American Evangelion

Everyone who couldn’t afford the VHS tapes or DVDs eventually got the chance to watch NGE on Adult Swim, where it was presented in a more or less unedited format, and now a days, it is available to anyone with an internet connection and Google. But back in the late 90’s, anime was much harder to come by. You could put your trust in a fan subber, you could shell out the cash to ADV at your local movie store, or you could wait until it was on TV.

We’ve spoken before about the prequel to Evangelion, and it’s entertaining but ultimately unnecessary addition to the enjoyment of NGE as a whole, but now let’s take a look at a road not taken: the Americanized, kid friendly dub of Neon Genesis Evangelion.

This particular unfired bullet was optioned but ultimately not picked up for broadcast by ABC Family Worldwide (later 4Kids Entertainment, after the a complicated situation involving purchases of Fox Kids by both Saban and Disney that we simply don’t have the space to go into here). The basic gist is that Pat Robertson’s International Family Entertainment had bought the license to the “Christian Anime” Neon Genesis Evangelion, sight unseen, in 1995, after Robertson had heard the title as “Genesis Evange-Lion”, as well as a few of the Cross oriented attacks of Sachiel in the first episode, and assuming that it was basically a Christian Voltron.

It wasn’t.

The license sat gathering dust until the purchase, when some brilliant but anonymous staffer realized what was included in the purchase, and brought it to the attention of animation head Arlo Tedeschi, who pounced on the idea of having a giant robot show in the vein of Robotech, and being unafraid to alter the program and incorporate other shows to fit the length, just as Carl Macek had done with Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Calvary Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber Mospeada. Unfortunately, when Tedeschi viewed the “pig in a poke” that he had, he realized that it would be difficult to merge the unique “horror mecha” style of Evangelion with any other series he could get his hands on cheaply (other than Nadia of the Blue Water), so he opted to reuse, edit, and otherwise transform the program to fit the bill.

While never actually produced, the in-house documents and the episode notes I was able to scrounge from the dumpster before shredding provide a fascinating insight into the creation process, the very mercenary attitudes towards character creation, and the ways in which editing existing footage can turn a deeply personal and psychological program into an action comedy. Reaching out to Hideaki Anno for comment on the documents, he replied almost too quickly, saying “Terrible idea, but we needed the money. A dog would never work. It has to be a penguin.”

Characters:

Shawn Benji Isaacs: a brash and hot headed young pilot, our hero is trying his hardest to impress his father, Gary, who was quite the mecha pilot in his own day. Drop all the depressing stuff about hospitals and staring at ceilings, because kids don’t want to watch that. Add in exciting rock music whenever he has his headphones in. A bit of retouching to make him smile more and add in more grunting expressions like he’s really fired up should be possible. We can reuse the interiors of the Unit 01 fight against the toilet paper monster (which should be a bit hit with the kids), because he really gets hot and passionate during that fight.

Ray Anderson: we want a second male lead, so I propose using footage of Toji in his suit from the “Jet Alone” episodes to serve as secondary pilot for unit 00. This will allow an easy rivalry between him and Shawn Benji, with a lot of playful school ground fights, but an overall impression that they are friends despite it all.

Anna Langley: other than dropping all the references to her being German, she should translate over without any difficulty. The angry girl who is maybe in love with the protagonist while he wants nothing to do with her is a stock character everyone will recognize.

Rachel Anderson: as a solution to the Rei Ayanami problem, we turn Rei into the sister that Toji is always talking about. This explains why she is often injured: it’s from the Angel attacks, and hence Ray is angry at the Angels and wants to destroy them completely.

Kevin Allen: a young camera obsessed fellow who is always following around Ray and Shawn Benji, he is the source of much of the footage of the battles that end up on the local news.

Michelle Kennedy: the hip and cute homeroom teacher of our cast, she drives a fast car, is addicted to a special brand of cola (can’t show drinking on a kids show after all), and is responsible for leading the missions that our heroes undertake.

Gary Isaacs: a seemingly cold and distant man who watches from afar, he regularly leaves his son tape recorded messages about how proud he is to have him as a son, and how good a job he’s doing as a pilot, because he has trouble speaking to him directly due to an unresolved trauma in his past.

Most of the other characters simply received name changes (Rita for Ritsuko, though editing out her smoking was going to prove expensive) or were dropped entirely (Lorenz and the Seele Pillars).

Sample Plots:

Episode One: Attack the Angel Beast! A mash up of the first two NGE episodes, focusing more on the action sequences and dropping any of the hospital related scenes entirely, Benji is picked up from the train station and rushed to his robot, where he immediately gets in and helps the American Army battle the first Dark Angel. Edit out the crosses.

