Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Neon Genesis Evangelion - The End of Evangelion, Part 2 of 3: discussion w/ Bob Clark on the film's style & story (+ final comment from Murderous Ink)


This series is an episode guide to the Japanese anime television show Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995 - 96) and the spin-off films. Each entry includes my own reflection on the episode, followed by a conversation with fellow bloggers Bob Clark and Murderous Ink.

Yesterday I posted my weekly Neon Genesis Evangelion review, on the film The End of Evangelion. My conversation with Bob Clark was so lengthy this week that for the first time I separated it from the review (which was also longer than usual) and split it in two. Today we discuss the film's animation, visual motifs, music, mythology, and the whole mind-boggling concept of Human Instrumentality. Tomorrow the discussion will conclude as we focus on the various characters of Evangelion. Both chats will focus on the film but also occasionally dip back into the series to reference open or unresolved points.

But first, here is Murderous Ink's final contribution to the Neon Genesis Evangelion series:

Final thoughts from Murderous Ink (Part 2)
(concluded from last week, where the first of two texts was quoted)

"In NGE, in order to obtain the approval of self-image, all the human being is going to vanish its individual body, and 'evolve' to colonial-creatures, sinking into and living in the womb-like solution. This is nothing but the state in which the self-image (self-love) the individual created is unconditionally totally approved (motherly approval of being).
But in the ending of the Eva movie, Shinji abandons this recluse into the self image (self love) where the motherly approval certifies the sense of omnipotence and chose the life of being with the others even if it means hurting each other. Then Shinji is left only with Asuka in the world destroyed. But Asuka refuses Shinji saying 'creepy'. This is the ending based on the idea, though harsh, but realization with a constructive attitude, that we need to face squarely with the others even though we are going to hurt each other sometimes, under the post-modern situation.
....
However, the children of EVA, Otaku fans of Eva, couldn't accept this ending. Scared of being called 'creepy' at the end, rejection from the girl, they chose the world, that is so gentle to their bloated ego."

-"Imagination of 2000s" by Tsunehiro Uno, 2011

I guess you are quite aware of the self-indulgent nature of some of the anime genre. One of the alarming aspects of anime culture today here is its ever-tightening of its closedness. For example, one of the biggest box-office hit during this summer was "Love Live: The School Idol Project", grossing more than 2.4 B yen (roughly $20M) and still going. It doesn't sound much, but it will rank within top 10 this year here. You can watch the trailer here.

Even though it is such a big hit, I saw very little mention of this movie around Twitter, news, blogs, and other media under my radar. Because the interest is closed within the circle of the core fans and it stops there. As you can see from the trailer above, though the production is top-notch, the whole thing looks familiar and generic. And self-indulgent to (male) ego. So, looking over these trends today, the texts above may read quite fascinating.

Murderous Ink writes about classic film, pop culture, and society on Enic-cine, his new blog.

• • •

Final conversation with Bob Clark (part 1; part 2 - on the characters - will appear tomorrow)

Bob: Oddly, this viewing was a lot more... hopeful than the last time I watched it. Maybe it's because of having more and more distance from the sheer terror of the bleakest parts, more acceptance knowing the end. Maybe it's because of seeing Anno top himself with spectacle in the Rebuild movies. But a lot of the sting was gone this time.
But also-- it's a lot easier to understand what the fuck is going on, now.

me: I remember you saying that you see the film as very pessimistic, even though Shinji & Asuka seem to get a fresh start at the end, and Instrumentality is overturned.

Bob: Yeah, I'm not as sure now.

me: About the pessimism?

Bob: I mean, it's genuinely apocalyptic.
I still think that the series captures a lot of the message a little better, but the feelings captured here, outside of the worst of the carnage and the most desperate of the inner moments, is delivered in an almost joyous visual register. I mean, once you actually try to understand what you're seeing. The first viewings are really tough to crack. It's like the last moments of 2001 on speed.

me: Do you mean "understand" in the sense of relating it to the mythology of the show? SEELE's plans, Lilith, the black moon, Yui in the Eva, etc?

