Evangelion 2.0: Surnames, Statements and Makinami

A. The Female Pilots’ Surnames

I know I’m obsessed with this, but I think it’s still worthwhile for me to lay things down in a clear and systematic fashion so we can begin thinking about whether Asuka’s name change means a demotion or what.

Two general points of extreme importance:

1. Because of the Japanese language’s über-complicated writing system, there are several ways to write the same thing.  Especially when it comes to names, you can just go crazy with variations.  As a result, creators love to reference things and people by using names that sound like the original but are written in a novel way.  If an anime character’s name sounds historical but the kanji don’t match up this doesn’t mean the names aren’t linked.  They likely are, the creator of the name is just messing around with the possibilities of the language.

2. Like other navies in the world, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and its successor the Maritime Self-Defense Forces or (MSDF) like to reuse old ship names for new ones, sometimes over and over.  Therefore if a character is named after a ship, it’s important to look at all possible ships bearing that name as there might be more than one.

There was a group of destroyer warships in WWII called the Ayanami class (a.k.a. 2nd Fubuki class).  Ships in a class are listed according to the date in which they were laid down, and the first ship of its class to be laid down gives its name to the class as a whole.  Therefore the first ship in the Ayanami class was Ayanami (laid down Jan. 1928).  The second one was Shikinami (July 1928).

There was another, later group of IJN destroyers called the Yugumo class.  It had 12 members, the 6th of which was called Makinami (laid down November 1941).

So here we have the three surnames for the three female pilots in Evangelion 2.0, but the connections are rather random.  The Warships in Evangelion page list cites the names as coming from these destroyers.  However, there’s a deeper connection when we look, not to the IJN, but to the MSDF.  That’s because after the war, there was a new Ayanami class of destroyers.  Once again, the lead ship was called Ayanami (laid down Nov. 1956).  This class had ten members.  They were:

1. Ayanami

2. Isonami

3. Uranami

4. Shikinami

5. Takanami

6. Onami

7. Makinami

Aha!  In the TV series, lots of characters had surnames referencing the Imperial Japanese Navy.  Rei and Ayanami weren’t specially linked to each other in any special, unique way.  But now with the introduction of Mari, the three female Eva pilots have been linked in terms of this postwar Ayanami destroyer class.

There are many ways to look at this.  There is a connection with the Eva series, just as in this movie Rei piloted the 00, Asuka the 02 and Mari the 05, Ayanami is 1st, Shikinami is 4th and Mari is 7th in the list.  The order is the same.

Another way to look at it is to see Rei as Alpha and Mari as Omega (1 and 7).  Asuka is in the middle somewhere, which doesn’t sound that good.  Also, you could just point out that Asuka goes from  aircraft carrier (Soryu) to destroyer (Shikinami), and this is definitely a demotion, although at least she’s closer to the other pilots and less isolated now.  Finally, we could think of how things would have looked like if they hadn’t changed her name.

[The Ayanami in Rei Ayanami is written exactly the same as the IJN Ayanami class destroyer of that name (綾波).  This is the only exact graphic match in the whole mess!  The MSDF Ayanami is written differently, and neither of the pairs of Makinami and Shikinami destroyers match Mari’s or Asuka’s surnames.]

B. Mari’s Role

Watching the film for the first time  I was struck by how Mari seemed to be a regular anime character in a very irregular anime universe.  My mind raced on:

“She’s out there having fun, which is what we expect characters to do.  She’s having fun in Evangelion, how twisted is that!!!  Maybe Anno is such a genius that he has managed to isolate the one possible personality type that was absolutely absent in Neon Genesis Evangelion, the one character that he himself despised and feared and exorcised in the TV series, the one person that he tried to exclude so that he could make his point: the happy go lucky hero.  And he feels strong enough now to let Mari loose in this carefully crafted doom-laden world of his and then the question becomes: will she end up being like everyone else (with a Freudian past and a daddy and a mommy and all that,  just another Asuka in the making) or will she continue to behave like this…and if so, what will Anno do to (with) her??”

However, rewatching the film today I noticed a couple of moments when Mari is quietly looking at something, at the sky for example, and realized my first impression as stated above is a bunch of baloney…

C. Statements I Identify With

18 minutes in – Asuka: “You’ve got to do it on your own, Asuka.”  Yes!  Sometimes I feel differently, but this is my default attitude to life.  It’s sad, but that’s the way it goes.

