Would you consider EoE an example of high culture?

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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Susie Bakha
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Would you consider EoE an example of high culture?

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Postby Susie Bakha » Wed Nov 23, 2022 4:03 pm

Hey guys, here’s a notion, I find somewhat interesting. If you would be asked to enumerate works which could be regarded as high culture, would The End of Evangelion find itself somewhere on that list? Some time ago, I’ve had an interesting lesson about what we perceive as mass culture, and what we tend to class as high culture. As I was thinking about it, I stumbled upon an interesting thought - wouldn’t EoE be a representative of this „high culture”? And I suppose that yes, we could consider it that.

The crucial thing about high culture is artistic value. For me it’s quite obvious that EoE has a lot of it. It is a critically acclaimed movie, highly esteemed by many, for its storytelling, animation, message, the list goes on. The End of Evangelion proves that anime can be more than a slice-of-life/romcom show for otakus to drool over, it can also be art.
Let’s stop here. What does „art” mean? For me, it seems like this term is slowly starting to lose its meaning. Nowadays, the mere fact of something being good is enough to justify calling it „art”, while this concept is strongly associated with high culture. Having great animation, soundtrack or a gripping plot doesn’t automatically make something worhy of being termed „art”. Let’s take, for instance, Chainsaw Man (it is a fairly new and popular topic nowadays among people who watch anime, so I think it makes a proper example). As the anime adaptation of the manga aired quite recently, more people made their aquitance with Chainsaw Man, thus its reception is amazing. Everyone’s praising the animation and music, as well as many start to acknowledge Tatsuko Fujimoto’s storytelling skills. However, still, I wouldn’t call Chainsaw Man „art”. And before, you’ll get your knife out, let me explain something. It is a very good manga, in its own right, but still a work of popular culture. The storytelling deserves a long analysis of its genius and quaint nature, but there’s nothing deep about the plot, after all. What differs popular and high culture is its target audience and the meaning behind it. High culture isn’t trying to attract the attention of the masses, it’s targeted towards a more sensitive consumer, who can appreciate it for artistic value. Apart from that, it should also constitute a work which has the ability to astound the consumer, perhaps affect their worldview, or at least make them think, contemplate the meaning of life. Something like that…

I sure hope this tirade about the definition of art and high culture was somewhat comprehensive, I did my best. I figured that a proper explanation of those terms is important to understand my point about EoE.

Now, in my view The End of Evangelion is a representative of high culture. Apart from the previously mentioned artistic values, it is a beautiful, symbolic and meaningful story. It’s not a work targeted towards the masses, it’s not a feel-good movie, to watch after a hard day at work. It’s a quaint, enigmatic story, which after you’ve come to comprehend (or perhaps someone helped you understand it) makes you wonder a bit about the meaning of life, how should we deal with the omnipresent pain and solitude. I mean, just cast your minds back to the last Misato scene or the goddamn ending, and tell my it isn’t sheer art.

With that, I would like to begin a discussion. You guys agree or, do you think I’m exaggerating a bit? Please share anything you have on your mind. Would love to see someone with higher awareness of what art and culture is. A more profesional approach, than the one I presented, would be nice (not that it’s hard).

Also, I’m not a native, so if you have objections to my English, please correct me, by all means. Writing here is a great form of practicing my language skills, so you’ll do me a favour.
"..."

-Rei

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Re: Would you consider EoE an example of high culture?

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Postby sithsauron » Wed Nov 23, 2022 9:02 pm

I would qualify EOE as high quality and high production-value Abstract Art, but not High Culture. It does approach the trajectory of a High Culture potentiality, but it is no Kurosawa.

Non-Japanese speakers like myself would not be able to adequately prove 100% whether it is or is not high culture, since we have no knowledge of classical or contemporary Japanese literary forms. Japanese literary forms may be present in character speech, or visual metaphors, and us gaijin's wouldn't have foreknowledge to catch them. Literary forms with extra depth could be present in the script and screenplay, but if the interpreters didn't bother to find English or other language equivalent sentences with impact, we might never know. However non-Japanese speakers can still provide decent critical points, counter points, and critiques, so that raises the question...

