Friday, November 29, 2013

Thankful for Ghosts

I’m thankful for having a genius brother. I could always pass a Math test, but Jasper had ambition, whether it was hot-wiring cars or counting bullets left in the revolvers of the assholes chasing us. When he died, it was with a purpose.

I’m thankful that Jasper died with unfinished business. It’s hard on me, and harder on him, but it was smart. He let lovers get away from him, and made promises knowing they’d go unfulfilled, and just about asked the Syndicate’s assassins to pin him down. We knew we wouldn’t get out of Georgia alive. The hopelessness was an investment.

Before we were two teenaged fuck-ups trying to take on the world. The next morning, we were one teenaged fuck-up and one pissed off ghost. We got a lot more work done. All that fancy throwing knife shit the Syndicate teaches didn’t do salt against Jasper. And when they turned and tried to escape, he’d possess their engine blocks and drive them into the ocean.

It once took us eighteen months to find the safe house where the man who strangled our father hid – an ugly labor, even if it’s how I met Hilde. And I’m thankful we don’t have to tail anyone anymore. Jasper sucked salt at tailing people, and I had to bail his ass more times than I’ve got fingers left. After he let himself die, after he died in my place in a sweltering warehouse and under a hail of knives, things got plain easier. He found Syndicate lawyers and magi faster than a GPS.

I almost began collecting a scrapbook of his greatest hits. The suspected heroin kingpin whose elevator malfunctioned. The three demonists posing as patent lawyers who went missing with their yacht.

I almost did it, but I worry that if I praise him too much, that’ll acknowledge his work, and then he’ll be done. If his business is settled, Jasper will cease to be. And maybe Jasper deserves the rest of ceasing to be. I can’t ask him because he doesn’t reckon things that way anymore. He’s still the pissed off ghost of a teenager, where I’m an expecting father of twins. I’m a little scared to tell him about them. I’m a little scared to tell him I’d like to slow down.

But I’m thankful. I’ll never pretend I’m not. Hilde wants to name one of the twins after him, and I owe him. I just don’t know how much further a man can owe.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

10 Insights From A Fan Who'd Never Seen Evangelion Before

This past weekend I had the distinct privilege of watching Evangelion with someone who had never seen it before. The number of otaku (or nerds in general) who are actually Eva virgins is vanishingly small, and given the series’ controversial reputation, I was eager to see how it played to someone with no strong bias. At first I joked that this ought to be a scientific experiment, but eventually I did make a few notes about her reactions. I've included some of them below, though I've stricken her name in case of angry fanboy avalanche. Here are ten highlights from the marathon:

When you find out what's under those bandages...
1. She actually liked Rei Ayanami, particularly as a counterpart to the angst and hysteric aggression broadcasted by Shinji and Asuka. She was vocally waiting for Rei to “flip her shit” on someone and cackled any time Rei shut Asuka down. As I come from a background of every woman in my life hating Rei, this was highly unexpected.

2. She was surprised to learn the series was nearly twenty years old. The animation holds up exceptionally well, though the Director’s Cut additional scenes are clearly done with a higher budget and different sense of lighting. Gainax’s production values were untouchable, which made the still sequences funnier. It was hard not to joke about them running out of budget at those points.

3. She quickly predicted that the Evas were some version of angels being contained by our technology. By the middle, she also immediately caught the hints that Shinji’s mother had a relationship to EVA-01. It was particularly fun watching her pump her fists in the air when she was proven right.

4. She quickly predicted that the angels were actually alien invaders, and that all the voices from SEELE who hid their faces were gods, angels or some other non-human beings. That’s what they get for having their Skype avatars set to 2001: A Space Odyssey monoliths. In hindsight, boy SEELE is weird.

5. The hypothesis that the series’ mythological roots are harder to contextualize if you don’t know what the Dead Sea Scrolls are was confirmed. Pre-Wikipedia, I know most fans had no idea what they were. Post-Wikipedia, it still holds.

6. She thought it was “adorable” that I needed other people to tell me Kaworu was gay. I have absolutely no sense about these things. He’s still my favorite character.

I'm sure this is somebody's OTP.
7. I never noticed how the show baited every possible romantic pairing. There is at least one scene to suggest fan-shippable tension between almost every major character, and some of them are just incongruous. You want Shinji/Kaji? Here's a watermelon patch. It is as though Evangelion anticipated Tumblr.

8. The only part of the ending that seriously riled her up was the notion that the “School Comedy” alternate universe might have been what was going on all along. I’d never considered the cop-out of the angels all being a dream. Naturally they aren’t, but her threats to “cut a bitch if this is real” made this splendid.

However, this still earned a well-deserved "What?!!"
9. The rest of the ending, particularly the two-part psychoanalysis episode that takes place almost exclusively inside characters’ heads, didn’t upset her at all. Going into the series she said she knew many people hated how it ended; during the actual ending, she kept shaking her head and decrying anyone who didn’t see how this fit. Indeed, the introspection scenes are heavily precedented across the middle of the series, but I’m not used to hearing people care about that.

10. Her positive reaction to the TV finale made The End of Evangelion movie more interesting. We both disliked it strongly. I’d forgotten how poorly written it is, managing in its first half to be more bombastic and violent-for-show than the TV series, and the second half actually managing to become more pretentious. Her only positive takeaway was a one-sentence suggestion of what the angels actually are, which I agree ought to have been dropped into the series.

- - -

My own first viewing was biased as heck. It reached me at a time in my teens when I was struggling with paternal abandonment, serious health issues, and psychological BS. I may have been the perfect American audience for it, but now, at the decrepit age of 32, it held up as a great show. The pacing was surprisingly strong and it harbored atypically progressive storytelling for an anime, especially one that seems like it’s establishing such an obvious episode formula. It was splendid to go through it with someone who was inexperienced, smart and a good sport. Probably the greatest testament to what the show does is I'm considering re-watching it yet again starting next weekend.

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