March 28, 2009

Since I finished up Gundam Wing, I figured I would take on the only 90’s mecha show more divisive among anime fans: Evangelion. I had only watched this one time, back when I first bought the DVDs. I thought it was OK, but did not get what the big deal was about. So, how does many years more experience with anime adjust my opinion?

When this show is just being a good old fashioned robo romp, it’s pretty good at it. The first half of the show contains some pretty cool sequences. Of course, things start with Unit 01 going berserk on the 3rd angel, which is great. I also like Unit 02 jumping ship to ship, the one where Asuka blocks the acid from that spider angel so Shinji and Rei could get down to the rifles and kill it, and the synchronized attack is pretty funny (and, I believe a reference to Double Rider Kick!). That’s all good stuff. Even the antics of the characters in their off time were amusing, with cocktease Asuka messing with Shinji and the perpetually drunk Misato.

Some aspects of the production are great. Sadamoto Yoshiyuki’s character designs are very nice, and I continued to like his work on the first .hack saga. The theme song is infamously catchy, and still sung wherever otaku sing karaoke. The voice cast is also superb, with the likes of Kotono Mitsuishi (Sailor Moon), Ogata Megumi (Sailor Uranus), Koyasu Takehito (Zechs Merquise) and Hayashibara Megumi (Ranma, Faye Valentine). I also noticed this recently: Kaworu was voiced by Ishida Akira who also played Gaara (Naruto), Athrun (Gundam Seed), and Fish Eye, the flamboyantly gay member of Sailormoon SuperS’s Amazon Trio o_O

Production, however, is where the show also falls apart. Gainax was famously short on cash when this show was made, and it is apparent. I have never seen so many cheap shortcuts taken in animation from a big name studio. Pan shots out the ass. The most notable one is probably the famous bathroom scene. Suzuhara and Aida have a whole conversation while the camera does nothing but pan over a static background of urinals. And that must be one humongous fuckin bathroom too to have that many in a row.

Eventually, we pass the critical point, episode 16. This is the first episode where the series just regresses into jibberish. Between the lack of money and Anno’s steadily declining mental state, the show just goes nuts here. It loses most of its narrative structure as they desperately attempt to introduce and wrap up critical plot threads, sometimes in the span of one episode. The animation also drops off even more, as even pans apparently become too expensive and they start using just static shots. Isn’t the point of animation that it moves? Big example of this is the shot of Eva Unit 01 clutching Kaworu in its fist. I swear, you would think your DVD player locked up. It just drags on frozen on this one frame with some music playing.

Of course, it all ends with the final two episodes, comprised of little more than stock footage, still shots, and… like… scribbles. It explains nothing about the plot at all. Instead, we get to psychoanalyze everyone in turn. That’s all well and good, but I’d rather it be done within a narrative since that’s what I tuned in for. Without external knowledge of what the Human Instrumentality Project was, these episodes are impossible to understand. And, frankly, that’s bullshit.

Eva had some great ideas, and some good foundations. However, in the end, the production was a disaster and they failed to deliver on it. Regardless of what the reasons were, regardless of what Anno was trying to say, the bottom line is they fucked up and the second half of the show is a complete mess. It may have been trying to communicate grandiose ideas, and be rich in symbolism, but they failed to hold it all together into a cohesive narrative. I can sit here and spew philosophy at you for 10 hours, but it doesn’t make me a great film maker.

Now, I should point out, even though I have some knowledge of what happens, I had not seen End of Eva when I wrote this, but I wanted to get my thoughts down on the TV series before I did. The TV series should be able to stand on its own, since that’s how it was originally developed. Unfortunately, it really can’t. Now, here are my brief thoughts on End of Eva which were written later:

The Rebirth part starts off pretty well. Stuff is happening, it’s very exciting. I thought I might have finally understood why people are so captivated by this show, even to this day. Then, I got to End and it basically reverted to the same BS as the TV series. “Let’s do nothing but show weird images and spew our half baked philosphy”. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. The only difference is that this time the weird imagery had a budget. I hate pretentious stuff like this. This is what happens when a creator buys into his own hype. It’s the same reason I hate the Matrix.

Look. Everybody. All you content creators out there. You can’t just put a stream of consciousness in front of people and call it art. Your job is to communicate. If you can’t distill that thought down into something that can be communicated and understood, you fail. You fail as an artist. The mere fact that people still, over a decade later, have to sit around and argue what this series means indicates it failed to communicate its message. Being obscure doesn’t make it brilliant.

Now, when are people going to stop asking me about this show the minute they find out I watch anime? Can I be done now?

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