How do you feel about NTE? + Rank the movies!

Discussion of the new series of Evangelion movies ( "Evangelion Shin Gekijōban", meaning "Evangelion: New Theatrical Edition"). The final instalment made its debut in Japan on March 8, 2021.

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Axx°N N.
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Postby Axx°N N. » Tue Aug 08, 2023 4:34 pm

View Original PostDr. Nick wrote:Of course, since the original Evangelion goes all weird and therapy-sessiony at the end, a "straight remake" isn't really doable, and that in turn (if you think like an otaku) necessitates some form of in-universe justification for why this material is being revisited; hence the small Kaworu tease in the film. And those who know about Kaworu's extracanonical video game appearances immediately guessed what was going on: Anno was importing in his pre-made "Kaworu is a multiversal traveler just like Gilliam" conceit from the Super Robot Wars franchise. The Akashic Records are part of the games' deep lore, and the Book of Life seems to be referring to a similar concept, ie. fate and karma that can be altered with a bit of registry hacking. To be clear, I don't mind these story details being recycled, as it's just a cute easter egg for the mech heads. OG Evangelion wasn't built to be sequelized, so it doesn't matter what the in-universe justification for it is - any continuation was bound to feel jury-rigged regardless. A bigger issue is that these days time loop stories have been done to death, and even more importantly, Anno promising he's totally done with Eva, for realz this time, carries no weight whatsoever, diminishing the joy that the breaking of the chain moment is supposed to evoke. The man is incapable of going cold turkey. I'm happy that he's happy, I think 3.0 + 1.0 finished strong, heavily carried by the Gendo introspection (accepting that this is a different version of the character), but at the same time I'm also preparing myself for the inevitable next installment.

Your post, and especially this quoted part, is honestly one of the most perspective-altering on EGF. It's insane to read through that old /cm/ thread in hindsight of Thrice, and ironic and a little sad, seeing as those proposing what they proposed regarding Kaworu had them heavily taken to task with and treated as fandom outcasts, when they were actually closely inspecting Anno's close involvement with a project that happens to be extremely obscure only outside his home country. I live with a SRW super fan and even they have no first-hand relationship with Anno's contributions, because the game he was involved with specifically is the "holy grail" in terms of fantranslation, stuck in development hell as the unfinished third entry of two prior installments that had troubled translation projects. That this was there all along and got such limited attention is shocking but not surprising given how quick people were to dismiss the source, even when what we're actually dealing with is Anno's own words.

Anyway, pretty much every bit of context you add is more on the ball than the collective EGF record of speculation and in-fighting that occurred in the interim of 3.0 and 3.0+1.0, theories rendered wild in hindsight and with limited textual basis at the time, at the expense of other-izing those instead looking at primary sources or merely trying to wield occam's razor. All based on the perception of a tone and intent that, in the end, was never actually present. So much of what used to cause hostility and got treated with blanket incredulity should now be as obvious to everyone as it was to those who originally got ragged on, for daring to imply that the staff credo "Eva is a story that repeats" might be a hint to some kind of plot element.

Your context also actually contributes to what I think was much of the (somewhat overlooked, or not fully appreciated) intent of Thrice's instrumentality, which is that it becomes reflective on not just the franchise itself in a media-become-self-aware way, but even adjacent media, pulling from what has become popular conceptions of the characters not just limited to the original media.

Your post also has me wondering what Thrice's reception will look in a couple year's time. There's such a disconnect when you read certain reviews, as if it's describing a spiritual achievement on par with the best arthouse cinema, and the actual film with its quite present flaws. I'm not asking for everyone to dogpile, I just tire of what I take to be "new thing" blinders. Thumbing through review sites, many positive reviews merely invoke and mimic the catharsis of the film, and are kind of repetitive and naval-gazing, usually grabbing for the same vocabulary or outright lifting the poster slogans to be a sentimentalizing effort of strung together superlatives, eg, many reviews will be vague and claim the film is a landmark and then end on "Bye bye, all of Evangelion." Or some kind of personal account of how the film has inspired them to change or already changed them in some way. Not to discount the power the film holds for some, or how genuinely it may induce change, I'm just curious of the staying power.
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Postby MsenjaKagami » Wed Aug 09, 2023 3:46 pm

View Original PostAxx°N N. wrote: Not to discount the power the film holds for some, or how genuinely it may induce change, I'm just curious of the staying power.


It hasn't been that many years since Shin came out, and my opinions are by no means indicative of most other peoples' perceptions of the movie or series. And maybe that makes this anecdote the wrong one to respond with, but I do just want to say: I've seen a lot of different opinions, praises, and criticisms of Shin since I first saw it in 2021, some I agree with and some I don't, that have changed how I see the movie. And while maybe it is too early to say for sure, personally I'm pretty comfortable saying that I don't think anything in the next 5, 10, however many years from now will change/lessen the catharsis this movie gave me.
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Re: How do you feel about NTE? + Rank the movies!

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Postby nerv bae » Thu Aug 10, 2023 6:56 pm

View Original PostTamaraT wrote:Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
Shin Evangelion is a triumphant and introspective masterpiece that encapsulates the essence of the Evangelion saga while charting its own mesmerizing course. An absolute must-watch for fans of the series and enthusiasts of thought-provoking cinema alike.


Hell yeah it is :mari_love:

View Original PostAxx°N N. wrote:
View Original PostDr. Nick#940178 wrote:... what was going on: Anno was importing in his pre-made "Kaworu is a multiversal traveler ....

... It's insane to read through that old /cm/ thread in hindsight of Thrice, and ironic and a little sad, ...

Wait, did that 2013 Eva deep lore conversation really originate on 4chan's "cute/male" board? I get it, because Kaworu, but it still cracks me up.

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Postby Axx°N N. » Fri Aug 11, 2023 5:03 pm

View Original Postnerv bae wrote:Wait, did that 2013 Eva deep lore conversation really originate on 4chan's "cute/male" board? I get it, because Kaworu, but it still cracks me up.

