Evangelion thoughts—anti-religion, pro-psychology, character development, otaku genre.
- What Are Otaku Anime?
- Otaku No Video
- EoE & TV Are the Same Ending
- Eva Is Meaningless
- Why the Plot Is Unimportant
- Positive Otakudom
- Holes in Eva
- Lyrics by Seiyuu
- Evangelion’s Influence On RahXephon
Notes toward a possible essay on otakudom seen through several key anime.
’“It’s this planet”, Scytale said. “It raises questions.”
“It speaks of creation. Sand blowing in the night, that is creation.”
“When you awaken, the first light shows you the new world—all fresh & ready for your tracks.”
Untracked sand? Edric thought. Creation? He felt knotted with sudden anxiety.
The confinement of his tank, the surrounding room. Everything closed in upon him, constricted him…
“Another night comes”, Scytale said. “Winds blow.”’1
“What is the door for, opening or closing? What do you think? Don’t look at me like that. This is a very important question for me. Especially in here, the deepest underground, there are so many doors.”2
“The visions dancing in my mind
The early dawn, the shades of time
Twilight crawling through my windowpane
Am I awake or do I dream?
The strangest pictures I have seen
Night is day and twilight’s gone away
With your head held high and your scarlet lies
You came down to me from the open skies
It’s either real or it’s a dream
There’s nothing that is in between…
Twilight, I only meant to stay awhile
Twilight, I gave you time to steal my mind
Away from me.”3
Religious interpretations are not even wrong.
Evangelion is a lot of things. It is a robot romp. It is twists suggested by a lazy artist who watches too much TV and understood too little. Directed by a director who sees himself in a boy too cowardly to die. It is an excuse to copy old American cartoons and work in inscrutable allusions, for the pleasure of remembering. It was a by-the-numbers mecha series by a man who had reveled unapologetically in squalor and mecha series but wonders whether he should grow up—or could. It is the bitter tears of outsourced animator wage-slaves listening to the cheerful phrase ‘sabisu, sabisu!’ It is the product of uneasy tensions at the heart of a business founded by idealists—dreams for dollars, yearnings pure and impure for yen. Too, it is the sour conviction that mysteries must have answers, that the creators knew more than the consumers, that authors do not play dice. Perhaps it is also the story of George Lucas, who discovered that fame and wealth could be as much a trap as obscurity and poverty, that to feel accolades undeserved is to feel them turn ashes in your mouth.
My definition of ‘otaku anime’ is pretty straightforward: any anime that depicts, tries to understand, and criticizes otaku and their pursuits; bonus points if it is also very popular among otaku.
Otaku no Video: this falls under the rubric quite obviously just from the title. More importantly, while the animated segments show an idealized & fanciful history of Gainax (a studio founded by otaku to produce stuff for otaku), the live-action segments/interviews show the dark side of obsessive interests—people walled away from reality and other people, forever obsessed even when they seem to have built themselves a life, and deeply unhappy. I was even more horrified when I learned that some of the interviews were ‘nonfiction’.
Neon Genesis Evangelion is throughout a critique of otakudom and the old mecha genre (in exactly the opposite way that Gurren Lagann is a mindless celebration). Anno has said that the characters represent himself; Tsurumaki has said that people who can live and communicate normally will not benefit from watching Eva. If you don’t think Anno was criticizing otakus, these interview excerpts may help. There are many lines throughout the series directed straight at fans: “We can’t weave our lives only out of things we like…”, and these have been highlighted by staffers like Tsurumaki as well as commentators like myself.
Serial Experiments Lain is similar. Like Eva, SEL was doing a lot, but one of the things is a similar critique—the vapidity and hollowness of a tech-oriented life and its devotees. Lain can disappear at the end without a trace, that is how meaningless her life in the simulation is, how malleable it is. If there is any thing of value in her life, it was her rare friendships—exactly the sort of thing that anti-social geeks shy away from, and exactly what Lain began to sacrifice by becoming consumed with technology and programming. (See also Eva’s hedgehog’s dilemma)
Welcome to the N.H.K.! By this point, it should be pretty obvious how NHK fits in. It is not just a ‘dark comedy’—it depicts a human wreck. I’ve heard that the hallucinations in the first episode are drug-induced in the manga; our protagonist is the lowest of the low. He is sick. F—ked in the head. He is a hikikomori who throws himself into every otaku pursuit he finds, and discovers their vapidity. What does he get out of galges except endless masturbation? His next-door neighbor is his own walking zoo of pathologies, from just the toleration for derivative crap (the song playing endlessly), to his failed personal relationships, and so on. And what about the MMORPG playing hikikomori who has literally written the book on self-help? No, to write off WTTNHK as just ‘dark comedy’ is to willfully ignore everything else that is going on. It is not stretching to call it ‘psychological’, nor any of the others I’ve covered.
(A related series is The Tatami Galaxy; its 10th episode begins with the protagonist defending being a hikikomori, and the time loop he is trapped in ends when he realizes the value of love.)
(One could throw in Genshiken or Comic Party or Animation Runner Kuromi as rare otaku-focused anime/manga, but in these 3 cases, any actual criticism seems to be non-existent—if one were to judge from them, there’s nothing really potentially bad about being an otaku, just people may shun you for no good reason. Genshiken occasionally alludes to problems, but largely flinches away, as it just wants to celebrate & reminisce.)
The remarkable thing about Otaku is that at the breaks, it switches from the anime to short filmed videos with various otaku (Gainax staffers)
How does that make any sense? In the movies Shinji rejects instrumentality, in the series he embraces it. The two story lines are mutually exclusive. Or have I missed something completely? It has been a while…
I think you missed something. I’ve always regarded the 2 endings as complementary, not contradictory.
Obviously EoE is about external events, action; and obviously the TV is about internal events, introspection. But the TV’s action matches up with EoE’s action (the Misato and Ritsuko bodies, for example), so we might expect the introspection to match up as well.
I won’t trouble you with excerpts from the script (as this is an old Eva argument, it’s been done before and better), but go back and look at the Episode 26 synopsis. Notice how the whole episode is about Shinji coming to grip with how it’s better to exist, and exist as a separate person. The entire series is skeptical about the value & desirability of Instrumentality:
In fact, she and other characters say, it’s true for all humanity, this weakness. It’s why Instrumentality is taking place. Humans cannot live alone, but yet they are separate entities: thus conflict and pain is created. Humans cannot live but in Instrumentality. “Really?” asks the text.
Or the final moments are quite telling:
After seeing this, Shinji realizes that there are alternate possibilities to his Shinji decides that he can learn to love himself, and he wants to be “me” and to stay “here”. The dark world shatters, and Shinji is left standing atop a coral reef under a sunny sky, surrounded by most of the other characters. He is wished “Congratulations!” by the human cast (and a squawking Pen Pen), and smiles, thanking everyone.
If he’s accepted Instrumentality, then who is doing the congratulating, who being congratulated, and for what?
Specific plot points aside, why would the two endings be contradictory? Most people accept that part of the reason for the TV ending’s experimental techniques (or crappiness, for some) was due to budget and internal Gainax issues. Why would Anno have the budget and time to do EoE, and decide to do an ending exactly opposite the one they wanted to do but couldn’t? (Don’t say Anno’s revenge; that is untenable) If Shakespeare could go rewrite Hamlet again with an unlimited SFX budget, would he suddenly decide to rewrite it to have a contradictory ending (maybe one where everyone lives)? Of course not. There’s a particular artistic viewpoint being expressed—it does not allow for casual flip-flops. If the TV ending really is an acceptance of Instrumentality, then it renders everything meaningless, all the fighting and scheming and suffering and attempts by characters to come to grips with themselves.
Or, Instrumentality is consistently pursued by SEELE—an immoral group of powerful manipulative men. Shouldn’t we distrust anything sought by the likes of them?
‘Running away’ describes Instrumentality exactly; are we supposed to think, ‘hey, Shinji was right all along, and not being cowardly and immature’?
Seeing both endings as rejections of Instrumentality and an embrace of reality fit exactly with the constant message of the series (‘We cannot weave our lives only out of things we like’), and fits exactly the ‘Eva-as-otaku-therapy’ paradigm I personally subscribe to.
So: seeing the endings as covering the same end is what Occam’s Razor suggests; it makes most sense artistically; it makes sense from a production standpoint; it consiles with what we understand of Anno’s inspirations and pre-Eva life; it’s what a straightforward plot reading suggests; and so on. (We could argue against or ignore all that, but I hope I’ve shown any such argument would be quite strained.) I feel if you rewatch with all these points in mind, you’ll change your mind as well.
Well, it seems you have to be alive to be in Instrumentality. Consider that in EoE, we don’t see Kaji or Misato or Ritsuko or Rei or anyone we know for certain to be dead after the end. We see Misato’s cross nailed to a makeshift grave, suggesting Shinji is certain she’s gone.
And the only other person to reform out of the LCL is Asuka, who we last saw inside a half-eaten Eva—but not dead for certain. Eva are pretty tough, and the only pilots who die are ones who activate the self-destruct or whose capsules are pulled out and then crushed. It doesn’t seem implausible that the harpies munching on Eva-02 caused Asuka extraordinary suffering but didn’t actually manage to kill her before they became busy helping Shinji start Third Impact. (It is worth noting that we see most characters become LCL, and that even characters who don’t seem to become LCL probably do. Misato is visited by a Rei apparition a split-second before being blown up. Gendo is chomped in half by image of Eva-01 and not apparently turned into LCL, but is turned into LCL and ‘a particle of red light’ in drafts of EoE.)
In the TV series, we don’t see the external results, so we can’t point to the ending. But definitely in the TV (and maybe EoE, I forget), the images of Misato/Rei/etc. specifically say that they are the public personas, the masks, the versions of them inside Shinji’s mind, the Misatos that he knows—and not the ‘real’ ones. Hence, there’s no mystery how people like Kaji could show up at the Congratulations!, as his mind can work off memories.
(On a side-note, one of the interesting things about Eva is that there may not be anything like an eternal soul! Yes, surprisingly, for all the mention of souls, Eva/Anno seem to use the term more or less interchangeably with mortal minds. There’s never any real suggestion of an afterlife for souls, and Yui’s desire to make an eternal mark or monument to humanity doesn’t make much sense if souls were eternal. Further, the additional backstory added by the ‘Secret Information’ of the PS2 game is very atheistic—Lilith and Adam are just panspermia projects set up by ancient aliens.)
So, who is being congratulated? Shinji. Who is congratulating him? The personas in his mind, perhaps, or maybe Instrumentality itself, or maybe his mother (Yui is almost always off-screen, yet her concern that Shinji grow up and deal with his issues still comes through loud and clear in her characterization), or maybe himself in general. It isn’t clear & doesn’t really matter (none of those choices affects the meaning, I think)—the point is that Shinji has made the right choice, the choice that isn’t running away, the choice that will let him walk by himself into whatever future there is, the choice that isn’t fleeing into an anime-like fantasy world (again, the Eva-as-otaku-therapy theory works perfectly), that isn’t weaving his life only out of things he likes. Where is he being congratulated? That’s pretty clearly in his head. The floating island is unreal, even if we ignore EoE’s depiction of a ruined bloody world.
I’ll give you a simpler Occam’s Razor: Anno went off the deep end, and he ruined what otherwise was a good series; in fact, what could have been one of the greatest anime series ever.
I don’t really see how that’s a simpler hypothesis: you’re proposing that a radical one-time change (Anno going off the deep end for just the TV ending) is simpler than the null hypothesis (Anno tried to do the same thing in both works)?
