Dan Schneider’s Poem: War Comix #1452

As a continuance to my Schneider primer, let’s take a closer look at one of his poems. Now, Schneider himself has characterized his style as ‘cathedral-like’ in nature. Every verse or line is like a hardy brick building up to a grand picture.

Another artist who was described as creating ‘cathedrals’ is the composer Bruckner, and sometimes this criticism wasn’t a positive thing. Other terms that people have used to describe Bruckner includes – the creator of symphonic ‘boa-constrictors’. He’s been frequently contrasted with Mahler, whose symphonies were all about building up a world of color, sound, and feeling – both pleasing & ironic/jarring.

Many people out there confess to finding Bruckner’s symphonies too slow and choking. But others have argued he stands at the pinnacle of symphonically intellectual composition. Slowly and methodically making every piece fit into a structure.

To bring us back to poetry, if you were to contrast Schneider with a poet of lyrical shimmer like Plath, or ee cummings – you would something close to that kind of Bruckner/Mahler divide. He’s also rather different from a poet of pure delightful abstraction like Wallace Stevens. He has a thickness of technique that acts as a high barrier to entry to people who are unable to conjoin the constituents of all the parts.

This doesn’t apply to all of Schneider’s poetry though since, as I said before, he takes up a lot of subject matter. But Schneider’s closest compatriots poetry-wise would be Whitman (even he professes that Whitman was what first inspired him), Hart Crane, and Robinson Jeffers. But he’s also not a smooth follower of that rugged and rocky American verse. He can sound too prosaic at times, but this is only to people who can’t see the closer effects and combinations. Most importantly, he is a poet of the ‘intellectual-hijack’.

Let me, for example, look at this poem about one of Lichenstein’s Comic Book Paintings:

          WAR COMIX # 1452:

“IN LIECHTENSTEIN THE WAR WITH THE NAZIS WAS ALL PURE HELL….”

[Captain Armstrong ponders his perfect gaze
in a mirror. A man looks for himself
in a mirror. A woman looks at herself
in the album behind the dashing young officer
preening himself for battle. The man finds himself
in his eyes’ benday glint. In a moment
the olive-toned woman will drop the album.
She will succumb to his certain future and thrust
her brunet love, a gesture of appeasal,
on to his blond manhood, like young boys
surrender their plots to the bitter
TAKKA-TAKKA-TAKKA of machine guns….she will
love his pink unscarred body for now….the silent
lucidity of love will fill her eyes….unalone
in the empassioned air’s embrace….his death
will be a last finished panel to the selective genius
of war….the transcelestial flourish of honor….denied
to those who only carry justice on their tongues….]

Armstrong to mirror:
“….FOR THE LOVE OF MY COUNTRY….”

I chose this one because it has a very clear example of a technique that Schneider frequently excels at – the usage of enjambment to create 3-4 simultaneous meanings in a single line. If you can’t see these continuous aggregation of meanings, you can’t appreciate his verse.

The lines are at the start:

[Captain Armstrong ponders his perfect gaze
in a mirror. A man looks for himself
in a mirror. A woman looks at herself

The poem is based on Lichenstein’s paintings, some of which are based on one of those war comics with idealized male heroes. Already, this is set up in the first line which is a prosaic description of the idealized American soldier looking at himself in a mirror, but it then gains an extra meaning about sexuality & misogyny by the second and third lines.

The subtlety of the ‘for’ and ‘at’ characterizes the male as the ‘searcher’ while the female principle can’t ‘see beyond herself’ – and this is so true of those comics where the other gender is simply depicted as hanger-ons to the hero. On the other hand, it also holds a metaphysical import – describing the ‘Yin/Yang – Sun/Earth’ kind of archetype that is discussed by Mystics, or Weininger, or Jung etc… But it doesn’t show that layer through open analysis. It just draws a simple parallel through a shift in one word.

You can see the three simultaneities coming together here. Dan is describing the comic, but he’s also talking about American ideals, and misogynistic perceptions, and he’s also talking about abstractly about the dual M/F archetypal. And he does this by this sly enjambment where looking ‘in a mirror’ can be read with the part of the next sentence.


in the album behind the dashing young officer
preening himself for battle. The man finds himself
in his eyes’ benday glint. In a moment

This builds up the idealizations in the last few lines, by describing the young officer as ‘dashing’ and ‘preening himself’. There’s the enjambment again where he links the preening with ‘the man finds himself’ – which talks about arrogance & pride in externals.

And yet he drags us out again, by linking the soldier to the benday dots of Lichenstein’s painting. The new layer is added. It drags us back into the gallery looking at the painting, and since there’s a close proximity with the last line – the ‘preening’ can be conjoined with the act of creating art.

the olive-toned woman will drop the album.
She will succumb to his certain future and thrust
her brunet love, a gesture of appeasal,
on to his blond manhood, like young boys
surrender their plots to the bitter
TAKKA-TAKKA-TAKKA of machine guns….she will

These lines are saucy softcore descriptions, but they fit in the message of the idealization, and the link to war & machine guns is an ironic twist on the previous lines – what men give themselves up for: this idle masculine dream linked to sexuality & power. In the characteristically sarcastic Schneider fashion, he links the young boys getting shot by the guns to the woman getting fucked – which is pretty much self-explanatory. Even then, the ‘surrender their plots to the bitter’ is another subtlety because ‘plots’ can be linked up with the comic books themselves. It could even be just a general statement of a boy giving up childhood for a future ‘bitterness’ – not necessarily the war.

Even within the saucy description, there is still the sly enjambment of ‘certain future’ and ‘thrust’ – with mirrors with the hopes & dreams held inside the masculine perceiver of the ideal. The next line focuses on ‘gesture of appeasal’ at the enjamb, which points to the idea that feminine submissiveness is core in the ideal.

love his pink unscarred body for now….the silent
lucidity of love will fill her eyes….unalone
in the empassioned air’s embrace….his death
will be a last finished panel to the selective genius
of war….the transcelestial flourish of honor….denied
to those who only carry justice on their tongues….]

These lines lead up to the final message on both the allure & the perception of the ideal. The ‘pink unscarred body’ – both allowing for a link to freshness & immaturity, to the ideal, and enjambing /w ‘silent’ in order to add a metaphysical force to it. The ‘empassioned air’s embrace’ enjambs with ‘his death’ in order to parallel both the feminine ideal loving him, which is in fact the love of his own death. The next line draws us back into the comic-book page, but also implies that all this is the design of a higher thing. As if panel opens beyond a comic, but also a kind of artistic panel put in the final slate of a grand design.

The ‘transcelestial flourish of honor’ is linked to the ideal, but it is also linked, within the sentence, to ‘denied’. That’s is so totally amazing & fucked up! You get, simultaneously, the man striving for the ideal of a transcendent honor in war, but you also get the fact that the reality will deny him this. You can even get the connotation that war itself is the ‘transcelestial’ – the eternal transcendent order that has guided men since the start (see Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian for more ‘War is God’ stuff). The final line reminds me of so many people in my country that like to tell other people that they can’t “talk about National Service until they’ve been through it themselves” – and other kinda shit like that. War is both a horror & a pride. The soldiers take pride in having lived through the horror – floating on the dreams of masculinity.

                                Armstrong to mirror:
“….FOR THE LOVE OF MY COUNTRY….”

This is just like a cherry on top. It wraps up everything into the ideal of a nation, and its wars. Its faults & foibles in foisting a bloody ideal onto the citizenry, but also its allure. Ideal & Mirror. War & Love. Nation & It’s Enemies.