Haha yes, along with some other important translations. I've saved a bunch of translated materials & snippets from all over, in case the interwebs goes kaput, and quite a few are credited to "/cm/ anon." I'm not sure if it was a group effort or one translator who hung out there, but the high degree of collective interest in what might exist in the material to support a yaoi reading led to some important discussions and discoveries. I believe they're the source of translations of Anno's JUNE interview for instance, which was a BL magazine after all, but had tons of revealing personal and production info outside of the confirmed-to-be-intentional homoeroticism. Why they're in containment on /cm/ is, well, actually, they consider EGF to be the containment. There's some mutual hostility and accusations of bias I won't get into (but that someone savvy with a searchbar could dredge up), but you'll see people on /cm/ refer to things like "EGF fuckery," to paint a picture.
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Postby BernardoCairo » Sun Aug 13, 2023 12:40 pm

Axx°N N. wrote:There's such a disconnect when you read certain reviews, as if it's describing a spiritual achievement on par with the best arthouse cinema, and the actual film with its quite present flaws.

We live in the age of hyperbole. Everything is either a masterpiece or a disaster. There is no middle ground. As a result, many works are elevated to the highest pantheon of greatness, even those that are mediocre at best (I'm not necessarily saying that's the case with Shin Evangelion, by the way).
The only way to combat this is to have people enrich their cultural background by reading books and watching various movies (among other things). If all you watch are Marvel movies, for example, a competent film like Shin Evangelion is going to look like a marvelous work of art by comparison...
Just sit here and waste your precious time. When you want to do something, don't do it right away. Don't do it when you can. Read my posts instead. It's the only way to live a life without regrets.

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Postby IronEvangelion » Tue Oct 17, 2023 9:10 am

I finally got to watch 3.0+1.11, as well as 3.0 -46h and 3.0 -120min, yesterday. I didn't know what to expect, but I sure wasn't expecting... that.

The movie starts off great, and the village part is good as well (great to see Toejam and Kenny alive and well), but the final battle really jumps the shark hardcore. The action sequences in the last third of the film are the worst I've ever seen. Waaaay too much is happening at once on the screen, there's constant bright flashes obscuring what's going on, and NERV can somehow pull tens of thousands of Evas and 3 complete AAAs out of its ass at a moment's notice despite Evas being hideously expensive and extremely difficult to build. Gendo and Fuyutsuki must have developed some insane automation to build all of that by themselves. Then we descend into the anti-universe and the remainder of the film turns into a bad fanfic. Definitely the weakest film in the rebuild, and arguably the weakest and most flawed entry in the franchise overall. When a film has Evas in it and my favorite part winds up being Rei's reaction to seeing a baby for the first time, that says a lot about the quality of the rest of the film.

My rankings of the NTE films, from best to worst:

1: 3.33
2: 2.22
3: 1.11
4: 3.0+1.11

As for NTE's place in the franchise, I feel like it's the "Hobbit Trilogy" to NGE's "Lord of the Rings Trilogy". That's the best way I can describe it. It's good, but nowhere near as good as what inspired it. One final odd thing I noticed, the creators seemed oddly obsessed with making me care about Midori. None of the other Wille members got an entire short film dedicated to them. The amount of focus on a single throwaway character with no real development came across as strange.
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Postby Gendo's Glasses » Sun Oct 29, 2023 9:37 am

The thing that really just occurred to me with the fourth film is that I've had zero desire to rewatch it. The first three? Sure, I think about it, just like I think about rewatching the original series. But the fourth film is just... I don't know. I feel like it's so meta that it can't really be enjoyed as a stand-alone text. And as someone who appreciates a good OST, I'm still of the mind that, overall, Thrice's OST is the weakest of the bunch (and the only OST to feature a cue that is flat out bad and arguably ruins a sequence.) It's been a few years but I don't think my opinion of Thrice has improved, whereas that happened with the third film, and while I used to put it in third place (above 1.11), I think I've swapped that around.

It feels weird to say but if you're not tied up with say 'Anno as Shinji', 'father and son finally reconciling after thirty years', 'happy ending for Evangelion', etc. then I think the film is just... empty. I can admire all those things, and it's partially why I do appreciate Thrice, but I also think that makes it pretty vapid. The first three films have some very positive aspects and some visuals that stand up there with the best of the Evangelion franchise, but I feel like the fourth film was lacking in really memorable visuals and it feels all the major set pieces are lacking in some sense. As a story, it's just kinda there, I guess? But then again, after the third film I'm not really sure where and how the story could end, either.

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Postby ignoreme2010 » Fri Dec 08, 2023 2:46 pm

1 2.22
2 3.0+1.11
3 3.333
4 1.11

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Postby Axx°N N. » Sun Mar 17, 2024 7:08 pm

I've been doing a slow-burn, thorough rewatch of NTE, and I've unexpectedly found myself with a newfound appreciation, or more accurately, a softening of my disappointment. I've found myself inadvertently nursing an effortpost throughout the course of my rewatch and will finish that sometime soon and post it here along with my final ranking ... for now though, since it's mostly an appreciatory and analytic exercise, I'd like to separate out my remaining gripes into this post. Because to be more accurate, I've found myself re-appraising and finding much to like in 90% of the material; Jo, Ha, Q, and the first half of Shin ... after which I still find a lot to dislike. I'll divide my gripes up into two sections.

