and for his personality conflicts and detriments to really wear on the watcher.

    The other thing that helped, is that not only did Shinji get a better character, but Rei also got a much better character. She was more response, more sociable, although not enough to stray so far from her character to completely piss off all the fans. She seems less wooden and less like a doll as Askua point’s out. So in a conclusion, if I even have a point in there somewhere, is that I would agree that Shinji being a better man, made him a better character, and the only way to do that properly was to reduce running time, alter some plot points and character’s around him, to make for a better set up that would allow him to make the change.

    PS. Go Mari!

    • Posted May 28, 2010 at 12:31 am | Permalink

      Good points on the length and pace of the film — it definitely feels less annoying to have Shinji whine under time constraints compared to seeing his angst dominate episode after episode.

      I also like what the narrative did with Rei as well: an actual motivation!

      In the end this may just be something else entirely to appreciate, a whole different Evangelion amongs the other incarnations. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing, but I certainly am glad Rebuild exists.

  6. d3v
    Posted May 28, 2010 at 12:59 am | Permalink

    Who knows. Maybe (after seeing the remaining movies) we’ll find out that they’re meant to be watched in the context of the series and the true message of the movies can only be gleamed by looking at both original TV series and the ReBuild movies and comparing them.

    • Posted May 28, 2010 at 1:59 am | Permalink

      Yeah we can only speculate for now, but isn’t it interesting how the narrative has reached practically events in End of Eva when it’s supposedly only halfway done?

    • Onion
      Posted May 28, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      I’ve been thinking of Rebuild as a direct sequel, myself. There are too many references being dropped that this the second time around for me to look at it otherwise. And honestly, the characters would be pretty empty to anyone who isn’t familiar with the TV series if they just started watching this. Shinji’s, Rei’s, and Asuka’s character development hinges on revealing aspects of their characters as a direct contrast to the TV show.

      • d3v
        Posted May 29, 2010 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        I’ve been getting this vibe from the movies as well. As if they got themselves into some sort of Groundhog Day loop.

  7. Tenryu
    Posted May 28, 2010 at 1:50 am | Permalink

    @ghostlighting, last sentence; exactly why i went ‘omg’ with the end first movie and ‘OMFingG’ on the second one. Maybe an exaggeration but it most certainly felt like it.

    @Matt; totally agree with you on the Rei parts. It was a pleasent surprise the changes made to Rei.

    but i ask you people this, doesn’t it feel like Mari was a bit unnecessary? I mean the parts with her in it were great and i enjoyed it, but i have to wonder about her role in the future of the story, not mention why she’s such a ‘good’ pilot and knows stuff about the eva’s.

    And as an Eva fanfic reader of many many years, i hope this ends up as an S/A.
    And i really really would like to see ‘S.I Raising Project’ animated. Gendo is awesome

    • Posted May 28, 2010 at 1:57 am | Permalink

      Not only misgivings regarding ‘necessity’ but also questions on how she got to be as good as she is. The Prototype and Test Type are in Japan and yet the ideal pilots seem elsewhere. Makes sense?

      • Matt
        Posted May 28, 2010 at 8:16 am | Permalink

        Mari definitely felt unnecessary, I almost want to believe the only reason she was in there, was for more service, which feels like a stupid reason to introduce a new character.

        I am however willing to give her a pass for the moment because after watching the previews for the next one, which couldnt come any faster, it looks like she will be involved. I think it was an interesting plan to do a few subtle changes, like getting rid of Asuka halfway through and using her instead of Shinji’s buddy who’s name escapes me, as the child for the new prototype. Thus the existence of Mari and her beast form Eva which added a new level, and gives thoughs of why she would know how to do this, and what her plans, as she alluded to, are. Right now, however I would concur that she was just someone to suit up in a pretty pink plug suit, but we have not seen the last of her, it will be interesting to see what new dimensions this character will add to the coming films, barring she survives the next film.

