NGE's Status as a Work of Art...

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Postby chee » Tue Jun 23, 2009 7:05 pm

Eva Yojimbo wrote:I really don't think the intrinsic power in anime is to explore themes (probably no medium can do that better than literature) but to use its inherent abstractness to be really expressive.


I disagree: the way I see it, any attempt to say that a given narrative/representational medium (and by extension, a given genre) has an essential "nature" beyond its most obvious surface effects and basic properties is ultimately the assignment of an arbitrary "meaning" without substance and a creatively limiting act. To a certain extent, I'm a kind of aesthetic anarchist: "Nothing is true, everything is permitted" (Hasaan I Sabah) To say that animation has the power to do this or that moreso than any others is a judgement made simply from a horizon of limited aesthetic exploration, in other words, a flawed judgement that is such because it is based on a history of incomplete aesthetic exploration, a history of one mode of aesthetic exploration being promoted over another within a given medium due to the imposition of aesthetic prejudices.
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Postby Eva Yojimbo » Tue Jun 23, 2009 7:30 pm

chee wrote::um:
I don't mean to belittle the other artists, but that's simply how I see it. Perhaps what I should have said was overall volume rather than breadth and depth. The 'foxes' of the group (Kon, Takahata, Ueda/ABe) have taken several works to cross a similar kind of expanse that NGE did in one. The 'hedgehogs' (Miyazaki, Oshii) delve deeper into their respective areas, but those areas tend to be somewhat limited and confined. I don't see any work by any of them that has that same kind of volume that NGE does. If you feel differently, feel free to make an argument.

chee wrote:I also recommend Brian Ruh's Stray Dog of Anime, if you can find it.
Thanks for the suggestion. I looked it up and it's available on Amazon.

chee wrote:Don't forget the random tel-ops, Helais Pour Moi and Weekend are full of them.
I see more of Godard in the narrative construction than in anything else. Godard has this way of mixing such a wide range of elements to create these really disorienting and potent concoctions that seem to be about too many things at once. That sense of teetering on the brink of narrative collapse that's omnipotent in the latter half of NGE and EoE is a very Godardian element. And many of Anno's mindfuck experiments are reminiscent of Pierrot le Fou.

chee wrote:I disagree: the way I see it, any attempt to say that a given narrative/representational medium has an essential "nature" beyond its most obvious surface effects is ultimately the assignment of an arbitrary "meaning" without substance and a creatively limiting act... To say that animation has the power to do this or that moreso than any others is a judgement made simply from a horizon of limited aesthetic exploration.
Maybe you misunderstood me or I misunderstood you (or perhaps we just disagree), so let me clarify and see what you think: Every medium has in it certain idiosyncrasies that are not present in others. Those idiosyncrasies offer possibilities of expression within them that aren't possible elsewhere; film is primarily the art of image and time, music is sound and time, literature is language, poetry is form and language, comics are the progression of still images, animation is drawn images and time, etc.

These are essential elements that and each offer one can't remove from the mediums. In film, when you point and shoot you are offering the viewer a concrete image. In anime, everything must be drawn and represented, and the idea of that representation presents possibilities for distortion and expression and abstractness that can't be transferred to film and work equally as well. Take, for instance, Oshii's live films in which he tried to replicate elements from manga and really failed to make the transition, because manga and anime simply don't translate to the concrete reality of the live action film image. There's a certain discord that's inevitably created through different combinations of the abstract and representational and the concrete and tangible; much of this discord can be accounted for by tradition, as the level of acceptable and unacceptable unreality that can be utilized before the suspension of disbelief is broken changes through time and and across mediums. But there is still a certain uniqueness in animation that can't be equally replicated in other mediums without losing something. One can imitate the art in manga, but you lose the element of images in time, one can replicate the images and time in film, but the abstractness of the art will present a natural barrier on film.

So when I use examples like Lain or FLCL I'm thinking of elments that simply can't work in film as a whole.

-------------------------

Timstuff wrote:I think a lot of people put it on a slightly higher pedestal than is accurate. It's still mass market entertainment... it's primary purpose is to be enjoyed by the audience.
I don't see how being mass market entertainment excludes it from being on the highest tier of art; why are they mutually exclusive? I go back to my point about so many of what we now consider the greatest artists in all mediums working on that same kind of comparable commercial level in their day; I see no difference other than what natural changes time and a greater interconnected world has brought us. And I think it deserving a place on that upper tier extends far beyond it just having superb characterization (but that's part of it).

Art doesn't need to be of the hermitic Tarkovsky or the elitist and exclusive TS Eliot/James Joyce or the 'art for art's sake' of any of the po-mo's to be equally effective as art. Not that I have anything against the above mentioned artists, but to me, the idea of high-art as an intentional invention created an aimed for the exclusive and learned elite is a rather modern and extremely ludicrous notion. For me, the true test of the artist is finding a way to appeal to the masses without alienating that learned elite; because bridging that gap is likely the hardest thing one can attempt in art, and only a select few have done it.

Timstuff wrote:I do think that many people have been staring at it so long that they start just seeing the brush strokes instead of the painting.
That's only naturally human. One can only see the forest so long before they want to get to know the trees and other elements that make up that forest. If anything, our minds are programmed to recognize the big picture first and details later (this can be seen in our approach to everything; not just art), and it's often this latter part, in the examination of the details, that really tells whether or not something has any value.

Timstuff wrote:When you start getting too obsessed with minute details that perhaps even the writers themselves hadn't noticed, perhaps that's when it's time to take a step back and say "ah, that's right... it's a TV show!"
There's an indefinite but significant amount of unconscious creation that goes into all art. Even of the kind that shows a high degree of conscious control there's still inevitably elements included that the artist didn't consciously intent. That doesn't mean they aren't there or aren't relevant, it just reveals part of the mysticism behind the creative process. As for what Anno was aware of NGE I think he's provided enough indicators that most of it was conscious; the endless amounts of motifs and echoes can't be done by accident, the references provide an acknowledgment of different sources, and his is constant associations between the craft and content are certainly intentional.

That said, I never get the "it's (just a) X" argument. War & Peace is JUST a book, Hamlet is JUST a play, Beethoven's 9th is JUST a symphony. "Just" implies some inherent degree of lack of importance which doesn't exist in any thing that people choose to give significance to.
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Postby VoidEater » Wed Jun 24, 2009 10:53 am

Most Great Art that I can think of uses a form within a medium to express something profound about the human condition. What NGE does for me is grapple with the nature of conciousness and identity at a deep level. This separates it from "superficial entertainment" for me.

