Friday, February 10, 2006

The End of Evangelion and the Beginning of Cowboy Bebop

I recently received a call for papers on the topic of "film remakes." The abstract for papers is due the beginning of March and there's a possibility it'll turn into a book. As a lover of movies and other pop culture artifacts, and an academic who actively attempts to incorporate this love into my more supposedly serious work this edition excited me. I should note though that alot of times this incorporation doesn't go over very well. Last week for example, I received incredulous looks from a Native American girl when I said that Gayatri Spivak's question of "Can the Subaltern Speak?" can be answered through the song Don't Speak by No Doubt. If you think that's out of control, wait until you see me and my friend Madel try to show how Micronesians operate as American Viagra in producing American patriotism and sovereignty, through the lyrics to Weezer's El Scorcho. For most people these topics are intensely serious and therefore should be investigated with the same apparent intensity. I don't question the seriousness, but I do question what seems appropriate based on that seriousness, as in what evidence are we supposed to use to discuss this very serious problem and how a conversation or critique will be structured based on that appropriateness. As I wrote recently in my master's thesis, that which is hegemonic, becomes so through the production of naturalized divisions which it easily straddles and transgresses. Shouldn't a critique therefore be ready to duplicate that same movement, that same production? Therefore, I don't intend to stick with "serious" forms of evidence to deal with "serious" problems, because too often that will leave me only engaged at the formal level, which is drastically insufficient. I mean, at the formal level, everybody is equal right? But we should all know that this isn't the case. A decent critique must be able to engage at the obscene level too.

Returning to the call for papers, they are looking for film remakes, in a very literal sense, meaning there was a film and someone came along and made another based on it or to contest it. When I first read their call I didn't really think of any of these sorts of remakes, the first thing that popped into my head was the anime Evangelion and how it was re-made through the two films that followed it Evangelion: Death and Rebirth and The End of Evangelion. How because of the strange nature and approach of anime's last two episodes, these two films were brought in to attempt to finish what the season could not.

For those unfamiliar, the first end of Evangelion takes place at the level of three minds, Shinji, Asuka and Rei (all pilots of the Evangelions), who represent the whole of humanity as it undergoes Human Instrumentality, which is a process through which man is to be re-united with God and all conscious is to beome One consciousness together. Each undergoes a type of hysterical vaporization, and their processes slip into each other, continually inverted the process. At one moment Asuka will accuse Shinji of living in fear, and the next Rei will accuse Asuka.

From what I've read online, this end did not match the hopes of many of Evangelion's fans. Although this ending is deep and very intense, it didn't match the scale of viewers expectations. Also, it left things for many unclear as to what EXACTLY happened. The final scene is Shinji, surrounded by all the characters from the entire season who tell him "congratulations" and clap their hands. The last image is of Shinji smiling, a little embarassed, telling everyone "thank you." For those hoping for some mythic apocalyptic end, it does take place, but not in the way people anticipated.

The End of Evangelion and Evangelion: Death and Rebirth arrive to try to take the place of this imagined ending which the first end could not escape. The scope becomes far more physically violent and epic. A huge battle takes place over the Evangelions and their pilots. The Human Instrumentality project is not shown in its Human dimensions (the human condition, the hyterical annihilation and rebirth of the first attempted ending) but instead in human terms, through visual representations of the struggles and battles, as well as the symbolic processes of humanity's evolution or devolution (the creation of the tree of life, the new world emerging from Rei, Eva Unit 01 floating off into the universe). The Human dimensions are dealt with, but in a way which dillutes their intensity. The overcompensation for the first try is obvious as the scale of this moment of instrumentality is constantly reinforced and reiterated, whether in the moments of the characters' new life/death or the live action footage which moves throughout Tokyo.

Several interesting things emerge as it should be obvious to all, that what we are dealing with is not a simple remake in terms of a correction or another try. In fact, these endings both require each other, they only truly make sense together, and because of this, the idea that one simply corrects the other doesn't hold. But when I say make sense, I don't mean that Evangelion said to The End of Evangelion "you complete me," and that the complete story has at last been told, but more so that through a reading of both of these endings, we arrive at why I feel Evangelion is truly an epic narrative, because of the way it illustrates so beautifully the impossibility of that completion. How through its hyteriscal illustration of the Human, we can trace the basic limits of our existences. To mention Zizek briefly since I don't feel that I've mentioned him enough lately on my blog, this reading of Evangelion provides an account of Zizek's version of Hegel's "concrete universality."

I'm still putting together my ideas for this call, and still deciding whether I should spend any time on it, since after all my reading of remakes probably wouldn't be accepted by the editors. If I do end up putting in an abstract, I was thinking about this title, Anime Re-Made: The End of Evangelion to the Beginning of Cowboy Bebop.

The reason for mentioning Cowboy Bopeep (again this is what I call it, on purpose) deals with one of my posts last year about the anime. I found it very interesting that when they made the film version, despite the fact that digetically it is supposed to take place before the end of the 26 episodes, it is obvious in terms of Spike's development that it takes place actually AFTER the 26 episode season. (Meaning that Spike's death, his act in the last episode is what paves the way and allows for the solidarity that is found in the film, but not in the season.)

If I do this paper, the majority of it will be on Evangelion, and maybe I'll just have a long footnote on Cowboy Bopeep. Hekkua'.

The great thing about having a blog is that it operates as my brainstorming board. I can come out here and toss out some ideas, ramble on about them and then at some later point I have a record here which I can return to if it sounds like a good idea. (this is what happened at the last conference I attended. Elements of the paper were already scattered throughout my blog and so I just pasted them together to form the bulk of my paper) I already have several posts on here about Evangelion I think I might already have enough for this paper.

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