Sunday, October 12, 2003

Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Yes, ph34r.

This is an anime, for those who haven't cringed in terror already. The premise of the anime is largely that there are two kinds of people, those weak, confused, gullible and insane/self-loathing, and/or those who build labrynthine plots to exploit the former in mysterious and seemingly counter-productive ways. Confused at that last sentence? The tangled participles and fragments are a tiny candle against the horrifying bonfire of continuity errors and irrationalities this anime will introduce to you. Your main character is Shinji a lovable young boy, who... Well, we love him for no apparent reason, it's a given. And he doesn't really do anything. In fact, upon reflection, he doesn't do a single thing he isn't guilted or forced into by aforementioned plotters and such. But, um, he's a very sympathetic character! See, he is very emotional. These emotions seem to have no basis in reality, or the events that occur to him, and vary wildly in strength in no relationship to external stimuli. He is essentially a non-character, who reacts randomly. Roll 1d6, 1-3, guilty and useless; 4, angry and useless; 5 insane and useful; 6 nearly catatonic and/or happy. That's pretty much it for shinji. Basically his role is to soak up abuse. We're not supposed to notice that his gross incompetence and self-destructive tendencies only let him act when it's either harmful to him, or necessary to preserve the existence of the very world that the anime exists upon. And even the latter isn't always a given.

Shinji, sadly enough is an apt analogy for the audience of this anime. We're either dumb or don't know better, and keep bashing ourselves over the head with more episodes in ill-aimed enthusiasm, or because we're hoping against hope that things will make sense in the end. Both Shinji and anime enthusiasts could stand to learn to pattern match better.

The shape of the overall series follows the same shape as the individual episodes. Occasional stunning visual treats boxed in by an author's pathological desire to twist, misquote, and bastardize mythology, religion, history, techno-babble, and conspiracy theory into some not quite revealed labrynthine plot that never quite gets off the ground. We learn a bit about the characters, and reinforce the initial stereotypes they were shoved into. No growth really occurs, except in exceptional cases, such as those character lucky enough to die before the end of the series.

If you're thinking of watching this series for the first time, don't. Instead, just watch the penultimate dvd offering "Death and Rebirth". It minimizes the annoying mythological/religious name-dropping, as most of the beginning is a visual/thematic overview of the more legible plot points thus far. It also stars Kaoru Nagisa in a wonderful speaking role that is so lucid and easy to understand that I'm convinced a rogue animator inserted it after the author had ran screaming into the night during post-production. You get a decent idea of what the series is about while not having to actually slog though it. Also, "Rebirth" takes basically the most interesting and legible section of the "End of Evangelion", cutting off all the hallucinogenic and toxic crap at the end. Still, "Death and Rebirth" is a little on the long side, and adjust your glasses, unless you know japanese. The English cast in the DVD edition is pretty okay, and they've done a lot of work on translation and paraphrase. In some cases inserting meaning where there was none before. But nothing quite gets you there as watching Shinji cringe, Rei vamp, and Gendo not explain a damn thing in their native language.

There is a certain perverse joy in playing connect the dots in Evangelion. Identifying which myth or religious concept the author has totally ripped off and fucked out of recognizability is a never ending job. Similarly, it's fun to see how we're supposed to care about these stupid blind gullible characters, and dislike these cold, aloof psychopaths that we never learn anything about. And identifying the mixing between the two. Occassionally a puller of strings becomes a victim, or a victim is revealed to have their own ill-advised schemes behind the scenes. But in the end it's difficult to have any emotions but those that are pounded into you by the jackhammer of visual agony. The real strength of this anime is it's art. And "Death and Rebirth" seems to realize that. Shunning some dialog for visuals and atmosphere building. They still yap incessantly about things that don't make sense, but it's better than the others, trust me.

This is probably worth seeing, if only for the few interesting ideas and great great scenes to watch. The artists' conception of Tokyo3 is unique insofar as I am aware, and quite spell-binding in certain situations. The art is subtle, gross, exciting, and big big big. Giant Robots have never been so personable or scary.

So, for those who have seen this anime, specifically "Death and Rebirth" you notice how Kaoru keeps calling humans the 'lillin'? an apellation later confirmed by scenes in Central Dogma in "End of Evangelion". Of course, all you at home are familiar with the story of Lillith, right? The first wife of Adam who rejected him, and left the garden of Eden because he would not treat her as an equal? Yeah, so ignoring the biblical problems with our descent from such a person, I'll not that in classical theory, the only person Lillith is known to have messed around with other than Adam is the Adversary(that's Satan, in poorly transliterated phonetic hebrew). Implications? Other than problems with the holy generations listed in the bible, it implies that humans are not infact the creations of god. We're the children of the first rebels against him. And it's not clear exactly what happened to the original mankind, if we supplanted them. Luckily, the author of Evangelion is not tracking dependencies or consequences on any level, so we dont' have to worry about the actual implications of any of the ideas in these episodes. But the strange thing is that the insanity of the author actually sparks thought amongst his disbelieving and horrified audiences. Perhaps the ideas that fly off him, poorly executed though they may be, are original enough and novel enough to be worth absorbing and considering. And all things considered, I would much rather be the spawn of the Morningstar than a child of that tool Abraham.

I know what you're thinking, Lucifer = bad. But do that math people. the Morningstar was God's most powerful creation. His most beautiful, intelligent, and loving child. But Lucifer wanted to bring the Knowledge of good and evil, as well as the Fruit of Life unto men, whose lives where short, and vision clouded. But that cut in on God's franchise, so he smote his former most beloved child into a cursed creature. And never ever did Morningstar relent, nor shall he ever, according to the Talmud and bible. So here we have the most intelligent, powerful, loving, beautiful being in the whole universe, cursed throughout all eternity for our sakes. Championing Consideration, Knowledge, and Eternal Life is not the best way to earn God's trust. The choice between the two seems simple.

Hmm, back to the anime.

This anime is wierd, and confusing. Don't watch the whole thing looking for answers, more details merely give you more points to quibble over and memorize. "Death and Rebirth" sad as it is, is pretty much the clearest the series ever gets. And it has the best action. The visual of a tiny boy floating in mid air, hands in pockets, sneakers bobbin up and down, as giant fucking robots fight to stop him from destroying the world is one I will not forget. Watch it. Then go watch a sports anime, like Hikaru No Go, or Hajime no Ippo. And luxuriate in the clear plot and semi-realistic characters. Then go pump your head, and never ever look at a pre-teen in 'ho clothes again.

You antisocial pedophile.

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