Episode Two: Dark Angel Attack! A mash up of episodes three and four. Benji and Kevin go camping, and talk about how different life was before they had to deal with the Dark Angels. Benji makes a vow to destroy all of them and make his father proud. Kevin wishes that he could be a cool pilot like Benji. The second Dark Angel attacks, and Benji brings both Kevin and Ray along with him as co-pilots, Ray because Benji could use the help, and Kevin so he can live out his dream of being a pilot.

Episode Three: Battle on the Boats! Mostly footage from episode eight. We finally get to meet Benji’s older brother, Ryan (a very cool spy who Anna has a crush on), and Anna, as the US Navy is attacked by the sea dwelling Dark Angel and they battle it back. Add in some dialogue about how we should stop hunting whales and dolphins and this one is in the can.

Episode Four: Volcano! Mostly unchanged episode ten, but edit out the swimsuit scene.

Episode Five: Dance for Victory! Mostly unchanged episode nine, editing out the original bombing of the angel, and adding in more American music for the longer dance sequences to make up for time. Add in a sub plot about how Anna has loved to dance since she was a kid, while Benji has always thought it was stupid. He learns to get over it and discovers that even things he didn’t like at first can be fun.

Episode Six: We’ve Got the Power! Edited version of episode eleven. Altered so that the power outage is directly the fault of the Angel, and there’s an explanation of how electricity works to satisfy some of the educational aspects that we’re supposed to have.

Episodes Seven and Eight: The Undersea Base! Using edited footage from Nadia episodes five, six, and seven, we follow Benji’s younger sister, Nadine, and her friend John as they investigate the origin of the Dark Angels, which all seem to be coming from the ocean. Reveal that the evil Gargoyle has been in charge of the Angels, and sending them forth to attack the city, because he believes that by covering the planet with water, he can stop the destruction of the world’s ecosystem. Nadine is kidnapped.

Episode Nine: The Robot Monster! Edited version of episode seven. Edit together a longer combat sequence, with both Ray and Benji fighting the Jet Alone robot.

Unfortunately, Tedeschi’s notes stop there, and we can only speculate on where he intended the plot to go based on other scribbling in the margins of the typewritten document:

–Benji and Anna love sub plot?

–What to do with Gargoyle at the ending?

–Why does Nadine have a tan and Benji doesn’t?

–Ending of series + last episodes unusable. More Nadia?

–No ONE DIES

 

–Needs mascot character for stuffed toys — penguin too weird, maybe a dog?

–Have the robots combine into a bigger robot?

–Emphasize that the Angels are just robots and no one gets hurt, except for Ray’s sister’s broken arm. The Casualties of War.

–Work Rita in more? She used to work for Nemo?

–Gary has to be a hero, not the villain — no evil dads on TV

–Gargoyle is Gary’s Dad?

 

Why is deconstruction so infuriating?

I was watching David Harvey’s excellent lecture series on reading Marx’s Das Kapital, and in the introduction, he talks about how he’s done this class for many many years now, and in all sorts of departments, even those you wouldn’t expect to see reading economic and social philosophy. And, he notes, each year he learns something from each class; each one has its own perspective. Even, he says, a literature class in the early 70s that was filled with folks from the comparative literature department at Johns Hopkins who loved Derrida.

They were fascinating, he goes on to say, because unlike with every other time he taught the course, they barely got through the first chapter. They analyzed every word for every possible meaning (“What does he actually mean by value? What does he actually mean by money commodity? What is fetish about?”). They seized on every analogy. They wanted to talk about his language choices. Harvey was really looking forward to talking about the working day and other interesting things, but they didn’t even reach chapter two before the semester was over.

And this struck me as one of the possible reasons why people find deconstruction and post-structuralism and postmodernism and such so infuriating — they won’t let you move on, they won’t let you just make statements and keep going, they won’t let you blithely get away with saying “you know what I mean” or “look, you’re missing the point”, because, well, they don’t, and they aren’t. For them, this is the point. Why did you say that that particular way?

Take, for example, Richard Taylor’s famous 1962 essay Fatalism (simply because it’s fresh in my memory right now). The argument in it is shit. Taylor himself has admitted such. It’s a Schrodinger’s Cat situation, where he wrote the paper to demonstrate the absurdity of it. The paper was written to be disproven, and the fact that people have taken Taylor to be some sort of anti-free will zealot is another absurdity (and demonstrating the truism that no one is really paying attention and no one understands irony, least of all the targets of ironic criticism).

