Alone at the End of the World in 'Evangelion'

With Neon Genesis Evangelion’s launch last Friday, the crew here at Waypoint Radio has finally had time to dig into and talk about the first seven episodes of the series. We talk about all the show’s larger-than-life battles (against both its surreal “angels” and its very real trauma), its messy handling of gender and sexuality, and, of course, its lore.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/vb984d/evangelion-netflix-recap-episode-1-7
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I don’t mean to say this to throw any shade, but this is what I wish the other anime expert video game podcast All Systems Goku was like. I know not to expect this type of conversation with Dan Ryckert, but after listening and watching along with that show, it was nice to actually hear some analysis and predictions. Rather than “it was pretty cool when…” and wrestling references that I don’t understand at all.

So far i’m really enjoying the show, all the Subs vs Dubs talk is making me think I may have to rewatch it with subtitles. I also hope they give some Eva newbies like myself some guidance on what to watch next, as my quick spoiler avoiding googles make it sound like there is a lot of extra stuff.

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So, I’ll probably write up a big post for my read on the episodes tomorrow, but on the topic of where Shinji lived before the series, I found this screencap from episode 4, that I took for totally serious and mature reasons

Serious Screencap

So, google maps shows Atsugi as being a town on the south west edge of Tokyo (the original), which would fit with where Misato picks Shinji up from at the start of episode 1 (ie. the flooded buildings the angel swims through).

Also, while the series views scale merely as a suggestion, Atsugi is less than fourty kilometres away from where Tokyo 3 sits. Given Misato’s driving, she could have probably gotten him there in barely more time than it took on screen!

Maps


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A little over an hour into the podcast, Rob says something like: ‪“DNA overlap is basically a bullshit statistic that means nothing.” He doesn’t really expand on that and just moves on but since I’m a PhD human geneticist, I… kind of want to know what he means by that.

In the episode in question, Ritsuko says the angel has a DNA sequence 99.89% similar to humans. It’s kind of an off-hand comment and they don’t strongly follow up on it in the show (at least in these early episodes) but… assuming by “similar to” it is referring to the genome sequence (which I think given it’s 90s roots is a safe assumption) that calling this a “statistic that means nothing” is a misunderstanding of… something. But I’m not sure what.

Then again, probably literally nobody else who listened to this got caught up by this particular flippant off-hand comment and I probably shouldn’t care either.

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Kind of a small point but regarding the extent of the ‘cover up’ perpetuated by NERV: I think those discussions mostly relate to covering up the true causes of Second Impact, concocting the asteroid story rather than reveal what happened there.

I think NERV is also covering up the nature of the Angel threat, for sure, but I think the general populace (at least in Tokyo 3) is aware that they face some kind of existential threat that requries this kind of military mobilization. For example, in an early episode either Kensuke or Toji comments that people are leaving because they “didn’t expect a battle to happen on their doorstep”.

They forgot to mention what, to me, was the funniest exchange:

Misato: The Magi have come back with two affirmatives and a conditional affirmative.

Gendo: Hmm… so an 8.23% chance of success.

I find this show’s totally random and very specific probabilities hilarious.

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I’m not going to pretend to have a lot of deep thoughts on Evangelion as a whole, but in regards to a lot of the talk about the awkward fanservice this episode, I think the crew hit pretty close to what I’ve always felt was going on there.

Too many paragraphs about fanservice in anime - I'm not good at keeping things short.

Eva deals very heavily in creating an atmosphere of uncertainty and dread through the explicit betrayal of genre expectations. This is seen most clearly in its subversion of typical giant robot anime tropes, as well as broad strokes of characterisation, but I think if you take that same philosophy to all of the scenes in the show I think you can see there was some authorial intent behind the fanservice scenes beyond being there just for the typical reasons.

Fanservice tropes are an (unfortunately) heavily codified feature of a whole lot of anime. The crew pointed out that in episode 5 the show almost inexplicably sets up a cliche’d fanservice trope, but then not only has the characters not address what just happened but follows it with a prolonged selection of scenes where the two involved don’t interact until the traditional punchline of the trope is delivered with Shinji getting slapped - but in a completely different context.

Eva has already used this trick a number of times, starting with Misato’s initial framing in episode 1 being one that would traditionally get a rise out of the male teen protagonist but instead is pointedly ignored by him in a manner that feels like it was written to create tension about the character relationship in those coming into the show expecting the traditional dynamic between them.

