Sunday, November 9, 2008
It’s a very tricky thing revisiting stuff from your past. Sometimes it’s there for a reason. Works that seemed so deep at the age of 15 can come off as trite. Things that resonated so strongly with who you were no longer really mesh with who you are. Things that seemed bracingly original just seem stale.
Neon Genesis Evangelion hit me big at fifteen. It was a crystallizing moment. I knew anime, I knew avant garde, I knew Philip K. Dick style “sci fi of the soul”. But I never knew them like this. A huge melting pot of teen angst, Jungian and Freudian psychology, Religion, symbolism, soap opera, sci-fi, and giant freaking robots beating the shit out of monsters. It started smacking me around with chess while I was still thinking in checkers. For a lonely fifteen year old kid, who identified with the main character more then I’m probably going to be comfortable with now, and had to walk three miles to the only video store that rented anime, I might as well have been receiving transmissions from Mars.
But time has not been kind to Eva’s reputation. What was once considered an unmissable part of the geek canon is now considered to be a very misable part of the geek canon. To most people Eva is a child of the 90’s best left there. A muddled mess, of clichés, dated animation, dorm room philosophy, psych 101, soap opera, all held together by one of the most unlikable whiny protagonists ever to front their own series. Tied together by an insane director tanking the series in one of the most asinine, nonsensical, borderline retarded endings of all time. An ending so bad that he managed to screw it up twice, and is now trying to screw it up a third time. To quote Spinal Tap most find Eva to be “Floating in a sea of adolescent sexuality and bad poetry.” Or perhaps more appropriately given the series religious preoccupations, “On what day did the lord create Evangelion, and couldn’t he have rested on that day too.”
I’ve changed too, not to play the whole “I liked it before it was cool game.” But I got into anime probably about a year or too before it really hit the mainstream (figure ’98 ’99). At the time anime was still a bit subversive, totally alien, and that just as much as any of the actual shows and movies was part of the appeal. Liking anime before pokemon hit was like wearing a clothespin through your nose in 1978, it still messed with peoples heads a little. The fact is that I’m not that much of an anime fan anymore. I’m not saying there’s not good stuff there because there is, but it’s no longer my go to source for ya yas. I’ll occasionally pick an old favorite off the shelf to watch, Miyaziki is still in my top ten filmmakers of all time, and if there’s a series or movie that I’ve everyone is talking about I’ll usually give it a shot. Heck I’ll usually enjoy it. But if you’d ask me today if I consider myself an anime fan, I’d honestly have to answer no, just an appreciator. The combination of the racketeering business practices of the mainstream Anime Companies (“25 dollars for a two episode VHS? Sure where else are you gonna get this stuff?” The internet arrives “Oh Poo.”), my discovery that anime was stuck in it’s own set of cliché’s and ruts, just as surely as American film was (just different ruts is all), and a certain fatigue has driven me out of the former category. How will Eva look now that I have a mere affection for the artform rather then an affinity?
Maybe it’d be for the best if I cut my losses and left it in the warm forgiving recesses of memory.
But at the same time it’s important to know where you’ve been, the stuff that gets under your skin in your early adolescence never really leaves it. Call it nostalgia if you must, the fact is that we all have things that at formative periods in our life hit us like the proverbial ton of bricks. Shaping our taste rather then just fitting in it. Whetting our appetite by giving us that first scent of something that resonated so strongly in us that we had to pursue it. I can trace a clear line from my enjoyment of Neon Genesis Evangelion, to my love for Philip K. Dick, Lost, Antonioni (Watch Eclipse Sometime), David Lynch, Jodorowsky, Muramki, David Mitchell, and countless others. Maybe I would have come across these artists later in life, but maybe I wouldn’t have. And even if I did come across them maybe I wouldn’t have known what to do with them. Eva primed the pump, it taught me that stories didn’t have to be about three act structures and pat answers, it taught me to appriciate the unknown, to see narrative in a different light. And that is worth at least a second look. It’s probably been around seven or eight years since I’ve seen the series in it’s entirety. Perfect time for another look.
Posted by Bryce Wilson at 9:48 PM