Evangelion's 5-part Structure

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JohnRaney
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Evangelion's 5-part Structure

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Postby JohnRaney » Tue May 14, 2019 11:10 am

Hello everyone, first time here, pleasure to meet you all.

This is about my thoughts on the structure of the franchise. Obviously, there's debate about whether the Rebuilds are a reboot or a sequel. I feel they are certainly a sequel, considering all the "again/this time" crypticism and the visual shout-outs to EoE, albeit in a deeply abstract sense. But it's more than that; I think Evangelion is a story in 5 parts, or more accurately, one story told 5 times.

I think the 5 main Evangelion continuities are:

TV (26 eps.)

Film (Death and End of Evangelion)

Manga (Sadamoto's 14 volumes)

ANIMA Light Novels

New Theatrical Edition (4 Rebuild movies)

and that the story isn't complete if you haven't seen that entire structure. I should specify that it doesn't necessarily have to flow in a linear time-loop, I see it a more abstract process in which the continuities overlap, mirroring the chaos of Instrumentality itself. Ordering them this way is for convenience's sake, but for the full effect they should be experienced in release order, which means jumping between continuities. I'm working on a table that lists everything in order, will post here when it's done.


Evidence/Arguments:

Concrete:
As mentioned above, there are numerous reincarnation references in the Rebuilds.
Kaworu in 1.11 wakes up in the fifth coffin in a sequence with previous 4 empty.
There is a line in the manga about Shinji "dying and being reborn again and again."
There are visual shout-outs to the manga and light novels in the Rebuilds as well.
In this short film/extended 3.0+1.0 teaser, there are numerous visual references to multiple versions of the characters and past iterations of the franchise: https://youtu.be/iBxoofpZv_0.
The You Can (Not) Advance and You Can (Not) Redo titles make more sense through this lens, as does the :II symbol on 3.0+1.0.



Each one of these continuities reveals different facets of the story. For instance, TV ending develops 4 main characters the most, EoE reveals more about Instrumentality and Gendo, the manga adds development for Rei, Kaji, Kaworu, Fuyutsuki, and Yui, as well as MUCH more information on what the various parties (NERV, SEELE, Yui, Kaworu, and the Angels) actually wanted. You get a more complete picture by checking out the other series.



The series seem to be in conversation with each other. There are multiple scenes in which the characters actually seem to remember how they behaved in previous iterations and act differently in response, showing character growth across continuities. Here are two early examples.

The aftermath of Shamshel fight:
TV- Shinji and Misato meet in standard NERV cell, Shinji is in plugsuit, Misato yells at Shinji and storms out.
Manga- Shinji and Misato meet in a locker room, Shinji is in casual clothes with a hand towel around his shoulders, Misato becomes enraged and slaps Shinji in the face.
NTE- In locker room with casual clothes, Misato becomes enraged and pulls Shinji to his feet like she's going to hit him, then relents and sends him away, and when she's alone she slaps herself in the face as if in penance for what her past self did.

The party at Misato's apartment (circumstances of party vary):
TV- If I'm remembering correctly, Rei is in attendance.
Manga- Rei is absent, so Shinji discusses the party with her the next time they meet. He mentions wishing that Gendo had been at the party so they could have talked.
NTE- Rei plans a party and invites Gendo so he and Shinji will talk.



This structure is perfectly in keeping with the series' themes. Evangelion is about perseverance and facing the same struggle over and over. The TV show is already filled with repetition as Shinji essentially has to make the "Instrumentality decision", whether or not to keep going or give up, multiple times before Instrumentality itself begins. Each iteration ends with him gearing up to try life again (except maybe ANIMA, I haven't read those yet).

Another of the show's ideas is that each new perspective on a person/thing is just as real and meaningful. There is the Evangelion on TV, the Evangelion in the movie theater, the Evangelion in the manga, etc. All are valid Evangelions. The complete reality is only perceptible when you put them all together. Technically, the complete reality of Evangelion consists of every single iteration of the franchise, including all fan-fiction and the different versions of the franchise that exist in the minds of each and every person who encounters it.



