Better Than Another Rei or Asuka Figure: The Evangelion Exihibition in Ginza

Considering how much of a letdown Evangelion: Q was, along with how quick Eva is to try and violently rob people of their hard earned moolah, when I heard mention of the Eva exhibit in Ginza, I turned my nose up. Didn’t care to know more. I love Eva, but after that last movie, I’ve become relentlessly cynical towards anything new with the famous series’ title scribbled on it. It wasn’t until a night at my local haunt that a most convincing argument was made for the exhibit. Tons of original artwork from the show? Only 1000 yen? I was sold. That said, the argument did come from a somewhat excitable lips of an Osakan woman, so I dialed down my expectations accordingly.

But hey, turns out I didn’t have to! That exhibit owned!

Every cell from every famous part of Evangelion was framed and on the wall. That shot of Misato near the end of the opening? Yup. The Eva covered in blood after busting out of that shadow angel? You bet. Unit 1 and Unit 2 fighting while Kaworu floats in front of them, smirking? Of course. There were also a few less-than-famous–but interesting nonetheless–cels from the series’ not-so-iconic episodes, like one of the Evas stuck in a ventilation shaft in that episode where Tokyo-3 blacks out.

As one can imagine, seeing these things up close was nothing short of incredible: The rough marks of traditional tools, the consistency of the paint, the slim space between the cel and the background, and the unused areas of the cells. All of these were the real deal, and seeing them all these years later brought forth some strong feelings. Sure, since these things were old, the outlines had faded somewhat, but that only added to the charm.

Other interesting items on display were models the artists used for reference, such as a crude model of the command center constructed from taped together cardboard cutouts, and a statue of the Eva’s head sculpted by the mechanical designer. Much like the cels, seeing the actual items the artists used was really cool, but more so than that, I was amazed that the model for the command center had survived for all these years. One would think it had been squashed by something by now.

Following the TV show’s materials were original manuscripts from Sadamoto’s manga adaptation, complete with all the detail one wants to see when looking at that kind of stuff: the dabs of white-out, the noticeable cut-out edges of tone paper, and the pasted-in text in dialogue bubbles. Again, incredible.

Deeper into the exhibition space was a corridor that documented the making of a scene from its earliest stages to completion. The scene in question was the battle against the descending bomb angel from the second Rebuild film. While this process is familiar to anyone who knows anything about animation, as one can imagine, it was simply fascinating to see the scene slowly come together from its early sketches in the storyboards, to the rough cuts of animation, to the cleaned line art, and finally to completed animation.

Every single part of the scene was on display: While shots of the characters and robots took over a wall on one side, another side of the hall was devoted to the more mundane details of the scene, such as buildings, clouds of dust, and tiny bits of debris. As a result, there were far more people on one side of the corridor than the other. Me being a giant nerd, I risked life and limb to take in every single detail on the more crowded side, then leisurely looked at the less exciting stuff on the other.

Beyond the stuff on paper lied an area that went into the details of the scene’s CG work, with cool loops of the Evas running with the camera rotating around them, another rotating loop of the angel in the middle of the city, and individual shots of a number of the CG buildings used in the scene. At the end of the hallway was a room screening the completed scene, with a smaller screen to the side going through key parts of the scene, but in its various steps of production, in motion. For example, sketches of the Eva running were run together in motion, as well as bits of CG which didn’t quite have the details filled in yet, along with shots of the scene before the lighting effects and things like that were applied. While I’m aware of how time consuming the process of animation is, seeing a whole room filled with materials and drawings for a scene that’s most likely only five minutes or shorter really drives home how tough this work is.

From then on I was treated to countless materials from all the new movies, ranging from design sheets, sketches, and cleaned line-art. There was a ton of this stuff spread across two rooms, one with Rei sporting her black plugsuit from Q (held up by strings) in her tube, with the next room down boasting a scary looking glowing cross. More than the cleaned up line-art, the rougher sketches were more interesting to look at. I’ve obviously seen animators’ sketches before, but seeing their skilled work up close inspiring. Seeing the traces of under-drawing build up to a solid, completed drawing is simply satisfying to look at.

