One of the benefits of doing these retrospective pieces is that I get to revisit shows with a fresh eye and a bit more experience. One of the biggest ways this has helped is that I know a lot more about photo composition and film composition.
That doesn’t mean I’m brilliant by any means, but it has helped me appreciate the composition of shots in Evangelion. This show really uses its composition to tell the story. There are a lot of points in the first four episodes where I could point this out, but I want to focus on episode 4, The Hedgehog’s Dilemma.
Why? Because there is almost no dialogue in this episode.
Just to fill people in, the episode 3 ended with Shinji disobeying Misato and risking himself and two classmates to kill the second angel. This episode opens on an image of Misato and Shinji’s apartment building and it’s raining.
We soon learn that Shinji has disappeared, and at about four minutes into the episode we learn where he is. This is the first of three scenes I want to talk about.
Shinji on the train
This is the establishing shot where we first start to learn where Shinji is. It’s not particularly important, but this show has some interesting uses of establishing shots. Sometimes it uses them. Sometimes it doesn’t.
What is interesting is the first shot of the inside we get is not of Shinji. It isn’t even of other people. It’s of a bag.
What I find interesting about this is that we get a sense of isolation here, and then the next shot we get is of Shinji.
Again, we don’t see anybody else here. This is a motif that is going to recur throughout this episode is that Shinji is not interacting with most people. He does talk to Misato twice and to Aida once and Toji and Aida once.
(He does interact with the environment, once this train ride and a later bus ride are over.)
Then we see the method he is using to shut out the universe — his tape recorder. Again it’s interesting to note that we don’t hear any music. We are allowed to see Shinji in his isolation, but we can’t exist in his world.
This is a theme that will come up later in the show.
Then there is a series of shots that I labeled train wide shots. They’re a series of images shown from above where Shinji doesn’t move but life continues around him. Also while we hear the trail, we don’t hear the people.
It’s interesting that we, as the audience, are in some sort of middle dimension where we are neither part of Shinji’s world, but we are also not part of the world of the crowd.
On a character level, we learn that Shinji does not want to interact with people. This of course plays into the theme of the episode — the Hedgehog’s Dilemma. If he opens himself up, he’s in danger of getting hurt.
So then we get a transition using the tape recorder before we get a series of similar shots.
Why are these interesting? Well they continue to show us that Shinji is not interacting with the world. Also it continues to rain, which is a motif for the episode. He is literally acting like a hedgehog and hiding his face away. Again another motif that will repeat itself throughout the episode.
He then ends up on the train platform for final two shots. And it’s only in the last one that we see his face.
So this entire scene lasts a minute and a half, and I think it’s beautiful. Mostly because it gives us a sense that Shinji is scared to interact with the world. I think this whole sequence is actually punctuated by the scene that comes immediately after this.
Shinji is in a movie theater and again the only noise we here this time is from the film. We see one person reading, another sleeping and a couple making out. Shinji notices the couple and gives them two looks.
He goes from mildly interested to irritated. I can only assume that’s he’s angry about someone interfering with his melancholy.
It’s also interesting to note that once he gets outside the influence of NERV in the next set of scenes that the weather brightens, and he seems more open to interacting with the world.
Shinji in the dark
This is one of the more interesting scenes in this episode, and one of the main reason’s why I feel like Misato is a reflection of Shinji. Though I do think you could interpret it another way.
So Shinji’s wanderings are cut short after NERV finally catches up to him. After encountering the agents in the fog, we go to a room where Shinji is sitting in the dark.
In this first batch of shots there are some important things to note. The first is that Shinji is in the dark, but when we see him talking he’s washed out by the light.
Misato is in the light, but whenever we see her she is in the dark. They are very yin and yang here. That is one way to read I think you can read these shots and I feel like this interpretation is defended by the very next image.
But I also think you could read this scene as Shinji being at the edge of Misato companionship and by extension humanity’s. I’m not sure which is the better interpretation.
The final two images put Shinji back into the dark.
I also want to point out that Shinji does not look at Misato throughout this entire exchange. In an earlier exchange that we saw through flashback, he only looks at her to say, “Look we won. Isn’t that enough?” When she challenges him, he turns even further away.
Shinji and Misato at the platform
The final scene I really want to talk about is a scene that stuck with me for ages. Shinji has decided that it’s better to leave then risk getting hurt. He has a nice interaction with Toji and Aida, and then ends up at the platform.
We see the train pull up and before Shinji boards it, he hears Misato. It’s interesting to note here that we don’t see Shinji’s face before hearing her voice. But when he does, he looks up, seemingly in surprise. Around this time we hear a car and see yellow lines passing. Then as the train is pulling away we see Misato skid to a stop and approach the platform.
When she doesn’t see him, she looks upset and turns away. Then we get this sequence of shots.
What I like about this series is that it ends with another mirroring shot, where we see the two characters looking at each other.
The fact that they’re separated by glass and a fence and height is important, but it’s not immediately important. The two characters remain separated by being human, and this is just another expression of that theme.
What do you think?
Thanks for reading.