Hello everyone! I hope that everyone has enjoyed Anno August so far. As some of you know, it was something that I originally planned to do last year that I almost completely failed at doing. All I was able to review was Nadia in the beginning of August and Kare Kano at the end of August. I remember moving back to college during August which is why I wasn’t able to fully complete it. This time, I was able to do it by mostly watching movies and just one series and somehow talking about all of them. With this note of success, I thought that I would attempt to treat all of you by splitting my Neon Genesis Evangelion thoughts in two posts. I don’t usually do this, but I think there is a stark enough difference between the two halves of Eva for some talk to happen. Plus, it’s Eva. The thing I’ve been building up to this entire month. Why don’t I just let loose on it. I was originally thinking about talking about Shin Godzilla again and covering Eva in one post, but I still agree with a lot of the things that I’ve said.
That’s enough prattling, let’s talk about some Neon Genesis Evangelion. If you haven’t seen the show, I’m going to be spoiling pretty much everything. Actually, I keep saying things like that, but I can’t help but admit that I quickly forget what I read a day or two afterward because my memory sucks. I Don’t know if that’s the case for everyone though. Just proceed at your own risk, ok? You now have all been warned.
At the turn of the century in the year 2000, a great cataclysmic event called The Second Impact occurred in Antarctica. Billions of people were killed in the Earth’s southern hemisphere, the Earth’s economy died, people starved to death, chaos and wars happened through out the world, and the original Tokyo was nuked. Fifteen years later, when the Earth’s economy has recovered, Shinji Ikari was called to show up to Tokyo 3 by his father who he hates. A futuristic city that was under attack by an angel or a creator of unknown origin that wants to start the third impact. Unlike most Gundam or other mecha series where the pilot falls into a cockpit by, Shinji was called to pilot the strange robot thing called Unit 1 the second he shows up to the mysterious Nerv base. You know, or else the injured girl, Rei, has to pilot it. We all know this story, right? What happen? Shinji steps into the robot, pilots it, and then chaos ensues.
Evangelion’s beginning is one the starkest and strangest sorts of anime beginnings ever, yet it’s also very familiar. Not just in terms of anime beginnings, but it terms of understanding characters like Shinji. It’s emotionally resonant, understands the emotional trauma of the kid who doesn’t want to be apart of anything or attached to anyone because of his hedge hog syndrome, and the how bad toxic environments are for people who are stuck in them. The first few episodes not only set up the beautiful Tokyo 3, but also build some understanding between Misato (his boss) and Shinji while living together in the same, tiny apartment, but also build up that pressure box that Shinji musn’t run away from. He pilots the Eva because his father finally find him useful, because he’s told to, and because it’s to save the world apparently. If I was Shinji and had the same kind of condition he does or even not have that condition. Ugh, not good.
There are so many memes and bad thoughts around Shinji’s habit of running away. That’s always annoying to me because what is wrong with running away? Nothing. What is wrong with getting away from entire environments that are inherently poisonous and toxic to you in mind and body? Once again, nothing. Shinji is dying by living in Tokyo 3, why would he want to stay? Sure, it’s not fun seeing your action hero protagonist running away when he could be hot blooded and piloting a robot and winning all the things forever, but Shinji was never like that. Plus, he’s not alone in this department. Amuro Ray, the first gundam pilot, ran away into the desert the first chance he got because he didn’t want to pilot the Gundam anymore either. While Amuro returned with some sort of new resolve, Shinji came back because he doesn’t have anywhere else to go. He just continues to pilot the Eva because what else is he going to do, find a purpose for it? Where is he going to go? With Shinji’s return after saving people that become his friends, Neon Genesis Evangelion starts building it’s pressure vessel with other characters and angel attacks. An environment that Shinji starts getting used to living in this toxic environment. All with the added bonus of teenage sexual exploration at the same time.
