[EVA] _A New Millennialist Perpective on the Daughters of Eve_: synopsis

Gwern Branwen gwern0 at gmail.com
Tue Oct 27 17:01:44 EDT 2009


While reading http://www.evamonkey.com/writings_horn13.php
"Although the book is mainly in Japanese, Kotani includes with A New
Millennialist Perpective an excellent seven-page English translation
of her arguments in synopsis.   Furthermore, a great many of the
footnotes are also in English; one 600 word comment by Barbara Creed
on the complex monstrous-feminine images of the Alien movie series,
and another 200-word excerpt by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick on the concept
of "homosocial" desire, make for interesting reading in of
themselves."

I thought I'd get a copy and look at the synopsis. (As it turns out,
most of the English footnotes are simply citations or opaque
one-liners; the mentioned 2 large comments are the only ones.)

It's an interesting bit of text; Kotani is clearly pretty sympathetic
to Eva (the text gives it away, even if the cosplay pic hasn't yet
clued you in!), but she's handicapped by writing before EoE came out
(and all the other material since), and her feminist take on Eva is...
very odd.
I won't call it nonsense, because she is occasionally acute, but she
has very odd focuses and in some respects seems outright wrong (eg.
she says when Shinji becomes Tang, NERV is forced to face all its
'homosocial and lesbian' relationships, but the only one I can think
of is Ritsuko & Maya, and that's always played down low besides not
being very important during those episodes; or she argues that Eva is
Anno's extended grappling with 'Christian Orthodoxy' - which is
obviously not the issue even one bit).

But judge for yourself:

------
_A New Millennialist Perspective on the Daughters of Eve_
"Synopsis: Evangelion as the Immaculate Virgin"

