Our multi-part watchalong of Neon Genesis Evangelion continues! Vrai, Dee, and special guests Isaac and Lizzie discuss gender roles, sex and sexuality, and overall have a pretty good time with this “monster-of-the-week” stretch of episodes. But why does Vrai keep chortling in the background…?
Date Recorded: Saturday 24th August 2019
Hosts: Vrai, Dee
Guests: Lizzie, Isaac
0:01:52 Financial woes
0:04:38 Shinji and not Shinji stuff
0:17:46 Kaji still sucks
0:19:05 “Women literally only want one thing and it’s disgusting”
0:19:43 Shinji and Asuka struggle with gender roles
0:27:29 Misato and Ritsuko
0:32:03 Sexuality, nudity, and framing
0:37:54 Monster of the week
0:41:23 More Netflix translation problems
0:51:55 Unsolicited fast food opinions
0:53:02 Final thoughts
VRAI: Hello, listeners. Welcome back to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. My name is Vrai Kaiser. I’m an editor and contributor at Anime Feminist. I also freelance all over the web, so you can find the stuff I do on Twitter, @writervrai, or you can find the other podcast I’m on, @trashpod. And back with me again, I have Dee, Isaac, and Lizzie. If y’all would like to introduce yourselves?
ISAAC: Hi, I’m Isaac. Good to be back again for my second AniFem podcast. As I said last time, former features writer and editor for Crunchyroll. I have a slightly defunct blog, mageinabarrel.com, and if you want to follow me on Twitter, you can, @iblessall. You’ll just have to send a request, ’cause I’m locked. That’s where the people with all the good content hang out.
ISAAC: There was a Dril tweet that said that, so, I’m claiming that.
LIZZIE: Nah, go for it.
ISAAC: [Quietly] My content is not actually good, just so you know.
LIZZIE: I’m sure it’s good. I like it.
DEE: I’m sure it’s good.
ISAAC: Oh, thank you.
LIZZIE: Okay, so, as for me… Hi, my name is Lizzie. You might know me as ThatNerdyBoliviane. You can find all my stuff on my website, www.thatnerdyboliviane.com. I also have a Patreon. That’s on there if you want to support. You can follow me on Twitter, @lizzievisitante, and my pronouns are they/them.
DEE: And I’m Dee, the managing editor at Anime Feminist. You can find all my writings on my blog, The Josei Next Door. And you can also hang out with me on Twitter, @joseinextdoor.
VRAI: Heck yeah. Well, welcome back, one and all, to the second episode of our Evangelion watchalong. This time, we covered episodes 7 through 13, or: “The show pretends to be a monster-of-the-week anime for a little bit.”
ISAAC: It does. I kinda liked that.
DEE: I was just gonna say, it’s a nice change of pace, because it gives you a chance to get to know the supporting cast really well, which I appreciate. Since the first six episodes are very much from Shinji’s perspective.
VRAI: Yeah, it’s nice. It expands the world out a little bit, which I think is something that successive adaptations and spinoffs have sort of missed out on.
This is also, notably, the point at which, allegedly, in production, they just completely threw out the original plan for what the show was, because it had been drifting away from the original concept, which was a toy-based mecha series. And after episode 12, it just went in a completely different direction. And the finance troubles were always.
DEE: So were the… these kind of monster-of-the-week, episodic… Was that sort of them killing time until they figured out what they wanted to do? ‘Cause it doesn’t feel that way. It feels that it’s an intentional way to introduce you to the other characters before we get into the second cour.
VRAI: There’s not a lot of… I mean… God, there’s 80 million primary sources about Evangelion, many of them contradictory, but this is me speculating. All I know for sure is that this was kind of the halfway point… [It] was the hard point where it completely departed. But I get the feeling that it was sort of a, “Well, we’re still doing the monster-of-the-week thing, but more and more of this psychological and character drama is working its way in and beginning to take precedence.”
So, I think, at that point, it just superseded what they were going to do before and it kind of stopped working… You know, you can see it in a lot of ‘90s anime, unless they were super long—DBZ just had one opening and ending all the way through—and I don’t know if you’ve noticed how comically unfitting the opening of this show is for the rest of it.
LIZZIE: One of my impressions about this new batch of episodes was there wasn’t as much despair as I was expecting, and I feel like the opening… As of now, I still like Shinji, but [cracking up] I feel like the ending is so undeserving. I’m like, “I don’t feel like you’re a destiny of anything, but… “
VRAI: I don’t know that we’re quite there yet, but the ironizing of the opening lyrics is just gonna get stronger.
DEE: So, look forward to that.
VRAI: So, I guess that brings it to… How are you two feeling about this new batch of episodes? Like Dee said, we expanded a lot of the supporting cast, and we introduced the last two really major players, Asuka and her guardian, Ryoji Kaji. Now that you’ve met my terrible daughter…
ISAAC: “She’s good, he’s bad,” would be my… But, I guess, yeah, to go back to something we were just talking about, especially the episodic format… I think you guys said last time this batch of episodes was gonna be much lighter than the first six; and Dee, until you had said this is more from other people’s perspectives rather than Shinji— That makes a lot of sense as to why that’s the case, ’cause we’re not as much in his headspace.
But I remember last time, we also talked a little bit about the genres that Eva‘s pulling from and is using, and the monster-of-the-week is a very… I guess it’s not particular to “giant robot” series, but there’s sort of a comfortable familiarity in the kind of: “We’re gonna have a monster show up. We’re gonna deal with that problem. And then that’s kind of a self-contained thing, and then we move on.”
So, I enjoy just the familiar rhythm to that. ‘Cause I’ve seen a lot of shows that have that… So that was kind of nice, and they certainly are lighter and more on the fun side. But it also sort of makes you wonder: if we had gotten all those episodes from Shinji’s perspective like we did in the first six episodes, would those still—would all those events still come off as fun and free as they are? Or, would they have a different sort of feel to them?