Misato Katsuragi, Shinji’s boss, is the first person he comes to contact with in Tokyo 3. She’s a sexy 29 year old who doesn’t find shame in showing off or being herself. At work, she’s dressed correctly and in her uniform, is ready to go, have Shinji’s friends Touji and Kisuke fall in love with how sexy she is, successfully leadss the Eva units with unique plans nobody else would think of, and is generally well put together. At home, her kitchen is filled with beer and cheap food, has her underwear hanging in the bathroom for Shinji to see, sometimes doesn’t know where her panties or bra are, and sometimes enters his room only wearing a towel. Could you imagine being a teenage boy and not knowing what to think of this female adult figure you live with? Misato is a great character and mad respect for her being able to function because she is a realistic character.. She’s just as broken of a character as Shinji is because of her own father issues. That shapes who she is as a person, who she is unfortunately attracted to (scumbag Kaiji), how she thinks and feels, and her relationship with Ritsuko (our scientist figure) Akagi, her best friend and co-conspirator at Nerv.
With that relationship established between Shinji and Misato, the show decides to focus on developing it’s plot of Shinji fighting more angels and learning about the other pilot, Rei. Well, if there was anything to learn around Rei because she’s a blue haired, red eyed nothing. I mean, Anno forgets about her for a reason. When Shinji shows up at her apartment, it’s as Spartan of a place as it can get and somehow messy. Plus, Rei doesn’t react to anything. She doesn’t hide herself when dressing herself infront of Shinji after coming out of a shower, she doesn’t react when Shinji does the classic anime fall thing on her besides a simple “can you get off of me”, and the only reason she pilots her Eva is because it makes Rei feel like she’s connected to the rest of humanity. Yup, totally normal. The only time Rei has ever had any sort of positive or any reaction at all is when she talks to Shinji’s father, Gendo. Something that changes when Shinji works his hardest to save her life after operation Yashima, where all the energy of Japan was needed to fire a laser at a geometry angel. She smiles at Shinji for once, so maybe there is something to her then nothing. There will be no answer to this for a while.
With Rei’s development out of the way, two more characters are introduced. The Last pilot, the red haired teenager Asuka, makes her appearance on the high seas. You know, when Misato takes Shinji, Touji, and Keisuke on a trip to the UN battle fleet. Asuka is the most energetic, demanding, and wants all the attention to herself. She wants to be the number one Eva pilot, so she emasculates Shinji when she pilots the Eva for the first time on screen by making him wear a female plug/pilot suit. Plus, she always tries to position herself on higher elevations then other people because that’s how she wants to be perceived. Pretty classic teenager stuff, huh? Pretty much. Asuka also finds herself living with Misato and Shinji and her presence instantly encroaches on his privacy. Physically represented by her boxes showing up in his room. Plus, this also leads to tons of flirting between each other. The barriers between work and after really are falling apart for Shinji, aren’t they?
The other character is Kaiji, a classic male scumbag like that character that has past relationships with Misato and Ritsuko. Some more intimate with one then the other. No other explanation is needed for now. Both characters appearing at the same time establishes the concept of character trios. The new Eva Trio with Rei, Shinji, and Asuka and the older trio with Ritsuko, Akagi, and Misato. They each have that “Kirk, Spock, and McCoy dynamic” going on with one being cold and logical, one being outrageously human, and one being a balance of the two. Of course, there is a lot more sexual tension going on because two characters are female while the in-between is a male. Somehow they are able to work out eva problems by finding solutions through their different personalities and social perspectives to find a way to do everything.
With the team of three set in place, Neon Genesis Evangelion acts like a classic super robot anime until episode 13. While the tone of Evangelion was turning lighter over the run, but it’s still as light hearted as it could be right now. There are tons of situations where Shinji, Rei, and Asuka or just Shinji and Asuka have to work together in order to stop the Angels in all sorts of situations. Maybe the base’s electricity is down and they need to fight the Angel unreserved, maybe the angel splits in two and requires training for the two pilots to act the same to defeat it, or maybe the angel is literally falling from the sky and an Eva needs to catch it. Whatever it is, the plan always succeeds in the end. Even if the results sometimes results in Nervs embarrassment on a global scale. It’s made pretty clear that an Angel could be whatever form it decides to be which plays into the show later as well. All of this light tone, mental improvement, and so on is a complete ruse. While I do like this part a lot with it’s playful manner and happiness, it’s all to get the audience into a false sense of security before the boom hits. Exactly the same thing it’s doing with Shinji whose getting used to his new life.
