Tuesday, November 08, 2005

TV: Neon Genesis Evangelion

Last night I found enough free time to sit down and finish the latest Anime TV series I was watching, Neon Genesis Evangelion. Evangelion (not pronounced quite like you might think) is a pretty infamous anime series that was originally aired in 1995. The infamy rises both from some use of symbolism in the series, as well as its rather obtuse story (even for anime).

In fact, the story and particularly the ending is so bizarre there are not one, but two full-length movies that offer alternative interpretations of the story and ending (including an entirely different ending in one case). Even more confusingly, there are multiple versions of the movies, and multiple versions of the first several episodes.

Despite the fact that I was well aware of Evangelion's reputation, I started watching it anyways. Note: At this point I've only watched the TV series (using the 'Director's cut' versions of the initial episodes). I haven't started either of the movies.

Anyways, I was well aware that I was in for a confusing and bizarre story, and yet I was still aggravated with the series. It is just that strange.

The show starts off innocently enough, focusing on a group of teenagers chosen to pilot huge mechs called Evas. A bit of background is explained, setting up a reason for why giant creatures called Angels are attacking Tokyo-3. The Evas are, of course, the only thing that can defend the world against the Angels, so they are part of a special government project to save the world.

Pretty standard Mech-Anime fare at this point.

Slowly the story starts getting more and more confusing, and there are more and more flashbacks and obscure philosophical conversations.

By about episode 23 or so, I actually had to watch an episode a second time because I couldn't keep up with the subtitles while running on the treadmill. Or, I thought I wasn't keeping up with the subtitles. Sadly, the episode didn't make much more sense the second time through.

Finally, the series plummets completely off the map, ending with two entire episodes taking place exclusively in one character's mind.

The story of the first 20 or so episodes? Thrown out the window. It was never important I guess, so they don't resolve anything. Even the episodes in the mind end in a way that I'm still not exactly sure what it was supposed to mean.

I couldn't believe quite how bizarre everything got. When I was thinking 'bad ending', I was thinking like a lame explanation for what was going on. I wasn't thinking that they would spend 23 episodes on a storyline then just not address it at all.

Anyways, the series wasn't all bad.

The characters were easily some of the most complex I've ever seen in an anime show. The show did a good job of detailing how each of the character's flaws and the way that affected their interactions. It was really interesting how everyone's history was intertwined with the Second Impact and each other, and how all the characters have some sort of history that makes them poorly adjusted.

The animation was reasonable, considering the fact the show is 10 years old. There was a fair amount of panning across a still frame, but I was never certain how much of that was 'artistic' versus corner-cutting.

At this point, I feel almost obligated to watch the two movies, if for no other reason then on the off chance they explain what the heck was going on. Plus, the ending for the second movie sounds like it might be much more of what I was looking for (i.e. a big Mech battle, tying up the loose ends).

Was the series worth watching? I suppose so, if for no other reason then I can say I did. And who knows, maybe the movies will turn out to be really good.


Scooter said...

Doh! What I came away from this post with is the fact that I'm an idiot. I quit watching DVDs on my computer while using my bike trainer because I couldn't hear them over the windfan and wheel friction, even with it cranked up high - didn't think about subtitles.

Steve Eck said...

I almost always have to use subtitles when watching something while I exercise, even when the show is in English.

I can never hear all the dialouge over the noise of me lumbering on the treadmill.