DEE: I wonder if they don’t speak to Shinji’s own perspective a little bit? Just in that he does seem more comfortable and at home with everyone in this stretch. I mean, he’s… He kind of will snap back at Asuka. She gets under his skin. And his relationship with Misato at home feels a little more relaxed than the sort of stiff formality they had in the early-going.
So I wonder if the tone isn’t also him kind of getting used to this pattern and this weird, dysfunctional family they’ve kind of created for themselves.
LIZZIE: Yeah, I mean, in this new batch of episodes, I found he was much more… I mean, I think he smiled a little bit more, but he was much more receptive to hanging out with different people. But, he’s also very self-aware that he’s still not very comfortable in this surrounding. I know when they had that dinner party to celebrate Misato’s promotion, he voiced that to Misato.
I mean, he’s comfortable, but he’s still not used to being around such a rowdy bunch. And he doesn’t know how to have fun, or how to engage. So, he’s still very much introverted and keeps to himself, but he’s trying. He’s making that effort.
DEE: Yeah, I think it’s a very realistic progression. It’s not like, all of a sudden, Shinji is this bright and perky and extroverted person, so…
VRAI: Yeah, that party scene is so relatable to me.
VRAI: I can’t. Just that, “All right, I’ve learned to sort of open up in groups of one and two. You want me to be in a room with how many people? And make conversation? I’m sorry?”
ISAAC: Yeah. The nice thing there is he kind of deals with it. Man, how many times have I been at a party and dealt with that, where he turns to the person who’s sitting next to him and engages—in this case, it’s Misato—in a one-on-one conversation. I was like, “Oh, I’ve done that before.”
You know, there’s a big group of people. I’m like, “Well, I’ll just talk to this one person who’s nearby, and that’ll be nice.” And he seems much more comfortable in that kind of setting, as the… we have that shot of the others who are there kind of all bickering together.
But I think, Lizzie, you made a good point in that he—It’s not like it’s been a big switch. He’s kind of still uncomfortable in these things. And it’s almost ironic, because it seems almost like he’s most comfortable when he’s at NERV and doing stuff with the Evas, which is a big contrast from the early episodes.
But I wonder, you know, just if that’s so much more familiar to him now? And because it’s more regimented, and it’s like, “Okay, you’re gonna get in the robot, you’re gonna fight the Angels,” and he kinda knows what he’s supposed to do there, versus when there’s people. They’re unpredictable and who knows what’s gonna happen.
So, that’s something that I thought was interesting.
VRAI: Yeah, and it comes out in, I think, new ways. Particularly because he has Asuka to play off, now, who… I always talk about them as characters who have, essentially, the same foundational trauma, and responded to it in exactly opposite ways.
Where he is this very soft and introverted character; very afraid of conflict. And Asuka is somebody who is extremely out-there and sort of preening and narcissistic in her presentation. But they both come down to “I don’t know who I am if I don’t have this role that’s been foisted on me.”
DEE: Yeah, and they’re both very much… You know, when they kinda talk about “what’s our reason for piloting the Evas”… They frame it differently, but it does sort of come down to, “I want other people to tell me I’m doing a good job,” basically. “I would like other people to acknowledge me.”
And, yeah. Asuka frames it in more this sense of, “I wanna be famous and I want the world to know how awesome I am,” whereas Shinji’s just like, [bashfully] “I’d kinda like it if my dad told me ‘good job’ sometimes.”
DEE: It’s so sad!
[Laughter; sounds of agreement unintelligible beneath crosstalk]
VRAI: So sad!
LIZZIE: But I like that he is actually questioning: “Okay, why are we actually doing this? What are the Angels? Aren’t Angels supposed to be these mythical things, not that scary…”
‘Cause when I was starting episode seven, I was like, “Yeah, what are these things? What is happening here?” And I like that at least he’s kind of questioning what is happening around him, ’cause he was just thrown into it. You know?
Meanwhile, Asuka… She has been training for a really long time, and hasn’t really questioned it as much Shinji is doing at the moment. She just follows orders.
VRAI: Yeah, I was curious to see… I actually wanted to ask you last time as well, but this seems a better time now that we’ve had at least a semi-official meaty flashback, what you two are picking up about the worldbuilding of what’s going on, and what the state of this world is now.
So, for example, it’s never officially stated, but because of the poles in Antarctica freezing after Second Impact, it’s summer all the time in Japan now. It is constantly 90 degrees.
LIZZIE: I thought it was really ironic, considering the state of the world now. You know? The ice glaciers are melting.
VRAI: [Pained] Yeah! [Wheezes]
LIZZIE: The Amazon is currently on fire. So I was like, “Yep.” I felt like I would have to question, at least, in this show, what caused the Second Impact? Was it something outside of our human understanding, or was it a human-based cause? Right?
So I find they drop a lot of things about what is happening in the background, but it never really explained, “Okay, this is how this happened.” I mean, I think they’re even trying to find answers themselves.
VRAI: Well, I’m curious because I think it’s a thing a lot of people miss if they don’t have people that’re explicitly calling attention to it, because a lot of it does happen in the background. There’s the first hints of [a] very important conspiracy, but the only reason you know about…
You might pick up, “Isn’t it kind of suspicious that this weapons test went real bad all of a sudden for no particular reason and then just happened to work out fine?” And the only kind of clue you have that there’s something fishy about it confirmed is Misato nodding toward it at the end of the episode. So, I think a lot of younger viewers miss some of this very, very subtle kind of buildup. Which is very much backgrounded compared to the character work.
DEE: Yeah, there’s clearly a lot that was put into the history, but because—and what’s going on… There’s this sense throughout, like something really shady is going on just behind the scenes that our teen protagonists don’t know anything about.
But because it is filtered through their perspectives, it ends up being these little dropped nuggets that you can kinda pick up as you go, or you can just sort of let the plot roll over you as it happens. I’m more interested in the character work in this show than the overarching conspiracy stuff, by a wide mile.
