Episode 6 – Shutdown in Tokyo III

I mentioned before the absence of Evangelion Q in my repertoire – I have fixed this. Closer to the topic at hand, the final volume of the Evangelion manga has finally made its way to store shelves . It’s great to see the series come to an end; it’s been a long time coming. I rushed over to my local Kinokuniya Books when the Japanese release hit shelves, skipping right to the back for what effectively is the ‘Mari origin story’ of sorts. Three months later I was back, getting the English version so I could read the damn thing. It’d been a long time coming.

Moreover, Hideaki Anno’s current project, which is not Evangelion Final, has started up again for its second round. Of the twelve pieces last season, two where particularly interesting for Eva fans, until You come to me and evangelion: Another Impact. And you can be sure more will come. Wouldn’t be surprised if one is a preview for Final. Looking at it now, it’s almost an odd contrast when you look back. Coming from the days when GAINAX was broke, robbing Peter to pay Paul, episode six again suffers from animation blunders, mistakes, and poorer quality. But that wouldn’t stop it from being one of the most memorable episodes in an ever-on-our-minds series.

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When I first started this project, I examined the first episode, and received comments stating the thought that episode one and two where meant to be viewed as a whole, almost as if they where one episode. I disagree with this notion, since the focus of episode one and two is not the cliffhanger battle (for more on that topic, see the posts). In the same breath, I argue that this idea should be retained for episodes five and six; that is, they should be viewed together as one episode.

The Evangelion structure of ‘introduce character dilemma then angel battle resolution’ is broken up; episode five is the ‘character dilemma’ with episode six respectively functioning as ‘angel battle resolution’. While episode five is Rei’s first time in the limelight, one of her defining moments is left for the latter episode. Hell, the alternate title for this episode is ‘Rei II’. We even have the ending from the episode prior open just as a reminder, it’s that imperative to this episode.The storytelling spanning these two parts is some of the most successful in the entire series – even to the point of its detriment.

Last we left off, Rei is introduced. She goes from being an ineffective Eva pilot to finding her raison d’être. Shinji gravitates toward her familiar presence, but is pushed back by her perplexing motives. But there’s little time to think about it, Ramiel, the fifth angel in the shape of a perfect octahedron, attacks. Shinji moves to intercept, but is incapacitated and brought dangerously close to death’s door. Then the episode starts.

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Before we go too far, it needs to be pointed out now because I’ve failed to do so in the past. Not to sound sycophantic, but Hideaki Anno is a master of shot composition. Given the ever fluctuating animation quality that is Evangelion, it oft-times is the only thing that saves it. The above shots are really simple, comprising a handful of cels each, but the look good. This is mainly in part of the Rule of Thirds. What’s more is that each of these are static shots, the camera doesn’t move, but those few cels are manipulated in such a way that feels like they are moving in a realistic yet highly visually appealing manner. Despite its strengths, animation is quite a limited medium, and so capturing as much expression as possible is truly a remarkable feat. One minute and a half – 90 seconds – and the tension of the entire episode is established in full context.

A direct reference to the machine Super X from Future Police Urashiman, Ramiel is an interesting angel.  In a time when production was falling behind, the choice was easy; Anno quickly added a paint job and drill (because GAINAX adds drills to everything) and thus was the birth of the fifth angel. But the extent of this is really phenomenal. In the first half of Urashiman episode 47, Super X goes to destroy the HQ of the Future Police, a pyramid-shaped building that perhaps served as the basis for NERV geofront base.

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But despite being no more than a floating polygon, animation errors don’t discriminate. The first frame of Ramiel we see is when it opens fire on an unprepared Shinji. The following scene leads to a beautiful shot of a hole being melted through a skyscraper, then a long shot as Unit 01 is pulled back to safety. Notice how the beam still emanates from said skyscraper. This is due to the fact that Ramiel and Tokyo-3 are actually on the same cel, that is, Ramiel was painted on to the background cel. This forced the animation team to find a workaround and resulted in the destuction of a fictional skyscraper. The other boo-boo is the direction the drill employed to reach the geofront spins.

After a quick reference to the Maser tank, a we see a really neat shot of Rei. I mentioned my feelings on this episode really being the second part of a whole, and here’s partly why. Amidst all the techno-bable and Misato’s evaluation of the situation, we take the time to cut to Rei, alone, holding Comander Ikari’s glasses – her raison d’être. What’s more is this follows only after Misato’s inquiry of Shinji’s status. We get a shot of her, the glasses in her lap, then we see through the lens itself. All the while, the conversation between Misato and the bridge bunnies continues. So what is this supposed to add? It’s meaningful enough to incorporate and show, but there’s no commentary on it; But that’s just it: show, don’t tell. We don’t need to be told what Rei is thinking, or if she’s thinking at all. In the very least, we know something is up with Rei, but those astute will understand the true situation a hundred times better than they would if simply told.