        • Posted May 28, 2010 at 11:23 am | Permalink

          Reading the pharase ‘got rid of asuka…’

          I’m still in denial. She can’t be gone… that would just be so wrong. But…

          • cheirus
            Posted May 28, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

            I had huge problems with Mari when I watched this. If you take her character out, the plot of the film doesn’t suffer much. I firmly believe that less is often more when telling a story. I’ve thought about it, and the only good reason I see to put her in Eva 2.22 at all is so that Asuka can get injured during the dummy plug activation instead of Toji. But if Asuka is injured, who has to fight the last angel at the film’s climax? It can’t be Rei by herself! I know, we can add a new pilot! I’m guessing that the plotting of the movie went something like this, but I’m probably being too cynical for it to be actually true.

            Don’t worry, Asuka has to come back as an angel tainted character! I mean, Rei already is, and its visually implied that Shinji becomes angel tainted as well at the end, right?

          • Chan
            Posted May 28, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

            Did you wait until after the credits? Asuka will appear in the next movie

          • Tenryu
            Posted May 28, 2010 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

            with a nifty new eye-patch!

          • Posted May 28, 2010 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

            Gah finally saw the preview. I don’t have anything to say really, I just can’t wait to see the damn thing.

            After thinking about what you said, I realize several things:

            1) I will frustrate myself thinking of fleshing out characters at this point; best to reserve expectations until the completion of the movies, or if a plausible milestone is found (unlikely)

            2) Asuka as the replacement for Toji isn’t as bad as it first felt for me. I still prefer how things went down in the TV series, but given that I haven’t seen the end of Asuka’s role in the story, I will reserve my judgment even as I deal with my own dread.

            3) I need a LOT of information about Mari. Is she also 14 years old? If so, she certainly doesn’t act like it. She behaves like someone Misato’s age.

            4) Have they completely done away with the Marduk Institute? If so, then the narrative suffers for it. Who selects the ‘children’? The term ‘ First Child’ was still used, but how does this work now without the Marduk Institute?

          • Matt
            Posted May 29, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

            I think it was said in the film that Misato got to select the next child. Which was Asuka, which was kinda weird, because the Marduk institute was not there. Not to mention, our bishie hero coming in at the end of the film clearly changes how things are going down. He is going to have a more active role then the TV series and looks like his introduction will be substantially different.

            In regards to the comment that without Mari the story works just fine, Im not sure I entirely agree with that. She did do some key things, although those functions could have been done by the old characters, but I feel that by having her they are able to do new things based on the excuse that since this character has been separate from the main cast, their knowledge will be different then that of the main cast. Could Asuka activate beast mode? Yeah, but not without some other scenes in the film that show where she got that knowledge. Also, by mentioning that she had her own ‘plans’, they would have more freedom to give her things that are new and base them on the fact that she is working on a separate plan and has gotten and experienced things that make her the only one possible to fulfill that character role. If that makes sense.

        • Posted May 29, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

          Yes, good points here, and feeds my misgivings about the absence of the Marduk institute. After reading this I feel better about Mari in the movie. Thanks for sharing this.

          • Tenryu
            Posted May 29, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

            besides the ‘Marduk Institute’ was just a front anyway in the TV series. I mean it wasn’t even prominent to the plot or anything, just explains where the pilot selection possibly comes from. It’s not like Nerv and Seele doesn’t rig the selection process anyway.

          • Matt
            Posted May 29, 2010 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

            Last point from me here, because i dont want to get too technical, but yeah the Marduk institute would be a total front, and in makes more sense in the movie because if we think that when Shinji held Nerv HQ hostage (momentarily albeit), by leaving the selection process in Misato’s hands, and knowing she would pick Asuka who got screwed by Unit 02 getting frozen, if we think they knew the angel’s turning into Eva could be unstable, if it went haywire like so, Dummy plug goes in untested, it goes haywire to, they effectively eliminate 2 pilots that, if they by some anime cliche decide to fight for righteousness, could mess up their plans, all they would have left is Rei who is still under their control. Which leaves Mari as the only actual pilot resistance moving forward. I again am not sure at how much sense that made, but the functionality of the Institute is minor at best.