To use Bladerunner as an example in a different way, it's allure to me is also an exploration of identity, of "what is human". Is suppose that, further, they both are centered on a mystery of the nature of the characters.
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Postby Merridian » Sun Jun 28, 2009 12:58 am

This thread has been incredibly interesting to read through, and a lot of what I had to say looks like it’s already been said. I’ll try to be brief in adding the parts that haven’t already been touched on—though I have a tendency to be wordy, so sorry in advance.

Fast Tony DeNiro wrote: Another thing that keep it from becoming more mainstream is that it's just so weird.


I’d say it’s already in the mainstream. This ties into a point further down, but the way I see it, the ‘mainstream’ as a unified entity is an illusion—as a culture, we’ve gotten to the point where all of our subcultures have displaced any dominating society-spanning homogenous entity. On some level, we’ve always been like this, but I think the last fifty years or so have helped us realize just how different we really are, and allowed us to congregate in ways that express our differences without infringing on anyone else’s rights. The internet’s helped with a lot of this as well.

So really, seeing as how Evangelion has a worldwide following that is much larger than a mere ‘cult’ fanbase, I’d say NGE has already broken into the mainstream.

Eva Yojimbo wrote: It deserves to be part of the artistic canon; so why the hell isn't it?


Post-modernism really dismantled, napalmed, bulldozed, swept up, and salted any definitions ‘art’ could be associated with once the whole subjective interpretation of everything got rooted in the public’s consciousness. As such, ‘artistic canon’ has disappeared—you’ve got a few things that still circle around groups of people as agreed-upon works of merit, but as a whole, anything done in the last twenty years (or half-century, depending on whose definition you’re going on) is largely ignored for this reason. “Art”, something that was difficult to define in the first place, has reached that point of being a word only the individual can define.

Personally, I look at art as being a byproduct of self expression. In this light, it emphasizes creative aspect of doing things more than the creative aspect of simply interpreting things. For instance, I express myself in my writing and music, neither of which I go too far out of my way to promote or advertise, but both of which I get satisfaction out of. I’m more interested in how I feel doing the expression than I am with how anyone else interprets the ‘thing that has been done’.

And in the long run, I’m not sure this is a bad thing. The whole ‘art for art’s sake’ argument was as pretentious as it was entirely useless and inapplicable to the common person’s life, and really just served to further boost the artists’ egos. Some of their works were fantastic, I’ll admit, but their attitudes sure seemed misplaced.

Incisivis wrote: As to the actual content of the series, though...might it be that Evangelion is in many ways a little rough around the edges? Works in the "canon" are sometimes known to be cryptic, but NGE has this air of being somehow unrefined in a lot of ways, (though in a good way, I feel), and the sense of instability that comes from this might also inhibit its ability to be seen as a work of art.


You should check out some of William S. Burroughs stuff, or Jack Kerouac—or if you’re feeling really adventurous, try tackling Ulysses or Finnegan’s Wake, both by James Joyce. NGE is a lot more organized than most of the literary canon.

And this is one of those places where it depends on whose canon you’re going by—some people refuse to acknowledge Burroughs’ contributions to the field, whereas certain subgenres of science fiction are extremely indebted to his works and style.

VoidEater wrote: To a certain extent, works enter canon in retrospect. NGE hasn't really existed long enough to evoke it's sense of place (in many meanings), I don't think. Time will tell.


Good point, but I think we still have to consider the destruction of canon as a whole.

Gendo’sPapa wrote: It exists in a medium of entertainment that's, let's face it, SHIT.


Hahaaa! Bingo! This definitely hinders things in the minds of anyone who doesn’t already watch anime! Personally, I’m pretty discriminating in what I watch for anime, and it’s for this exact reason. There are some great thought-provoking things out there, but compared to what gets TV airtime in my area—and what the ‘anime kids’ try to recommend—most of it is pretty mind numbing, even for me. It’s even worse that these same ‘anime kids’ who try to recommend this stuff explicitly say that they watch this anime because it doesn’t make them think. I guess there’s something to be said for thoughtless entertainment, but I’m not one that can really get into their brand of brain-clogging tapioca sludgification.

Gendo’sPapa wrote: 5. "Scholarly Approval"- what's the point? It should all boil down to the individual.


Gendo’sPapa wrote: 6. It's back to High Art Education. A place where just because it's taught in a class doesn't make it any more valid.


That’s it exactly. Post modernism really helped bring this mindset all about—art has been taken off of its pedestal and given to the masses, whether for better or worse. On one hand, you end up with a lot of controversy in the fact that certain works are dubbed ‘art’ when clearly most of the populous hates them (Jackson Pollock, for instance, or Damien Hirst). But on the other hand, it makes art more interactive and more expressive in terms of who the audience is. So really, a Great Work of Art is purely defined on a subjective basis—that’s what makes it so great!

But the most important aspect of art is the act of creating it—because, as I said, art is a byproduct of self expression. The personal act of expression will always be more important to the individual than the act of interpretation. Interpretation’s necessary, but I think expression is more important to the individual’s wellbeing and happiness.

Eva Yojimbo wrote: Sandman is equally as good (and, IMO, better) than Watchmen. Beyond that: Maus, Blankets, Jimmy Corrigan, Berlin, Epileptic, The Contract With God, and Black Hole (from what I've read).


I read an article about a year ago that listed the best comic books ever written or something along those lines, and it listed every single book you mentioned. But have you ever branched off from there? For instance, Cerebus (Dave Sim), Bone (Jeff Smith), Planetary and Transmetropolitan (Warren Ellis), The Filth (Grant Morrison), and more recently Joshua Dysart’s Unknown Soldier—they’re all great comics, and that’s not even getting into DC or Marvel continuity—both of which have some great stories of their own. I’ve found that comic books suffer the same stigma anime does in this respect—and the predicament is the same; most comic book writers don’t really do much to change that stigma, and most comic book fans are too pretentious or too disinterested to care.