1. Visual:

For context, I recently put together a home theater and was eager to see how NTE would hold up visually; maybe elements that underwhelmed me about Shin specifically would shine on a sound system and in higher fidelity. I felt air escape the room as I sat there watching the Wunder smack its wing against the other ship, and felt the impact, or I guess inverse impact, of the weightlessness of the CG model. I noticed new things, but they were the stiffness of the Eva Infinity hordes, the way certain details of greebles function only to highlight the aforementioned plague of weightlessness the CG suffers: ie, it's obvious a lot of work was put into the design and finesse, or more like, theoretical finesse; every piece of equipment we see has a complex series of movements choreographed for it, bolts that pop out and routes of movement taken ... but it somehow only highlights how immaterial it feels. There's no sense of substance to the machinery; I don't feel that there's even a foot of solid metal behind anything. One good example is when Asuka is thrown the sawblade staff: I had to rewind a bunch of times to understand that she's separating the rod into two identical pieces, because that cut is a millisecond long; and fine, I'm not against media that forces you to freeze-frame, but it's in the next second that she brings these together to form a kind of dual saw end that feels especially poorly rendered: there's a clink as she brings them together that doesn't marry especially well to the visual (it doesn't feel like it corresponds to the action) and then she immediately twists the weapon around without any additional sound design to it. They feel like they must be hollow, instead of gargantuan building-sized munitions.

I've long found Thrice to be an exhausting film, a viewing experience I'm so far unable to shoulder without collapsing at some indefinable point. It's the feeling of too many things piling up, no matter how hard I try to just enjoy it for what it is, so that inevitably the ground bottoms out. In my forthcoming appreciation, I outline how coherent these films are when taken together, and other elements I've come to enjoy better, but there's still some point in the back half of Thrice when I feel the cohesion disappear, a saturation point that I now feel owes more to visual fatigue than to narrative structure. I guess I'll place that point, for visual parallel, at the moment Unit 02 Improved's awakened form bursts and starts crumpling like a balloon. It's this point above all that I feel the least thrilled, and I think it's owing to an immersion break, because the way Unit 02, Angel Asuka and Original Asuka are drawn scream Diebuster and FLCL to me (let's throw in Mari's overlapping energy monster arm as another example) instead of something that feels like an aesthetic, logical evolution of Evangelion and its elements--more like elements from outside that have been appended (or even relied on as fallback) without an eye on keeping them cohesive. The scene of Wunder's spine extraction feels like it's worlds away from Asuka with Diebuster hair.

It's not that there's nothing to enjoy in these scenes; they work in moments for me. It's that as culminations of the action scenes of the previous films they're rendered the poorest, suffering from not only lack of visual substance, but pathos. I wonder how many viewers don't realize the whole 2 shots of the Advanced Ayanami series are establishing them to be piloting the Opfer types. (Or are they not? Fuyutsuki says sacrifices, I guess. I'm iffy.) Why not show even brief glimpses of them in the cockpit, even if totally emotionless? Why not, during the attack by the mass produced units, show Fuyutsuki ordering their release or maneuvering them or something? The decision to have the enemies be entirely autonomous, and cut out a tangible command element that's happening anyway, is extremely bizarre to me. I don't think anything is gained by the lack of person-against-person dynamic. The actual last action scenes, the battle between Shinji & Gendo, are misfires for the exact opposite reason: they're meant to have pathos and are undermined by the visual choices. Kind of obscure example, but one element of the 01 vs 13 fight that always looked especially poor to me is a pop-in (or I guess, pop-out?) of debris dust. Some buildings are pushed around, a dust cloud has formed, then the texture for this dust-cloud abruptly disappears. Except ... if you track the choreography, and you factor in what happens next (13 has smacked 01, causing an aftershock) you realize ... wait, 13 also slapped 01 a second ago. The texture disappeared for that reason. And rewinding again, I noticed a barely legible yellow outline ... which works in tandem with a texture that, well, still seems to just delete. In terms of this being seamlessly communicated (am I the only person to have had this experience with this scene?) surely there was a more polished way to communicate aftershock in a wide shot.

The long-standing and common defense (or more graciously, interpretation) here is that it's supposed to be somewhat of a Brechtian, 4th-wall-busting intentional show of artifice, and an homage to tokusatsu. I get the argument, but only to the point where it serves to highlight a contradiction: if it's an homage to tokusatsu, the set should have more weight to it than ever before, because the visual principal of tokusatsu is steeped in practical effects. To be more precise, you can say that this scene is leaning into the artifice of CG battles. What frustrates me here is that I'm not some sort of curmudgeon, I'm fully behind the idea of using radical, even unappealing visual choices to make some kind of exploratory or persuasive argument. Imagine if the battle started with weight, and there was a sense of physicality to Shinji hitting the wall and the set-dressing curtain rippling down. And then it segued into weightlessness, CG buildings that move around like they're millimeter thin legos, and perhaps went even further and broke down into wire-frames. It would, anyway, avoid the overwhelming sense that this is just poorly rendered, which many viewers will walk away with in perpetuity if they prefer to apply Occam's razor instead of teasing out why something visually unpleasant might have been exactly that but something more. Part of the process of any creative decision is fielding how an audience is led into their takeaways; even something enigmatic reaches successful ambiguity if a set of correct interpretive elements is reached, necessarily eliminating those elements that would give off unintended messages; I imagine the hard-at-work animators don't desire "the CG was bad" as takeaway.

I get the feeling when I read certain positive appraisals of Shin (because in some cases, it's outright stated) that some viewers who don't like these action scenes basically sit there waiting for them to be over and can get over them and enjoy the rest; I guess I understand that notion, though not necessarily in so many 5/5 reviews. Action, and at that genre-defining action, is not a superfluous element of why Eva was successful up to this point. In terms of not living up to a standard, these scenes should be classified as criminal offenders. I have similar problems with the last train station scene. I'm not against the idea and intent, but the visual rendering actively inhibits me. When I plop down to view Thrice, I actively don't look forward to having to see the cels that should be the crowning frames, because I find the way Shinji and Mari are animated to be awkward and goofy and not in a fittingly enthusiastic and endearing way but a purely jerkily animated way. I wonder if two people running up stairs is a particularly hard thing to animate, but Anno insisted and it just ends up looking janky no matter what? Either way, in animation the soul of the scene is not in the intent, it's in the frames themselves.