            Sorry, I know realize that I care too much about EVA, my name is Matt and I have a problem…. lol :P

  8. Posted May 28, 2010 at 4:17 am | Permalink

    Interestingly enough, the Rebuild series, and the latest iteration in particular, have been occupying my thoughts as well these past few days. As an old-hand EVA fan (but apparently not hard-core) I enjoyed it a lot, as it gives us a brand-new look at an established franchise, but apparently my enjoyment doesn’t quite segue with many of my contemporaries. Which I found extremely startling. Had the English-speaking EVA fandom, by and large, turned into grumpy and bitter old men? By the amount of vitriol being spewed in some forums, it sure seems that way.

    Funny, but If we were given a word-for-word and scene-for-scene translation of the TV series into movie format, it’s likely these same complainers would STILL find something to decry about a movie (there’s only so much you can do with two hours after all).

    • Posted May 28, 2010 at 5:21 am | Permalink

      Most of the time I ignore internet opinion until I can reasonably ascertain that the sources are not posturing and puffing out their chests all about their incredibly high standards that too often are only levied upon something very popular.

      • Posted May 28, 2010 at 5:47 am | Permalink

        It would be okay if it were so-called net opinion *coughs* EVAGeeks *coughs*, but seeing it from my contemporaries is particularly unsettling. Were we watching the same TV series? How the heck am I still able to get enjoyment from the TV series (I can pop in the DVDs anytime I like), but at the same time watch the Rebuild movies with starry-eyed wonder, something that has only EVER happened with ARIA and LoGH.

        Okay, granted I was a really depressed teenager at the time when EVA first aired, and my outlook has changed since then, but still…

        • Posted May 28, 2010 at 5:53 am | Permalink

          That is indeed rather unsettling. I honestly can’t see anything that one could get angry about. Your friends are too quick to the trigger I think. I know I liked it a lot, despite the questions it raised.

          • Posted May 28, 2010 at 7:05 am | Permalink

            Aging gracefully in the hobby? I’m pretty much an anachronism amongst the friends I have here in the Philippines who watched anime, in that I don’t seem to have a particularly strong opinion these days about what constitutes a good or bad series. If I can get enjoyment out of a viewing, then it’s worth the 24 minutes I invested, nevermind the fact that the show in question is Koihime Musou: Otome Tairan.

            I mean, by Haruhi, the vitriol. You’d think that something similar to this hadn’t happened to another series relatively recently — a new, more positive look, at an old franchise? Zeta Gundam: A New Translation anyone?

          • Posted May 28, 2010 at 11:27 am | Permalink

            I find myself having less vitriol the older I get. I mean, what’s the point of getting riled up over anime or any kind of media?

            Well, I still need to distinguish where the vitriol is coming from. If authentic, it’s just another way of expressing love for a series, as opposed to indifference.

            If not, well, it’s just showing off having standards, etc.

  9. Posted May 28, 2010 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    I dropped Eva after watching 12 episodes, deciding that it was better that I not watch the whole thing since I don’t hate myself enough to watch how much of a failure the whole show is.

    However, if the new Eva moves are done up something like GaoGaiGar and TTGL (in terms of feel), then I’m sorely tempted to watch the movies.

  10. bakaranger
    Posted May 28, 2010 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    I never before or after, despised a main character as much as I grew to hate Shinji. Rather then seeing him grow (which we all expected early on), he sank lower in his value as a human to the point where you just wanted him to die to spare us another self-pitying whinning episode.

    Originally, after watching the 1st half of the TV series, I was thinking maybe I should buy it. After watching 2/3 of the series, I was glad I didn’t. And by the end, I was hating life. EVA became, for me, an example of why to not make an anime right after you get out of therapy. Even now, I surprised at just how much I find myself truely hating a fictional character.

    In the new movies, it sounds like they are trying to redeem Shinji a little, but rather then risk reviving past negative emotions over it, I’ll have to give it a pass on watching it. But thanks for blogging it as I would like to read about the differences with the original. Maybe there will come a time when I feel like I could actually watch it again.