Eva Yojimbo wrote: As Orson Welles said: "Give them too much and they won't contribute anything themselves. Give them just a suggestion and you get them working with you. That's what gives the theater meaning: when it becomes a social act." and art very much IS a social act. It's not through individuals but through a majority of individuals that decides what lasts and what doesn't. Sure, individuals can be very important to that process (look at TS Eliot's impact on the modernist movement) but it's always taken more than the ephemerality of the individual.


But enough individuals have taken interest in Evangelion to ensure its survival already—I doubt adding it to some canon is going to make too much of a difference in that regard. And the other thing is I think you’re misinterpreting what’s being said. T.S. Eliot contributed to the art dynamic, which just so happened to latch onto what he did and devour it into canon—but look at Eliot’s perspective as an analyst. As far as I know, he advocated the emphasis of a subjective interpretation of artistic works, which is why he published his notes for “The Waste Land”—he didn’t want it being misinterpreted, and the notes really enhance to experience of the poem anyhow.

Eva Yojimbo wrote: Art doesn't need to be of the hermitic Tarkovsky or the elitist and exclusive TS Eliot/James Joyce or the 'art for art's sake' of any of the po-mo's to be equally effective as art. Not that I have anything against the above mentioned artists, but to me, the idea of high-art as an intentional invention created an aimed for the exclusive and learned elite is a rather modern and extremely ludicrous notion.


Everything I’ve read about post-modernism and everything I’ve read that’s considered to be post-modern is extremely anti-“art for art’s sake” in its mentality. And in fact, the advent of post-modernism in general led to the destruction of ‘high-art’ itself—that was part of the whole point to calling the era post-modern. And it's also part of the reason I'm having trouble understanding your preoccupation with artistic canon.

Eva Yojimbo wrote: For me, the true test of the artist is finding a way to appeal to the masses without alienating that learned elite; because bridging that gap is likely the hardest thing one can attempt in art, and only a select few have done it.


And as has been established, Evangelion does that exceptionally well. So what’s your argument? I guess I’m now just confused; you want NGE preserved in someone’s canon to make it officially guarded for posterity’s sake, and yet it’s already been acknowledged that NGE is a worldwide spectacle which crosses cultural boundaries (as you even stated). With that kind of a following, what more do you want? I don’t think there’s any danger Eva is going to be forgotten. And the fact that there’s even a discussion board like this one should tell you that it’s thought-provoking enough to garner serious analysis by people who are merely in it for kicks.

Shit. This was way too long and took a lot longer than I had anticipated. Oh well, I hope it helps.

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Postby Mr. Tines » Sun Jun 28, 2009 2:44 am

Now that Anno has, as feared, had his George Lucas moment, I think we can safely say that the idea of NGE being accepted as a work of art has become perfectly fantastickal.
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Postby Eva Yojimbo » Sun Jun 28, 2009 4:10 am

Merridian; I'll reply to you in depth later:

Mr. Tines wrote:Now that Anno has, as feared, had his George Lucas moment, I think we can safely say that the idea of NGE being accepted as a work of art has become perfectly fantastickal.
Why is that? I don't see with the existence of Rebuild hurts the artistry of NGE. Besides, it's not as if great artists have never tinkered with their own creations. HOW many cuts of Blade Runner are there?
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Postby UrsusArctos » Sun Jun 28, 2009 11:47 am

Hey, the Dark Lord of Trolls trolled us with both 1.0 and 2.0, only in slightly different ways. He'll probably troll us again in 3.0 to show us that he's the same as ever.
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Postby Kutta » Sun Jun 28, 2009 6:06 pm

Meridian,

Everything I’ve read about post-modernism and everything I’ve read that’s considered to be post-modern is extremely anti-“art for art’s sake” in its mentality. And in fact, the advent of post-modernism in general led to the destruction of ‘high-art’ itself—that was part of the whole point to calling the era post-modern. And it's also part of the reason I'm having trouble understanding your preoccupation with artistic canon.


I'm under the impression that your usage of 'canon' is kind of an abstract term related to art's philosophy, and it does not touch profoundly the issue of some art being only appreciated by a tiny minority. A mere change in approach to 'high art' and L'art pour l'art does not lessen artistic elitism as it is; rather, it follows from my experience that the supermajority of postmodern works don't even come close to being truly popular.

AFAIK, Eva Yojimbo tries to grasp canon's relatively objective side: canon as something that is not forgotten, and I think he's got the point. I doubt postmodernism succeeded to "salt" this type of canon, as it's easy to believe that in the future only a limited amount of art will be preserved in the collective consciousness. And naturally this "canon" will not be thrown together haphazardly. IMO a postmodern view of canon and art appreciation emerged mainly because of the relatively recent explosion of art's quantity and variety. This almost incomprehensible cavalcade can well inspire thougths of structurelessness, infinite out-of-the-box recursions and and exaggerated subjectivity. Note that this is not a dismissal of pomo but an observed pattern (though if I wanted to be cynical I could say that the very concept of pomo is formed so that any objection can be easily tossed into a rhetoric tarpit).

As for NGE, I think you have the point that by now it's unlikely that it's going be forgotten or ignored, at least in the mid-long run. Although in the present NGE is just plainly not getting the spotlight it deserves. OK, the majority of acclaimed works went through a stage like this, but if not for the "fans" they could never ever get their deserved place, and the same applies to NGE. Getting satisfied with the flow of events is not an option for a hardcore fan such as Jimbo :) - and, hmm, maybe for me too?

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Postby Merridian » Sun Jun 28, 2009 8:24 pm

Kutta wrote:I'm under the impression that your usage of 'canon' is kind of an abstract term related to art's philosophy, and it does not touch profoundly the issue of some art being only appreciated by a tiny minority.


I was under the impression that 'canon' referred to a collection of works that remained in a certain population's consciousness. I don't think I understand what you mean by its (or my usage of the term?) neglect to profoundly touch on the fact that some art is "only appreciated by a tiny minority." If I'm correct in my interpretation of your statement, then what I was trying to say is exactly that; artwork really is only appreciated by a relatively small minority compared to the billions of people on the planet. Combined with the destabilization of post-modernism, canon has become even more recognized as something that should be individually-identified with, rather than something shoved down everybody's throats.

In this regard, I'm looking at it more as a thing that you should define as an individual--i.e. less statements along the lines of "NGE is superior to Ghost in the Shell because it dives deeper into subjects 'x' 'y' and 'z'" and more along the lines of "I like NGE more than Ghost in the Shell because it's emphasis is on subjects 'x' 'y' and 'z', rather than subject 'w'". Does that make sense?