ISAAC: Yeah, I think worldbuilding-wise, the only thing that really stood out to me is, I think, it’s the episode where they have the Angel that drips the gooey stuff down the well, and they all have to work as a team to figure it out.
At the very beginning of that, they’re picking up their laundry, some of the staffers, and then they meet the deputy commander on the train and he’s reading a newspaper, and that just kinda caught me… The fact that he was reading a newspaper caught me off guard. I was like, “Oh, I guess they have newspapers, even in the midst of everything that’s going on.”
And I dunno. To me, that was just really evocative of a bigger world beyond… ‘Cause that dude is the deputy commander of an organization that’s facing these unknown beings that could potentially end the world, and he’s reading a newspaper.
ISAAC: So, I’m like, “There are other things in the world that he’s interested in reading about right now?”
So, you know, it just really caught my attention because of that, and I guess I had sort of thought… I dunno, I got more of the impression that the city—Tokyo-3 I think is the name of it—was more of a last bastion of humanity? But I guess there’s people out in other places in the world who are kind of out living their lives and doing stuff and doing things that are worth putting in the newspaper.
So, yeah. That was the worldbuilding detail that stood out the most to me. I know it’s kind of a weird, minute thing, but…
VRAI: No, I think it’s a good note. Watching through this time, it reminded me a lot of other World War II-based works of anime and manga, where you have just these devastating horrors and you might be evacuated and your house might be gone now because of giant—holy crap, the bombing episode is some potent imagery—but there’s also just this sense of forced normalcy because “what else you gonna do?”
ISAAC: Also funny, considering the state of the world today.
VRAI: Oh, yeah.
LIZZIE: I have to question: are they the only three Eva pilots? ‘Cause shouldn’t there be more? I mean, if the world still exists outside of Japan in this series. I’m like, “Okay, I would think they would have way more than just three,” ’cause why are the angels just showing up in this particular location? Aren’t they gonna show up, I don’t know, in Germany, France, whatever?
DEE: Yeah, it seems like the Angels are specifically targeting the Evas. And I’m not—I know I’ve seen the show before, and that’s not… If that’s a spoiler, I don’t mean for it to be, because I don’t remember if any of this is explained later in the show. But that’s the sense I got, ’cause when they’re bringing Asuka’s new model over from… Were they in Germany?
ISAAC: Yeah, from Germany.
VRAI: [crosstalk] She’s from Germany.
DEE: Yeah, when they’re bringing it over, that’s when the Angel attacks, is when they’ve got the Eva with them. And then once they’re back in Tokyo-3, the Angels continue to just attack Tokyo-3. So maybe it’s like a homing beacon, almost, for them? It’s not super clear.
Also, they start attacking just as these units start getting built. That’s weird!
ISAAC: Super weird.
DEE: Which kinda makes you wonder if they’re intentionally trying to call down the Angels via the Evangelions. And, again—seriously, folks at home, if I’m accidentally spoiling things, I am sorry. I’m not doing it on purpose. I don’t know if that’s actually how it turns out or not.
VRAI: I’m delighted. It’s really fun for me.
LIZZIE: But you’re right about dropping little hints, ’cause I think Kaji is a spy. They just drop that. He’s always in weird, secluded areas with random people. And once he was with a lady and a dog, and it felt… Yeah. I was like, “Okay, you’re a spy now. All right then.”
VRAI: When he’s not busy being The Worst, he’s a spy.
DEE: God, Kaji sucks. I don’t know what—
VRAI: [Emphatically] I hate Kaji so much!
DEE: I remember liking him, and now I have no earthly clue why I liked him.
LIZZIE: He’s charismatic. I’ll give him that. But beyond that, I’m like, “Don’t get near me.”
DEE: He’s a serial harasser, basically. He’s awful to Misato. God, that fucking line when he’s like, “What should I believe? Your words or your lips?” I’m like, “Her words, asshole!”
VRAI: It’s so bad! Yeah, I feel like… I also liked Kaji more when I was younger, and then you get to be closer to Misato’s age, and you’re like, “Stop! Make this man stop!”
They’re 29 and 30, by the way. The implication is that he and Ritsuko and Misato were about Shinji’s age when Second Impact occurred.
DEE: Yeah. They did kind of drop that little hint in, when he said, “We didn’t get to go on a school trip because Second Impact occurred.”
LIZZIE: Oh, damn, that’s so sad.
VRAI: It was bad.
DEE: So, yeah.
VRAI: Yeah, which… Boy, so, I mentioned in the first episode when I was doing intros that because this series is so personal to Anno, in some ways, it’s very messy and first draft-y about its themes.
Hey, this series is really scared of women’s sexuality. It’s… It understands that women have thoughts and have independent motives that are separate from their interests in men or love interests. But it doesn’t know what those are, so it’s decided that they’re just mysterious and unknowable.
LIZZIE: [Groans] Yeah, there’s a lot here to talk about in regards to that. I mean, I dunno. In regards to Asuka, what really stood out for me, personally, was… I feel like maybe this is not talked about enough, but it’s mostly…
‘Cause we always talk about patriarchy and how people keep replicating the patriarchy, et cetera, and Asuka just reminded me of a lot of people I knew growing up in regards to: you kind of have to perform hyper-masculinity in order to survive the world that’s not always exactly fair to women, nonbinary folks, et cetera. Right? ‘Cause she’s always putting down Shinji and is like, “Aren’t you a man? Why can’t you speak up?” She’s always berating him for being quiet and everything like that.
So, I was just like, “Wow, I don’t get to see this kind of example often in most of the things that I watch.” Right? But she just reminded me so much of the people I grew up with. Even my own mother, but that’s besides the point.
But yeah. So, I dunno. I think that’s something that I took away from these episodes that’s not often talked about: how moms, aunties, et cetera, even some of our friends, can perpetuate that. Toxic masculinity.
