Friday, June 10, 2011

Before and After 06 - "After Arael"

Chapter six on FFN

Commentary below.

Have I mentioned before that plans change? Well, I'll say it again. This chapter has one of the scenes that drove me to write this story, and I ended up burying it at the end, so to speak. 90% of this chapter is new material made up just in the last couple weeks since finishing chapter five, mostly because I was unsatisfied with a chapter that, as I'd originally planned it, had only Shinji coming to Rei's apartment, panicked and stricken over Misato and Asuka, and Rei's attempt to kiss him.

So I fleshed things out a bit. Actually quite a bit, much more than I thought I would. I abandoned the in-depth storyboards that have characterized my writing process of late. I didn't write out all the dialogue first and fill in the gaps after that. I wonder if the difference is noticeable, if the flow of the story is better this way or worse. Clearly, this is the fastest I've written a chapter (or an act of Identity) in some time. Perhaps that's telling me something in itself.

I'd wanted for some time to work in the opening scene here, and since Rei's about to die right after this chapter, this was the last chance. What it means I won't explain, however--at least, not yet.

With the second scene, I wanted to get across Rei's emergent personality, one that is still very loyal to Gendo and who craves his attention, praise, and approval, but is also independent in her own way. Rei has her own vision of the truth, and while she tries to be compliant here, the subtle differences in what she says against what Gendo tells her to say is unexpected to everyone else in the room. Unexpected for Rei, at least, and she doesn't even realize how she's changed. I did want to imply, however obliquely, that this newfound independence could be something Gendo fears, that maybe he would plan for Rei to be destroyed to reassert control. It's not something definitive that I will say did happen; regardless, this scene is meant to show Rei's sense of self-direction.

With how episode 22 focuses so much on Asuka, it seemed wrong to simply shut her out of this chapter, and I thought it plausible that Rei, having learned to value her friends' friends more like her own, would visit Asuka and try to help, even as awkward as she knows it could be. Hikari is really an interesting character, and it's a shame that she'll have to go soon, but while Rei is there out of respect for Shinji, it's Hikari who gives Rei a sympathetic portrait of the girl. Hikari's relationship with Toji is something that mirrors Rei and Shinji as well.

I have mixed feelings about the transition scene here, where Rei sees a couple kissing. In a sense, it's like flashing a big neon sign that says she'll try it later, but it's also necessary. It's an idea that had to be planted; I think on balance I should've have worked it into last chapter and just kept that gun unfired, so to speak, until this one. I also had issues justifying Rei's circuitous travels here. Ultimately I decided that it was better to avoid the issue and let it be as much as possible.

Of course, Kaji's been dead since the end of episode 21. Misato learned about it then, and in chapter five, when Shinji said he saw Misato crying, that was why. So Misato's been dealing with it, struggling with it, for some days now. And I think, only after some careful contemplation and thinking would she go for a plan like this. Did Misato count on Rei being at Kaji's garden patch? No, I don't think so, but she did plan on taking Rei that day; fortune just moved up the timetable an hour or two (this is the kind of coincidence I consider acceptable--it tidies up the plot without seriously affecting the consequences). All along, of course, Misato doesn't say that Kaji's dead. Once the opportunity presents itself, she deceives Rei into coming to her apartment, where she can interrogate her, get the answers that she needs to justify Kaji's death. That's important to her. Like Hikari and Toji, Misato's relationship with Kaji is something that isn't properly fulfilled. That was what I wanted Rei to take away from this confrontation, more than anything else. It gives her the push to move on Shinji.

This scene, in a lot of ways, wrote itself. We have scenes with Misato in her bedroom, working, so we see that the room as a whole isn't full of crazy writing. This, I feel, is necessary since she can't stay cooped up in there forever and eventually Shinji would try to look in on her. How often does one look back at the door if one's just peeking through?

I actually looked up floor plans of Misato's apartment to be sure. See EvaGeeks for plans of Misato's and Rei's apartments, so everything ought to be geometrically correct now. (I did make a mistake in that Shinji has an actual bed, not just a futon, but I fixed that.)

Originally, I was just going to have Misato stuff Rei into a closet, but this didn't seem dangerous enough. Also, Rei gets a lot closer to jumping off the side of Misato's balcony than I thought to do at first. It remains to be seen whether this is a good thing or not when chapter seven comes out. Otherwise, Rei's thoughts inside the refrigerator are largely as I envisioned, except with the presence of "It," the part of her inside Unit-00, to taunt her (not really there, just a manifestation of her fears). This is, in a way, Rei's point of choice: that she wants to continue living and have experiences and not be forgotten.

I wanted Rei to talk Misato down without giving away too much, and drawing a connection between them, having Rei realize herself how she is used and yet she follows anyway, seeking gratification, seeking Gendo's attentions. Emphasizing that parallel and knowing that Shinji is there is enough to pacify Misato, and at the same time, it gives Rei reason to sympathize with her, to try to save her captor.

Nevertheless, the emotional toll of this day on Rei is great, and I hoped to make it feel natural that she'd want some comfort from someone, even if she doesn't necessarily expect Shinji to reciprocate, but that's a far cry from being second-place to Asuka, from knowing that he can't comfort her always. And so, Rei tries to find some solace in the dark and fails, with the halo of Armisael in the distance, a foreboding omen.

I wrote most of the above here after just having finished the chapter. Now that it's posted, I do want to mention that I tweaked the scene with Misato and Rei in the kitchen, right before soldiers broke in to secure the area. I wanted Misato to have a more pronounced breakdown. This way, it should feel like she hesitates to kill Rei for realizing how Shinji will react to it.

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