Today, I was thinking about Evangelion. I remembered that Evangelion 3.0 was coming out this fall in Japan, and while I've been dying to see it after watching FUNimation's Blu-ray release of Evangelion 2.22, it struck me that I had no idea when I'd get to see this next film, let alone the fourth and final installment. There was a one-and-a-half year wait before Eva 2.22 was released in America, which would have felt longer if I hadn't already decided to wait for FUNimation's US release of Evangelion 1.11.
As of this month, it will have been a little over a year since I saw Eva 2.22 and around two years since some of you watched a fansubbed version. By the time the movie actually comes out on DVD and Blu-ray in Japan, we'll be well into 2013. As much as I insisted on waiting for the last two movies, the end of Eva 2.22 was crazy enough that I don't know how I'd handle the existence of a fansub for Eva 3.0 (or 3.33 or whatever). Will I wait even longer, knowing that those who watched the Eva 2.22 fansub waited just as long for this new fansub, or will I succumb and download a fansub with the intention to buy a legitimate copy later? Part of it comes down to image quality, but if it's a good enough Blu-ray rip...
Then the question came up: what is it about Evangelion that makes me that desperate for the next film? Let's look at the original 1996 anime and look beyond its classic status. The main character is really quite unlikeable because he's such a whiny wimp, in contrast to similar Gainax main characters in FLCL and Gurren Lagann. The story concept is great, but it's intentionally confusing, distancing the audience from ever really understanding what's going on, especially under the thick layer of religious symbolism that ultimately has no purpose other than to look cool. And for a "giant robot anime," there's very little action, and what action is present has to deal with a shoestring budget that comes close to unraveling the series in the last third of the production.
And yet, who's to say these aren't good things, at least partially? Things are confusing, but when the point of the series are intense character studies rather than psuedo-religious posturing, some of that can be forgiven. In fact, it turns the series into a hotrod for discussion as to "what really happened." Part of that is also due to the small budget. The cheaper something is made, often the more abstract it becomes, simply as a necessity. This means instead of being able to fully create a world, the director and producer have to decide what to focus on. In Evangelion, we barely see any other people or get any information that is not somewhat important to either building on the plot or examining the characters. Even the art style, standard for the time, is simple in detail. Go ahead, compare some shots of Eva 1.11 to their corresponding shots in the original series. While everything looks more "realized" in the movie, just the important parts are present in the TV series.
The result is a show full of mystery and abstract enough for the viewer to place himself and his ideas as to what it all means into the anime. Think of it like the original Pokemon Red and Blue. There's a sparsely-realized world in which many things we'd take for granted are unexplained. Why are towns barely populated? Why is it okay for kids to go adventuring on their own? What the hell is this massive fire-bird doing in this cave? Pokemon was abstract enough for the player to fill in the blanks and, in the process, take a part in creating the world. They became part-author, leading to a really cool connection. This applies to many old games, but since Pokemon was so full of secret, optional areas, legendary pokemon, and glitches, there was this intense sense of wonder, like you could find something cool around any corner. It's not hard to see where schoolyard rumors like Mew being under the truck or finding a secret area came from, when you could find little hints and other random goodies like Mewtwo all over the place, if you looked hard enough. (Examining the subtext of Pokemon, both intentional and unintentional, is worth an article itself.)
So Evangelion isn't just about kids with messed-up psyches piloting giant robots, it's about conspiracies, ancient artifacts, and trying to unravel just what is going on, right up until the last scene of The End of Evangelion...which seems to lead into the first scene of Eva 1.11.
Though Evangelion is full of mystery, we've seemingly come to some consensus in terms of the most-likely theories of what happened in the TV series. It's well-established that people usually consider the last two episodes to be Shinji's internal, mental struggle, while The End of Evangelion is what's actually happening in real-life. Many also take into account a revelation made in Neon Genesis Evangelion 2, a PS2 game, that humans and angels sprung from a black moon and a white moon respectively, essentially seeds of life sent out across the universe by a progenitor species, and that our planet incorrectly received two of these seeds instead of one. The Rebuild of Evangelion seeks to disrupt that and return more mystery to the story's universe.