VRAI: Yeah, there’s a really good article on Vice that was sort of wrapped around Casey Mongillo’s casting… I can’t remember if I mentioned it last time, but where this trans woman talked about how she really vibed with Shinji’s experiences of being this very soft, feminine presence who’s constantly told to be a man.
And I know that Shinji has given me the genderfeels for forever, and I’ve never been able to quite put my finger on what it is about him, so much as he’s just this very soft, anxious, androgynous figure who is just terrified of all of the social roles being put on him.
DEE: Yeah, and it ends up being, whether intentionally or not, a pretty good example of internalized gender-norm expectations from Asuka. Because it’s not like Asuka is this perfect representation of traditional femininity. She demands, “Be a man!” from Shinji constantly, but Asuka’s outspoken and… I would say deeply insecure, but puts on an aura of confidence and excitement about the missions, and is kind of like your gung-ho shounen hero in those aspects, and is very aggressive.
So, even while she’s demanding that Shinji adhere to this hyper-masculine role, like you were saying, Lizzie, she, herself, is by no means beholden to this. And to me that’s a very teenage thing.
VRAI: Yeah, and it’s another one of those genre things, right? ‘Cause it was really popular for really douchebro fans to be like, “Oh, well, we’ll just gender-swap the children in the cast,” and I’ll be like, “Well, then you’ve just put them back in their expected gender-role boxes. You’ve done nothing. You’ve solved nothing. You did the most boring thing possible.”
LIZZIE: Oh, yeah.
LIZZIE: I can’t wait to see what becomes of her later on. ‘Cause I did sense a hint of vulnerability there, later on when she had a conversation with Misato at the hot springs. I was like, “Oh, okay. There’s more to come.”
VRAI: Yeah. Asuka is a character of many depths.
I am very fond of the ramen scene. She puts on all this bluster early on about how she’s gonna pick a really expensive restaurant and Rei has to be there because she’s still being this kind of awful alpha character who really feels threatened by Rei’s position—and then she picks a ramen shop so everybody can go together, and I love my daughter!
LIZZIE: That was so considerate. I was like, “Aww, you know she’s not making a lot of money.” [Laughs] “Let’s all get this delicious food together.”
VRAI: All of the kids… I dunno. I feel like there’s a lot to Rei and even some of the other secondary kids as we get further into the series.
But Shinji and Asuka are just extraordinarily well-rounded and developed, I feel like, above and beyond the rest of the cast in terms of these very human, teenage foibles where they’re both very vulnerable and they’re kind of awful ’cause they’re 14, like we discussed with Shinji last time, and… But, also, they’re just sweet. You can see how, in a world where everything wasn’t on fire, they might turn out okay.
ISAAC: Yeah, one thing I do like about Asuka is I feel like she pulls out of Shinji a lot… You know, she’s always demanding from him to be a man, but I feel like she draws out just a lot of maybe his more natural personality, just in the way that she interacts with him.
Because it seems like the only time that he really shrivels up is when she, you know, criticizes him on that kind of gender-role basis. And a lot of the other kind of pettiness that she has actually seems to drag out Shinji’s own pettiness in turn.
Which is, like, I dunno. It’s a dynamic that I really enjoy, ’cause I like seeing her saying something just kind of pointless and childish and then Shinji comes back at her. I’m like, “Oh, they’re just fighting like two kids.” And, you know, maybe that’s kind of the effect of feeling something normal in all of this, but I really enjoyed that about her.
VRAI: And you also have her relationship with Kaji, which is very much a foil to Shinji and Misato’s relationship, in some upsetting ways.
DEE: To Kaji’s credit so far, he’s not biting the hook that Asuka keeps trying to get him to bite. He kind of just treats her like a kid. Yeah, when they go out shopping and they do the… She’s like, “I’m gonna get me a bikini!” And he’s like, “Is that appropriate for your age? I don’t know, but I’m not interested in this, if that’s what you’re going for.”
So that’s the one halfway-decent thing about Kaji at this point. He does not appear to be a sexual predator.
LIZZIE: The bar is so low. The bar is so low.
VRAI: So low.
DEE: Shinji does not seem to have any halfway-decent male role-models in his life, at all.
VRAI: He really doesn’t. I feel like the show keeps coming back to that. It knows masculinity is crap and all of its male adult figures are just kind of the worst, or they don’t interact with our protagonist at all, like the bridge crew.
But, also, there’s so much talk about “what women are like,” and I feel like the show, at times, kind of believes Kaji’s line of bullshit about the whole “what your lips are saying versus what your words are saying.”
And it’s just… I dunno. I feel… I really feel it, I think, with Misato and Ritsuko’s friendship, ’cause there’s something so good and rock-solid there under their bickering. And then you get these hints of Ritsuko’s resentment of her mother and this whole “who she was as a woman.” What does that mean?
ISAAC: Nobody knows.
DEE: I actually— Yeah, I really liked… To me… I liked the way these episodes took some time to give us more insight into why Misato and Ritsuko are there and what their backstories are, and very much, you know, falls in line with the themes we see with Shinji and his complicated relationship with his father. ‘Cause they both have very complicated relationships with the previous generation as well. And so I enjoyed that.
To me, they don’t… I know you said you felt like the show is aware that women have personalities and relationships beyond [men] but doesn’t know what those are. I’m not sure I would agree with that. I don’t think it’s perfect, but they don’t feel, to me, like “mysterious, unknown others.” They feel, to me, like rounded characters with as many uncertainties and conflicts as the guys do. I feel like I have a very good grasp on Misato and Ritsuko at this point.
VRAI: That’s fair. Maybe I’m judging from some later stuff.
DEE: Yeah, no, that’s possible.