Bob: Yeah, that's one level of it.
Let's talk about some of the recurring imagery within the film itself. The most obvious one is the plasm/fluid throughout-- Shinji's ejaculate, blood blood blood, bakelite, LCL.... am I missing anything?
Oh. Water, obviously.

me: We start with water.
And the LCL thing is crucial. All the fluid speaks to the desire to lose boundaries.
Frustrated in the case of Shinji's masturbation, fulfilled in the LCL in the end.
Hell, you could even put Shinji's tears in there, in the end. In that case just limited enough that it isn't eradicating/offering an alternative to individuality, but extending it just enough to touch another person.
It's kind of the opposite of the masturbation scene. Instead of jerking off at her, he is crying on her.
And earlier, of course, him crying on Misato's cross.
And Asuka's Eva buried in the water, of course. She's the character least suited to Instrumentality.
The "middle" credits also have a kind of liquidy/fluid feel to them, they way they shimmer and flow and twist.
And the spilled coffee, which also relates to Kaji's death.

Bob: Shinji's introduction-- coming out of the water, presumably after contemplating/attempting suicide. And then basically the same thing happens at the end.

me: Interesting. I didn't think that maybe he was contemplating drowning himself. Hell, I was wondering why his bangs were down over his face! That makes sense.

Bob: That and he's in that flooded area, dwelling on killing Kaworu.

me: We have to wait a long time to see Shinji's eyes. Visually, this film feels so, so different from the series.
Less like a cartoon if that makes sense.

Bob: I know exactly what that means. There's a few reasons for that I think.
First of all, the "off model" thing I was talking about at the tail end of the series-- it really shows here.
The characters are drawn much sharper, less hewing to the distinctive angular look that Sadamoto's character designs generally have. They look less like geometric polygons, more expressive. That's not to say they look less "cartoony"-- Asuka especially retains a very pointedly anime look, but it's different than how we're used to seeing her.
Now again, this is something that was happening a lot in the last portion of the show, but not to this extent. Partly it's because this is really the most heightened the drama has ever been, and as such this is the most expressive we've seen things. Partly it's because of the growing comfort the team all has with the designs, the characters, and with that comes a willingness to play a little looser. You can see that in the original stuff that pops up in the Rebuild movies, too.
But one of the biggest things, of course, is that they're animating for 1.85, and on 35 millimeter film this time. You have a much broader, richer canvas than the 1.33 16mm approach they had on the series, so they're playing with it.

me: There also seem to be more texture in the faces - like literally more lines. Sometimes to almost ridiculous extent like when Shinji screams, but a lot of times with Asuka too in the battle.

Bob: They have more time to devote to this than they did for the series, I'd think. More time, more money, and obviously more resources.
It's interesting seeing Anno play with this, because it results in probably the most tactile thing in anime since Akira, right when the action and body horror is reaching critical Lovecraftian mass. All those extra lines and texture really helps you feel the weight of what's happening more than you would've if they'd done this on TV, where you generally only had glimpses of this kind of detail.

me: Comparing Misato in ep. 1 & here. Such a world of difference.
In the nuance & detail. In fact I feel like we may have even brought that up way back when we discussed the early episodes. I'll have to go back and look.

Bob: You get some of that in Rebuild, too. Simply they just have more room to play in the film.
And this is the peak moment, the absolute climax, so to see them deviate from the norm a bit makes total sense in an expressionistic sense.

me: But Rei is an interesting example of this. She feels more angular, almost fragile in this. She seems more like an alien, in fact there are certain shots where she reminded me very much of Puck at the end of Close Encounters.
Asuka of course. They do some really wild things with her face here.The lines in it, the angles. Wrinkles almost. Just incredible.
Although she also has those iconic moments of sheer bliss where she's as cartoony/anime-y as all hell, mouth open, eyes wide, hair blowing in the wind.
I love the range of expressivity in this movie.
And it's also very disorienting coming from the series. Much the same as Fire Walk With Me is coming from Twin Peaks. From frame one something just feels fundamentally different. It's one of those cases where knowing the source might actually make the viewer feel even more lost in a way.

