Episode 3 – The Phone That Doesn’t Ring

It was only a matter of time. A real long time. The Platinum Collection now reflects it’s name; it’s so hard to come by, we needed this. To be a hundred percent honest, even if it never reaches American shores, just knowing that it exists brings makes me happy. On top of that, the manga has wrapped up with a few surprises; I had to run out and pick it up just to confirm it with my own two eyes. Then 3.0 +1.0…

It’s an exciting time. Recently, I was on the SSAA Podcast, also known as the Ass-Backwards Anime Podcast, hosted by my good friend, Doctor. It felt good to flex those podcast muscles again. Audio really is the best format for what I’m trying to convey, so be sure to check that out. And as per the growing trend, I opened an Ask.fm account for all those who are too shy for Twitter. But more importantly, I started working my way through two series that greatly influenced EvangelionSpace Runaway Ideon, and Nadia: Secret of Blue Water. If you’ve watched Daicon III from last post then you’ve already seen just how.

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If you plan on watching either series, go in blind. I know the knee-jerk reaction may be to plug the name into Google, but that will be your biggest regret. On top of that, I’ll be working around to Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, the second work of Hideaki Anno’s professional career, where he met Hayao Miyazaki. Perhaps the biggest influence on Anno was during this time when he was taken under wing by the Master. This is detailed in the Ghibli ga Ippai Liner Notes, where Anno stated:

“When I helped out as an animator for “Nausicaa”, there’s something that Miya-san often told me. It seems to have come from a Chinese sage, but “There are three conditions for accomplishing something. Those are: Being young, Being poor, and Being unknown.” And, “No matter what, make friends.” So I was taught.”

“…when I was in a state of mental collapse after my latest work had ended, I was moved deep within my heart by an encouraging phone call I received. The words of concern proceeding from the receiver became joy on my end as, with an exultant face, my whole body was buoyed. In secret, I rejoiced in receiving some recognition for myself. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

My master, the Lord Miyazaki Hayao-sama. From a (self-proclaimed) prodigal son…”

I think that perfectly sets the tone for this episode.

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A wise woman once said, “Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.” Loneliness is not solitude, but being surrounded by people unable to connect. This is expressed in the Hedgehog’s Dilemma; being driven together by the cold, but driven apart by the pain our quills inflict on each other. The entirety of the episode is devoted to this idea, so much so that nearly every aspect points to it. Shinji attends school for the first time upon his arrival in Tokyo-3, or metaphorically, is forced by the cold to huddle with others.

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The opening quickly introduces us to the Hedgehog’s Dilemma and Shinji’s method of avoiding pain. This is demonstrated in the scene where Misato is hiding from the day under the covers. She and Shinji keep there distance from each other, both careful not to get too close, in this case literally. Her last request of Shinji is to take out the garbage, and he does so, just as he’s told. This results in the first of two wide shots that I absolutely love. And all we see is Shinji taking out the trash. All we see is Shinji living.

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Despite sending Shinji off, when the phone rings, Misato answers Ritsuko’s call. In doing so, Misato explains that she provided Shinji with a cell phone, but no one ever calls. A slow pan over Shinji’s desk reveals he no longer carries it with him. Key symbols and chorus can be seen with pans over Ritsuko’s desk as well, and you’d do well to remember these. The production of Eva was constantly rushing to met deadline, as well as suffering budget cuts, acting as a sort of refiner’s fire. As such, if it made the cut, there’s a reason for it.

Enter Kensuke and Toji. Part of me wonders just how much of Kensuke is based of Anno.  His camcorder seems to be attached to his hand. He films everything an anything. One doesn’t have to stretch the imagination to see Kensuke in his own Ultraman film. Toji on the other hand is returning from watching over his younger sister who was injured in the last angel attack. During class, Shinji receives a ‘call’ asking if he is indeed the pilot of Unit 01.