Kutta wrote:A mere change in approach to 'high art' and L'art pour l'art does not lessen artistic elitism as it is; rather, it follows from my experience that the supermajority of postmodern works don't even come close to being truly popular.


I don't think I was clear enough. It is true that there is a supermajority of elitist art snobs that purposefully try to transgress everything and continue that process of destroying tradition, and they are, understandably, marginalized by the public consciousness. However, that wasn't my point. I was trying to explain that the Modernist (and previous) idea of 'High Art' has been largely dispensed of due to the public's ambivalence toward the pretentiousness of said art snobs. People are now free to do whatever they want in terms of self expression, and thanks to the fact that educational systems in the more developed nations have undergone vast improvements over the past sixty-some years, these people are better able to utilize the tools for self expression.

I guess my point is that the emphasis of artistry has moved away from simply observing what others done in favor of creation itself.

Kutta wrote:IMO a postmodern view of canon and art appreciation emerged mainly because of the relatively recent explosion of art's quantity and variety. This almost incomprehensible cavalcade can well inspire thoughts of structurelessness, infinite out-of-the-box recursions and and exaggerated subjectivity.


That's part of what I was trying to communicate when I emphasized the whole reason for art's existence--from what I've noticed, artistry has become less about the work itself, and more about the creation process.

There's no doubt that a concept of 'high art' still exists, but it doesn't exactly carry a whole lot of respect with it. Most of the people I've spoken with express disdain for the art-obsessed bohemians who thrive on their own self-reflexive ideas of elitist intellectualism--and I can't blame them. So while 'high art' does exist, it's only relevant to those who care about it. And on top of this, a lot of these elitists aren't very happy anyhow, and use unfairly critical methods (such as, in the case of NGE, the fact that it's anime) to further perpetuate their elitism and their disdain for everything that they don't already agree with.

Kutta wrote:though if I wanted to be cynical I could say that the very concept of pomo is formed so that any objection can be easily tossed into a rhetoric tarpit


That exact statement sums up the very reason I've adopted the philosophy I have regarding artwork. I don't really enjoy discussing it because it's too touchy a subject for most to really handle without getting personally offended somehow, and on top of that, many of the previously-considered 'objective' ways of thinking have been eclipsed by this whole subjectivity of artwork as a whole. It's when people start getting offended by this kind of thing that really turns me off; people have enough reasons to perpetuate negativity, and the sensitivity surrounding the egos of the art elitists is just too much for me.

From my perspective, art is a fascinating but ultimately useless preoccupation. I'm interested in it because I enjoy thinking, which is something good art stimulates. Art will not put food in my mouth or a roof over my head, nor should it. Art has always been a source of entertainment--existing as such all the way back into prehistory.

What good art gives us is an alternate perspective which, if we're capable, we can use to help better ourselves through other avenues of life. This is the best application of artistry to practical living, aside from the creative aspect which I've tried to cover before.

Kutta wrote:Although in the present NGE is just plainly not getting the spotlight it deserves. OK, the majority of acclaimed works went through a stage like this, but if not for the "fans" they could never ever get their deserved place, and the same applies to NGE.


You're absolutely right, but to me NGE is NGE. I really don't care about its status as 'artwork'--to me, it's art. To someone else, it's just a TV show with a pathetic protagonist. Ultimately, it's entertainment. If someone's uninterested in the subject matter or unwilling to give it a chance, calling it 'art' isn't going to make a difference.

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Postby Eva Yojimbo » Sun Jun 28, 2009 11:03 pm

Whew! I thought I had a competitor in the quest for 'person able to post the longest-ass posts in the world' but, I think I'm still the winner here, Merridian. :D

Merridian wrote:I'd say it's already in the mainstream.
Hmmm, you make an interesting point. The ever-increasing worldwide connectivity and the the fact that the internet has made it so easy for every the smallest sub-cultures to congregate together en masse has certainly blurred the lines between just what is and isn't mainstream. And sub-cultures are likely larger than they've ever been because of the connectivity and, like the old parable, a group of sticks bound together is tougher to break than a lone twig.

That said, I still feel there's very much a spectrum with mainstream and uber-cult being at the poles. Almost everyone is aware of, say, Citizen Kane, 2001, War & Peace, Hamlet, Mozart, The Beatles, etc. even if they've never seen/read/heard them. The same can't be said for Evangelion; certainly so in the West. I've oft-inquired just how 'big' it is in Japan and have gotten differing answers even from people who live there. Many still say that it's extremely far from the mainstream while others say it's everywhere and quite pervasive throughout the culture.

But, even then, I'm not so sure how much mass popularity will equate to lasting posterity. This age of art being presented through potentially permanent mediums and presented in ways which have the possibility of even lesser works having a much longer shelf-life is relatively new. One wonders just what, say, the Star Wars sub-culture will on its centennial; it's really hard to say.

Merridian wrote:As such, "artistic canon" has disappeared - you've got a few things that still circle around groups of people as agreed-upon works of merit, but as a whole, anything done in the last twenty years (or half-century, depending on whose definition you're going on) is largely ignored for this reason.
I don't think it's disappeared at all. I think Harold Bloom produced a pretty darn definitive book of the Western literature canon, cites like Theyshootpictures have devoured lists made by critics and film-makers to create what is likely the definitive list of films in the canon (certainly at least the top 100 if not more), and there's already a large list of 20th century composers that are emerging to become part of the classical canon and even popular artists forming their own (I doubt The Beatles or Dylan will be forgotten any time soon).

Interestingly, there's probably never been an age where such 'list-making' has been as prevalent as it is now. There's 'lists' for everything and the fact is that with any given subject you will see the same works pop up over and over; this is, in a way, how canon is formed. And I don't think any amount of pomo's subjectification of art is going to destroy that.

Merridian wrote:I look at art as being a byproduct of self expression. In this light, it emphasizes creative aspect of doing things more than the creative aspect of simply interpreting things.
Well, for me, the creation and interpretation is simply the speaking and listening part of art as communication. Creation for one's self has its place, but, in the end, it's rather like talking to yourself in that it may be good personal therapy, but it's not going to help, entertain, enlighten, provoke, etc. anyone else. Although the interpretation aspect can go to far. I tend to take a middle road between utter faithfulness to the artist's intention and 'death of the author'.

