A Critique of the "Finger Interpretation" of Evangelion.

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A Critique of the "Finger Interpretation" of Evangelion.

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Postby Kendrix » Fri Jan 15, 2021 8:06 am

This started as a reply to a PM, but I realized soon that I had written a leghty essay of possible public interest the likes of which I'd been meaning to make for a while, and decided to make it a full blown post.

The PM started out focussed on Rei's character that why there might be a bit of a focus on her in the earlier parts, but I don't want to get into it too much because ultimately the PMers concerns are in my view not at all about Rei and 100% about what I like to call the "Finger Interpretation of EVA".

First this whole "Anno despises Rei" thing is absolutely unfounded

At most it's based on some quotes that were taken REALLY out of context and in their proper place referred to quirks of his writing style & a small subset of 90s era hardcore fans, the kinds who nowadays harass creators on twitter. There's always some.

He's described her as coming from the "purest, most core part of his subconscious". He's also said that he's forgotten Shinji at some point, that Asuka is for Masochists & Misato for immature ppl... (& most importantly that we all have those appeals inside of us to different degrees)

He only finds Shinji & Rei "uninteresting" in the sense that they're basically just him. You don't find your mirror image exciting. Imaging the life of a hot hypercompetent chick like Misato & Asuka seems more fun. Also artists being self-deprecating about their work & not getting why anyone likes it is suuuuper common. (this also applies to Asuka & Misato, whom ppl do in fact like)

I don't degree with it at all, or the "index finger (let alone middle finger) interpretation" of EVA as a whole.
It's something that was born out of the dissatisfaction with EoE, ppl wanted a physical conclusion & then it wasn't what they wanted. He was probably just depicting his own feelings & experiences, & that started the idea that it's a "fuck you to fans" and that "fuck you" is the central pervading statement of EVA. It's your basic emotional reasoning I'm upset so that must not only be deliberate, no, upsetness is the point of it, like conspiracy theories happen
Often it happens with classics that there comes to be some pervading take on what it means & then ppl interact with that perception instead of giving the work a fresh reading for itself, and that's why school students universally hate literature classics & classical music.

That just makes me wonder what show they watched tbh,this isn't someone on a high horse telling ppl to get off their butts and eat avocado toast, this is camus, satre, nietzsche's armor fati. Someone who's ware of their own absurdities documenting their struggle with them; That's what moved so many ppl to begin with. If any messages happening they're coming not from the middle- or index finger perspective but from someone who's lived it & is strict on himself.

Rei is a self-portrait. The disinterest & mild grossed-out ness by living things/affinity for artificial surroundings, the disinterest & disconnectedness from people at large, the having little life outside of work but still a sense of mission, the extreme minimalism, the food shake & vitamin pills diet, the general "being bad at living" (until Moyoco came along apparently that's how nom stuff became a theme in Rebuild; The books are something similar, apparently he makes a habit of reading novels written by women as an exercise to get the PoV right; Asuka got the swimming hobby, Misato the haphazard management style XDD)... just the various 'type 5 personality traits' - that's why she's special to me & many other type 5s love her so dearly.

Check these out:

To those on the outside, it looks like an illusion, but when it comes down to it I believe that happiness itself is an illusion. Human beings cannot escape from their solitude. All they can do is forget it. At that moment [of forgetfulness], they will be happy. That’s my recent conclusion. In order [to forget], you can watch anime, or sleep with a girl, and if you can escape from your loneliness while doing it, then perhaps you will be happy. If, when I get totally drunk, I feel like I am not alone, that’s an illusion, but it’s happiness.

That dialogue on "happiness" is word for word in EoE, in the last conversation Shinji has with Rei, before the conversation happens. . The gist here is not, "go give up your illusions and find some REAL happiness that is out there" but, "be self aware." Everything is made up so you're not at it's mercy you have a choice, to choose to stay because the alternative is worse, or to go because you're not actually forced to stay.

In EoTV Shinji goes on about being a playball of fate & the realization is that his attitude & poV actually give him
But many ppl confuse the "voice of self doubt" with "the voice of truth" which is the very thing you're being warned agains

This here couldn't be more obvious:
"I feel that otaku have already become common to all countries. In Europe, in Korea, in Taiwan, in Hong Kong, in America, otaku really do not change. I think that this is amazing. I say critical things towards otaku, but I don't reject them. I only say that we should take a step back and be self-conscious about these things. I think it's perfectly fine so long as you act with an awareness of what you are doing, self-conscious and cognizant of the current situation. I'm just not sure it's a good thing to reach the point where you cut yourself off from society. I don't understand the greatness of society, either. So I have no intention of going so far as to call for people to give up otaku-like things and become more suited to society. Only, I think there are many other interesting things in the world, and we don't have to reject them.