This is what I mean by Dan Schneider being a cognitive poet. In the above analyses I guided you through my thought process in coming up with my interpretations, and how Dan made those interpretations within me. But you can also see how many other people would view it. Think about how a Freudian analyst would view it – it’s so ripe for them due to all that Love is Death shit! Even a Marxist or a Situationist could talk about the spectacle of entertainment. A feminist reading works. But a misogynist could also read into it as a commentary on something that is denied to the opposing gender, because the last line can also be read as a statement of the lack of understanding the fight of men. It can even be read as a kind of metafiction, given that there are cues of the artist due to the benday & the comic descriptions. I chose to parallel it to Weininger & the Yin/Yang because that general abstraction was ripe within it for my brain to latch onto. It has that powerful ambiguity that makes the ending of A Clockwork Orange, with you being unable to know which side to root for (Alex or Government), such a resonant work. This is apparent in ALL of his poetry. I am only just realizing what kind of an iceberg he is. It’s also apparent in his prose as well, which reads like normal on the surface, but aims to leave upon your brain the mystery of life.

The main thing is that Dan’s poem exists before interpretation. It was made to vortex the minds of all sorts of people into it. It is the loveliest trap and this is the very crux of what poetry (and all art) should be. It shouldn’t merely be about lyricism or imagery or technique or a specific worldview – but about this cumulative explosions of ideas structured into a single frame. A world into itself. The Quantum Objective. Even if you like or dislike it based on your own feelings, it is itself a cathedral of meaning – and so a person who can make the logical connections cannot help but appreciate it for what it is.

And all that in a mere 20 lines!

(Forgot to add. Even the title links Lichenstein to Liechenstein – and the Nazis. That adds the extra layer of Aryan & Fascism being mirrored with American Idealizations & Propaganda etc…)

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Fine-Tuned: Shot Analysis of Kare-Kano Episode 6

I call this one of the most perfect episodes in Anime. A sign of a good work is one that ends with you feeling fulfilled, rather than emptied. A good work of Art is like a talisman that constantly replenishes, no many how many times you come back to it, rather than leaving you aching for more.

1. Black and White ‘manga’ shot of Arima with voiceover. Pan matches piano music.
2. Blue sky & clouds. Cicada chirping. Voiceover.
3. Comedic quick recap of following dates. (Miyazawa)
a. Uses a lot of ‘manga’ shots and drawings. Doubles as a way of adding the extra jokes in on text.
b. The beginning of the psychoanalysis of both sides viewing the same situation.
c. When it breaks out of the manga style it’s to show a sideways close-up of Miyazawa looking at Arima and wondering about his looks.
d. The manga scrolls always fit the tempo of the music in their slowness and syncs with the psychological analysis as well.
e. End of songs fits perfectly the end of the scene
4. Comedic quick recap of following dates. (Arima)
a. Like Coupling, also uses dual-ling for comedic effect. (Arima finds Miyazawa weird)
b. Unlike the first recap, this one is darker, never making it ‘just’ a doubling. When Arima ponders on whether he’ll be able to read Miyazawa’s thoughts, the dark background and white manga art is used as stark contrast.
c. Though tempo is a perfect pitch replication, narration is darker.
d. Cuts into a very dark shot of a tunnel, with sounds of train at the end of the music. Very distinct alienated atmosphere. Elliptical shots follow as narration continues until classroom.
5. Comedic interlude with Asaba (Miyazawa)
a. Manga, 4koma-esque format. Downscreen slide transitions with sound effects.
b. Ends with elliptical shots.
6. Comedic interlude with Asaba (Arima)
a. Doubling effect for comedic, but also dramatic purpose. Arima ponders on his own boringness as music ends off.
b. Ends with elliptical shots of classroom this time.
7. Begins monologue Arima on elliptical shot of classroom window.
a. Drawing shot then transitions into various cuts of Arima looking out window before falling into dark flashback. Displaces face on last cut before fading to black, exactly when Arima talks about being human and emotional. Very melancholy feeling and piano.
b. Sudden dark door. Psychological landscape built with text on screen and stills. Text fade out on same note as dialogue to have lingering feeling.
c. One second or so of blackness before cutting to next section. Stark silhouettes in daylight. Lingers on Arima after Miyazawa leaves. Side view to emphasize alienation. Ends with a ‘silent interlude’ same as Evangelion.
8. Comedic interlude with Miyazawa’s family. Shot from back of family. Heads allow space for manga bubbles on screen.
9. Arima’s dinner. Doubling two dinners. Begins with dark mansion shot. Then ‘squeezed’ shot of distanced dining table. Silent with sounds of eating high contrast with last scene.
10. Cloud scrolling with piano again. Camera elliptical shots, probably to indicate voyeurism or ‘journalistic tone’. Cut into deformed Miyazawa with Asaba comedic interlude.
11. Shot of sports event with Arima. When he notices Miyazawa talking to Asaba in the distance cuts to bottom up shot with heavy darkness over face and hair half covering eye. Emphasizes jealousy and distance of feeling. Cut to very distinct silhouette of tree with white over-exposure behind.
12. School shots transition to Far off shot of Arima in classroom. Arima at corner leaving huge space of empty tables. Begin monologue. Repeat far off shot with text over screen.
13. Kiss in the Rain scene
a. Setting, dark corridors and rain. Like Shaft, uses a high amount of scenery shots in between conversation. (classroom shot when Miyazawa talks about going home together, rain shot on talking about rain)
b. You can feel the perspective is more centered on Arima since we’ve just come out of the monologue with him. His eyes opening onto Miyazawa and the shots are focused around his view of her and with the rain shots you get the feeling of him waking up and taking stock of his surroundings.
c. After a series of elliptical shots come to a shot of Miyazawa in classroom form decentered to the side with 2/3 of the shot more focused on the window and the rain.
d. Actually why we feel that this scene is centered on Arima’s perspective is because the animation seems to curve around his viewpoint, especially on the POV matches. The first shot of Miyazawa is synced with POV when his eyes open and it’s a closeup of her face when she smiles. The 2/3 above shot is also his point of view. When Miyazawa comments on Arima it focuses on his reactions to her talking about his sleeping figure. When Miyazawa comments on her sister’s cuteness (with a wide pretty grin) it’s an Arima POV of her. The camera always seems to focus on things that Arima has more psychological stake in.
e. The psychology seems to orient around Arima until the distanced silhouette shot which puts both of them at an equal level. He also starts to speak more.
f. Music starts with elliptical shots of classroom. Brilliant shots of Miyazawa humming and running but centered on her shadows rushing across the scene. Then Arima sitting on the staircase half covered in darkness. It returns to his perspective with a lot of stills of Miyazawa brimming full of life. His monologue also starts with a red black sudden cut of a silhouette of an oil refinery (one of the motifs).
g. A very beautiful series of stills of Miyazawa ‘dancing’ around the corridor which matches with the music. Focus on her lips when she talks about depending on Arima. Then cuts back to his surprised look.
h. The buildup of ‘I want to be with you’ to the hug is the release point of the entire episode.
i. This time the camera is more on Miyazawa’s perspective, showing her blush until the lightning strike. Then breaking into the comedic moment (transition from his darker point of view to her brighter point of view).
j. Cuts back to his point of view as he washes his face in the bathroom but this time her comedy has injected itself into the moment. The song becomes more muted as the atmosphere returns. When the thunder comes back the air of alienation returns, as if now the two are dealing with the awkwardness of the moment. Then it’s broken up by the slapstick moment again. But this time it’s both comedic and heartwarming because the awkwardness is dispelled allowing them to finally kiss.
k. The buildup to the kiss is an objective shot, having a lot of shots of Miyazawa and Arima in the same frame on equal levels. The ‘manga’ shot may be slightly oriented towards him but otherwise it’s a full dispelling of perspective.
l. The manga scroll that ties the two together also begins at the end of the kiss, playing until the piano music ends on the picture of the two.
14. The add-on to the narration at the end of them being okay while it pans up to the clouds seems a bit extraneous. It may have been better if Anno did a ‘silent ending’ on Arima’s ok sign and muted the comedy and used real backgrounds in the last shot.

