Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Before and After" 02 - "Before Bardiel"

Chapter two of "Before and After" on FFN

I'm about halfway through chapter four, act seven of Identity now. I think it'll be done before this week's installment.

Anyway, commentary below.

When I originally outlined this chapter, I had a much different vision of how things might work. I thought maybe Rei would call Misato's flat and speak with Shinji briefly before realizing Gendo's security was watching her and hanging up the phone. In that outline, the chapter would've been very, very short.

But as I like to do from time to time, especially with a work like this that's supposed to interleave with canon, I went back to watch episode 17, just to pick up any details I may have missed. And one thing became painfully obvious: if I did as I'd outlined, Shinji shouldn't be home. Or at least, it would've been very cumbersome to do.

So I axed that idea, rearranged some things, and expanded the section of time this chapter meant to cover considerably, and on the whole, I think the result is much, much better. The time spent with Shinji is much reduced by proportion, but I think that makes the chapter broader in scope, more satisfying from an intellectual level. Without a doubt Rei's attentions toward Shinji make up a significant motivation for the chapter and color her interactions with everyone--with Gendo, Asuka, Misato, and Ritsuko--but not, I hope, obnoxiously so.

One thing that did bother me somewhat was that Misato and Asuka came off as somewhat hostile toward each other. Some of this I attribute to Misato being a sort of playful, ditzy prankster in persona at times, where Asuka doesn't take anything she does in an amused sort of way. But Asuka says it: Misato can be ruthless. She has her moments of immaturity, but then she gets dead serious, and you know it. You can feel it. It makes her an entertaining character to watch and write, and I felt that Rei, though not wholly understanding of that dynamic, would at least appreciate and respect Misato for her better qualities without judging her for her worse ones.

Rei comes off as hostile, in some ways, toward Asuka too, but I think in the context of episode 16, this is justified. What I wanted more was to show how Rei doesn't understand Asuka, how her behavior and actions can be irritating without Rei necessarily lashing out. It's in Rei's nature to be passive, mind, but she's gradually changing. And while she doesn't understand Asuka's egotistical nature, in a lot of ways it's the exact opposite of who Rei is, and for Rei to grow, she has to go more in Asuka's direction. Maybe not with the rabid sort of denial or misanthropy that Asuka displays sometimes, but it's the only direction she has to change herself. And I think, once Rei does understand Asuka, it'll be much easier for her to see the more vulnerable, sympathetic person underneath.

That's the great thing about Evangelion characters: they often have this dual nature about them, and at different times, they operate in different modes. I really enjoyed writing the scene with Rei and Ritsuko, for example, because you see both of those modes in Ritsuko in the same scene--at once a fairly normal, compassionate person, but in the next breath, she's cold, calculating. She's outright threatening Rei by withholding her pills. And at this point, one may still wonder why I had Ritsuko show Rei who and what she is. I think while Ritsuko's happy to see Rei as a person and a child interacting with other children, when she starts taking too much of Gendo's attention, when she starts being at threat to her womanhood, she has to go the other way. And it's not easy for her to do.

When I imagined Rei reading to Shinji in the first chapter, I knew right away that I wanted that book, whatever book I chose, to be a recurring theme throughout the story, and A Tale of Two Cities is pretty apt for comparison. Remember Darnay is a fake name, an alias, just as Ayanami might be considered a fake name, and both names hide secrets. That's the theme of lying for this chapter, too, for not only does Rei lie to Shinji but to herself in the process of trying to understand herself. As much as Rei permits herself, she's confused, trying to sort out her feelings...and failing.

And, of course, that's all the more tragic, that she becomes complicit in concealing the truth from Shinji. But it also fits that she knows, for she approaches Toji in ep. 18 knowing he's the Fourth Children. And Shinji, too, makes his feelings about the next pilot clear. It's the only way I can see justifying his refusal to fight in 18.

But nobody said interpreting and writing were easy tasks. Anyway, that ends the commentary for chapter two. See everybody in a couple months (if pace holds) for chapter three, "After Bardiel." Cheers!

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