One of Evangelion's major inspirations is Devilman, which also employs a time-loop structure where the same story is told over and over with variations. (Although, I find the time-loop idea to be far less interesting and thematically consistent in Devilman.)


(From later posts, so it's all in one place for new readers):

On why this structure matters:
So, I think we all agree Evangelion is a metaphor for dealing with depression. But depression isn't some dragon you slay, one-and-done, lesson learned, happy ending. It's a problem you struggle with your whole life, having constant victories and defeats. And like I said, this is present even within the show, without having to mention any time loops (although it should be noted that there are already 2 different endings to the thing, so these kinds of discussions may be unavoidable). Shinji makes the decision to return to the world each of the times he leaves NERV, and when he's inside Leliel, and when he's inside the Eva for a month. And he has to make the decision to get inside the Eva over and over, and it hurts every time. Rejecting Instrumentality isn't some single definitive decision, its just the lowest point, the direst circumstances. Extending the depression-metaphor, the previous instances are bad days, but Instrumentality is Shinji contemplating suicide. But just because he backs off from that ledge doesn't mean he won't end up there again one day.

There's an interview with Anno included in the first manga volume from around when the show was being made. I'm very Death of the Author in my approach and don't like to quote Anno too much, but it's a neat perspective. He basically points out that, since the series is made from his life, he doesn't know what will ultimately happen to the characters because the lives of himself and his coworkers aren't finished yet.

(Note that my ordering of the continuities is rough because their releases overlapped, I order them based on a mixture of when they started and what makes for the best narrative/thematic flow.)

Similarly, I think the franchise is an ongoing process. The same problems are present in each iteration, because depression never goes away, but new ones are added as the characters, the creators, and the audience all grow and change. It's done in a very subtle, surreal, and indirect way rather than "I remember my past lives!" but that's standard Evangelion- more like a poem, song, or dream than a linear novel.

In the TV show, the main issue Shinji and the others deal with is CONNECTION (all caps because Metal Gear references are fun). Everyone is failing to form and/or feel connections with others. But at the end Shinji pretty gleefully decides to keep going and pulls himself up.

In EoE, Shinji faces the same situation and fucks up. He still manages to hold on, but things are a hell of a lot bleaker, because some days you just aren't strong enough to keep your issues under control.

In the manga, though, Shinji actually does seem to move forward. He has a much easier time forming, and perhaps more importantly, feeling connections with the other characters, most especially Rei. His goal thus broadens from connection to PROTECTION. He wants to keep the people he cares about safe, and he wants to help others deal with their unhappiness, rather than just himself. He goes into EoE with a very different mindset and priorities. But things in the manga are still grim because, no matter how many lessons you've learned, life shits on you anyway.

ANIMA hasn't been released here yet, so I can't speak as to what's going on there. But I do think the characters are meant to overall be doing better, at least because they're older.

The Rebuilds is where this structure really kicks into high gear.

In 1.11, the characters seem to zoom through the CONNECTION conflict. The scene where he accuses Misato of staying safe in the control center while he's in real danger is a parallel to a scene from near the end of the manga. There, she didn't know how to respond. In the movie, he brings it up sooner, but she quickly responds with You Are (Not) Alone, the most direct statement of connection in the whole series. And it's literalized by all of Japan sending him power.

2.22 has him reach his PROTECTION state much sooner when he wills himself to become a god to save Rei. This echoes a scene from the manga version of EoE, when he can't reach Unit-01 because of the bakelite. In EoE, he just waits until Asuka is already dead, then Unit-01 responds to his despair, goes berserk, and reaches for him. In the manga, he is determined to protect her, so he orders Unit-01 to move, which it does, then goes to the surface and takes on the Mass-Produced Evas like a badass.

This isn't even talking about all the strides of character growth Rei and Asuka take throughout the first two movies. Everyone is hitting their previous landmark moments much faster, and finding new ways to grow and connect.