Fine-Tuned: Exegesis of Evangelion – Episode 1

This is a psychological analysis. So it does not aim for a holistic symbolic-interpretative or aesthetic-formal analysis, but it merely tries to  see whether Eva is really as ‘true’ as people say. Mainly I’m focusing on the dialogue and probably what could have been done for tighter psychology. Some people may say “why bother to give alternative possibilities to a work already so ingrained in the mass consciousness of Anime watchers?” and have the notion that I’m trying to be ‘better’ than Anno. Yes, I am in fact trying to aim to be a better artist than a lot of other people, but I have nothing but respect to Anno for creating the narrative in the first place. He had to come up with the whole thing in the blank creative space of his head, and so my ideas are more for myself, or to outline a methodology of critique, than to try to ‘supplant’ him. But I think that this is the real reason people write Fan-Fiction or think about alternative interpretations of established works, because when you use a template it helps refine parts of the creative process that you can’t train when you’re writing from scratch, that is, the ability to critique your own work. By critiquing other works  and try to ‘refine’ those, you learn to calibrate your own critiques. But you have to be fair and just as to exactly why you think the alternative will work, as I have tried to be in here. So, people who have the ‘don’t talk when you haven’t done anything yourself’ or ‘you underestimate the hard-work put into Anime companies’ kind of mentality… I really have nothing to say to you guys except that you should look at the Criticism as an Object, and engage with the Criticism, rather than projecting stuff onto the Critic.

Anyway by now its quite obvious that Evangelion is a deeply flawed work. It relies too much on its genre trappings, and could have intensified its impact in certain other places, especially in how it treats exposition, while still being able to milk all the Otaku merchandise it can get. I’m perfectly okay with the fact that the narrative sort of implodes and little of the concrete questions gets answered by the end of the series (since that isn’t the point anyway), but I can think of a lot of ways to deepen the sense of ‘mystery’ and to toughen up the themes, without merely adding more (bad) confusion to the work.

(Q-1) Announcer: “As of 01:12:30 PM today, a special state of emergency has been declared for the Kanto and Chubu regions surrounding the Tokai district. All residents must evacuate to their designated shelters immediately. Repeating: As of 01:12:30 PM today, the Kanto and Chubu regions surrounding the Tokai district have been declared to be under a state of emergency.”

(A-1) Announcing voices are purely for expository purposes. Most of the groundwork is done in the cinematography at this moment. And actually, it does a better job than silence because the voice is impersonal and the sounds of cicadas accentuate the mood, as compared to other archetypal ’empty cities’ in apocalyptic scenarios have been done everywhere to the point of archetype, including walking around in I Am Legend & 28 Days Later. Cicadas are a wholly anime-istic touch because they have been basically used everywhere, and they really do set the mood though.

(Q-2) Misato: “Why did I have to lose him now? Christ, why at a time like this?”

(A-2) Misato suffers from the expository “talks-to-self” syndrome of many anime characters before voice-over really started getting down. Although in real life I have met quite a few people who talk to themselves, and sometimes I talk to myself, except for people making v-logs I have never seen anyone talk to themselves in the full loud and assured way the Anime characters talk to themselves. Bakemonogatari and The Tatami Galaxy were probably the first Anime to really innovate on high density voice-over exposition (actually Kare Kano did that quite well Eons before, and also did the text on screen thing Eons before, and its by Anno too. So why didn’t he carry that over into Eva?)

The twist is that the shooting is elliptic, so Misato is not shown at all here. It’s this kind of subversion that puts Eva technically above other Anime.

(Q-3) Telephone Operator: “Due to the current emergency all lines are currently unavailable.”

(A-3) Technically well-done, because of the matching cut to Shinji’s face. So the exposition is very elegant. It links Misato’s car to Shinji. But the famous appearance of our blank-faced protagonist quite easily establishes him as our everyman character. Directly opposing examples can be seen in stuff like Toradora (which begins with the “there’s something that cannot be seen” fateful encounter opening mixed with Ryuuji having a half-comic moment in front of a mirror), Oregairu (which begins with the famous cynical exposition), Gosick (which begins with the Protagonist being called the Black Reaper and thus being so obviously established as anything but the most everymen of everymen).

Thats what’s so great about this appearance, because it literally has the impact of watching someone go through dial-up connection, but in an apocalypse. It’s one of the best ways to establish him as really like anyone else.

(Q-4) Shinji: “It’s no use. I shouldn’t have come here after all. Well I guess we won’t be meeting here. I’ll have to go to a shelter”

(A-4) Shinji also suffers from the expository “talks-to-self” syndrome. Besides that though, the most obvious psychological analysis is that he gives up easily, but then again a person wouldn’t stick around for long in an apocalyptic scenario.

Let’s say we remade this part without Misato or Shinji talking. I think its possible to still establish exposition because of the match-cut, so the talking just seems extraneous. And, instead, if Shinji puts down the phone in silence, gets his bag, and is about to leave when he sees the Rei cut, that would make the atmosphere and psychology tighter.

(Q-5) Misato Picture

(A-5) Sadly this establishes Shinji as Harem protagonist. It is most definitely an Anime moment and nothing else, with Misato as the slackish big-sister type character.

(Q-6) Rei appearance quick edit

(A-6) Mysterious and just one of the many quick edits that makes Evangelion so great. The doves may be slightly too much, but it essentially functions as a magical-trick distraction to Shinji. Plays into the Rei mysterious-girl archetype too.

(Q-7) Shinji shock at Angel appearance

(A-7) Psychologically iffy in that he doesn’t just straight run away. But passable.

(Q-8) “The unidentified object is coming towards us. We’ve got it on visual, I’m putting it on the main screen.

(A-8) Purely Sci-Fi Military Jargon-Speak. Pretty much there for the aesthetic. From now on I won’t be including any other of these unless its psychologically relevant.

(Q-9) Futsuyuki: “It’s been fifteen years hasn’t it.”

Gendo: “Yes, well now we’re sure. It’s the Angels”

(A-9) Also purely exposition (and the beginning of people saying things that aren’t gonna be explained), but it’s better than other exposition because of the cool transition to the title card after Gendo says “Angels”. But also you’d think that people would be a lot more panicky after a supposed mass extra-terrestial threat that hasn’t been seen for 15 years re-appears. In this small regard, Attack on Titan is way better at showing shock and fear due to a re-appearance from a massive threat. But then again, military officers and NERV are stuck in their ivory tower secret base, so it may make sense.

Also establishes Gendo as the calm bastard he is.

One particular way to separate Eva from its blatant Sci-Fi Chuunibyouish-Jargon cliches would be to cut out the Angel swimming at the start. Remove the NERV scenes. Have the title-card cut in after Shinji spots the Angel (which clears the exposition that that’s what those things are called), elliptically show the inside of NERV with silence and no explanation, spend most of the episode tracking Shinji and only show Gendo fully when Shinji meets him. Not only will this make things more mysterious, as you’re discovering things as Shinji is too, but it would be possible for a rewrite to focus on the psychology between Misato and Shinji. If you still want to show the military futility, cut in the bombs and explosions and generals snapping their pencils quickly (and without any military jargon-speak) while Misato and Shinji are interacting. If you want to reveal the name of the N-Mine, cut to a shot of its side with the name, and then show the whole atomic explosion scene. That would probably be more than enough to establish that kind of exposition.

But from a marketing perspective, maybe adding such stuff inside the work helps to ‘comfort’ the audience that this falls in the vein of a certain type of military SF. I don’t have enough statistics to show how much the ratings increase when a SF work includes such jargon vs when it doesn’t, but in Eva its dry and not done in the frenetic way that, for example, the crazy pseudo-science is dealt in Doctor Who, with a lot of hamming and abuse of the Doctor-Actors quirks while he delivers nigh-incomprehensible concepts at mach speed. So I still think it would be tons better to get rid of it.

