Sunday, September 20, 2009

Revist Evangelion: Episode 17-20

Fourth Child is all about dread. A slow sustained build up of things getting worse and worse. Things get off with Misato being interrogated by SEELE, all done in one impressionistic shot (And yes this is an example of EVA’s legendary cheapness but considering the quality of the animation shown later in this four episode arc it’s tough to fault it too much). The last encounter with the Angel has left everyone weary, everyone’s waiting for the other shoe to drop.

It does quite decisively when The Angels wipe Nevada and the American branch of NERV, off the face of the Earth. Done in one long sustained fade to red the effect is as simple as it is eerie. It earns the rest of this arc the benefit of the doubt. Anything can happen.

We finally get to see the “dummy plugs” that everyone has been yammering about for the past few episodes. AI designed to simulate a living pilot inside the EVA. The Eva’s scary enough with a human “controlling” it, when you remove human conscience from it the effect is disastrous.

The “revelation” that Toji is the fourth child, and more intriguingly that everyone at Shinji’s school is a possible candidate, is telegraphed, but effective. The rest of the episode runs through the soap opera paces briskly but effectively. The budding romance between Toji and Hikari is stuff we’ve seen before and is obvious tragedy bait, but it’s done well. After what we’ve seen it’s hard to take them at face value. We’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The episode spins it’s wheels, there’s plenty of dark inferences, technobabble, and skullduggery. Kaji and Shinji have a nice conversation, so we get a rare moment when Kaji isn’t hitting on someone. The rest of the episode spins it’s wheels going over things we already know, but even though it loses it’s momentum slightly, the groundwork has already been set.

Ambivalence begins with the transportation of the new Eva Unit 3 (Really there has to be an easier way to transport a giant robot then hanging it from a giant cross underneath a plane) something goes wrong, and just like that, the bombs underneath the table for the rest of the episode. Shinji remains ignorant that his Toji is the pilot of EVA 3.

Shinji and Kaji get another nice moment. One of Eva’s themes is how people try to and fail to fill roles for each other. In these scenes Kaji appears to be the ideal Father figure for Shinji, the polar opposite of the cold exacting Gendo. He’s doomed to ultimately fail.

The activation of Unit 3 is as a perfect EVA freakout. The sabotaged EVA immediately goes berserk. We’ve scene the Eva’s wreck havoc in stringently controlled situations, the consequences of one going insane out in the open are predictably dire. It’s an unforgiving reminder of just how dangerous the EVA’s are, decimating an entire base of people In seconds (How the hell Misato survives this I still can’t figure out).

The possessed EVA staggering around the Tokyo twilight, silhouetted against the blood red sun, is a one of the most ominous in the show’s run. EVA 03 makes quick work of the other two. The scene where it first infects and then decimates a helpless UNIT 00 is especially traumatic.

The stage is set for the battle between Unit 01 and Unit 03. It’s one of the best and most brutal in the show’s run, as The EVA’s Limbs contort and stretch into sickeningly unnatural angles, You feel every blow. As the tide turns against Shinji and he refuses to kill the other pilot. Gendo, ever the teddy bear, activates the dummy plug.

And then we get to see just how dangerous an EVA without a conscience really is. The battle that follows, with EVA 01 brutalizing EVA 03 with a helpless screaming Shinji trapped inside is one of the series most disturbing sequences. And even though you knew it was coming that final crack as the entry plug shatters remains sickening.

The episode ends with one hell of a cliffhanger, a pissed off Shinji ready to destroy NERV with Unit 01. And though it’s solved a little too patly at the beginning of the next episode. It’s very clear that the game has changed.

After being taken from the EVA, Shinji is arrested, resigns, then tells Gendo to go fuck himself. Shinji and Misato say goodbye Shinji actually shows some backbone and sticks to his guns. And then predictably, an Angel comes and one of the series most intense moments begins.

Whiel the Angel does revert a bit to a more humanoid form, it’s still a creepy and threatening presence, its mournful mask like face a nice disturbing touch. Breaking into the Geofront almost immediately. Another good thing about the Angels was the way they continually learned from their predecessor’s mistakes, not falling for the same tricks and traps twice. This one breaks through NERV’s defenses so rapidly it’s almost embarrassing.

There’s an interesting moment where Unit 01 rejects Rei (once again how exactly does this work?” After brushing aside Askua, in a detailed disturbing attack. The Angel continues to decimate the Geo Front.

Shinji who hasn’t let such a litte thing as an apocalpitic assault change his mind about piloting, finds himself finally suitably unnerved when UNIT 02’s decapitated head flies into his shelter. Stumbling out onto the street we get our first look at the attack from the ground level in awhile.

It’s a nice reminder of the sense of scale these things truly have. Rei attempts a suicide bombing which still doesn’t take the thing out. There’s a real sense of danger to this fight, despite the fact that we know the series will not likely end. One nice thing about EVA we know it can always get worse.

Shinji finally convinces himself to pilot again, and then things get epic. The Angel Breaks into NERV headquarters and is getting ready to fry the supporting cast when EVA 01 burst through the wall, and drags it up to the surface. It’s one of the coolest most intense moments in the series, and it just keeps going,

It takes the EVA back to it’s primal roots, as it bludgeons the angel with a stray piece of metal and then proceeds to pull it’s face off. Just at the worst possible moment The EVA Runs out of power. The Angel starts to take it apart with surgical precision and then, she wakes back up.

And if there’s one thing this series has taught us, it’s that you don’t fuck with Yui Ikari. It’s tough to write about this episode without making it a mere string of superlatives but it’s really impossible to oversell the mix of excitement and dread that it conjures up. The EVA goes berserk, breaks the Angel, and then in one of the series most shocking images, splatters the Angel’s blood against the AT Field, regenerates A HUMAN ARM in place of one it lost earlier in the fight, and howls like a caveman, crawls around on all fours and proceeds to eat the still living angel.

Simply put, it is some freaky shit. A grotesque, primitive, tableu that manages to be truly shocking and disturbing. As the EVA mutates, howling into the articial night, ripping off the bindings we mistook as Armor, it’s very clear that the change promised in the last few episodes where no idle threat. The show just took the last conventions of the Mecha show, and it just ate them raw.

As if to prove it the next Episode is one of the most experimental in the show’s run. A justifiably freaked out SEELE considers killing Ikari, but decide that considering the fact he now has a giant cannibal robot with the power of God to wait a little.

The Shot of the bandaged “undressed” EVA 01 is uniquely, well after writing about the last four episodes I’m running out of similes for disturbing. It’s another example of EVA’s ambiguity working in its favor. Our idea of what’s behind those bandages is infinitely worse then anything Anno could cook up. That one mad staring eye is all we need.

Things go from bad to worse when the crew finally get the camera’s inside Unit 01’s cockpit working again, and find out that Shinji has been absorbed into the Eva (Which has been kind enough to generate his plug suit as well). Some half assed metaphysics later and a plan to recover Shinji is formulated. We then shift for Eva’s most sustained and ambitious Stream of Conscience sequence yet the rest of the episode is spent inside Shinji’s head, and it becomes very clear that as ambitious as the other two sequences where, they where just practice.

The sequence is a daring bracing one, in my opinion it’s the best of it’s type, but once again, you know if these work for you or not, and if they don’t prepared to be quite annoyed.

It’s fitting it should end this way. These four episodes are EVA at it’s best, as well as it’s most Eva-y. When I think of EVA it’s these episodes I think of. A little clumsy perhaps, but with more then enough ambition and daring to make up for it.

Episode 17: B-
Episode 18: B
Episode 19: A
Episode 20: A

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