After all that fun stuff, I was pushed into a big gift shop with an even bigger line for the register that found its way back into the exhibition hall. Large figures of the characters were placed throughout the gift shop, and in various sections of the department store in general. While the large sized Eva looked cool, the statues of the characters had frightening dead eyes, big heads, and horrifyingly skinny waists. The best display–on one of the other floors–featured a cardboard cutout of Gendou at his desk with the SEELE blocks behind him, and a chair next to him for people to take the obvious photograph.

Considering that all I knew of this exhibit originally were the scary life-sized figures of the characters, I figured it’d just be them and half-baked framed prints of promotional artwork. Instead I got an in-depth love letter to the craft of animation that was bursting with passion. Too bad it’s over, huh?!

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6 Responses to Better Than Another Rei or Asuka Figure: The Evangelion Exihibition in Ginza

  1. Kinza Datteri says:

    “Considering how much of a letdown the ending of NG Evangelion TV series was,…”
    “Considering how much of a letdown Evangelion: Death and Rebirth was,…”
    “Considering how much of a letdown End of Evangelion was,…”
    “Considering how much of a letdown Evangelion: Q was,…”

    Some things never change… Almost twenty years have passed and people still expect Anno to make things go the way they want. That’s just hilarious. Especially since Q’s message was clearly “fuck you, grow up and understand that sometimes you just cannot redo to have a sappy ending no matter what you fucking do.” He is doing everything he possibly can to disillusion all the viewers and they still want to live in some hero driven fairy tail – just like Shinji. It’s just incredible.

    Anyway, my rant aside, the exhibition looks seriously interesting. I’d love to be there to see at least the raw materials from when they animated it. Were you able to take some more photos?
    Cheers

  2. wah says:

    Hey, thanks for the comment.

    I ask that you sit down and read that Q review I linked. My issues with it aren’t the ones you think they are. I actually really like the end of the TV series and EoE. As far as Death and Rebirth goes, it’s a clip show meant to catch people up before EoE (when it came out a year had passed since the TV series’ finale.)

    Japan is really strict about photography, so I didn’t take any pictures of the display items. However if you search “Evangelion exhibit Ginza” some guy with (I assume) a press-pass got some nice shots.

  3. Kinza Datteri says:

    I will look for them, thanks. I thought they might forbid taking photos by guests. I once saw some Madoka exhibition photos from a visitor that included literally everything, but I guess they were just more liberal over there.

    Before I posted I’ve actually read your review of Q. Skipped some comments at the bottom, though. To be frank, I absolutely, completely disagree with it. Excluding technical aspects of the movie, of course, as I pay less attention to that and don’t usually comment on it.

    To make it clear, I don’t doubt that you liked EoE and Death & Rebirth and TV ending. My paraphrase about it came not from your review, but from the fact that for the past 15 years, since I’ve first watched Evangelion, I’ve come across people who used the same exact phrase just after some of it aired: that it was disappointing, that it didn’t deliver, that Anno should have done something else, etc. This came with almost every new iteration of the series, be it ova’s or movies. People complained every time Anno got closer to his vision of the ending. At first they indulged in the reality he created and then rejected it when it didn’t go where they wanted. They had hope, expectations and ended up disappointed. What made me think about it was the fact that most of these opinions changed after ten years or so, when I had a chance to ask some of those people again (after rewatching all of Eva up to date). Turned out those were just defense mechanisms kicking in.

    In my opinion Anno knows well what he is doing and where is he going, along with the fact that he doesn’t plan on doing easy and satisfying ending. He is one stubborn bastard and didn’t budge even under death threats. It might take some years for people to accept his vision. I know it’s not easy, I also often struggle with it.