Merridian wrote:try tackling Ulysses or Finnegan's Wake, both by James Joyce. NGE is a lot more organized than most of the literary canon.
I've read a lot of both and, yeah, I know what you mean. But NGE's second half certainly has a feeling, likely created by its extreme condensation and mimicking of the radical film subversives' techniques, that it's delving into narrative and structural chaos. But even with Ulysses and Finnegans there's always intent under the surface with Joyce pushing multi-cultural linguistic semantics and wordplay to its limits and representing the chaos of, among other things, the working of the human mind.

Merridian wrote:I guess there's something to be said for thoughtless entertainment, but I'm not one that can really get into their brand of brain-clogging tapioca sludgification.
For me, there's a brand of art made for entertainment that has great value, and that's the kind that shows a high degree of thought behind the craft. In these works the content becomes the entertainment but the formal aspects are pure artistry. Classic Hollywood was full of great examples, e.g., Howard Hawks and Billy Wilder rarely made intentionally artistic films, but in all their rampant entertainment there was always incredible thought behind the craftsmanship. Good examples in anime might be Cowboy Bebop or Escaflowne.

Merridian wrote:art has been taken off of its pedestal and given to the masses, whether for better or worse.
But has it REALLY? What I consider the actual mass mediums of entertainment and what within those mediums attract the masses very little of it is anywhere near what anyone would label as good art. It's this kind of disposable entertainment that the masses eat up. And I'm all for giving art to the masses; as I said before, the greats in all mediums seemed to be those that bridged that gap. But it seems that modernism created this kind of schism between the masses and art; TS Eliot said that all art must be appreciated with the context of all other art, and that right there gives it an exclusivity. And certainly works like Ulysses or In Search of Lost Time weren't written with mass audiences in mind.

Perhaps post-modernism meant to give this kind of art back to the people, but I just don't see it. If any of it makes it to the mainstream I think it's more of a difference in the creative approach. Again, creating with mass entertainment first but putting that artistry within the craft.

Merridian wrote:But have you ever branched off from there?
Not much; I've been too busy with other literature lately, but I was devouring comics most of last year. I put those you mentioned on my Amazon wish list. :)

Merridian wrote:I've found that comic books suffer the same stigma anime does in this respect - and the predicament is the same; most comic book writers don't really do much to change that stigma, and most comic book fans are too pretentious or too disinterested to care.
Yet things HAVE changed. Watchmen went mass popularity, Sandman could do so if they could find a decent screenplay and director/producer/distributor (I think it would be perfect as an HBO series). Neil Gaiman tells a humorous story where he told someone at one of those high-class parties that he wrote comic books, and after saying he wrote Sandman they said "Oh, you don't write comic books, you write graphic novels!" which, as he said, was like being told he wasn't a hooker but a 'lady of the night'. Gotta love people's hang-ups on labels! I fear animation (in general) has already created such strong prejudices in people's mind over what it's suited for that there may be no hope for it in the west as a medium with the potential for greater things.

Merridian wrote:But enough individuals have taken interest in Evangelion to ensure its survival already - I doubt adding it to some canon is going to make too much of a difference in that regard.
Are we sure it has enough interest to ensure its survival? What I see is a work that has a very cult following; NGE is certainly a smaller community than Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, or similar sci-fi/fantasy franchises, and I even wonder about their (well, Wars and Trek more than LOTR) posterity. The masses are fickle, and I think there's a great chance that each subsequent generation will be less and less enthralled

Merridian wrote:And it's also part of the reason I'm having trouble understanding your preoccupation with artistic canon.
Because I see the invention of canon as a phenomenon divorced of any artistic movement. I pomo certainly seemed to move away more from the elitism of modernism but I still don't see much of a difference in what they've produced in terms of their relationship with canon or the mainstream. Artistic elitism still exists and isn't any less prevalent, mainstream entertainment still isn't considered art, and most art that is appreciated as great art isn't well known (if at all) among the masses.

Merridian wrote:And as has been established, Evangelion does that exceptionally well. So what's your argument?
Because, as I said, I see it's fandom existing in what is likely a very tenuous, self-contained but easily bustable bubble. Maybe that's not the case in Japan, but it certainly is in the West. I might say that I can see its potential for lasting more than any other anime title, but anime tends to be such an ephemeral medium that I'm far from certain.

Merridian wrote:artwork really is only appreciated by a relatively small minority compared to the billions of people on the planet. Combined with the destabilization of post-modernism, canon has become even more recognized as something that should be individually-identified with, rather than something shoved down everybody's throats.
Well, it's true that art is only appreciated by a minority on the highest level (by that I mean an individual level of passion regarding it); but art is very much mainstream in the fact that people use it as escapism or entertainment; but even among these art becomes very important on some level and informs their lives. Look at the masses who grieve for Michael Jackson; and much of that is genuinely because of his 'art'.

But it's precisely that minority that's majorly responsible for keeping it alive throughout the years. And everyone who studies the artistic fields will encounter common works that are part of that canon.

Merridian wrote:I'm looking at it more as a thing that you should define as an individual--i.e....
But where does that stop? Does one really have to give such subjective comparative analysis with any two such works? e.g. Mozart VS Britney Spears, Citizen Kane VS Daddy Day Care, Hamlet VS Twilight, etc. It's hard to avoid absolute relativism when you place too much importance on the subjective importance of art. In truth, I should distinguish it as being a subversion of mass subjectivity opposed to individual subjectivity; the former is responsible for the invention/shaping of canons, the latter leaves everything up to the individual.

Merridian wrote:Most of the people I've spoken with express disdain for the art-obsessed bohemians who thrive on their own self-reflexive ideas of elitist intellectualism--and I can't blame them. So while 'high art' does exist, it's only relevant to those who care about it. And on top of this, a lot of these elitists aren't very happy anyhow, and use unfairly critical methods (such as, in the case of NGE, the fact that it's anime) to further perpetuate their elitism and their disdain for everything that they don't already agree with.
I think this is more than a bit of gross generalization. The stereotype of the elitist, intellectual, art-obsessed bohemians tends to be much more exaggerated than the actual truth. Of all the people that I've encountered that genuinely love art very few fit that description. I've met voracious bibliophiles who profess a love for Harry Potter, I've met the most intellectual cinephiles who love Transformers... Hell, I'm someone who adores classical music but also don't mind headbanging to thrash and death metal. To me, the true art types are of the voracious and unprejudiced sort rather than the discriminating, exclusive sort who use their appreciation as a kind of measurement for an abstract pissing contest.