Bob: In a sense. I have to admit that this time it felt more apiece of the show than it did before, but I can definitely see that. I like imagining how critics might've felt seeing this divorced from the series.
For all the epic sights, it's a surprisingly intimate story, with only a handful of actual locations. Those locations may include the depths of a top secret base and the edge of Earth orbit, but really you can probably limit the settings to one hand without much waffling.
It oddly makes it feel something like one of those bottle-episode-esque "trapped in a single place" sci fi movies from the 50's, like The Thing From Another World, or the Carpenter remake. The emphasis is on all of the monstrous stuff happening in this one core place.
Helps make it all feel, in its own way, like a B-Movie. Which isn't bad.
Even the cast is remarkably shorn, from what we had previously in the series. There's no presence of Shinji's friends, for instance, and only one quick aside to the Mayor or whoever of Tokyo 2. In a sense, it feels even more intimate, even claustrophobic than episodes of the show that put a direct human face on all of the carnage outside of NERV HQ.
One of the big visual things I noticed this time, that sets it apart from the show, is symmetry. There are so many symmetrical compositions in the film, and symmetry in the film's structure itself, which you didn't see so much in the series.

me: I think the symmetry mostly has to do with Instrumentality, doesn't it? Like whenever we see a really symmetrical image it is in the midst of all souls joining together (the tree of life formation in the sky leaps to mind of course).
Are there symmetrical moments you can think of that aren't to do with Instrumentality?

Bob: I wouldn't say that there's symmetrical moments that DON'T have to do with Instrumentality. The whole movie does, to an extent. I'm just saying it's something that wasn't in the series as much, and it's throughout the whole film.
Say-- the shot of Misato walking down the hallway early on, to the Bond-style music.
I was struck by how much the music serves to cushion the surreal and horrific stuff we're shown. I always thought of it as a twist-the-knife contrast. But this time, it was more like it helped make the strange things we were seeing easier to digest. And sometimes it even helped to make the Instrumentality stuff, the Third Impact feel more hopeful. It helps you see the strange beauty in it much more. It's like a victory, especially towards the end. You feel the immense weight and effort it takes to make all the plans go awry.

me: The Komm Susser Tod song?

Bob: And beyond it, too.
Especially toward the end.
But the music throughout surprised me.
We hear that "splitting of the breast" maternal music a LOT in the movie.
The choral bit we hear for the first time when Shinji's mother comes to him in the cockpit, when he's in the Sea of Dirac.
I'm listening to Komm Susser Tod now by the way. It could just as easily be read as a breakup song, and doesn't it come right along the same time as Instrumentality brings all those break-up messages to the soundtrack?

me: Yeah in explicit lyrical terms it's a break-up/suicide song.
The song ends on the montage of break-up dialogue.

Bob: I still haven't really heard any explicit suicide stuff really. At least not as explicit as "Can't Stand Losing You."
It feels more about "break up", "leaving", with suicide of course being the ultimate version of that.

me: Well, the title literally translates to "Come, Sweet Death."

Bob: I know, I know. I'm just saying there isn't a line like Sting going "I guess you'd call it suicide."

me: You're right - I'm looking at the lyrics now and there is nothing that is EXPLICITLY suicide. It's very ambiguous. "Ending it" referring to a relationship or life, or both.
By the way, the amount of non-Japanese language used throughout Evangelion is really fascinating to me. You get it on the series with Fly Me to the Moon, obviously.
But in the film probably THE crucial song has a German title and English lyrics, sung by what sounds like an American...

Bob: Actually, it sounded way more like britpop to me.
In fact, the guitar strands we hear throughout... it sounds like George Harrison.

me: Yeah definitely, good call on that, the way the guitar wails.
The fade out is very Hey Jude.

Bob: It's also a fitting song for the end, the finale of something. The way it has such a strangely joyous (Beatles-esque!) sound feels more like it's the creators saying goodbye to the audience. The closing finale.
I really feel like it's directed to the audience, too.
The finale of something is basically saying "I wish this show could last forever, but we have to leave it somewhere."
The most TV element of the movie is the way that Shinji's reaction to seeing Unit 2 is repeated, shot for shot, at the end of the first part and beginning of the second. It's very much "last time on Evangelion..."
It raises the question of how much of this would've been like this if it were the ending of the TV series.

me: Oh yeah, Shinji, goddamn. When he screams! It looks like an old man, or a goblin or something.
And those Mass Produced Evas...fucking incredible. I love how this movie just keeps upping and upping the ante when you think it can't get any more breathtaking and disturbing.
Their ejection from the planes. Gliding down like deadly doves. Those weapons they carry, like surfboards at their side. The gaping jaws, no eyes. Just everything. Wow.

