I know I haven’t written anything for a while, updates aside. With the transition of audio, I’ve neglected the project I started – and that’s no good. But a lot has happened since last time I posted, and there is plenty to speak on. I guess, in some sort of weird way, this comes as being more timely than ever.
As I sit at my desk writing this, I am reminded that little more and 30 years ago to the day was the release of DAICON III at the third Nihon SF Taikai of Osaka – aka DAICON 1981. It feels surrel to me, as I plan my first visit to Anime Weekend Atlanta – the 25th anniversary of the convention. It’s a cause to celebrate. Nowadays, we post screen caps on Twitter of Animator Expo shots as they come out. The DAICON spirit is still alive, but that’s a topic for a different time.
Looking at episode seven, the iconic Jet Alone incident, is kinda hard for me. It doesn’t further any of the themes in the show as a whole. If anything really, it’s a Metal Gear Solid spin-off with Misato as the FOXHOUD operative disarming the nuclear threat. Ok, so not quite, but it’s a parallel I had to draw. Kept you waiting, huh? But see? That’s the thing – talking about this episode is really just a side tangent, a really cool and interesting one, but it’s overall place in the story is minimal, even more so than episode four, which was not planned to be a true episode. But unlike three episodes ago, this was written to be part of the series.
I understand why this episode was written – and I think when you see why you’ll understand why it’s worth the time to talk about it. When I think of episode seven, I don’t think about Evangelion. To me, this is not an Evangelion episode, so much as it is an homage to everything that has inspired Anno – everything that Anno loves. This is really a love letter much in the same vein as DAICON was 25 years prior. I know I have urged you many times before to watch the project, but now it is imperative before I go on.
DAINCON III is chock full of too many references for me to explain. I could spend the entirety of this post on nothing but this five minutes of animation, some of this you’ll have to look into on your own, but in particular I want to highlight the references most relevant to episode seven. Most, if not all, are tokusatsu homages. To the trained eye, they’re easily recognizable, several Toho monsters like Gamera and Godzilla alongside another Eiji Tsuburaya creation, Ultraman. A more subtle inclusion is the ship the two aliens land, being the same ship used by the Scientific Special Search Party of the original Ultraman. DAICON is littered with homages. You can see the love and inspiration these properties have provided Anno. And this episode is the same, Jet Alone, the name of the nuclear powered Eva replacement, is a direct homage to Jet Jaguar, a one-off character used in Godzilla vs Megalon.
It comes as no surprise then when I cite the museum Anno opened this Summer devoted entirely to the subject. Exhibits feature original models, artwork, and even the suits from different eras of tokusatsu, all under one roof. It’s a Japanese adult’s haven, where one can reconnect with his inner child. The same emotions that spurred the formation of GAINAX still live within Anno, all these years later. No wonder he devoted an entire episode of the series to this ideal, it is a part of him just as much as anything else.
I’ve always enjoyed movies that used miniature effects. We’re gradually losing the opportunity to make films with miniatures. Now it’s all mostly done with CG, but I think there’s a certain charm with miniatures that you can’t find in CG. Although it’s a very big hurdle to present them now, as they cost a lot of money, but we really want to break through, and create more opportunities to use miniatures.
~Hideaki Anno – SciFi Japan TV #02
What I feel episode seven lacks in plot development is made up in it’s direction. This is made abundantly evident in repeated scenes that lure the audience into a certain expectation, that all it normal. But then, as the standard is establish, a slight variation is added, accenting the entire scene. This episode takes place over the course of three days, (as you may have seen on my #EvangelionTimeline project on Twitter) which leads to the same breakfast scene being repeated three times. Each time, Misato enters the stage, accentuating a different aspect of her personality. Each time is different, but serves the same propose of reaffirming who Misato is; that a human is more than just the sum of their parts.
In fact, this topic is broached by Toji and Kensuke as the walk to school in another scene that we see more than once over the course of the episode. The two are in a jealous awe of Shinji’s living arrangement with such a strong, independent, and beautiful woman. Shinji argues what they cannot see, that she’s lazy, unrefined, and boarder line bossy (he hasn’t met Asuka yet), but the irony is that both parties are missing the point – that a human is more than just the sum of their parts. The point is lost when Misato shows up for school. That’s another scene we’ll see repeated later.
The day after is when Misato is called to attend the conference in Old Tokyo that will showcase the capabilities of Jet Alone. That morning she wakes up, dressed in an attire we’ve never seen her in before, or maybe it be better to say that Shinji’s has never seen her like this before. At the conference, there is a peculiar attention to the dialogue of Ritsuko, as she criticizes the safety of the nuclear power system used by Jet Alone. The crown and master of ceremonies scoff at her, belittling her concern. This was a real argument in Japanese society during the mid 90’s. At the time this episode aired, the Japanese mentality of nuclear power was starting to shift in response to several accidents and cover-ups. Protesters against this form of energy where poo-pooed and mocked, much like Ritsuko.
When everything goes awry, the burden falls to Misato and NERV to prevent a nuclear meltdown. Only by entering the password into Jet Alone’s internal computer can it be stopped. This leads to a powerful scene of just how bureaucratic the Japanese structure of society is. Each and every individual with the authorization to give Misato said password defers to another member of the circular chain of command, achieving a fait accompli. With no other choice, the dog of bureaucracy stops chasing it’s tail, and the password is given: Hope. After two social commentaries the only answer that can be given is ‘Hope’. But so subtle is the commentary.
The dire climax features has the giant trampling Old Tokyo, much like his above project with the God Warrior from Nausicaa. But iIn that dire climax, Shinji takes notice the other side of Misato that he had missed before, and the episode resolves with Jet Alone being disabled. That next morning, we return to the breakfast scene, but with a more balanced Misato. Is she perfect? No. But when Shinji realizes that’s what makes their relationship strong, and that she’s happy, it makes him happy. People are more than just the sum of their parts.
I mentioned before the lack of development episode seven has on the series as a whole, and I can’t avoid that. That places this episode in a unique place. At the end of episode six, we have reached a conclusion, almost like the story could end right there. In fact, that’s what did happen in the Rebuild films. The story doesn’t continue until we encounter Asuka in episode eight, leaving this episode with an ‘everyday’ kinda of feel. In tokusatsu fandom this is called ‘monster of the week’; the monster shows up, is defeated by the hero, then another one shows up in it’s place next week with the same goal of mindless, wanton destruction. Episode seven is a ‘monster of the week’ love-letter.
It has been announced that Toho will continue the Godzilla franchise after 11 years of hiatus. The project is to helmed by no other than Hideaki Anno. His love for animation is rivaled only by his love for tokusatsu. In Insufficient Direction, Moyoco Anno draws her husband as Kamen Rider, while Blue Blazes depicts his has a Haruo Nakajima hopeful, constantly reenacting Ultraman movements and actions, and now in his age he tries to preserve what he holds so dear, either on film or display.
The same spirit that built GAINAX, that opened a museum, started a program dedicated to nothing more than publicizing animated shorts lives on. And this episode proves it. Statues fade to dust, memories are forgotten, and even love deteriorates over distance – but that doesn’t mean we have to let it. To remember – That is the work of man.