Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Before and After" Conclusion - Chs. 9 & 10

The final chapters on FFN

So this is it. A story ends. Endings are always something difficult for me, this one a little less so because the feeling I meant to end with has been so clear.

That's not to say these last two chapters haven't been difficult. In part, it's my disquiet with their writing process that I present both of them together, if only to give myself the feeling that I'm ending with something I'm comfortable with, instead of the chapter nine that we have, of which so much comes directly from the source material. To a great extent, I could come up with nothing better to do for these parts. The events that transpire here I've interpreted as having a direct impact on Rei's thought processes and mindset. I couldn't simply gloss over them. Conversely, there's a lot of mental contemplation that happens in both the last two episodes of the series and End of Evangelion. A lot of this I chose not to rehash, simply because I thought doing it from scratch when necessary would be more powerful. In addition, such scenes I felt were difficult to integrate into a "real-time" sort of story the way "Before and After" generally is.

Overall, I felt the thought process for Rei had to be this: when she's reborn, she wants to die, but Misato implores her to reconsider. When she meets Kaworu, she realizes death won't be enough, as something else that's not her will still remain--that is, Lilith. As the events of chapter nine, the beginning of EoE, play out, she becomes convinced of her own and humanity's suffering, and in a moment of compassion with Shinji and spite for Gendo, she's willing to merge with Lilith and risk losing everything of herself, but instead, she finds herself the dominant one. She explores Shinji's mindset and, when he rejects Instrumentality, she makes the decision to die and let them all be freed. In a lot of ways, that's these two chapters in a nutshell. It's the journey to get to these places that I find interesting.

Most of chapter nine is told from Rei's perspective as an observer. It should be understood that she relates these events from having "peered" into people's hearts as well as going back in time to witness them as a specter, the same specters that reap people's souls and convert them to LCL in EoE. Thus, chronologically speaking, while these events actually happen in this chapter, when Rei would glimpse and experience them is actually during her time after merging with Lilith.

A lot of this chapter is built on the theory from EvaGeeks wiki on the phantom appearances of Rei--the idea that Rei, as Lilith, has transcended time and can be in multiple places and times at once. From this, I hoped to take things a step further: such a being would be effectively immortal, despite "dying" as we see her do in the final scenes of Eoe. For all intents and purposes, the "time" she has to go backward and forward and be everywhere is infinite. She can "exist" after her body has died and before she merged with Lilith at all.

As I said, chapter nine is largely taken straight from EoE, and the skeleton of chapter ten is largely the same, but here, since so much more emphasis is placed on the evolution of the mind, I thought it best to put as much new material here as I could. It's my opinion that episodes 25 and 26 take place alongside or concurrently with the film, and for a while, I'd thought I'd try to reconcile the two and depict them as such, but this I found to be an unsatisfying idea, and I decided to go with what I have here: namely, a glimpse of what Rei would see, which by no means do I intend to be complete. I'd originally thought to depict several scenes with the technicians--Hyuga, Ibuki, and Aoba--but I trimmed it down to one because I thought it'd be too long a jaunt away from the center of the piece: Rei and Shinji. I did hope that passage, with Hyuga's hopes going unrealized, gave substance to Rei's feeling that humanity was full of unfulfilled desires. It's not enough, at that point, to leave that as a blanket statement without backing.

I quickly latched onto the idea of Shinji being shown a dream world of sorts, keeping in mind that a dreaming alone would be a "substitute for reality" and shouldn't be done. Thus, he hears a little bit of what other people think of him. I pondered how to go about this. Instrumentality is depicted in many different ways. Sometimes, Shinji seems apart and himself. Other time, he's flooded with what Misato, Rei, and Asuka think of him. I felt I had the freedom to pursue this passage, then. I tried to keep it brief, as I felt the goal of the ending coming quickly. My reasoning here was that Rei would show Shinji a world that was the pinnacle of his desires--close to what he knows but better in several ways. In this, she tests Shinji, and he realizes that he does want the affections of other people, but not so easily that they become meaningless and fake. This, in my view, is consistent with his final decision in EoE, and I felt it was a logical way to extend his thinking: maybe it's not the only time Shinji made that decision. Maybe he was tested several times.

So we get to the end, and Shinji's alone. Rei wants to fix that, so she goes to Asuka. I considered going into more detail at this point, but that would've felt very off to me. Rei doesn't have that emotional connection to her--some sympathy yes, but not a lot of connection. It would've slowed everything way down here, so I hoped to avoid it. We already know it's going to happen, and there wasn't a lot of value, in my mind, in seeing Asuka's journey toward it.

And that leads us to the end. Asuka and Shinji have survived, and Rei will be the eternal observer, helping the souls of humanity return from the LCL sea. At last, her fate is one she chooses, and over Shinji, she'll always be watching. Here is the culmination of the extended use of A Tale of Two Cities, with Rei mirroring Sydney Carton. But Rei is still alive, even if she's chosen the time and place of her death, and this will not be the last we see of her, nor the last I write of her. As I said, I have plans for a companion story--a sequel in one sense--called The Coming of the First Ones. As Asuka and Shinji try to rebuild humanity's future, one of the other Seeds of Life, the sinister Eisheth, sets its gaze on mankind, and once again, it will be up to the older and wiser children to protect themselves and the Earth itself. Rei will play her part, and it's a story I look forward to writing, at some point in the future.

I guess that's why this doesn't really feel like the end to me. I know there's more story to be told, even if it's part of a different tale. To that end, this is not "goodbye," but rather, "see you soon."

To my readers, thank you.

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