Shinji responding to emotionally charged situations in ways that are incongruous with the expectations that other people and the viewers have towards him is a recurring theme in Evangelion, and I don’t think it’s a mistake that he was also placed in a number of sexually provocative scenarios by the writers, to which he defies the manner in which those scenarios are usually resolved in anime.

This is also why scenes that play out exactly as you would expect them to always stick out to me as suspicious in Eva, much like the one between Shinji and Rei at the end of episode 6. After so many emotional scenes subverting expectations, ones like that which play out by the book feel incredibly out of place and, like Austin pointed out, often have sinister undertones.

Do I think this works, though? Honestly, not really. Evangelion has so much ‘incidental’ fanservice that exists in parallel with the stuff written with clear intent to create drama and tension through subversion of genre norms that any point the show could have made through it really ends up diluted and lost awash the sea of shots framing anime butts for no good reason.

TLDR: Ultimately I do think the team were trying to do something narratively interesting with the more prominent fanservice scenes here… I just don’t think they ended up doing it very well in the broader context of the show, and shot themselves in the foot big time by not committing fully to it.

Edit - To clarify, I’m using ‘fanservice’ as a very broad term to refer to any scene involving nudity or a focus on potentially sexualized stuff.

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There’s a (government covered-up) description of First Impact that happens in episode 7 when there’s a brief pan over a textbook (during the elevator ride where Ritsuko talks about the truth behind Second Impact.) I can’t check the Netflix version right now but I doubt the text is translated here. The textbook description is essentially just the Giant-impact hypothesis.

I did think on this rewatch that it was kind of weird Shinji’s classmates are so unsurprised by the Angels showing up. You’d think it would be a bit more a topic of discussion if a gigantic Pathologic tragedian suddenly emerged from the Pacific Ocean, but everyone just cares about the Evas.

I just need to…

That thing with Rei framed by the moon keeps recurring and there are reasons!!!

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Speaking of Second Impact, the term references the First Impact (aka Giant Impact, the one that killed the dinosaurs). The cover story is that Second Impact was also a meteor that was similarly devastating, but we know that’s not the case.

My question is why did they call the event they’re trying to prevent “Third Impact”? The naming of Second Impact is total bullshit based on the fake meteor cover story, so it doesn’t make sense to have the secret code name for it to be related at all. It’s never made clear what Third Impact actually is (and it changes between the different adaptations), but it’s not an “impact” of any sort in any of them.

First Impact pre-dates the dinosaurs. Actually I guess it pre-dates… most things.

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Here is that Bond song mentioned in the podcast:

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I have to say, while I understand new viewers being taken in by Misato (she’s also my favorite character, but with some bigggg caveats), I’m a little shocked at how uncritical Austin is being towards her. I think, fundamentally, Rob had a much better read on the dinner scene in “Rei I” than Austin would allow, in that - although Misato is clearly not as privy to the chessboard as Ritsuko - Misato is absolutely, positively as nefarious an actor as Ritsuko when it comes to manipulation of these kids.

Again, I love Misato and, though there’s plenty of reason to be critical about her to the very end, she has a clear redemptive arc, but you really shouldn’t be so uncritical of who she is and what her job is and how she does it.

Love this episode, and I’m excited to be talking about this series more in the future.

(Last M. Katsuragi note — she isn’t so much a master strategist (though she absolutely rules and is badass) as she is very lucky and very intuitive when it comes to risk).

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Really enjoyed this discussion! The comparison of Kensuke to Young Rob was hilarious.

I haven’t watched EVA in over 15 years, and I’m savoring some of the quiet moments on this rewatch (even knowing now how much of the limited animation was related to budget problems).

Which episodes are they watching for the next podcast? Didn’t quite catch it.

Episodes eight to thirteen, I believe.

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I think it’s interesting that the team all read Shinji’s reaction to Misato’s scolding in episode 4 as him kinda, acting out? I always read that as him trying his best not to be difficult, to placate Misato, not understanding that the reason she’s upset is partially because she doesn’t like how passively he’s accepting something they both know he hates and that is actively horrible for him.

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Have a bunch of podcasts in the backlog but skipped to this one, good times.

Feeling the Misato love, I was much more neutral on her character the first time I watched this show.

I wouldn’t say Misato is as nefarious as Ritsuko, but I agree with your general point. I think Misato is very clearly someone who has a tough time reconciling her role as Chief of Operations, as someone who needs Shinji to be as efficient as possible in the field, and her genuine wish to help Shinji through this and help him live a happier life. Misato is as much of a manipulator of Shinji as anyone in these first episodes, but that genuine wish, I think, separates her from Ritsuko, who in my read likes Shinji fine but ultimately doesn’t care at all.