Death of the Author and Anno

For serious and at times in-depth discussions only, covering the original TV series, the movies End of Evangelion and Death & Rebirth.

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Postby Azathoth » Thu Aug 08, 2013 9:41 am

Yeah, thanks for posting it. I was so engrossed in it last night I forgot to return to this thread...at any rate, it hammers about a thousand fucking nails into the coffin of the notion that Eva is 100% the product of Anno, and not just because Tsurumaki read Shinji differently than Anno did.
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Postby Bagheera » Thu Aug 08, 2013 10:08 am

View Original PostAzathoth wrote:Yeah, thanks for posting it. I was so engrossed in it last night I forgot to return to this thread...at any rate, it hammers about a thousand fucking nails into the coffin of the notion that Eva is 100% the product of Anno, and not just because Tsurumaki read Shinji differently than Anno did.


Not so sure about that. Look at Anno's reaction to Tsurumaki's take and 'maki's response. Also look at how the director of 19 spun things to give Anno what he wanted while inserting enough vagueness so as to allow for other interpretations. Seems to me that Anno's take on things rules the roost, and always has.
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Postby jetlagger » Sun Aug 11, 2013 8:12 am

I agree with Chuckman, back in the first page, that great works of art art are usually able to stand on their own to legs, regardless of the reader's knowledge of the work's background.

However, to quote the great writer and Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee, true and in-depth appreciation of any work of art does require a certain understanding of the complex "social-historical matrix" in which it was created. Don Quijote, for example, becomes an entirely different work if one knows a little bit of the societal tensions and literary fads of Golden Age Spain.

Coming back to Evangelion, I always thought of it as a fin-de-siécle work. Anno gave a number of interviews mentioning how he was affected by the general malaise permeating early 90's post-bubble Japan - economic stagnation, deflation, rising student prostitution, freaky murder cases, apathy, the Metro bombings, the slow deterioration of established values...The manga (which I very much like), which started in late 94, slightly before the TV series, also carries those subterranean themes.

Anno thrived in that era and he astounding success of NGE is, IMO, a enduring testament of how deeply he was the connect with his audience and make something entertaining out of the many anxieties of post-industrial Japan.

What EVA later became and all his later interviews, digressions and equivocations do not, and should not impact the way we interpret and appreciate the original work. If anything, the history of literary/film/media criticism shows us that the authors themselves are frequently the worst people to go to when interpreting a single work of art. People are often not able to articulate the maelstrom of influences, desires, fears and pressures that lead them to produce a certain work.

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Postby FreakyFilmFan4ever » Tue Aug 13, 2013 3:04 pm

Now I would like to discuss the moments of Evangelion that tend to throw conventional "Death of the Author" ideas out of the window. Namely, these:

Death  SPOILER: Show
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End of Evangelion  SPOILER: Show
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These are moments that, I feel, are clearly part of the films. Especially the examples in The End of Evangelion.

The Titles in Death literally involve the "author" (Anno) breaking the 4th wall and telling the audience exactly what this work is supposed to be like. Granted, he still doesn't do much to explain or interpret anything we see in the rest of the movies. But he makes an effort of pointing out that, of all the versions of this movie that exist, THIS is the definitive version. Not the other ones. THIS one.

Now, Anno's "Thank You" title cards mid-way through End of Evangelion can easily be dismissed as Anno pretending to have an oscar speech moment or something. Maybe just a small dedication, like in the beginning of a book or something. Regardless, it certainly wouldn't be something that would be useful in interpreting the text of EoE, would it? Well, usually that would be the case.

But, usually things aren't directed by Hideaki Anno.

He takes another moment mid-way through the second half of the film just to flash a bunch of still images of various kinds of feedback he's received, both good and bad, about Evangelion.

Now, in every case, whether they may be titles carrying direct statements of Anno or images of other people's direct statements right back at him, these things have one thing in common: Neither of them are incorporated into the narrative of Evangelion. Nowhere in the movie is there a scene of Gendo picking up and reading some hate mail, Shinji's not thanking any of the 5 women in his life, and Asuka isn't reading the inscription about how Death was meant to be done panted on a window pane somewhere in the street. Sure, in EoTV everyone's giving Shinji a standing ovation while Shinji's thanking his father and bidding good-bye to his mother. But all of that is gone from EoE. No one's clapping for Shinji, and Shinji thanks no one. Even when he had the opportunity to bid Yui good-bye, he just floats uselessly up to the surface of the Ocean of LCL.