And I don’t entirely think the ending makes sense on a plot level. The whole Angels business is ill thought out. The creators are constantly dancing and retconning in the series and movies, trying to make the plot-level hold together. And the plot is ultimately too shallow to bear the weight people put on it; one is done an disservice, almost, by essays and articles that lead with a plot summary. It’s not the Angels or fights, as interesting and well-done as they may be, that are the raison d’être of NGE, but what happens between and because of the Angels and fights; they occasion the events we care about. “..ultimately, the plot of Evangelion wasn’t very interesting”, writes one fan.[^weise]
TODO: move this to the end: [^weise]: “Saving What Counts: Reflections on the End of Eva”, Matthew Weise, 1999-11-16:
The supposed ‘real’ ending of Eva, the movie, is what it took to make me realize exactly what it was that the show did right. The movie gives you the labyrinthine plot that Evangelion was building up to and ironically proves that, ultimately, the plot of Evangelion wasn’t very interesting. The pop-theology and religious name-dropping that the series liked to indulge so much in are brought to the foreground resulting in total chaos, with the ideology of the series being splintered into a thousand pieces as characters are bent and twisted to conform to the plot which ends on a note of glaring philosophical pretense. In retrospect, the series finale of Eva seems wise to simply forego its narrative and opt for the exact material that the movies failed to address: the individual anxieties of the human beings involved in a familiar, real world context.
They fail, of course; the ‘Secret Information’ plot data from the PS2 game even finally admits that some of the Angels were headed for Lilith, some for Adam, and some had no plan in mind—which is a transparently failed plot. Anno had a good deal to do with the SI, so I take that section as him basically saying ‘the explanation is that there is no explanation; stop obsessing about it’.
So in that sense it doesn’t translate well onto celluloid. The simple approach would simply be to write an essay on how it’s painful to exist, quote some Buddhism, some existentialism, and maybe Schopenhauer on the Hedgehog’s Dilemma. But would that speak to otaku? No, not really. It might speak to philosophers, but they wouldn’t need such an essay. How do you animate those ideas, get people to relate to them? How would you put those ideas into character form, what sort of story do you write?
“I am indebted to Dr. Anthony Forge for a quotation from Isadora Duncan:”If I could tell you what it meant, there would be no point in dancing it.”
Her statement is ambiguous. In terms of the rather vulgar premises of our culture, we would translate the statement to mean: “There would then be no point in dancing it, be-cause I could tell it to you, quicker and with less ambiguity, in words.” This interpretation goes along with the silly idea that it would be a good thing to be conscious of everything of which we are unconscious.
But there is another possible meaning of Isadora Duncan’s remark: If the message were the sort of message that could be communicated in words, there would be no point in dancing it, but it is not that sort of message. It is, in fact, precisely the sort of message which would be falsified if communicated in words, because the use of words (other than poetry) would imply that this is a fully conscious and voluntary message, and this would be simply untrue.
I believe that what Isadora Duncan or any artist is trying to communicate is more like: “This is a particular sort of partly unconscious message. Let us engage in this particular sort of partly unconscious communication.” Or perhaps: “This is a message about the interface between conscious and unconscious.”
The message of skill of any sort must always be of this kind. The sensations and qualities of skill can never be put in words, and yet the fact of skill is conscious. The artist’s dilemma is of a peculiar sort. He must practice in order to perform the craft components of his job. But to practice has always a double effect. It makes him, on the one hand, more able to do whatever it is he is attempting; and, on the other hand, by the phenomenon of habit formation, it makes him less aware of how he does it.”4
Why then am I so interested in a failure? Because while it’s a failure on the level of straight mecha—a series like RahXephon is infinitely better as mecha, or the better Gundams are clearly superior even if Eva can boast novel organic mecha designs—it’s most definitely not a failure on the psychological/philosophical levels. In my other comments I mention my Eva-as-otaku-therapy theory. What Eva does so brilliantly is diagnose the otaku condition (the alienation, the apathy, the unhappiness and pain of it), how it is the general human condition, and the painful solution. It does so throughout the series, and does so thoroughly while creating characters that last. (What other characters from 1995 are so memorable and vital 14 years later? Why do Rei/Misato/Asuka capture their archetypes so perfectly?) The poison slides into the otaku stomach pleasantly, with plenty of fan service, until suddenly the ill-adjusted otaku realizes he is on the couch with Anno hm-hming.
Other Gainax series are like this: Otaku no Video for example mixes its glorification of otaku with disconcerting video segments; FLCL is another. Outside of Gainax, therapy anime are rare but often quite good; Serial Experiments Lain and Welcome to the N.H.K.! come to mind. (Genshiken does not; it whitewashes and glorifies otaku with only token criticisms.)
If your time was wasted watching it, then perhaps you should feel glad about that—glad that you didn’t need it. (Some people do; remember the ‘Death threats’? Read the translations and note how many of them speak of how the viewer saw themselves in Eva; consider why they sent them, and why Gainax selected them to be shown.)
The initial reaction to EoE is bafflement. The viewer is repulsed when Shinji masturbates to a comatose Asuka. NERV staffers are butchered, non-combatants massacred. The montages are explicit and disturbing. Misato’s kiss of Shinji either incestuous or pedophilia. Asuka’s defeat is gory & wince-inducing. Ritsuko simply fails and is shot out of hand, the viewer deprived of any closure. (What did Gendo say to her?) Some scenes are simply obscene—when Eva 01 thrusts out of the giant Rei’s eye, with all the eyeball-fluid spilling that implies, I simply had to look away. The rotting Rei chunks that set the background for the last scene are eery. The ending is famously inclusive; we know nothing of what will happen to Asuka & Shinji now and it’s unclear what connection there is to the TV ending (which might have confused us, but the ‘Congratulations!’ thing at least fits some sort of ending pattern).
We might be bothered by other aspects. The occasional live-action sequence with 3 Japanese women/girls staring at us, the enigmatic dream-playground sequence (just to cite one), what’s really going on—all these seem to defy a coherent analysis. Not for nothing has Eva its reputation of being a labyrinth in which fans are devoured by the minotaur of obsession.
This almost seems deliberate. Indeed, any viewer could see this, so surely the man who conceived it and executed it must see how unacceptable this all is. But he did it anyway. Why? Anno must be deliberately seeking to displease the viewer. Why? Well…
We search for a motive, and we find that the end of the TV was greeted with a firestorm. It was nothing like anyone had expected, nor did they understand what they had gotten. As the quip about academia goes, the smaller the stakes the more vicious the fights. Even better, EoE supplies a ready-made reason for Anno to want to punish viewers: shots of death threat graffiti and email (“Anno, I’ll kill you!!!”).
Case closed, then? Death threats are quite serious and from what I know of Japan, even rarer than in America. One could forgive a man for being disturbed and angered that his work could excite homicidal hatred.
But then, the graffiti and email weren’t the only material depicted. There were a good 24 frames flashed, with about 11 or 12 different responses.
Consider letter 1. It is displayed 3 times in varying formats, and reads in part:
I’m a middle school student like Shinji. First of all, I saw Eva and now it seems like I truly recognize myself, and this feeling is because of Eva. I want to say thank you for this. Why do I say this? To explain it would take a while, but Shinji and I are alike; depressed and helpless and introverted. I remember watching Eva and seeing Shinji being worried and troubled and I felt the same in my heart. In “EVA”, there was an analysis that said how Shinji couldn’t run away from the pain or the unpleasant feelings that were attached, and I have felt like this way too…. In the last scene on TV, Shinji accepts everyone and they all congratulate him; that was a very nice end and I felt very happy…. I’m worried about what will happen to Shinji in the movie (but I like the last scene on the TV series a lot). And thanks to EVA, I’ve started like myself and that has made me very happy….Mr. Anno, please keep working on EVA a lot more….and thank you so much for everything!!
Or the second letter:
I also felt inside myself the same excitement that Shinji felt. The last scenes made me appreciate my own existence even more.
Thanks to Mr. Anno and all the staff for helping to liberate our hearts and souls, and for all of these feelings. Thank you very much.
Shinji’s falls into despair and Asuka’s arrogance appears to be some sort of escape from the darkness in her heart. These people have difficulties in dealing with their feelings; and so in their own ways – Shinji by totally collapsing and falling apart, and Asuka by letting her arrogance cover up her inner weakness – they each work towards the same goal: to come to terms with themselves.
One last one:
I could feel the pain of the TV series again. I could feel inside my heart the feelings inside Hideaki Anno’s heart. So in my heart, I sympathized with “I’m not alone. To feel loneliness is better.” I still feel a strange sensation even after watching the movie, because of these two opposite feelings mixing in myself. I’m waiting for the summer to see “End of Evangelion”, and I know that that will be even more painful, but I will feel happy and enjoy it. I don’t think that there are many people who feel this way, but in my case, EVA made me think about myself and was like a mirror of myself.
Think about what Anno chose to show. Of the many thousands of messages they must have received, he chose to show 4 times one from a depressed student like Shinji who has come to feel better about himself; another who identified with Shinji; a message of gratitude simply for the healing; some analysis of the psychological issues of the 2 most important characters; an analysis & application to himself; and some death threats.
Is it more plausible that Anno was so angered by the 2 death threats that he abandoned whatever vision he had, than that the 2 threats were chosen to be contrasts with the others?
Most of the messages were healthy responses. The writer grew or learned in some way. Eva was not mere entertainment for them.
The death threats were pathological responses; to care that much about Eva, one must be deeply attracted to it, sense that it says something about oneself. I could not care less about whether some telenovela series goes off the rails, because it says nothing to me; but if I were watching a series that I identified deeply with, that I felt expressed the things I valued as no series before had, and by the end, it had called my life a crippled shell, my ideals hollow and false, and urged me to become something else entirely before it was too late, something I have spent years eluding—then an equally deep sense of betrayal is to be expected. There is no apathetic response to such a challenge. Either the viewer can accept the diagnosis and strive for healing, or he can reject it utterly. A therapist is always in danger from his patient.
Let’s not mince words: Eva’s plot is incoherent. There is no getting around this. One of the most frequent assessments is that it is post-modern in its eclecticism, or that it is “the remix anime”:
“Evangelion carries a large number of quotes from and references to other anime productions, such as the mecha designs of Ultraman, Space Battleship Yamato, and Gundam. The works of Go Nagai—such as Mazinga Z—and even the novelist Ryu Murakami are also referred to; in particular, Devilman is seen as a major source for the overall plot. This was so apparent that Evangelion became known as ‘the remixed anime’”. pg 9 of 2004
It is comprised of hoary tropes and devices from earlier mecha and fiction in general; the subversions have been often remarked upon & considered to be what is important (eg. Napier), but even more were played straight (consider the list of identified elements by TvTropes https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion and how many of them are not subversions) Anno is explicit about this recycling:
“There is no longer room for absolute originality in the field of anime, especially given that our generation was brought up on mass-produced anime. All stories and techniques inevitably bring with them a sense of déjà vu. The only avenue of expression left open to us is to produce a collage-like effect based on a sampling of existing works.” 2004
The level of recycling can be seen in comparison with another mecha series: RahXephon (2002). The similarities are so numerous that anyone who has seen them both must remark on them and the similarities can be traced down scene-by-scene (see http://evaxephon.com/ ) but many of the similarities are drawing on common sources: Megazone 23 for the false Tokyo, Space Battleship Yamato for the alien invasion, Devilman for the cosmic conflict and vague souls and humanity’s inferiority
“The overall design of Evangelion calls to mind Devilman by Go Nagai. In fact, the whole concept of the Evas, which are made from Adam, and harbor the souls of humans, can be considered borrowed from scenes from Devilman, where the soul of Akira Fudo is possessed by Amon, the Lord of War. Moreover, the heavily religious undertones, the suggestion of conflict with an indigenous people, and the cosmic view that mankind may not be the ultimate being all owe something to Devilman.” pg 76 of 2004
and so on. Even an incomplete list of allusions & borrowings runs into the dozens. In this respect, Eva is reminiscent of the first Gainax videos, the DAICON convention videos; the videos include literally hundreds of characters and decades after their production, many remain unidentified by fans. Who could possibly appreciate such a work? Only a fellow otaku. To have not seen the relevant predecessors is to be unable to watch Eva fully. It would be like reading Shakespeare or Milton while utterly ignorant of classical history & myth. Something will come through, but how much? Many subcultures prize works that are obscure to outsiders. Shibboleths keep the rabble out. By making Eva inscrutable to your average TV watcher, Anno speaks to the otaku alone and receives their attention. If you think Eva was popularly understandable, then why is Anno so concerned to ‘dumb down’, as it were, the Rebuild fans?