Can High Culture occur in the realm of Geek-dom?
For instance, we could say the film AKIRA is a ground-breaking film that led to a revolution of animation storytelling never seen before on both a visual and literary level, yet anime is a medium very much rooted in Geek Culture. If the prevalent viewpoint is Geek Culture cannot achieve High Culture, then by logic it is unlikely that EOE achieves High Culture as well.

Whenever there is a revolution in a medium, it is more likely we see examples of arguably High Culture. It the golden era of black-and-white films with sound, would Hitchcock films be considered High Culture? or would he just be considered the quintessential pioneer of the horror genre, with some of the most highly regarded horror films? Can horror films be considered as High Culture at all?

Therefore, it would be better for one to list items that you might consider to be High Culture, and even put them on a 1 to 10 spectrum and see if EOE fits in between them. Starting with Chainsaw Man to demonstrate what you would not consider High Culture is an OK start, I guess.

Hideaki included tons of allegory, reference, and research from various Western works from different time periods, from Moby Dick, to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas, to 1900's Era Sci-Fi classics, which set the tone for an adventure into the un-understood (if you peruse the evageeks wiki, you find the which Sci Fi titles get referenced). Were there any references to eastern and Japanese Sci Fi, of any time period? It's nice that Hideaki carried on the Sci Fi tradition that inspired his childhood, and then slammed the gas pedal hard enough to create something that almost feels transcendent to those inspirations. But do the best of pre-and-post WW2 Sci Fi novels count as High Culture? Do the most popular Industrial Age Adventure Classics for boys count as High Culture? Or were those books just classical to contemporary pre-shonen-shonen? Is Tolkein looking at you with contempt? Are the hard working peoples of Narnia getting mad at you for your whatever's-less-than-reverence opinions about them? Can Sci Fi even be classified as High Culture on a whole? Is EOE the first Sci Fi in history that could be considered High Culture, while the rest fall to the wayside to be historically considered as simple-to-advanced-but-still-mostly-just teenage entertainment? Regardless of the time period it was published? Does Neuromancer and Bladerunner spit venomously at your direction for even the mention of such a notion?

Hideaki also draws heavily on pre-Judaic Sumerian religious tales, which one can consider the world's first Sci Fi in religion form (unless you count Egyptian Mythology as literary). It transformed Judaism/Christianity/Islam over the ages. Do the stories of the Talmud, Torah, Bible and Quran count as High Culture? (If your religious, don't worry, we already know your answer).

Lots of what is considered high culture in the Western world occurred about a hundred years after the printing press was invented in Germany in the 1400s. The result was the oral linguistics of hundreds of dialects within a single European country (for every European country) being mass produced and massively shared with the mass production of books. Shakespear in the 1500s had thousands of years of dialectical forms of cleverness available to him as they were published from each highly unique patois from each single unique town in Britain to draw on, and poetic forms from books previously copied by hand transformed into literary forms printed on a page. And after that literary explosion, over time language would coalesce, be highly refined and yet more or less become simplified (think of Charles Dickens as a midpoint). Do only artistic trends that follow a lineage in Civilization Achievement count as High Culture? How about Pre-Printing-Press Poetic forms, like the Greek Iliad? Non-Western-European classics like Russia's The Master and Margarita? India's Hindu Vedas, what about them? Did the Buddhist texts essential dunk on the Vedas and take them down a notch on the High Culture Scoreboard? (Krishna says no). Did China Chan's Blue Cliff Record run victory laps in the pools of tears of the early Buddhist Scriptures? Is classic or contemporary pseudo-philosophy High Culture? In today's American Culture-Wars debates where the Woke battle the anti-Woke, some argue that the teaching of High Culture literary classics from the Western World is a form of continued colonialism, and that they should be gradually disregarded. Are there undiscovered or under-interpreted High Culture classics in India/Asian/Africa/Native America that were destroyed during colonialism or inaccessible to even to the highest educated western scholars due to the intricate elocutions and etymologies that such arts and stories rely on? And should we find them and let the world know about them? Have rich artistic histories of multitudes of medieval cultures been utterly diluted by the literal interpretations of Western Sociological Departments in Universities who draw their Academic Lineage from the Renaissance because they don't bother to do the work of focusing sharply on vectors of cultural nuance? Or because these self-aggrandizing professors don't let the locals of cultures they study do the fucking teaching for once? Or learn to be nice enough to them so they might decide to pick up a bit of English, just to bridge the communication gap?