Bob: Oh god, yeah.
I think the original plan was to have a whole bunch of new angels at once, but these identical things are a great culmination of everything NERV and SEELE were planning in the past.
And just the visual they display-- they remind me of the poster for Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. That and Audrey II. All mouth.

me: Yes!
Yes! To both of those analogies. I was trying to think what they reminded me of. Little Shop of Horrors, so much.

Bob: Especially if you take into account the lost ending that Anno couldn't have possibly seen.

me: A lot of people have pointed out how weighty the battle feels. Like you can FEEL every move Asuka makes. Do you know if it was rotoscoped?

Bob:  I think the Eva was rotoscoped.

me: Yeah you get that crazy, weighty feel to it. It's funny - I don't really feel that so much with CGI even though so much of it is motion-capture.
Like there's a heaviness to cel-animated rotoscoping.
I don't know why.

Bob: I honestly feel that with CGI, you're worse off with motion-capture. Guillermo Del Toro said that he picked ILM to do Pacific Rim over Weta because he wanted the animation to be done in key frames, by hand, rather than mo-cap. It was more expressive that way.

me: Why do you think it works better in cel animation than CG?
I mean, it's WEIRD in traditional animation. I remember not really liking that look when I was a kid. But there's a perverse thrill to it, especially when it's mixed with more abstract forms of animation here.
Like it feels really disorienting to be getting something with that much of a physical presence in the Eva universe, which has been very pointedly about drawings. Sometimes very still, frozen drawings and even in the more dynamic battles, a very animated feel. Like that one in ep. 19, where the Eva acts like an animal. Here, it's very much acting like a human.
In either case, not totally like a robot.

Bob: Ultimately, rotoscoping, you still have to actually paint over it. You still have to keyframe it yourself. In CGI, you can certainly do the keyframing yourself. But MoCap is usually used to cut that out of the equation, to replace a lot of it with algorithms.
And oddly, because it's focused on an "actual actor's" performance, it's seen as superior. I really prefer the "performance of the animator" concept.
I think that Anno used footage of Michael Jordan as reference for some scenes in the show.
One reason why the Evas are so lanky and angular.

me: A very 90s thing to do.
Let's rewind a little.
Do you have any thoughts on the invasion of NERV? It's ultra-violent.
Pretty brutal stuff and almost callous in its disregard for human life. I mean the invading army's I suppose, but the film too feels sort of shocking after the series which couched its violence in a certain way.
It reminds me of the really bloodthirsty movies I made as a kid with friends where everyone was getting shot with water pistols and coughing up gallons of ketchup while flailing to their deaths.
I think that was the first thing that really shocked me the first time I saw it. Well, that and Shinji's giz but I think it took me a moment to realize what I'd actually seen there haha. I was kind of like, nah they didn't just show that...
The first half of the movie has a lot of stuff like that, really. Very Fire Walk With Me. "You can't show THIS on television..."

Bob: Yeah. You can sense how they would've cut around it on TV, but they take full advantage of taking things much further.
On the violence-- well, it perfectly shows all the problems of mankind, violence and inhumanity boiled down here. I was a little surprised this time-- I thought when I watched it before there was a scene where Toji is found and killed in the hospital by those guys. But I guess he's healed and left by then?

me: Yeah they say him and Kensuke and Hikari left in ep. 24.
Wow, that's interesting. You just imagined it?

Bob: Hm, well I wonder where that memory comes from.

me: To be honest...his character probably should have died for dramatic reasons on the show.

Bob: In the manga he dies in the Eva battle. But this would've been a great place to show the audience that SEELE means business.

me: But that kind of highlights the contrast with the film, I guess. Even on the series where a character pretty clearly needed to die, they spare him. In the film, nope. Bam. Bam. Bam. Not only countless extras slaughtered in really ugly fashion. But Misato. Ritsuko. Asuka (I'd say). It's pretty sobering.
Granted, the end of the film gives it some silver lining. But boy do we earn it by that point.

Bob: I still don't think Asuka actually dies. But if not for Instrumentality, she would. She's definitely a goner.
And that's something that I wonder how it would've been on TV. I think we still would've seen Shinji fail to save her in time, but maybe with more of an effort? Or if not that, get there in time to save her, but still be used to bring about Instrumentality, as happens in the manga.
Random thought I had today-- Aren't the Angels, as "self sufficient life forms", essentially beings that are living embodiments of Instrumentality?

me: How so?