“As the creator of this project, [I assure you that] a very new-feeling Evangelion world has been constructed. For this purpose, we are not returning to our roots at Gainax…. In closing, it is also our job to provide a service to our customers. Although it seems obvious, we aim to create a form of entertainment that anyone can look forward to; one that people who have never seen Evangelion can easily adjust to, one that can engage audiences as a movie for theatres, and one that produces a new understanding of the world.”5
The subversion of tropes is not necessarily important. Many of the subversions or twists were already done. Shinji, for example, is far from the first reluctant or mentally disturbed mecha pilot—consider the pilots in Space Runaway Ideon, or Kamille Bidan in the 2nd Gundam—nor would he be the last (every other Gundam series). The important thing is that the audience knows where the creator is coming from, that quotes like “His erudition in tokusatsu is vast, and can be seen clearly in his animation work.” are not PR fluff. That he remains one of them.
“[Anno’s] Primary diet consists of Sapporo Brand Barbecue Potato Chips and pizza with tomatoes as the only topping. After those comes beer. His erudition in tokusatsu is vast, and can be seen clearly in his animation work.”—from the Gainax FAQ https://www.cjas.org/~leng/daihist.htm
The plot exists as a convenience to reach the necessary situations, and to earn otaku cred. Once the otaku have taken the bait and invested something of themselves in the series (think how hard it is to not finish a book you are half-way through), it is unnecessary, and almost abandoned by the last 2 episodes.
We can convince ourselves further that the plot isn’t important by looking at RahXephon. RX unquestionably had better animation; its music is competitive with Eva’s; the critical response uniformly positive; the plot well-thought out from the beginning (with some critics specifically praising it as a “paragon of responsible storytelling (…) No loose strings are left; we see the conclusion of every character’s storyline.” https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/review/rahxephon/dvd-7 ); its Mesoamerican style quite as exotic as the Judeo-christian symbolism in Eva; its goals apocalyptic, and so on. In many respects, it is RX and not Eva which deserves to be remembered and rewatched.
And yet—it was popular enough to merit a quasi-movie & a manga adaptation, but no more. When brought up by fans, discussion often centers (just as here) on its relation to Eva. Its influence on post-2002 anime indiscernible. No revival seems to be in the cards. Why? Why does it not have a cult following, or even any mindshare? (I see online obscure series like Texhnolyze recommended long before anyone dredges RX from the depths.)
Another contrast might be the later Gainax work Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (2007). Lagann is like Eva in being a mecha series focusing on a young orphan boy piloting an extraordinarily powerful mecha, but it shuns any thinking deeper than sloganeering (“Go beyond the impossible, and kick reason to the curb!”), and is content with being a collage anime which takes all the shonen mecha tropes and pushes them to their limits. I would call it satire, but that implies some desire for change, and the series is done with such affection & good humour that it is only ever entertaining. Lagann was, of course, a massive hit among otaku. (See also later Melancholy section)
I suggest that Eva represented a peculiar & perhaps unique mix of otaku catnip and psychological ‘earworms’—analyses that pierce an otaku’s heart, that he can’t forget, that he circles around and must keep coming back to again and again (“Eva is a story that repeats…” https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2007-02-20/hideaki-anno-releases-statement-about-new-evangelion-movies). Lagann provided the catnip, unadulterated by anything else, and so is successful. RX passed on the catnip for a more artistic path, but it had no earworm, and so once gone, returned no more.
lain owes nothing to Eva? http://www.konaka.com/alice6/lain/hkint_e.html but note that lain was popular among otaku
No Gundam owes anything to Eva? https://www.evamonkey.com//ask-john/has-evangelion-influenced-contemporary-gundam-anime.php
Eva not influential on all subsequent mechas? https://web.archive.org/web/20081002015610/http://www.animenation.net/blog/2007/01/26/ask-john-why-the-sudden-trend-in-reviving-classic-mecha-anime/
adolescent coming of age: https://www.evamonkey.com//ask-john/why-is-evangelion-so-popular-2.php
Even as contemporary youth are encouraged to become familiar with information technologies (IT), the impacts of those technologies on their well-being have been the subject of increasing concern. Youth subcultures heavily engaged with IT have often been portrayed as victims of alienation, as having abandoned traditional values, and/or as being more likely to commit acts of violence. This study seeks to characterize and demystify a youth subculture of extreme/obsessive enthusiasts known as otaku who are heavy users of information technology and are focused strongly on the acquisition and trade of elite information. https://www.animenation.net/blog/ask-john-what-does-asukas-final-line-mean/#more-628
In fact, I believe that this line is a direct reference to a brief scene contained only in the Japanese home video version of Evangelion TV episode 22. In this sequence that which was never broadcast on Japanese television and is not included in the American Evangelion DVDs, Asuka faces herself in the bathroom mirror and says, in translation:
“Kimochi warui. Who wants to bathe in the same water that Misato and stupid Shinji have bathed in? Who wants to use a washing machine that Misato and stupid Shinji have washed their underwear in? Who wants to sit on a toilet that Misato and stupid Shinji have used? Who wants to breath the same air as Misato and stupid Shinji?”
In this sequence, Asuka essentially says that she is sickened and disgusted by the idea of sharing herself with others; the knowledge that other people exist and have an effect on her. In effect, with this tremendously important sequence, Asuka reveals herself as the antithesis of Shinji and the opposite thematic pole of the Evangelion animation. Throughout the Evangelion animation Shinji is torn between his fear of human relations and companionship and his natural desire for affection, acknowledgment and acceptance. Shinji wants to belong. On the other hand, Asuka is disgusted by social relations and other people. She tries to force herself into interpersonal relationships by kissing Shinji, but even that fails. While Shinji represents the desire for companionship; Asuka represents the desire for isolation.
otaku contrast with hikikomori? https://www.cjas.org/~leng/hikiko.htm
This theory is extensible further. One might wonder why Haruhi was so extraordinarily popular when it came out. One can appeal to surface features, which exist in abundance. Haruhi is a well-designed character; her sidekicks are the epitome of moe or a fresh twist on the passive Rei archetype. The storyline is thoughtful, postmodern without being obnoxious, and often funny. The anime has a famously excellent opening, and the animation in general is top-notch. The voice actors nail their roles. The episode sequence is unique, and represents an ingenious work-around the source novels (I argue in [anime endings] that the ‘Haruhi’ random ordering creates a sensible dramatic arc). Kyon is himself a carefully modulated narrator, sarcastic without being negative, representing the viewer yet not too close. There was an existing fan-base from the light novels; the season had little competition. In general, everything went right. One should expect a fair degree of popularity.
But there’s something missing there. When we compound our previous ingredients, the stew is insipid. What’s the missing ingredient? It’s the optimism. It’s the sense of fun and wonder (the ‘sensawunda’6 as A.E. Vogt put it). The world is stranger than you imagine, but not in a despairing Lovecraftian way. The love of weirdness for its own sake, the search for novelty, these form the core of ‘Haruhiism’. Haruhi’s club wears its mission on its sleeve (or name, rather): “The Save the world by Overloading it with fun: Suzumiya Haruhi’s Brigade, abbreviated as SOS Brigade.”7
This is not the usual critical otaku narrative that we saw in Evangelion or in Welcome to the N.H.K.. There, we realize the sterility of otaku pursuits. Consider dating games: the endless permutations of hair style and eye color, even the doujinshi wearily pairing off the protagonist with each girl in the standard variations of sex, the fanart putting a particular character through its paces: in a yukata watching fireworks, in a bathrobe at the onsen, hanging out on the school roof, etc. The combinations are monstrous. Where are we to find soul or meaning in the Library of Borges?
A fan has an essentially closed universe. He has abdicated his freedom to strike off on his own in new directions. He is one of many, but still alone: the esthetic experience is still alone. He may hide his unhappiness, may throw himself into his pursuits, but he is still empty. The many critiques of modern man apply to him in double measure. He is no New Type.
This sad truth isn’t always the truth. There are fans who are empowered to do new things. One thinks of the early works of Gainax, the DAICON videos. There’s love in every frame of them, excitement at something new. Consider Otaku no Video: we can see despair in the live-action segments, particularly in the segment about the video collector. But the animated segments offer us hope: salvation through creation. The 2 protagonists are not damned by their otaku life; they overcome it to become true fans, Otakings, creators of a commercial empire, and if we take the ending literally, they helm humanity’s expansion to the stars—the dream of generations.
In a way, computers were the worst thing that ever happened to otaku. They made it tremendously easy to link up with other fans and plunge deeply into multiple communities, sapping fans of the will to do anything in particular. Is it an accident that the decline of the Space Age was just before the rise of the Personal Computer Age? If we had looked forward, we would have expected computers to help us travel to Mars and beyond. After all, as the old comment goes, we went to the Moon on the equivalent of a wrist-watch; how much more could we do with modern computers! Yet we are no longer even on the Moon. The ISS is already within sight of its final orbit. We contract. We become ever more introverted. Why bother with outer space, when we have inner space? An inner space/Internet exploding in detail, becoming ever more sophisticated and addictive. If Gainax were founded today, would its animators create whole shorts multiple minutes long, or would they be doing mashups of Lucky Star with Death Note to put on YouTube?
Haruhi wants the SOS-dan to go out and change the world. To make it more interesting—not to make a more interesting webpage. To have fun, and search for strange beings. That we are not gods who warp the world into possessing strange beings does not make Haruhi any less inspirational. When one watches a video of Haruhi fans waiting on a line spontaneously doing the dance and instantly stopping when a quizzical policeman walks by, this is the spirit of Haruhiism at work. When large red Hs appear mysteriously, this is Haruhiism too. When Improv Everywhere stages another mass event—they may never have heard of Haruhi, but that is Haruhiism too. When hackers discover some vibrators hooked up to a compass grant one a 6th sense, is this not Haruhiism too? When SpaceX launches a rocket into space—and not a social network site into an IPO—is this not Haruhiism too?
