REVIEW: A Human Work/Asuka Strikes! (Evangelion)
A Human Wo—JET ALONE IN THE HOUSE WHAT WHAT
SUP ERRYBODY THIS IS JET ALONE. LOOK ME UP. YOU MIGHT KNOW ME FROM SUCH TELEVISION SHOWS AS NEON GENESIS EVANGELION WHERE I WAS TOTALLY AWESOME AND SHOWED THAT YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A PILOTED GIANT ROBOT TO GO TOTALLY BERSERKER. AIN’T THAT TOTALLY SWEET? I MEAN, I’M LIKE THE DELOREAN! OH YEAH BABY, THIS SUCKER’S NUCLEAR! I’M GONNA TAKE ALL Y’ALL TO TOWN WHEN I–
WHAT? WHAT DO YOU MEAN THIS EPISODE’S MOSTLY A DOMESTIC COMEDY BETWEEN SHINJI AND MISATO ABOUT LEARNING TO LIVE TOGETHER IN PEACE? I’M JET ALONE, CAKESNIFFER, AND IF YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE JET ALONE, THE JET ALONE DOESN’T NEED YOU! I’M TAKIN’ MY NUCLEAR REACTOR AND GOIN’ HOME, DAMMIT, AND AIN’T NO WUSSY UNIT-01 GONE BE ABLE TO STOP ME! I’MMA GO HOME, I’MMA GET ON MY TWITTER AND I’MMA SHOW YOU ALL THAT YOU DON’T MESS WITH THE JET ALONE!
Can you tell that I’m not the world’s biggest fan of this episode yet? Chad and I once played the Evangelion drinking game while broadcasting the episode and our antics on uStream one night. After watching the first four episodes (and getting properly pissed) we switched over to episodes 9 and 10. He argued that Magma Diver, episode 10, is the worst of the series. I disagree. It is clearly Jet Alone.
Y’see, narrative-wise, the first arc ended last week. We established all the characters just fine in the first six episodes. Gendo’s mysterious, Ritsuko’s analytical, Misato’s a (creepily flirty) slob/merciless leader, Shinji’s afraid of success and failure, Rei doesn’t know what feelings are and has something going on with Gendo–it’s all there. What does this episode do for the characters or the story?
Shinji gets scared, okay. Big whoop, he’s done that before. Just last week he finished off a battle with an Angel by breaking down in tears, that’s not new this time. Misato’s a far more capable warrior than she’s seemed until now. Well, okay. We knew that her personality was a double-edged sort when she picked up a 14 year old boy, hitting on him, then ordered him to take the pilot’s seat of a hundred foot tall walking death trap. It’s not like it’s news or anything.
I mean, sure, we didn’t know that Ritsuko and Gendo were close–but wait, yes we did! It was back here somewhere… aHAH! Second episode, within an hour of the story starting, Ritsuko and Gendo are alone in a dark room discussing the moral enigma that is using emotionally scarred fourteen year olds to pilot your giant, world-saving robots! We’ve seen this before!
And that’s really the problem this week. We’ve seen it all before and we’re only seven episodes in. Is 26 just a better number to export to VHS tapes? Is that it? I mean, is this really how you wanted the first arc of this story to end, Anno-sama, or were you buying time and the trust of the censors? Cos honestly, this stinks.
First arc overall: THREE STARS. Establishes setting, character, tone, mood. This is all good so far. Except Jet Alone. Friggin’ Jet Alone.
Jet Alone blows. Just wanted to make that clear. And apparently, so did GAINAX, cos they followed up what is arguably the series’ worst episode with one of the finest of its early run. Asuka Langley Soryu is a controversial character among the fandom to say the least. And lots of fights have been started over Ryoji Kaji and his role in the series, especially at Mega64. But both of them are the final on-screen players added to the show’s line-up and both of them fill out the cast well.
Let’s talk Asuka. I love Asuka. I think she’s one of my favourite characters in anything as a character. She is a mix of hot-blooded, manly confidence and drive with the mentality and attitude of a bratty fourteen year old girl. With her added to the cast, you can see the clear delineation in pilot’s roles and the gender flip that has been applied to them. Rei’s the stoic protagonist, quietly fighting for another day, accepting her fate with dignity and determination. Asuka is the hot-blooded hero, fighting for love of fighting, striving to be the best simply because she knows no other ambition. And Shinji is the reluctant pilot, thrown into a conflict beyond his grasp and incapable of dealing with the mental trauma inflicted upon him weekly.
What better a way to highlight your protagonist’s unique qualities than by pairing them up, romantically and emotionally, with a rival that is their complete opposite? (Shinji/Asuka 4eva!) She enters the series in a windblown dress without any panties on (as per her dialogue) slapping the bejeezus out of the guy who entered the series punching Shinji in the face for peeping. It’s hilarious, and demonstrates that if you try to dish it out, Asuka will be taking none of it–Shinji’s opposite in every way. It’s distinctive, it’s memorable, it uses humour to demonstrate character.
And what about Kaji? Kaji is the Misato to Asuka’s Shinji, and just as Shinji is to Asuka, Kaji is to Misato. Openly lecherous in the workplace, constantly aloof and poorly kempt, never seeing Asuka as anything more than a child (much to her frustration). Where Misato’s private life reveals her slovenly habits, Kaji’s private conversations show that he is not a fool and is far more aware of the whole situation than you or I. This is also demonstrated through humour and dialogue, naturally.
Oh, also, this week, there was this sweet Angel fight, where Asuka and Shinji took to the seas as live bait to reel in a gigantic, inhuman thing that’s just hangin’ out down there, then blew it up by jamming a couple aircraft carriers in its mouth and detonating them. Have I ever mentioned that the mech fights on this show totally rule? Cos they do. This show does its level best to save money everywhere it can just so the mech fights will always shine in their visceral and tainted glory.
Best episode yet? Easily. Is it too big a spoiler to say that it’s outdone by the next episode?