Should have worked. Didn’t.
Wait, you want me to go into more detail? Okay, okay, fine.
After the End
Evangelion: After the End is an audio drama made shortly after the end of the original NGE tv show, wherein after the massive success of the show’s finale, NGE is suddenly granted a second season, which leaves the characters struggling to come up with an appropriate plot. It’s something of a footnote in the larger history of Eva. I didn’t discover it until I was midway through my article on the other Eva manga (coming soon), and even after learning of it, my main thought was “Huh. This looks interesting. No way in hell it’s available in English though.”
But I was wrong! As luck or fate would have in its way, a fan-translation has been available since the early 2000s, and is readily viewable on Youtube in three parts. So, despite it not being part of my initial retrospective plans, I figured After the End was worth taking a slight detour to check out. The synopsis promised fun metatextual humor, and with Hideaki Anno writing (and guest-starring), surely his creative vision would steer the story in a satisfying direction, right?
Well, one would think.
So, first off, let’s address some minor quibbles. I don’t like the fact that Asuka in this audio drama is homophobic. Not saying it’s out of character for her, but I don’t like homophobic humor, so that left a bad taste in my mouth, to say nothing of how overtly sexualized Asuka and Rei are. Yes, I know, the original show and indeed most Eva media likes to play up the sex appeal of their two female leads, but this is usually in the context of Shinji getting all hot and bothered by seeing an attractive member of the opposite sex of a similar age to him. In the context of Asuka and Rei’s nude bodies appealing to adult men, and them playing into it for this audio drama, it’s creepy and weird. I don’t like grown-ass men perving on pubescent girls. That’s just not how I roll.
The bigger issue with After the End though, and what ultimately left me unsatisfied with it, is how it’s too much of a personal passion project. Yes, I know, that may sound baffling, but let me explain. The feeling I got from this whole endeavor was that it was a fun way for the cast and crew to get back together and be silly. There’s a genuine warmth and camaraderie that’s evident in every performance of the audio drama, and most of the humor stems from the struggles of anime production, struggles that Anno and co. were all-to-familiar with, given how they had just managed to survive such struggles by the skin of their teeth.
However, we the fans don’t necessarily know all this. Indeed, unless we’re super-fans, obsessed with every piece of Eva trivia we can get our hands on, we’re probably not as interested in the behind-the-scenes story of NGE as we are in the actual story-story. What went on to make the story take its shape is less important to us than that shape being satisfying on its own merits.
While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that showcasing the actual brass tacks of production spoils the magic of art or anything so silly as that, I will say that listening to the Eva cast cynically discussing the aspects of their characters and world that will best sell, like a boardroom meeting of production staff, it just isn’t as satisfying as seeing these characters, y’know, in an actual story. Unless, of course, you’re as knowledgeable or even involved in production matters as Anno and co. are.
However, that’s the big issue with After the End. This is a group of friends and colleagues getting together and having a laugh, with jokes based on the daily struggles they faced in their efforts to get a tv show made. Getting together with friends is fun, because you know your friends, you know what makes them tick, you have a whole array of in-jokes to draw from, and you know how to have a good time together. To those outside that tightly knit friend group though, it’s not as easy to slip into the rhythm the group has developed over their time together.
Sometimes, when people tell “you had to be there” jokes, you really did have to be there to get them. And After the End feels like one giant “you had to be there” joke. It got some stray chuckles out of me, but in the end I was mostly just scratching my head and feeling a bit lost. Still, maybe you all will find it more amusing than I did. At the very least, you shouldn’t have any trouble tracking it down.
Alright. So, with that detour out of the way, what’s next?