LIZZIE: As of now, I really love their interactions, for Misato and Ritsuko. When they go drinking together or are sitting around for coffee, you get the most out of their relationship at those moments. They know how to talk shit to each other, and they know how to… When each other is down, they know what to say to kind of help them to get back up again, so…
DEE: Yeah. Their relationship feels very natural to me in a way that I think a lot of anime struggle, especially with older women characters. I say “older.” I mean, they’re in their twenties. But you know what I mean. Not teenagers.
Just because, you know, it’s not like they’re just… They pass the Bechdel test. You know? Which I know is a low bar. But they talk about a lot of different things. They talk about their pasts. They razz each other. They respect each other’s work. I think there’s a… And we don’t see that many scenes of them together, but every one we do is a little bit different, while still having that kind of, like you said, that kind of rock-solid foundation of familiarity underneath all their interactions.
LIZZIE: Yeah, and I… Just to add to that, you know, the show is kind of conscious that they have to try hard to prove themselves in this organization.
I remember—I think it was in episode seven—when they had to go to this conference and Ritsuko was questioning the moderator or something like that, and, phew, that was brutal to watch. Where all these men were saying, “Oh, you’re just hysterical, questioning everything I’m saying,” and everything like that.
And, phew, Ritsuko… She held it back really well, you know? While going up there to punch him in the face. I was like… You know?
ISAAC: It’s really good.
LIZZIE: To some extent, I do appreciate that the show is aware that these two women are smart. They’re hella capable. But they still, unfortunately, always have to prove themselves in a room full of men. You know?
VRAI: Yeah, and it’s really nice and interesting how that episode where they go to the conference and the episode with the Magi are sort of reverses of each other, in terms of how Ritsuko and Misato play backup to each other. Where one is kind of taking the lead, and the other one has their back at a crucial moment. And I really like that.
ISAAC: I do think that seems maybe a little generous toward Ritsuko, at least in the disaster episode, ’cause it seems like she’s in on the trick and is aware that nothing was gonna happen from the start. And, obviously, Misato isn’t. So, yeah. I guess you can’t blame her too much for that, but, yeah. They’re not perfect flips.
But, yeah, as far as their relationship goes, in the 13th episode that we just saw here at the end, there’s that moment when Misato comes in and she grabs Ritsuko’s coffee, and Ritsuko goes, “Oh, the coffee’s cold.” That is such a solid incidental piece of relationship building.
So, yeah, I think I agree with Dee that, at least to me, the female characters—except for Rei, maybe—come out to me seeming pretty solid. And even… I know we were talking about the way the show deals with their sexuality. It seems like that comes mostly into play with Asuka. But even her… She has the swimsuit episode, again, with the school trip, and she has that interaction with Shinji at the swimming pool where she’s kind of trying to get him to react, and he doesn’t, and then she’s like, “Well, you’re boring.”
ISAAC: But, then, at the same time, you know, whenever… There’s all these moments where… She had that great line in her introduction episode where she’s like, “Why are guys so stupid and boring?”
ISAAC: Which I laughed at. But it seems, you know, there’s sort of, again, kind of a kernel of truth in that. In that, you know, she’s kind of mimicking this idea of what she thinks she’s supposed to do with her body and her sexuality, but when it comes down to it, she’s really not comfortable with that at all. Even her complaints in the last episode, where they have to get naked and go in the plugs, Aquarian Evol-style.
DEE: Yeah, I think Eva is a show that is… One thing it does well is it never loses sight of the fact that the characters are children. Just in those moments—like you said, Asuka will have these moments where she’s kind of trying to maybe tease Shinji a little bit about, like, “Oh, look at my boobs!” Or she wants to wear a slightly risque bathing suit for a 14-year-old—which, it’s not, but, okay, anime. It’s a super-cute little bikini. But anyway.
But, then, at the same time, she’s also very insecure and uncertain, and they use nudity as kind of a shorthand for vulnerability a lot, which… Vrai, didn’t you write an article about that?
VRAI: I did.
DEE: It was good, if I remember correctly.
VRAI: [Laughs] Yeah, people seemed to find a lot… Yeah, I am sincerely glad to hear that from all of you, ’cause I feel like maybe what my opinion is coming from is colored by some of the episodes at the very end of the series. So it’s very nice to hear from all of you that… just coming forward with a completely open perspective, it really sells their best points as characters.
And, yeah, I think this series really does, up to this point, have a great grasp on dividing when it’s in HornyVision and Shinji is just having rampant teenage emotions staring down somebody’s shirt—which he’s always staring down somebody’s shirt—and then just other moments of nudity when it wants us to look at the characters as vulnerable and afraid in these very stark senses.
DEE: Well, and in this stretch, too, even, something I noticed was with the way they framed the characters. When we’re in Shinji’s perspective, especially those scenes with Asuka… God, those are horny scenes. Where, just, constantly… horny in an uncomfortable way. That sense of, “Oh, don’t look there. Why are you looking there? Stop it!” kind of sense. Which is probably what’s going through Shinji’s head.
LIZZIE: Don’t kiss her while she’s sleeping! What is wrong with you?
DEE: Please do not!
ISAAC: Yeah! Oof.
VRAI: I do love that moment where he’s all gearing up to kiss her when he thinks that she is this sort of… he buys into her “I’m totally grown up and mature” facade, and then he pulls away when he realizes that she’s scared and she’s lost like he is, and has that humanizing moment. He sees a woman as a person, and realizes that that would be a bad thing to do.
DEE: But I was just gonna—just to finish up that thought… The camera frames—but then you’ll cut to scenes of Misato and Ritsuko just hanging out at a bar and talking, and the framing of the characters and their bodies and focusing on their faces or their hand gestures or what have you, it’s completely different.
And so there’s definitely an understanding in Eva that I think so many shows do not have of directing the camera in a way to create a tone, or to let you know the perspective that the character is coming… that the scene is supposedly coming from. So, it doesn’t feel like fanservice. It feels like it’s there for a reason. You know what I mean?
