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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Rationalizing Existence with Shinji Ikari

Do you understand what it means to be human?
...
...
...
No, of course not.

Even if you had answer, it wouldn't take long to show the flaws in what you believe to be true. Sadly this is just the way things are, and our erratic attempts at coexistence more than adequately illustrates this point. What we ultimately lack is the knowledge to lead our own lives. In knowledge (or ignorance) of this fact, we must continue to live regardless. Because of this we escape into things, others, and (most importantly) ideas.

By now you must be asking yourself "WTF OMG wth does this have to do with Japan!?!" Well fortunately I decided to watch to watch an anime which ,to say the least, left me astonished. I am talking about the highly acclaimed 新世紀エヴァンゲリオン (Neon Genesis Evangelion or NGE for short).

I will try my best not to ramble, but I honestly could write for days ans still feel like I haven't said enough. I guess I should start of with some basic things to note about the show. Don't expect this to be a typical mecha (giant fighting robots
) anime, treating it as such will leave you wishing we hadn't wasted your time watching a 15 year old show with mediocre fight scenes. Also this show contains rather mature content at times, so if that bothers you it may not be best to watch this since its rather critical to understanding some of the major characters. The show has a deceptive start, the first 8 or so episodes focus mainly on setting up the plot, but after that you start getting more obvious hints at the underlying problems which is the true focus of the show. Also, for this series it is probably better to watch the dubbed version (gasp!). The reasoning for this is, in many cases, what is most important isn't what the character says, but how he says it. Subtle deviations in vocal inflection definately adds an important element to the series, and the English voice actors do an good job are preety good in this area. Also I've noticed several sub versions 'dumb down' or even censor what the characters say to make it more palatable which is definitely a bad thing. Lastly in order to get the "complete" story watch the 26 episode series then watch the movie called End of Evangelion, all of these are available on youtube.

While NGE has an involved and interesting story, what makes this anime so great is the characters. At several points in the show the narrative breaks down completely and we are shown a deep introspective of a particular character. The last two episodes are almost entirely shown from the viewpoint of the main character, Shinji Ikari. What we are left with atfer this fairly in-depth psychoanalysis of the main characters and a rather articulate account of how it is we can cope with our existence. The conclusions that Shinji comes to are not in anyway revolutionary, but what is important is how he came to this understanding and the questions that he had to ask himself.

I guess there is not much more I care to say since I don't really want to give away any spoilers. So I'll just say that NGE is arguably the most influential anime ever created. Many contemporary works allude to it in someway, and the anime Rah Xehphon is pretty much a less gloomy version of NGE. So if you like depressing abstract existentialist psychological works with a fair amount of religious imagery then NGE is the show for you!

Just to give you a look as to whether or you may be able to stand this anime here are two clips from the show. One is a small portion of the introspection of the main character and the other is from the craziest(maybe disturbing is a a better word) part of the show, so if you can stand this you can watch the show (don't worry about spoilers, you may not even understand this part even after watching the series).




つづく


6 comments:

Tanya Alconcel said...

おもしろい。。。  Though I think it would be bad if I got hooked on anime again during the school year, hahaha. x) (J-dramas were a horrible distraction last semester :[...)

Anonymous said...

I've heard a great many people acclaim NGE, and lo! Here is yet another glowing recommendation. =) Perhaps I shall watch it, yet. Yay depressing abstract existentialist psychological works!

That's an interesting bit of advice, though - to watch the dubs in favor of the subs. It is so rare that the dubs are able to convey things better than the subs, isn't it?

Jonathan Bosk said...

I wouldn't say that its rare, both have their pros and cons. The biggest problem either way is that you have to translate from Japanese to a very dissimilar English. That where most of the information is lost, since what you hear or read is only as good as the translator's knowledge of both languages and the work itself. What it ultimately comes down to a matter of preference between trusting the voice actors or going with the subs which don't have to alter anything due to syncing issues. The only way to truly experience the work as intended is to understand the language it was written in.

philipsw said...

Hey! I'm a big fan of Evangelion!!
It has great story, symbols.... I watched it when I was in elementary school... anyways...
If you like japanese ani... I want to recommend you "Samurai X" movie version!

Emily said...

I've heard a lot about this anime. I guess I'll have to check it out sometime, it seems pretty interesting, and also weird, but weird is good.
In a late response to your post on my blog -- this summer I've been really into an anime/manga called Detroit Metal City. It's about a guy who is the lead of a death metal band but actually likes swedish pop. Based on the videos you posted it's not anything like NGE but it's pretty funny and you might like it anyway.

Felix said...

Quite a post there, Bosk. Interesting perspective. Looks like I have a lot of catching up to do on anime.