- endless eight as otaku critique? https://www.reddit.com/r/anime/comments/9skki/what_superpopular_anime_titles_have_you_come/c0elcgj/?context=3
re: suicide; Shinji hangs out at a ‘famous suicide site’? see also ‘what were we trying to make’, “A cowardly young man who feels that his father has abandoned him, and so he has convinced himself that he is a completely unnecessary person, so much so that he cannot even commit suicide.” https://wiki.evageeks.org/FGC:Episode_04_Scene_02b#cut_04_091
I think it’s just something he wanted to acknowledge, the same way he acknowledges at various points that this is an anime, and people are watching this anime. There’s a scene in LOVE & POP with an actor dressing as Anno famously did, that is resonant with the masturbation scene in THE END OF EVANGELION, I think. https://web.archive.org/web/20080515223546/http://eva.onegeek.org/pipermail/evangelion/2007-January/003901.html TODO I really need to watch that movie
https://wiki.evageeks.org/FGC:Episode_01_Scene_03 Shonen notes: Misato: “Boring kid. Your expression’s blank, so unsuited to your pretty face.” As you noted Shinji isn’t into fashion and has a poor self image. Interestingly Utada Hikaru’s “Beautiful World” featured in Shinji-centric Rebuild trailers alludes to this with the recurring line: “Beautiful boy / You don’t even know how beautiful you are”
https://stats.grok.se/en/latest/Neon_Genesis_Evangelion_(anime) Wikipedia hit counter for NGE article
JSSDF with kitten, before invading and slaughtering NERV—interesting point about shades of grey in NGE
https://web.archive.org/web/20071214080953/http://eva.onegeek.org/pipermail/evangelion/2007-May/004172.html good point about brutal slaughter at NERV—very Ideon (movie especially) like, such as when the child is shot through the head in Tsurumaki’s movie
https://www.angelfire.com/anime4/mdwigs/Asuka.html “The Case of Asuka Langley Sohryu” https://www.angelfire.com/anime4/mdwigs/endings.html “An argument for the concurrent nature of episodes 26 and 26’”
https://forum.evageeks.org/post/125491/My-Eva-TV-Ending-Journal-Or-Something/#125491 some Asuka TV complementation analysis
https://forum.evageeks.org/post/125527/My-Eva-TV-Ending-Journal-Or-Something/#125527 Shinji/Asuka mirroring
In fact, I don’t think I’m reading anything about religion into Evangelion, so much as simply pointing out what the series already contains in this scene, and that scene, and…If Gainax was really concerned about people misinterpreting the religious elements in Eva after the TV series aired, they had a strange way of showing it when they made EoE, because the film ratchets these things up tremendously. In fact, an interesting way of describing the difference between the TV and the film ending is that the TV ending not only lacks the action and apocalypse, it also lacks the religious tone and iconography of EoE. Certainly Evangelion can be viewed as a psychological analysis, but I would argue from that perspective, the TV ending is the more “relevant” one, because it relies more or less entirely on human discussion, reflection, and analysis, rather than apocalyptic spectacle. https://web.archive.org/web/20110725031159/http://eva.onegeek.org/pipermail/evangelion/2009-December/005553.html
Among all 26 episodes of the TV version of “Neon Genesis Evangelion”, Director Anno himself wrote the scripts for five episodes, and is credited jointly with other screenwriters for the scripts of 20 episodes. The number of scripts that were jointly credited are the definitive drafts of scripts based on plots by director Anno written by screenwriters and gone over directly by director Anno. The only time where director Anno’s name isn’t credited for a script is episode 4 “Rain, after escaping (Hedgehog’s Dilemma)” based on a plot by Mr. Satsukawa. Just by looking at these numbers, you will understand how much director Anno pulled the series together by his personal authorship. https://webcitation.org/5mYowhERa (archive of
http://userpages.umbc.edu/~aaronc1/ura/evangelion_original_1_intro.htm; local copy
https://web.archive.org/web/20200505074457/http://www.thesecretofbluewater.com/nadieva-i.htm how much NGE drew upon Nadia
https://forum.evageeks.org/post/12541/Misato-and-Shinji/#12541 https://forum.evageeks.org/post/66173/Misato-and-Shinji/#66173 https://forum.evageeks.org/post/66402/Misato-and-Shinji/#66402 https://forum.evageeks.org/post/125484/My-Eva-TV-Ending-Journal-Or-Something/#125484 https://web.archive.org/web/20071015033710/http://eva.onegeek.org/pipermail/oldeva/2001-September/040387.html pretty conclusive arguments that Misato wanted to have sex with Shinji
Misato really did try to do Shinji in episode 23 https://forum.evageeks.org/thread/445/Misato-and-Shinji/ ’ it is a fact that this is a plot element that was crucial to the story as a whole, and one that Anno set us up for, right from the get-go (the picture Misato used to lure Shinji in #01: “Look at this!” [arrow points at cleavage], and, of course, in #02, “It’s not like I’m going to ‘put the moves’ on a kid!”) ‘Secondly, it’s not like Misato’s little self-implicating ’joke’ is the only time that Anno utilizes the ‘Ironic Foreshadowing’ trick; there are plentiful other examples, such as Toji saying “I guess only weirdos get to be Eva pilots” . EoE is a parade of one brutally ironic pay-off after another…’ ‘Want an example? I asked Takeshi Honda what working under Anno was like at 2004. He said it was very stressful because Anno made numerous last minute changes. For example, episode 24 was supposed to be about Shinji confronting Yui’s presence in the Eva, not his relationship with Kaworu Nagisa. ’I was just thinking that Aaron has a good point when he reminds us not to view EVA as a perfectly thought-out work. Gainax doesn’t think of its works as being perfectly thought-out–I say that because a lot of creators think they think things out thoroughly–Gainax knows they don’t. I’m reminded of a comment Toshio Okada made at Otakon 1995 about GIANT ROBO, saying that it was the kind of anime Gainax would have made, but GR’s creators “do not have our confusion.”’ ’ EVA is suffused in sexuality, from fan-service teasing to the real thing. It was designed that way–Gainax are otaku, after all (according to Lea Hernandez, in the late 80s head of their U.S. merchandising division General Products, Gainax judged the success of GUNBUSTER by its doujinshi). But I also agree that to identify Misato as a pedophile is a little strange, if only because she doesn’t seem especially oriented towards underaged men. ’
Um… that particular checkpoint at the bottom of Newtype TV filmbook #9 p25 has a big “maybe” attached. This is not the usual “appears” or “seems”, but instead an explicit “maybe” (ka mo shirenai).
The literal translation is:
“Misato stretched out her hand to Shinji. At this time she may have intended to offer her body to comfort Shinji. However, this was merely substitutive behavior in order to assuage her own loneliness.” https://web.archive.org/web/20080515215757/http://eva.onegeek.org/pipermail/oldeva/2001-December/040760.html
They seem to date from 1998, going by the copyrights in the rulebook.
Cardass cards: https://web.archive.org/web/20071015033710/http://eva.onegeek.org/pipermail/oldeva/2001-September/040387.html > The gold foil side shows Shinji and Misato dressed up and sharing cocktails in a club. However, the title is Misato’s EoE line: “That’s a grownup kiss. We’ll do the rest when you get back.” and the info text is fairly straightforward: > >> “While fighting the Angels together, the two began to view each other not just as Tactical Operations Chief and pilot, but in a special way. Older sister and younger brother, mother and son, girl and boy… but the two did not notice/realize the word used to express these feelings (this relationship?). However, time would teach them, just as it had fostered the relationship between them.”
Ideon ends with humanity dying and merging with “life/Id” to form a perfect entity—and in the final moments of the final episode, they sing “Happy Birthday”
The Eva Cardass Masters card states:
“In the sea of LCL, Shinji wished for a world with other people. He desired to meet them again, even if it meant he would be hurt and betrayed. And just as he had hoped/wanted, Asuka was present in the new world. Only Asuka was there beside him. The girl whom he had hurt, and who had been hurt by him. But even so, she was the one he had hoped/wished for….”
Further, Cardass Drama card D-88 states, “Shinji renounced the world where all hearts had melted into one and accepted each other unconditionally.” The following presents the definitive answer to this question, as translated by Bochan Bird -
Part II (movies) Drama card D-88
Title: “Kimochi warui”
“Shinji renounced the world where all hearts had melted into one and accepted each other unconditionally. His desire… to live with ‘others’ – other hearts that would sometimes reject him, even deny him. That is why the first thing he did after coming to his senses was to place his hands around Asuka’s neck. To feel the existence of an ‘other’. To confirm (make sure of) rejection and denial.”
‘Although Maya looks up to Ritsuko as her “sempai”, there was clearly an intention to portray Maya’s feelings towards Ritsuko as something much more complicated with deliberate gay overtones. When the phantom Rei/Ritsuko embraces Ritsuko during the film, The End of Evangelion, Maya lets a gasp of “ecstasy” escape (as described by Anno).’ TODO: source? annotated screenplay? storyboards?
independent translation of Masters: https://web.archive.org/web/20080512150915/http://eva.onegeek.org/pipermail/oldeva/2001-September/040366.html
Cardass canon source for rei = Yui-body + Lilith soul https://web.archive.org/web/20080513174809/http://eva.onegeek.org/pipermail/oldeva/2001-September/040334.html
This is the H-11 Hokan card, and it is one that I had also marked. Unlike the regular cards, these Hokan cards have images+text on both sides. The reverse side is titled “3rd Children Ikari Shinji”, and the text is:
“Neither Yui, Rei nor Misato could do as a woman for Shinji. Asuka alone was the only girl on equal footing with him. So, Shinji desired/sought after Asuka.”I’m afraid of Misato and Ayanami.” However, Shinji’s crude affection only hurt her. In the end, he used her as an object of lust/desire to soothe/console himself…” https://web.archive.org/web/20110726181638/http://eva.onegeek.org/pipermail/oldeva/2001-September/040368.html
Cards are untrustworthy?
I think some clarification is necessary for people not familiar with the card game. The double sided Hokan cards (translated as “Instrumentality Cards” in the game rules I’ve read) have a special goal for the player to achieve. For instance, there is a “Asuka gets Shinji” card, a “Rei gets Shinji” card, a “Shinji reconciles with Gendo” card etc. These cards and the text on them could be seen as alternate possibilities of what could happen. Like fanfiction, the text in these cards seem to give a plausible justification for each ending. With that in mind, the characterizations in these cards should be taken with a grain of salt. https://web.archive.org/web/20110716221953/http://eva.onegeek.org/pipermail/oldeva/2001-September/040370.html
- a TV-documentary was shown about “why did Evangelion become such a success”—they interviewed bunches of people (there were students fans whose teacher was even addicted to Eva …), shown statistics of how many Eva-goods were sold in the last year, etc.etc. (BTW they also interviewed Hideaki Anno) and the most surprising fact they talked about is that Evangelion did reach not only anime-otakus but other people who usually don’t watch anime too … https://web.archive.org/web/20040331071727/http://eva.onegeek.org/pipermail/oldeva/1997-August/001086.html TODO: what was this documentary?
And now that I think about it, none of the Angels were actually attacking people directly unless they were attacking them. All the destruction was caused by their somewhat ruthless way of trying to gain access to Lilith/Adam.
I don’t think any of them actually hated humankind… If they did, then they could’ve been attacking some other defenseless city, or in case of 4th Shito, it had plenty of chance to wipe out most of 3rd Shin Tokyo, but it didn’t. So… I dunno. https://web.archive.org/web/20040722035511/http://eva.onegeek.org/pipermail/oldeva/1997-August/001754.html
good tie-in with my Blue Christmas observations!
As for his sister, I think NERV had already put his sister soul in EVA-03. Reason? Think of why Touji’s sister was transferred to NERV’s hospital? NERV wanted it so. Did you see all human pilot requires his/her EVA to hold the soul of a female who is very close to the pilot? Touji’s mom was dead long time ago, who is the best candidate to “donate” the soul??? In fact, Ritsuko said something to that effect when she mentioned why Touji (whose name was not disclosed at that point) was chosen as the 4th children. Misato showed her disgust, but couldn’t help it.
Now you realize how DARK the Touji incident is…….. https://web.archive.org/web/20121113190811/http://eva.onegeek.org/pipermail/oldeva/1997-October/006537.html
ep 04: Gendo: According to the Malduck Organization’s report, the Fourth Children has yet to be found. ep 17:
Nurse C: Yeah. He never misses visiting twice a week. He’s a very good brother, thinking so much about his sister. … Ritsuko: The Dummy plug is still too dangerous. One of the present candidates will be…
Gendo: appointed as the Fourth.