ISAAC: I think that’s… Yeah, I think that’s true to mostly a degree, but then there’s also stuff where it feels like it’s having its cake and eating it too, and so you’re like, “Okay, did you really need to put the scar right between her boobs? You didn’t have to make that choice, but you did.”
And so, yeah… I think I agree with you in most cases, Dee, with the exception with an odd, sneaky fanservice-type shot there. Things like that. But it’s certainly better than a lot of things.
DEE: Yeah, and I agree with you there, too. To me, it kind of reminds me of Flip Flappers, where, for the most part, it knows what it’s doing, and then sometimes it just missteps either by accident or because someone on staff just got a little too overzealous—I do not know—and kind of veers into that territory of being unnecessary. But, overall, it’s much better than a lot of other series.
And I just realized, they don’t do the next-episode previews on the Netflix version, do they?
VRAI: They don’t? Oh, that makes me sad.
DEE: Yeah! Just so you guys know, in the next-episode previews, I think it’s every single one in the early going… Misato promises the audience lots of fanservice next week. [Laughs] And there never is.
VRAI: There gets to be a pattern in the late episodes, too, where the episodes where she doesn’t promise fanservice are the ones that have a lot more nudity in them.
LIZZIE: Good to know.
DEE: Oh my God, yeah.
ISAAC: Although I will remind everyone: fanservice doesn’t always mean nudity. It can also mean good giant robot action, and sometimes that is true. Some of these episodes, there is some good giant robot action.
DEE: That’s true.
VRAI: It doesn’t get as much praise, but this show is really good at being a monster-of-the-week episode. The Angel designs are really interesting and innovative; they provide interesting conflicts that are distinct from one another; they say something about the theme of the episode.
DEE: You learn things about the characters or the world. None of these feel like they’re just there to take up space. They feel like they’re there to expand our understanding of what’s going on, either with getting a better feel for who Asuka is, or Ritsuko, or what’s going on at NERV. ‘Cause they drop little nuggets in every episode.
LIZZIE: Yeah, they’re… I was just gonna say, the Angels are really unique. There’s one that looks like a dish with an eye falling from the sky, then there’s one that’s like an embryo in lava. I’m like, “What are you?” You know? I have so many questions [as] to what these Angels are.
VRAI: They had a lot of great designers working on them. Off the top… I can never remember all of them. Several different artists contributed. One of them was the future director of Escaflowne, for example.
LIZZIE: Ooh, no wonder. It felt familiar, to me, with Escaflowne. I was like, “Oh, maybe I’m stretching it.” But no. Yay, I was right.
VRAI: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. The Eva production list is really a who’s-who of people who went on to work on other stuff. Like, half of the team went over to Utena afterwards.
LIZZIE: Of course.
DEE: They did. I remember that. Yeah.
ISAAC: Oh, yeah. There is… Oh, I can’t remember what episode it is. I think I put a note on… But there was one shot that really reminded me of that, where they were going up the elevator and talking together.
DEE: Yes! The silhouettes.
LIZZIE: Oh, yes!
ISAAC: And then you get the silhouettes over the fence, with the Evas on the other side. I was like, “Oh, seen that trick before.”
DEE: Yeah, that shot happened, and I was like, “Oh, they’re gonna go smash the world’s shell! Go StuCo!”
VRAI: [Chuckles] I mean, Anno and Ikuhara are friends, so…
LIZZIE: Oh, okay.
VRAI: And Ikuhara is, allegedly, the loose basis for Kaworu as a character. So, that’s a fun nugget for the future.
LIZZIE: Ooh, okay.
VRAI: Oh, which does remind me. This is neither here nor there. It’s a spoiler, but not a consequential one, because it’s just kind of revealed offhand in the movie. Maya, the young woman who works on the bridge crew, she has a crush on Ritsuko.
LIZZIE: Oh, okay.
ISAAC: Good for her.
DEE: I ship them.
LIZZIE: Good for her. I ship it. I ship it.
VRAI: It literally never comes to anything in the series. It’s basically a background detail. But I like to remember it.
LIZZIE: You know what? It’s really important. I love it.
ISAAC: If she hadn’t pressed that button, they would have had problems with the computer, so…
DEE: I think everything would have exploded, so, good on you, Maya.
LIZZIE: Oh no. That’s another thing. The Angels can also become nanotechnology? That’s why I’m like, “What are you?” You know? Yeah.
DEE: The Angels appear to be evolving at a terrifying rate to break into this base. That seems to be their only goal, and every episode, they find a new way to do it. “Oh, we’ll sneak it through the entryway hatch and just drizzle acid on them as they come up.” “Oh, we’ll just blow the entire thing up with a giant explosion.” And then they finally got into The Cyberterrorism, so…
VRAI: What a good episode translation that was. Referencing Lilliputian stuff. I love the translated episode titles.
ISAAC: Can you just imagine these tiny, little, creepy Angel things just poking around in the wires? A bunch of ’em?
VRAI: That does remind me. I’m cashing in my “Vrai gets one opportunity per episode to complain about the new translation” card.
ISAAC: Ah, yes.
DEE: Oh, sure. Go for it.
LIZZIE: Go for it. It’s important.
VRAI: I was kind of having trouble last time putting my finger on how the new translation feels different from the old one, but Asuka’s introduction scene, the dumb little flashing joke, is one that I remember really clearly, so I went back and I copied out the differences between the old dub and the new one—you know, where there’s the dumb exchange between her and Touji, and the wind blows her skirt up, and shenanigans.
DEE: [Sighs] Yeah.
VRAI: Yeah. So, you know, the old ADV dub has this line of… She slaps them both. They’re like, “What is that for?” And she’s like, “Well, that’s the viewing fee. Quite a bargain, nicht?” And Touji comes back with, “It’s overpriced, but that’s all right. Here’s your change,” and he pulls down his pants.
