Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Revisit Evangelion: Episodes 3 & 4

Well after the books written in the last two reconsiderations there’s not a whole lot to say about this pair of episodes. Episodes 3 and 4 are Eva at its most standard, the closest the show ever came to being a typical teenage Mech drama. In my opinion the closer to the standard Eva adheres the weaker it is. By design it more or less takes on all the weaknesses of the Giant Robot Show and none of the strengths

The episode begins with Shinji in a training program acting like a mannequin. When People say they hate Shinji this is what they’re talking about, the guy in suit rotely parroting his commands again and again acting like one of Skinner’s rats. It doesn’t help matters that Anno shoots him with a fish angle lens that makes it look like Shinji is piloting mechs for Diane Arbus.

Anyway Shinji ends up going to school where we meet two of the shows most uninteresting characters, Toji whose defining trait is he’s Mr. Brash N’ Angry, and Kensuke whose defining trait is that I want to kill him with a hammer, slowly.

Anyway drama ensues, The Hedgehog’s Dillema is discussed (isolation brings pain, the only way to relieve isolation is contact with others, contact with others brings pain, you’re fucked) and then mentioned about ten trillion times (It’s also the title of the episode incase you missed the fact that it’s supposed to be IMPORTANT) an Angel comes we get some cool ground level shots of Tokyo 3 sinking into the Geo Front, and a fight ensues that while well choreographed and possessing a nice sense of geography, doesn’t really have the intensity of Eva at its best.

By episodes end Shinji has had his first little mini breakdown and we’re ready to continue.

Things pick up in episode four. Now you might be confused as how I might find an episode which basically involves nothing but the protagonist wandering aimlessly to be more interesting then an episode were the he you know, saves the world, but such are the strange workings of my mind.

Anyway after his minor nervous breakdown Shinji decides to leave Nerv, and starts drifting around Tokyo. Meanwhile Misato worries, and Toji and Kensuke try to find him to apologize. Like I said the bulk of the episode is basically Shinji walking around Tokyo, so your mileage may vary. Personally I found the sequence to be a great piece of silent story telling, conveying it’s ideas a lot more effectively and subtly then when the characters monologue about basic philosophical and psychological constructs for five minutes, the way they did in The Hedgehogs Dilemma, as well as unfortunately the rest of the series.

Shinji’s Antonioniesque treck across the city and into the wilderness unfolds as basically a series of tableaus, with Shinji first witnessing the closeness of other human relationships before going into the wilderness, where the animation becomes strikingly abstract. It also introduces one of Eva’s best motif’s the image of one of it’s characters walking alone through a series of deserted Tokyo streets. Even as someone whose never been there, the city’s reputation as one of the busiest in the world precedes it, and seeing it almost completely deserted, immediately strikes you as wrong, it’s pretty fucking creepy in an understated and artful way.

The sequence continues as basically a series of pillow shots but they express Shinji’s isolation and confusion perfectly. This is also the kind of thing most people hate Shinji for it’s never really bothered me. As someone who’s had my own battles with depression, and whose ability to turn acquaintances into friends can be described as shitty, I can understand Shinji’s dilema. The desire to be close with people, part of something, yet having no idea how. It’s relatable to me. He doesn’t have the power of self validation, he seeks it from others finds hostility and withdraws, even further outside looking in. What can I say I get it.

The sequence comes to the end with a strikingly composed shot of a red sky with a foreground of beautifully etched wheat with a black form in between, of course that black form turns out to be Kensuke, and the whole thing kinda craps out there. NERV’s Gestapo division finds Shinji, takes him back to headquaters so Misato can yell at him, and then basically releases him so that he can go and do exactly the thing he was going to do before.

Shinji and Misato both reconsider, the oldest trick in the world is used at the train station and the “I’m home.” line that worked so well in episode two repeated to lesser effect. All in all these episodes aren’t what you would call bad, but you have to wonder why it took two episodes to get to where we already were.

Episode 3: C-
Episode 4: C+


Anonymous said...

You haven't made a re-evaluation of the entire series thus far, but how would you say this ambitious behemoth ranks with another ambitious behemoth like The Matrix Trilogy?

Bryce Wilson said...

Hmm... Interesting I hadn't thought of comparing the two. They certainly do have alot in common as both are things alot of people loath which I have an absurd amount of affection for.

Mike Dinosaur said...

To be fair episode 4 has the first crazy-genius shot in the series, the seemingly-endless still of Misato and Shinji looking at each other at the train station. One of the first moments I went "whoa". Five stars!