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Neon Genesis Evangelion? More Like Sega Genesis Triskelion! - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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January 28th, 2008


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12:27 am - Neon Genesis Evangelion? More Like Sega Genesis Triskelion!
Neon Genesis Evangelion (commonly referred to as Eva) is a seminal anime series from 1995, one Emily (tigeremme) and Shari had been wanting to show me for years but I wasn't really ready for until making it through my first full anime series. It was revolutionary and influential in the world of anime, so I clearly needed to see it if I was going to become a proper anime fan.

By its conclusion, Eva touches on sense of self, the very concept of personal identity, the importance of individuality, the nature of the soul, the evolution of humanity, the quest for parental acceptance, teenage sexual awakening, the evaluation of self-worth, complex psychoanalysis of one's actions, and the personal apocalypse.

Also, there are giant robots.

So, the year is 2015. The place is Tokyo-3. It's been fifteen years since Second Impact, a catastrophe that resulted in the elimination of half the Earth's population. And now, immense, alien-like creatures—known as Angels—have begun attacking. Conventional weapons have proved ineffectual. The only way to defeat them is with the aforementioned giant robots—known as Eva—which are piloted by carefully selected fourteen-year-olds, the only people able to properly synch up with the machines and control them.

You may already have questions! What was Second Impact? For that matter, what was First Impact? What are the Angels? Why are they attacking? What are the Eva? Well...don't expect answers to those questions for a while! Or possibly ever, unless you dig through Wikipedia or pay very very close attention to everything (an actual paraphrased quote from Emily, emphasis mine: "This is making a lot more sense the fourth time around.").

Eva focuses on Shinji Ikari, a sad sack of a kid who gets roped into the giant robot biz because his dad just happens to be head of NERV, the underground (literally) organization in charge of the Eva. Much of the series is about his experience piloting an Eva, how he wrestles with having to commit so much violence in the name of defending the world and how he must accept his duty. It also seems to be about making Shinji scream as much as possible. The Japanese voice actor does a really good scream.

In Misato Katsuragi, however, we have a more appealing protagonist, and not just visually (she has dark blue hair and resembles one of my first animated crushes, Eliza Maza from Gargoyles). Misato, operations director at NERV, is pretty damn awesome. She's the one always coming up with impossible plans that have a 0.000000001% chance of success. Shinji has to live with her, and he finds out what Misato-at-home is very, very different from Misato-at-work. It threw me at first to see such an obviously competent woman being all nutty and drinking beer for breakfast, but the character really grew on me until I saw that Eva was just as much her story as it was Shinji's. Later in the series, she becomes the audience surrogate by directly asking the questions we've been asking for many episodes. (And then finding out the answers, goddammit!!)

Rei Ayanami is an enigmatic blue-haired Eva pilot. Unlike Shinji, she's very certain about her role: she's a damn good pilot, and she will use that skill, even it means her own end. She acts really weird, though, and "What the fuck is up with Rei?" became a constant question of mine.

In contrast to everyone is Asuka Soryu, a boisterous German redhead who has found her purpose in life: kick ass and take names. Without the "take names" part. She's supercompetitive and feels threatened by anyone who's better than her. Unfortunately, both Rei and Shinji are kind of better than her.

What's impressive about the show is that despite the fact that there are a fucking lot of episodes that made me exclaim, "Again?!" the basic formula of Eva vs. Angel never gets stale because each Angel is different from the previous one and presents new problems and obstacles. In addition, new and terrible things can go wrong, not just on the technological side but on the character side, since these constant battles are really rough on our poor pilots, both physically and mentally.

A lot of the early episodes are like that, as we get to know our characters. There are hints of bigger things (and some of my larger questions continued not to be answered), but you don't really know what they mean. Then, about halfway through the series, there's an almost seismic shift, and shit gets hardcore. We start to learn more about what's going on, and we learn more about the pasts of some of the characters. And, I repeat: shit gets hardcore. It's some of the most intense and distressing stuff I've ever seen; it just hits you at your core (like Emily said, "It's not about making sense; it's about being affecting").

And then there's the ending, which is very controversial, as the combination of running out of money and the creator having a mental breakdown resulted in a finale that, while incredibly freaky, interesting, thought-provoking, and emotional, is unsatisfying as an end to the series, to say the least. If you imagined three billion ways episodes 25 and 26 could go, that would not be one of them. In order to get what I think was the intended ending, you have to watch End of Evangelion, which—despite being one of the weirdest things I have ever seen—works much better as an ending.