Is it better to just be not, of the nutcase persuasion? Shit fuck, did I digress? I...

As an anime geek I just like to imagine EOE is considered High Culture because I don't really like anything else. I also consider some Rap Songs to be High Culture, please don't flunk me...sensei...

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Re: Would you consider EoE an example of high culture?

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Postby Urlance Woolsbane » Thu Nov 24, 2022 6:25 pm

I consider NGE as a whole to a be sterling specimen of what I term "high low art", i.e. art that is designed chiefly as entertainment, constrained by its medium or genre, and yet is excellently-made, moving, and conversant with high culture; I would also list as examples of this category the works of Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman and the very best of Doctor Who. I think that EoE is NGE at its most artful and unlimited, and thus as close as the series comes to being high culture. However, as sithsauron says, it's not at the level of Kurosawa's films, and I think I disagree that's it's not aimed at the masses:It's respectful of its audience, and it's certainly not pandering, but ultimately it's the spectacular conclusion to a pop-cultural phenomenon, and I think Anno was mindful of that. The original episode 26, though a less impressive and more constrained work, was arguably a purer expression of his artistic vision.

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Re: Would you consider EoE an example of high culture?

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Postby The Killer of Heroes » Thu Nov 24, 2022 11:37 pm

I don't understand why any of you guys care whether something is "high culture" or not- it just kind of comes off like you're wanting approval for your tastes. Just have the confidence to like what you like and talk and argue about it- that's little different from what art academics themselves do anyways, and they're just as willing to spend their time arguing about stuff much pulpier than Evangelion or Chainsaw Man as they are about the masterpieces of Kurosawa or Hitchcock.

I guess my own take here is that I don't really see point in exclusionary definitions of words like "art", and all the most literate people I personally know have fairly broad tastes anyways. It's the people that are dismissive of either the pulpy fun of supposedly "low" culture OR the thematic and emotional complexity of supposedly "high" culture (As if those things haven't often mixed) that seemed to have the most blindspots in their understanding of art to me. There's a lot of ways for something to be good, after all, and I don't think its useful to try and pigeonhole art.

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Re: Would you consider EoE an example of high culture?

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Postby Archer » Fri Nov 25, 2022 8:44 am

^ completely agreed with above. “High culture” seems to be a completely arbitrary definition anyways… despite being held in high esteem today, Shakespeare’s plays weren’t high-class affairs, they were literally cheap entertainment for poor people.

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Re: Would you consider EoE an example of high culture?

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Postby Urlance Woolsbane » Fri Nov 25, 2022 7:15 pm

View Original PostArcher wrote:^ completely agreed with above. “High culture” seems to be a completely arbitrary definition anyways… despite being held in high esteem today, Shakespeare’s plays weren’t high-class affairs, they were literally cheap entertainment for poor people.

It's true that Shakespeare straddled the boundary between high and low culture, and it's true that he wasn't seen as the singular genius he is today, in his lifetime, but it's a vast oversimplification to say that he was merely writing cheap entertainment for poor people. He pitched his works to poor and rich alike, and was highly regarded in his day. Here is Francis Meres writing about Shakespeare in 1598, in the middle of his career:
As the soul of Euphorbus was thought to live in Pythagoras: So the sweet witty soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare [...] As Epius Stolo said, that the Muses would speak with Plautus' tongue, if they would speak Latin: So I say that the Muses would speak with Shakespeare's fine filed phrase, if they would speak English.


High culture can be hard to delineate, but that doesn't preclude its existence. Films like The Seventh Seal and Ran are clearly on a different level than even the very best of Star Wars, just as no one would seriously claim that Jingle Bells and Bach's St. Matthew Passion belong in the same category.