(Q-10) Misato: “I’m sorry! Were you waiting long?”

(A-10) While the cool entrance of the car after the explosion only serves to accentuate Misato’s cool-big-sister-ness (even with the sunglasses). It would probably be less genre-tastic and more tense if Misato had to park outside a certain area and shout to Shinji to run to the car, or if she was shouting at him while he was getting on (which would probably be the more realistic option).

(Q-11) Futsuyuki: “Is it protected by an AT Field?”

Gendo: “Yes. Conventional weapons are no match for the Angels.”

(A-11) While Gendo and Futsuyuki are getting on the exposition train with the military’s massively failed attempts, things are being said with absolutely no context whatsoever. The AT-field remains a symbolically opaque idea until we get more knowledge of its true name (which is hidden in the opening song) and that humans have it, which is when it starts being an obvious metaphor for loneliness and alienation and stuff like that but weaponized, or a concrete form of the ‘hedge-hog syndrome’. This is the problem with exposition released too early without any knowledge backing. It only serves to confuse the viewer, and in a bad way too. The method I outlined above about explaining nothing until Shinji got to NERV, is a good kind of confusion, in that it sets the audience in his subjective state of confusion while providing the least amount of information necessary to understand. Until the main psychological themes start to get underway, all they would have to do is to show the field surrounding the Angel to convey that information to the audience. Because the name and occurrence of “AT-field” and other of the military stuff is void of meaning in this episode (besides showing woah Angel powerful), it really just adds unnecessary flab to the story.

(Q-12) Misato: “Hey, wait a second. They’re going to use an N2-mine? Get down!”

(A-12) While one questions the logic of Misato stopping the car to spend some time staring at the Angel, this is the part where exposition could have been useful. Sadly Shinji, in this moment, is nothing but a ragdoll pressed against Misato’s body. One method would have been to have him ask “hey what’s an N2 mine?” like any 14-year old wondering what the heck is going on in this humongous extra-terrestial encounter. That would have at least added to the realism of him being a teen that literally knows nothing about the scenario he’s in. But the only information relayed here is that there is an N2-mine, and it is probably a massive and normally not-used weapon, which is really extraneous since you can see how huge the blast is. Once again, cutting dialogue and showing Misato just getting down would have conveyed enough information.

(Q-13) Shinji and Misato staring at the blast from the turned over car.

(A-13) Their positions and expressions makes it sort of comedic, but only that.

(Q-14) Misato: “Are you all right?”

Shinji: “Yeah, but my mouth is full of dirt.”

Misato: “That’s okay. Now then, let’s go! Push! There.”

Misato: ” Thanks for the hand, I really appreciate it.”

(A-14) Slighty comic and slighty human, I guess, in that the secret agency representative has to ask Shinji to help her push over a car. Still continues to establish Misato in the ‘no-fucks given’ vein of a character. Still, the fact that the car still works (and later is shown to only be fixed with duct tape) may be slightly problematic.

A case can be made for having both of them have to walk there due to the car being screwed over. It could make use of scenery + psychology a whole lot more, but then again they want to get to NERV as fast as possible because the Angel is about. Another possibility is to have Misato page in a helicopter or other mode of transport or something and have them wait there idly, which can be used to show a scene of awkwardness/alienation better than anything else. Having the protagonist be forced to do nothing but twiddle his thumbs in an alien attack on the first episode waiting for a pick-up would be quite an amazing thing to see.

(Q-15) Shinji: “Thank you too, Miss Katsuragi”

Misato: “Just Misato is fine. I’m glad we’ve met at last, Shinji Ikari.”

Shinji: “Yea”

(A-15) Really only serves to drive their names in and nothing else. Alternative method for greater impact would be to have no one saying Shinji’s name until meeting Gendo.

(Q-16) More Military Fluff

(A-16) I’ve already detailed my fix to these elements. This is really one of the problems that dates Evangelion, and a whole lot of old Anime. Look, no matter how much people idealize the past, the fact is that the shift from SF to moe and comedy, at the very least, enforces a focus more onto characters than all these generic tropes. Even an emotionally abusive melodrama like Clannad has, on the whole, more interesting characters than so many things in the past. Akira, great visuals aside, has paper characters, not to mention Gunbuster (despite GB also having the interesting SF premise using Relativity as well). Evangelion really signified the shift in focus, but it still contains too much reliances on the most stale tropes of the mecha genre. Later Gainax Anime like TTGL and Diebuster both get over this hurdle, simultaneously tightening visuals and having greater interaction. Without the Moe-Romcom foundation, and if people were still more enamored with cool cyberpunk settings than beautiful-people-doing-beautiful-things, you’d have none of the great character-focused shows we see nowadays, from White Album 2 to Bakemonogatari to Oregairu. (Then again, Utena is also dated by Shoujo cliches at times, so maybe its just an upwards trend to understanding pacing better. Either way, it’s far from being killed by moe)

(Q-17) Showing of car fixed with duct-tape

Misato: “Yes, don’t worry about it. His safety is my top priority, so could you get a car train ready for us? The express one. Right. Well I volunteered to pick him up, so it’s my duty to make sure he gets there. See ya!”

(A-17): Comedic, but kind of a cop-out, especially with the possible direction I detailed above. There’s quite a nice touch with the shot viewed from bottom up, showing Shinji just staring out the window though.

(Q-18) Misato (Internal Monologue): “But this sucks! I just had this car restored, and now it’s a wreck. 33 loan payments to go… and the repair costs… Even worse, my only good clothes have been ruined…

Shinji: “Excuse me, Misato… Um, Misato”

(A-18) Plainly dated comedy. Characterizing Misato as an ‘adult person suffering from adult problems’ in the middle of an apocalypse scenario. At least Anno has the savvyness to make use of quick cuts here.

(Q-19) Shinji: “Are you sure you can just take those?”

Misato: “Nevermind. It’s an emergency, and we need a working car now, right? And I am a government officer, after all, so everything’s going to be perfectly fine, okay?

Shinji: “I don’t think anyone’s going to buy that.”

Misato: “Don’t get so snotty. You’re not as cute as I thought you were.”

Shinji: “Is that so?”

Misato: “Oh, did I upset you? Sorry, sorry, you’re just a kid after all.”

Shinji: “So are you. You’re not as mature as I thought you were.”

Car swerving.

(A-19) This is the kind of back-and-forth banter that is probably more needed, and it also establishes Misato’s immature character traits, which comes back into play when she becomes unable to bear responsibility anymore. One fix I can think of is to get rid of the comedy at the end, extend the exchanges (which would be possible if the military stuff was shortened) and you could even do the sudden halfway mark stop when Shinji says “you’re not as mature as I thought you were”, to give it a psychological heft.

(Q-20) Shinji: The special agency NERV.

Misato: Yes, it’s a secret organization under the control of the UN.”

Shinji: “It’s the one my father belongs to right?”

Misato: “Well, yeah… do you know what he does?”

(Pause) Shinji: “My teachers told me it was important to the safety of the human race.”

Cut to Gendo’s full face

(A-20) The pause says a lot more than what’s going on.

(Q-21) After Gendo has a talk with the Generals, he says “Don’t worry, a new (pilot) will be here soon”. Cuts to Shinji’s Face in the same pose.

(A-21) The match up is also great. Cut down on the military part and you’d have it a lot tighter.

(Q-22) Shinji: “Are you taking me to my father?”

Misato: “Yes. Yes, I think so.”

Shinji’s face darkens. Quick cut to bag and past cry Shinji.

Shinji: “Father…”

Elliptical cut to moving train

Misato (while still on Shinji’s face): “Oh yes, did you get an ID card from your Dad?”

Shinji (after realization): “Uh… Yes. Here it is.”

Misato: “Thanks… then, read this.”