VRAI: The new dub is, you know, “What was that for?” “Your price for the treat; I think you got a great deal.” And he comes back with, “Oh, really? That’s nothing. I’ll show you a treat.” Like… [Sighs]
DEE: There’s a lot of— Some of the bits of humor and turns of phrase, the lines have stuck with me in a way that surprises me, given that I don’t really remember anything that happens in the second half of the show. But, yeah. It was even one of those things where I was like, “This line sounds kind of jankity and I remember this being a pretty neat line in the original.”
So, it’s just… Yeah, it’s stiff. And I think the humorous moments in particular don’t translate as well over in this new version, because they don’t… I think a lot of the time with humor, you have to be a little bit more free and easy with the translation to convey the tone, and if you don’t, then there’s no joke. It doesn’t really land. So.
DEE: Also, I miss Asuka calling Shinji… Didn’t she call him dummkopf all the time in the original?
VRAI: She had so much random German in her dialogue. It was delightful and I miss it.
DEE: Yeah, it was fun.
ISAAC: She does say, in the Japanese—which I think I mentioned that’s the one I’m watching—she does say at the beginning of episode nine… She gives Shinji a really excitable “Guten Morgen,” but she pronounces it like “guten mowgen,” and it just… That really made me laugh. That was more the voice delivery than the line itself.
VRAI: That’s adorable. Yeah, and it’s one of those things… God, this is so pretentious, but it’s like… I liken the two translations the difference between a King James Bible and a New International Version. There are some times with the techno-gobbledygook where I think the new translation is a lot more efficient and easy to understand. But when it comes to character stuff—which I think, as we’ve discussed on this episode, is the heart and soul of what Eva is—it doesn’t come across as well.
I was watching the last two episodes with my wife this morning, because I wait ’til the last minute to do things, and she brought up that there’s just this… ‘Cause she majored in rhetoric. She brought up that there’s this qualitative difference between the very famous, original translation of Shinji’s line as, “I mustn’t run away,” versus the new one, which is, “Don’t run away.”
Where the former is this pressure from outside forces that he knows he should do this thing; he knows he’s compelled to do this thing even though he doesn’t want to. Whereas the new line is him telling himself. And those are so very different. And one feels a lot more true to what his character is going through. And I love linguistics!
DEE: I don’t think he says “Nigenaide,” which would be, “Don’t run away.” I think the tense at the end is more in line with the tense that you would use to mean “must not do something.” So, I think so? But, again, I have to… If I’m not focused, I won’t catch all that when I’m watching.
VRAI: If Google is to be believed, it’s, “Watashi wa nigete wa ikimasen.”
DEE: Yeah. So, “I mustn’t run away” is… That’s… Yeah, that’s what he’s saying.
I noticed that, too. I was like, “This is a very different syntax, and it does not quite convey… ” I think there was this idea that the new dub is more literal, but there have been multiple moments where I’m like, “You took a translation route here that actually isn’t conveying quite the same thing as the original.”
So, I’m not sure that’s a fair read on it. It’s just a different translation. I don’t think it’s necessarily a more literal one from start to finish.
ISAAC: Yeah. I’m just trying to think back to my perspective on that, as someone who doesn’t have any familiarity… Just trying to remember what my reaction to that line is. And I don’t know.
This is just my perspective and, again, I’m coming from this fresh, but, to me, at least, when he says, “Don’t run away,” to himself, the surrounding context of the situation plus the visuals, the closeups on his face and whatnot… At least, to me, I’m thinking that my reactions were that, you know, he’s feeling kind of an outside pressure rather than internal motivation. But maybe it’s both. I don’t know. This is me just pondering through—
VRAI: [Crosstalk] I mean, I’m glad the basic feeling is still coming across.
ISAAC: Yeah, I think that’s what I’m really getting at, is that I think for me, at least, I understand the emotion there, even if the translation itself isn’t as particular to a specific… ‘Cause, I dunno. At the same time, I will say, “Well, if you’re in that situation, do people say, ‘I mustn’t run away, I mustn’t run away,’ to themselves, or do they say, ‘Don’t run away, don’t run away,'” and in terms of… But, anyway, that’s neither here nor there. It’s just sort of theories—
VRAI: On the other hand, the times in which people in Evangelion talk like normal meat humans is very hit-or-miss.
DEE: I was gonna say, the way Shinji says that to himself in the original Japanese is a little odd, too. So…
DEE: Anyway. Sorry about… That was a bit of a tangent there.
VRAI: We did. We did. I cashed my card and completely derailed the podcast. There’s some quality #content in there. [Laughs] Whatever.
I guess that does bring me around to asking… I feel like there’s no wrangling… We can’t do it like we would do another watchalong, where we just say, “And what do you think will be going on next week?” Because, you know, it’s sort of infamous that the back half of the series sure is a trip. But, I guess…
LIZZIE: Is it? ‘Cause I was expecting despair in this batch, but I’m like, “Where’s my despair?” So…
LIZZIE: I’ll take your word for it. The next batch is where I’ll get full-on despair.
VRAI: I mean, that’s not necessarily what I mean, either. So I guess, my question is, in fact: What do you two think is going to happen next time? And you, too, Dee, since you…
DEE: Have no memory of anything? Yeah.
LIZZIE: I’ll expect despair. Maybe Gendo being more of an asshole. I mean, he did block the calls from his son in this batch. I’m like, “Okay, well, I’m sure you can get worse.”
VRAI: [Laughs] He is, in fact, the worst dad. I about died laughing in the scene in episode 13 where they’re trying to figure out what’s going on without Gendo finding out, and [cracking up] he’s just rising up on a platform in the background.
VRAI: Like, “Heard you were talkin’ shit.”
LIZZIE: He’s all shadowy, too.
VRAI: He’s the worst, but, God, it was funny.
