The Earlier Episodes -- Huh.

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The Earlier Episodes -- Huh.

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Postby NAveryW » Sun Dec 16, 2007 11:06 pm

(上のノート: I don't know whether to put this in Chit-chat or Discussion, as this seems to fall between both. It's more cerebral than "Asuka is hot", but not as involved as many of the deeper questions are. Move the topic if you are a mod and see fit.)

I recently started rewatching the series from the start (mainly to refresh my memory for Rebuild and because one of my sisters also wanted to rewatch the series) after a long time of not doing so. I've watched some of the later episodes over time and such, but not so much the earlier ones (1-10 or so).

Anyway, a strange thing happened: I was somewhat disappointed.

I guess because of my love of the style, tone, and way information is conveyed later in the series, I had come to think of that as being what Evangelion is all about and everything else in my memory had been carried up with it. I do remember not finding the series to be amazing until the descent arc, but it was interesting enough for me to continue watching.

I do also know (and have always considered it so) that the earlier, more lighthearted episodes are very necessary for the later, darker episodes to have the effect that they do. In fact, episodes like "Magma Diver" and "Both of You, Dance Like You Want to Win!" are what makes the contrast with, say, "Rei III" so effective.

And, of course, elements of uniqueness, pathos, and intellect still peek through, and are especially pervasive in episodes like "Hedgehog's Dilemma" and "Rei: Beyond Her Heart".

So, anyway, I guess what I'm saying is this: as stand-alone entities, many of the earlier episodes are just kind of entertaining and lack much of the spectacular style, artistic conveyance of plot points through insinuation, parallelism, and in-depth psychological examination that makes the later episodes so fantastic. Yes, hints of those elements are still there, but aren't nearly as developed or put to transcendent use.

How do/did you, the reader of this post (that's right! I'm talking solely to you right now!) feel about the opening and action arc when you first saw them and now? Do you feel that they stand up to the quality of the descent arc and the bitter end?

I also wonder if, although the series was already quite popular by the time Tokyo II Stood Still, the series would have had any of the lasting impact it left if Anno hadn't undergone another depression halfway through the show and went in a darker direction, or if the budget cuts hadn't forced things to be done the way they... were... done...

EDIT: Oh yes, and to make this clear, I do admire the way that information is slowly revealed and how things make sense in different ways or have different meanings upon multiple viewings of the series, and I know that several things were clearly building up to a dramatic conclusion. I'm not disregarding any of those facts.
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Postby Sailor Star Dust » Sun Dec 16, 2007 11:12 pm

Yay first reply! ^_^

Hmm... The only thing I can recall from watching Eva the first time thru is that all the episodes seem to build nicely upon the other, despite some episodes appearing to be nothing more than "filler" upon first glance.

eg, Episode 07 and the first(?) mention of "Hope" (kibou=Rei), in the series.
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Postby NAveryW » Sun Dec 16, 2007 11:18 pm

Sailor Star Dust wrote:Yay first reply! ^_^
I've seen people excited to get first replies to my YouTube videos or Flash movies, but never to just a forum post. O_o

And yes, something new and important is always revealed in every episode, even in "Jet Alone". That is something that one can't say about other great shows like Fullmetal Alchemist and Cowboy Bebop.
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Postby Sailor Star Dust » Sun Dec 16, 2007 11:23 pm

NAveryW wrote:but never to just a forum post. O_o


Chalk it up to my lack of sleep last night. ^^;

Also, I agree with what you said.

That's what I love about this series.
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Postby BrikHaus » Sun Dec 16, 2007 11:34 pm

NAveryW wrote:And yes, something new and important is always revealed in every episode, even in "Jet Alone". That is something that one can't say about other great shows like Fullmetal Alchemist and Cowboy Bebop.