Shinji: “NERV… (to self) my father’s agency (well the subs say that but he’s more like saying “Dad’s work…”)”

Book thrust in his face

Shinji: “Am I going to work for him?”

Cut to Misato looking up saying nothing

Shinji: “Of course. He wouldn’t have sent me a letter unless he needed me for something.”

Misato: “It looks like you don’t get along with your Dad… It’s the same with me.”

(A-22) The visuals here are the best part, adding the psychological accentuation to everything. This kind of rhythm is what most people would kill for to be able to pull off. But this is the start of the Freudian psychology though. It could probably be shortened with a lot less dialogue and a lot more focus on the visual placement.

(Q-23) Reveal of the Geo-front

Shinji: “Awesome! It’s a real Geo-front!”

Misato: “That’s right. This is our secret base; NERV HQ. This is the key to rebuilding our World. A Fortress for all Mankind”

Cut to halfway mark.

(A-23) So far this sequence of entering NERV is quite okay. I have nothing wrong with it being here, except for maybe the halfway placement (since I believe it could be used a lot better everywhere else). I guess Shinji acting like a Wowwed kid is quite okay characterization.

(Q-24) Misato: “What on Earth? Isn’t this the right way?”

Wind blows

Misato: “This is why I don’t like wearing skirts here… and where the heck is Ritsuko anyway? I’m sorry. I’m not used to this place yet.”

Shinji: “We passed this spot just a little while ago.”

Misato (making a uuuhhh face): “Don’t worry about it, and anyway, they make these systems to be used you know.”

(A-24) Another comedic exchange. Whether its really necessary… I can probably think of a few ways to use silence instead for better effect. But then it would probably turn it more into Lain’s atmosphere or something.

(Q-25) Establishing Ritsuko swimming in shots.

Ritsuko: “I can’t believe it, has she got lost again?”

(A-25) Probably fanservice. But I like how Anno rarely introduces characters the first time with a direct shot of their face (besides Shinji).

(Q-26) Lift door opens replacing Misato’s reflection with Ritsuko

Misato: “Ah… Ritsuko”

Ritsuko: “Why are you wasting my time, Captain Katsuragi? Aren’t you aware that we’re both short of time and manpower?”

Misato: “Sorry!”

Ritsuko: “Is this the boy?”

Misato: “Right. According to the Marduk report, he’s the Third Child.

Ritsuko: “I’m glad to meet you.”

Shinji (a bit awkward): “Uh… hi”

Misato: “He’s just like his Dad. The unfriendly part, that is.”

(A-26) The constant Misato shown to be immature with a joking smile, can be quite old. I wonder if its possible to redo all the sequences with less reliance on the joking faces.

(Q-27) Cut to Gendo

Gendo: “Handle the rest of this.”

Futsuyuki: “Their first meeting in over three years.”

Soldier: “Vice Commander, the target has started moving again.”

(A-27) Probably better if they just showed Gendo silently traveling down the elevator or something.

(Q-28) Purple Background. Elevator going upwards.

Voice: “Battle Stations Level One etc…”

Misato: “Here we go.”

Ritsuko: “It sounds pretty serious.”

Side profile silhouette of Shinji’s face

Misato: “So, how is Unit 01 doing?”

Ritsuko: “It’s currently undergoing refridgeration using the B-type equipment.”

Misato: “Does it really work? It’s never worked before has it?”

Ritsuko: “The possibility of activation is 0.000000001%. We call it, pathetically enough, the O-9 system.”

Misato: “Does that mean it doesn’t work?”

Ritsuko: “Oh, don’t be insulting It’s “O”, not “zero”.

Misato: “Well, it’s just a number. Anyway, it’s a bit too late to be saying, “Sorry, it didn’t work”.

(A-28) This is probably the best use of the jargon, because of Shinji’s reaction to everything. He completely does not care about what they are saying.

(Q-29) Small beam of light illumating them. Closes shut.

Shinji: “Ah. It’s so dark…”

Flash to Eva 01’s face in front of Shinji.

Shinji: “A face? A giant robot?”

Ritsuko: “You won’t find this in the manual… this is man’s ultimate humanoid fighting machine, the first model of the synthetic life-form Evangelion Unit 01. Built here in secret, it is mankind’s last hope.”

Shinji: “Is this a part of what my father’s been doing?”

(A-29) Shinji is shown to be quite slow here.

(Q-30) Gendo: Correct

Pan upwards to face

Gendo: “It’s been a while.”

Slow zoom in to Shinji’s

Shinji: “Father…”

Shinji’s face on multi-monitors

Gendo: “We’re moving out.”

(A-30) The multi-monitors is one of the best shots in the episode.

(Q-31) Misato: “Moving out?! Unit 00’s still in cryo-stasis, isn’t it? Wait a moment. You’re going to use the 01?”

Ritsuko: “There’s no other way”

Misato: “Now wait, Rei can’t do it yet, can she? We’ve got no pilot.”

Ritsuko: “One’s just been delivered.”

Misato: “Are you serious?”

Ritsuko: “Shinji Ikari.”

Shinji: “Yes?”

Ritsuko: “You will pilot it.”

Shinji: “Huh???”

Pan outwards with Shinji in between.

Misato: “But even Rei Ayanami took seven months to synchronize with her Eva. It’s impossible for him to do it. He just got here!”

Ritsuko: “He just has to seat in the seat, we don’t expect more than that.”

Misato: “But…”

Ritsuko: “Repelling that Angel is our highest priority. If putting someone who has a chance of synchronizing into an Eva unit gives us even the slightest chance then we have to do it. You understand that, don’t you, Captain Katsuragi?”

Misato: “I suppose.”

(A-31) Shinji is, once again, shown to be quite slow. If Shinji joined the shouting match here, it would be quite something. At the very least I don’t think people’s impression of him would be as whiny. The documentary Seven Up + Seven, which details a series of characters taken from Seven, then Fourteen, does show that at around the age, such reserve is completely normal though, so I’m not complaining.

(Q-32) Shinji: “Father, why did you send for me?”

Gendo: “You know exactly why.”

Shinji: “So, you’re asking me to take this thing and go out there and fight?”

Gendo: “Precisely”

Shinji: “No way! How can you do something like this to me? I knew you didn’t want me!”

Gendo: “I called you because I have a need for you.”

Shinji: “Why me?”

Gendo: “Because no one else can.”

Shinji: “No, I can’t… I’ve never even seen anything like this before! I can’t do this!”

Gendo: “You will be instructed.”

Shinji: “But there’s no way! I can’t pilot it!”

Gendo: “If you’re going to pilot it, do it now and quickly. If not, leave!”

(A-32) The voice-acting here completely drew me in the first time I watched this. It’s just so perfectly shrill and whiny.

(Q-33) Cut to various faces looking in. Angel explosion causes shake.

Gendo: “It must have located our position.”

Ritsuko: “Shinji, we don’t have time.”

Misato: “Get in.”

Shinji: “No! I didn’t come for this! This is all wrong!”

Misato: “Shinji, just why did you come here? You can’t…You must confront your father and confront yourself.”

Shinji: “I know it! But I just can’t!”

Gendo: “Fuyutsuki, wake up Rei.”

Fuyutsuki: “Can we use her?”

Gendo: “She isn’t dead.”

Fuyutsuki: “I understand.”

(A-33) Misato also begins to become a mentor figure here, which is a strange switch. Of course you can link it to her own views towards her father. I guess I would prefer it if she was more ambivalent towards saying stuff here. The “confronting your father and yourself” part sounds slightly cheesy. Actually that’s one of the primary conflicts in Misato’s character. I think it would have been a lot cooler if they were willing to risk playing her more lackadaisically and aloof, having more moments where she cares less about Shinji and just wants to do her own thing. But, of course, Shinji has to have people care about him.