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Finally, he is called, and growing close to his classmates doesn’t seem to bad. That is until tensions boil over, and Toji has to ruin a good thing. Just when he starts to close the gap, Shinji’s hurt again, and this time, literally gets his clock cleaned. No sooner does the episode establish the ideology before Rei announces an the arrival of the 4th angel, Shamshel.

Before the battle begins, Shinji asks why bother with the angel if his father isn’t around to notice, but we already know the answer. The battle initiates, and Shinji does exactly as he was told in the very beginning, “Target in the center, pull the switch.” But when that doesn’t work, he begins to flail about pathetically. Topside with aspirations of their own Ultraman film are the escaped Kensuke and Toji, witnesses to it all. Then the cold comes. The battle places them in danger, forcing Shinji to protect them in the entry plug. The sync ratio immediately drops, and Misato orders a retreat, but to no avail. “I mustn’t run away.” Prog knife drawn, he dispatches the enemy just as Unit 01 shuts down.

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In the end, Toji is given Shinji’s number in class the next day. He has half a mind to call and apologize after his brash reaction.. Toji’s hand reaches for the phone, hovering above the dial pad, we can see the thought through the expression on his face. Then we cut to the second wide shot I love so much. Slowly, he reconsiders, places the phone back on the receiver, and walks out of view. He doesn’t call, he can’t, it’s too painful.

The episode doesn’t move anywhere, the plot remains in the same spot as the start of the episode. The characters haven’t grown, (if anything, they’ve become more cemented in their ways) but we have. A glimpse of understanding has been gleamed as to who these characters are, and why they are. It’s nothing overly deep or mystical, but it’s real.

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Now Miyazaki has stepped down, as he’s done before. After 2001’s Princess Mononoke, the last anime feature to use cel animation, Miyazaki said no more. Then Spirited Away came out, again, he said no more. His last film most recent work, The Wind Rises, the lead was voiced by Anno himself. No one will ever fill the Master’s shoes, but if he’s really gone this time, who will carry his legacy?

Nadia had been hell. GAINAX was in the middle of a power struggle, it’s two co-owners vying for control, creating an inner turmoil for everyone who worked there. When Nadia was pitched, it was done behind the back of half the staff, furthering the tension, not to mention placing the company in the red. It was like a bucket of cold water had been splashed on the company. Production of a full length animation series was a new experience for Anno, who was thrown onto the project last minute as director. And in the end, not even the rights to the series remained. To add insult to injury, the original concept had been Miyazaki’s. No doubt Anno took his craft, his mentor’s idea, very personal. To some extent, the same feeling remained after Evangelion.

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A beautiful excerpt was reported at the Tokyo International Film Festival last October, and was posted on  ANN.

“I was frazzled, but in reality I was close to death.” He added that at that time many people helped him, but the one who really saved him was Miyazaki.

…Miyazaki called him after the Evangelion television series ended after hearing a rumor that Anno was in danger. At that time Miyazaki told Anno, “I’ve felt the same way. It’s OK to rest. Until you are able to create something again, it’s OK to rest as much as you want. Because if it’s you … both people and money will gather.” … Miyazaki’s words really put him at ease.

While talking about the fourth Evangelion film, Anno said while wiping away tears, “Even now, when I remember it, I cry. It’s really painful to remember.”

At that same festival, Toshio Suzuki, co-founder of Studio Ghibli, offered nothing but kind words saying, “Anno is going to lead the animation industry for at least the next 10 years in Japan.” He even attributed the sacred role of sole apprentice to the man. That is the bond that these two share. Miyazaki called Anno in his time of struggle. The phone that doesn’t ring.

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Right now Anno is running his Animator Expo project to expose 30 shorts of animation newcomers over the next couple of months. He’s reaching to those like him, wide-eyed kids with a dream. But faced with the mountains of praise that have been heaped upon him as of late, Anno has only one reply. He smiles and says there’s no pressure.

つづく

One comment

  1. fgfdfh · December 18, 2014

    Wow, this is interesting. I’m kind of suprised how close the two masters are. There’s a rumor that Miyazaki wants Anno to direct Naussica 2, I wonder if it’s true.

    Like

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