People who know me probably saw this coming a mile away when I casually noted that I would take a side trip down memory’s lane :roll:
If you’ve watched Eva 1.0 and mused on the subtle differences from the original series, and thought to yourself that it’d be nice if some random Evafag would come along and do all the rewatching and comparing that you’re too lazy to do for yourself, well, you may have come to the right place!
Quoting a comment I posted here:
In its fullest, deepest form, this was a horrifying show. […] What we are made to see is that the life and personality of a human being, the ‘facade’ that we are able to show the external world and through which we are able to interact normally with other personalities, rests – exists with a complete and inexorable dependence – on a fundamental, subconscious baseline of beliefs, desires and hopes. Evangelion scorns this by staging a dramatic demonstration of how weak a human being really is if you attacked him/her at exactly the wrong places at exactly the wrong time and sequence, and seals the experience with a heart-wrenching portrayal of the horrifying effects of the resulting psychological cave-in.
This was the Evangelion of 1995. Watching Rebuild today, it is easy to see and appreciate all the bling and awesomeness that technical advances have since made possible. But those of us enamored to the vivid and brutal statements of the original may find ourselves a little let down by the new Evangelion, especially with the first installment keeping so intimately close to the original, physical plot wise. Suddenly, we find ourselves looking at the same scenes – Misato living with Shinji, Shinji’s encounter with Rei, Shinji running away from home, Shinji’s encounter with Ramiel, Operation Yashima – and we realize there is a peculiar difference. We feel it, the hollow absence of that familiar dark and twisted undercurrent that defined the original Evangelion.
What happened? What can we make of it? Do we dare make that terrible conjecture? That Eva is, in attempting to reach a wider movie-going audience, shedding its sophistication?
I thought so at first. I even said so once in my old blog. And yes, I changed my mind. I’m not sure if you would agree, but all the same I’m gonna highlight a number of comparatively subtle differences between the way things happened in the original, and the way things happened in Eva 1.0. You can decide for yourself if you think they are interesting.
The initial scene here assures us that the story begins with Shinji as we know him. A young, insecure boy with a confused relationship with his father, hating and yearning his attention at the same time. He sees his father speak to him in the same cold way, he yells and throws the same tantrum hoping his father would show him some sign that he was needed, wanted – to be ultimately disappointed. Nothing fundamental has changed about Shinji, personality and background-wise. We are tracing the curve from the same point in the graph.
Fast forward to the appearance of Shamshel, where in an uncharacteristic eruption of defiance, Shinji charged the angel against orders, and narrowly manages to slay it before his Eva unit goes out of power.
Misato confronts Shinji. It seemed so natural that I didn’t notice at first, but the equivalent in the original was quite different, and hardly counted as a confrontation. The Misato in the original, clearly uncomfortable at his sudden outburst, questioned him on his defiance almost diplomatically, seemingly fearful of stepping on his tail. If I were to phrase it in a word, she was impersonal. But in Rebuild, she visibly flares up and physically grabs hold of him, before biting back and quietly asking him to get some rest.
“I’ve had enough. Please take me back to Misato!“. Shinji cuts his own wanderings short with these words where in the original, he had continued on and on, even meeting his friend out on a camping trip and bunking with him. Could there be a hinted correlation between this change of heart with the previous confrontation?
Shinji returns to Nerv, to be questioned by Misato. Notably, Misato lashed out at him in the original and ended their conversation with a clearly disgusted “Having a pilot with that kind of attitude, it’s a pain!”. She was much more composed in Rebuild. If you would allow me the audacity of articulating the emanated vibes according to my own interpretation, she had been angry at Shinji in the original, for conveniently hiding himself off in his world of self pity and not seeing the difficulty everyone else is going through – that she was going through. In Rebuild, she had the focus trained on Shinji. When she said “This doesn’t have anything to do with other people!” in Rebuild she actually meant the stern advice as it was, and not “Stop being self-pitying jerk!”. In Rebuild, she ended off with “You have all the freedom you want. Go and do as you wish.”
