Take Care of Yourself - Part Four

by Tim Henderson, Jan 31st 2007

This article is part three of four, the first part can be viewed here, the second part here and the third part here.

By climaxing Evangelion with Instrumentality without any proper explanation, Anno opened the door to use something close to his own Cinema of Attractions without the necessities that come with a typical narrative form getting in the way. It's pure, uncontaminated, and absolute. At previous moments that could be seen as causing the ripple towards this approach used for the final two episodes, the events were still weighed down in the continuation of a storyline, trapped in an overall context. Now, at the end of it all, all distractions have been restrained; Anno simply used the plot as an excuse to mash the minds of the characters together, thereby destroying all self contained and ever-coherent physical space, and leaving himself with a visual playground in which he could explore his themes through expression at will. And so we open with written text and a bent over Shinji against a black background. Where he is exactly isn't revealed. End of Evangelion would later show Shinji to be curled up under some stairs, Misato to be dead beside an elevator and Auska hidden in a lake, but this really isn't important here. If you feel better for knowing that then good for you, but by demanding explanations such as this one may well be trying to force the expressive restrictions back upon Eva that Anno has attempted to peel away. Any way I look at it, Eva 25 & 26 take the idea of expressive imagery to the extreme. Facial close-ups become far more common than they were previously in the series, and stronger and more intensive expressions are given far more emphasis. Further still, while a considerable amount of animation cels were recycled throughout these two episodes, this never really happens with background paintings. What this means is that the backgrounds are overridingly saturated in black, white, and in some cases red largely as a matter of choice – after all, we expect the same location art pieces to be used even in normal circumstances, and this is considered to be less of a cheap trick than recycling actual animation. The simple notion is that we will be treating the space of each character's minds largely as the regular base of operations from now on, and the space in here is allowed to be freely expressive. Even the space out of any one character's psyche is still a space that represents their own psyche's projections. Find that confusing? It gets less so with each viewing, but the fact that Shinji traps himself in an empty hall, fully removed from all other people and responsibility is all you really need to be aware of to appreciate what's going on.


Shinji as challenged by others in and about his own mentally projected space.

This hall is a particularly fascinating device, and strikes me personally as the most charged space in the entire series. In fact, it's probably the most charged space I have seen in any anime, film, or television show, ever. It's a perfectly singular space, but it exists in a sort of temporal rift and is born entirely from Shinji's deepest, barely controlled wishes. It's menacing in it's spaciousness, in the fact that it's so closed off, even in the simple symbolic sense of a building that is designed to host things like concerts and ceremony's that has become completely empty, bar for one introverted teenager and those that guide and challenge him. Elsewhere (in a sense) the characters continue to perceive themselves as perceived by others, covering their faces in shame and assaulted by words against perfect blackness. Auska's childhood unleashes its full drama, with one of the finale's few detailed pieces of animation displaying masses of tears streaming down a face that was once such a sullen and determined immobile surface. Likewise, even her teddy bear becomes faceified to the extreme; it's own innards bursting free out of no logic other than a duty to the overriding atmosphere and energy that is overwhelming the screen. Shinji is whisked away to the so-called ‘World of Perfect Freedom’, where the expressive potential of animation takes on its furthest possible extreme and purest essence: Shinji is nothing other that a wavering series of lines, and his background is nothing but pure white. Eventually it gets to the point where the surrounding outline of his own face, the key propagator of the reflective unity, the immobile surface that carried the expressions of his features, is stripped away, merged with the endlessly white Any Space Whatever, while his core features, rippling with micro-movements, float upon the surface, leaving an image that contains nothing but expression so far as an image can actually appear on a screen. At this point, Ebert's comments about the purity of animation in its default nature of representing ideas gets lifted to a new plateau, as the medium that presents the ‘idea of’ various things is presenting nothing else except for expression, untainted even by colour.


Young Auska's face erupts.

Eventually we find ourselves back in the hall again for one final moment. It embodies everything that makes Shinji weak as a person, but it's also merely a projection, a symbolic space devised by wishes. As such, as new light is shed and gradually accepted, this space that represents so much cracks and then shatters like glass, the pieces that each contained so much hurt, suffering, insecurity and whatever else become quickly blown away in one of the ultimate visual representations of mental triumph. I'll let you pull out the faceification relevance yourselves this time. And that's how it all it ends. Everything boiled down to breaking out of one's own cocoon and restraints, with the final shot before the closing text being focused on Shinji's transformed, smiling face as all the other characters stand around applauding the simple realisation that had been made. The technical garble behind instrumentality is never really exposed or explained, but the way it has affected the characters, what they represent, and the show's ability to communicate its message is something of a marvel. As a totality, the show started off as a well made and obsession causing anime that was developing a sort of status that could have placed it next to Gundam, but it freely fractured itself and went on a barraging journey of self discovery all of its own, even at the cost of alienating and angering many fans who were hooked onto the original surface. Eva is much like the totality of Rei as she describes her physical self half way through the series, it has a story and easily visible surface, a surface that serves as a vessel for the heart and soul.


Thank you all

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