At any rate, I can enjoy a work regardless of what sort of culture I think it is, but I think that there is a sadly common misconception that, because something is not high art, it must therefore be schlock, and that one should expect no better from popular entertainment; works like NGE are potent counterexamples to this idea

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Re: Would you consider EoE an example of high culture?

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Postby The Killer of Heroes » Sat Nov 26, 2022 1:48 am

The Seventh Seal does not seem to be on an especially different level than Star Wars to me at all. All the gags with Death cutting down trees or whatever and causing goofy mischief seem straight out of Bugs Bunny to me, and are far more farcical than any Jar Jar Binks gag that people online complain about. It's an extremely goofy black comedy, which can be offputting when people expect something very serious and dour going in.

I'd agree that Ran is better executed than the best of Star Wars, but I'm not convinced its goals are so especially different than something like Empire Strikes Back.

I do agree however people should want high standards from popular entertainment and art, but I think that has very little with the taste of audiences as it is from the skills of the people that make it. In regards to American cinema at least, I would push blame more on bland, talentless corporate artist types like J.J. Abrams and his ilk personally that have taken over the past 15 or so years, but that would be taking this thread very off topic.

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Re: Would you consider EoE an example of high culture?

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Postby logged_in » Sat Nov 26, 2022 5:10 am

No doubt in my mind, EoE is definitely high art. It’s certainly a complex work that draws from many unconventional sources and is confrontational and uncompromising in its approach. I think it hits every point that most things labelled high art hit, even if it’s not of the genre we typically see high art come from, and I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who disagrees (minus the snobs who think that these ideas can only be communicated through black and white film).

What I would caution against is the idea that “high art” and “mass culture” are two separate categories, because Eva is proof positive that they are not. If you think Chainsaw Man is all the rage nowadays, you really should’ve seen Eva in the 90s. It’s still massively popular today, which is a bit crazy to think about for a one season series that’s nearly 30 years old.

Like if you think “mass culture” is defined by intentionally trying to appeal to large audiences, then I hate to break it to you, but that’s kind of exactly why EoE exists. The popularity of NGE (which was developed with the intention of mass appeal in the first place) mixed with the perceived disappointment of TV ending created a pretty strong demand for a “proper” ending to Evangelion. Even though EoE is certainly much, much different from any other huge franchise tie-in movie, it was still conceived with the intention of appealing to that huge market. All you need to do is take a look at the big companies bankrolling EoE to see just how financially lucrative the idea of an Evangelion movie was in 1997.

I don’t think the interesting question is whether EoE is high art (it is), I think it’s better to ask why and how a film like this bridged the gap between high art and mass culture, and why it still resonates with a large number of people to this day.

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Re: Would you consider EoE an example of high culture?

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Postby Susie Bakha » Sat Nov 26, 2022 3:53 pm

View Original Postlogged_in wrote:Like if you think “mass culture” is defined by intentionally trying to appeal to large audiences, then I hate to break it to you, but that’s kind of exactly why EoE exists. The popularity of NGE (which was developed with the intention of mass appeal in the first place) mixed with the perceived disappointment of TV ending created a pretty strong demand for a “proper” ending to Evangelion. Even though EoE is certainly much, much different from any other huge franchise tie-in movie, it was still conceived with the intention of appealing to that huge market. All you need to do is take a look at the big companies bankrolling EoE to see just how financially lucrative the idea of an Evangelion movie was in 1997.


Yeah, I guess I was wrong about that. EoE is indeed a film targeted at mass audience. The fact that, as you said "EoE is certainly much, much different from any other huge franchise tie-in movie" and how it subverts the expectations of the viewer, must have deluded me a little. The second part of the movie is quite enigmatic and it can be interpreted in lots of ways, I thought that it is hard to classify such work as mass culture, but yeah I think you proved it without a doubt.