Ritsuko:Yes. There’s one child whose core will be ready immediately.
Gendo: I’ll leave all of it to you.
Ritsuko:Yes. … Ritsuko: In the booting test of Unit three at Matsushiro, we will use the Fourth as the pilot.
Misato: The Fourth? The fourth children was found?
Misato: I haven’t received a report from the Marduk Institute yet.
Ritsuko:The official documents will arrive tomorrow.
Misato: Dr. Akagi, are you keeping secrets from me, again?
Misato: Well, OK. And, who is the selected child?
Misato: Wow, it’s THIS child?
Ritsuko:We had no choice. The candidates have been gathered in one place, and are being protected. … Misato: I don’t care at all what people say about me. I’m not feeling very reserved at the moment. The Fourth children was found just in time. What is the hidden reason for that?
Ryoji: I’ll tell you one thing.
Ryou-ji: Marduk Institute does not exist. Nerv alone is pulling the strings.
Misato: Nerv alone? Commander Ikari?
ep 18: Misato: Yea, I know… So, when will the pilot be called?
Ritsuko: It’s gonna be tomorrow, since there are still preparations to be made.
Misato: The pilot may tell him about it by himself.
Ritsuko: That’s impossible. He wasn’t happy enough to brag about it. The condition he made was to transfer his little sister to the headquarters’ medical unit.
ep 19: Touji: Why don’t you tell my sister that there’s nothing serious wrong with me?
Hikari: Uh huh. … Shinji: Tell me one thing; Why was it Touji… the Fourth Child-REN…?
Misato: The fourth level candidates are all your classmates. I just learned that recently, too. It was all contrived.
Shinji: Everyone, everyone in the class…
Note: there seems to be no interaction between Hikari & Suzuhara except for ep 22: ‘Hikari: “Asuka too [is absent]. Suzuhara is still in the hospital.”’ Is this evidence for or against Suzuhara’s little sister being dead?
Even more importantly, in Rebuild 2.0, Suzuhara’s sister is alive and well and sound of mind (with a disgustingly cute photo proving it). At least there the mystery doesn’t exist, implying it’s a bloody hole in the plot or that they’re finally abandoning the mother-core linkage.
Way to completely give yourself an out there. Yes, you can handwave away any plot holes by arguing ‘but it’s all about the psychology!’
On the objective plot level, Eva is holier than Swiss cheese.
The core-Children-soul system makes absolutely no sense and is violated at a whim (whose soul is in unit 0? or unit 03? or the Mass Production Evas?); the Angels are according to the Confidential Information quite literally acting at random; key moments are simply omitted (what did Gendo say to Ritsuko and why did Ritsuko betray him? We’ve been arguing that one for decades.) such as basically everything happening in real life in episodes 25 and 26; the whole backstory about Adam and Lilith and Seeds of Life and the First Ancestral Race is glossed over (assuming it even existed at the time of the TV series); the motives behind Yui’s plot to use Eva 01 are underexplained to say the least (if you want a monument to humanity, shoot off some space probes!); evidence from Gainax insiders and deleted scenes suggest that some connection to Wings of Honneamise was intended, but nothing came of that; the 2 endings are so different that most take them as endorsing the exact opposite things (tell me, if you were watching a TV series and a movie of Schindler’s List and one ends with Schindler realizing the greatness of the Nazis and the sickening evil of the Jews, and the other ends with him heroically rescuing a few hundred Jews and leaving with them, wouldn’t you wonder at least a little about how coherent the plot is?), Kaworu is a complete cipher who goes from being flatout gay in the drafts to being a nonentity (from, of course, his original monster-of-the-day description in the Proposal as a human-cat pair)—oh my god, I can’t go on.
At least I don’t have to criticize the religious parts because you describe them as ‘dodgy’ (an understatement of Eva-sized magnitudes. Incidentally, how big is an Eva…?).
Maybe the reason Eva doesn’t litter the TV Tropes page is because the errors and problems are that unique to Eva—it’d be like going through Hegel and trying to figure out what exact fallacies his nonsense is based on: you couldn’t do it because it’s nonsense writ large with so many problems and unique pathologies that your usual roster of ‘non sequitur’ and ‘ad hominem’ labels just aren’t up to the job.
Because I think writing off all the plot holes as just annoying things is entirely wrong. I’m not resting my case on continuity issues like Shinji’s plugsuit in an entry plug or Eva sizes varying from scene to scene; these are fundamental holes in the Eva world and plot. These issues leave characters undefined, acting in mysterious and inexplicable ways. We don’t understand Ritsuko because of these issues. We don’t have a full picture of Gendo. Yui and Kaworu are ciphers. Errors in the original mean that fans are convinced Misato killed Kaji until Gainaxers specifically deny this, insert extra scenes to reduce the impression, and Sadamoto lengthens Kaji’s death to make clear it wasn’t Misato. Asuka gets a whole bunch of new scenes in the Director’s Cut/Death to make her closer to what she was supposed to be. The 2 endings appear contradictory in the most important and fundamental way possible. And so on.
If these are not plot holes, then I have to ask—what is? Would a hypothetical scene in which Shinji walked onto the bridge and blew away the bridge bunnies finally trip your annoyance criteria and become a plot hole?
If nothing in the series does, and you can’t think of any changes which would, then I submit that you simply don’t want to see any plot holes and you are being intellectually dishonest in making a distinction between plot holes and ‘annoyances’.
I like Eva criticism, and I like most of yours, but intellectually honesty is not optional.
Your theory why the TV tropes page on plot holes is interesting, if more complicated than the idea that the would be holes are less damaging to a viewer’s appreciation or enjoyment (unless perhaps, the viewer is as discerning as you).
Yes, well, the fact that I think there are plot holes to be found implies that I think there’s a coherent plot to begin with, which a great many anime fans would disagree with! So if there is a coherent plot to be found and I see it and they don’t, then I must therefore be more discerning than that mass of disliking-fans.
Also, I’d point out that Gainax is old and experienced, and full of otaku; we should not expect any obvious, common, already-named-by-TVTropes plot holes, no more than we would expect to find an arithmetic error in Newton or Gauss or Terence Tao.
Calling Yui & Kaworu ciphers is ridiculous when it was clearly pointed out throughout the show that she was the driving force behind Gendo’s action
No, that means Gendo is not a cipher. How is Yui explained by pointing out that Gendo’s rebellion against SEELE is prompted by a desire to unite with her in an Instrumentality (somehow) different from SEELE’s?
She is not. What were her goals? Was the outcome of EoE to her satisfaction? (What was the outcome of EoE, is presupposed…) Why did she seek such an outcome? (Let’s assume that she did. She says so little she might be unhappy with it, but whatever.) Did Gendo know? How does Shinji tie into it all?
It’s all a mess. Yui is left as this mysterious entity that helps Shinji and attacks people and things at apparently random times. She is ‘empty’ (the etymology of ‘cipher’) of comprehensibility.
All of these are mysteries about Yui. One of the reasons I look forward to Rebuild 3 and 4 is that Yui’s goals and motivations seem to be wrapped up with the First Ancestral Race backstory, and the FAR are strongly signaled to be directly involved by 2.0.
Kaworu definitely had an impact on Shinji, how could he not when he crushed something that appeared human for the first time. Something that had been more genuine and honest with him than any human he’d encountered in his whole pitiful life. Drafts have little bearing to most people once they’ve seen a final product. That’s why we proofread & professionals have editors. Because from your mind to paper to other people’s reality, things can really get f*cked up.
And as with Yui—yes, he had an impact. I’m not comparing Yui or Kaworu to something which could be completely removed from Eva with no bad impact, like Pen-Pen. (As fun as he is, Eva could’ve gotten his humor elsewise.) I’m saying that his actions and personality are mysterious and incomprehensible.
Why did SEELE send him in the first place? Why make him in the first place? Was a Kaworu+Adam Impact acceptable to them? Why did Kaworu give up when he saw Lilith as opposed to, say, turning around and tearing NERV apart until he found Gendo? (For that matter, why does it matter in the least that he found Lilith? He already was told by SEELE that Lilith was there! Before he went in, he was told by them!) Why did Kaworu die for Shinji’s sake? Shinji is no more valuable than Kaworu. Was he supposed to target Shinji the entire time? Was he in love or not with Shinji, and if so, Platonically or erotically? (See the point about drafts.) What does it mean that images of Kaworu show up later in EoE?
And so on. As Kaworu stands, he’s this bishonen who flashes on screen for 10 minutes, has ambiguous social intercourse with Shinji, then wanders around NERV until he commits suicide-by-Eva after uttering confusing and flat-out contradictory vague statements. Nor do the ancillary materials help; things like the Addition audiodrama lampshade (see TvTropes) things like his yaoi-ness, and lampshading is just an embarrassed reaction to plot failure.
What’s going on in his head? Nothing? He’s a cipher.
These terrible plot holes you mention are really just things left up to interpretation. Just because an idea isn’t fully explained or fleshed out doesn’t mean there can’t be a successful progression from beginning to end. Besides, I don’t worry too much about plausibility or consistency too much when kids are piloting giant walking humans by hacking their spinal column and brain.
There is a difference between progression from beginning to end caused by meaningful plot, cause-and-effect, and a progression caused by the brute succession of 25 frames per second.
LoganPayne: Is it wrong to think I see a plot hole in ep10 LoganPayne: Here's a question LoganPayne: Why did they have problems knowing WTF in ep10 LoganPayne: Ok 10 was magma diver LoganPayne: and when Misato suggested they capture the angel LoganPayne: Seele threw a hissy LoganPayne: but allowed it LoganPayne: They didn't even know if it would cause 3I LoganPayne: I thought Seele at that time knew what would cause 3I Sachi_13: Maybe if they just had an Angel fetus, it would cause 3I Sachi_13: wouldn't* RAyanami: how would capturing the angel with unit-2 result in 3i anyway? LoganPayne: I had a question from the Jet alone episode as well.. what ever became of Misato's discovery that the jet alone went FUBAR on purpose Sachi_13: I was wondering the same thing RAyanami: there's no union of Adam/Lilith there to cause hassle LoganPayne: Ray: from what I understand they were capturing a live one LoganPayne: Adam was live when he went boom LoganPayne: At that point in the show they acted like 2I was an accident Sachi_13: Adam's didn't cause 2I though, it was Lilin Sachi_13: What exactly are you saying would cause 3I in that ep? LoganPayne: They don't even know is the point LoganPayne: Seele is supposed to know LoganPayne: and yet they act like they don't Sachi_13: Supposed to know what? LoganPayne: Seele is supposed to know what caused 2I and what will cause 3I correct? LoganPayne: Ok there's a scene in ep10 where Gendo goes to Seele asking for permission to capture Sandalphon alive RAyanami: i think Misato always had JA in mind, and it fueled he suspicion of Nerv LoganPayne: and in the meeting Seele acts like they don't know what causes 2i or 3i LoganPayne: Ray: I think you're right but she kept it to herself rather than pointing out that observation to anyone LoganPayne: Misato seemed to know enough to at like she didn't notice it was all bologna Sachi_13: Logan: What exactly do you think shows that they don't know? Sachi_13: Anyways, contact between Unit-02 and Sandy* wouldn't cause 3I LoganPayne: well yes LoganPayne: We know that LoganPayne: but the question is why didn't Seele know that Sachi_13: Seele knew that LoganPayne: continuity error LoganPayne: they didn't act it LoganPayne: and this was in a meeting when they should have no reason to lie LoganPayne: Gendo, Fuyu, and Seele Sachi_13: By "failure", I think they meant that if Nerv failed in capturing an Angel, it would destroy everything and cause 3I LoganPayne: they seemed to say "bring a big net or we'll all die somehow" LoganPayne: I wonder if sandy will be in 2.0 Sachi_13: No, they mean if you fail, the Angel will be free to cause 3I LoganPayne: oh LoganPayne: they acted differently in my interpretation of the lines LoganPayne: my bad LoganPayne: when you see it... RAyanami: they left Rei in the Geofront in case anything dodgy went down at the volcano IIRC LoganPayne: they said that was because the prototype didn't have the outfitting to go in magma Sachi_13: Unit-00 was still being repaired at the time, wasn't it? LoganPayne: no LoganPayne: unit 00 was fixed after Ramiel LoganPayne: i thought Sachi_13: Didn't make an appearance until Matarael LoganPayne: not by the next episode
Not pacing reasons, or plot development—‘In Eva 1.0, Misato tells Shinji that Third Impact would occur if an Angel came in contact with Lilith in Central Dogma.’ Eva 1.0 doesn’t cover Magma Diver!
