Take one dead equine, take one stick, apply pressure to the carcass through repeated blows and you have the discussion that has surrounded Neon Genesis Evangelion since it first came out.
But here I am anyway, taking my swing at it.
It’s easy to find things to hate about Eva. Let’s face it, I can give the basic run down in four basic options: A) Whiny boy pilot B) Obscure (bordering on strange) references to Kabbalah that make almost no sense. C) Giant Robots (because really the world needs another giant robot show like I need a hole in the head). D) And ending that is just plain strange.
Although that hole in the head might be nice. It would definitely give me something to show off at parties.
But wait a second here, I’m going to say something that is going to send up a scream across the desert that is the Internet. I like Shinji. Or rather, I like anti-heroes in general and I don’t find Shinji to be horribly annoying. In fact in comparison to a Thomas Covenant or a FitzChivalry Farseer, he’s pretty warm and cuddly.
On top of that, I like the bizarre references to Kabbalah – the whole tree of life thing does actually make sense, even if it was probably just slapped in there by a lunatic director. And the mecha designs for Eva are really interesting. In fact, I’d say they’re one of the highlights of the series.
No where the real problem with Eva lies is at about episode 20 (and yes does include the ending, but not the ending itself), when Anno evidently forgot all of the conventions of telling an effective anti-hero story. He decided to make EVERYBODY anti-heroes. And if they couldn’t bend to his whim, he killed them off (alas poor Kaji, I knew him well).
It starts with Asuka, I mean she’s too likable and chipper, so now she has to have some sort of screwed up childhood. And three…two…one… it comes to the surface and she’s off to mope around in a bathtub for most of the rest of the series. Score one for Anno. Score zero for the viewers.
Oh wait there might be some pay off with Kaji, and we might get to figure out what’s going on. So we get traded a long monologue about the history of NERV, for the ONE likable character dying. Score two for Anno. Score one for the viewers.
And then, oh wait, I forgot about Misato. I mean we can’t have her running around being funny and irresponsible, so lets give her some daddy issues too, and kill off her lover. Yep, now she’s just as mopey and sullen as the rest of them. Score three for Anno. Score one for the viewers.
In the end, the only character I can root for is the character with NO PERSONALITY. That’s right, we’re left with Rei. But of course, she’s too likable so we have to kill her off and bring her back as even more distant. You get the point now, Anno has decided to beat his viewers over the head with his ideas, and forget why he’s making the series at all.
To tell a story, to entertain his viewers. Instead the last six episodes are one extended screw you to the viewers, so that he can maintain his “artistic vision” for the series.
Well Mr. Anno, right back at ya. Because no matter how much people may debate this piece of work they never get past the very basic principles. The interesting discussion about identity and how it’s defined, is lost. The pertinent observations about people’s need to belong are scrapped. The fact is that there is a lot of interesting things that go on in the series, but we’ll never get to them, because we’re always going to be too busy with the basic problem.
Whether we like the series or not.