However, I take offense when otaku are criticized by non-otaku. Stupid idiots, I think, [criticizing] though you don't understand anything (laughs). There are truly many people who don't seem to really understand. I know these things without being lectured to by these people. It's like, why now? But saying those things is still better. There are many who completely missed the mark. When people don't even try to understand speak about otaku as though they were far above them, I think: what stupid people."

"From one hikkikomori to the other, the outside world actually has nice stuff sometimes, maybe check it out once in a while" That's why it actually speaks to people who are suffering because he's being real with you. It's certainly also a crucial component of "Nadia"

He started the show from a place of being more or less unproductive for four years, boy can I relate, if he landed his masterpiece at 35 maybe so can I hehe.

Opening Statement from before the show was made:
“This is roughly the worldview for Neon Genesis Evangelion. This is a worldview drenched in a vision of pessimism. A worldview where the story starts only after any traces of optimism have been removed.
They say, "To live is to change." I started this production with the wish that once the production complete, the world, and the heroes would change. That was my "true" desire. I tried to include everything of myself in Neon Genesis Evangelion-myself, a broken man who could do nothing for four years. A man who ran away for four years, one who was simply not dead. Then one thought. "You can't run away," came to me, and I restarted this production. It is a production where my only thought was to burn my feelings into film. I know my behavior was thoughtless, troublesome, and arrogant. But I tried. I don't know what the result will be. That is because within me, the story is not yet finished. I don't know what will happen to Shinji, Misato or Rei. I don't know where life will take them. Because I don't know where life is taking the staff of the production. I feel that I am being irresponsible. But... But it's only natural that we should synchronize ourselves with the world within the production. I've taken on a risk: "It's just an imitation." And for now I can only write this explanation. But perhaps our "original" lies somewhere within there

He had no more clue whats gonna happen to them then than he did for rebuild XDD

Student Questioner: There's a viewpoint which holds Eva to be a criticism of otaku.

Anno: I'm not criticizing. I'm considering. That might be putting my nose where it doesn't belong for some people.

Especially in our day & age where everything needs to have a neatly wrapped moral with a bow on top. We forgot how to ask questions; That's how we put holes in the old order to begin with. In addition to all these there are too many "some of it is supposed to be up for interpretation & projection" quotes that I can't fit them in here. But one of the things he did feel the need to explicitly clarify is that Rei represents "the hope thatpeople can understand each other". Like the power of friendship but without the cheesy bullshit or the expectation that you win out in the end cause good things are valuable even if they don't last forever. What DOES last?

—— EVA ended without solving the problems, it is some kind of run away? People think that even though you talk about “I can’t run away,” in the end you still run.

Anno: Why would you think the theme is “you can’t run away”?

—— What? If you said so *laughs*, yeah, Shinji is not always right.

Anno: Why people think that the protagonist’s thoughts and actions are always right?

—— So it is. The protagonist did say “It is ok to run away.”

Anno: Yes, this is the theme. Running away is not bad.

—— Then he didn’t need to kill Kaworu, too.

Anno: Since he can sympathize with me, then it is all right if I don’t kill him. The person who say that he can’t run away is the one who escape, you surely can blame him for this. But thinking that it is the right thing to not to escape is a fixed thinking pattern. You can’t always do the right thing. In episodes 25 and 26, there are lines like “If you want to run away, then just do it.” Escape itself has good and bad consequences. People have to make the decision if they want to live. There is gain and loss in life. If you do nothing, there is noting to loss and nothing to gain. It is no different from the dead. But there are many people like this. You have to give to get. Humans can’t advance without hurting others. If you are afraid of hurting people, then you are just remain stagnant. Not escaping doesn’t mean there will be no problems, you can’t run away because sometimes bad things happen when you run away. But if it makes you feel good, then why not?
I often hear about Adult Children recently, the kind of person who have disqualification parents, whose parents is a burden when they are growing up. They cannot live without their parents or men, if they know that running away is good, if they run away from their parents, or leaving their parents behind, maybe they can be free. Some mothers are overprotective, they tell their child “My little child, there is demon in Tokyo, you can’t go there”, then lock the child up in his own walls and never let him go. These kind of mothers always exist. If the child himself don’t feel it is a problem, he wants to stay there, then it is Ok. But there are also people who feel oppressed, they hate this. For them, escaping from the place that bind them, going to Tokyo to become a free-lance writer and live on their own is way better than this. That kind of person should run away, away from the country.

—— But escaping and leaving gives you two completely different impression.

Anno: Escaping is the same. If escaping can free yourself, then there is no problem. I think it is better just to run away. But look at Episode 26, it seems Shinji is possessed by EVA. He never let EVA go, he use the Eva to make others approve him, he use it to gain his significance of existence. I think if he could free himself from the EVA, then at least there will be a next stage waiting for him.