Peter Svensson (private email):
There’s quite a bit of this. “Adam and Lilith can never touch without making 3rd Impact!” But then… why is Unit-01 cloned of Lilith? Man, that is such an obvious after the fact addition that really doesn’t make any sense.
Heck, I’m reaching the conclusion that Anno hadn’t yet figured out what Rei was. The impression that he was making it all up once he got past the halfway mark… I mean, Anno had the backstory. The big epic saga of the First Ancestral Race. But the little picture, the important details of the plot? That was all in flux.
Yes, I’m familiar with Bochan’s argument. But of course, he knows it’s not a common view:
This is a largely unpopular opinion of mine—so let me stress again this is in my view . However, I think the evidence is very much there to support the theory that there are two very different endings to the Evangelion story. But I do acknowledge that there is also persuasive evidence to the contrary. For the flip side of this theory, check out MDWig’s very well-put counter argument.
MDWig’s link is https://www.angelfire.com/anime4/mdwigs/endings.html
I find his analysis of the actual episode dialogues to be much more convincing than a vague link to 1984. I certainly do agree that Brazil has a 1984-like ending, at least, the version that I saw.
(Anno references many many books in Eva, but usually SF classics like Heinlein’s Door into Summer, “The Only Neat Thing To Do”, Ellison’s “The Beast that shouted love at the heart of the world”, or Japanese works like The Fascism of Love and Fantasy—and never Orwell.)
Which is rather strange, despite Ep 25-26 making most viewers recall 1984 and Brazil.
Well, now you’re making a strong statistical assertion—that a majority of viewers thought the ending was the same reversal as either 1984 or Brazil.
Leaving aside how few people have watched Brazil, 1984 is not cited nearly as often as one would expect given a majority. I mean, only 15 hits on the EFML: https://www.google.com/search?q=1984+OR+Brazil+site%3Aonegeek.org and most of those don’t even have to do with the film/book but the founding of Gainax in the actual year! But that’s better than the Eva wiki, with just 3 results none of which are relevant: https://wiki.evageeks.org/Special:Search?search=1984&fulltext=Search
and the lines they say in the song are far too perfectly picked for coincidence, With Asuka inexplicably getting the lines that seem to imply romantic interest (in my opinion at the least, coarse I could be wrong)8
It’s an interesting question. The line selections are pretty ambiguous, but can we see patterns in it…?
I excerpted each character/seiyuu’s lines from each of the 3 marked up sets of lyrics by SSD. (In order, so it’s “Cruel Angel’s Thesis”, episode 16 Interlude, “Fly Me To The Moon”.)
A blue wind is now knocking at the door to your heart, and yet that you can't even see your fate yet, But someday I think you'll find out that what's on your back are wings that are for heading for the far-off future. Sleeping for a long time in the cradle of my love Stopping time all throughout the world You held tight to the form of life Do you love me? Who are you? Who are you? Who are you? Who are you? Do you love me? Fly me to the moon And let me play among the stars Fill my heart with song And let me sing forevermore In other words, I love you
Something gently touching-- you're so intent on seeking it out, Moonlight reflects off the nape of your slender neck. The sorrow then begins. People create history while weaving love. Even knowing I'll never be a goddess or anything like that, I live on. Why don't you become one with me? If you become one both in mind and body, it's a very, very comforting feeling. Do you love me? Let me see what spring is like On Jupiter and Mars darling kiss me
you are merely gazing at me and smiling. The morning is coming when you alone will be called by a messenger of dreams. So if two people being brought together by fate has any meaning, I think that it is a "bible" for learning freedom. You shine brighter than anyone else. Hey, you wanna kiss? Loneliness? Pleasure... Sky of reality... Cruel strangers Do you love me? You are all I long for All I worship and adore I love you
Asuka’s set of lines are pretty straight forward, especially the last half. Could hardly ask for clearer expression of romance, I mean, come on—“Why don’t you become one with me?” or “darling kiss me”.
Interestingly, Misato’s lines are also somewhat romantic with “Hey, you wanna kiss?” or “All I worship and adore / I love you”.
This ties in well with the EoE kiss and with the commentary on Misato’s little attempted-comforting scene in NGE TV, although I know I’m not in the majority when I see MisatoxShinji as a real possibility (as far as Misato is concerned).
One of the ways to guard against hindsight bias—‘oh yes, of course those Asuka lyrics look romantic, and Misato is just being affectionate’—is to not know in advance who said what, to blind yourself.
If one read the Rei lyrics without knowing whose they were, and said ‘yes that’s Yui alright’ and Asuka’s lyrics ‘yes, that proud and loving, Asuka alright’ and then Misato ‘yes, that’s protective and maternal’, then one would have good reason to believe that that’s how those lyrics were meant.
No, wait—I lied previously! I swapped Misato and Asuka! Did you think that these lyrics are a valid source for interpretation, and accepted the little commentary above about Asuka? Then you need to be seriously considering whether Misato’s view of Shinji was purely platonic; not a popular position among Eva fans…
Now, tricks and reversal tests aside. As far as Rei goes, the selected lyrics make a great deal of sense if we think about Rei’s connection with the Moon in the Proposal and with Yui’s characteristics—Yui encouraging Shinji to live on, Yui singing, I mean, existing forevermore. And if we stretch a little, some of the lines even look like they apply to NGE events—‘Stopping time all throughout the world’ wouldn’t be a terrible description of Instrumentality.
As far as Asuka—the only lines which don’t have any obvious meaning are ‘The morning is coming when you alone will be called / by a messenger of dreams.’ Everything else reads well as a description of her relationship with Shinji or her personal problems (eg. “Pleasure… Sky of reality… Cruel strangers”).
So. My verdict? Either the selected lines do map well onto the characters and offer further insight, or they’re so ambiguous that you can read any damn theory into them and I’ve done just that.
Obviously I prefer the former, but I’m interested in whether anyone can argue for the latter.
- Interesting idea: for God to exist, it must necessarily be limited and vulnerable to change, or be limited an unchanging. Either is unacceptable. If God exists, that is a truly atheistic enterprise.
“What do I mean by this, Eva fans? Simply that while there may not be any indication that there is a God behind the world of Evangelion, such a lack is not supposed either. Alternately, it may mean that there is a God, but that such a God, by virtue of existence, is imperfect, and thus not the Absolute so many of us seem to take it to be. And consider Eva’s addition of a first half of the underlying Final Lie of the 108. Perhaps the assignment of a concrete God would be the most atheistic project Eva could undertake.”
- Note especially the Confidential Information’s lack of a god and materialist conception of the universe.
Now as a writer myself, I can tell you that writing a character with a tragic past is HARD. I won’t be pretentious and say that I’ve experience great tragedy in my past, because I haven’t, and I’m sure the same applies to many other writers. For us, imagining such a character is difficult because we don’t really have the inconvenience of personal experience to draw from. What many writers do then is the next best thing: creating flawed characters. It really is very simple reasoning; if a character hasn’t experience a normal past, then they by definition should be abnormal in some way. A great example of this is Neon Genesis Evangelion, because Shinji, Asuka and Rei are three classic exemplifications of flawed characters with abnormal pasts; the emotionally insecure, the emotionally unstable, and the emotionally detached.
The tsundere is an archetype that fits neatly into the ‘emotionally unstable’ category, in fact there are some who believe that the tsundere archetype originated from Asuka Langley of NGE. We recognize that there is something inherently flawed about the character, and by flow of logic, something is wrong with either the situation they are in, their relation with other characters, or something in their past.
So again, we’re back to this idea of shortcutting and making things easier for the writer in both the resource and time sense. Resources in that the writer doesn’t have to spend as much time conceiving an original character that relates to his tragic past, and time in that the audience almost instantly assumes there was something that happened in the character’s past that caused them to become tsundere, so that the writer doesn’t have to spend time hinting at or explaining this.
…Aha! Now if at any point in reading these examples you found yourself thinking, “wait, this isn’t right…”, then congratulations! You are absolutely correct; I was playing you, and the examples above are NOT actually examples of character development. If you did NOT pick up on any errors in those two examples, then I really suggest you read the next part carefully. These two passages I just invented are classic examples of character development illusions. Now allow me to rewrite those passages, with REAL development.
When I met John last year, he was a very simple guy. He loved watching TV, fishing on the weekends, and was content with life in general. However he had recently reached his midlife just like the rest of us and was puzzling if what he was doing in life was good enough. When I visited him last week though, I was glad to see he was still doing well. He had apparently found a hobby in playing semi-professional poker and he tells me it gives him a new found sense of achievement.
Sarah had always been on rocky terms with her parents, who disagreed with her carefree lifestyle. Leaving university and joining the workforce though, has helped her mature a lot. She’s still very outgoing and loves to party, but she’s learned to compromise and act more composed and proper in front of her parents. She even heads over to their house for weekly lunches and tea, and I hear they’re on good terms again.
Every good story needs good character development. That’s the first thing they teach you in the first lesson of Writing 101. Unfortunately, like all things essential, there’s a way or shortcut around it. The reason why the two examples I gave above may have seemed like character development is because it follows the same basic trend. This is how it goes in real development: One, we’re introduced to a character. Two, he is contextualized. Three, an event happens which changes this character. Now the difference lies in part three. In my first examples, what changes isn’t the character itself, but our perception of the character. John was always a sophisticated university lecturer, the fact that I didn’t know that about him and only discovered this much later doesn’t make it a development of his character, it’s establishing it.
Doesn’t this sound a LOT like the modern day tsundere? We’re introduced to a girl who’s initially tsun tsun, but as the male protagonist gets closer to her, we discover that she’s also dere dere. This contrasting element that is at the core of the tsundere archetype makes it easy to pull of this illusion of character development. All the writer has to do is withhold the dere dere aspect and slowly reveal it as the story progresses. Because of this, there is almost no need for writers to include any sort of actual development, and it’s because of this that the plague of tsundere are becoming such a problem.
Short version? it’s EASY to fake character development, and writing actual good character development is HARD. Therefore, tsundere is the logical answer.
Again, I’m not going to attribute this to writers being lazy. The problem of tsundere not getting character development is a symptom, of which the underlying cause is something far more removed. Now remember when I said the Wikipedia definition of tsundere was outdated? Not incorrect, but outdated. This is because originally, tsundere WAS a form of character development. I’m talking waaay back in the Neon Genesis Evangelion era of Asuka Langley Soryu when the word tsundere hadn’t even been coined yet. This was a time when characters were all ‘tsun’, and through actual development, began to show ‘dere’ tendencies, and this was a time where tsundere character development shined brilliantly. So brilliantly that many writers began copying this, spawning what I like to call the modern day tsundere. And that’s where the problems began.