I should note that Eva sometimes appears as if it were edited by a crack-addled monkey. Scenes will abruptly cut to the next a half-second too early. Episodes will suddenly end on the TO BE CONTINUED card with no fanfare or warning at all, causing me to yell, "Oh, motherfuck!" And the editing in the finales is just psychotic. For an example, you only need watch the totally sweet opening credits, which contain seizure-inducing flashes of words like "ADAM" and "TOKYO-3" and my favorite, "ABSOLUTE TERROR FIELD." Now you'll have the theme song stuck in your head all day. Nyah.

Also, I was surprised by the somewhat-inconsistent tone at times. Because on the one hand, you have giant robots fighting terrifying behemoths in totally awesome battle sequences, and on the other, you have wacky antics in Misato's apartment...and a pet penguin (named Pen-Pen) for no apparent reason. I understand what comic relief is, but it felt like the lighter stuff didn't always fit. Not that I didn't welcome it after all the pain and agony and suffering.

Trying to recommend Eva is difficult because I went in knowing nothing but "giant robots, crazy ending," and I think that's probably the optimal experience, although I thankfully had Emily by my side to clarify things and tell me whether I was supposed to understand something yet. So I'm trying to be vague, since much of what makes Eva unique and interesting is that it steadfastly refuses to tell you what's going on; they don't waste time passing the Exposition Stick around. It's fun to be slightly confounded and attempt to put the pieces together.

What I found really fascinating about Eva was how very unexpected it was. It's very experimental in its storytelling style, sometimes jumping past important events and then flashing back later, showing you scenes it knows you can't possibly understand, delving deep into the characters' psyches, dropping hints here and there that only make sense later, etc. Because it never confines itself to something, it's free to do whatever it wants.

By its conclusion, Neon Genesis Evangelion went quite literally beyond my imagination. There's simply no other way to describe it. If that's not a convincing enough argument, I don't know what is.
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: Flyleaf - Something I Can Never Have

(61 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:catalyst2
Date:January 28th, 2008 09:21 am (UTC)
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I really struggled to watch Neon Genesis Evangelion when it was on here. I think I needed an Emily and a Shari to watch it with!

In addition to the already complex series, the channel it was on (SBS in Australia) often changed the times that it was on or delayed it for a week or two so I missed a few episodes too.

I did see the final few episodes though and that was a weird experience.

Watching those credits, I had forgotten how much Kabbalistic imagery was in them.
[User Picture]
From:cerulgalactus
Date:January 28th, 2008 09:48 am (UTC)
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Oh yes, SBS and their brief foray into the world of anime. It lasted roughly the length of Eva, and I think they had Gunsmith Cats on in the Iron Chef timeslot for a month or so, and then NOTHING.

More RocKwiz - PAH!
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From:catalyst2
Date:January 28th, 2008 09:21 am (UTC)
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Also I love the "More like ....." part of your reviews!
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From:spectralbovine
Date:January 28th, 2008 09:25 am (UTC)
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Thank you! I always enjoy coming up with those, so I'm glad other people get a kick out of them as well.
From:birdsarecalling
Date:January 28th, 2008 09:34 am (UTC)
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Oh man. Eva.

As far as influential anime of the '90s go, I think that Revolutionary Girl Utena, Cowboy Bebop, and The Vision of Escaflowne are superior shows. But had a real way of grabbing the audience with between the action sequences and the opaque mystery plot. Shows like Lost could learn a thing or two from Eva.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:January 28th, 2008 04:00 pm (UTC)
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I think I'm doing Cowboy Bebop soon. I've been told to watch Utena because it's similar to Tutu. And I've seen the name Escaflowne around but didn't know if I wanted to watch it. What's so superior about them?
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From:sophiap
Date:January 28th, 2008 11:38 am (UTC)
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Now I want to go and re-watch the series, damn it. It is an amazing series, for all its flaws. It managed to be utterly harrowing in ways that few series have achieved for me.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:January 28th, 2008 04:01 pm (UTC)
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So very harrowing!
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From:capnnick
Date:January 28th, 2008 01:32 pm (UTC)
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After the third or fifth time around I got the impression that Eva was a lot better at acting like it was saying something than actually saying something. But if it took me that long to get to that point, it must have really been something, right?
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From:spectralbovine
Date:January 28th, 2008 04:03 pm (UTC)
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Heh. I think I sort of got that impression in the finales myself, but there was enough accidentally saying something amidst all the metaphysical psychobabble that I was okay with it.
From:harriettheelf
Date:January 28th, 2008 04:02 pm (UTC)
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Wait, you watched the whole series? How many seasons were there?!
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:January 28th, 2008 04:04 pm (UTC)
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It's only 26 episodes, dude. Plus End of Eva.
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From:unseenlibrarian
Date:January 28th, 2008 04:59 pm (UTC)
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My understanding, which may be off, isn't that the creator had a mental breakdown during the show.