2. Narrative:

This one might get in the weeds a bit, but I feel it's a kind of unheralded aspect of NTE so I'm eager to just put it out there into the ether.

When you break down the dramatic approach of NTE, starting from and inseparable from Mari's introduction, the technique seems to be one of constant diminution. I was struck this time by two things which I'll leave here side by side, unelaborated, for effect:

The very next scene after Mari and Shinji's first encounter, centered mostly on her breasts in his face, has Kaji faux-flirting with Shinji and saying "gender means nothing in the face of true love."

During Kaworu's death scene, Mari shows up, the camera aimed so that her breasts are more immediately central than her face (the most prominent example of Gainax jiggle in the films so far), and she tells Shinji to man up and learn something about life. This one especially I'm kind of surprised I've never seen brought up before.

Regarding Mari, I don't think the common bylines are accurate. I wouldn't say you can reduce it down to "she's emotionally stable" or even "she's an outlier" or is "actively un-Eva-like." No, her first scene in Ha is, up until that point, actually the most inscrutable--jarringly so. Her existence in the narrative compounds confusion and frustrates understanding. It is not simply an "undoing of Eva," with the tacit implication that Eva = serious, or Eva = dark. No, she's also a sudden undoing of the very way Eva presented itself down to its core narrative principles. In other words, what Eva was before Mari was actually more accessible and understandable, more dramatically conventional. Yes, Mari feels off-beat because she's maneuvering action scenes without losing a beat, and hums as she goes, and never has the camera aimed at the inside of her skull to confirm any kind of intense interiority. But she's also the nexus point of the most guarded aspects of the narrative.

The opener of Ha, again, might be one of the most confusing scenes from a narrative standpoint in the entire franchise. Perhaps this is jumping out at me now that all's said and done, and previously I just viewed this scene with the attitude of "someday it will make sense," but I now find myself wondering how this isn't a more controversial scene that threw off casual viewers. Every aspect basically requires you either freeze-frame after a full watch of Ha to be able to pick apart the setting, the angel, what might be the stakes involving Kaji and Mari, etc. Even factoring in the old material, I think it's the first scene that operates in complete dissonance with its context, made up of entirely obscure elements, the scene that is least intelligible as it plays out, in no small part because it's an entirely tertiary set of locales and characters. I have to assume many viewers never make a connection between the experiment on the third angel and the trajectory of NERV making Frankenstein Angel-Evas, nor could tell you if quizzed that the barely audible background chatter pegs this place as being partially under Russian jurisdiction. In spite of how dense and sparsely exposited all of that is, Mari hums and performs action feats. It's not that she arrives in the narrative and sucks away the pretenses, it's that the pretenses are compounded so that she can more viscerally undermine.

Do I find this kind of interesting? Yes. Do I care at all for her character? No. I find it impossible to reconcile with what I find to be an inadvertent messaging that goes beyond Mari's character and into the deeper fabric of the plot ... more on that later!

I long disliked the fact that the crux of Misato's thread of the narrative involves the creation of a new spear, a metaphor for human will and perseverance ... justified within the film by the sudden introduction of the fact the black moon can be transformed into spears. One has to wonder if this set piece was put into Q with the knowledge it would later serve as spear material. The idea of material being turned into spears itself has no substantiation outside of the same film where that bit of info is then used as a plot solution. Another example where a solution is trojan-horsed into the very introduction of its problem, only to spring out immediately afterward (and one I can't forgive--it's perhaps one of the worst drafting conveniences I've ever seen) is the shootout scene on the Wunder deck. And I never even noticed this on my first watch: Sakura says the bullets will dissolve, and then dresses Misato, so that Misato can survive long enough to sacrifice herself later. So, in terms of script composition, this is extremely manipulative; the very existence of dissolving bullets is established after the scene wherein that bit of info would paint the stakes. We're led to assume, deliberately, that this is a more serious altercation than in actuality. (Note that the translation doesn't help things; in the original Japanese, there are no overt references to using deadly force. It's only in the translation that they decide to go with "shoot to kill.") Not only that but it happens to make every single aspect of this scene more confusing on retrospect. So, Wunder's got all this tech, the bullets are dissolvable, Sakura is immediately dressing Misato ... is the inference here that Misato wouldn't die if not for her sacrifice later? Taking this information, rewinding and analyzing the character reactions, it kind of makes sense that Misato et al are so steely, even though this should be a freak-out situation. Except ... Shinji, who doesn't know these aren't capital b bullets, is stoic and steely until the gun goes off. It's not a good scene on the surface, in fact it's the single scene I can get agreement on by literally everyone who's watched it, lovers and haters alike, as poorly executed. And yet it's even worse when you try to understand its fundamentals.

As for the moon into spears, I can understand if someone finds that way too convenient ... but I think I can take it as a further demonstration of the Misato team as rag-tag, to-the-last-minute, no-matter-the-odds risk-takers, and that they embody an approach to life: yes, this is an element of information new to the audience, but it's also new to the characters, but do the characters stand back, throw up their hands and cry bullshit? No, they take that information and see what, if anything, can be done by incorporating even the most sudden, unexpected development. To me that's a logical progression of one of Eva's core motifs, one that has been amplified in NTE and feels consistent; what else marks NTE than the feeling of how batshit committed it is to following these elements into the furthest, most radically audacious endpoints?

Unfortunately, I think it all creates an inadvertent moral philosophy I find not only taxing to watch, but ultimately escapist. Take Shin's opener on the side of the engineers; the dramatic tension here is between Maya, who is, in her own way, of a Mari-like constitution, completely unfailing in the steeliness of her "just do it" resolve as compared to the engineers, whose hang-ups on the very idea of the impossible is ... categorically proven to be not just generally unwise, but always untrue. Forgive me if this is a ridiculous comparison, but it begins to feel like the moral element of NTE is literally and exactly that facebook meme of the two guys digging for gold and the top guy gives up foolishly just before the last thin bit of dirt falls away. I might be inclined to classify NTE as perseverance porn.