Bob: Such a big deal is made out of the fact that the Angels need no food, no support, are completely self sufficient. It's established really early on in the show, during the first attack.
We only see one of them ever at a time. So they kind of represent the kind of ever-shifting life form that we see during the Plympton period of the end of the TV show, constant evolution.
Remember-- in Instrumentality, everyone is rendered into one single being. That's the whole point. Individual identity is gone. Humanity is rendered, essentially, one giant Angel.
I'm just talking about the fact that they're one single life form, self sufficient. They are an Angel, which fits what Misato says-- we are the 18th Angel. We are once we get rid of all our differences.

me: Yes, that's a good point and a good reference (Misato's statement). Something that occurred to me recently is that the later angel attacks very much seem to take a form of proto-Instrumentality.
In the early attacks they are, well, attacking. Very violent, confrontational (even if just, as we discussed, in self-defense). Yet maybe beginning with the Splitting of the Breast it is the opposite, not us vs. you, one will come out on top, but "let's be one."
They even say that literally a few times.
I guess the in-world explanation would be that the Angels are evolving to a point where they know how to get into the pilot's minds. But that up to that point, their goal is the same they just don't know how to get there yet. They are exploring, curious.
However some of those middle angels do seem to be more purely destructive.

Bob: It's all part of the dialogue. They make offers, the offers are refused, they reply with greater force. Repeat.

me: Like ep. 8 to 12. And not totally sure where ep. 13 fits into that either.

Bob: You know, even Liliputian Hitcher counts as the Angels invading a human mind.

me: Suppose a case could be made for that being the first one.
The whole SEELE thing throws me a bit. They have their script/expectations but unless I missed something, up to ep. 24 they did not have contact with the Angels, nor were they "rooting" for them right? Yet Kaworu seems to be their tool. How did that come about?

Bob: I've always had suspicions that SEELE was secretly manipulating the Angels. Not necessarily hoping they'd win, but wanting to push them into attacking NERV in order to move the whole Instrumentality plan ahead, and learn as much as possible against their real adversary, Gendo. The Rebuilds basically imply this. The battles against the Angels have a very false flag feel to them, like Palpatine manipulating both sides of the Clone Wars.

me: Hm. How would they be able to do that? What understanding would they have of the Angels, or what ability to communicate/instigate them?
How do you think SEELE would be able to manipulate the Angels?

Bob: Finding them. Poking and prodding them. Provoking them into an attack. Doing what armies and navies do in Godzilla movies, but on purpose.

me: So like offscreen they are tracking down Angels and somehow instigating them into attacking? I suppose it's possible. SEELE is confusing!

Bob: Which actually bolsters my thought that perhaps SEELE is (mis)leading the Angels all along. They're programmed to go make contact with something that actually won't do exactly what they think it'll do.

me: Doesn't SEELE wrongly think it is Adam down in Terminal Dogma?

Bob: Exactly. And when Kaworu gets there, and sees that it's Lilith, he realizes the jig is up.

me: But you were saying SEELE was misleading the Angels. In that case, though, they were being misled themselves.
And why would they want him to make contact with Adam, anyway, as that would be a Third Impact without Instrumentality? Humanity would perish and be replaced by Angels. So they must have known it was Lilith (I'm not sure how, though) & sent Kaworu there as a kind of decoy to get the last Angel out of the way & pave the way for Instrumentality.

Bob: Exactly right.
Remember, they keep talking about it as a script they have to follow. A schedule to keep. I think SEELE, and even Gendo know exactly what's really going on with the Angels. They could've left them alone, at Antarctica, and not instigated any of this. In the movie, they even say that the Second Impact was provoked in order to stop Adam's growth and put them on the path for THEIR version of Instrumentality. Or maybe the only version of it.

me: SEELE says their goal is to use Shinji to start Instrumentality, and yet earlier didn't they want all the pilots destroyed? It seems like they are accepting Plan B there.

Bob: Eh... there's a lot of Plan B's floating around
Even the "pilots killed" plan is a Plan B.

me: But the point is I don't think destroying Shinji's ego was part of their master plan, was it?
Maybe they have to do that since he's inside Unit-01.

Bob: Well, by the time he's up in the sky, it certainly is.

me: Do you think they wanted to use Eva 01 but without the pilot? And then once he was inside they just had to get past him to still be able to use Eva 01?
I just can't figure out what they actually wanted.