None of this is to point out the differences between the endings, but rather it's to point out when Anno incorporates ideas into the characters within his story, and when he just spits them out onto the screen as a direct message to only his viewers, keeping any of the characters from catching onto the same ideas being presented.

Because these moments irrevocably part of the films, part of the message being presented to us viewers, and because these are direct statements from the author about the author, well, this kind of throws conventional "Death of the Author" theories around for a loop. We can't dismiss that Anno presupposed Death once and interrupted the narrative flow of End of Evangelion twice, hence these things must be a part of the film and therefore any interpretation of the film must include all of these moments along with it.

So, with all of that stated, is it wrong to consider Anno's past with those 5 women he thanked when it comes to defining Shinji as a character in EoE, if only in a compare/contrast sort of way, especially since Anno has always said that Shinji was a self insert? (Shinji clearly seems to emotionally react differently in EoTV as opposed to EoE. Is Anno thanking the 5 women in EoE as Shinji thanked people in EoTV supposed to contrast how Shinji isn't tanking anyone in EoE? What does this mean for the character in the two endings?)

Anno literally uses the work itself to invite us to reach beyond the frames of the movie and into his creative preference, personal life, and his professional life in order to interpret the work. Should we take it? Would "Death of the Author" allow it? At this point, are were simply separating "text" from other "text"? Is everything, even the movie and the TV series, all "text"? If so, what is the proper text for interpreting Eva?
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Postby NemZ » Tue Aug 13, 2013 5:56 pm

View Original PostFreakyFilmFan4ever wrote:The Titles in Death literally involve the "author" (Anno) breaking the 4th wall and telling the audience exactly what this work is supposed to be like. Granted, he still doesn't do much to explain or interpret anything we see in the rest of the movies. But he makes an effort of pointing out that, of all the versions of this movie that exist, THIS is the definitive version. Not the other ones. THIS one.


And yet we have no requirement at all to go along with his suggestion. Anno can add to, subtract from, clarify, comment, and generally dick around with the film all he wants, it doesn't unmake the earlier releases or have any force to compel me to accept his newer versions as the one true item.

It's exactly the same as Lucas' reworking of the original SW trillogy to vomit badly dated CG everywhere. I feel perfectly content ignoring that crap.

Now, Anno's "Thank You" title cards mid-way through End of Evangelion can easily be dismissed as Anno pretending to have an oscar speech moment or something. Maybe just a small dedication, like in the beginning of a book or something. Regardless, it certainly wouldn't be something that would be useful in interpreting the text of EoE, would it? Well, usually that would be the case.

But, usually things aren't directed by Hideaki Anno.


It happens at the 'episode break', so yes, I feel perfectly content dismissing that as anything important to the film.

He takes another moment mid-way through the second half of the film just to flash a bunch of still images of various kinds of feedback he's received, both good and bad, about Evangelion.


At that point the film is all about showing the barriers between people being torn apart, and doing so by breaking the 4th wall in this manner (as well as the section showing an audience looking at themselves and the few cuts of real world video) is a stylistic choice. Personally I think it distracts from the narrative too much to justify it's inclusion, and as such is just a wasteful self indulgence on the director's part; a clever experiment at the expense of the larger work. It's the same story with the many homages throughout the series and films that only serve to distract from the narrative with irrelevant trivia... a common bad habit of many fanboy-turned-directors.

Because these moments irrevocably part of the films, part of the message being presented to us viewers, and because these are direct statements from the author about the author, well, this kind of throws conventional "Death of the Author" theories around for a loop.


The legal notices, credits, titles and various studio logo bits are physically part of the film but I'm equally comfortable ignoring them when discussing the film, just as I don't particularly care about dedications in other films. The only parts that can't be dismissed outright are the instrumentality fragments which I've already addressed.
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Postby FreakyFilmFan4ever » Tue Aug 13, 2013 7:07 pm

View Original PostNemZ wrote:At that point the film is all about showing the barriers between people being torn apart, and doing so by breaking the 4th wall in this manner (as well as the section showing an audience looking at themselves and the few cuts of real world video) is a stylistic choice. Personally I think it distracts from the narrative too much to justify it's inclusion, and as such is just a wasteful self indulgence on the director's part; a clever experiment at the expense of the larger work.

Notice I didn't say anything about interpreting the narrative, but rather the movie itself. With as many times as the author breaks the narrative, there must be something "greater" or simply "bigger" than the narrative at work here. Besides, ignoring part of the movie is hardly conducive to exploring all of the movie. To ignore the film in part is to suggest that you could ignore the film as a whole.