But depression isn't a battle that can be won forever, it's ongoing and sometimes You Can (Not) Advance, so 3.33 brings us back to EoE levels of misery. And the plot, at least, seems inspired by ANIMA, what with the time skip and new, more advanced Eva types- just a much darker take on it.

So there ya go. I think the characters are growing and learning, at least subconsciously, and I think this structure, while odd, fits well with the way Evangelion has always handled things. Evangelion, while often tragic, is a hopeful story, and so it makes sense that the characters would launch themselves into events over and over, hoping to handle it better this time. I look at it as a parallel to a depressed person facing each new day like it's a clean slate. Because, as anyone who has struggled with depression can attest, sometimes just getting out of bed and stepping back into your life can be an immense struggle.

Please question/comment, I am eager to discuss!
Last edited by JohnRaney on Tue Jun 11, 2019 11:22 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Evangelion's 5-part Structure

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Postby Arcadia's legacy » Tue May 14, 2019 12:25 pm

My biggest issue with the sequel/time loop theory is that i fail to see what the point of it all is. Why have Shinji repeat a lesson he already learned? And if there is a good reason for doing so, should he not also remember his past life so that he can build off of what he has already learned? By wiping his memory, and having to go through all these events again, you're essentially back to square one, which kinda defeats the purpose of things and renders the whole idea pointless
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Re: Evangelion's 5-part Structure

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Postby JohnRaney » Tue May 14, 2019 2:14 pm

Hi, thanks for responding!

I've felt the same concern at times. Here are some thoughts on it.

So, I think we all agree Evangelion is a metaphor for dealing with depression. But depression isn't some dragon you slay, one-and-done, lesson learned, happy ending. It's a problem you struggle with your whole life, having constant victories and defeats. And like I said, this is present even within the show, without having to mention any time loops (although it should be noted that there are already 2 different endings to the thing, so these kinds of discussions may be unavoidable). Shinji makes the decision to return to the world each of the times he leaves NERV, and when he's inside Leliel, and when he's inside the Eva for a month. And he has to make the decision to get inside the Eva over and over, and it hurts every time. Rejecting Instrumentality isn't some single definitive decision, its just the lowest point, the direst circumstances. Extending the depression-metaphor, the previous instances are bad days, but Instrumentality is Shinji contemplating suicide. But just because he backs off from that ledge doesn't mean he won't end up there again one day.

There's an interview with Anno included in the first manga volume from around when the show was being made. I'm very Death of the Author in my approach and don't like to quote Anno too much, but it's a neat perspective. He basically points out that, since the series is made from his life, he doesn't know what will ultimately happen to the characters because the lives of himself and his coworkers aren't finished yet.

(Note that my ordering of the continuities is rough because their releases overlapped, I order them based on a mixture of when they started and what makes for the best narrative/thematic flow.)

Similarly, I think the franchise is an ongoing process. The same problems are present in each iteration, because depression never goes away, but new ones are added as the characters, the creators, and the audience all grow and change. It's done in a very subtle, surreal, and indirect way rather than "I remember my past lives!" but that's standard Evangelion- more like a poem, song, or dream than a linear novel.

In the TV show, the main issue Shinji and the others deal with is CONNECTION (all caps because Metal Gear references are fun). Everyone is failing to form and/or feel connections with others. But at the end Shinji pretty gleefully decides to keep going and pulls himself up.

In EoE, Shinji faces the same situation and fucks up. He still manages to hold on, but things are a hell of a lot bleaker, because some days you just aren't strong enough to keep your issues under control.

In the manga, though, Shinji actually does seem to move forward. He has a much easier time forming, and perhaps more importantly, feeling connections with the other characters, most especially Rei. His goal thus broadens from connection to PROTECTION. He wants to keep the people he cares about safe, and he wants to help others deal with their unhappiness, rather than just himself. He goes into EoE with a very different mindset and priorities. But things in the manga are still grim because, no matter how many lessons you've learned, life shits on you anyway.

