It is not an infrequent barb thrown by Evangelion’s detractors that the show is needlessly bleak, or pointlessly cruel. And when I hear that I laugh and laugh, not because it’s untrue (though I’d argue it is) but because those people have clearly never sat through a Lars Von Trier movie. Those lucky bastards.
Actual photo of my expression post-Von Trier
At any rate, let’s draw a distinction between a story that explores bleak themes and a story whose philosophy itself is bleak. The former might put its characters through hell, and it might not even have an ending that we’d necessarily call happy (at least in any conventional sense). But it’s structured in such a way that the audience is meant to learn something positive from it. A bleak philosophy, by contrast, exists merely to point a camera at violent, dark, or distressing subjects for their own sake. The difference between handing someone in a shovel to clean up dog poop and tripping them so that they fall in it, you might say.
Every fandom that’s managed to lure a sizable base has a shipping war or two under its belt. It’d be laughable to call Evangelion an exception, though it does offer the distinction of having enough spin-offs that the major relationships have all gotten their day in the limelight. And while you can find a following for just about every combination of characters, the heat is really on when it comes to Shinji. Those fights get ugly, and fast. And Eva being what it is, interpretation enters into things more often than not. It could be said that there’s three distinct levels to every conversation: what the relationship in question is, what it could potentially be, and how it’s represented by fan expectations. It’s the last one that I wanted to take a quick look at, using the two ‘endgame’ options Kaworu and Asuka (with no offense meant to Rei fans), because it reveals some pretty interesting things about audience expectations. And besides, what better way to start the year before the alleged Third Impact?
It would seem that the Rebuild of Evangelion is determined to be a mirror reflection of its parent series. Now, I know what you’re saying. ‘An action packed, visually impressive series that builds up traditional expectations only to blindside the audience three quarters of the way through with depression and subversions? I’m not even sure whether you’re describing Evangelion or Rebuild!’ And after a fashion, you’d be right. Like the Mirror verse Spock, it can be pretty hard to differentiate until you hit upon the obvious beard of thematic difference (and isn’t that a muddled simile). As the lead in might suggest, be aware of spoilers for 3.0 and beyond.
Well, this will be interesting