This is different from Lucas' "Director's Cuts" or Anno's extended episodes, in that the original un-tampered with editions are still right there in the disc set. (Lucas may not have done as proper of a transfer as we would have liked, but it's still there.) You can safely ignore one complete version while holding to an alternate complete version, therefore not resulting in cherry-picking the parts you want to pay attention to. Heck, you can even do that with Death, as there are apparently two or three different cuts of that movie.

But there is no alternate cut of EoE that was released to theaters or DVD. Sure, there's a deleted scene that accessible on the net and stuff, but it's still not included in the text of the film itself, but rather it is included in the text about the film.

A film isn't simply a series is narrative information that you can store into your head either. It's also about mood, tone, sometimes even about the experimentation itself. There's little of no narrative information inside a film like Koyaanisqatsi and yet it still works as a film mainly because film is about more than just an accumulation of narrative factoids.

Nowhere in the Eva series is this more prominent that in the original EoTV. You take out all of the moods, tones, and experimentation, and, because the episodes have little to no conventional form of presenting itself, you're left with a bland representation of the narrative: "Shinji is sad. Misato is sad. Asuka is sad. Rei is confused. Shinji is still sad. Shinji is now becoming happier. Shinji is okay with being in this world. Congratulations."

Now granted, it's a little harder to ignore the experimentation in EoTV because, unlike EoE, it's extremely tightly woven into its narrative. Simply because it's experimental and extremely unlike the preceding episodes doesn't mean you can safely ignore it, even if because of the simple fact that it's included into the series.

The same thing is true with the dream scene in EoE. Yes, it experimental. Yes, just like EoTV was different from the rest of the series, the dream scene is unlike the rest of the movie. But it's at this point we're supposed to ask "Why is this in here?" instead of ignoring it and dismissing it as experimental shlock. In fact, dismissing this scene entirely makes Asuka and Rei's discussion of dreams in Episode 23 completely trivial. There is a reason for that reversal in the roles of Asuka and Rei between these two dream related scenes, and they're hardly discussed manly because fans dismiss the scene as merely experimental and not important to the rest of the film.

Why did Anno decide to go into live-action in a dream scene rather than live-action? We're suddenly questioning film conventions. Usually a hazy visual effect and a heavily reverberated sound effect is placed over convectional dream scenes to help highlight the differences in their use and purpose to the film from the uses and purposes of the scenes surrounding it. Maybe that's why Anno's going for the live-action look, so as to separate the use of this scene from the use of the animated scenes.

Why does he want to separate the use or purpose of this scenes? What's so different about its use that we need to visually separate it so drastically to begin with? It's the mid-point scene of ONE MORE FINAL: I need you, a scene that's in around the middle of just about any film or story you can think of where the film breaks away from the narrative focus for a while and just focuses on the themes and message around the film. (The TV series cleverly does this by just letting Episodes 13-15 become the mid-point scene to the entire series, rather than giving each episode it's own mid-point scene.) And because of EoE's reductio ad absurdum of the visual and narrative form following Shinji giving into Instrumentality, in fact throughout all of the "Komm, Susser Tod" scene, it allows for the visuals to break completely from the film into total absurdum represented with something completely foreign compared to the rest of the visual style of Evangelion: Live-Action Film.

It happens at the 'episode break', so yes, I feel perfectly content dismissing that as anything important to the film.

I agree that things like credits and the movie's main title generally shouldn't be considered part of the message, but title cards other than those listed are a little in the gray area. (Though I sometimes joke around that the characters could see the in-episode credits of a TV show, and knowing whether or not the episode they're in is critically doomed.) Having a moment in the film disconnected from the main body of the rest of the film isn't too sturdy of an argument for separating them from the rest of the film, either. For example, would this make scenes at the end of the credits equally as pointless, as they're not included in the main body of the rest of the narrative? End credit scenes like, say.... the one at the end of Ha, right before the preview? Are end credit scenes more likely to become part of the narrative simply because you can see what's going on instead of just reading it? What does this mean for things like the opening crawl in the Star Wars movies? Obviously coming up with a hard standard for "this is included" and "this is not" is gong to be kind of difficult. It would probably look more like an elaborate network of what's a part of the film's message (not necessarily the narrative, but the message) and what's not.

I'm interested to see what others think, though.
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Postby Mr. Jive » Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:30 am

I don't know whether anno is arrogant prick or a nutbar? He say he added the religion stuff just for the fun of it. What make you think all the other stuff he wrote was not just for the fun of it? He says the fans look to far into things. While that maybe true it still feel like he's taking a jab at the fans. Then he says he don't know why anyone like any of the characters from Eva cause all the characters from the show are sick. Just who made up all these sick characters in the first place? Either something is wrong whit this man or this is all a desperate cry for attention?

