Neon Genesis Evangelion – Improper Budgeting

Neon Genesis Evangelion (or Eva, because I won’t be typing that again), was a show often mentioned in the same breath as Cowboy Bebop or Ghost in the Shell. Int the early 2000’s, anime was very hard to come by state side. Most of it was neutered, pigeon holed into a much lower age demographic. Thanks to the success of some other shows, more anime began to be make it’s way west, intact. Dubbed and marketed for direct release, it did fairly well for years, though incredibly overpriced. At the time, typically only the higher quality material was licensed. Eva taught me that high quality was a relative term.

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Eva is prime explain how bombastic set pieces and slick character design can carry a series. The initial concept was interesting enough. Giant robots were created to battle against Angels. I’m not entire convinced anyone knows exactly what an Angel is, other than one of the series many overt references to Christianity. There are three Evangelion units, each piloted by a 14 year old because insert whatever illogical reason to make this happen. That’s something I’ve never really liked, the fate of X placed on children in their early teens. When I was that age, I thought “hell ya!” Now as an adult, I realize kids are idiots, and very inexperienced. Thankfully, not every 14 year is portrayed to be 30.

Regardless, the series mostly follows Shinji Ikari, as he was brought in to pilot a new Eva unit. Rei Ayanami, who gets the crap beat out of her on a constant basis and is clone of his mother (he doesn’t know this), pilots the original unit. Eventually, Asuka Langley Soryu joins the group, piloting the third mecha. Shinji’s father, Gendo, is the head of NERV, who created the Eva’s.

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This show is a textbook example of diminishing returns. Budget was the biggest concern, and decreased as the series progressed. What started as an action heavy show, quickly changed gears to an introspective, psychological one. All manner of animation tricks were used to get through the last few episodes. Mouths were covered, meaning speakers didn’t need to be animated. One minute, single pan shots were used frequently along with long distant shots. It was a mess and a little insulting.

The last two episodes completely deviated from the plot. The final conflict was impending. Instead, everything took place in Shinji’s head. At first I had “The Emperor’s New Clothes” mentality. I didn’t get it, watching it several times trying to understand. Eventually I realized it was just nonsense masking itself as cerebral concepts. The budget had run out, so recycled shots and cheap animation tricks were used to finish the series.

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Fans were rightfully upset by this. Two movies were released to deliver a proper ending; “Evangelion: Death and Rebirth” and “The End of Evangelion.” Guess what? They ran out of budget again! The movies were originally meant to be one, but split due to budget and time constraints. Death was 40 minutes of recycled footage from the series and 20 minutes of new while EoE began with the same 20 minutes of footage. Death was an utter rip off, and a complete disservice to fans. By then I didn’t care what the real ending was.

In typical Japanese fashion, not able to leave well enough alone, there’s a new Evangelion series. A set of four movies is trying to retell the story properly. Three of the four planned entries have been released since 2007. Who knows when/if the final one will see the light of day. Honestly, I stopped caring.

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I’ve seen NERV pins/shirts/merchandise sported for years. Eva is incredibly popular, but I don’t understand why. I would love if someone could explain to me exactly what the hell is going on here. I can see why it’s held in high regards, but it ultimately boils down to no one wanting to admit they don’t understand and only liking it because it’s pretty.

Could you tell me what happened? Or the motive/purpose of Angels? Comment below, on Facebook, or Twitter! You can now see my Saturday Morning Cartoon posts at The Two-Headed Nerd!

La la la don’t care. 

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9 responses to “Neon Genesis Evangelion – Improper Budgeting

  1. Evangelion is interesting because while the mythology is overcomplicated and (intentionally) not properly explained, it does, for the most part, make sense. Trying to explain the universe in a small post would be futile. In the most brief explanation, when certain things, like angels and lilith come into contact they generate the third impact which will turn everyone into liquid melding all consciousness into one. The movie contains much of the intended original ending, with a different conclusion to shinji’s character, actually showing how Rei betrays gendo to make a different type of 3rd impact. In the tv ending this has already happened, which is why it takes place in shinjis head. The angels, Shinji’s dad, and the organisation behind him, all want to generate different 3rd impacts, although how they’re different is never properly explained. This is why the angels wanted to get to the bottom level of NERV. the new movies make much of this clearer, although both deliberately focus on shinji’s development rather than plot details. Hope this helps

    • That is an interesting explanation. I think it’s poor story telling if they can’t communicate that the first time though. I understand wanting purposeful ambiguity, but if leaves your audience generally confused, then it’s failed. The fact that they’ve gone back several times to try and fix it, and still haven’t, shows how weak their methodology is. The show was pretty, and neat. It had some interesting ideas, but in the end it became The Matrix Reloaded.

      • Yeah I can see why there are people that dislike it, But really at some point Eva stopped being a giant robot series and turned into a kind of art house series, that self consciously plays with the conventions of the genre and is primarily about the psychosis of the main character. For me it really works on every level, with both an emotional pay off and a detailed mythology. I don’t think it’s fair to say they keep trying to fix it, I mean there was a directors cut which added a couple of scenes but that hardly changed anything. The movie did rewrite the ending, but it’s generally viewed as a criticism of the fandom: reaffirming the original ending rather than replacing it by criticising those who wanted it changed. Recently there’s the rebuild films, which, although I’m a fan of them, and they do rewrite the story a little bit to be more user friendly, a) still don’t explain the universe properly b) take vast diversions to the point where the third film has a completely different plot, and c) had a strong marketing incentive to exist what with the empire of eva merchandise.

        But yeah I do understand why many people don’t share my view. What to me are pushing the boundaries of audience expectation, are to many people failures in managing the budget, and failures in pacing and organising the story properly. I mean the long scenes of philosophising make sense in context, and are clearly designed to make you think more about how shinji interacts with people. But I can see why you’d think they’re boring and their existence is almost certainly related to budgetary constraints

      • Thank you very much for the well thought out comment. You’ve made me consider rewatching the series with a different perspective. I hope to get he same level of enjoyment you did.

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  5. I’m glad somebody confirmed the budget issues cause that’s been my belief for years. As for the philosophy and such, I didn’t enjoy it. I found the narrative of the last two episodes obvious and precocious. Though it may be wrong that I assume that anyone who’s lived life a little knows a thing or two about people. Either or dirty pool. The show was okay.

    • Yeah, the ending (without understanding the real world cause) was like hitting a brick wall. Heck, it still is. The show was going great and fell apart at the end. Even the movies couldn’t rectify it. Sinking ship. I don’t understand why it was so popular.

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