    • Posted May 28, 2010 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      I’m with you, but I could see past Shinji and see how he made the show so much more than what I am used to, so much more than what I could expect from anime at the time… even as the production values nosedived and the show got uglier and uglier, there was something, many things going on that really made me see what was possible in storytelling.

      What bothers me a tad bit here, is how by making Shinji awesome, will Eva lose everything else — it’s too early to conclude, but certainly I feel compelled to speculate on it.

      • cheirus
        Posted May 28, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

        To me, Evangelion will always be amazing, but I think its important to realize that it started out as a retort to classic Mecha anime of the 80s, sort of how Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a retort to classic slasher films of the 80s. These shows often were filled with action and were hardly introspective at all. When Evangelion came out, the backstory was so complex, and the characters were so well developed that it changed mecha anime, and anime in general, forever.

        Its easy to take its complex symbolism and metaphors and themes for granted since its been with us for so long but all of it is still very much present in the movies. Central and Terminal Dogma are still there and still refer to the central theories of DNA replication. Its juxtaposed to kabbalah and prophecy, and it still mixes science with theology.

        But I do think Evangelion TV had its flaws. It rambled on and on, and was quite hard to watch. 7 minutes of Beethoven’s 9th is great, but that still shot was painful to watch. The ending of the TV series itself, while interesting, ultimately left people unsatisfied, and had to be addressed with theatrical releases. Eva 1.0 and 2.0 do things differently, but I see a lot of these flaws from the TV series getting fixed. Example: I did cringe a little when I saw Rei and Asuka in the elevator together…. I was going “oh noes, here we go again…” but thankfully a long painful pause didn’t happen.

        • Posted May 28, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, these are part of what I saw was the possibility in storytelling and especially anime.

          The painful parts you mention are what I refer to when I talk about production values nosediving. These would be the equivalent of reused footage in old-school robot gattai or transformation sequences (or magical girl shows for that matter).

          Since Eva had none of these standard corner-cuts to rely on, we get conversations on an escalator viewed from 100 meters away (look! they’re actually moving their mouths if you use binoculars!).

          These films should at the very least address these horrors, and the films certainly did.

  11. Posted May 28, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    I ranted quite a bit about this elsewhere, but suffice it to say that my problems with the Rebuild series boiled down to character changes and plot changes. With regards to the character changes, I felt that a lot of the character changes don’t really fit with the original plot of Evangelion. Shinji’s new determination here shafts the entire last two episodes of the original Evangelion. Ultimately what makes or breaks this series will come down to how they changed the plot to accomodate these new personalities. If they leave the plot as is and go down the route that EoE went, I would be very unhappy.

    Speaking of the plot, I also didn’t like how many of the Angels were cut, especially considering that a lot of those Angel battles really drew out some great character insight on a lot of characters. I don’t want to really spoil anything, but suffice it to say that a lot of great scenes concerning Asuka and Shinji just got completely removed.

  12. Chan
    Posted May 28, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    I couldn’t help but notice how the character interaction between Asuka, Rei, and Shinji had changed, Asuka and Rei especially. In the TV series Asuka and Rei did not get along at all, but in Rebuild you could kinda see a strange friendship between them. Asuka and Shinji meanwhile have been degraded to just friends/ comrades but in this case that may have added more meaning to the relationship between the three, as it seems as though Asuka stops seeing Shinji and Rei as her rivals and more as her friends. Though I have to say using Asuka as the person who was put into the Angel, made the scene much more meaningful, and in this case it was much easier to understand Shinji’s dilemma.

    • Posted May 29, 2010 at 12:03 am | Permalink

      Way too early to think of Asuka relating to them as friends. Even with the simplification of her tsun-tsun/dere-dere for Shinji, she still related to Rei as an annoying rival of sorts. She didn’t stop resenting her being favored. Much to look forward to when she recovers, depending on how Shinji and Rei manifest — if Kaworu is to interact with Shinji in student form, then an encounter with Asuka and Rei and thereby resuming their dynamics is probable.