I regret to type this because it immediately invites accusations that I must be a lazy hopeless schmuck or something, but man, it's just ... really, really truly that exhausting. I can't put it any other way. Because here's what's basically the crux of the dramatic tension in so many scenes: just do thing. It's like if you took the very effective, even inspiring element of the miracle Misato pulls off in that one episode of NGE and decided no, that's actually what that character means, and then you built the rest of the narrative off of increasingly impossible odds being demonstrated to be the right course of action because the writers know ahead of time they've granted the win anyway, and thus the right thing to have done was always believe and do your duty. There's a moment (I forget when and I'm not about to excuse my lack of diligence here) where Misato justifies her course of action by giving the odds as less than 1% ... and there's not even a gesture toward doubt by other characters.

NGE & EoE have similar outcomes, but the method getting there is far less strained and far more humanistic. It's a consecutive series of characters succumbing to weakness and things not going how they wanted, even Gendo. After all these things crumble, almost miraculous, but actually not surprising at all, one finds themselves at the bottom and necessarily can only begin to build back up. Compare that to NTE, where the plot has transformed the characters into eternally resilient super go-getters who take even the most ridiculous of labyrinthine hydra-headed keikakus and persevere no matter the cost, so that much of the dialogue is a character biting another's head off over even deigning to show a moment's weakness or reticence. A good example, and seeing as it ushers in the title catch of Shin, a focal one, are Ritsuko's lines toward Misato as Misato stews, more or less "I detect emotions, that's dangerous, better cut it out." The outbursts of emotion we do get aboard Wunder are, pointedly, like powder kegs going off, so you could say it works as critique of the culture of emotional repression onboard Wunder; but because these characters are thinly fleshed-out and they're propped up against stoic Shinji, it's almost like they work more as rotten-egg examples; don't be a Goofus, be a Gallant. This is the bulk of the material post-Ha, but it's even reified in the side material: in -120m Asuka is super-hardened like some kind of apotheosis of tsundere-hood, the only contrast possible that of Mari playing outright boke, and in -46h the male bridge bunny gets tired from pullups and Midori kicks him and yells at him and ... ain't that the character dynamics of most of the runtime in a nutshell?

Forgive me if this is reductive, but I truly think it's actually just the logical outcome of applying Shin's ostensible moral principles: anyone can, if they resolve hard enough, break down the walls of, say, their tormenter, no matter what and no matter who they are ... in every case. You just have to have the right attitude plus that which was left behind by not-humans. If I dig for dear life to find a caveat, it's that when Kensuke recommends this to Shinji, he does say "even if you think it'll be useless," and "or you'll regret it." To be fair, that's not at all condescending about some expected or guaranteed outcome or anything. And you know, he's right. But the writers do know the outcome, and the writers make it happen ... kind of, like, 100% of the time.

Getting back to Mari with this in mind: when she's paired off (note I'm not using this term in the romantic sense) with Shinji in the end, it seems to be communicating, because we get no example or indication of interiority, that these characters are now on equal footing and composition. I'm left feeling like this is a kind of dramatic compensation. Instead of it feeling like Shinji has evolved in a linear way from a series of certain flaws and perspectives, it's like they decided to render him into his opposite as the demonstration of growth, or in other words, it's as if his presentation here is calculated off the least generous "Shinji is a little bitch" interpretations into an equally superficial "he is a chad now" portrait, instead of the very human character we've been following rounding out to something also human. And it starts even before the other pieces of the plot begin to topple in their domino fashion toward Instrumentality. Our protagonist is cool and composed during each development once Rei Q's death sober hims up, as if it couldn't, or shouldn't have been any other way. Shin seems to want to make the case that anything less than stone-faced perseverance is puerile or regressive ... and maybe it technically would be regressive, in the context of a third stab. But I can't help but feel that it's this, above all, that suffers fatally from the obligations of escalation. It feels like too much of a counter-reaction to the prior approaches taken, a divergence based not on the story itself but the fact of every prior tack. "All Shinji needed was friendly folks and some time alone to process" doesn't seem inherently and necessarily true to me, or at least not this variation ... or at least not as a total remedy. It winds up feeling more like a failure to imagine that Shinji could approach these developments with moments of doubt or failure or anything other than a wish-fulfillment version of serenity.
Après moi le déluge!

Axx°N N.
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Re: How do you feel about NTE? + Rank the movies!

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Postby Axx°N N. » Tue Mar 19, 2024 3:48 am

Time for the appreciation post!

I attribute a lot of the elements I've come to enjoy to a thorough dive into the dialogue. A pretty massive takeaway I've come to is that the official subtitle translation is sorely lacking, specifically in terms of retaining the full sense of the stylization, as a multi-faceted blizzard of the esoteric. I had previously thought of Shin as being a huge departure in this somewhat unheralded (but long-standing) part of Evangelion, its stylistic use of enigmatic language. This is pretty well known among the Japanese fandom, as it's discussed by staff in pamphlets and such, and it's reflected by how, on certain home video releases, the aesthetic is a busy collage of esoteric kanji. What I didn't know, because I hadn't looked into it too deeply, is that this element is actually retained in Shin, especially in Instrumentality.