Hideaki Anno and Gainax's animation _Neon Genesis: Evangelion_ was
broadcast every Wednesday over Tokyo's Channel 12 for 26 weeks, from
October 4, 1995 through March 7, 1996. Once it go started, this film
attracted a number of fans with its detailed characterization and
mysterious storytelling, easily excelling in popularity the 70s
Japanimation classics like _The Space Battleship Yamato_ and Mobile
Suit Gundam_. Now _Evangelion_ has become one of the most conspicuous
Japanese social phenomena.
Why did it get so popular?
Of course, the execution of the work largely relies upon the director
Anno's creative approach to narratology. Basically all he did is
repeat and displace and remix certain patterns of human relationship
and plot structure, winding up with an undulating effect. Note that in
this text repetition does not take place linearly. The patterns of
human relationship and plot structure transform themselves through
different viewpoints and interpretations, orchestrating the integrated
circuit of contradictions, leading the audience to envision a
magnificently phantasmagoric world. Cunningly juxtaposing infomaniac
details and interpretative blanks, Anno succeeds in accelerating the
narratological drive, making his animation mostly comparable with
hypertext.
The story centers around the way the giant cyborg tribe called
"Evangelion" fights with the alien tribe nicknamed "Shito" (Angel),
which literally means "Apostle". Evangelion is promoted by NERV, the
special service agency of the United Nations. It is notable that with
Mr. Gendo Ikari as the supreme commander, NERV represents a virtual
patriarchal family, as is the case with Japanese corporations. Main
characters include fourteen year old boys and girls, who are all
trained to pilot Evangelion cyborgs. Among them Shinji Ikari, the only
son of the patriarch Gendo Ikari, plays the most important role. The
story of Evangelion foregrounds how the patriarchal NERV outwits the
tribe of Angel as the absolute Other. This work is not necessarily
didactic, however.
The theme of _Evangelion_ is the identity quest of a young man of the
1990s. Who am I on earth? The author carefully caricatures our own
contemporary life, in which the post-80s advancement of
high-technology and the dismemberment of family structure still come
short of the deconstruction of traditional ideology. The identity
crisis detailed in the work finds the boundary between self and the
other at stake. In this context, Evangelion follows the western
discursive tradition, demonstrating how the advancement of technology
unveils contradictions within the structure of conventional ideology.
To ask "who am I?" in the western fashion is to inquire "Who is the Other?"
In the first half of the story, it is the tribe of Angels as the
absolute Other that storms the virtual family of NERV. In the latter
half of the story, however, Angels come to transfigure themselves into
the Others within, obfuscating the difference between Man and Angel.
Here, post-structuralist psychoanalytical theory will enable us to
redefine Angel as the representation of "abjection", in Julia
Kristeva's terms, and the erotics of the fight between Man and Angel
as the explosion of the radically feminine, that is, what Alice Jardin
calls "gynesis".
The idea of fighting with the Other produces the ultimate terror
within the hero Ikari Shinji. Let me recall Barbara Creed's radical
rereading of Jardine's "gynesis" into David Cronenberg's film
_Videodrome_, in which the most violent rape narrative coincides with
the extraordinary feminization of men. By feminizing the enemy, the
hero Shinji himself gets feminized quite paradoxically.
What happens in the nineteenth and the twenty-first story is
especially remarkable. Once it becomes exhausted in fatal crisis, the
Test Type of Evangelion that Shinji has pilotted abruptly strikes back
at the Angel, with the organic structure hidden under the armature
reanimated. Moreover, suddenly on its hands and knees, the Test Type
approaches and devours the enemy gluttonously, transgressing all the
conventions of post-medievalistic chivalry. This disgusting scene is
followed by a much more astounding revelation. As soon as the Test
Type gets out of control and performs cannibalism, Shinji the pilot
disappears from the cockpit, melting into the very cyborgian matrix of
Evangelion, with all the memories of the war deleted. At this critical
moment, we can look through his innerspace only to find the mirror
stage figure of the baby Shinji floating on amniotic fluid safely and
happily.
It is very ironical that the more phallocentric he wants to become,
the more feminized the hero gets. Winning the fight, the hero is also
incorporated into the cyborg feminist matrix of Evangelion. Yes, as is
clearly known from its anorexic body, Evangelion turns out to be a
feminist cyborg, into which Yui Ikari, the mother of Shinji, has
already been melted. Then, what we once conceived as the Otherness of
Angel, just like a fatal virus, is structurally transferred to the
selfness of Man, and further to the identity of Evangelion=Shinji.
This is why I cannot resist the temptation to reinterpret Evangelion's
cannibalism as another perfect signifier of "abjection" and "gynesis".
The dramatic leak of the feminine jeopardizes and even melts the
outline of the male body politics.
Desperately searching for the identity of Angel the Other, the virtual
family of NERV is entrapped within gender panic. The identity crisis
of Shinji and Evangelion forces NERV itself to witness its homosocial
and lesbian relationships among the members. The denouement of the
animation, thus, convinces us that patriarchy in Japan has long been
one of the costumes we perennially put on. Repressing differences
within, our country has naturalized and established patriarchy as a
cult of meta-masquerade. The near future Japan described in Evangelion
represents a type of post-apocalyptic nation well-reconstructed in the
wake of the Second Impact. Let me reconsider the Second Impact as the
perfect metaphor for high-tech revolution, which helped overturn the
good old western Christian family structure. As the result of that,
the author of the film decides to criticize Christian Orthodoxy and
exaggerate Gnostic meta-narratology. Certainly, none of his purposes
is made clear in the narrative. Nevertheless, the supreme commander
Gendo Ikari seems to attain the status of the Gnostic Supreme Being,
by grafting the femininity of his wife Yui Ikari into the cyborg
structure of Evangelion. To put it another way, while a number of
critics have analyzed the metafictional aspect of the work, I would
like to rediscover this metafictionism as the Gnostic effect of the
director Anno's own struggle with Christian Orthodoxy.
The concluding sequence of the narrative clarifies the truth of the
statue of Adam on the cross exhibited in the basement lounge "Central
Dogma" of NERV. Evangelion was born a clone of what is called "Adam".
But, this "Adam" proves to have been Lilith, the first wife of Adam.
This revelation constitutes the most intriguing climax of
_Evangelion_. For this radical reinterpretation of Lilith coincides
with what contemporary Anglo-American writers want to do by creating a
variety of female saviours in the coming cyber-Millenium. With the
rise of high-tech revolution in the 80s, Margaret Atwood reinterpreted
the Virgin Mary as a surrogate mother, whereas Octavia Butler
refigured Lilith as a colored woman whose body is colonized by Alien
biotechnology. From this perspective, Evangelion seems to skillfully
reconstruct the figure of Eva, who was born a near-clone of Adam in
the Old Testament, not simply as a type of immaculate conception, but
also as the impeccable signifier of Japanese simulationism in the late
1990s. It is in this context that Evangelion deserves the evangelical
name of the self-reflexive Japanimation.
May 20, 1997

-------

-- 
gwern


More information about the evangelion mailing list