Each successive generation seems responsible for altering the canon; adding to, excluding, etc. and it's usually each new critical wave that elevates what were previously perceived as 'lesser' arts or works to much greater status. I see NGE as precisely the kind of work fit for that kind of revolution.

Merridian wrote:art is a fascinating but ultimately useless preoccupation.
I've often thought that art and utilitarianism make better opposing partners than art and entertainment (of which I've always found somewhat synonymous). That said, the very fact that art stimulates the mind makes it useful; as thinking (and a greater ability to do so) certainly has its usefulness in real life.

Merridian wrote:If someone's uninterested in the subject matter or unwilling to give it a chance, calling it 'art' isn't going to make a difference.
True; one has to be open and willing to let something affect them before it will. And I often think the greatness labels that gets thrown on works are such a barrier. One wonders if people went into Citizen Kane with a fresh mind rather than the preconception the 'greatest film of all time' label generates if they would see a completely different movie.
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Postby Eva Yojimbo » Sun Jun 28, 2009 11:08 pm

Great post cesc-2 and it's WONDERFUL to see you on here! I do hope you make it a habit of posting here some; I think you'll enjoy. I also think you're mostly dead on and summed up many of my points well. You're also very much right about the deluge of art that we have today in every imaginable medium and even mixed-media. Not to mention the availability. In one way, it's truly wonderful to have so much at one's mere fingertips. On the other, it's impossible not to lament the lack of time one has to experience even the smallest fraction of a fraction of it.

For me, it's not so much the waiting for NGE becoming canon but the uncertain process. As of now, I just don't see NGE in the right hands for it to become so or promoted in such a way as to help it get there. Like I said in my OP, I see it more of a 'keep-it-in-the-family' thing amongst the fandom.
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Jimbo has posted enough to be considered greater than or equal to everyone, and or synonymous with the concept of 'everyone'. - Muggy
I've seen so many changeful years, / to Earth I am a stranger grown: / I wander in the ways of men, / alike unknowing and unknown: / Unheard, unpitied, unrelieved, / I bear alone my load of care; / For silent, low, on beds of dust, / Lie all that would my sorrows share. - Robert Burns' Lament for James

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Postby Emiemipoemi » Mon Jun 29, 2009 3:49 pm

I would think that simply seeing intelligent fans able to have conversation after conversation about symbolism, psychology, and such of a show would be a good indication that this is not just another show. The only other people I have seen discuss a show as much as this are Utena fans. That's at least how I see it. :O
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Postby Mr. Tines » Mon Jun 29, 2009 4:52 pm

Emiemipoemi wrote:Utena
Utena is to shoujo what NGE is to shonen, in very many respects.
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Postby Eva Yojimbo » Mon Jun 29, 2009 6:48 pm

I've heard that many times about Utena; I've really wanted to see it for a long time but it's now OOP and has been for a while... Guess I could sign up for a month on Rent Anime and see it.
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^ Writing as Jonathan Henderson ^
We're all adrift on the stormy seas of Evangelion, desperately trying to gather what flotsam can be snatched from the gale into a somewhat seaworthy interpretation so that we can at last reach the shores of reason and respite. - ObsessiveMathsFreak
Jimbo has posted enough to be considered greater than or equal to everyone, and or synonymous with the concept of 'everyone'. - Muggy
I've seen so many changeful years, / to Earth I am a stranger grown: / I wander in the ways of men, / alike unknowing and unknown: / Unheard, unpitied, unrelieved, / I bear alone my load of care; / For silent, low, on beds of dust, / Lie all that would my sorrows share. - Robert Burns' Lament for James

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Postby Merridian » Mon Jun 29, 2009 9:02 pm

Eva Yojimbo wrote: This age of art being presented through potentially permanent mediums and presented in ways which have the possibility of even lesser works having a much longer shelf-life is relatively new.


You hit the nail right on the head. That right there is the conundrum I ran into when I used to be more concerned with this sort of thing. Personally, I think it has to do with an increase in education rates combined with an increase in the technological means through which art can be presented that has led to this sort of… artistic explosion.

This leads right into a point you made further down:

Eva Yojimbo wrote: But where does that stop? Does one really have to give such subjective comparative analysis with any two such works? e.g. Mozart VS Britney Spears, Citizen Kane VS Daddy Day Care, Hamlet VS Twilight, etc. It's hard to avoid absolute relativism when you place too much importance on the subjective importance of art.


I think the thing to keep in mind here is that someone trying to defend Brittney Spears’ artistic talents is either doing it strictly from a devil’s advocate position, or they’re simply huge fans of her music and will refuse to be convinced otherwise. I guess what I’m saying is that comparisons of this nature fundamentally lack any substance—Citizen Cane can be debated due to its use of incredible cinematography techniques (among many other things), whereas Daddy Day Care simply doesn’t have enough depth to even remotely compare in scope or importance to the medium and culture. While it’s impossible to debate whether someone might like Daddy Day Care more than Citizen Cane, the argument of its significance is more a matter of—as you even state—the masses’ subjectivity.

So yes, I’ll admit that total subjective comparison is entirely useless when it comes to debating this sort of thing. But I still insist that a level of personal bias leaks through into how much praise someone gives a work of art—especially when the things being debated/compared are already on a common standing ground in terms of technical and thematic depth.

Eva Yojimbo wrote: there's probably never been an age where such 'list-making' has been as prevalent as it is now. There's 'lists' for everything and the fact is that with any given subject you will see the same works pop up over and over; this is, in a way, how canon is formed. And I don't think any amount of pomo's subjectification of art is going to destroy that.


Some works do cross lists, many don’t. I’ve found that a lot of these types of lists simply perpetuate what the public already knows—‘greatest books of the last decade’ lists tend to examine the novels that most recently topped the New York Times Best Seller list, for instance. I’m not saying that this means cash equals canon—on the contrary, I’m saying that the public itself determines what ends up as canon. This is where the difference is clearest from, say, the Modernist days where most of the public simply wasn’t educated enough to understand most of the novels being slung around. Granted, you certainly had your Modernist novelists that topped best seller lists—Hemmingway and Fitzgerald are two of the best American examples—but people like Ezra Pound or James Joyce weren’t exactly targeting the average man for a majority of their output.