If you haven't caught on, there seem to be some subtle and not-so-subtle hints that these new movies aren't just remakes with some divergent plot points, but some sort of Groundhog Day-esque sequels. Except while things seem to be reset, parts of the world retain their earlier state -- most noticeably the red sea. The sea in Evangelion has always been described as "dead," but the visual similarity with the sea in End of Evangelion is pretty interesting.
I'd chalk up some of these things to simple references, perhaps in-jokes, or even pointed thematic symbolism. Shinji's tape player going to track 27 isn't just different in terms of whatever plot significance some people ascribe to it. It represents both the divergence of Eva 2.22 from the earlier story and the moment when Shinji finally grows a pair and actually learns how to fight for himself. Whether these are sequels or not, it's Anno telling us that this Shinji is different and, despite the title of the film, definitely advancing.
But if these are sequels, then the significance of Shinji's sudden confidence is multiplied ten-fold. He's not just learning from the events so far, he's internalizing what he spent an entire 26 episodes learning before, only to discover that it was too late and that, in stating his desires, he ruined humanity both as a group of individuals and as one entity. It seems he has the chance to change his actions this time, and the mystery gains a new part: why might the world have started over, but slightly different?
I'm very interested to see where Eva 3.0 takes us. I was on-board for a simple remake/reimagining of the story to begin with, and I've watched the two movies out so far with people who never saw the TV series that commented on how much they liked them. But I'm surprised at how rewarding these remakes are for those of us who already know the story. Perhaps there's a hint to these sequel theories in the next title: while Shinji still advanced in You Can (Not) Advance, will the concept of renewal and cycles be addressed in You Can (Not) Redo?
What I'm trying to get at here is that, while I want to see Anno continue with this concept if it's what he's truly going for, I hope he knows when he's gone too far. Overexplanation can ruin anything. Would completely understanding everything that's going on really make things better for other thought-provoking anime like FLCL or Big O? We need look no further than the Star Wars franchise for an example of the negative effects of telling the audience too damn much; while the original three films create a believable universe with untold possibilities, the decades of material since then do nothing but bog it down and limit what can happen. Or for an anime example, the mystery had completely died by the end of Higurashi no Naku Noro ni, resulting in a the resolution that the story needed, but destroying the hooks that drew viewers in from the first arc.
So even if Shinji did manage to recreate the world somehow and there's something greater going on, I'd really like Kaworu to keep his mouth shut for the most part and let us leave last movie with lots of ideas swimming around in our heads. Because if the final Eva movie reveals all the answers and wraps everything up in a neat bow like some fans surely want after all these years, Evangelion will be dead, its mystique lost forever.
I hope that, despite the similarity between Anno's goals for the remake movies and Lucas's constant retooling of Star Wars (recreating the work "the way it was meant to be"), he knows what he's doing. And that the next movies come out soon. Come on, guys.
(Just some random thoughts, loaded into a shotgun and fired out into a blog post without much care.)
Hey Japanator. I know I don't blog that often over here, but I figured you guys might be interested in this. Over on Dtoid, I'm on Failcast, the unofficial community podcast, and tonight (Tuesday, October 13th) everyone's favorite Editor-in-Chief Brad Rice is appearing on the show as our weekly community guest. So basically, we're looking for any questions that people want to ask him. Just post them in the comments and we'll read them aloud on the show! Even though Dtoid is a video game website, everyone on the show watches anime, so we'll probably end up talking about it quite a bit.
Failcast has finally hit the big 5-0, so does that mean we're over the hill? Well, Old Man Hito is, so we'll just count that for the rest of us.
Since it's been another ten episodes, that means it's time for another editor to appear on the show as our weekly community guest. This time around, we've secured Mr. Brad Rice, a.k.a. "Dick McVengeance" to old-school Dtoiders. Brad joins us to talk about the community, Dtoid's sister site Japanator, anime, and random stuff along the lines of loli, weeaboos, and hentai. But we can't do our episode without your help as usual!
Post your questions for Brad in the comments below, along with the usual array of questions and nonsensical statements about the vidya games, Gundam vs. Macross, and all those other Failcast memes you guys keep bringing up every week.
...but these new cblogs are missing something crucial. And no, I'm not referring to the lack of a digest feed a la Destructoid's cblogs. There's a certain lack of...hm...how do I put it? Well, no matter, best to just fix it myself.
There. No way you can christen the newly-born cblogs without a good dose of manly spirit and spiral power.