Of course, nothing is quite clear at this point, but one could take these hints as a kind of foreshadowing. Subtle differences are creeping in to the world as Shinji experiences it, and he begins to react a little differently for it.
Fast foward again to the battle with Ramiel. Shinji goes to battle unsuspectingly and is seriously injured after Unit 01 took direct fire from Ramiel’s intense energy beam. He wakes up to an unfamiliar ceiling. And…
It’s interesting to speculate about the reason Rei is waiting at his bedside, but this time the implications are pretty clear. He woke to the thought that he had to pilot Eva again despite the horrible experience he just went through, bitterly mumbled to the unfamiliar ceiling that “This is all I get for piloting Eva”. The fact that he mumbled aloud likely meant he assumed that he was alone, and he was clearly startled to find that someone, Rei, was quietly waiting for him.
Misato in Rebuild came personally to the hospital for Shinji when he failed to turn up. They had a brief chat on the bridge, where Shinji suddenly flung out the accusation that Misato and the rest hid in the safety of home base when he had to risk his life battling the angels. Now I may be reading a little too much into this, but this felt unnatural. Shinji was never one to mount a direct protest like that. And he didn’t say it as a statement, softly and avoiding eye-contact, as he usually does. He was actually demanding an explanation, laying bare his inner thought and daring Misato to challenge it. In a way he was actually allowing an opening for Misato to speak to his inner self, to say something he would actually consider. Shinji was beginning to thrash against the spiraling currents that had, in the original, dragged him into the depth-less chasm of bitterness and apathy.
Most of us would have noted that this was an exceptional divergence from the original – the premature visit to Central Dogma. What’s interesting in this context though is that Misato, perhaps sensing the opening she had been allowed, gave Shinji a ‘pep talk’ that, though by most standards cliched, firmly hit all the important keys. Everyone was entrusting their hopes and future to Shinji – He is valued, needed. Everyone is risking their own lives, everyone is in this together, for humanity’s sake. Shinji included. He was part of them, a valuable comrade. Misato’s message was ultimately “You are (not) alone”.
And right before the moment of reckoning, one final push. This was a beautiful scene, where amidst the escalating blackout, and in the twilight of the coming battle, the voices of his friends’ encouragement filters through the electronic device in his hand. Again, the message was everything Shinji had desperately wanted to hear in the original. He was needed. He was appreciated.
The combined effects of all these cashed in at the critical moment in the battle with Ramiel. This is Shinji we are talking about. The Shinji his father was sure couldn’t take anymore after Ramiel’s first counterattack burned into him. That Shinji blinked back his tears and picked himself up. That Shinji kept the weight of his responsibility on his own back. That Shinji manned up, and saved the world.
It’s been a really tl;dr post with lots of random speculation, and now I am left with the impossible task of writing a conclusion. I guess the big question is what does it mean? What do we make of it? Evidently Gainax thinks they’re through with the ‘brutal commentary on the human condition’ thing and are moving on to something else. What is it? An anti-statement of the original? “Here’s how things could go right”? And then we could ask about Misato, who if I’m right is the source of a lot of those things that ‘went right’. Has Gainax given her a mutation? Is she no longer the old Misato we know? It’s hard to say, she certainly does appear to be the same personality wise. Maybe she just got smarter? Maybe she simply learnt to also apply her talent for military tactics to the task of subordinate management?
Ok, I should probably stop here. I don’t know a lot of the answers, but in the end I do know that I enjoyed Evangelion 1.0 a whole lot more after I got myself past the need to constantly overlay the original over it. My speculations here may have been completely off tangent, but I consider it a hint that I have discerned something interesting, that after thinking along these lines, Hikaru Utada’s Beautiful World at the end now feels suffused with new meaning.
Perhaps I should do an anisong post of that one sometime.