(Q-34) Fuyutsuki: “Rei.”

Rei: “Yes?”

Fuyutsuki: “Our spare is unusable. You will do it again.”

Rei: “Yes, Sir.”

Dark Shinji Silhouette, while Ritsuko gives commands

Ritsuko: “Reconfigure Unit 01’s system to Rei, then activate!”

Shinji: “I knew it. I’m not needed after all.”

(A-34) Did I mention how on point the cinematography is throughout the whole part, because it just is.

(Q-35) Rei comes in on hospital bed. Breathing heavily. Shows Angel attack again. Force causes Rei to topple over. When the light crashes down the Eva hand protects Shinji. Everyone over-reacts, with exposition of course. Shinji runs to Rei. His hand is covered in blood.

Shinji: “I mustn’t run away. I mustn’t run away. I mustn’t run away…. Let me do it. I’ll pilot it.”

(A-35) The moment of resolve. I wonder how it would play if it was completely silent instead of him doing the ‘tell himself he can do it’ thing.

(Q-36) Eva preparation sequence. LCL fills the Shinji plug.

Shinji: “I feel sick.”

Misato: “Stop whining. You’re a boy aren’t you!”

Continuation of preparation sequence…. Shinji launches and faces Angel.

Misato: “Shinji, don’t get killed out there.”

(A-36) Mandatory sequence in a mecha. What Misato says about Shinji being a boy can be seen as maybe deconstructing the masculine mecha-pilots, but I don’t want to stretch that too far. It also ends on a Hollywood cliffhanger, but this is only the first episode. Later endings will be a whole lot more interesting in their placement.

Fine-Tuned: Silence used in Evangelion ‘To be Continued’ Cuts

One of the most subtle devices in Evangelion is its use of abrupt endings rather than having the ED music carry over into the ending scene or having BGM. This is a catalogue of the ending shots in Evangelion.

1. Ends on dramatic music cue, Shinji faces Angel.
2. Ends on silence, Misato tells a ‘sleeping’ Shinji to hang in there
3. Ends on silence, far away view through window of Touji hanging up phone, empty phone is left hanging for a few seconds before cut to credits, sound of rain.
4. Ends on silence, Misato greets Shinji at the train station
5. Ends on dramatic music cue, Misato screams Shinji’s name as his Eva is shot by the Angel’s beam
6. Ends on melancholic music cue, pans up to moon after Rei’s smile
7. Ends on upbeat music cue, Shinji’s face lightens up after Aida tells him Misato recognizes him as family.
8. Ends on upbeat music cue, Asuka joins Shinji’s class
9. Ends on upbeat music cue, Asuka and Shinji argue after destroying Angel
10. Ends in silence, crickets chirping, Asuka asks about Misato’s scar in hot spring.
11. Ends in calm music cue, pans up to night sky while Eva pilots are lying on grass
12. Ends in silence, background music from ramen store, Asuka tells Shinji he’s an idiot after hearing his reason for piloting Eva.
13. Ends with crashing sound from electronic brain returning to its original location, Ritsuko talks about her mother.
14. Ends with heavy footsteps from Rei’s Eva, Rei takes Lance of Longinus.
15. Ends on silence, Lilith’s body is revealed to Misato
16. Ends on silence, Shinji lies on hospital bed after being saved from the shadow saying he still smells like blood.
17. Ends on silence, Touji shoots a basketball at sunset into a hoop.
18. Ends on scream, Shinji sees the pilot of the third Eva unit.
19. Ends on dramatic music cue, the awakened Eva 01 howls.
20. Ends on silence, Kaji gives Misato his ‘last present’ to her during intercourse
21. Ends on melancholic piano music (actually more or less ends on silence since the piano is sparse and the end is abrupt), Shinji buries his head into pillow to block out Misato’s crying.
22. Ends in silence, Asuka screams she hates everyone
23. Ends in melancholic music, Misato talks about the tragedy of the Eva unit’s creation while Ritsuko cries
24. Ends in silence, Shinji calls Misato cruel after she tries to comfort him about Kaworu
25. Ends on music, black box letters saying “the human instrumentality project continues”
26. Ends on congratulations
End of Eva: Ends in silence on the beach.

The abruptness has the effect of making the last word or scene before the ending ‘linger’. It also generally emphasizes the existential unease of the characters. Silence isn’t exclusive to the endings though. Evangelion’s atmosphere throughout the whole series is mainly derived from its powerful placement of silent sparse shots (quiet moments in a lift, long slow elevators, empty roads in the summer except for cricket chirpings) in between moments of great emotional tension. Imagine if Toradora’s episodes ended in strange abrupt places rather than with the comic or emotional finalities it likes to end on (e.g. suppose episode 2 ends immediately in that silence after she got rejected without Takasu’s intervention, episode 3 ends immediately after Takasu made the comment that Minorin’s hand was shaking, episode 4 ends on the roof of the school without Taiga recounting Kitamura’s confessions [with all the standard emotional violin strings]). The abruptness also serves as a Brechtian distancing device to make one recognize the illusions of the medium. Think of how many possible generic romance dramas or romance comedies could be revolutionized if the episodes ended on the most uneasy notes instead of in their standard way.

Fine-Tuned: Shot Analysis of Shinji’s Runaway in Evangelion

‘Runaway’ scene from Evangelion shot-breakdown

03:54 – Shot of front of train with train noises. Raining. Colours dark and gloomy.

03:57 – Close-up of bag on top of train. Voices announce arrival at station.

04:00 – Shot of Shinji from angle. Hair covers his eyes, expressionless. Emphasizes detachment.

04:03 – Extreme close-up of music player. Clicking noise. Very soft music indicates change in track.

04:07 – Shot of interior train from top view. Shinji close-to-centered amidst crowd. Music from his music player can be heard. Shinji turned insignificant by the angle of the shot.

04:12 – Dissolve into shot of less people.

04:17 – Dissolve into shot of less people. Ambient music from player has still been playing.

04:21 – Dissolve into shot of less people. A man fallen asleep next to Shinji with book on his face.

04:26 – Dissolve into Shinji Alone. The bag on top of him makes you realize the close-up at the start was Shinji’s bag.

04:30 – Extreme close-up of music player. Clicking noise. Indicates another track change or repeated track.

04:33 – Front shot of Shinji, head downwards. Rain can be seen through windows. Buildings huge black monoliths.

04:45 – Dissolve into shot with two extra schoolgirls at Shinji’s sides. Girl talks but no words come out.

04:49 – Dissolve into Shinji’s form squeezed between the two schoolgirl skirts.

04:53 – Same shot, train enters tunnel turning the whole train compartment pure black with brief silhouette.

04:56 – Fade to black. Clicking noise of music player. Music was playing from 04:33 till 04:53 when sound was drowned out by roar of tunnel.

04:59 – Sudden cut back to front shot of Shinji. His full form can be seen. Head is still tilted down. Train has stopped. City in the background blur as if soft-focus. Announcement that train is terminated.

05:21 – Shinji looks up and says that he has to go back. Anno let the announcement and silence carry on for 22 seconds before Shinji looks up just to accentuate the detachment.

05:24 – Extreme close-up. Music player clicks.

05:25 – Shot close-up of puddle of water in a street reflecting a couple of neon-lighted stores. Noise of people selling their ‘goods’. Reveals to be red-light district.

05:28 – Sideway close-up of Shinji carrying bag. Close-up on the bag. The lights behind blurred like soft focus as Shinji walks not listening to the talking of sleazy pimps and prostitutes trying to sell their wares.

05:31 – Close up sideways profile of Shinji’s face. Still listening to music through earpieces.

05:33 – Sudden cut to flashing light with screaming. A movie camera light from front view.

05:35 – The whole cinema is shown in establishing shot. Cinema mostly empty. Shinji is at the very corner. Sounds from movie plays. Flashing light of movie camera continues.

