krpalmer: (anime)
[personal profile] krpalmer
There was another long wait for the last chapters to be drawn and collected, a wait for that final volume to be translated and available in print (it was released "digitally" months earlier, but as I already had the thirteen previous volumes on a bookshelf I decided I could wait out the extra months and avoid "buying it twice"), a wait to see if the local bookstore would get copies in, and at last a wait for the copy I ordered to arrive at the bookstore, but approaching two decades after I first heard about the anime I had the concluding instalment of the Neon Genesis Evangelion manga... and as I started into it, I was wondering if, with the way the penultimate volume had been shaped, after all the interesting and perhaps sometimes even "more positive" changes rung over the manga's full length on the original anime things would converge after all on one ending that had long seemed oppressive and bleak and I'd just have to deal with it.

The anime club at my university started a once-a-term "fanzine" as I joined it on arriving there, and its second issue had an article on a new series airing in Japan called Neon Genesis Evangelion which, in mentioning flawed and at times enigmatic characters and giant mecha scarcely less threatening than the mysterious monsters they were pitted against, made it sound pretty interesting. (In retrospect, the article copied some inaccurate "backstory" from one of the first English-language magazine articles on the series, but that still just sort of adds to the experience.) When I managed to get a copy of the third, "summer" issue, though, there was a follow-up article sort of dwelling on how the final episodes of Evangelion hadn't quite seemed to address the surface levels of story. Hearing that might not have oppressed me when the club did show the first episodes of the series, but the piling up of assorted works of fanfiction promising to "fix" those parts of the series that disagreed with assorted fan authors did have their own impacts. When I managed to see the final episodes at last by watching videotapes someone in my residence had that had been recorded over in Japan on an exchange term with printouts of stiff "literal translations" on my lap, I was quite willing to accept the minimal animation and sudden shift in perspective of the last two episodes by telling myself I could just move on to one particular fanfiction which hadn't been pilloried by self-appointed gatekeepers for outright replacing the actual main character with someone ridiculously overqualified for the job; in retrospect, though, even that work was easy enough to shrug off after a while. (Then, years and years after the "MSTing community" had drifted off into the ether, a casual search to follow up on an amused thought about something completely different turned up something like a MSTing of the most widely infamous of all "new Evangelion character fanfics," pushing beyond the "first group of chapters" which had been "riffed" to the chapters that had been sort of accepted with "once the actual series characters have 'levelled up' to sort of match the overwhelming awesomeness of the new character, things at least become entertaining in a slam-bang action sort of way"; the "mocking" comments were thoroughly unimpressed with that sort of acceptance, but in the end I wound up disagreeing with just about every other opinion the author kept tossing into his interjections, such that it was just a bit better than the alternative of giving up partway through to have got all the way to the wordy end.)

There was, all the same, a theatrical movie made to "replace" the last two episodes, but when a new era's dawning let me see The End of Evangelion via a "fansub" that came by copying a computer video file and not ingratiating myself with someone better connected to get a videotape the new sequence of events had a distinct, unpleasant feeling that the "audience identification characters" had been caught by conspiracies they'd never even been aware of and left in hopeless ruin. I returned to the original television series, so to speak, as officially available anime shifted from VHS tapes to DVDs and I was at last able to afford the boxed set put together at the end of the "singles" releases. That the different company that had put a great deal of money into the End of Evangelion license managed to make its release objectionable in the eyes of online taste-setters in just such a way as to reduce itself to the "default reprehensible company" all over again for a few years to follow might have helped in an odd way there.

Along with all of that, though, there was already a different possibility, perhaps more interesting than any "fanfic" could be. I'd seen other the copies of other people of the Evangelion manga back in university (including some chapters published as regular comic books); as soon as I could afford them I started buying the trade paperbacks in their "conventional" reversed and retouched format, willing in those days to see manga as "poor man's anime." That the main character Shinji had more of a chip on his shoulder in print than his hesitant and overwhelmed portrayal in the anime was in some ways more "conventional," and I knew some people seemed to dismiss the manga just for that, but I was willing to just sort of take the differences in. When Tokyopop began to shake up manga publishing over here with smaller, cheaper paperbacks Viz eventually followed and reissued the first volumes of the Evangelion manga in the new format; more or less committed by this time, I bought every volume over again. Seeing what a particular sound effect translated to by looking it up in a table in the back was sort of awkward, but it was better than not translating it at all as Tokyopop did. Then, though, it became more noticeable that the original character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto was slowing down his work on the manga, just as the adaptation pushed into the more ominous part of the original story (which just happened to be the point where some fanfics started to go off on strange tangents). In the years that followed, I stopped buying all other manga from Viz twice in bouts of indignation on learning panels in volumes I'd bought had been retouched to avoid offending local sensibilities, but somehow I was never quite willing to brush off the Evangelion manga when new volumes did arrive.

Crisis hit the "anime industry" over here but then sort of faded; the original Evangelion series wound up no longer available on DVD over here even as Hideaki Anno went back to it himself with a series of movies that started off as much "crowd-pleasers" as the manga itself might be (and which were outright dismissed by some fans for that). I noticed some speculation they might end before the manga did, but in the end the manga reached its final volumes with the movies having got themselves into controversial if somehow familiar territory again with one instalment still to arrive.

At first, the last volume was familiar enough, but somewhere along the way things began to seem more comprehensible than The End of Evangelion, and in just such a way as to remind me of old theories that the end of the movie was in fact a more "positive" outcome than the end of the television series, just presented in such a way as to seem futile and nihilistic. The end of the manga came off better than that, and even seemed to strike a few new notes different from certain familiar developments in the final television episode itself (as it managed to include one particular technological and social development from the years since the series started). The volume did end with an "extra chapter," though, that first had me remembering vague tales of a "side story" video game in Japan before I found a second opinon and realised the new character from the movies was making an appearance in the manga, if in a way that left me wondering if this was an "alternative universe" version of her or if a small revelation from the latest movie to be finished let things fit together. Even with that, however, the manga was finished in a way that had made the years seem that much more acceptable. I'm just wondering now if I'll be able to find the time to read through all of it over again; I seem more capable these days of accepting all the anime I have to open by "rewatching" something than I am at going back to manga.

October 2017

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