Bob: I don't think it's super important.

me: Not the character/thematic stuff, no - but it is the central engine of the plot for much of the show and the first half of the movie at least.
There's this idea that there are different forms/directions for Instrumentality. Like SEELE's was to make themselves gods, Gendo's was to reunite himself with Yui, and Yui's was something else - to preserve humanity forever I guess.
And then there is Rei's version, which is pretty much the version that triumphs. Is it an extension of Yui's? Is it something else entirely?
I'm not sure.

Bob: Yeah. But then, they all result in the same thing. SEELE really did want to have all their forms destroyed to just be a sea of LCL. That was their idea of paradise.

me: That's what the movie seems to suggest, certainly. But there's this idea out there that they wanted Instrumentality so that they could become gods. Not totally sure where that comes from now that I think about it because yeah, once you're in the LCL you are kind of on the same level as everyone else.
There is a big difference, really, between Instrumentality as it could/is supposed to be and Instrumentality as enacted by Rei/Adam/Lilith/whatever-"Giant Naked Rei"-is.
And that difference is that Shinji is given the controls and asked "what do you want" by GNR.
Which certainly didn't seem to be in SEELE's or Gendo's playbook.
Not sure about Yui's.
Again, I'm not really sure what she wants/wanted out of all this.
Is the desire to hand control over to Shinji Rei's or Yui's desire?

Bob: I don't know. I think it's more interesting if it's Rei's, because he's then rejecting not only his father's plans, but his mother's, and going off to find his own path.
I suppose SEELE were expecting/hoping that they would be given the controls. That with Shinji's ego gone, they would be able to take it. Likewise, that's what Gendo wanted-- Shinji's ego gone, he can take control and bring back Yui.

me: Hm. So pull her out of the LCL rather than push everyone else in?

Bob: That, or at the very least, be reunited with her in the LCL if all else fails.

me: Something that I think is pretty well-supported by ep. 24...
Kaworu has Adam's soul just as Rei has Lilith's.
I'm not sure what that says about him in this movie.
But it explains to a certain extent why he's tagging along with Rei in all those scenes. Since Lilith and Adam are fused in Terminal Dogma.

Bob: It means that he's essentially talking to "God" between the two of them at the end. The two beings that began the human race.

me: Well not according to that theory - "First Ancestral Race" and all...
White egg & black egg, humans vs. angels.
But I'm not sure how much of that theorizing is supported by the series evidence.
Probably ep. 24 comes down the closest to that idea of two competing races.
But they don't get explicit as all the "two eggs crashed on earth and Lilith won out" stuff.

Bob: No, they don't.
I would say that video you watched before got one big thing in the mythology wrong, if we trust what we hear in the film.
The thing the video got wrong, that I noticed, was saying Adam and Lilith both crashed into the Earth. It seems here that Adam was the first offspring of Lilith. Misato says it. To Shinji maybe.
Basically making Man vs Angel a huge Cain and Abel story.

me: That's funny, as I read something recently which said Shinji and Asuka aren't playing Adam and Eve at the end of the movie, they're playing Cain and Abel.

Bob: Well what's interesting there is, it's Cain and Abel redeemed, if you see it that way.
And if you want to get even more biblical, they're not reenacting Adam and Eve-- they're reenacting Adam and Lilith. Lilith was originally kicked out of Paradise because she insisted on being on top during sex, and Adam refused that. What we have here is a really extreme symbolic expression of that-- Shinji treating Asuka with sexual violence. And the fact that he winds up stopping, of course, means it's a defeat of the old story, the beginning of something new.

me: "Mankind was spawned from a being called Lilith, just like Adam was." Hm, interesting, yeah that's an outright contradiction of that lore.
It also implies that it isn't Angels vs. humans. It's Angel 1 vs. Angel 2 vs. Angel 3 vs. (etc.) vs. Angel 18 (humans). All equal offspring of Lilith. But that seems contradicted by some other stuff. I dunno.
I suppose Misato/Kaji could be wrong (he was wrong about Adam before) but I'm not sure what the narrative utility of that would be.
There's never a point at which we see Angels fighting, for example.
It's Angels vs. humanity throughout the show. And then there's stuff where they link Lilith to humans and not to Angels. Kaworu talking about the lilim and Maya saying, when giant Rei emerges, that it's a human not an angel.