25 minutes in – Gendo: “The world always is always in a state of harmony and order.”  Yes!!  For example: deforestation is a natural orderly process because it is caused by humans, who by a natural and orderly process have evolved through the millennia to do what they do today at the pace in which they do it.  Any other conclusion falls into clumsy dualisms.

~ by Haloed Bane on May 12, 2011.

22 Responses to “Evangelion 2.0: Surnames, Statements and Makinami”

  1. Also, Mari shares original series Kaoru’s creepy calmness in nearly every situation. Like him, she appears to be comfortably in control. We see obvious faults in all other pilots. Maybe the happy go lucky tendency is supposed to end up being her flaw.

    • Yeah, I mean, it’s so obvious how in control she is that Shinji even comments on it. What’s up with her, is she enjoying herself?! 😀

      I am sure Anno will make her suffer before the end…sad thing to say but…

      What I’d like to know right now is who is behind her? Is it American Nerv? Seele? The Angels? Is she Kaji’s little sister? Someone seems to be giving her lots of intel, that’s for sure.

  2. I think it should be noted that despite Mari’s happy-go-lucky attitude, her knowledge of the Evangelions and her superficial Mary Sue-ness, she never actually “aces” any battles in 2.0. Her first fight destroys her EVA unit, and her second fight ends with her literally throwing everything she has at Zeruel, and failing utterly. Whatever people say about Shinji, at least he has a better track record!

    Think that’s the secret to 2.0, really–it’s superficially a flashy, fanservice-ridden, relatively light-hearted redo of the Evangelion canon, but it’s actually a blockbuster movie about failure. It is called “You Can (Not) Advance” after all: the characters try to change their fates and their relations to others, but the one who comes the closest–Shinji, at the end of the film–nearly ends the world by accident as a result. That’s prime class Evangelion TV material, right there!

    • Yeah, and behind every success of Shinji’s is Yui. So this show is really all about the power of mothers!

      On Mari, remember that she’s not responsible for destroying Eva 05. She did beat the Angel (just barely) and then the Eva exploded because Kaji had rigged it that way so he could escape with the Key…or something. Then again, she herself seemed to have some scheme up her sleeve. I’m not sure what.

      But yeah, Shinji’s the man. And yet he sucks. That’s Evangelion 🙂

      • Wow, I didn’t catch that Kaiji rigged it! That casts a totally different perspective on things.

        Also, yeah, Evangelion IS all about the power of mothers, although I haven’t seen as much of that in the Rebuild series so far. It became pretty important later in the TV series and in End, so I bet it’ll become prominent sooner or later.

        Someone should really do an article analyzing female characters in Gainax works, actually. For all the so-called “Gainax Bounce” there’s actually a ton of strong/complicated female characters in Evangelion, Gunbuster, FLCL…probably Panty and Stocking, too. I think ghostlightning got partway there with that article he wrote about Misato and Jet Alone, but there’s still so much to explore!

        • Yeah, I think ultimately these two aspects of Gainax cannot be reconciled. You do have strong female characters, and you do have exploitation of women.

          Still, it’d be interesting to see someone try to justify one in terms of the other.

          As for the Kaji-Mari business, it’s really subtly done isn’t it? I had my suspicions when I first saw the film but ultimately looked it up online, then watched again. The thing is though, Mari had her own plan going, “I hate getting adults involved” she says just as Kaji says “I hate getting children involved”. I don’t know what Mari is up to!

          • Nihilism.

            Strength is just another virtue to be exploited as a come-on.

            In the end, a work of entertainment must entertain first, so strong women turn some people on/prevent people from getting turned off.

            I had always thought Misato was strong enough character for a whole bunch of shows. I thought that she was the heroine in the show while Shinji played the subject/lead.

            Misato would be a proto-Panty to Ri-chan’s Stocking.

            • So giving the character a strong personality serves two purposes: a) deflecting or at least minimizing accusations of exploitative fan service AND b) increasing fan service in another way. Sounds right, actually. It’s a brilliant strategy but kinda sad. Or maybe not, I don’t know.

              Evangelion oozes nihilism and it oozes commercialism. Is it that nihilism is marketable? Is it that commercialism is the perfect way to expose nihilism? It’d be kinda cool if Anno were thinking in this second way…and getting monstrously rich in the process.