05:39 – Shot of one of the seats. Ragged feet with socks sticking up obviously from a beggar sleeping.

05:41 – Top down view of a beggar sleeping on the floor of cinema stretching his body the length of 3 seats. Movie is about First Impact.

05:43 – Shot of front of cinema. Man stretched out with sunglasses reading a book and ignoring film.

05:44 – Shot of couple from back.

05:47 – Far away shot of Shinji watching movie with hand on his cheek, too small to draw facial features.

05:50 – Top down shot of Shinji. Hair covers eyes. He turns his head.

05:53 – Reveal of what he turns to. Over the shoulder shot of Shinji looking down at couple in seating ahead of him.

05:55 – Close up shot of Shinji’s face with black empty emotionless eyes.

05:57 – Shot from back of couple making out.

05:59 – Close up shot of Shinji’s face, light returns to his eyes.

06:02 – Shot from back of couple continuing to make out. Girl puts arms around guy.

06:04 – Close up of Shinji’s face again.

06:07 – Shot from back of couple. Guy seems to nuzzle face in girl’s chest.

06:08 – Close up of Shinji’s face, he blinks. Eyebrows turn downwards to indicate slight irritation.

06:10 – Slow pan across small area in cinema outside of the film. One vending machine and the sign leading to toilet. Shows Shinji sleeping on the sofa at the cinema.

06:17 – Atmospheric shot of city at sunrise. Composition of dark pinkish sky behind a monolith of a building. Criss-crossing of telephone pole wires. A few unlit neon signs.

06:26 – Shot of pink cloudy sky.

06:29 – Dissolve effect to a brighter red cloudy sky. Indicate that sun is rising. (Start of the ‘red panic’)

06:30 – Bird’s Eye View scroll downwards through street. Eventually scrolls to a small figure of Shinji walking down the street with long shadow.

06:39 – Shows Shinji as a small figure walking past a giant black monolith of a building. Brilliant symmetrical composition. All the buildings and trees seem to cast off a faint red glow or aura.

06:49 – Top down close up of Shinji’s face. Ambient noise of cicadas begins to crescendo into pure noise. Shinji has terrified look. Camera skewed sideways.

06:53 – Shot from back of Shinji. Camera skewed diagonal. Noise crescendos. He seems to face the pink sky. Turns to his right.

06:57 – Extreme close up of Shinji’s frightened face turning.

06:58 – Vast far away shot of Shinji’s back showing him in relation to three different layers of the trees, then the buildings, then the sky. The layers seem to shift as the camera slowly draws back. Noise Crescendos.

07:05 – Close up side profile. Shinji covers his ears and shuts his eyes tightly. Runs forward.

07:07 – Following shot of Shinji’s shadow on the ground. A ‘noir’ shot. Noise crescendo stops for running sound.

07:12 – Vast far away shot of Shinji’s small form disappearing down the street. Taken from ‘over-the-shoulder’ of a street light. The vast dark shadows of buildings drape the street in dark red. Street light turns off.

07:14 – Birds eye view of Misato from the ceiling of her room. Soft focus blurred light in her room can be seen which covers half her futon. Various books and magazines and stuff all around her.

07:18 – Misato opens the door to Shinji’s empty room. She’s put to the side to emphasize the emptiness. Window glows with light.

07:21 – Side close up of her face looking in. Says ‘Idiot’.

07:24 – Far away front view of bus driving down street. Japanese landscape of mountains and blue sky is seen in the back.

07:28 – Front view of Shinji. His form is sitting on a rock next to a small shrine. Face turned downwards so eyes can’t be seen. Form made insignificant by the shrine and the bus stop sign. Bird twittering.

07:31 – Wide scenery shot of some kind of Japanese country-like place. Single hut seen in middle.

07:35 – Shot of clouds drifting past.

07:36 – Shot of Birds Eye View of road Shinji is walking on. Looming shadow of clouds drift past. The road is flanked by fields of green. Shinji’s form is extremely small.

07:39 – Shot sideways of Shinji’s form walking past through silhouette of trees. Past him a lake can be seen. His head is tilted downwards, as if looking at the ground.

07:42 – Closer shot sideways of Shinji walking. Blueness of lake can be seen here as it takes up most of the shot.

07:43 – Further away shot sideways of Shinji walking. Field of sunflowers seem to drown his form in yellow.

07:47 – Scenery shot from far away view of vast large foggy Steppes.

07:53 – Pan across mountains to reveal Shinji’s form from back staring off into the foggy vastness. Wind blowing.

08:01 – Front direct shot of Shinji looking at camera. Hair blowing in the wind with fog all around him. He looks off.

08:05 – Vast massive panorama pan across green landscape to the city. Seen from Shinji’s back. Connected to last shot.

08:13 – Side shot of Shinji sitting down with bag next to him. Fog is all around him.

08:16 – Far away side shot reveal he’s sitting at the edge of a cliff after climbing over a fence. (Caspar David Friedrich shot)

This entire portion is a great example of using the art to mirror the character’s state of mind. Unlike the bus scene in Madoka which is a magical transcendent beautiful moment, the art here entirely hinges on Shinji’s subjectivity. 03:54 – 05:24 takes place entirely on the train. There is no visual flourish or anything, just pure detachment and showing Shinji’s sterile alienation towards his environment. The arrival of the schoolgirls seems to have some connotation of sexual repression and frustration but analyzing it as that would be too Freudian and speculative. The sudden cut from black to Shinji sitting at 04:59 is a violent contrast, from sudden black to white. Furthermore it lingers on him for a full 20 seconds as the announcement of the train termination continues. This is really a pure example of Anno’s pregnant emptiness.

The entry into the red light district is a journey into the seedy ‘Heart of Darkness’. Unlike that moment when Johan sends a kid to the red light district to traumatize him from Monster though, which is played more like a trial by fire for the kid, this is a wholly psychological moment meant to represent the dark side of his psyche. It’s also the moment where we get a slight glimpse into Shinji’s juvenile irritations and (this time true and non-symbolic) sexual frustration at the cinema when he voyeuristically looks over a couple and then gets annoyed. This is also a brilliant moment of telling a story purely through images.

This whole scene also has a commentary on Modernity and its alienating effects laden in. The ‘red panic’ takes place with an onrush of noise and also a ‘destabilizing’ of Shinji by always seeking to subvert his form in one way or another (skewed shots, terrified close-ups, placing the camera on his shadow running). This moment takes place in the city where everything is dyed blood and the buildings seem to blow up into huge dark looming shapes above Shinji’s small human form. As opposed to this, when he reaches the countryside he approaches with a state of tranquility and calm detachment. It also signifies him calming down (though given this is Eva it’s not long before he’s thrown to a whole new array of madness) and being able to stand on his own feet again even though he’s still flanked by the fog and confusion of adolescence.

Throughout the whole scene Shinji is always made smaller through the shots or disoriented. His form is mostly huddled or insecure, either his face can’t be seen or he’s slouching and facing downwards. The only shot where he looks directly forward takes place on the cliff facing the fog, when he has regained his composure and looks down upon the city he just fled from. He’s always being swallowed up by something. He’s swallowed up by the crowd around him on the train, by the strangling red city in the ‘red panic’, and finally by Nature itself in the countryside, though in the last case he’s less swallowed than achieves a kind of zen realization about the insignificance of all things.

If more directors knew how to atmosphere and editing this well there would be a hell of a lot more great works in the medium.

Fine-Tuned: Shot Breakdown of the Madoka Magica 3 Bus Scene

This moment really deserves a full in-depth look besides the stuff mentioned in my review. This aims to look at the color and composition of every shot and what went through my mind during each shot, or when looking back on it.