Well, maybe someone like you, with your feeble mind can't.
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Postby NAveryW » Sun Dec 16, 2007 11:45 pm

BrikHaus wrote:Well, maybe someone like you, with your feeble mind can't.
I'm not saying that they're not superb shows, I'm just saying that because of their often stand-alone methodology, the overall plot is not advanced or elaborated upon in absolutely every episode.
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Postby Shiro » Mon Dec 17, 2007 12:07 am

The prologue arc's episodes, I believe, show more Anno traits and are closer to the Bitter End than the Action arc's, save 9. Episode 9 has some of the absolute best subtle character development I've seen, once I've looked into it. Walls of Jericho was an excellent scene. The rest of the Action arc I find almost disposable, but it's still important, especially 15. (Is that considered part of the Action arc? I'm not sure...) The prologue arc, however was excellent at setting up the world, and in just six episodes, you had an excellent feel for the First and the Third Children, and Misato.

But that's all hindsight. When I first watched it, I found it quite enjoyable and fun. I laughed at the humour, I appreciated how much more developed these characters were, but I didn't find it exceptional. As soon as I hit 16, it just went f-ing crazy.

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Postby Sachi » Mon Dec 17, 2007 12:56 am

NAveryW wrote:That is something that one can't say about other great shows like Fullmetal Alchemist and Cowboy Bebop.

hey, even though theyre are a few filler episodes at the beginning. you still get insight every single time .FMA is a wonderful anime. and y'know what! if you want to fight about this, we'll start something up in the off-topic room! >:P
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Re: The Earlier Episodes -- Huh.

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Postby Eva Yojimbo » Mon Dec 17, 2007 5:17 am

Since I feel very strongly about this, forgive me for nit-picking, and for the epic-ness of the post:

NAveryW wrote:So, anyway, I guess what I'm saying is this: as stand-alone entities,
I don't really think of NGE episodes as "stand-alone" entities. I guess you can, but it's merely like movements of one symphony, and to appreciate the whole it needs all the parts.

NAveryW wrote:many of the earlier episodes are just kind of entertaining
Well, besides the fact that what anyone finds entertaining is completely subjective, I think there are many glorious moments in the first half that are overlooked in favor of the 2nd half's shocks that only work because of the 1st half's setup. To just name one, so I don't go down a "list", I'll merely mention the entry plug scene in ep. 3 near the end which is excruciatingly intense and well put together.

NAveryW wrote: and lack much of the spectacular style,
Define spectacular style. Are we talking cinematic style or fictional style?

NAveryW wrote:artistic conveyance of plot points through insinuation, parallelism, and in-depth psychological examination that makes the later episodes so fantastic.
Now this, I completely disagree with. The "artistic conveyance of plot points" comes from flashes, and brief moments where an attentive viewer will note intuitively what is going on beyond the surface of the moment. I'm not sure what you mean by parallelism... I find parallelism in both the first and second half, but probably differently than how you're thinking.

The in depth psychological examination of the 2nd half works because we've built up the psyches and relationships of these characters in the first half. For instance, imagine Shinji complaining about his father in ep. 16 if we don't have the numerable scenes throughout the early episodes that have worked diligently to build up that relationship and its effects on Shinji's psychology.

In essence, what we have is the 1st half building up the lie. We see the "lie" of the series - in terms of the persona the narrative puts on - and we see the "lie" of the characters - in terms of the persona the characters put on. Breaking this wall of lies we have flashes and "insinuation" which, if it doesn't exactly hint at what's to come precisely, it certainly makes more sense in retrospect.

NAveryW wrote:Yes, hints of those elements are still there, but aren't nearly as developed or put to transcendent use.
I disagree. Most every major element is being developed from the beginning and in extremely subtle ways in many cases. The final episodes are much lighter on development and much heavier on payoff. They're the product of the first half's development.*

*I don't want to imply that many payoffs aren't merely further development. But what I'm thinking of in terms of development is more like "building from the ground up and then elaborating sufficiently". The latter episodes all work from that, so it's usually new developments instead of continued development like the first half's sustained focus.

NAveryW wrote:How do/did you, the reader of this post (that's right! I'm talking solely to you right now!) feel about the opening and action arc when you first saw them and now?
First, I don't like breaking NGE up into 3 Arcs. I feel it is entirely a 2-half series. The first 13 episodes introduce us to every major character and work their best to develop relationships and "set-up" the fictional world and throw a lot of entertainment - many being cliches - at us so the average viewer will stay interested.