Before I knew this, the overt and didactic nature of the Instrumentality scenes crushed me. It was all wrong. And to be honest, I still don't quite enjoy how final (how diagnosed and resolved) these characters are made, and much prefer the open-ended nature of their past iterations. However, I now appreciate the fact that structurally, the dialogue in these scenes is trying to thread a mass of almost impossible needles; the language here has a lot of double-meanings and is attempting to consolidate a lot of themes in ways far more abstract and open-ended than the translation can sustain. Only Kaworu's segment maintains some headscratchers in English, but there's still some loss there too. I guess a better alternative would be impossible without lots of pause-and-read footnotes, because the style leans into the untranslatable on purpose ... but I can't help but feel let down by the translation. Forgive me if this is all vague (although I guess that's fitting!) so here's an example. Although figurative language peppers the character-specific Instrumentality scenes and goes a long way in adding nuance, I'll use a bit of lore to demonstrate; when Gendo shows Shinji Eva Imaginary, a reference to a Buddhist concept (genze, or gense) is entirely omitted in English. It's not totally consequential, the same information is conveyed about Eva Imaginary's quantum nature ... but the flavor of language becomes more simplistic. I wonder how many viewers, if asked "did you get that Sakura was supposed to be lapsing into an accent?" would respond (if their response isn't "who's Sakura?") with "what?"

Taking this language barrier discovery in stride, I made a lot of slow and thorough dives. I surfaced from the Gendo Instrumentality scene, for instance, finally getting why it's many people's favorite element. Up until now I've been outright flummoxed at that fact. (I guess I still am, seeing as I had to do so much work to get to that point!) I previously thought it failed to capture a kind of pathology, perhaps as a result of me focusing too much on the potential Anno parallels; it didn't feel like a believable reclusive. But it is a decent character study. When you factor in the not unimportant way the scene is framed, it begins with the perspective painting detail of his lack of parental love, and that kind of unlocked the rest of his behaviors for me. And the other framing, the other plot elements overlapping and literally intruding on the scene, are relevant and resonate: Misato interrupts and breaks through the eye, and Misato isn't just acting as an example of a parent coming through, but is more exactly redeeming herself after her own failures that parallel Gendo's. And of course, the scene begins with a connection made between Shinji and Gendo through the music player. The overlap of characters here is interesting and works for me--there's a cycle of neglect, aversion, and redemption.

Theme coherence, especially its marriage to the visual choices, leapt out at me in many places. There are still many choices (particularly on the visual end) that guarantee I find it a weaker version than NGE & EoE, which is not to say that these are visually impaired films--for every touch-up or new idea I find way overboard (I still can't find place in my heart for Wunder's design, or the weightlessness of its movement), there's a different choice I find a welcome and fresh departure, some even that make it impossible not to let your guard down and marvel. Putting aside my preferences for traditional animation over digital, reviewing the related supplements and making-ofs emphasizes how dedicated this project was on a technical fascination level. Although I feel it often lacking in pathos as it connects to character drama, as every wide-shot of CGI modelling is less dramaturgy occurring, the sheer abundance of mechanical structures and desolation is basically its own theme and contributes (in its way) to the narrative. A kind of under-appreciated amount of work was put into, for instance, modelling construction equipment, pylons, buildings & c. starting all the way back in Jo. I think I was blind or hesitant to embrace this merely because it doesn't exist to the same degree in the original material. But even a cursory glance at production materials makes it obvious; covers of mooks a field of transistors, promo posters of train tracks and the innards of the core-ized Eiffel Tower. Comparing redone versions of action scenes in Jo and Ha, Tokyo-3 especially feels spatially dynamic and alive.

When viewed as a web of relations across entries, I saw a lot of my prior hang-ups dissolve. The method for distilling material across Jo and Ha is clever when you look at each scene in terms of how much load-bearing it accomplishes; many scenes are functioning to consolidate several plot threads at once. The best example would be combining Asuka's mind-infiltration with her replacement of Toji, seguing into a different context for Shinji's lashing out. When you view it as an experiment in narrative compression, I think it's fairly successful and, although it suffers from the expected pitfalls inherent (where compression ceases and immediately becomes over-saturation), it at least makes for an interesting viewing experience, to be actively picking apart the layers in each scene's intent. A long-standing problem I have with the time-skip, for instance, involves my feeling like a grounded setting was discarded, replaced with one free of prior suffered-for (as in, runtime spent on the set-up of) boundaries and limitations, and the sense that everything happening post-skip is more or less by whim ... it's good for drama to feel like anything can happen, but it's a needle to thread; there's a reason why, inversely, suspension of disbelief is hard-earned. And yet, I think I can now appreciate that there is in fact limitation, perhaps even an overwhelming and suffocating one--it's just it has less to do less with literal plot or setting and moreso how the narrative responds to and reconciles its emotional elements.

I was afraid Q wouldn't hold up over rewatches, but I find it working just as well, if not better; it was always the invigorating feeling of being in a barrage of inscrutable elements and ... it still is! While I think Shin suffers a bit from having to make so much time for so many obligations, it's almost like Q was structured on what you could make that would be most exciting by deliberately sweeping that into a corner for later.

Most surprisingly, I no longer feel like the existence of the post-timeskip set-up (Village-3, Wunder, Neo-Nerv) isn't justified enough or "lived-in" enough, because I think much of the dramatic load-bearing was already accomplished in prior entries and these places, although radically different, are just further along an already-established set of trajectories. So much of Jo is spent on the tactile reality of the surroundings, of Tokyo-3 and Nerv environments, that even in Ha I don't think a radical setting change is unjustified; the immersion of the setting is deliberate across many, many lingering shots, not to mention very immersive sound design.

I've often complained about no glimpses at how Wille functions behind the scenes--but, you know, the extended procedural of the last half-hour of Jo renders that redundant enough. The adherence to limitations is basically the crux of Jo, culminating in the classic Operation Yashima scenes; so much tech-jargon steeped in real-world technologies ... so that, if you close your eyes and open them again and just go along with the influx of unexplained new tech on top of new tech, the use of the Eiffel Tower as spear in tandem with rotary appendages seems like a fitting if not down-to-Earth culmination.