I'm becoming uncertain whether I would call EoE high culture myself, after reading some of the replies, still you claiming that EoE is something where high culture and mass culture intersect, wow, that's quite a bold statement. I'm pretty sure this would stir up quite a discussion. I'm not saying whether you're right or wrong, I find that notion quite interesting. However, I don't think many would take it seriously, as not only it stands against quite a common belief that those two terms should be properly distinguished, we're also talking about anime, and anime isn't regarded too favourably in many communities, it is quite apparent.
"..."

-Rei

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Re: Would you consider EoE an example of high culture?

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Postby Mr. Tines » Sun Nov 27, 2022 3:53 am

With the example of Shakespeare already quoted in this thread, the simple answer is that EoE is still pop culture because it's not yet old enough to be high culture.

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Re: Would you consider EoE an example of high culture?

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Postby logged_in » Sun Dec 04, 2022 4:58 am

View Original PostSusie Bakha wrote:I'm becoming uncertain whether I would call EoE high culture myself, after reading some of the replies, still you claiming that EoE is something where high culture and mass culture intersect, wow, that's quite a bold statement. I'm pretty sure this would stir up quite a discussion. I'm not saying whether you're right or wrong, I find that notion quite interesting. However, I don't think many would take it seriously, as not only it stands against quite a common belief that those two terms should be properly distinguished, we're also talking about anime, and anime isn't regarded too favourably in many communities, it is quite apparent.


I'll agree that there should be distinction between the two terms, but that doesn't preclude any sort of crossover between the two. Even if it is rare, there are works that push the conventions of their medium and also appeal to a wide audience. For example, 2001: A Space Odyssey is generally considered one of, if not, the high point of cinema, and it's a difficult, surrealist work that's high on art and low on all the nice things that we go to the movies for. IMDB tells me that it still sold just under 44 million tickets lifetime.

I think the true issue you're looking for an answer for is in that last sentence of your post - whether anything anime could be considered high art. Speaking from my own experience, I was someone who didn't believe that there was any serious merit to the medium until finding NGE and EOE which opened my mind to a lot of great stuff out there that I would've ignored in the past. There's always going to people who shun some truly brilliant things because they don't come from the usual sources of what we consider art. They're missing out, it shouldn't be your problem.

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Re: Would you consider EoE an example of high culture?

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Postby Axx°N N. » Mon Dec 05, 2022 1:16 pm

I'm not sure a coherent definition of high culture can really exist anymore given the existence of the internet. High culture was once defined for its barriers to entry, and that included many elements, like class, education, even geography. But even the most insular art being created today can be readily contextualized by reading up on it and you can do that even if you're poor by using a library's computer terminal. And what once used to be the most obscure of art films are now available (much of the time for free, again thanks to libraries) on streaming. The only barrier left is geographical, for instance the somewhat contrived exclusiveness attached to Matthew Barney's works, where he refuses to release his films on home media and you can only see them if a print is requested or if you happened to attend an in-person-only screening at a handful of venues ... and yet, even then, anyone with their own computer and base knowledge of torrenting can track down his films because archivists set out to leak or camrip all of them. So that leaves maybe just gallery showings, in-person art as having anywhere close to exclusivity ... although a lot of that has actually recently commercialized not just in terms of corporate sponsorship, but even content. A lot of modern (or post-modern) art has been fixated and themed on the incoherence of the high vs. low definition. I guess you can loosen the definition, or stick with "difficulty to be understood" as the sole definition, but that's so subjective, and to my mind there surely has to be work that is itself high-minded, exemplifies itself as informed by erudite knowledge and display of craft...and yet be written (or composed, or whatever) in such a way that it's actually simple on the surface.

Anyway, these distinctions were made by consensus of authoritative groups, but to my mind those sort of don't exist anymore, not in any unified way. For instance, a head of state was once expected to exemplify knowledge and culture, but now we've had leaders of the free world champion the likes of Kid Rock. Modern times are a battlefield of varieties of thought, some of them self-contradicting, and arising out of it is no single coherent standard other than, I guess, profit is good, what doesn't profit is punished. What even constitutes taste or protocol long went out the window, and so you get billionaires with ahegao twitter profile icons.
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