SPOILERS FOR: Evangelion 2.2.2 You Can (Not) Advance, as well as potentially the Neon Genesis Evangelion Franchise as a whole. You have been warned.
If you have read my first post, you know the drill.
How I got started in anime. And this multi-part series will do a good job of displaying my journey to love and appreciate anime.
I am doing this do this in a multi-part series for a few reasons: 1) It will give a cool view of my developing appreciation for the medium over time. 2) It will explain a lot about my tastes in anime. 3) Some of these shows had a strong connection to events in my personal life and deserve their own post.
So. Here we go.
Our story begins with my freshman year of college, I was a bright eyed, young, film student who was eager to learn about all aspects of cinema. I decided to take a course entitled “Topics in Film: Animation” which basically gave a narrow view of how animation developed over time all over the world.
I went into this class excited, I had noticed on the syllabus that we would be watching a Miyazaki film, Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind. I was excited to learn about Miyazaki himself, as well as experience a new facet of the cinema world, as my only real exposure to animation at the time was through Disney movies and Miyazaki’s works.
But the class was long, and watching a lot of the earlier animations from other parts of the world was somewhat boring to my unrefined, freshman-in-college artistic sensibilities. So I became hardened to the experiences of the class, and sat through the films in a dull haze, taking in just enough information to do well on the tests, but not appreciating the work being displayed.
But everything changed the day that I watched Evangelion 2.2.2
I had no expectations going in to this film. Like. None. The teacher said it might be confusing considering that we were watching the second film in an (at the point) trilogy.
But Evangelion (or Eva, I will probably be referring to it as one of these things) burst onto the screen in a spectacle of color and sound. I was not expecting anything, but what I got, not only reinvigorated me for the class, but pushed me to appreciate anime.
Experiencing these bright colorful eva units fighting these incredibly unique angels was a sight to behold. I fell in love with the characters, Shinji’s depth and obvious depression, Rei’s shy thoughtfulness, and Asuka. Just Asuka. If anything sold me on the Evangelion franchise from this one film, it was her.
I was also struck by some of the iconography of the film: a vast ocean of blood red water; massive cross of light that form after the death of an angel; a child soldier, forced to do battle against his will, listening to a tape player and trying to go to sleep after a horrifying experience.
I remember sitting in my seat and being spurring into a feeling that I couldn’t quite describe as during the battle climax of the movie, Mari turned her eva unit into the beast mode. Her frenzied snarls and the way that the Eva moved was so desperate and animalistic, it was hypnotizing.
But perhaps my favorite part of the whole finale was Shinji’s attempts to save Rei when she was absorbed by the angel.
Shinji’s visceral screams and cries and he struggled to thrust his hands into the angel to save the one he loved was so well directed, acted, sound processed and shot that it was nothing short of masterful. In that classroom, my fellow students and I became a collective. In that moment, we were all Shinji Ikari, struggling against time, space, and reality itself, just to get to one of the very few people who ever cared for us. And his frenzied movements, and cries of desperation rang clearly all the way to the pits of our stomachs. It was an incredibly experience, not one I will soon forget.
But it was more than just the viscerality of the experience that sold me on Evangelion. It was the complex lore of a fully-realized world that I was dying to learn more about.
After the the film went out in a powerful blaze of glory; mystery; and powerful, raw moments; I was left sitting in my desk in awe, having experienced something that I had never experienced before.
I immediately went back to my dorm room and looked up the Neon Genesis Evangelion original tv series and marathoned the whole thing.
I was hooked.
I loved the depth and complexity of the characters. I loved the well thought out lore and interesting world that the characters lived in.
I loved that Evangelion 2.2.2 used the medium of animation to it’s fullest extent in a way that I had never experienced before in American animation at all. The inventive, creative ways that the show would use color, sound, and the medium of animation as a whole to contribute to its narrative completely changed how I viewed anime as a whole.
To be honest, I just flat out loved Evangelion. And that film alone, and the series that I watched following it, were responsible for legitimizing anime for me, as an art form, and as a storytelling medium.