  13. Keith
    Posted May 29, 2010 at 4:03 am | Permalink

    Someone saying good things about Evangelion? Someone saying good things about original-version Shinji? On the Internet? Have I fallen into Bizarro World? :P

    Ahem. I agree with your overall point, though I haven’t seen Rebuild. There are countless fanfic and other ‘reworkings’ of Evangelion that make Shinji more proactive; Rebuild sounds like one of the subtler ones. The ones that go overboard clearly fail for the reasons you discussed: the original plot had power because of its tragedy. Shinji never went into shounen-protagonist nothing-can-defeat-my-heroic-willpower overdrive, and bad things happened as a result of this realism. People who complain that he’s completely spineless forget, though, that he did have moments of heroism/resolve in the series, like going berserker on Shamshel and stepping up to pilot against Zeruel; it just never went into GAR mode and he tended to slip back afterwards instead of changing drastically and permanently as a character, which is probably far more realistic. It may be that Rebuild will go down that route in its next installment.

    • Posted May 29, 2010 at 4:53 am | Permalink

      Thanks, and good examples too.

      I hesitate to call it realism, but a 14 year old kid breaking down continuously for every step of maturity gained rings truer to me in light of the fantastically horrifying circumstances he is subjected to.

      I have seen similar outrage and dismissal of a show on the basis of the perceived weakness of the teenage male protagonist in Eureka SeveN.

  14. Nash
    Posted May 29, 2010 at 4:31 am | Permalink

    i think that shinji being the complete coward he was in the original tv series was what made evangelion the show it was i mean i saw it like ten or so years ago when i was seven or so. but still it made it so different from every other giant robot monster fighting show that being said im all for any kind of giant robots and monsters battling it out. to me it seemed more like they tried to make shinji as human as is possible for a character living in a city thats been destroyed and relocated. because wouldnt you be shitting yourself after seeing angels destroy the city ? or even when the dummy system takes over and he almost kills his new friend from school whatever his name was. that kinda thing would ruin a person mentally.
    but i guess it would be good to see this new shinji who doesnt run away. i think im going to have to see this movie now .

    • Posted May 29, 2010 at 4:57 am | Permalink

      By all means you should see it if you liked the TV series in any way. Eva was indeed a reaction to and subversion of the traditional monster-of-the-week super robot show. While messed up pilots that get subjected to progressively cruel circumstances were around since Amuro Ray of Mobile Suit Gundam in 1979, Shinji takes it to a whole new level.

      By this I mean there is a heightened sensitivity to human interactions in the slices of life that the show increased its focus on.

  15. Posted May 29, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    And to think I call myself an animaniac – I’ll defo try and check out this classic during (to borrow Crusader’s words) the summer of suck. Meanwhile, welcome aboard my fellow newbie :)

    • Posted May 29, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      Thanks and nice to meet you. I wholeheartedly recommend watching this show. It’ll be interesting if you’re going to start with the films…

      The problem is that they’re unfinished, and you may be better served by watching the original TV series.

  16. Posted May 29, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Guys, check out the very relevant post on Evangelion 2.22 and Hideaki anno:

    Does Hideaki Anno Remember Love?

  17. Suiman
    Posted May 29, 2010 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    A very insightful article on the rebuild series, though I disagree with your comparison of Shinji in the TV series with the Rebuild one. Both Shinjis were almost identical from one another with their main difference being the “Ayanami extraction scene” but still have similar emotions and motivations. In my eyes, Eva 2.22 was more of homage to Shinji’s character than a departure from the TV series.