The scene occurs after the talk in Kyouko’s Glass Dome.The shots can be broken down as such

(Music 1-38: Ambient transcendental)
(Music 39-67 :Carnival)
(Music 68-79 : Violin)

1. Yellow Bridge. Bus comes in view
2. Focus on Bus, dimmed by glare
3. Focus on heads on bus
4. Bridge Stacking while bus moves down bridge
5. Kyouko sitting with bridge stacking effect
6. Homura sitting with bridge stacking effect
7. Criss-cross bridge stacking
8. Underneath bridge pan (camera non-static)
9. Criss-cross bridge stacking
10. Bridge stacking effect, kyouko sitting, far away viewpoint
11. Bridge stacking effect, homura sitting, far away viewpoint
12. Bus front viewpoint, 3 bridge stacking, drives towards camera
13. When hits camera switches to back viewpoint, seamless transition
14. Red birds
15. Expressionist red bird landscape with turbines, bus drives into view
16. Augmented technology: Bus location reader – Veni Vidi Mitakihara
17. Another shot of Expressionist red landscape, front view of bus
18. Blur face passenger leaves, red landscape
19. Top of bus shot /w two main characters, red expressionist
20. Full view front of bus, smoke leaving
21. Top of bus shot /w two main characters, dialogue, bus begins to move
22. Full view expressionist red background, bus pulling away
23. One of the main characters presses stop button on bus, augmented technology
24. Full expressionist red background /w turbines, mechanized pipes structure comes in view. Shot from back of bus.
25. Shot of Kyouko. Realizes something wrong.
26. Top of bus, Kyouko & Homura gets up in shock
27. Swift pan from Kyouko’s face to back view of bus, glass floor, red expressionist sky, closer to mechanical structure.
28. Swift pan from Kyouko’s face away, camera follows side view of bus, goes through mechanical structure
29. Bus pulls away from mechanical structure, red expressionist background
30. Augmented technology, indication of location – Mitakihara, background back to normal reddish white sky, smoke
31. Bus sign, Mitakihara loop line, normal reddish white sky
32. Empty bus stop, augmented design, bus leaves Kyouko and Homura
33. Shot of Kyouko and Sakura front at bus-stop, Homura runs
34. Shot of Kyouko and Sakura side silhouette running. Red ‘normal’ sky, strange industrial construction and wires in the background
35. Bus stop, long line of people, top view through white bars
36. Augmented technology, view Kyouko and Homura from behind grilles
37. Focus on Homura’s hands holding bag
38. Back view of characters, bus stop, strange green white wall in front
39. High smoke, bus lights in view
40. Homura & Kyouko notice, background purplish pink wall structure
41. Full view of long winding road and bridge, dark purple colors, characters small under bus stop, dark trees, light bursts and bus comes into view
42. Dark purple fog road with turbines and bus coming into view.
43. Bus Sign
44. Homura’s face unease
45. Back view of characters, bus stop, bus pulls in
46. Bus entrance, front view of characters, smoke
47. Far view of bus in bus stop. Still dark purplish atmosphere
48. Smoke from bus engine
49. Bus pulls away from stop, front view
50. Headlights on ground, swift moving blur, road blur
51. Top view of bus, main characters on top, background unknown blur of dark and fog
52. Front view of Kyouko sitting
53. Presses stop button
54. Shot of empty bus
55. Characters realize something wrong, background changes to pure dark purple expressionist, both get up. Mechanical structure comes in view.
56. Back view of bus driving past structure
57. Side view of bus driving past structure, pans across Kyouko’s face, back shot of bus driving away
58. Front shot of bus with looming huge mechanical structure behind it, turbines and glowing street lamps and augmented gate in view, heavy smoke aura surrounding structure
59. Top view of bus, Kyouko jumps in front of conductor
60. Conductor view, Kyouko threatens conductor
61. Conductor front view, faceless, Kyouko seen in mirror
62. Kyouko front with road blur, Homura jumps in front
63. Conductor front view, both in mirror
64. Deep purple night sky with turbines and soft orange lights (opposite of red sky), bus pulls in, drops characters off and leaves, smoke
65. Focus on characters top from bus stop
66. Back of bus, Bus sign seen as it pulls away
67. Far away back of bus, bus slowing pulling away, characters viewing from bus stop
68. Strange mix of colors, bright yellow, purple orb, and white, indicating them going down road on foot
69. Dark lonely augmented road. No normal lights. Magical yellow orbs and Purple orbs for ground.
70. White distorted walls and yellow orbs indicating road, camera from bottom to sky
71. Pure black background, mirror of huge moon on ground, turbines, reflected line feels ethereal
72. Walking past dark bus stop, silhouette of characters
73. Character’s foot walking on road
74. Pure black with glimpses of purple aura, huge moon in sky, small glowing lamps with long winding white road.
75. Walking on pure black, characters white, lamps seem hanging in mid air.
76. Quick pan past floating lamps and yellow small orbs
77. Normal night sky, back on Mitakihara bridge, close up of surprised Kyouko
78. Huge view of city, Mitakihara bridge, behind huge moon
79. Two characters with huge moon looming behind.

The structure of the backgrounds is this
A. Yellow bridges (1-13)
B. Red expressionist sky (14-29)
C. Normal sunset orange white pink bluish sky (30-38)
D. Dark reddish purple night (39-54)
E. Purple expressionist sky (55 – 67)
F. Dark expressionist sky (68 – 76) (More dark instead of purplish)
G. Normal starry night sky (77 – 79)

Analysis

A – The bridge crossing effect reminds me of the opening to the Utena Movie when it pans straight through the whole school to the duel on top. It also reminds me of the Utena stairways. Bridges of all kind seem to appear here. Yellow begins the transition from day to night.
B – I want to know how he achieves the constantly moving background of birds. The turbines here are still turning. The red is brilliant deep with splotches of white, a high contrast. When you look closer at the mechanical structure its either composed of pipes or of many empty picture frames stacked onto one another. The ground is a mirror to the sky. Somehow many beautiful shots in other works also have beautiful mirrored shots like this. For example the rose dance scene in Utena and the shot of the reflected silhouetted burning field in True Detective.
C – That strange industrial thing in the background appears to be an amalgamation of many cranes, wires and electric poles. The return to normal sky here with its proper mixes of colors is a breath of fresh air from the purity of the red background.
D – Dark strangling miasma permeates. This atmosphere is like poison. A comparable scene is the nauseating dark red in Evangelion episode 4 when Shinji runs away. The difference is that this atmosphere is supernatural rather than existential. Premonition of later parts. The carnival tune begins and gives it that slight darkly playful tint.
E – This is just an augmented expressionist version of the previous darkness, the red is now pure purple, more darkness seeps through. The lamps are now turned on and hang like wisps in the air. There’s also more smoke and fog.
F – This is about when the violin begins and it begins with a distorted road. Rather than have a straightforward path the road that the two characters walk on has devolved into something that’s barely even a road. When it opens into the full night with the moon it is very beautiful. The full force of the reflected ground comes now when the characters seem to be walking on a thin glowing ethereal line, like a ghost bridge, rather than normal ground. The lamps are fully ghost-like now.
G. Return to normal night, the moon is oppressively large.

This is the scene where color becomes a character of its own. The evolution of color itself across the whole 79 shots marks the transition to the darker side of the plot. The color also diminishes the size of the main characters and seems to envelop them, especially in those later backgrounds. The bus itself is a strange mix of ornamentation and ‘frills’ with holographic technology. Urbanity is warped beyond recognition. If the whole idea of construction in the Modern world is streamlined functional structures then the fact that these structures are being used for ornamentation in Madoka is probably symbolic of the eternal magic of human imagination to twist everything into interesting and beautiful but functionally useless shapes. The moon itself has a magical value rather than its natural state. This is the moon that is tied to Gothic conceptions of Werewolves and night Sabbaths, not the normal moon that illuminates the night. The perfect example of a dreamy Urban Gothic scene.