Bob: Really, so much of this is left ambiguous for a reason. To keep you wondering, and to make you accept the reality that in life, you never have full answers to some things.
Here's a thought about the end, and also the beginning-- that sight of Quantum Rei. Because what he sees in the first episode has got to be a Quantum Rei.

me: Yes, definitely.

Bob: What are they doing there? Both at the start of the show, and at the end of the film? QR comes when a person is collected into Instrumentality, or when somebody dies (Ritsuko). But they're clearly not doing that here.

me: Yes, great point.
I guess the best argument could be she appears to Shinji at those moments when he is on the cusp of co-existing. For him the biggest challenge may not be Instrumentality or death, but simply living with other people as an individual. So she appears to him at the beginning of his adventure, and again at the end, as a new adventure begins. Both taking him out of his shell. Maybe...
Like bookmarks.

Bob: I mean, it's obviously there primarily to bookend the series.
You could also see them as symbols of mortality. She's there, waiting in the background. She isn't taking you yet. She will at some point. But she keeps her distance.

me: But also reinforcing that idea, that both times he is entertaining something new, unfamiliar, challenging.

Bob: I wonder if Anno didn't simply think "why DID we have her like that at the start?" and come up with an explanation on the fly, like the crew of LOST did for everything. This is a GOOD version of how to do that.

me: I was just thinking that. Is the first Rei evidence of Anno playing the long-con or is the last Rei evidence of Anno's genius at the ret-con?
Either way, kinda brilliant.
When I first saw End of Evangelion I couldn't figure if Instrumentality was, in some perverse way, a good thing. I think it's pretty clear Anno doesn't intend it to be, at least as end goal (which is an interesting question we can address in a bit). But I think it may be necessary and important as a step.

Bob: I think Instrumentality is important as a possible choice that you have to avoid.

me: If the problem of the characters, from the beginning of the show through the end of the film, is that they withdraw from other people and try to live without human connection isn't it odd that Instrumentality, which joins everyone as one, is presented as the ultimate mistake?
It's sort of an odd dramatic paradox. For the most part, NGE's message is "don't run away" but really, in the end, Instrumentality isn't about running away, it's about just the opposite.

Bob: Yes, but what brings everybody together? Eradicating all of their differences, everything that makes them individual humans. You're no longer connecting with a person who is different from yourself and overcoming the obstacles of those differences. You're simply annihilating yourselves. It's just death. Like in Barry Lyndon-- They Are All Equal Now.

me: I understand all that but still, it's basically taking something that is conceptually the opposite of the central problem and equating it with that problem. There is something of a contradiction there. I can't quite get over the cognitive dissonance of it. But maybe I'm missing something.
Maybe the best we could say is they offer two extremes, neither of which offers true potential for growth.
Because ultimately the Hedgehog's dilemma isn't just about getting too close, it's also about getting too far away. You have to find that happy medium, as Misato says. That's the best I can do for squaring that circle.

Bob: In the movie we are, in a sense, presented with a cinematic rhetorical argument for why Instrumentality is necessary evil, and also why it's the greatest evil of all. The first part of the movie is showing all of the walls that people put up, all of the forms of aggression and hostility we treat with everybody. All the things that, supposedly, Instrumentality will break.
And it's not just in the violence, although that's what made me think about it. All of the characters are acting in ways that are about closing themselves off from others, or pushing to destroy those who they think oppose them.
It's really in everything. SEELE sending the JSSDF to slaughter the NERV personnel. Shinji and Asuka breaking contact from all people, comatose. Shinji's selfish, perverse masturbation. Even Asuka's passionate battle fury to defend herself, and recall how she's basically able to command her AT field to attack, literally using her personal walls to defend herself.

me: Although that's also about her finally connecting with her mother.
All of the pilots go back to their mothers in this film. Asuka finally syncing with her mom in the Eva, and realizing she didn't abandon her. Rei floating up to Lilith ("welcome home") - not exactly a mother, but about as close as you can get for that character and basically the same principle: the larger being she came from. And of course, Shinji and Yui.
But it isn't enough. They have to move beyond that in the end.
Instrumentality isn't just an analogue for death, it's a pretty explicit analogue for the womb.
That's where that Freudian aspect comes in pretty heavy.

To be continued...

Visit Bob Clark's website NeoWestchester, featuring his webcomic as well as a new animated video related to Star Wars.



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