—— Someone says that Shinji must pilot, his relationship with Misato and others can only be workmates. In general, if you don’t make EVA anymore, can you still stay at GAINAX? *laugh*. Because drawing is the area you are good at.

Anno: It should be a greater area, such as making Anime. Lately, because EVA is done, I stumble upon Shuji Terayama’s book about drama in a second hand bookshop. Before this, I was never interested in him, I never saw his films or read his books, just know he exist. I only know that he was into drama and Mamoru Oshii-san paid homage to him. Then I read that book, his theory is very interesting. Even though I know that people of the 70’s are like this. He wrote in his book that the reason he wrote drama is because he can only relate with society through drama, in other words, he can’t relate to society without drama. It is just like this. I can’t express myself without Anime. I can’t talk to people. I have nothing of my own.

—— Then it is your mission in life.

Anno: Hmm…… I don’t know. I think talent is a vitium, it is not something that flow out. It is a huge hollowness hole.

—— So you create works to fill the hole?

Anno: Yes, that is expressing. Every expression is like this. So décadence is impossible. In the Anime area. No, I think this is what expressing is like. VA’s and artist’s works are the same. I think these kind of works are all about expressing.

—— Is the Human Instrumentality Project also about filling the empty space?

Anno: I think life is just an activity that keep filling the empty space.

—— I see.

Anno: But, compare to other people, if seems that my hollowness is bigger. I can’t satisfy myself unless I work this hard. Even now, I still don’t feel satisfaction.

As Tolkien once said when accused of escapism, if you're trapped, you have a duty to escape. And if you never ponder anything else than the present as it is how will you even notice the cage you're in? It requires action to get out but first you have to see it.

There shouldn't be a need to post this because ep 26 spells it out word for word. 26' does too actually. I wish I could find the quote about "the protagonist ends up where he started but he accepts that, that its ok to be him with all his absurdities.That was talking about EoTV I think but if anything EoE goes further Shinji outright says, "I'll probably ask myself the same questions again and all the bad crap that will happen, but I accept that now, I chose it deliberately this time"

This is something MUCH more real, much more no bs than "man up" or whatever. That can seem unattainable when you're down in the dumps. Heck, for many it realistically IS impossible because they're poor or sick or whatever. But you can change your attitude for free when you're naked in a prison camp and if you read stories by survivors that's often a common thread.

That it's Shinji attitude that creates that sense of trappedness, being a playball of fate, having no choice.
At times he's so fixed on his idea of powerlessness as an axiom that he doesn't realize the real consequences his actions or inactions have. If you can't do anything anyway what could really happen if you lash out?

Of course Shinji is the one who especially embodies this aspect of... kind of trying to change & find your worth but always facing setbacks due to your own limitations, but they all have that; Misato ruined a perfectly fine relationship due to internalized purity culture & fear of turning out like her mother; Asuka could do many amazing things if she weren't fixated on being the one numero uno always. Rei lowkey wanted to bond with people more & you see it in how she responds to it but she didn't have the awareness of it to really pursue it while she had the chance, even if it seems meaningless, Ritsuko tries hard to suppress her inner Harley Quinn so it gets the better of her, Kaworu is resigned to the inevitable, in a sense. Gendo threw in the towel too early with the parenting thing, assuming from the get go that he'd fail.

The pilots in particular have the issue of being stuck in a fixed role, fixed small world, fixed patterns. "i have nothing else" and the venturing beyond that.
In that sense Rei's journey is not so different from Shinji's. Shinji at least came to Tokyo 3 to see if something changed, he tries once in a while; Rei was completely resigned to the trajectory. Asuka thinks she IS the trajectory and doesn't see it like a fish doesn't see water; Misato does see it & hates herself for how she keeps going anyways.
Misato'S "cheerful flirty lady" role... or the boss role. is also that sort of thing. While Misato has a repertoire of masks, Asuka's more like an onion with distinct layers. Popular girl -> Tough Fight Club Person -> Self Hatred -> Desire for companionship & attention.

The point is this rather: Get out of the pressure, no choice mindset, not cause a good attitude fixed everything by magic or because you can change into something you're not, but because the pressure/ no choice mindset makes you desperate and narrow sighted so that you don't see your choices, good traits & the consequences of your actions.

Another thing that really gets lost in this over-focus on the Finger Interpretation (MFI(TM)) is the "sentiment vs pragmatism" angle, a feelsy soft individual vs the cogwheels of the organization; That's in Nadia, too.What I find fascinating is that unlike many other shows this is a balance not a filibuster. No side "wins"; Sometimes pragmatism is treated as necessary but sentiment is never mocked at in the end often does make a little meaningful difference. It's doesn't cheesily save the day, but, it means something
Alas poor Kaworu! I knew him well...
Todo list:
- Essay on the character's roles in each others introspec sequences
- Good faith Analysis of Mari
- Finish ep 8 commentary

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