LIZZIE: Oh, gosh. I don’t know. I know I could easily google this, but even if I do that, I don’t think I’ll look at it. I feel like I have no idea what’s gonna happen. I don’t even know how this is gonna end. I mean, I look at the series objectively, and I’m just like, “Okay, I have no idea how all of you are gonna solve this Angel conflict, let alone your personal lives.” So…
ISAAC: My guess is Gendo is gonna try and fuse humans with Angels to create a superhuman being, because he has that conversation with the deputy commander where he’s like, “Oh, yeah, humans… There’s no original sin here.” And I was like, “Oh, that’s definitely a villain line.” And the other guy is like, “Yeah, I prefer humans to be in the world.”
So, that felt like, “Oh, yeah, maybe Gendo is not just trying to save humanity, but do some kind of big, creepy supervillain thing with humanity.”
LIZZIE: Ooh, maybe destroy it? Ooh.
ISAAC: Or, yeah, or destroy it… Not in a “I want all humans to die” [way], but he’s gonna try and surpass humanity, and then really screw things up pretty good.
LIZZIE: I could believe that, ’cause there’s a lot of sketchy things happening in this batch of episodes. So, yeah.
ISAAC: It’s just… Whenever you get a villain who’s like, [villain voice] “Oh, humanity is impure. There is no original sin here in this land that is basically Hell. It’s my home,” [returns to normal voice] you’re like, “Hmm, okay. So this guy maybe doesn’t have the best interests of humanity in mind.”
DEE: [deadpan] I think they’re all gonna sit down over a pot of tea and talk it out with the Angels.
ISAAC: What kind of tea?
DEE: Well… There’s a lot of open space in this world. The Angels, they can just settle them down in Siberia or something. They’ll have a little Angel community, and you can go visit them, and everything’s gonna be fine.
Shinji and his dad are gonna work things out, and his dad’s gonna realize what a piece of crap he’s been, and they’ll fix their relationship, slowly but surely, going forward, and it’ll be heartwarming, [through laughter] and that’s my… No.
DEE: I may not remember the second half very well, but I’m pretty sure it’s not that. So…
LIZZIE: I expect a lot of… Okay, seriously, I do expect a lot of… I noticed in this batch, everyone has a lot of issues with their parents.
LIZZIE: That’s gonna come out in full force in the next batch, maybe. It’s probably gonna make me uncomfortable as hell, but…
DEE: Yeah, the generational tensions are laced through this thing.
ISAAC: “They think we want a steak dinner? Gosh, Misato’s so out of touch.”
LIZZIE: Yeah, I mean, I just saved the world. I think I deserve more than a damn steak.”
VRAI: Okay, but that was extra wild to read, given that… I don’t know about y’all, but the millenials I know are so about free food that it’s unreal.
LIZZIE: That is true.
LIZZIE: That’s fair. I’d take free, then. All right, I’ll take the steak.
ISAAC: I mean, you say that, but at the same time, I know so many people who are just so into Burger King and Taco Bell, and I feel like ramen is, you know, the equivalent of that. So, to me, that tracks. They’re like, “You know what? We don’t want steak. We just want to stuff our faces full of this junk food.”
LIZZIE: I would challenge anyone who likes Taco Bell. How dare you?
LIZZIE: Taco Bell is not… I’ve had real tacos growing up. This is not—no.
VRAI: Oh, no, it has nothing to do with real tacos.
LIZZIE: [Laughs] No.
DEE: That’s not why… that’s not why we like it.
LIZZIE: It looks gross, too. I’m like, “What is this? Okay.”
VRAI: [Laughs] All right. Well, I suppose we’re getting on towards an hour. Are there any final thoughts that we didn’t touch on today that y’all wanted to get out there into the world?
DEE: This show has… Sorry, I just noticed that I circled the word “escalator,” so I thought I’d point out that this show has a massive hard-on for escalators.
VRAI: It loves them so much.
DEE: And now that I’ve said it, you’ll never be able to unsee it.
DEE: They’re everywhere.
ISAAC: The escalators?
VRAI: Oh, yeah.
LIZZIE: Yeah, I dunno. I think I appreciate… They really took the time to do each scene in a way that was so detailed that I don’t get to see often in a lot of animes these days. Even everyone just sitting down and having coffee… I think one of you pointed out where she drinks the coffee cold. I appreciate those little scenes that are so… At the end of the day, they don’t matter, but I think it just builds the relationships of everybody.
DEE: Yeah. I think that’s one thing we’ve… Back in the day—[catching self] “back in the day,” you know, 20 years ago; whatever—when two-cour was kind of the standard, you had more time to insert those little character moments.
And I think the new model is… A lot of shows tend to be one-cour now, especially originals. And I think that you do lose some of those little touches, like you mentioned, to make the world and the people in it feel more real and fleshed-out. “And what do they do in their off-time?” kind of stuff.
So, I liked that about this stretch of episodes—which really were, like you said, monster-of-the-week—did some world and character building every episode. Nothing was wasted, but it was the kind of thing that you don’t get to see a lot of those… “We’re just gonna insert three, four episodes in a row that will give you a chance to get to know everybody better.” And that’s their main purpose.
I don’t think you see that quite as much anymore, which always kinda makes me sad, ’cause I like hanging out with the characters I enjoy hanging out with.
VRAI: It kind of reminds me of how Tiger and Bunny structured itself, and then I got sad and nostalgic again.
LIZZIE: I wanna know what Gendo does in his free time. Does he read the newspaper too? I have questions.
VRAI: He broods.
DEE: He stares at a wall.
DEE: Just glares at a wall over the top of his laced fingers.That’s it.
VRAI: [Through laughter] He hasn’t moved from that position in 15 years.
LIZZIE: [Laughs] That’s so long.
VRAI: All right, well, I’d say that brings us to the end of our hour. Thank you so much to the three of you for joining me. Next time, we will be watching episodes 14 through 20, just as a reminder, if you’re watching along at home.
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All right, well, until next time: really just work on those interpersonal relationships. Take people out for ramen. It helps.
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