REVIEW: Angel Attack/An Unfamiliar Ceiling (Evangelion)
It opens with a shot of water. Then, something indescribably large swimming through flooded out remains of buildings. Tanks are lined up on a mountain road. All is quiet. A kid is waiting by a payphone for a rather well-endowed woman from the military. Seriously, she put an arrow leading to her cleavage on the picture she sent him so he’d know who was picking him up. He’s fourteen; she’s in her late twenties. When she finally picks him up, she teases him that he’s not as cute as she thought he’d be. Say hello to Shinji Ikari and Misato Katsuragi. The subtext only gets weirder from here.
Indescribably large menace runs around wrecking stuff all nimbly pimbly, so the local military drops an N2 Mine (it’s as powerful as a nuke, but not a nuke, cos it’s Japanese) on it. And it emerges unscathed and still wreaking havoc. They give the go to Gendo Ikari to launch the Evangelion, gigantic humanoid robots, to fight back. He looks far too pleased at this development.
She drives him to NERV headquarters where his father is currently waging war on the Angel terrorizing Tokyo-3. There’s some technobabble debate about the morality of sending Shinji out without training in a robot the size of a skyscraper. There’s a really creepy shot where they’re riding on an elevator past a gigantic tank of purple liquid. And a hand is reaching out to them.
Almost all screen time in this first episode is devoted to establishing the characters as they act in battle situations. It also establishes the relationships Shinji has with the other characters off the bat. His reunion with his father, who has spent most of his life developing robots without seeing his son, is awkward, angsty and stilted. His father orders him to pilot a giant deathtrap. Shinji asks why after all this time, his father only reached out to him to put him in a situation where death was almost given. So his father orders a badly battered albino girl to get in the pilot’s seat instead.
God, what a massive dick. Basically, everyone spends this episode being a dick to Shinji. This isn’t unusual; as protagonists go, Shinji falls somewhere along the “cowardly butt-monkey” line of heroes. Sachiel, the Angel, drops a helicopter thirty feet away from him, Misato’s late to pick him up, Ritsuko insists that he pilot the robot without any knowledge of how to work it, his own dad seems almost gleeful at the prospect of putting his son in a giant moving deathtrap in a fight to the death with a creature from beyond our realm. Upon seeing the girl, Shinji decides that he should man up and get in the robot already. The Eva is launched with him piloting.
No, I’m serious, that’s the episode. Now you know why a thousand words would’ve been overkill. Overall, it’s the premiere. What do you expect from a first episode? It introduces the world and characters well. Good job.
An Unfamiliar Ceiling:
“Are you ready, Shinji?”
– Misato and Shinji set the tone for every launch for the next 7 episodes.
Shinji’s in the middle of his first battle. He takes two steps and faceplants. That’s what you get for hiring a new guy. The Angel picks Unit-01 (that’s the giant robot’s name) and breaks its arm. What hasn’t been said yet is that when you pilot an Evangelion, you feel everything they feel. Its arm is broken so badly it resembles a sausage, your arm feels just like that. And when the Angel hammers the Eva’s eye socket until a hole is blown clean through its head and LCL bursts out of both ends of the hole like a dam bursting–well, it doesn’t feel too good.
Shinji wakes up in the hospital. He has no idea how the battle ended and neither do we. As he’s leaving with Misato, he bumps into his father–who has come to see Rei, the albino girl from the first episode. Awkward~. Shinji and Gendo have decided not to live together. Angst and betrayal don’t make good roommates. When Misato hears of this, she decides she’s not having Shinji live alone and takes him in as a roommate. It turns out that shy, neat, organized and sexually repressed Shinji is now roommates with the boisterous, slovenly, alcoholic and scantily clad Misato. Oh, and a warm water penguin named Pen-Pen.
This is the first episode to highlight how hilarious Evangelion can be when it wants to be. Shinji sees Pen-Pen for the first time and slams open the door to tell Misato. Except he was in the bath. At home, his modesty is preserved first by a can of beer and then, as Misato takes a swig, a tiny jar labeled “toothpicks”. This apartment will be home to most of the fanservice and laughs to be had in this series. Don’t worry, it doesn’t get destroyed or anything.
Ritsuko asks Gendo in a dark room if Rei is doing alright. Gendo says that she’ll be operational in 20 days. That’s when they’ll take Unit-00 out of stasis and re-activate it. When everything is operational, Rei will fight again. This is the first scene showcasing the dark moral complexities that come with a deconstruction like Evangelion. Already, within an hour of the series starting, we have characters determined to use these children as soldiers, regardless of their own desires.
We come back to Shinji, at home now, staring at a second unfamiliar ceiling, when he gets his memory back. What follows is perhaps one of the most visceral and brutal first mech fights in an anime series. Unit-01 takes over fighting from Shinji and goes berserk on this Angel. While this battle isn’t particularly gory, exploding eye socket aside, it really drives home the reality of these two giant monsters fighting to the death on a weekly basis.
Overall, these two, put together, are a very good pilot episode. I mean, what can I say? They’re good stuff so far!