Anyway, when I first saw the entire series I felt like you do: that the 1st half paled in comparison to the 2nd half. As I've begun to understand NGE more and more - especially in terms of themes, construction, craft, and other elements, I actually appreciate the 1st half now as much - if not MORE than the latter half because I do realize how... not just important, but absolutely CRUCIAL it was to making the 2nd half so great.

NAveryW wrote:Do you feel that they stand up to the quality of the descent arc and the bitter end?
Absolutely. The diversity, craft, and range of development is enough to make me declare them high quality works. But it's still rather like comparing the first half of a novel to the second half, or the first half of a song to the second half. They both work to achieve different things and both achieved their goals superbly.

NAveryW wrote:I also wonder if, although the series was already quite popular by the time Tokyo II Stood Still, the series would have had any of the lasting impact it left if Anno hadn't undergone another depression halfway through the show and went in a darker direction, or if the budget cuts hadn't forced things to be done the way they... were... done...
It's ironic that the "change" came half-way through the series and that, from all reports, it wasn't set-up quite how it ended up. But what I find so interesting, and Hiroki Azuma covered this brilliantly in his article, is how Anno condensed and then expedited his narrative, themes, and craft, and through this almost collapsed the entirety of it, giving rise to something completely new. The 2nd half of NGE isn't a different series, but it sure as hell feels like one. I have no idea how not only did it NOT become a complete incomprehensible mess, but when analyzing the amount of links between the first half and the second that it appears to be a carefully planned production and change. And that's all the more amazing in retrospect.

I've always compared NGE, in this respect, to great jazz. How they set up all of these ideas, and then, somewhere in mid-composition, decided to completely change the direction, tone, and mood while still maintaining the structure and ideas built up by the first and improvise. The first half is setup almost classically and more formally presented. We have a pattern to the episodes, we have a rhythm to how things develop, we have... not really "predictability", but I would say a more rhythmically agreeable flow to events. The second half completely breaks this rhythm and what we get is a much more jagged and improvisational compositional style (rather than a carefully composed one) that works because not only do we get the sense from the plot that things are breaking down, but every element of the series conveys this message, and a large portion of that is due to contrast of what came before it.


NAveryW wrote:I'm not disregarding any of those facts.
I think it's just somewhat of that attitude of "Well, Stargate in 2001 is so phenomenal, I'll just forge the first 2hrs and get to that part". The problem is that people don't realize how crucial setup is to payoff. It's like a joke; you laugh at the punchline, but you appreciate the setup and how it's delivered.

I love the first half simply because it's not as crucial, dense, and heavy in terms of important thematic themes or plot, so you are really more free to take time and notice the subtleties of the craft including the foreshadowing and developmental techniques.
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Postby NAveryW » Tue Dec 18, 2007 5:51 pm

Thanks for that, Yojimbo. After reading it, I'm inclined to agree with you. Additionally, I watched two of the same episodes I'd watched a couple of days ago and enjoyed them more this time... I may have just not been in the mindset to appreciate them as much before.

However, I never found anything early in the series to be "intense", though that really depends on one caring strongly about the characters, which I tried not to.
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Postby chee » Wed Dec 19, 2007 1:35 am

Shiro wrote:The prologue arc's episodes, I believe, show more Anno traits and are closer to the Bitter End than the Action arc's <snip>


Agreed,
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Postby EvaCub » Wed Dec 19, 2007 10:09 am

I really like how the show weaves everything together by the end.
The show gripped me by the beginning of descent
I strongly apprciate how everything in the series (episode wise) added to the series in whole
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Postby Heresy » Sun Dec 23, 2007 12:13 am

The first episode I saw was The Magma Diver. I was actually really impressed, looking back at it, with how well it portrayed certain character traits and reactions in certain situations. I though Asuka was highly developed in that episode, and in "the Day Tokyo-3 stood still," especially when she takes the hit from that monster's acid. The episodes really build on her whininess and portray a sort of warrior mentality, something that's almost completely lost or abandoned later in the series. The same thing happens with Rei and Shinji, were we see the beginnings of the ghost of a maternal relationship between Rei and Shinji and the origin of Shinji's "Hedgehog" complex- only if you know how maladjusted Shinji was when he started out can you understand how far he comes and how far he falls. Watching the early ten episodes really gives you a better understanding and context for the characters' ultimate fates. So, yes, I thought that the early episodes were incredibly detailed and, at times, subtle, especially when revealing information about Ritsuko or Misato, or even Gendo.

