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What should I rate Evangelion?

26 JUN
2010

Introduction

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If you only knew the number of times I tried and failed to write this blog entry...

Since I was apparently the last anime fan on earth who hasn't seen Neon Genesis Evangelion, I finally decided to bite the bullet and watch it.   And ever since I finished it, my mind has been swimming.  I can't seem to decide exactly how much I liked or hated it.  Hopefully writing these thoughts out will make me understand my feelings for the show a little better.  And by the end, I just might have a rating for this show.

My Rating System

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Firstly, you need to understand how I rate things.  My scores are based on two things:  whether I liked the show, and whether it was technically well done.

I know this may seem weird, but you need to understand how I think.  There are plenty of stories out there that I know are technically well done, but that I did not enjoy at all.  Slower, character-driven stories just do not entertain me.  I didn't like Monster or The Girl Who Lept Through Time or Welcome to the NHK.  But I'm not stupid (at least I like to think I'm not).  I can look at those anime and logically tell that they're well done.  And I'm just not willing to say that they're bad shows just because I didn't personally like them.  I hope that makes sense.

So how does this relate to Neon Genesis Evangelion?  Well, in order to rate it, I need to answer two questions:  was it well-made, and was it entertaining.  I already know the answer to one of those questions: I did not find it entertaining.  Yes, the show made me think of a lot of issues by the time it was over, but at no point did I really enjoy watching it.  So that just leaves one question left to answer...

Was it well-crafted?

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How can I even begin to answer this question?  There are so many inconsistencies in this show that I'm just not willing to point them all out.  The animation is great sometimes.  And other times it gets worse than Speed Racer, reusing old shots from the series over and over and over again.  Sometimes the animation will pause on a single shot for over a minute.  Sometimes they will replace some shots with what is unmistakeably the animatics.  I mean, it's embarrassing.

But for the sake of my sanity, let's focus just on the plot.  I just can't handle dealing with the characters or animation or editing or anything else right now.

Here's the thing... if this was meant to be a show about adolescent kids who fight giant creatures using mechs, then it is garbage.  And I don't mean that that's my opinion, I mean that from a neutral standpoint, based on what is needed to craft a well-made, entertaining story, Neon Genesis Evangelion is grossly lacking.  Yes, there are a few very interesting, memorable moments, but those are few and far between.  For example, basic things that should be addressed in the first few episodes are just left as loose ends throughout the entire series.  I'm talking about things like what exactly are the angels?  What are the Evas?  Why are emotionally disturbed adolescents the only ones who can pilot the Evas?  Look, I'm fine with mysterious elements in a story, but at least point out that they're mysterious!  Everyone in the show completely ignores these issues.

But wait!  Despite all those things, there is another possibility.  Maybe this show isn't really about kids who pilot giant robots at all.  Sure, that stuff happens in the series, but maybe that's not intended to be the focus.  Maybe this is about the characters and their various neuroses and how these apply to the overall human condition, etc etc.  This makes some sense to me.  The characters are indeed weird from the very start, and at times the show does seem to make some neat comments on the innate difficulties humans have when it comes to really communicating with each other.  It's kind of an underhanded trick to hook us in with the giant robot fights, only to give us something completely different in the second half.

But the more I think, the more I realize that it's not either of those.  I think the show started off one way, and gradually changed into an entirely different beast.  Maybe it was because of the creator having a psychological meltdown, maybe they didn't plan the series out, and ended up writing themselves into a corner, maybe they just ran out of money.  But something massive about the tone and the goal of the show changes in the middle.  Specifically, I think it started off trying to be entertainment, and it changed into trying to be art.

So what's the deal with art?

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There are so many bizarre preconceptions people have when you say something is art.  Firstly, people assume you mean it is good.  After all, I've never heard someone come out of a movie they hated exclaiming "Wow!  Now that was really a work of art!"  But I think that's pretty stupid.

By my definition, art is just some kind of medium that is less concerned with telling a story, and more concerned with something else.  Maybe it wants to induce an emotional response in the viewer.  Maybe it's trying to get the viewer thinking about big, philosophical ideas.  Whatever the main goal is, it's not entertainment.

Yes, I know that at times it can be hard to tell art from storytelling.  I know that each of them uses elements of the other.  I understand that the only person who can ever really know what the intention of the piece was is the creator of it.  But none of that matters to me.  This show isn't I now understand.  It's all so clear now!  I know exactly what to do about this show's rating...

Conclusion

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The answer was so simple all along.  I can never give Neon Genesis Evangelion a rating.  I do not think the focus of the show was on entertainment.  And I only rate and critique stories, not art.  I'm not gonna rate Cat Soup or On Your Mark or Glassy Ocean because the only thing I really know about is the craft of storytelling.  And all of these things are not mainly concerned with telling a story.

Well, if the goal of art is to effect the viewer in some way, it certainly looks like Neon Genesis Evangelion has done it's job.  Sheesh... this is why I prefer storytelling to art.

It's probably best if we don't even mention End of Evangelion...

comments

leturtle avatar leturtle
Aug 24, 2010

Nice post. However, I don't entirely agree with the notion that art and storytelling are two completely seperate things. I consider storytelling to be a kind of art in itself, and it can be combined with all sorts of other kinds of art.

Though I do agree with your last sentence...

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