Evangelion and the Chips off the Old Block
January 12, 2012 6 Comments
Warning: This post contains severe spoilers to the Evangelion franchise.
No, this is not an analytical post as to why the Rebuilds are a sequel to Evangelion.
Evangelion was and is important. Yes, because it’s a big contribution to the industry. Yes, because it’s a precedent in the mecha genre, and for anime in general in numerous ways. Yes, because it’s cool, and full of religion and mystery, and for its psychological structure. What else makes it important, and where do the Rebuilds of Evangelion stand?
When Eva was made in 1995, there was a lot going on across the globe, and more importantly, it was the Lost Decade of Japan. First of all, the 6.8 magnitude Great Hanshin Earthquake claiming 7000 lives. Then the gassing of the subway in Tokyo which injured 6000 Japanese citizens, and killed 13 of them, led by Shoko Asahara, leader of the Aum Shinrikyo religious movement, which later lead to the siege of Asahara, causing the hi-jacking of Flight 857 demanding his release. (Also there was that comet that caused mass suicides here and there). On top of it all, Japan was getting hit with the peak of the economic depression spreading across Europe to the far East in Japan. As you can see, Japan was going through a lot of crap. The average Japanese man, woman, and child must have had a lot going through his or her head. In a nation focused so intensely on hard work, academics, and employment, the failing economy, employment, the diving morale of the nation with the numerous incidents one after the other, people were most likely falling into depression. To the Japanese business man, whose life depends on the wealth of the nation, this is the absolute worst.
When people are put in such a position, where they can’t truly solve their problem (such as a depression) it’s more than likely he or she will find some way to take their mind off of the world around him. Much like the great Red Scare in America during the 20’s around the time movies started to boom, people would walk into a theater for a nickel, have the lights shut off, and walk into a whole new world. In Japan, anyone could turn on the TV and find something interesting here and there. Not to say that every suffering businessman and women, student and trainee, and angsty teenager in Japan actually did so, but Eva was there for anyone who thought to turn on the TV at the time of its broadcast block on TV Tokyo. Past the surface, Eva is a show of responsibility and commitment, freedom of choice, life and death, personal escape and pleasure. Without paying attention to the super-natural, the characters are easily relatable.
Asuka is psychologically damaged (like most of the cast) after witnessing the death of her mother, like many Japanese children and adults would have felt seeing their loved ones murdered by religious cults, or fell victim to the natural disaster of the earthquake. Misato tries to escape her troubles and stresses with sex. Giving the audience material that they could relate to was most likely Anno’s intention. Speaking of which, the shows existence itself is proof the the state of mind of the people, or at least the mind of Hideaki Anno himself. We all know that Anno at the time was going through his own personal troubles while going through the national problems at the time. Anno poured his insanity and anxiety’s into the show, which is probably close enough to how many other Japanese felt at the time. Evangelion was their escape. It was like the show understood them, and sympathized with them.
Shinji is a wimp; we’ve all heard that (albeit you’ve probably heard it in a more vulgar manner). He is, arguably, (once again, despite the supernatural elements) the most relatable character of the show. After being thrown into an unfamiliar place in an increasingly unpleasant situation he was not ready for, he withdraws into a comfortable space, such as music, or distancing himself from others. Over time, he grows attached to the other characters, seeking support and help from others (You Are (Not) Alone), much like any normal human would want to do. He also demonstrates parental neglect and rebellion. Eventually, Shinji gives up, and quits, much to the breaking point of the pattern that the MC wins a pyrrhic victory. To that end, Shinji destroys everything, literally, in order to avoid all his troubles, all his responsibilities, so he can remain in his own solitude (minus Asuka) and sanctuary. This is not possible (again, not literally) even in the metaphorical sense, so it’s somewhat of a loose end in the overall theme.
On the surface, the Rebuild of Evangelion tetralogy is a redux of Eva, and arguably it’s a sequel. In the words of Anno himself, Evangelion is a story of repetition, and the Rebuilds attribute to that element. About 15 years later, the whole cast of Evangelion returns with a vengeance, with new attitudes, new characters, and a (more or less) new plot. Anno, in the aforementioned source, wanted to make the story so that the protagonists face their challenges again. The original left off with loose ends, with Shinji having successfully run away from his adversity, but in the Rebuilds he returns with less of his withdrawing attitude, and walks with a confident stride. It seems like Anno wants to personify the ability of man to come back from defeat and face his problems.
The most interesting things about the Rebuilds are the titles. Unlike Funimation’s translated titles (You Can (Not) Advance, You Are (Not) Alone, You Can (Not) Redo), the original Japanese titles bare more meaning. The Japanese idea of Jo-ha-kyū (as in the titles, Evangerion Shin Gekijōban: Jō/Ha/Q (A stylized Kyuu)), roughly translates to Beginning, Breaking, and Quickening. This is the cycle of process beginning, slowly rising in pace, and ending swiftly, likely referring to the adversity that our protagonists encounter (responsibility, to name one), instead of running away, which Shinji did not fail to accomplish.
Evangelion had value, and it still does. Anno kept the ball rolling by staying with his viewers and connecting with them on a level they may not have noticed themselves. And to top it off, he’s got himself two decades of a nice cashcow.
More to come (maybe). The Rebuilds aren’t done, and neither is Anno.