There's tons of nifty connections the more you look. There's a pointed shot of some farmers in Jo. The scene at Yui's grave early in Ha has an interesting bit of dialogue that connects with events in Thrice regarding Yui resting within Shinji; "You keep what's important inside of you." Also later in Ha, during Kaji's revelation to Shinji about Misato's past (and setting up much of the parallel between Shinji & Misato's characters), I couldn't help but notice that Misato's stated conflict, survivor's guilt, later also parallels with Shinji; Shinji ends up, like Misato, saved by his father. The subsequent line is interesting with this in mind: "You have to accept their loss and pick up where they left off," and it makes one consider Shinji's character outcome as a redemption of where Gendo strayed. Or consider that one of few scenes of politics talk--and thus acknowledgment of restraints and binders and the irreconcilable--is immediately followed by Shinji's first contact with Mari, a character emblematic of Eva breaking away from its prior foundations.

I can even appreciate the exposition-leaden lore-dumps (both Gendo's spiel of the Dead Sea Scrolls and out-of-left-field reveals such as Kaworu having been working with Kaji) as a stylistic exercise. If we take the theme of cycles to heart, and we accept these character relationships as near infinite in variation, it almost becomes pointless to have to explore them in detail--or at least, said variability being explored literally and at length instead of by example is just not Thrice's pre-occupation. It's not that NTE is making some sort of case that these plot threads are without dramatic promise, it's more that the drama of facing the inexhaustability of these dramatic possibilities is itself the dramatic conflict. Something like Anima, or the video games where alternate ending routes post-episode 24 are offered, explore only the literalisms of what happens when you let the setting and characters continue in their permutations and chemical reactions, until we hit the poorer late seasons of any long-running-enough TV series. I don't think it boils down to some kind of moral of "this is all pointless, only understanding one another matters," but more specifically, it's embracing the reality that the forms conflict takes are endless, but the solutions mostly universal. It's inevitably a more metafictional and self-reflexive version of the alternate realities, infinite possibilities suggestions of EoTV and EoE. Speaking of, in terms of something relevant to the over-stimulating nature of the modern world, and how one can form some kind of tack to persist, it's a pretty good one, not that that's the most important metric or anything. (All this coming from someone who has long complained NTE is disengaged from "the real world" or matters of consequence.)

The other tack seems to be a new, more measured angle on predetermination and one's responsibilities. Much has been said of the changes made to the characters, and while I definitely prefer the themes and dynamics explored in the original iterations, you can't say the treatment in NTE isn't consistent. The Shinji of Jo is a very different Shinji, but he makes sense as the beginning of the arc of the Shinji of Thrice. The conflicts of characters are different, yes, but they're also specific, and I think in Jo and Ha especially, it can be hard to see when they're in the context of familiar scenes, yet with different ulterior motives. When you step back and look at it in a holistic sense, the character drama across all 4 entries stem from the same source, actuated by the main difference in plot: a more authoritarian Gendo. Every part of the plot has been devised by him and so the undercurrent, the prevailing fact of every conflict, is that said conflict has no reality of agency. Misato leads a rebellion that itself is concocted as part of Gendo's plan, Rei and Asuka's existence as clones come with the baggage of pre-programming, rendering attempts to thwart said programming inherently suspect, Shinji's unwilling relationship as Gendo's son, a connection that can't be totally erased. Where I once found Gendo's role to be dramatically impotent, I now find it a somewhat interesting fictive treatment of what in real life is out of our control. I still find Gendo's character to suffer overall, but it's interesting from the viewpoint of dramatic necessity; the films couldn't exist without this change as the lynchpin. Maybe it suffers only in comparison, but the archetype is more or less the same, too; Ozymandias, no real escape from the full-stop inevitabilities of existence. Even after so much impossible keikaku-fu, even he's forced to own up, eventually. And not in spite of his efforts to circumvent the inevitable, but because of the refusal, and the form it takes impossible to separate from the contrary intent. It's a bit on the nose, but it's something.

And now we get to how I square the circle of NTE, Mari. My best effort is to factor her less as a standalone element (the sense that she's 'outside' Eva can kind of get one off-track) and more an extension of the core Gendo-Yui-Shinji conflict. Perhaps Mari can begin to make sense as arbiter of finality when we connect it to the fact she was also arbiter of where it began by introducing Yui and Gendo. I think the apprehension of this so far has been too literal among the fanbase. Her presence in Gendo's flashback is odd in a very specific way: Gendo never meets her outside these scenes, and does not acknowledge her presence in these frames in a way that makes sense. He talks only about meeting Yui, whereas the drawings illustrate an apparent friendship and intermediary in Mari. This fact, more than anything else, is what abstracts her and makes her a metaphorical character in my mind. What if her function here ties into her function in the last train station scene? Which is to introduce a person to the person to whom he belongs. With this in mind, Mari's reaction to Shinji's descriptor "beautiful girl with big breasts" sounds knowing in a strangely disaffected way; it almost seems less that she's a character here, but is acknowledging, as an ideal, that what Shinji has stated is a bare-bones ideal; or perhaps to be more exacting, a previous source of anxiety.

Or maybe you could say that she's meant to serve a more visually distinctive purpose. The framing is really deliberate: her last appearance follows Rei and Kaworu's brief appearance where a correspondance is made to the vision of Rei that recurs; a presentation of these characters hard to take as anything but symbolic. I suppose if you were to mathematically craft an image that furthest jars from precedent, it would be Shinji managing to have a casual exchange with someone like Mari. It's decidedly un-Shinji-like, but any further implications you can draw beyond the exchange itself aren't really guarantees.

It seems there's much agreement that Mari is metatextual, but not so much what specifically her function is as a metatextual figure. But in rewatching scenes with her I found it interesting how she can be read as the presence of that voice in yourself that works as self-encouragement and drive. Perhaps even her final scene with Fuyutsuki makes sense in this way, in that she's representing by way of link to Yui the thing that's been keeping him going in his role.