He had it before.

NGE was -therapy-.



[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:January 28th, 2008 05:08 pm (UTC)
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Heh, I've seen that too. I think what it was is that the finale was actually supposed to represent said breakdown, whenever it occurred.
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From:gymble
Date:January 28th, 2008 05:04 pm (UTC)
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"This is making a lot more sense the fourth time around."
Ha! Yes, I could believe that. Eva is the show that convinced me that the Japanese are really really different from us.

"What the fuck is up with Rei?"
Hee. Yes. What I want to know is why at least half of all anime fanboys are in love with her.

While Eva is fantastic in many ways, the ending ruined it for me a bit. It was just so non-sensical and unsatisfying. Eva also gets way too wrapped up in its own weird symbolism. By the end, I felt as if it forgot to tell a story.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:January 28th, 2008 05:14 pm (UTC)
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Eva is the show that convinced me that the Japanese are really really different from us.
Hee.

What I want to know is why at least half of all anime fanboys are in love with her.
I'd like to know that too. Because while I found her nice to look at because of the blue hair, I also found her entirely asexual and had no desire to see her naked.

While Eva is fantastic in many ways, the ending ruined it for me a bit.
This is probably not an uncommon sentiment. Maybe because I was prepared, I tried not to let it ruin it too much for me? As often happens while writing these posts, it's only when I look back at the series as a whole and pick out what I liked about it in order to recommend it that I realize how much I really loved it.

Eva also gets way too wrapped up in its own weird symbolism.
Heh, yeah, which the creators admit is meaningless anyway! The last half of EoE was like, "Let's pull EVERYTHING out! Use it ALL, baby!"

By the end, I felt as if it forgot to tell a story.
Maybe. I think End of Eva, although it veers off the rails in some way, does actually feel like what's been led up to, storywise. There are possibly three billion other endings, however, that could have been more satisfying.
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From:chasethestars
Date:January 28th, 2008 06:17 pm (UTC)
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I watched Evangelion for the first time in October - the first 6 episodes on one day, 7-24 the next, and the last two the day after. Then EoE a week later due to technical difficulties my not understanding Japanese. I still have to watch it a second time, and then a third time...

My take on it basically was: Cool, Robots! Uh, What? *depressed now*

This FAQ is supposed to help clear up some things.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:January 28th, 2008 06:25 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, Shari sent me that FAQ too. It was interesting. I spent an hour on Wikipedia after finished EoE.

Cool, Robots! Uh, What? *depressed now*
Heh.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:January 28th, 2008 06:50 pm (UTC)
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So I read, even though they're just for fun!

*Wikipedias*

Wait a second, holy shit, that's the formation in EoE! Aaah, the Tree of Life. Of course. Like they said. Der.
[User Picture]
From:alliterator
Date:January 29th, 2008 02:33 am (UTC)
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Next step: Cowboy Bepop. Literally the only anime series I have ever seen.
[User Picture]
From:alliterator
Date:January 29th, 2008 02:42 am (UTC)
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Check it its opening credits, which are one of the best title sequences ever.
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From:paladin42
Date:January 29th, 2008 03:40 am (UTC)
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I honestly think, as weird and out of left field as it is, I prefer the original ending to Eva over "End of Eva." By the end of EoE I hated every single character in the series. I don't mind depressing endings, or fucked up endings, or whatever, but please let me feel validated in spending all the time I put into watching the characters reach that point.

That said, Eva is one of the series (the other being Cowboy BeBop) I always make a point to watch the opening credits all the way through on every episode. They're just plain awesome.
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From:pixie37373
Date:January 30th, 2008 12:31 am (UTC)
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I watched this when I was with Ben. Every time I felt like I was starting to wrap my brain around it, it hit me from behind.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:January 30th, 2008 12:43 am (UTC)
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I didn't know you watched anime! Neat. And, yeah, it's like that.
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From:scifantasy
Date:January 5th, 2009 06:59 pm (UTC)
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Heh. Found this looking through your history. You have heard there are four new Eva movies coming, right? The first is out in Japan, and just got picked up by FUNimation for release here; the second is due out in Japan later this year.

It's a retelling--the first movie is basically the first six episodes, cleaned up, streamlined, and better-animated (obviously).
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:January 5th, 2009 07:46 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I heard about those. Don't know if I want to see them. They sound like weird remakes with most things the same but little things changed, and the original hurt my brain enough.

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