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Postby Reichu » Mon Nov 11, 2013 11:06 am

View Original PostMr. Jive wrote:He say he added the religion stuff just for the fun of it.

He called it "pedantry", from what I recall.

Then he says he don't know why anyone like any of the characters from Eva cause all the characters from the show are sick.

Sadamoto said that, not Anno.

He says the fans look to far into things.

I can't recall a quote for that offhand, but I do know he said that Eva is a puzzle for which we all have to find our own answers.

In any case, Anno flat-out admitted in a pre-release letter that he was using NGE to "burn his feelings to film" and that the endeavor was "selfish". He seems acutely self-aware.
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Postby Chuckman » Mon Nov 11, 2013 5:25 pm

"Evangelion is like a puzzle, you know. Any person can see it and give his/her own answer. In other words, we're offering viewers to think by themselves, so that each person can imagine his/her own world. We will never offer the answers, even in the theatrical version. As for many Evangelion viewers, they may expect us to provide the 'all-about Eva' manuals, but there is no such thing. Don't expect to get answers by someone. Don't expect to be catered to all the time. We all have to find our own answers." -PA #43, translated by Miyako Graham from 11/96 Newtype

Re: End titles

Anno, like Kubrick, often incorporates the unreality of film into the film itself. The use of the live action sequences in EoE, especially the camera pan over the audience (note that the audience is looking back through the film at the actual audience in a feedback loop of observer-observing-observer) is not unlike the deliberate appearance of the shadow of a helicopter at the beginning of The Shining. It acknowledges that it is unreal.

The dreamlike nature of EoE is an extension of the missing watch and figure of Rei from the first episode. Evangelion depicts a reality under strain. Its realness is internalyl fragile, and can be stressed to the point where it breaks. Shinji is heaven, dreaming of hell.

Anyway, title cards don't throw "death of the author" out the window. Death of the author doesn't mean that the author literally doesn't exist. The work was obviously created by someone. (Note that there are extreme postmodernists who argue that the author doesn't exist, {the gist of that argument being that all creative works are the product of collective human expression; Anno did not so much create Evangelion as he arranged archetypal concepts- he didn't invent giant robots, or teenage boys, or surrogate mothers who crave their surrogate son's sexual advances} although it's more complex than that; I don't agree with them) That person's interpretation doesn't have primacy, though, because they may not have a full awareness of what they are inserting into their work, and especially with film and animation because it isn't the product of one person.

In other words, Anno can tell me what Evangelion means to him. He cannot dictate what Evangelion means to me. Only Evangelion can tell me what Evangelion means. This is not selfish, it's realist. We can't understand it the same way because we're not the same.
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Postby Bagheera » Mon Nov 11, 2013 7:45 pm

View Original PostChuckman wrote:That person's interpretation doesn't have primacy, though, because they may not have a full awareness of what they are inserting into their work, and especially with film and animation because it isn't the product of one person.


The problem with that approach is that the author's in a much better position to be aware of what was inserted into his work than you are, and that means his interpretation should have primacy when ascertaining the intended message/theme/mood/plot of the show. It isn't unilateral, of course, because it's true that he is not aware of all of his influences, and this is doubly so when it comes to collaborative works. But until you've scrutinized the work as much as he has, and are as familiar with the circumstances of the work's creation, you are necessarily working with much more assumption than he is. That means your interpretation can't possibly be as accurate as his.

It's one thing to say the author is not the final word on the subject, or that he might not be aware of all of his influences, or that his work might convey messages he did not intend to express. It's quite another to say his viewpoint is no more valid than any other, and a statement of extreme hubris at that. Matters change when speaking of uses of the work that venture beyond the scope of authorial intent; for those specific cases the concept has some intellectual weight, but without such caveats the DotA concept is dead in the water.

In other words, Anno can tell me what Evangelion means to him. He cannot dictate what Evangelion means to me. Only Evangelion can tell me what Evangelion means. This is not selfish, it's realist. We can't understand it the same way because we're not the same.


Yes, but what Evangelion means to you is irrelevant to anyone who is not you. All works of art amount to the artist's effort to convey his thoughts and feelings to the world; as such, we are not interested in any single individual's interpretation of the work. Instead, we are interested in what the artist was trying to say and how well he managed to say it. So we look to the author to learn about what he wanted to say, and scrutinize the work to see how that sentiment was conveyed. Making up interpretations that have nothing to do with that effort fails to address the questions most of us have when observing a work. This is why DotA will never have any real traction outside of rarefied elements of academia -- its basic premise is fundamentally at odds with how most people experience art.
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Postby Chuckman » Mon Nov 11, 2013 8:07 pm

Your use of the term "accuracy" implies that there is a single meaning to be discerned which is "correct" and all others are somehow false.