ANIMA hasn't been released here yet, so I can't speak as to what's going on there. But I do think the characters are meant to overall be doing better, at least because they're older.

The Rebuilds is where this structure really kicks into high gear.

In 1.11, the characters seem to zoom through the CONNECTION conflict. The scene where he accuses Misato of staying safe in the control center while he's in real danger is a parallel to a scene from near the end of the manga. There, she didn't know how to respond. In the movie, he brings it up sooner, but she quickly responds with You Are (Not) Alone, the most direct statement of connection in the whole series. And it's literalized by all of Japan sending him power.

2.22 has him reach his PROTECTION state much sooner when he wills himself to become a god to save Rei. This echoes a scene from the manga version of EoE, when he can't reach Unit-01 because of the bakelite. In EoE, he just waits until Asuka is already dead, then Unit-01 responds to his despair, goes berserk, and reaches for him. In the manga, he is determined to protect her, so he orders Unit-01 to move, which it does, then goes to the surface and takes on the Mass-Produced Evas like a badass.

This isn't even talking about all the strides of character growth Rei and Asuka take throughout the first two movies. Everyone is hitting their previous landmark moments much faster, and finding new ways to grow and connect.

But depression isn't a battle that can be won forever, it's ongoing and sometimes You Can (Not) Advance, so 3.33 brings us back to EoE levels of misery. And the plot, at least, seems inspired by ANIMA, what with the time skip and new, more advanced Eva types- just a much darker take on it.

So there ya go. I think the characters are growing and learning, at least subconsciously, and I think this structure, while odd, fits well with the way Evangelion has always handled things.
Last edited by JohnRaney on Wed Jun 05, 2019 3:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Evangelion's 5-part Structure

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Postby JohnRaney » Tue May 14, 2019 2:28 pm

*SPOILERS FOR DEVILMAN FOLLOW, EITHER READ THE MANGA OR WATCH CRYBABY FIRST*

Relevant to your point:
As I said, I feel Devilman's time-loop structure, while more explicit, doesn't work as well and is more of a cash grab because it doesn't mesh with its own tone. Devilman is a tragedy where the characters all make horrible mistakes that cost lives and nobody gets what they want.

The idea (made up after the original manga was finished) is that God has placed Satan in a time-loop so that he will lose Akira Fudo over and over. The problem with this is that it ruins the tragedy. It destroys the weight of each character death if you can wave your hand and go "Ah, well, they'll be back next week." And if things reach the same ending every time, then the characters don't have a choice and aren't in control of their own destiny. Which invalidates the story's own anti-war and anti-prejudice messages and powerful drama, reducing it all to "God did it."

By contrast, Evangelion, while often tragic, is a hopeful story, and so it makes sense that the characters would launch themselves into events over and over, hoping to handle it better this time. I look at it as a parallel to a depressed person facing each new day like it's a clean slate. Because, as anyone who has struggled with depression can attest, sometimes just getting out of bed and stepping back into your life can be an immense struggle.

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Re: Evangelion's 5-part Structure

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Postby Arcadia's legacy » Tue May 14, 2019 2:42 pm

If there is a cycle, i feel it more appropriate to apply it to Anno himself instead of Shinji, and what we see in the tv series, EoE, and NTE (i wouldn't count either the manga or Anima in this case as those are written by separate individuals(i would also include Anno's other works, from Gunbuster, all the way to Shin Gojira, as that helps to paint a clearer picture) are simply byproducts of what he's going through, rather than the characters themselves looping
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Re: Evangelion's 5-part Structure

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Postby JohnRaney » Tue May 14, 2019 3:13 pm

Like I said, I'm very Death of the Author. I feel like a story isn't very interesting if it can only be applied to the experiences of a single person. And the Rebuilds go out of their way to reference the manga and ANIMA. Plus, you know, an anime is made by dozens if not hundreds of people, and is the product of all of their experiences, not just Hideaki Anno.

But again, this is just my interpretation. And Anno himself has said he wants people to form their own interpretations of the story rather than expect answers from him.


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