    It should be noted that Shinji’s defiance against Gendo regarding the unit -03 incident was virtually the same with episode 19 of the TV series. Excellent points regarding Shinji running yet again but to consider Shinji (TV) to be lacking in courage and resolve compared to Shinji (2.22) discredits what he has done during that point in the series. Both Shinjis saw the devastation caused by the angel attack, especially to Asuka and Rei. Afterwards in the TV, Kaji was there pushing Shinji to fight. In the movie, seeing Rei being eaten became his primary motivation, though Shinji definitely gets plus points since unlike Kaji, Mari was insisting that Shinji should run away. Still, both showed Shinji in deep contemplation before making a decision ending with both of them deciding to pilot the Eva again. This lead to one of the Shinji’s (TV) “awesome” scenes in the series, especially if one would consider his previous emotional instabilities. He went head charge at the Angel , remaining relentless despite an arm being severed. Amidst his maniacal rage and pain, he was able to think on his own to mount the angel and have Misato launch the two of them away from Geofront. Up to this point, Shinji (TV) was not the weak person he was before, especially in the series where we were bombarded by his angst from the previous episodes. True, Shinji (TV) was not given the GAR scene in the movie but the series did not necessarily downplay his motivation. His desperate pleas for Eva 01 to move again may be seen as a moment a weakness and helplessness in the situation but in my eyes it further highlighted his strength and resolve to continue fighting. If the situation called for it, Shinji (TV) would no doubt reach for Ayanami the same way he did in the movie.

    He is still the same Shinji that acted upon his emotions towards pain whether it involve running away from it or confronting it, if motivated enough. Eva 2.22 certainly was quantum leaps beyond in animation compared with the series but it did not stray far from Shinji’s characterization as of now. He has yet to lose all of his pillars of support. With Asuka, Gendo and probably Misato (though she has yet to distance herself with Shinji) out of the picture, what would happen if he would also lose Rei?

    I never hated Shinji. Instead, I embraced his character that defied the “fantasy” that you have mentioned. There will be two more movies and I could only hope that these would still contain Eva’s subversion of a hero.

    • Matt
      Posted May 29, 2010 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

      What if we think of it as being an indirect change to Shinji? Maybe he didn’t change but the characters that were important to the way he did things, changed enough that we are analyzing his thought process differently?

      Probably a weird argument, but from the TV series, Kaji was more present and same with Misato and Ritskuo. These characters had more of an impact, as well as “Doll Rei” and Asuka was really really annoying due to all those Kaji loving scenes and actions.

      Things changed up a bit, Kaji is really not in much, Gendo is a much softer character, whos motivations are a bit easier to see. Rei is practically a social butterfly and Asuka is closer to Shinji by dealing with feelings of lonliness. Shinji’s other friends are totally not important, Misato is distant and RIt is basically not there. Maybe the shift of focus on the other characters, makes it seem like he had more changed, but perhaps just simplifies what was already there in the TV series, but got convoluted? What do you think?

      • Suiman
        Posted May 30, 2010 at 6:10 am | Permalink

        Indeed, things in a way were simpler to understand, especially interpreting the emotions and motivations of the characters, but far from complete since the back-story of the characters are yet to be revealed though heavily hinted. This is especially true for those who have not watched the series before.

        You’re right with the pacing, not just Shinji but the other characters benefited as well. With fewer angels, the Eva pilots were given more time to be the 14 yr old children that they are through the slice of life scenes in 2.22. I remembered in the series that Shinji and Asuka were not allowed to go to their fieldtrip, this was not the case in the movie. Shinji and the others were given a chance to act out their emotions to one another which they were denied but could have done so in the series. The characters did not changed per se, but were given other choices enabling them to make different decisions to the altered events in the movie but still retain their defining traits from the series.

        Go Mari as well. I loved her “singing while going to battle scene” as much with Shinji’s GAR scene, though nothing beats Rei pouting and blushing.

    • Posted May 29, 2010 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

      Excellent point.

      My comparison indeed suffers from the fact that I know how Shinji turned out in the previous installments, whereas I’m making near-conclusions (with actual finality) after only half of the new narrative.

      It is fair to speculate that the next installments may feature Shinji breaking down in even far more terrible ways, though the ending of 2.22 makes it difficult to imagine this.