              As I say this, guys, I’m looking at the Firefox persona I myself made out of the Evangelion ad for canned coffee, which is here:

              These issues are very much on my mind 😀

              • This is available in the Philippines and I got to drink from Rei and Kaworu cans.

                I accept the exploitation because it is what provides me the entertainment. The example that’s very much on my mind is the very notion that robot anime are robot toy commercials.

                Even the very best of them (from a robot battle POV) like Gundam Unicorn end up presenting the featured robots as if in a “highlight reel” (as if watching the sports section of a news program). Look at robot x do yzab cool things!

                This is exactly what I marked down Macross Frontier for. It had excellent mechanical designs, but the way the battles were constructed (especially the episode dedicated to “how” the Macross fought) was a shameless highlight reel that didn’t so much feature tactics in a battle but just had each unique design showcase its attacks/abilities.

                It’s something that’s far less obvious in the Evangelion franchise, who continues to spam the toy market with the Test Type. Seriously, there are so many variants.

                • Ahhrg!! I was just telling my wife I wanted to drink coffee in a can with an Evangelion character on it!!! The misery!!!!!

                  Oh well. There’s another factor here. I don’t dare say everyone feels like this, but some of us definitely derive a certain pleasure from feeling (lightly) exploited.

                • One of the strange signatures of Gainax is that more than most studios, they point out the absurdity of the fan service and merchandise even as they acknowledge that that is what keeps them afloat.

                  I linked _The Notenki Memoirs_ in another comment, but they’re fairly revealing of the business side of things (Gainax mostly surviving on its *software* and making anime as almost ‘prestige’ products), and include some anecdotes that really bring out this tension – like Sadamoto specifically designing the Evas to be hard to turn into salable toys, even as he knows that _Evangelion_ was only going to air with *someone’s* sponsorship and Sega barely in time agreeing to sponsor (since Bandai refused), or his comment about how he was sure no one would cosplay in plugsuits because they were too gaudy and revealing… and intimating how he enjoyed looking at the plugsuit girls when he was wrong.

                  There are always two sides to the coin – merch and art, lust and love, hedgehog quills and warmth.

          • “I hate getting adults involved” she says

            I wonder who Mari means – Kaji or Eva O5?

  3. 25 minutes in – Gendo: “The world always is always in a state of harmony and order.” Yes!! For example: deforestation is a natural orderly process because it is caused by humans, who by a natural and orderly process have evolved through the millennia to do what they do today at the pace in which they do it. Any other conclusion falls into clumsy dualisms.

    The dualism that comes to my mind is:

    natural vs. human (implying artifice/unnaturalness)

    Humans are natural. This too is my view. But I also find myself using terms like unnatural and artificial (often to describe things I’m interested in). If I lump the sum and possibility of human acts as natural, is it just “natural” to do so?

    It seems like a sophist (implying unnatural/artificial) concern, but there it is.

    • You’re only human I guess 😀

      That’s the one dualism I was thinking of. Fuyutsuki says it best. After Gendo has determined that the world always has its order regardless of how people view it, Fuyutsuki replies: “So it’s humans that soil the world”. And this means NOT with their actions, but with their thoughts. That is, humans think the world is dirty when it isn’t, they commit the supreme arrogance of believing that they can somehow break out of their own nature and be innovative (a.k.a. artificial), and then they feel guilty for their actions and blame themselves for an ugly world that is ugly only to them etc.

      I love those little dialogues between Gendo and Fuyutsuki…

      • I love it.

        Now the temptation is to use these words as some kind of moral get out of jail free card as part of the nihilism toolkit…

        • It’s easy to see why those in positions of powers have for thousands of years tried to prevent people from arriving at these conclusions 😉

  4. […] This post is leftover semen from a discussion on exploitation vis-à-vis Rebuild of Evangelion. […]

  5. Stumbled across this article by chance (through that Panty and Stocking article, actually). I found it interesting although it ended somewhat abruptly. By the way, Misato and Shinji are both the “heroes of the story” with NGE according to Anno’s confession letter: http://wiki.evageeks.org/Statements_by_Evangelion_Staff#Hideaki_Anno:_What_were_we_trying_to_make_here.3F

    I’m curious if the author is an EGF (Evageeks) member, but good stuff anyway. I think I’ll poke around the site now and see what else is here. ^_^

    • Shinji and Misato being the heroes of the story dives in well with the theory that “Beautiful World” is a song about Shinji from Misato’s POV!!

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