The difference between the original and modern day tsundere is that the original tsundere describes a character development process, while the modern day version (also the ‘tsundere that we are all familiar with) describes a character. Writers, in their haste to jump onto the bandwagon, created characters who from the get-go, possess both tsun and dere qualities in order to advertise: “Hey, come watch my anime! It has a tsundere character in it, see?” As apposed to characters who are purely tsun, this is a pretty significant hindrance, because it leaves no room for the character to actually develop dere traits, having already possess then. This is the point of different between the original and modern ’tsundere’ and the general reason why modern tsundere are innately inferior.
The difference between the original and modern day tsundere is that the original tsundere describes a character development process, while the modern day version (also the ‘tsundere that we are all familiar with) describes a character. Writers, in their haste to jump onto the bandwagon, created characters who from the get-go, possess both tsun and dere qualities in order to advertise: “Hey, come watch my anime! It has a tsundere character in it, see?” As apposed to characters who are purely tsun, this is a pretty significant hindrance, because it leaves no room for the character to actually develop dere traits, having already possess then. This is the point of different between the original and modern ’tsundere’ and the general reason why modern tsundere are innately inferior.
The main questions Saito is trying to answer in this book are why the characters he calls “beautiful fighting girls” have come about in contemporary Japan and what this means to the otaku who relate to them. Although the term may seem self-explanatory, it’s worth it to go into a bit of detail about what Saito means by “beautiful fighting girl.” He uses the phrase to refer to heroines in Japanese popular culture such as Nausicaä, Sailor Moon, and Evangelion who are young, attractive, and often engage in some sort of combat. One of the key points Saito wants to make is that such heroines are unique to Japan and Japanese popular culture. Certainly there may be strong women in Hollywood such as Ripley in Aliens and Sarah Connor in Terminator 2, but these characters are mature women, not girls. And in cases like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Saito says that they have been influenced by Japanese comics and animation, so that the general premise could be considered a Japanese import.
In the first chapter, titled “The Psychopathology of the Otaku,” Saito aims to analyze these people who seem to be so entranced by anime and manga. He goes into the etymology of the word otaku, discussing its origins in the early 1980s and how other writers such as Toshio Okada, Eiji Otsuka, and Masachi Osawa have discussed and tried to define otaku. I think Saito is really onto something when he tries to develop his own definition and distinguishes otaku from maniacs. Simply put, maniacs are obsessive collectors who try to accumulate objects and the knowledge about these objects. Otaku, on the other hand, have “a strong affinity for fictional contexts” such as those found in anime and then try to “possess” them by creating additional, personal fictions through cosplay, doujinshi, criticism, and the like. This is because anime are so immaterial that they themselves cannot be possessed. Sure, you can own the DVDs and the merchandise, but the essential qualities of the anime itself still remains beyond your grasp. As Saito puts it, “even if you owned every cel of an anime, this would not mean you owned the anime itself.”
…Chapter four takes us even farther away from the Japanese case into the work of an American named Henry Darger. A solitary man who lived 1892–1973, he lived alone and worked blue collar jobs in obscurity. That is, until he had to move to a nursing home and his landlord, who happened to be an artist and a professor of art, began to sort through Darger’s belongings. The landlord discovered an epic work, penned and illustrated by Darger, spanning over 15,000 pages, about seven young girls fighting an epic battle against an evil slave owner. This massive manuscript and other related works that Darger had been working on for decades in his apartment, led to his posthumous fame as an outsider artist. In the themes and art style, Saito sees a connection between Darger’s work and the beautiful fighting girls found in Japanese popular culture. He spends a bit of time psychoanalyzing Darger in his works, saying that the insights we can gain from studying Darger will also help us to understand the otaku. It’s an interesting idea, but I’m not fully convinced that Saito’s Darger detour brings us that much closer to the beautiful fighting girl in the Japanese context.
…In chapter six, Saito gets back to discussing in more depth the reasons for why Japanese anime and manga have beautiful fighting girls, but first he needs to stop for yet another comparison with the US, this time with our comics and animation. This is key in his discussion to differentiate a particularly Japanese space and concept of time used within anime and manga. In this final chapter, Saito weaves elements he has discussed in previous chapters together with his psychoanalytic theories to arrive at the conclusion that otaku, far from being deluded nerds living in fantasy worlds, are perhaps the ones who are the best adapted to live in our contemporary media spaces. In his conclusion, Saito writes, “I fully affirm the otaku’s way of living. I would never try to lecture them about ‘getting back to reality.’ They know reality better than anyone.”
–Brian Ruh, review of Beautiful Fighting Girl by Saito Tamaki
Roland Barthes wrote a short essay in the sixties that discussed a literary device he called the “reality effect”, citing a description of a barometer from Flaubert’s short story “A Simple Heart”. In Barthes’s description, reality effects are designed to create the aura of real life through their sheer meaninglessness: the barometer doesn’t play a role in the narrative, and it doesn’t symbolize anything. It’s just there for background texture, to create the illusion of a world cluttered with objects that have no narrative or symbolic meaning. The technical banter that proliferates on shows like The West Wing or ER has a comparable function; you don’t need to know what it means when the surgeons start shouting about OPCAB and saphenous veins as they perform a bypass on ER; the arcana is there to create the illusion that you are watching real doctors. For these shows to be enjoyable, viewers have to be comfortable knowing that this is information they’re not supposed to understand.
Shows like Seinfeld and The Simpsons offered a more challenging premise to their viewers: You’ll enjoy this more if you’re capable of remembering a throwaway line from an episode that aired three years ago, or if you notice that we’ve framed this one scene so that it echoes the end of Double Indemnity. The jokes come in layers: you can watch that 1995 Halloween episode and miss all the film riffs9 and still enjoy the show, but it’s a richer, more rewarding experience if you’re picking them up. That layering enabled Seinfeld and The Simpsons to retain both a broad appeal and the edgy allure of cult classics. The mainstream audiences chuckle along to that wacky Kramer, while the diehard fans nudge-and-wink at each Superman aside. But that complexity has another, equally important, side effect: the episodes often grow more entertaining on a second or third viewing, and they can still reveal new subtleties on the fifth or sixth. The subtle intertwinings of the plots seem more nimble if you know in advance where they’re headed, and the more experience you have with the series as a whole, the more likely you are to catch all the insider references.
–pg 88, 2005
Let us examine, first of all, the arguments against Shakespeare’s paternity. They may be summarized as follows: Shakespeare received a fairly rudimentary education in the grammar school of his hometown, Stratford. Shakespeare, as attested by his friend and rival, the dramatic poet Ben Jonson, possessed ‘small Latin and less Greek’. There are those who, in the nineteenth century, discovered or believed they had discovered an encyclopedic erudition in Shakespeare’s work. It seems to me that while it is a fact that Shakespeare’s vocabulary is gigantic, even within the gigantic English language, it is one thing to use terms from many disciplines and sciences and another thing altogether to have a profound or even superficial knowledge of those same disciplines and sciences. We can recall the analogous case of Cervantes. I believe a Mr. Barby, in the nineteenth century, published a book entitled Cervantes, Expert in Geography.
…I said the end of the overshadowing story would provide an end for the final volume. Perhaps I should add, ‘if you are lucky’. It must wrap up its own volume, obviously. It must also wrap up the entire work in a satisfactory way. In general, it should not undercut the endings of any of the earlier books, rendering them, in retrospect, trivial. Rather it must validate them, assuring the reader that they were indeed important points in the overshadowing story—that you did not cheat. Thus in The Book of the New Sun, Severian leaves his native city at the end of the first book, reaches the distant city in which he is to be employed at the end of the second, and reaches the war toward which he has been inexorably drawn at the end of the third. At the end of the fourth book (when he returns to his city) I attempted to show that all that had been significant, moulding his character and contributing to his rise to the Phoenix Throne.
There is one final point, the point that separates a true multivolume work from a short story, a novel, or a series. The ending of the final volume should leave the reader with the feeling that he has gone through the defining circumstances of Main Character’s life. The leading character in a series can wander off into another book and a new adventure better even than this one. Main Character cannot, at the end of your multivolume work. (Or at least, it should seem so.) His life may continue, and in most cases it will. He may or may not live happily ever after. But the problems he will face in the future will not be as important to him or to us, nor the summers as golden.
Thoughts on death. Well, Kenji Miyazawa just so happens to be the name of the author of Night on the Galactic Railroad. Coincidence? I think not.
Ghosts is a little strong, I think. I take it as Kanba & Shoma being literally reborn—what they sacrifice is their life with Himari and their memories and their relationship. They get punished, the curse is satisfied, and Himari lives on—but they don’t get to live with her; standard enough ending, eg. End of Evangelion, Angel Beats, Wolf’s Rain, or heck, Utena. But I could understand if one thought they passed on to another life, given the Night on the Galactic Railroad parallels.
And actually, you missed something. Besides the visual background of them against the galaxy, you missed that that scene was a continuation of a dialogue from the first episode that was also discussing Kenji’s book.
Here’s the dialogue from ep 1:
- Like I said, the apple is the universe itself! A universe in the palm of your hand. It’s what connects this world and the other world.
- “The other world”?
- The world Campanella and other passengers are heading to!
- What does that have anything to do with an apple?
- The apple is also a reward for those who have chosen love over everything else!
- But everything’s over when you’re dead.
- It’s not over! What I’m trying to say is that’s actually where everything begins!
- I’m not following you at all.
- I’m talking about love! Why don’t you get it?
Now, jump forward to the end of episode 24, where we start over with line 5—but not quite the same:
- Simply put, the apple is also a reward for those chosen to die for love!
- But everything’s over when you’re dead.
- It’s not over! What Kenji was trying to say is that’s actually where everything begins!
A break, and the last lines:
- Hey, where are we going?
- Where do you want to go?
- Let’s see. How about…
“Prometheus (2012)—Calvinball Mythology and the Void of Meaning”, Jonathan McCalmont:
Similarly intriguing is the anger generated by the supposedly unsatisfying final season of the ABC TV series Lost. Created by J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof and Jeffrey Lieber, Lost tells the story of a group of people who survive a plane crash only to find themselves trapped on an isolated tropical island. As the group starts to explore the island, they encounter a series of increasingly baffling mysteries that include polar bears, time travel, sinister corporations, magic numbers and smoke monsters. The most striking thing about Lost is that, while each new mystery compels you to keep watching, there is little sense that these mysteries form part of a wider and more coherent truth. This approach to running a series can be compared to Calvinball, the game played by Calvin and Hobbes whose rules are entirely made up on the fly. As the Calvinball theme song has it:
Other kids’ games are all such a bore!
They’ve gotta have rules and they gotta keep score!
Calvinball is better by far!
It’s never the same! It’s always bizarre!
You don’t need a team or a referee!
You know that it’s great, ’cause it’s named after me!
Calvinball storytelling emerged at a time when ‘serious’ American TV drama was attempting to move away from the production of stand-alone episodes and towards a focus upon long-term storylines (or ‘plot arcs’). Early pioneers of arc-based TV storytelling included Twin Peaks and The X-Files, both of which pre-empted Lost by using an open-ended mystery to provide an impression of narrative cohesiveness.
Calvinball storytelling is a transitional approach to show-running in so far as it provides an operational bridge between treating individual episodes as self-contained stories and treating individual episodes as component parts of much larger narrative tapestries. Calvinball storytelling allows writers to focus upon churning out the best possible episode they can without overly worrying about how that episode will fit into the greater narrative. As Twin Peaks, X-Files and Lost demonstrate, Calvinball writers throw a lot of ideas at the wall and only some of them stick. It is only when writers of later episodes begin drawing on previously used ideas that the illusion of a deeper narrative structure begins to emerge.