      • Suiman
        Posted May 30, 2010 at 6:15 am | Permalink

        That makes his fall a whole lot more moving (if you empathize with his despair) or infuriating (if you see it as an epic fail), either way, it would affect the viewers greatly. Way back in ep 16 (yup, I rewatch the whole shebang: director cuts, Death(true)2 , EoE renewal and 1.11, heck I even watched the whole Puchi Eva before watching 2.22) after “winning” a psychological battle, he was greeted back by a tearful Misato. Asuka and Rei were visibly concern, much to Shinji’s enjoyment. His decision to comeback seemed to payoff. All was right in “his” world. Unfortunately for him, we all know what would happen next.

        Anno said , “It is a story where the main character witnesses many horrors with his own eyes, but still tries to stand up again” We have yet to see these horrors. Horrors that piloting Eva could not solve. I would like to also emphasize “tries”, he may not necessarily succeed. Even the all powerful Simon was not able “go beyond the impossible and kick reason to the curb” towards the end. – poor Nia.

        • Posted May 30, 2010 at 6:40 am | Permalink

          Excellent again.

          Your intimacy and grasp of the material is exemplary! I’m on episode 4 of my rewatch of the NGE remastered edition.

          i too am a fan of failure after a cruel struggle in narratives. If Shinji is indeed being set up for this kind of fall in more terrible ways, chances are I’m really going to love it.

    • Posted May 30, 2010 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

      This is pretty much what I was going to say, because I really, really dislike your reading of Shinji, GL. Maybe it’s just because I feel so personally tied to Shinji. Maybe it’s because I love him and have tried to defend him so much over the years. But I never saw Shinji as a coward, and I don’t think he did in this movie anything new — it was just portrayed more powerfully. Which is, in fact, the point of this movie. And I will make a post about that.

      Shinji already found redemption in the show. That’s what all the ‘congratulations’ were for. I hate seeing that discredited.

      • Posted May 30, 2010 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

        Don’t you see the cruel irony in the congratulations? That’s what makes it great!

        As much as you think you identify with Shinji, equally telling is how everyone else seems so annoyed with him, or hate him (myself included). You’re just different as you’ve had a history of taking pride of what most people are ashamed of.

        What I think? We really find hims so annoying and shameful because we identify with him whether we like it or not. This to me, is what makes Evangelion (and Shinji as a character in a narrative) so amazing.

  18. Posted June 2, 2010 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    I did get pretty frustrated watching Shinji in the series. When I first watched Twelve Kingdoms, I really hate Youko (the main protagonist) and how whiny and annoying she was (similar to Shinji). But then 6 episodes in, she started to understand her role and mature up quite measurably after. I was hoping the same thing would happen with Shinji but it never did… I can’t say which one is more natural last I checked, no 14-year old kid have ever been put into such apocalyptic situation as of yet. In the film, he seemed to take a stand much more strongly but it will be interesting to see whether that part of his character is developed over the next two movies. Will he do something that annoy us again? :)

    • Posted June 4, 2010 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

      I’ve almost completed a rewatch of the TV series and I can confirm Suiman’s point http://www.thatanimeblog.com/index.php/2010/05/you-can-not-run-away-from-evangelion/#comment-52781

      … where the events in the climax of 2.22 are not very different from episode 18. Shinji indeed stood up to Gendo, though the role of Saji by the watermelon patch was assumed by Mari emerging from Unit 02′s beast head.

      If Evangelion TV ended then and there we would think of Shinji as redeemed. The thing is, there is still a lot of narrative to go through, and I’m looking forward to it — even if Shinji is torn down again and never gets up. It what made the show rather interesting to me, to say the least.

  19. L
    Posted December 25, 2010 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    “Shinji now has no perceptible attraction for Asuka beyond the banal, and his feelings for Rei are highlighted. This will be very important later on.”

    So…Shinji 2.0 is a sleazebag who spends the second half of the movie playing favorites with the lives of his putative friends? I fail to see how this is an improvement.

  20. Einherjar
    Posted January 22, 2013 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    All this time I really wished things would get better with Shinji with Rebuild. It could have been a genuine chance to at least give the characters some dignity after everything they experienced in the original series and EoE. However, as of 3.0, I really don’t know if that’s going to be possible anymore, especially for Shinji.

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