Ain't so. Ain't never been. Art is not didactic. Art is a conversation. Art is manipulation of one human's brain by another in a purer form that mere language can achieve. Art is magick.

If Eva has one and only one "true" meaning, why are we still talking about it? It's about Anno's depression and the value of human relationships. Okay, fine. Why does that mean it is somehow not about all the other things it's about?

Really, arguing about the author's meaning is intellectually kind of vapid. It's an appeal to authority when none is necessary. You can construct all of Anno's "intended" meanings by watching the show and skipping the interviews and ancillary materials entirely, with the exception of minutiae of technobabble that the show doesn't elaborate on because it's not especially important, amusing as it may be to think about.

Moby Dick is about more than a dude that hates a whale. The Shining is about more than a haunted house. Eva is about more than a depressed boy that rides his mother.

The test for the validity of an interpretation is the internal consistency and textual evidence for said interpretation.
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Postby Bagheera » Mon Nov 11, 2013 8:17 pm

View Original PostChuckman wrote:Your use of the term "accuracy" implies that there is a single meaning to be discerned which is "correct" and all others are somehow false.


When it comes to the ideas and meanings the author sought to convey that is exactly correct. There are plenty of other things in the show to talk about, of course, but my point is that DotA is only useful with caveats. When it's applied broadly, as you and many others have sought to do, it loses both is validity and its utility in a hurry.

Ain't so. Ain't never been. Art is not didactic. Art is a conversation. Art is manipulation of one human's brain by another in a purer form that mere language can achieve. Art is magick.


:rolleyes:
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Postby EvangelionFan » Mon Nov 11, 2013 9:51 pm

Death of the author ... more like Death of the BUDGET, am I rite!?


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Postby NemZ » Tue Nov 12, 2013 12:01 am

What it all boils down to is that I don't care what Anno meant to say, I care what I heard.
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Postby Reichu » Tue Nov 12, 2013 3:33 am

View Original PostNemZ wrote:What it all boils down to is that I don't care what Anno meant to say, I care what I heard.

Reichu wonders why one can't do both...
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Postby Stillborn » Tue Nov 12, 2013 4:45 am

Because we are not being paid to exhaust our minds beyond what we seen ourselvs, to understand whan Anno seen in this? :tongue:
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Postby Chuckman » Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:13 am

View Original PostReichu wrote:Reichu wonders why one can't do both...


One can! I post and think about Anno all the time. Sometimes I even construct meanings for elements of the show based on things he's said in interviews.

I simply refuse to take "Anno (or someone else) said X" as an argument against a perfectly interpretation of the series because it's not really an argument.

DotA comes up outside of this thread because people insist on doing that.

Funnily enough, Anno's intent always seems to matter except for the quote I posted upthread.
the prophecy is true

Statistical fact: Cops will never pull over a man with a huge bong in his car. Why? They fear this man. They know he sees further than they and he will bind them with ancient logics. —Marty Mikalski

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Postby Bagheera » Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:25 am

What is said and what it means to us are two very different things. The problem only arises when people use DotA to substitute a pet theory for what is actually given to us in the work. That's not how it's meant to be used, and the result, as expected, is confusion and disagreement.
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Postby Chuckman » Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:36 am

View Original PostBagheera wrote:What is said and what it means to us are two very different things. The problem only arises when people use DotA to substitute a pet theory for what is actually given to us in the work.


"Evangelion is like a puzzle, you know. Any person can see it and give his/her own answer. In other words, we're offering viewers to think by themselves, so that each person can imagine his/her own world. We will never offer the answers, even in the theatrical version. As for many Evangelion viewers, they may expect us to provide the 'all-about Eva' manuals, but there is no such thing. Don't expect to get answers by someone. Don't expect to be catered to all the time. We all have to find our own answers." -PA #43, translated by Miyako Graham from 11/96 Newtype

:devil:
the prophecy is true

Statistical fact: Cops will never pull over a man with a huge bong in his car. Why? They fear this man. They know he sees further than they and he will bind them with ancient logics. —Marty Mikalski

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Postby Reichu » Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:02 am

...Which is a bald-faced lie, even if he didn't think so at the time.

IMO, a personal interpretation should be tempered against the artist's intentions. At the point that there is irreconcilable disagreement, you might as well go make something original.
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