One of the peculiarities of running a Calvinball TV series is that the audience must never be allowed to think that the writers are making stuff up as they go. The reason for this is that mysteries tend to engage our interest only in so far as they appear to have solutions. By acknowledging that none of their mysteries were designed with solutions in mind, TV writers would effectively break the spell and so reveal the mess of dangling plot strands and stand-alone episodes that lie hidden behind the illusion of narrative cohesiveness. The author M. John Harrison once expressed a similar insight on his (now defunct) blog, writing about the challenges of ‘worldbuilding’ he said:
The worst mistake a contemporary f/sf writer can make is to withhold or disrupt suspension of disbelief. The reader, it’s assumed, wants to receive the events in the text as seamless & the text as unperformed. The claim is that nobody is being “told a story” here, let alone being sold a pup. Instead, an impeccably immersive experience is playing in the cinema of the head. This experience is somehow unmediated, or needs to present itself as such: any vestige of performativeness in the text dilutes the experience by reminding the reader that the “world” on offer is a rhetorical construct. All writing is a shell game, a sham: but genre writing mustn’t ever look as if it is.
The art of Calvinball storytelling lies in the ability to keep the shell game alive so as to not disrupt that suspension of disbelief. In order to do this, TV writers must manage a vast number of active plotlines with little or no guidance as to how these plotlines are intended to develop. Skilful showrunners keep the Calvinball in play by knowing when to keep a plotline open, when to close it, when to combine it with others and when to bail on it completely. The most successful Calvinball series are those that manage to keep themselves on the air for year after year without alienating or frustrating the audience and without having to resort to such heavy-handed ground-clearance techniques as crashing a plane into a village, travelling back in time, revealing that it was all a dream or repeatedly hitting the reset button. The aim of the game is not to provide answers but to hold an audience’s attention by asking ever more evocative and unexpected questions until the continuity eventually becomes so cluttered and unmanageable that the entire enterprise collapses in on itself like a dying star.
Newtype USA March 2007:
While Tsurumaki freely admits that the first of the four film installments–slated to hit theaters in Japan sometime mid-2007–will run like a digest of the TV series, employing key scenes to bring viewers up to speed on the basic story and setting, no one is very willing to speculate on the content of the second, third, or final films.
“Frankly, it just got too chaotic,” Tsurumaki comments on the brainstorming sessions that were initially meant to provide an overall plot outline and final resolution to the story. “We’re all working from the assumption that we weren’t able to reach our destination with the original TV series, but the exact nature of that”destination” is still unclear to everyone on the staff. Since we’re going to all the trouble of making these new productions, we’d at least like to take the story as far as we took it back then, but it’s been an uphill struggle so far. I get the feeling this project is going to be a very unstable project–in a lot of ways.”
Tsurumaki: The impression that Anno-san mainly wanted to convey was that Gendo and Fuyutsuki were devising a secret plot. Because Shinji happens to go to Rei’s room just after that, that was what they discussed. When “secret plot” and “Shinji and Rei” were combined, it probably appeared something like “a strategy to bring together Shinji and Rei”.
- Rather than being disappointed, I’m impressed. All the more, I have a pleasant feeling that things have become “Eva-esque”. The fact that this consistency is inherent [makes it] extremely valuable; I am delighted [to think] that this may be the much-discussed “live feeling”.86 In any case, there will surely be many viewers who have the impression that, this time, Gendo’s Human Instrumentality Project [somehow depends on] this “love love strategy”. Fuyutsuki also says something like, “As we thought, owing to those two Unit-01 has awakened”.
Tsurumaki: And Gendo replies something like “A little while longer, and our project is complete”. I had doubts storyboarding that conversation, and sent Anno-san a series of questions about it. “So Gendo knew this would happen to Unit-01? Or was Gendo also surprised and troubled? Or was Gendo surprised, but pleased with the outcome?” I didn’t understand the specific meaning of the statement, so I struggled to interpret it. Anno-san replied that, “For now, we’ll say he aimed at this and things went the way he expected”. I wondered if that was enough. For myself, I am still skeptical that even Gendo isn’t really panicking inside, but…
“Return of the Otaking”:
When I talked to Mr. Anno a month ago, he said he couldn’t decide the ending until the time came. That’s his style. So, if I had made EVANGELION with him, I couldn’t do such a thing. I’d think I’d have to fix the ending, what would happen with every character. Then, everything would follow: the first episode, the second episode…If I wanted to show a boy’s coming-of-age story, a bildungsroman, the last scene would show the grown-up man; the first scene, a boy who hates everything about the adult world. That would be the structure; I’m very careful about a regular construction.
But Mr. Anno’s style on EVANGELION was not so. He wants to put it together episode-by-episode. It’s just like the style of a manga. In your typical manga, the artist doesn’t have any picture of the last scene, or the last episode. They just think of building up on past episodes. And finally, the manga artist, and his assistants, and editor…[BURIES HEAD IN HANDS], they work out an idea about the last sequence. If it’s a good idea, the whole episode is very good. If they can’t make a good idea, the whole episode is not so good. It’s an unhappy story.
And I think that’s what happened with the last two episodes of EVANGELION. Mr. Anno and his staff couldn’t make a good idea for it. He told an anime magazine in Japan that he couldn’t make what he wanted because of schedule or budget. But that’s not correct. I talked with Mr. Yamaga and Mr. Anno. They said, “It’s not only a problem of schedule or budget. It’s a problem of what the ending is going to be.” Mr. Anno couldn’t decide. Mr. Anno’s and my own style of production are very different.
- Asuka: https://archive.fo/i0dwC
- Kensuke/Maya/Yui: https://archive.fo/wuTrK
- Misato: https://archive.fo/795tn
- Rei: https://archive.fo/vseq3
- Kaiji: http://qmisato.tumblr.com/post/88618003609/delving-into-an-in-depth-analysis-of-ryoji-kaji
- Paper idea: “The anxiety of influence: RahXephon’s response to Neon Genesis Evangelion” - The Anxiety of Influence. every artist makes his predecessors… Borges. RahXephon and Eva… RahXephon#Neon Genesis Evangelion (comparison). Eva ineluctably influenced RahXephon… RahXephon’s manga begun 2001, Evangelion’s TV 1995. mecha anime are remixes… variations. the pleasure of watching one is seeing the variation on the Truth, of trying to see each one get closer and closer to the heart of the matter. “I’ve taken on a risk: ‘It’s just an imitation’. And for now I can only write this explanation. But perhaps our ‘original’ lies somewhere within there.” (Hideaki Anno, from his story treatment “What were we trying to make here?” written before NGE began being produced by Gainax, as recorded on page 171 of Neon Genesis Evangelion Volume 1, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, translated by Fred Burke. August 2003. ISBN 1-56931-294-X). There is a deep relation here to Japanese poetry, in which originality is not necessarily valued. every change in a mecha anime from its predecessors is a reply, an ongoing dialog back and forth. how do mecha change? where have they gone to? look for the RahXephon bibles. Evangelion used Greek in Evangelion… rahx-ephon - “-ephon” as a suffix for instrument. RahXephon’s creators wanted to create something new… track down references 2-5 of RahXephon#Notes and references.
This monocultural view seems to have been internalised and propagated by scholars who identify as otaku themselves, and as Lamarre notes, the works of leading Japanese figures like Okada Toshio, Murakami Takashi and Hideaki Anno fuse personal experiences and research, writing that “when they speak about otaku, they speak as otaku” (italics my emphasis) [2009: 146]
By this point, one knows what to expect from a Genshiken and whether one likes it: the clubroom will be stuffed full of figurines and posters from real anime which the viewer can enjoy trying to identify; Ohno will be cosplaying all the time and try to get others to cosplay; Sasahara will be mild and helpful; Kousaka will be pretty and not do anything; Ogiue will draw yaoi manga while looking like a paint brush; Madarame will be cadaverously thin and live in his head (but be much more subdued and less of a delightful eristic); Sue will be very blond and very blue-eyed as she occasionally quotes some anime; and Kuchiki will be an asshole, who serves to remind us, as we reminisce about our anime club days, how there was always that one guy who was irritating & obnoxious; the club will attend summer Comiket, buying & selling stuff; someone will worry about graduation and going into the real world (Anno: “I wonder if a person over the age of twenty who likes robots is really happy?”); etc.
…Episode 11 was the main highlight of the series for me (especially since I am older than when I first watched Genshiken season 1 all the way back in 2006 or so): it finished the Saki/Madarame plot thread, the main outstanding issue from the ‘first generation’. Shut up together in the clubroom, with figures and posters of Kujibiki Unbalance (and particularly the Saki-stand-in character) prominent in the background, both finally speak aloud what everyone knows: Madarame has a crush on Saki. And Saki turns him down. As expected, as is realistic. Their connection is cut, unfinished business resolved. To their surprise, the release of the tension, even after being rejected & rejecting, is far better than the rejection. Madarame sadly, wistfully, smiles one last time (and here I’m reminded of Anno’s comment on Rei Ayanami: ‘At the end Rei says “I don’t know what to do,” and Shinji says, “I think you should smile,” and Rei smiles…Afterwards, when I thought about it, I cursed. In short, if she and Shinji completely “communicated” there, then isn’t she over with? At that moment, Rei, for me, was finished. When she smiled, she was already finished, this character.’) and comments “It really was fun. It really was… fun.” And we flash to an empty clubroom (from the earlier seasons, I think).
And with that, Madarame’s story is over. We can look back and see the whole arc, beginning to end; to quote Gene Wolfe’s critical essay “Nor the Summers as Golden: Writing Multivolume Works”:
The ending of the final volume should leave the reader with the feeling that he has gone through the defining circumstances of Main Character’s life. The leading character in a series can wander off into another book and a new adventure better even than this one. Main Character cannot, at the end of your multivolume work. (Or at least, it should seem so.) His life may continue, and in most cases it will. He may or may not live happily ever after. But the problems he will face in the future will not be as important to him or to us, nor the summers as golden.
And even more with that, the world of the original Genshiken is gone. Each generation is its own world, and the members begin separating. Saki and Kousaka are inseparable; Ohno & Tanaka are going into cosplay business and marrying; Sasahara & Ogiue are on the first rungs of the manga world; Kuchiki is (as we’re told repeatedly) going into finance; Madarame’s destiny is not yet fixed but is away from the university; like the original President, they surely still exist and will go on to other things, but the viewer has a definite sense: they may (or may not) live happily ever after, may or may not become famous mangaka or powerful editors or prestigious businessmen or wealthy bankers. But they will keep their memories of the Society for the Study of Visual Culture, and the summer Comikets will never be as golden.
Johnson refers to an earlier description of allusions in The Simpsons on pg 86:
These layered jokes often point beyond the bounds of the series itself. According to one fan site that has exhaustively chronicled these matters [The Simpsons Archive], the average Simpsons episode includes around eight gags that explicitly refer to movies: a plotline, a snippet of dialogue, a visual pun on a famous cinematic sequence (Seinfeld featured a number of episodes that mirrored movie plots, including Midnight Cowboy and JFK). The Halloween episodes have historically been the most baroque in their cinematic allusions, with the all-time champ being an episode from the 1995 season, integrating material from Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, Godzilla, Ghostbusters, Nightmare on Elm Street, The Pagemaster, Maximum Overdrive, The Terminator and Terminator 2, Alien III, Tron, Beyond the Mind’s Eye, The Black Hole, Poltergeist, Howard the Duck, and The Shining. [See entry ‘[3F04] Treehouse of Horror VI’ in “Movie References in The Simpsons”]