Aoi Honō, aka Blue Blazes, just wrapped up the past October. The television adaptation of Kazuhiko Shimamoto’s manga is an intensive, high octane history lesson on the founders of GAINAX, right as the magic was happening. I’m currently making my way through the sea of belly laughs and zaniness that I’ve come to love from Japanese dramas. But I mention this to pave the way for a point I would like to make. The opening cut of Blue Blazes should be recognizable to any anime fan. it made a splash that could not be ignored; who’s ripples are still felt today. I refer to Daicon III. In 1981, it opened the 20th annual Nihon SF Taikai, or Japanese Science Fiction Convention, held in Osaka. It is an impressive feat of animation, clocking in at about five minutes, credited to no more than three people, and a cast from nearly all aspects of Sci-Fi fandom. It was so impressive, that even the God of Manga himself, Osamu Tezuka, felt a tinge of disappointment when his characters weren’t included. Yasuhiro Takeda recounts the experience:
“Tezuka couldn’t make it in time for the opening, but he joined everyone for the nighttime party at the hotel. During the celebration, he heard some discussion about the opening anime and said he wanted to see it. So they scrambled around for the footage and showed it again, right there on the spot… I wasn’t there myself, but I heard that after Akai and Yagama showed Mr. Tezuka the film, he commented, “Well, there are certainly a lot of characters in the film. A lot of characters… However, there where also some that weren’t in the film.” …they hadn’t used a single one of Tezuka’s character in their film!” ~ Takeda,Yasuhiro (9 August 2005). The Notenki Memoirs: Studio Gainax & The Men Who Created Evangelion. pg 55 & 56
The proper follow up should detail their follow up project, Daicon IV, which broke every copyright law in existence, but we’ll save that for another time. I do, however want to fast forward to 1988, when GAINAX launched a six part OVA series titled GunBuster Toppu o Nerae! or GunBuster Aim for the Top! It was the directorial debut of the frog on the Science room’s dissecting table, Hideaki Anno, and also the studio’s second commercial release. Like it’s grandfather, Daicon III, it is a significant tool for us as we go through Evangelion. Gunbuster
was dead in the water before Anno was brought on as the director. What does this mean? It means Anno is responsible for breathing life into Gunbuster
! It means that there are tons of Anno-isims we can look at aside from Eva. Context is the guide to understanding, and both Daicon III
contains answers to some prevailing questions in Evangelion
(one of which we’ll discuss as soon as Episode 3).
Upon the last Understanding Evangelion
, I received some feedback. To my surprise, there was a shared thought that both the first and second episodes should be viewed as one unit. I disagree with this notion for a couple of reasons, first being the name of the episode. Unfamiliar Ceiling, one of the most memorable motifs of the series, has always been a moment to reflect. It’s a moment when the story takes five, and the character and
the viewer are meant to reflect. But to further punctuate this, the fight we where left off in the episode prior is interrupted in the heat of battle; it was never meant to be viewed start to finish. When we do return to the fight in this episode, the fight doesn’t start immediately; Shinji has to learn how to walk. The fight itself is not consecutive, nor is it the focus of the episode. One thing made abundantly clear is that Shinji does things because he’s told to. Ritsuko advises to focus on walking, the first step is a success, but then Shinji utters the words himself. With no external command it becomes his idea; he stumbles and falls. The Angels are always vehicles for the pilots’ problems, Misato even ‘pins the blame’ on Shinji with the line “Shinji, get it together!”
We establish that Shinji exerts no control on his life with the line from last episode “I mustn’t run away!”
repeated several times. Yet he must take a step, under his own power, toward
the 3rd angel, Sachiel
the problem at hand. Facing the problem is the commonality in this episode; the fight, the metaphor. We also see a parallel between Shinji’s first steps piloting and those into his home.