    Nevertheless, pigs will fly before I call it cliche.

    Cheers

  4. wah says:

    Could you specifically tell me which parts of the review you disagreed with, and specifically why you like Q?

  5. Pingback: YOTSUBA & DANBOARD THE EXHIBITION@Parco Museum, Shibuya | Analog Housou

  6. Alex says:

    I loved Q (3.0).
    I think people fail to understand that, as a movie series, Rebuild has a need to establish things, it can’t just blindly depend on the idea that its viewers already know the franchise, it has to set itself apart from the earlier iterations of the series, even if it turns out to be a sequel to End of Evangelion, which I suspect due to how much Kaworu talks about repetition, as well as what the imagery conveys.
    In that line of thought, I think Q feels a lot like Jo (1.0) in that they’re not meant to advance the story, but to establish the rules by which Ha (2.0) and :|| (4.0) play.
    The difference, however, is that Jo exists to give you a sense of security, to root you firmly in the premise of the series; Q is meant to throw the viewer out of balance, to change the paradigm and yet not entirely disclose the new paradigm, it creates its own new logos, but it doesn’t simply give it away. Both movies are exposition-driven, but Jo is easy on the viewer, while Q openly challenges the viewer.
    I’m not entirely approving of the time skip, but I do believe it was well managed, the characters behave differently towards Shinji because they are different, just like the world, they have been reshaped by the Third Impact and the following 14 years of war; those close to him cope with their own feelings of guilt by blaming him (Especially Asuka and Misato) and the new ones range from one-dimensionally blaming him (Midori) to being ambivalent (Hideki) to trying to understand him (Sakura) to even being approving of him (Mari). Plus, their purpose, much like everything else in the movie, is not to give Shinji, and thus the viewer, security, but to make the world seem alien and feel aggressive.
    I did wish we could get a little bit of insight on whatever transpired during the 14 year gap, especially the direct aftermath of the Third Impact, but the movie is careful enough to not let anything from the first Q trailer get damaged, for what we know, the entirety of that trailer can still be integrated as a flashback in :|| and be perfectly organic.
    Also, let’s focus on what the movie wants us to focus, and that is Shinji’s relationship to Kaworu and how this has changed him, as this was the other purpose of the movie; character evolution, for everyone but mostly for Shinji and Rei Q; and both things are handled masterfully.
    What originally felt very rushed and artificial in all previous versions, is now very smooth and emotionally powerful, Shinji becomes enamored with Kaworu and his gentleman ways, they bond not only over the duet, but over being supportive of each other’s duties and even synchronizing their souls; and this gives Shinji a resolution he couldn’t really find easily in the previous movies (That is, to pilot the EVA), and I’m pretty sure this will play out in :|| initially for angst but eventually for hope.
    Q also fixes a problem the original series had with the subsequent Reis, and that is the lack of gravity and characterization. Subsequent Reis are almost always a vehicle to get Shinji to be even more angsty about the death of Rei I, Rei Q however has an arc of her own, she questions her own place within the story, but she only does so when she is confronted with it, and she’s still bound by the paradigm she was brought up into, so even if she’s moved by Shinji, Asuka and Mari’s words, she won’t just change her mind, she will be in conflict and while it was a little rushed, she did go through grief.
    All in all, I agree fully with Kinza Datteri up there, I think people are giving hell to the movie because of what they wanted it to be and not because of that it is, and what it is is a solid entry with some questionable choices. I believe that Anno thought Jo and Ha were being too similar to the first series and that he was feeling like he was settling for mediocrity, so I support his attempt at mixing things up, and yeah, it may end up being one huge disaster, but I won’t stop supporting either Anno or the series, because in the end Evangelion is not about ego masturbation, it is about the art, and true art is always controversial; in this matter I think Q easily surpasses the previous two movies, it has much more heart simply by virtue of not being a derivation of the animated series.

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