But look at the examples he uses: you’re a ship commander, an admiral, someone with the power to determine whether a war happens or not. Then, you’re a passive observer, just someone who reads the paper. From someone who makes things happen, to someone things happen to. Lovely, but not enough.

One command from an admiral isn’t enough to start or stop a battle. Say that you give the order not to attack, and the enemy attacks anyways. What then? Or, say that the commander gives the order not to attack, and everything is peaceful in the Atlantic that day. But, over in the Gulf of Tonkin, a few submarines fire at a ship, and then there’s that headline, regardless of the individual commander’s actions. Do I or don’t I have free will if it’s multiple people acting on me?

But must Will be imposed by violent means? It’s always battles being ordered, gun barrels being warm after shots are fired.

I’m missing the point, of course. I’m not playing the game by the established rules. I’ve introduced other variables that confound the entire situation. I’m reading the essay like it were a short story. I’m fixating on what would be incidental details to other readers (make it a seamstress completing a dress if the order is given by the customer, or a Captain telling his divers to go searching the wreck they’re excavating that day, and the analogy still holds (headline: “Sunken Treasure Found Off Coast”)). It seems like I’m being an asshole or a pedant, but I’m focusing on what’s interesting and revealing about the paper to me, rather than the somewhat banal parts that can be summed up quickly (it is obvious that we have free will, just not absolutely (“I cannot determine what sort of pitch will be thrown, but I can attempt to hit it to the best of my ability, and even then, cannot determine what the players on the field will do as I run to first”) and the rest is just semantics).

Or is it?

We’ve got a paper loaded with violent imagery that sees the reader cast down from commander to paper reader, all as essentially a joke designed to get other philosophers to disprove fatalism. It intentionally associates the fatalistic viewpoint with militaristic order and control, and then depersonalization and passivity. Why those examples? Why that style of situation?

And I’m just doing this from memory, not even putting in the effort that is usually done by my colleagues.

But why should that scare or annoy you? What are you afraid we might find in your work? Why are you in such a hurry to move on?

What’s worse is that when you try to read anything they’ve done, they don’t even seem particularly interested in deconstruction. Derrida considered it a minor part of his portfolio, and often wondered why it became as big as it did. It was merely one tool in the box — like calling a general contractor a “hammerer” or a “nail gunner”. So after you bust you ass trying to figure out what, exactly, they’re doing and why, it turns out that the method isn’t really even of primary importance to them. They don’t even want to discuss it. It’s trite, passe, something settled long ago, something they’ve heard all before.

Which is what, I suspect, makes it so infuriating — we will seem to argue to the death about nothing at all, only to tell you that we don’t care very much about the argument in the end, while you’ve been pulling out the stops and convincing yourself that that this is a very important point that you must get across, when in truth we’re almost certainly speaking about two different topics entirely, and no one has bothered to slow down and say so.

Star Wars IX FULL Spoilers

Rey and Poe are tasked by the Rebellion to locate the First Order’s new “War Star,” a gigantic planet sized base that is capable of draining the energy from a sun and using it to blow up ten planets simultaneously. To gain entrance to the FO base, they will need to locate Darth Vader’s glove, a powerful Sith artefact that allowed Vader to choke people at a distance by gripping his hand tightly. It is currently in the possession of Clip Asbo, an intersteller Transdoshan artefact collector who lives in Kubla Khan style pleasure in his palace on Jectine, and who runs the Transport Guild, the second most powerful force in the galaxy after the first order.

Rose and Finn are working with the remainder of the Resistance, now renamed “The Rebellion”, to eliminate the Manufactory of Plornect, which is producing the first of the First Order’s “Claymore” class Star Destroyers. Unlike the traditional triangular ships, this one is a round cylinder, and appears to be basically a gigantic lightsaber. The elegant and civilized design will allow the ship to destroy entire fleets with a single sweep, rather than firing chaotically, simply rotating its “blade” across the field.

Meanwhile, Phasma’s daughter, Phasma II, princess of the stormtrooper tribe is chosen to avenge her mother, and she has even cooler gold-chrome armor. She is paired up with the mysterious Zekk “Jade” Fel, the apprentice of Kylo Ren, They are regularly taunted by Ren for their failures, with him constantly showing up as a huge hologram and telling them how much they stink. Unknown to everyone, “Jade” is the son of Luke Skywalker, but Luke does not know this.

Rey and Poe’s mission is complicated by Poe’s evil brother, Joe Dameron, and there is an awesome space battle between the Millennium Falcon and Joe’s Hex-Wing fighter (It’s like an X-Wing, but it has an extra set of wings like this ⚞⚟). The force ghost of Princess Leia appears to help them during this battle, revealing to Rey that, because Han had “adopted” her as his honorary daughter before his passing, she now possesses legal claim to the throne of Corellia, as well as that of Alderaan. Once the battle is finished, she adds red stripes to the sides of her trousers to signify this honor.