After the fight, during the PR broadcast, Misato makes an off-hand comment, “So it’s public scenario B-22.” Which struck me as peculiar, seeing how the name scheme for all Eva’s music is a letter followed by a number. For example, if you read up on synchronization
and Yoshiyuki Sadamoto’s comments therein
he mentions the A-10 nerve. If one where to then search though the track listing, the track listed as A-10 is ‘Mother is the First Other
‘. Interesting. So, what is B-22? Surprisingly, it’s an upbeat keyboard version of ‘Fly Me to the Moon
‘. Worth mentioning are the lines where Gendo and Shinji are compared. The similarities are what drive Shinji to obtain his father’s praise. Right now, it’s his drive in life. This is later explained in the Hedgehog’s Dilemma
, and can be seen in Misato’s relationship with Kaji (which also parallels Shinji & Asuka’s relationship). These lines accumulate over time, and slowly we start to peace together overarching themes. Look for similarities, ’cause this show is littered with them, like Misato and the 3rd Angel
I always chuckle when we meet Pen Pen. Intentional or not (and it most certainly is) is what’s behind Mistato’s beer. Dick jokes, classy. “Bad memories always seem to find me in the bath.” Shinji says to himself, staring at the ceiling. He comments on Mistao’s character, which also applies to him, seeing how they both cannot relate to their respective fathers. Likewise when Misato talks to herself in the bath she is commenting on Shinji, but also herself. This is compounded by the fact that she took Shinji in because she saw her problem in him. She didn’t want Shinji to be alone, she didn’t want to be alone. I’ll mention this more later when we get Asuka thrown into the mix, because with her comes Kaji, and then the adult/child trio is complete. But what we can pull away from this is that both look to the ceiling when they reflect. “But I guess I can’t be happy about it.” She says. “Another ceiling I don’t know.” He says.
The S-DAT. In ancient Greece, storytelling developed in leaps and bounds, particularly in the tragedy. Before that was the Chorus
. As many as 50 but no less than 12 people relayed to the audience what was happening though song and dance or perhaps through lines delivered in unison. Feelings and audience reactions that couldn’t be expressed
without breaking the forth wall where demonstrated in commentary. Think of R2-D2 and C-3PO as a modern day Chorus. They comment on the events around them much like the audience would, while also providing information that normally we would not be privy to. We will see this again, and again… and again. It is one of the members in Evangelion
‘s Chorus. The S-DAT is famous for letting us know the direction of the story, character progression, thought process, you name it. All the information you need is told to you in a simple changing of the track. Are we going forward, or are we regressing? A post from Anime News Network
in early 2007 featured a statement Anno made at the beginning of the Rebuild series that perfectly describes the S-DAT:
” ‘Eva’ is a story that repeats. It is a story where the main character witnesses many horrors with his own eyes, but still tries to stand up again. It is a story of will; a story of moving forward, if only just a little.”
And it moves forward. Finally we see the resolution of Angel Attack. Now that we have explored the themes the angel presented, it is defeated, and we catch a hint that there is more to Unit 1 that we are being told. But right after the flashback, after all the recollection, we see Misato drying off, the bath, the reflecting, it’s done. We no longer need to stare at the ceiling. Shinji lies wide eyed and in shock, as Misato opens the door to tell him one last thing. I’m going to get a little heavy handed here with the translation, just so we can get a better rounded and more full connotation. In the Platinum subs, Misato says: “You did a very praiseworthy thing today. You should be proud of yourself.” Bids him a goodnight, and “Hang in there.” Meanwhile, according to the Literal Translation Project: “You’ve done something admirable. You can hold your head high. Good night, Shinji-kun. Cheer up.” Both start off with the same feeling, be proud/you deserve praise; more or less giving him what he wants, praise, that others take pride in him. It’s the second part that differs enough to mention. ‘You should be proud of yourself’ vs ‘You can hold your head high’, the first seems to ‘pin the blame’ on Shinji, or connotate it is Shinji’s responsibility; the latter seems to be giving him permission. The third part, though expressing the same feeling, reflects more on Misato. ‘Hang in there’ begs the question of how much she can relate to his situation, while ‘Cheer up’ gives the impression she understands. It’s almost like she knows what we know, sees what we see when she says it, Shinji is thinking, “Is this what I have to do to earn the praise of others?” To close, let’s revisit my previous statement about the religious… ‘mask’ seems to be the best word… Eva wears. This article was brought to my attention where the following quote is taken: “Japan is a country where a lot of typhoons and earthquakes strike… a country where merciless destruction happens naturally. It gives you a strong sense that God exists out there.” As well as a comment given in Animerica back in 2002 stating: “I don’t belong to any kind of organized religion, so I guess I could be considered agnostic. Japanese spiritualism holds that there is kami in everything, and that’s closer to my own beliefs.” I hold by my previous statement that the religious mask doesn’t add anything more than mystic to the series, with the exception of one place, but that is a story for another day.