If you are expecting a comprehensive overview of Neon Genesis Evangelion, I am sorry to say that you are not going to find that in this post. Truth is, I have only watched the first five episodes of this piece of anime, and then only because Adult Swim was showing Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death and Rebirth a few days ago. From what I could tell, this was a movie cobbled together from various episodes of the series. Sadly, I had no idea what the heck was going on, but I was intrigued by the many religious themes that kept popping up during the movie, such as the logo for NERV, mankind's defense from the "angel" onslaught:
Anime with religious sensibilities and mechs? Sign me up! So I decided to start at the beginning of the series.
Like I said above, I've only made it past the first five episodes, so I cannot reach any conclusions yet. However, while the jury might still be out on this series, I can say that episode 4 has already captured my heart by doing something very simple: it paused for dramatic effect.
Let me back up here and explain something. As of late, I have been bemoaning the awful state of Hollywood, particularly the dreadful live action cartoons (as I like to call them) that Hollywood seems to think qualify as science fiction. Guardians of the Galaxy is a perfect example. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed that movie like so many others, and look forward to further adventures with its delightful cast. But I definitely believe that movie was harmed by its frenetic pace. The movie never once slowed down, but instead careened from one action sequence to another with breathless pacing. Attention Hollywood! Cinema is not a video game (and, indeed, even most video games give the player time to catch their breath!), and it certainly isn't a roller coaster ride! SLOW DOWN!
The issue of frenetic pacing was recently put on display by the director of Guardians himself, James Gunn. In what I consider to be a breathtaking revelation, Gunn explains how a single, brief joke was cut from the script because they thought it slowed down the movie too much!
In the film’s final version, Drax responded with “Don’t ever call me a Thesaurus” and left it at that. We figured Gunn shortened the line to make it less of a buzzkill, but Gunn explained why he abbreviated the joke post’s comments later on.
"I think we were just making things move faster, and we had a bunch of good jokes in that section."
Incredible. A six word joke excised to make things move faster. Faster! In a movie that was already supersonic!
This is my most serious problem with modern movies: they are moving so darn fast that the audience is often left with a blur of CGI and little else. What about character development? What about pathos? You cannot truly have any of those element if the darn thing won't stop to catch its breath every now and then, giving the audience a chance to process what has transpired. Stop it, guys. Just stop the needless and endless adrenaline rush. Life is about more than explosions.
Now, what does this have to do with Neon Genesis Evangelion? Just this: in Episode 4 there is a wonderful moment where director Hideaki Anno just stops all activity to allow two principle characters, protagonist Shinji Ikari, and his mentor/commander Misato Katsuragi, to have a moment of powerful understanding:
Wasn't that a wonderful scene? Brilliant, even? I particularly like how Anno uses ambient noise to haunting effect. The chirping of the summer cicadas, the music quietly escaping from Katsuragi's car, and the tram station's PSAs - it all makes for a very pregnant pause where two troubled characters realize that, if nothing else, they have each other.
Sadly, and simply, you will never, ever come across such a powerful scene in any big budget Hollywood blockbuster these days. Could you imagine the chaos when the production team discovers that their movie contains sixty seconds of film that lack any explosions, punchlines, or shoot outs? The horror. The group-think, lowest common denominator horror.
Please allow me to quote myself once again. As I wrote in my reviews of Girls und Panzer and Hellsing Ultimate, how badly is modern Hollywood doing its job if anime is repeatedly schooling them in the better aspects of storytelling?
Wake up before it is too late, fellas.