Previously on OTAKU COMING HOME...
- How FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST Saved Anime (For Me) *** SAILOR MOON is for Boys (Too)!
- KINGDOM HEARTS Rescued an Anime Fan *** The Art of the Remake Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3
- The Do's & Dont's of Conventions *** For Under-Rated "Japanimation" *** Capcom vs. Alex!
- America in Anime
After four long weeks Nick has at long last returned to US shores! So in honor of his triumphant return and the end of my stay here at ANIME VICE, I’ve decided to set my grumpy sights on Nick’s beloved NEON GENESIS EVANGELION “rebuilds.” (Sorry, Nick).
Part of writing OTAKU COMING HOME for the last few weeks and revisiting a lot of my favorite anime is me re-evaluating things that I’d made my mind up about years ago. Sadly that means coming to terms with the shortcomings of some old faves that can’t hold up under more mature scrutiny. So, I’m happy to say that the original NEON GENESIS EVANGALION is actually still pretty awesome.
Yes, Shinji is a great, big, blubbering crybaby whiner, but back then it was a bit of a rarity to see such a reluctant hero, and I actually felt like his gloom was earned by the absolute hopelessness of his life in the early episodes.
The overt (and ultimately meaningless) Christian symbolism gets on my nerves a bit, but it does make for some really striking, if manipulative, images that are certainly iconic and memorable. In fact, the show is ripe with intense and powerful images, from the lanky and monstrous designs of the Evas to the inverted skyline of the underground city.
Visually, EVANGELION is something of a triumph. The quality of animation for a TV show is pretty astounding, and the designs are strong and memorable, right down to the NeRV logo. The color palette is dynamic and interesting, and it plays a big part in the mood of the show. There are so many great shots and sequences in the first episode alone that I could probably write an entire article just about the visual accomplishments of the series.
So I like the damn show.
And that’s exactly why the rebuilds don’t work for me. Hideaki Anno already made this - - and made it well the first time!
To me, these rebuilds feel more like cashing in on a franchise that’s sure to make money, without the risk of coming up with new ideas or characters (with one exception that I’ll get to in a moment). In fact EVANGELION: 1.0 YOU ARE (NOT) ALONE is so similar to the original series, both in story and visuals, that it feels almost like a recap. An expensive clips show.
Anno has already remade his ending once, and it doesn’t get much more final than THE END OF EVANGELION. It's in the name, right?
Well, Anno has said that he’s glad to make these new rebuilds so that he can finally remake EVA as he intended it to be without the restriction of a tight budget. There had been rumors of budget limitations influencing how the series ended, sure, but THE END OF EVANGELION should have addressed these concerns already! That movie is gorgeously animated and was clearly not cheap to make.
This kind of “as I always wanted it” talk really irritates me, and it tends to lead to things like the re-releases of STAR WARS (with all the extra CG bullshit smeared all over them). It’s self-indulgent and, worse than that, it’s lazy. Wouldn’t you rather see something new from the man behind EVA than a slight recalculation of the same story he’s been coasting on for over ten years? If you have another story to tell, then why would you use the same settings and designs to do so?
I’ve heard fans talk about how exciting it is to see the second rebuild movie taking Shinji’s character in a new direction. The more he changes from the character in the original story, the more he becomes a different character in a Shinji costume. If the lead in your story is going to be a different character, then its time to consider just making a new set of events for him to contend with. Otherwise this is just a series of “What if?” scenarios. It borders on officially-licensed fan-fiction.
My focus in these articles so far has been largely on the art side of things, and I wont pretend that the rebuilds aren’t nice to look at. The budget is way high and the animation is fluid and alive, with designs that still hold up.
The thing is, though... most of what makes these new movies look great are the same choices made way back in ’95! The first rebuild has a lot of shots that are taken directly from the original series, and these shots are frequently the most exciting, powerful or memorable. Hence that “greatest hits” feeling I mentioned earlier.
Mari is the worst offender of all, though.
This boring afterthought of a character is just Asuka Part Two (AKA another pair of boobs to litterally throw into Shinji’s face). Her design is one of the only new ones, and its completely bland and uninspired. She sticks out like a sore thumb in the line up of characters (blue, red, purple, and…pinkish? Green?). I’ll take that dumbass Toji in the gym pants over her any day.
The coming rebuilds have promised to really start taking the story in some new directions. It is possible that Anno has something amazing up his sleeve that will change my mind about these films, but its pretty unlikely.
The more cool ideas I see in these movies, the more I wish they had their own context, instead of just an EVA amendment. I know it’s scary to take chances and make new things, but that struggle and heartache is where good art comes from! Sure, there’s a chance that you could fail but that can actually lead you to new and amazing creative place that you might never have found otherwise.
This has been my conceit since my first feature here - - I want to see bravery and a willingness to take risks in my anime!
Art is largely about making decisions, and beyond that, considering the choices you make so that you can be confident in the finished product. If Anno can just learn to have confidence in the statements he’s already made and move on, I’d bet he could come up with some great things.
Personally, I’m not interested in watching him tread water anymore.
Alex Eckman-Lawn is an illustrator and comic artists from Philadelphia. Check out his site - -alexeckmanlawn.com - - rumble with his Tumblr - - dudenukem.tumblr.com - - and hit up his Twitter: @alexeckmanlawn