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Who The Hell Do I Think I Am?!

May 25, 2010

I’ve heard some people compare the second Evangelion movie to Gurren Lagann. A lot of it apparently comes down to the way Shinji “wins” at the end of the second movie: He summons some inner, abstract manifestation of his human will to pilot Unit 01 beyond it’s means– he essentially taps into Spiral Power and goes Kamina on the Angel’s ass.

I’ll buy the idea that they’re similar due to the whole “summoning power from within” bit. That makes sense. But the key difference between Shinji and the various Gurren Lagann characters is their motivation, and I think that motivation essentially places the two series as polar opposites.

With Gurren Lagann, the whole Spiral thing is based on humanity triumphing over adversity. Simon and his pals are fighting for humanity’s survival against ever-escalating odds. When someone goes Spiral in Lagann, they’re tapping into humanity’s desire to perpetuate its existence. When the going gets tough, people come together and fight as one, regardless of their differences in beliefs, race, and so on. Gurren Lagann taps into the same idea that disaster movies go for: adversity brings humanity together and they all cheer behind Randy Quaid as he pilots a bi-plane into that big ass UFO while Bill Pullman takes all the credit.

In Evangelion, no one is fighting to protect humanity. While the goal of NERV may seem to be the defeat of the Angels and the betterment of humanity, everyone is fighting for completely selfish reasons. Misato wants revenge on the Angels for what happened to her during the Second Impact. Asuka pilots an EVA so she can prove to the world (and to herself) that she’s special. Rei fights due to some vague maternal instinct brought about by the fact that she’s essentially a clone of Shinji’s mother (Assuming that’s the route they’re going with in the movies. They’ve hinted at it but haven’t blatantly come out and said it.).

But the same could be said about the Gurren Lagann characters. They had personal reasons to keep fighting. Simon wanted to rescue Nia and all that. But then we get to someone like Gendo. It seems that he wants to bring about the same “becoming one with God” bit that he accomplished in End of Evangelion. While this entails everyone on Earth merging with God and essentially ascending to a higher kind of existence, he’s doing so for entirely selfish reasons. He isn’t doing it for the betterment of humanity. He doesn’t care about humanity’s ascension– he wants this for himself and the rest of humanity (and Shinji in particular) are being dragged kicking and screaming along with him. His fight against the Angels is purely for personal gain.

The same can be said of Shinji. Looking at the new movie, he doesn’t go Spiral because he wants to defend humanity. Hell, he outright cries out that he doesn’t even care what happens to the world as he all but becomes a God before our eyes. He’s willing to tap into this untold power not because he wants to save the world and the people in it, he merely wants to save his surrogate mother figure. He’s willing to sacrifice everyone, even people like Misato that care about him, in order to achieve his selfish Oedipus Complex. The end results may be the defeat of a monster and the salvation of mankind, but it’s all due to one boy’s need to fulfill his own wishes at all costs.

A college professor of mine said something about the 20th century being a battle between Freud and Marx– the individual, selfishness, and pessimism versus the group, selflessness, and hope. That’s the key difference between Lagann and Evangelion. They may share many aspects, even more so now that the EVA movies are playing off of some Lagann tropes, but they still remain as philosophical enemies. Lagann is about that Marxist hope in humanity coming together to overcome adversity while Evangelion is about the individual withdrawing into itself to deal with its own issues for personal gain.

As for the actual second movie, I’ll probably do something about it later this week once I’ve had a chance for all of the details to sink in. I just wanted to churn this little bit out while it was on my mind.

I will say this:  I fucking LOVED it.

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