I don't think it's a coincidence that Mari's presence seems to literally be that of support. Most clearly as a point-man for Asuka in strategic offense, and bunk-mate. But let's keep going: she glides in and crashes into Shinji at the moment in the narrative when he's at his most confident and hopeful about his relationships, especially that of the central father/son conflict. And speaking of being Asuka's other half ... can it be any coincidence that Asuka is the most self-assured of our central characters, battle-hardened as she necessarily needs to be?

Or perhaps the best explanation is more literal. I can understand those who not only don't understand, but actively dislike Yui's stated goals and motivations in NGE & EoE, although I personally find the poeticism and the oddness compelling. The extent and yet limitations of these goals is worth some thought; the whole "encase oneself in perpetuity" goal is not only contrary to Gendo, it's both grand and banal. Anyway, perhaps we can look at NTE as a corrective, and perhaps NTE's plot (and Mari's instrumental role) makes the most sense if we look at it as a gotcha. We think Gendo, and Gendo thinks Gendo, is the one keikaku-ing it all ... and yet, perhaps it's Yui. Otherwise why mention she went as far as the anti-universe? Why have Mari, the one working at her behest, as implied by her being in cahoots with Fuyutsuki, not only be a surprise big-time string-puller, but basically the string-puller? Perhaps Yui's keikaku was to slay the gods and lead to the removal of all ills. She looked at all the fundamental principles of this tragic setting and then sought a very un-Gendo altruistic fix. This comes with the danger, though, of making her dramatically impotent; I'm supposed to buy the convolutions of such a plan? It would necessarily be even more omnipotent than Gendo's entire-plot-spanning plots. It's especially hard to digest when she's given less characterization than ever before, although I think the gamble was that her never speaking would be poignant in a mother-who-passed sorta way.

Maybe the opinion that's changed the least is my feeling that these plots are, in the end, autofiction on Anno's part and make the most sense with that in mind. It's a franchise about its own existence. I was actually kind of caught off-guard with how radically different I viewed the initial "get in the robot" scene in Jo. I couldn't help but read Shinji's hesitation as Anno's, the expression of a hesitance to put the glove of Eva back on for another go. All the corners one might find oneself written into, all the risks and rewards inherent, and maybe his feeling that this project was decided not by him but by inevitability. And I'm convinced that's not just a projection; the changes in dialogue and dramatic tone here shift the feeling of these scenes into a darker and more measured tone, or at least a more specific one, more adult in nature; adult in the sense of "been there, done that." The task at hand and the expectations realized to be recursive, not just theoretical, like a young man recognizing the obvious that age has its way with things, as compared to the true blue, day after day experience and knowing of exactly how time does, in fact, have its way with things that only an actual aged person can know. New dialogue is always orbiting that experience-gained angle; in a new scene in Jo, Misato and Ritsuko opine on finding a clarity of perspective with age, and one can't help but reflect on the fact that these characters have, in the realm of cultural significance, ripened with time. They don't know it, but they're speaking about age because of a real time-value behind the scenes.

It's these things that make me glad NTE exists.

In the end, I think my opinion on NTE is thus: there are a lot of moving parts to appreciate, but I can only do that insofar as I apply a caveat. Compared to all other narratives in existence, I think NGE & EoE stand on their own. Inversely, I find it impossible to find merits in NTE in that context and with that kind of competition. As something I can take and compare to NGE & EoE, though, I can appreciate more bombastic treatments of certain action scenes, and find replacement scenes enjoyable and impressive in how economic a solution one can find in trying to translate episodic composition to that of film. Perhaps in the genre of recaps you could say they're an interesting and unique quadriptych. I'd sooner rewatch them than a lot of other compilation films, for sure.

So I've ended up enjoying them on re-appraisal ... but I can't help but find them as "canonical" as the alternate take that is Sadamoto's manga, in that I really like it because I like Eva so much, but if I'm being honest, they're in a mightily overwhelming casted shadow, almost a pitch-black daytime night. I enjoy the technical feats in the vacuum of an NTE watch-through, but in terms of a new-fangled update, in terms of how a version with more budget and fancier technology would argue for its existence, on that most basic and fundamental of scales, well: I don't actually think it ended up looking better. I don't want to use the phrase "lightning in a bottle," so I'll come up with something ad-hoc. If we can quantify and qualify media by more nebulous qualities, those qualities that transcend "direction, writing, acting," etc., perhaps "charm" does the job. And the studio situation, not only including the individual situations of the staff but the current culture and world at large in which the studio finds itself nestled, those are elements that probably aren't taken into consideration in the planning stages of a remake project. I'm not sure those are things you plausibly could try to recapture by some kind of deliberate strategy. I don't mean to say magic can't be recaptured, or that art is inherently not up to its creators, or that this should have been the approach, even if in vain. I'm saying perhaps there's a disconnect between what actually makes something appealing and the mere presence of more recent animation techniques. Personally, I love many a roughly-animated cartoon or roughly-recorded song. I can't help but feel that the mess that was Eva's production is itself a palpable flavor. But I guess NTE wasn't a streamlined, trouble-free production, either, so maybe it's just chocolate vs. vanilla.

Eva is something I've always shown people I get close to, and I sit them down to NGE & EoE without hesitation, maybe even with manic desperation; life is short, and this needs to be seen!

Exposing someone to NTE, though, feels like it would need to begin with a heavily coached pre-amble that could only start with, "well..."

What I will say is that I previously felt these films would devalue over time, and I think I was wrong. My experience was the opposite.

So, as for my ranking...

Q's my favorite. That final battle has pathos!

I don't know how to rank the rest.

I disagree with many that Jo is merely redundant; it sets a specific foundation that's important for all that follows.

Ha is like a perfect encapsulation of what's appealing about Eva spinoffs. All the scenes of characters just hanging out are not only well done, but especially important given how severe the plot gets during the last third (and basically never lets up).

Shin is, well, it's complicated. But I can say now that I appreciate the audacity. And although I haven't mentioned the village scenes until this point, it's exactly because their charm is self-evident.
Après moi le déluge!


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