In the palace of Clip Asbo, they are shocked to learn that his son, Clorr, has murdered his father and taken his place as head of the transport guild. The First Order has been bad for business, you see, and if you aren’t expanding, you’re dying. Not realizing its true value, Clorr tosses them the “worthless” leather glove as a gesture of bonding and respect, in exchange for Poe’s new jacket (“I just can’t seem to hold on to these things,” he quips in an aside to Rey).

After a series of daring twists and turns and near misses, Rose and Finn sneak aboard the “dry docked” claymore-class ship, “The Mutilator”, and proceed to hi-jack it with BB-8’s help. Phasma II and “Jade” arrive moments after they have jumped to lightspeed, and Phasma II slams her force mace into a console dramatically, sparks flying everywhere.

With the stage set, our heroes converge on the War Star. Poe and Chewy engage the First Order Star Fleet, led by Joe in a newly souped up ship that now has TIE Fighter wing plating over the movable plates of his Hex Wing, and that at one point he dramatically disengages to increase his maneuverability, ala “I’m not left handed either” in the Princess Bride. Rey, wearing the Glove of Darth Vader, fights a Darth Vader-helmet wearing Kylo to a stand still, the two artefacts boosting their Force powers to levels never before seen on screen. “Han’s legacy is mine!” Kylo shouts. “No, it’s not too late for peace!” Rey responds.

Rose and Rebel code slicer Kylie Andor-Erso rush to hack the system and delete the code holding the War Star’s shields in place, preventing Finn from destroying it with the Mutilator. In the world of the Imperial CodeNet, they engage in a battle of wits with DJ, who attempts to outwit them at every turn, taunting them with a laughing avatar of his face rendered in monochrome green (a reference to the LucasFilm’s logo), while Rose and Kylie’s monochrome blue avatar (in reference to the “A long time ago…” part of the opening crawl) battles it symbolically with a lightsaber.

Smash compare cut back to Rey and Kylo, battling across the throne room of the War Star, destroying railings, hurling boulders, exploding glass. And then, a third man enters, wielding a green lightsaber. “Neither of you are worthy,” he declares. “What do you mean, my young apprentice?” Kylo asks. “Jade” does not respond, and instead enters the battle, the three way lightsaber duel all the more fierce because no one is on anyone else’s side.

Force Ghost Luke appears, so he can give Rey aid, but he is shocked to see both Kylo and “Jade” there. “You… You killed my son!” Luke yells. “No, I am your son!” “Jade” responds. “No! No, that can’t be true!” Luke shouts. “Search your feelings, you know it to be true!” “Jade” tells him.

“Don’t worry little buddy. Let’s blow this thing and go home!” says a familiar voice from off screen, and force ghost HAN SOLO appears, and it looks like the tide is turning for the good guys!

But then, Snoke reappears as an evil force-ghost and threatens to destroy them all. Ghost-Luke and ghost-Han merge into ghost-Huke Skolo to fight him.

“Run, Rey, Run!” yells the mega-force ghost as the battle brings the fortress down around them. She leaps into the nearest fighter possible and accelerates off planet. Kylo and Jade’s fates are left ambiguous.

Rose and Kylie bring down DJ’s force shield. Poe manages to slip behind Joe and blast one of his wings, sending the fighter sailing off directionless into space. The War Star is destroyed by the huge blue lightsaber beam slashing through the planet, cleaving it in twain.

At last, the Star Wars are over. On the planet Corsucant, our heroes are honored in a lavish ceremony celebrating the freedom of the Galaxy. Fireworks explode over various planets from the movies, and we zoom in to the credits with John Williams’ familiar heroic theme playing us out.

BUT, in an after credits sequence, we are treated to Joe Dameron’s one winged ship crashing on a desert planet, ala The Force Awakens. He escapes from the ship, barely, and struggles to run before it is swallowed up by the sand. After wandering for a series of cuts that we are meant to interpret as a long time, he is ambushed from behind by a woman in a familiar set of golden armor. “Hello Joe,” says Phasma II. She leads him back to the largest hut in the stormtrooper village, where, on a throne built of the helmets that the troopers wore in A New Hope, sits a burned and cyborg augmented Captain Phasma! Her armor is damaged, but she is still clearly alive and angry. “We were wondering when you’d arrive,” she says. “Now, it is time to create the Second Order.” We cut to black on her last two ominous words.