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1185, the twenty-second day in March, 830 years ago, the Taira and Minamoto clans clash in martial combat forever known as the Battle of Yashima. The Taira clan, known for their superior naval prowess, had retreated to modern-day Takamatsu where they held up in a fortress previously captured in the war. With most of the ships of the Minamoto clan destroyed prior to the retreat, thought the position unconquerable, as any assault would result in a naval battle. Thus when the Minamoto arrived, the Taira fled to their ships, and in their haughty surety placed a fan atop the mast of one of their ships, claiming themselves impervious to any archer attack. Refusing to be made a fool, Nasu no Yoichi rode out into the water, and from horseback, struck the fan from the mast in one shot. In that moment, the Minamoto navy, secretly strengthened by an alley, engaged the Taira, their numbers catching them off guard and resulting in a Minamoto victory.

In under ten hours, NERV is to secretly reenforce. Gathering the electricity from every corner of Japan, and channeling it into the positron rife prototype, the fan Ramiel had placed was to be knocked down. Interestingly enough is the location of what Misato terms ‘Operation Yashima’, Mount Futago. This is effectively Unit 00’s first sortie, Rei’s first mission. We learn from episode 20 that Gendo and Yui had picked names for both genders of their then unborn child. “If it’s a boy, Shinji. If it’s a girl, Rei.” Thus the Mountain’s name is most appropriate; Futago, named after its twin peaks, means twins. And although Shinji is not as skilled as Nasu no Yoichi, with the help of Rei, he manages to make the shot. But not without her self-sacrifice.

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In a way, Rei did die in the blast. Shinji, in parallel to the actions of his father, rushes to save Ayanami. We can hear the sizzle as he forces the entry plug open, calling her name ‘Ayanami! Ayanami!’. The sight of her well-being brings him to tears, and in that moment, her raison det’re changes. And like most of us when we take a new step forward in life, we ask ‘What do I do now?’. Shinji, humbly states, ‘Smile.’It’s brilliant story telling. Rei is introduced, we see her reason for living, her doubts, and then her growth in the very end. It’s a triumph, one that proved detrimental to the series as a whole.

Taken from an interview with Anno in Parano, he states:

When creating the characters for Eva – in the case of Asuka, [when I had] the lines “Anta Baka!?” and “Chance…”, I thought, ah, this is going to work. In the case of Rei, it was the line in episode six: “You won’t die. I will protect you.” And also at the end, when Rei says, “I don’t know what kind of expression I should have at a time like this,” and Shinji says, “I think you should smile,” and Rei smiles. I felt like, ah, this is going to work. At those two points, Rei’s character was created. However, when I thought about it afterwards, I cursed. I thought, in short, that if she has [already] communicated with Shinji there, then isn’t she over with? At that moment, Rei, for me, was finished, all at once.

This explains her notable absence over the next dozen or so episodes. The focus at the point finishes with Rei, and Asuka enters into Shinji’s life. It wouldn’t be until the Rebuild of Evangelion that Rei’s character would be advanced beyond these two episodes. It’s unfortunate that sub-par animation had to claim the apex of her growth. Perhaps is was in this moment that Rei became relatable. She is who she is, Yui in the flesh, Lilith in spirit.


 

Four years ago, the most powerful earthquake the Japan has ever seen occurred off the coast of Fukushima. Named the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, waves 130 feet high crashed up to six miles inland, leaving nothing but destruction in its wake. Nearly 16,000 people lost their lives to the natural disaster, and many are still affected by it today, stranded in temporary housing that is seeming less and less temporary. At the epicenter of the disaster was the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex. Damaged beyond commission, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) announced there would be a power shortage for the entire nation. But during all this there was a light of hope.

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Banding together to conserve electricity during the peak hours of energy consumption, internet users across Japan rallied under the banner . From 6-7PM, lights where dimmed, dinners were delayed, and T.V.s where turned off in attempt to counteract the power shortage. It was the real life Operation Yashima.

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But things went farther than that, going as far as to place posters, handmade or otherwise, on street corners. Signs were placed outside shops, in bookstores, the local ramen stands – and it worked. Operation Yashima, just as it was in Evangelion and in the Battle of Yashima nearly a century before it, was a success. While no single person could shoot the fan off the mast of the crisis, everyone did their part, and together they where able to teach us what to do in such a horrible situation. “I think you should smile.”

つづく

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