Just some quick thoughts on the visual design. While there are a lot of still frames and incidents where characters hide their mouths on screen, I can’t help but think those scenes are just full of atmosphere and great direction that I help but really like those moments. There is something about working with very little resources that results in some creativity and think that’s what happened here. Also, I absolutely love Evangalion’s production and mechanical design. The attention to detail to how the city’s skyscrapers go up and down, how the Evas are shot up an electric elevator, Evas look and move, and how the Angels show up and are menacing that makes all those still frames completely worth it. Especially when you see how brutal Eva and Angel fights are. These aren’t mecha fights, they are brutal battles of survival where one side has to die. Yes, even in the light hearted episodes and is something that becomes more truthful as time goes on.
For closing thoughts, when I first started my rewatch of Neon Genesis Evangelion, I couldn’t help but admit that I thought that the first half was completely boring at first. It wasn’t until the second half that I truly appreciated all of the character building and table setting. The first half is so great at developing that I didn’t notice all of the development at first, so had to rewatch it again. While I do think that some episodes are better then others and there is a little too much fan service for my taste in this part, I have to admit that you can’t take those aspects away without ruining everything attached to it. For instance, seeing Misato’s scar in the middle of her chest or scenes where Asuka pushes herself on Shinji and Kaiji are in service for the plot in all sorts of ways in the second half. I do think that the fan service has led to audiences sexualizing these teenagers girls for decades and decades though, because so many didn’t see the text the show is putting on those scenes in service for the story later on. Can’t undo decades of damage, right? Unfortunately not
Anyway, please keep an eye out for part 2’s appearance on Friday. I don’t think I am ever going to do two part posts/talks/analysis/whatevers anymore after this exploration of Evangelion. At least for now. It takes too much energy and thought then my usual stuff and I don’t think I’m very good at it. Still, this is Evangelion, so I think it’s worth doing at least once to repent for my bad Evangelion posts from three years ago. No, I’m not linking those.
I appreciate the honesty of the review. I know EVA is the big anime opus that people hype up about and it makes sense to cover it for your Anno August project. The contrast with Misato’s work life and home life was funny to me. There’s also a hilarious in hindsight aspect when you realize it’s Sailor Uranus (Shinji) and Sailor Moon (Misato) living and working together.
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I know, right? Eva appearing on Netflix was a major catalyst for this happening in the first place.
Ah, that hindsight aspect is pretty good. I only knew about Sailor Moon and Misato and that still throws me through a loop.
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I sure bet. It certainly would give you inspiration.
Thanks! I still remember finding out that Kotono Mitsuishi did the voice of both characters and would’ve never guessed they were played by the same person. Megumi Ogata certainly has range, too. She can do a good job playing younger male characters such as Kurama, Yugi, or Naoi from Angel Beats, but she can also play female characters with lower voices.
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Evangelion was the first big serious anime series I watched. I have to admit that Misato inspired some particular feelings in me to put it politely. You make a good point about the sexualization of characters like Asuka — I’m sure that wasn’t Anno’s intention, but the fanservice is there after all.
It’s also interesting to see all the hate Shinji gets from a lot of viewers. Maybe it’s because he’s a realistic broken sort of kid, which is unusual for a protagonist. For me, Shinji is painfully relatable. Being somewhere you don’t want to be, doing something you don’t want to do, but that you have to do, because you have to carry out your duties. Part of me wants to watch Eva again, but part of me really doesn’t.
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Believe me, I got so many of those Misato feelings too during this past rewatch and I don’t think they will ever leave. Not that I want them to. Also, intentions and reality are hard to distinguish.
I think that’s how you know Shinji’s character was nailed and also a part of why Eva is at least a ground breaking anime or infamous. Not many series can give the viewer those complicated feelings.
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