A post-modern example of this could be that Thomas Pynchon is probably going to hit many lists concerning some of the greatest writers of the last half-century—Don DeLillo probably wouldn’t. Chuck Palahniuk I’ve already seen listed on a few ‘best authors’ lists that covered the last twenty-or-so years, but I’ve yet to see Bret Easton Ellis’ name on one (whose writing I happen to enjoy more). Maybe I’m just looking at the wrong lists, but then again, that pretty much proves my point.

So I’ll admit that my original statement that canon has been destroyed is wrong, but I think a more appropriate assertion would be that canon has simply been fragmented into some kind of hyper-canon—which, from my perspective, means that it’s still up to the individual to decide which works are more important to his/herself.

Eva Yojimbo wrote: But has it REALLY? What I consider the actual mass mediums of entertainment and what within those mediums attract the masses very little of it is anywhere near what anyone would label as good art.


I’d say so. Techniques that were first pioneered in the experimental films of the sixties have been used in everything from television advertisements to feature-length movies. Music videos use similar montage cuts that Daron Arnofsky played with in Pi and Requiem for a Dream. Britcoms have been using absurdism for comedic effect for decades—and more recently, Cartoon Network programs like Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Robot Chicken are centered entirely around the notion of plotlessness—that’s something you’d never have seen outside of arthouse cinema even twenty years ago. Maybe the content has been scaled back to make a broader appeal, but the techniques have certainly made it into the mainstream.

And even the content has been somewhat respectable. Like I said earlier, education rates are a lot higher now than they were sixty years ago. A more intelligent populous forces the need for more intelligent entertainment. Granted, it’s hardly across the board—otherwise stuff like Guitar Hero or game shows wouldn’t exist—but it’s still a huge leap from the Modernist days.

Eva Yojimbo wrote: Not much; I've been too busy with other literature lately, but I was devouring comics most of last year. I put those you mentioned on my Amazon wish list.


Awesome. Cerebus doesn’t get really interesting until Vol. 2, but once it does, it maintains itself exceptionally well …up until the last two volumes where both the thematic content and the writing itself just tanks.

Back on topic!

Eva Yojimbo wrote: Yet things HAVE changed. Watchmen went mass popularity, Sandman could do so if they could find a decent screenplay and director/producer/distributor (I think it would be perfect as an HBO series).


Well… not really. Comics have been the basis of Hollywood scripts for awhile now, and Watchmen was popular enough to warrant a cinema adaptation back in 1986—except it had been shelved due to developmental problems for more than fifteen years. And as far as mass popularity goes, Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns (as much as I personally loathe it) is universally recognized as one of the factors that brought comics back into the public consciousness, just like Watchmen. Thing is, both of these are more than twenty years old at this point. The populous only recognizes comics once they’re ‘x’-years old—there’s still that stigma attached to the monthlies, just as there’s still a stigma attached to current anime.

Granted, both mediums are far from perfect in the general quality of writing/illustration, but the fact that the stigmas exist is yet another thing that is going to hold them back from reaching canonical status. There’ll be exceptions as always—Promethea (Alan Moore) and The Filth (Grant Morrison) were both recognized almost immediately as being intensely cerebral ‘masterpieces’, just as Kino’s Journey, Ghost in the Shell S.A.C., and Texnohlyze all received impressive write-ups on sites and in magazines largely unrelated to anime. The fact that the creators of said works had already gained recognition for other works in the past only helped boost the critics’ willingness to praise them. Problem is that for every Texnohlyze, there’re seventy Narutos, and for every Promethea, there’re a billion Witchblades.

All of this really just reiterates what’s already been said, so I’ll stop expounding myself and get on with it.

Eva Yojimbo wrote: I tend to take a middle road between utter faithfulness to the artist's intention and 'death of the author'.


I know what you mean. As far as I’m concerned, unless the artist published his/her notes or commentary on their own piece, the artist can’t expect the interpreter to get every little nuance of their work. It’s going to be—as you’ve said previously—a Rorschach test.

Eva Yojimbo wrote:I think this is more than a bit of gross generalization. The sterotype of the elitist, intellectual, art-obsessed bohemians tends to be much more exaggerated than the actual truth.


Yeah, I'll admit it was a bit much. But the problem is that it isn't that exaggerated--at least, not around where I am. I came into contact with a clique of these crazies every day on campus last semester, and they were every bit as unjustified in their beliefs as they were unwilling to accept someone else's opinion. Their flat out refusal to even acknowledge something as worthy of their attention unless it already was canon kind of proves how moronic their whole approach was.

These are the types of people I was referring to, and for a lot of the folks I've interacted with, this has become the face of people who enjoy art. When people asked me what I liked to listen to, for instance, I used to tell them that I enjoyed experimental music like Glenn Branca and Swans, or Jazz stuff from Coltrane and Miles Davis, but it was always about there in the conversations where I was abruptly called out as being "one of those art faggots that hates what normal people listen to". Sad part is that I don't even criticize what someone else likes; just mentioning experimental anything is enough to get some people flustered. People are touchy, and I've just learned to stay vague about my interests.

You're right about what someone who really appreciates art is supposed to be about--specifically, open-mindedness--but the sad part is that I haven't personally interacted with very many people who fit the bill. I've met a few, but not nearly enough.

Fhooooooo pah (gnthuqck). This is onomatopoeia for sighing and sitting back in my chair, contemplating how to wrap this up.

I guess I if I really wanted to get back to the subject, I’d summarize what I’m trying to say right here: Evangelion is fighting a number of factors when it comes to inclusion within ‘artistic canon’. The fact that anime as a whole is negatively viewed due to the existence of mind-rotting material like Love Hina and Naruto means that Sisyphus has a steeper hill to roll Evangelion up in order to please the people that aren’t already familiar with good anime. Also, Evangelion is already considered canon within anime circles—even the ones that hate it because of its (and I quote) “Freudian bullshit that makes [them] think too much” tend to acknowledge its significance to the medium. The protagonist of NGE also begins the series as a stereotype, and it takes quite awhile before any decent development unfurls to establish him more as an archetype of the genre.