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Postby zeaven » Sat Dec 29, 2007 8:04 am

Eva Yojimbo wrote:I love the first half simply because it's not as crucial, dense, and heavy in terms of important thematic themes or plot, so you are really more free to take time and notice the subtleties of the craft including the foreshadowing and developmental techniques.


This is the key, and I probably didn't realize all the analysis I was doing in these episodes until at least the 5th time watching the series, by which point I had all the main plot ideas down and was looking for more subtle and delicious details. I somehow still manage to get emotional watching the series, and in the latter half, most of my time is spent just going "Boy, I can't wait until so and so happens." and start counting down to each big/shocking/awesome event beforehand. There really is a huge amount of groundwork laid in the first half, and it's always amazing to me to notice the reuse of certain shots or objects from then. They really serve as context; every so often, when Rei squeezes the glasses, you're forced to reevaluate what they symbolize, and to consider the context of the current scene. Consider what's going on around each repeated image, and you'll find that they often have different meanings as time goes on.

One thing that always got to me, was how the later half completely destroys the innocent "collateral" people that we've grown to love in the first half. The lesser children in Shinji's class aren't fleshed out too much at first, but at least you can sympathize and you get a little background for their characters before the rug is essentially pulled out from under them later. What's even worse than that, however... is that they simply disappear. This is a case where what's NOT there is more important than what is... after all the fucked up stuff happens, they just leave. No goodbyes, no real conclusions. This sort of thing contributes to the idea of how much of a human drama Evangelion is.

I don't think it's fair to say the 1st half is possibly better than the 2nd because the 2nd is based on it. You could then say, well, Nadia is better than Evangelion because it inspired several parts of it. It doesn't make much sense to me.
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Postby Kaysow » Sat Dec 29, 2007 10:35 am

I like to think that the first 13 or so episodes as the the part where they were still trying to make a run-of-the-mill anime, and everything afterwards is the part where this standardized anime blooms out and goes straight to hell, which makes for a magnificent spectacle.
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Postby Eva Yojimbo » Sat Dec 29, 2007 2:35 pm

Kaysow wrote:I like to think that the first 13 or so episodes as the the part where they were still trying to give the illusion they were making a run-of-the-mill anime,
Fixed. There's enough evidence to show that they were never trying to make a run of the mill anime. But they had to set up the cliches so they could completely destroy them later.
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Postby Themaninblack » Sat Dec 29, 2007 4:47 pm

The very reasons you state for somewhat not liking the begining of Evangelion make me wonder how the hell LAEM would be done.
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Postby NAveryW » Sat Dec 29, 2007 5:47 pm

I never said I didn't like them. Also, read my response to Jimbo's post.
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Postby UrsusArctos » Sat Dec 29, 2007 6:33 pm

Eva Yojimbo wrote:Fixed. There's enough evidence to show that they were never trying to make a run of the mill anime. But they had to set up the cliches so they could completely destroy them later.


Indeed...watch Episode 01 closely. And what Misato says after Shinji's encounter with Pen Pen in Episode 02. Fairly easy to ignore, but very unconventional indeed. The closest NGE came to being conventional was during the action arc, Episodes 08 to 12 (13 is so loaded with thematic significance to one of the NGE's deepest themes that it barely qualifies as being in the action arc, although the happy ending ruins it somewhat)
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Postby Kaysow » Sat Dec 29, 2007 9:05 pm

Eva Yojimbo wrote:
Kaysow wrote:I like to think that the first 13 or so episodes as the the part where they were still trying to give the illusion they were making a run-of-the-mill anime,
Fixed. There's enough evidence to show that they were never trying to make a run of the mill anime. But they had to set up the cliches so they could completely destroy them later.


May be, but I don't think they ever intended from scratch to take it this far. That was a result of the budget getting fucked and the director going insane. Otherwise it'd probably ended up with some plottwists at the end, but without the fuck-you-this-is-my-show-I-do-what-I-want-with-it-you-already-took-your-money-out-attitude.

EDIT: And it would have been forgotten by the turn of the century.
If I have no soul to touch, no heart to love, no evil to rise up above
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