The Story Thus Far: Evangelion Jo and Ha

Seeing as the third Evangelion movie finally hit cinemas nation-wide about a week ago, I went back and revisited the first two films to put myself in the right frame of mind to watch Q.

It’s kind of astonishing how bad that first movie is. I’ve seen it numerous times at this point, and with each viewing I try to give it a break. But after seeing it probably six or seven times at this point, there’s no doubt in my mind: This is a bad movie. It’s very mechanical in how it only stitches together the Really Important scenes from those first episodes, cutting out some of the quieter or fluffier moments that let them breathe and allow the characters to express themselves.

The majority of Evangelion’s episodes are very well crafted, and those opening episodes are particularly well put together introductory episodes. Chopping those episodes up in such way so as only the absolutely crucial parts remain, and throwing them together into a film is, quite honestly, half-assed. The brilliant manner in which the series cuts away from that first battle, only to show it at the end of the second episode; or that quiet and poignant episode about Shinji running away are excellently executed parts of those early episodes, but they’re streamlined in such a way that they lose all impact in this movie. In the movie that first pivotal battle simply happens with no break at all, and episode four is reduced to short scene thrown in as if to say: “Look, he ran away. Now you know.”

The inclusion of completely new scenes doesn’t help either, because all that makes you think is: “Huh, that wasn’t there before! And it doesn’t fit in at all!” Much like the final scene documenting Operation Yashima, the entire movie should have just been re-done and written like a movie. There’s a distinct change in feel when the movie jumps between the cinematically framed new scenes and scenes copied from the TV show. It just doesn’t mesh.

Of course, that second movie is a lot better. You don’t need me to tell you that again.

But watching it right after the first movie, one really comes to appreciate the effort put into actually making and writing… you know… a real film. Seeing as a film doesn’t have as much time as a TV series does to really dive deep into the characters and go wild with the kick-ass action at the same time, it goes out of its way to strike a perfect balance. While the characters are kind of portrayed in broad strokes, there’s just enough depth to their actions to make the scenes focusing on them interesting. And rather than just coming out of nowhere, the battles in Eva 2.0 feel a lot more streamlined into the story, and are wonderful re-takes of scenes from the original series.

While the Colony Drop crew may disagree, I think the film has a good character arc, and the interactions feel genuine. While Touji and Kensuke’s inclusion in the first film felt shoe-horned in due to a majority of the scenes that portrayed the relationship between them and Shinji being cut out, they actually feel like buddies in this movie.  The pseudo love triangle the movie also adds an interesting spin on things, and the way it builds up to a meal between Shinji, Asuka, Rei and Gendou shows us newer sides of Asuka and Rei as they put all their effort into preparing for the big day, after being inspired by Shinji’s cooking skills in the beginning of the movie. Actually, the way in which the movie uses cooking as its main theme to tie the characters together is interesting. I’m sure there’s no deeper meaning to it, but if they have time to cook in the post Second Impact world, things can’t be that bad, right? Of course, the meal never happens, and things go pear shaped. It’s a perfect portrayal of that fragile balance between the characters’ mundane daily lives and the horrific Angel battles that made the TV series work.

And while the adults feel like awful human beings who only exist to force a 14-year-old kid to pilot a giant robot in 1.0, Kaji, Misato and Ritsuko are also given a good couple scenes to shine in 2.0.

I know 2.0 is good because no matter how many times I watch it, I’m glued to the screen. At first I thought the film just got me because I went in with zero expectations after 1.0, but after seeing it many times–expecting it to be just as good as the last time I saw it–it delivers. The way in which the movie portrays similar events very differently while also effectively communicating the main themes of the TV series with its original spin on the characters gives the Evangelion story the freshness that it needs in this modern era.

…then Q comes in and turns everything on its head. But that’s a topic for another day.

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6 Responses to The Story Thus Far: Evangelion Jo and Ha

  1. Jason says:

    I see what you mean about 1.0, but I dug it. Insofar as there exists the anime subgenre of rehashing animation, plots, or just characters into 映画版 to reap dolls dolla bills, Eva took that genre and unscrupulously made itself king. While the time constraints and desire to stick to the canonical plot at the outset was limiting, the movie still managed to artistically tighten thematic laces (the “whiny” Shinji archetype is the hero of this movie, in contrast to Ha and Q) even while it was required to minimize character development and implicitly rely on the audience’s foreknowledge of the plot.

    Anyways, 2.0 is the king of this castle after my first viewing of Q. But I’ll be going to see it a few times, so I might change my mind. I expect in the end I’ll view the series not as a series of successes and failures, but as different movements of a perfect symphony.

    Can’t wait for the followup piece to this :)

  2. Liu says:

    You had me all built up for a piece about Q… and then cliffhanger. You sly fox ;)

  3. m says:

    Speaking of Colony Drop, you should ask them to fix their sidebar link to this blog.

    Looking forward to Q…

  4. Inaki says:

    If 2.0 has to stand as the best of the Rebuild movies, I’d say we got something out of it. I can’t disagree with any of the points you made about 1, but I can’t bring myself to dislike it. Whether that’s nostalgia, Evangelion Fanboyism or just that it works for me as an admittedly flawed whole, it’s something I like.

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