Eva Yojimbo wrote: I see it more of a 'keep-it-in-the-family' thing amongst the fandom.


And yeah, this doesn’t help it either. The only thing that can really be done is what’s always been done: enjoy it, recommend it, and let the rest do as they please.

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Re: NGE's Status as a Work of Art...

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Postby Evangelion217 » Tue Jul 28, 2009 3:32 pm

NGE certainly succeeds in these areas, and I'm often surprised it's not appreciated more by the cinematic community given Anno's very real level of auteurism.


It would, if 95% of animes didn't suck. I love the medium, it's my favorite medium, and many idiots like to judge it as a lesser art form, because most of it's content is just REALLY bad.

To this day, comic books still suffer the same stigma. It's suppose to be a childish medium, that must be used as a way for people to escape their miserable lives. Anything else that doesn't follow that trend isn't a comic book, or is just ignored due to the fact that most comic books are immature. Which is why people like Bill Maher will continue to bash the medium, without reading something like "From Hell", "Watchmen", or "Sandman."

You know what I say?? Fuck em! :grin:

But I think part of that is because much of the fandom is intent on keeping it 'to themselves'. There's this certain level of 'keeping it in the family' I've always disliked.


I'm guilty of this. I recommend it to everybody that I know(especially film goers, and cinephiles), but I don't want the idiots to wake up all of a sudden and start enjoying the medium. I don't want people, who are not yet smart enough, to realize that "Evangelion" is up there with pantheon of great cinema, art and literature. I also don't want these people to realize that anime could become the greatest art form of this century.
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Postby oOoOoOo » Tue Jul 28, 2009 4:45 pm

Are we confused as to why Neon Genesis Evangelion doesn't have "high art" acceptance in the West?

High art (from academics, nobility, elites) always moves more quickly to popular art than the other way around. Things like animation or rock music started at the bottom, so it will be some time before people wake up and recognize it.

To become high art, something must be universal. It must transcend genre and appeal across gender and age boundaries. Even Watchmen, one of the finest Western comics ever made, would not be something I would recommend to a non-comic fan. It is too tied up in its own genre (in part it is a critique of its genre). The very existence of costumed avengers turns off most people. I actually had a hard time reading it (although I obviously warmed up to it) because everyone looked so stupid. I thought, "a boy drew this, a boy with no concept of how real urban combatants would actually dress". Like, the women in Watchmen? Please. No way I'm wearing heels to fight crime. That kind of shit prevents Watchmen, despite its incredible story, from ever aspiring to the kind of universal transcendence that 2001 achieved for science fiction. Anyone can watch 2001 without needing a grounding in nerd lore.

I would argue against Evangelion being a universal work on the scale of 2001, although it still remains one of my personal favourite anime products of all time. I should note that although it is one of my personal favourites, I do not think it is the most transcendent artistically. I really like Rurouni Kenshin, enough to buy it, but I don't think it is of a finer quality than plenty of series I'll never watch again. I think Nine Inch Nails is the finest industrial alternative rock ever crafted, but I certainly haven't listened to much of it since high school. I've spent huge amounts of money on concert tickets, but I wouldn't recommend NIN to anyone other than rock fans.

To appreciate Evangelion, you need some knowledge of anime/manga tropes. You need some grounding in the whole subculture, so that you are willing to put up with the monster-of-the-week action. Every time I watch it with someone, I spend the first half of the show trying to convince them that they should keep on watching. They all get hooked by the end, but that's through my force of will. ^^; In fact, most of my personal enjoyment of the first half of the TV series is directly related to what I know is on the horizon. I was not terribly impressed my first time though. For a 26-episode work of art, you need a more consistent quality to start creeping into the cultural consciousness the way Star Wars did.

I haven't seen 2.0 (I AM PATIENT) but I would guess that the completed Rebuild series will have a better chance of universal appeal than the rather beautifully flawed TV series.

Despite my saying this, I imagine in a few decades we will see Evangelion gain a great deal more respect in art circles, largely because all the otaku will be entering positions of prestige. (We hope.) ^^; I don't foresee it becoming like "Casablanca", but I do see it being recognized as a seminal work.

SEMINAL, YOU SAY? Yes, I suppose it is different than universal. Let's look at music, shall we?

The Beatles were universal (everyone loves them) but were also seminal (everyone was influenced by them). Take Joy Division. While they were a seminal band (U2, Interpol, the Strokes, the Killers all owe their existence to them) they were not that polished or... good. It is the same with the Sex Pistols or the Ramones. All the great universal stuff came later, but they were nevertheless highly influential.

I think that is the sort of legacy Evangelion can expect.

I hath rambledeth!
~ O-chan is soooo 2D right now.

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Postby Synapsid » Tue Jul 28, 2009 5:16 pm

oOoOoOo wrote:I don't foresee it becoming like "Casablanca", but I do see it being recognized as a seminal work.
I think so to, and in some manners it already has become Seminal, Eva's postmodern psychological novel elements have already made an impression in contemporary anime... I don't doubt that it won't be one of the most influential in it's genre.
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Evangelion217
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Postby Evangelion217 » Tue Jul 28, 2009 6:24 pm

However, it's still entertainment


But it's entertainment that is moving, inspiring, thoughtful, and provocative. Which is one of the many definitions of "art." So in the end, "NGE" is a great work of art and a life altering experience for many.



To appreciate Evangelion, you need some knowledge of anime/manga tropes.


Wrong. You don't have to be an anime fan to appreciate "Evangelion." You just need a clear knowledge of cinema and literature.



To appreciate Evangelion, you need some knowledge of anime/manga tropes.


Wrong. You don't have to be an anime fan to appreciate "Evangelion." You just need a clear knowledge of cinema and literature.
The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.

"Komm Susser Todd" is the most up-lifting song about depression"- Evangelion217

It's stange that "Evangelion" became such a hit. All the characters are so sick!- Hideaki Anno

oOoOoOo
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Postby oOoOoOo » Tue Jul 28, 2009 8:09 pm

Evangelion217, sweetie, there is an edit feature. There is no "hat-trick" award on the forums. ^^;

Also, 217, darling, don't you think Anno's principle dialogue with his predecessors was with creators of classic mecha anime? I lived with a director/film student and an English major, and I had to essentially hold their hands through Evangelion.
~ O-chan is soooo 2D right now.


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