The Second Child/Promises to Keep

Can be found at Neon Genesis Apocrypha and Fanfiction.Net
By: James Lee
Parts Reviewed: All (1 to 5)

I would like to begin this review by saying that whatever drugs Hideko Anno was taking whilst making "End of Evangelion", James Lee was undouble using the same pharmaceuticals at the time he wrote this.

And yes, that is a good thing :-)

Strictly speaking, this is "End of Evangelion" told from Asuka's perspective after her 'death' in Unit 02. One minute she is pinned to the ground by a replica Lance of Longinus, the next she is in an Elevator (I guess you can call it the Elevator of the Mind) with a manifestation of Rei. Rei, with the power of Lillith behind her, has 'saved' Asuka's soul from moving on to where ever we go when we die (well, that's my interpretation anyway) for the sake of Shinji, who is calling out for her. Appearing back in the real world, they watch helpless as Shinji is crucified by the Unit 05 series and begins Third Impact.

What follows is a parallel view of "End of Evangelion", with Asuka trying to understand and reconcile her feelings about Shinji, intermixed with the occasional crossover into Shinji's Instrumentality. In typical Evangelion mindfuck fashion, Asuka tries to learn to accept Shinji and not push him away.

Characterization is spot on. Rei has gained some free will and emotion (She shows up just after she defies Gendou), and is able to fight back when Asuka strikes out at her. However, she is not so temperamental as to appear out of character. Shinji is spot on in both versions of Instrumentality: How he is perceived by Asuka and how he perceives himself (As shown in the movie). Finally, Asuka goes through a host of emotional states as fitting of one going through Instrumentality. Angry, depressed, scared, defiant and finally accepting. None of the three can be considered out-of-character. The characters have merely developed within the boundaries of canon and the author's imagination.

An additional note I wish to make is that Rei receives fair treatment from the author, even though this is an Asuka fic. This is extraordinary in itself, although pales in comparison to what he has also achieved in this fic.

I couldn't find any obvious spelling or grammar mistakes that were jarringly obvious. The writing is well done, and fits in well with the "End of Evangelion" theme. From Rei's cool sounding biblical monologues to Asuka's Shinji-esque tortured self-analysis, it reads as it were both a GAINAX and Anno approved sidetrack of "End of Evangelion".

Many scenes from "End of Evangelion" are adapted to fit Asuka's viewpoint, as well as a number of scenes from the Evangelion Director's cut episodes. As well as understanding Evangelion, James Lee is evidently well read as well. The series is littered with a number of literary references, from the poetry of T.S Elliot to Neil Gaiman's comic series "The Sandman".

All in all, a masterpiece of fanfiction. Despite recent claims to the contrary, a sign that Eva fanfiction is not stagnating. "Second Child/Promises to Keep" captures the spirit of Evangelion perfectly, which is what all fanfics strive to achieve but only a few manage to pull off. Definitely one of the best fics to have come out in the past year.

Best Line/scene: All of Rei's opening monologues. Here's an example... "SEELE, in their grand blasphemy, and seeking to prevent Redemption, saw to it that the fate of the world would hinge on these tormented children, these three imperfect sinners... on a boy with no faith, on a girl who would scorn love, in the presence of a powerless Angel, a lifeless clone who embodied a hollow shell of a promise, a broken man's perverted hope."

Award: The "Best use of Rei in an Asuka fic" award.

Rating: Excellent. Read or else...

Seph Khan
June 25, 2001

There have been quite a lot of egregiously horrible pieces of fanfiction trying to describe the End of Evangelion version of Instrumentality from within. "The Second Child," which sets out to construct a set of experiences for Asuka during the time period of the End of Evangelion movie, is, quite fortunately, not one of these. It is, in fact, one of the better attempts I've seen at recreating and exploring the themes and mood of EoE. While definitely not perfect ­ and I'll come back to that later ­ this fic has several points in particular to its favour.

Before I go any further, though, I want to make it clear that this fic is fairly long. 16k words, plus the writer's notes. Be aware before you get drawn in.

Next point to mention, fic writers take notice: Surprise! It *is* possible to write sympathetic Asuka without bastardizing Rei, and vice versa! "The Second Child" is an Asuka/Shinji fic, but one in which Rei plays a very important and positive role. This is especially refreshing considering that both Asuka and Rei have the potential to be sympathetic characters, *especially* in the context of EoE. Treating the characters with the respect which this story does should be something we take for granted in reading fic.

Similarly, though, we don't see the characters' shortcomings glossed over or ignored. They're all here, out in the open, and never completely resolved. Almost like...WELL-DEVELOPED FICTIONAL CHARACTERS!!! Imagine that!!!

If you don't like Asuka, of course, all this introspection will probably be less than enjoyable. And let's be perfectly clear: introspection is what this is. Fairly surreal, interpersonal and apocalyptic forms of introspection, true. But let's go back to a phrase from the first sentence in this review: "to describe the End of Evangelion version of Instrumentality from within." If it weren't introspective, it would fall flat.

There is an interesting phenomenon in the writing of fanfiction which "The Second Child" aids in the illustration of: the approach of primarily Western English-speaking fans to what comes across as negative space thematically. In any interpretation of a pop-culture work from another culture ­ which Eva is an example of ­ the person doing the interpreting will be working without whole sets of assumptions that the work's home audience would have. How people fill in these thematic "holes", often dealing with philosophy or religion, becomes more interesting when the work being considered borrows images from the fan's own culture, in this case the Judeo-Christian and Existentialist themes and images scattered around Eva. So what one sees in Eva fanfiction is, frequently, the filling-in of anything which is not explained with God. This, despite the fact that the relationship of Evangelion to its Judeo-Christian mythological sources is about equivalent to the relationship to Hamlet of "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead." Where is this little sermon by the Project R Chaplain headed? "The Second Child" is notable in that it doesn't *quite* plop a very Western deity into all the Taoist/Buddhist-derived blank spaces which we don't know to take for granted. Extra points for having a Lilith (with implied Adam) without assuming a more than symbolic God. There's still a sense of the story creaking under the weight of all the existentialism, but in a serious (as opposed to primarily humorous) fic, this is probably preferable to the unbearable lightness of theme, that seems to be its alternate.

There's another kind of "blank space" which appears often in Eva fanfic: deletion of characters the author doesn't like. This especially happens in Instrumentality fic, where for some strange reason Kaworu declines to make appearances. Now, I know some fanboys are threatened by my favourite character, but really...ease up. He *matters* in End of Eva, and pretty much triggers the whole Eva endgame. "The Second Child," unlike entirely too much fic, uses this character quite well. On the other hand, one suspects that he could be used *more*, especially since he plays off of Rei so well, and since the concept of a dynamic between Kaworu and Asuka, who never meet in the series, seems to interest the fic author as well as myself.

There are a few less positive points about this fic which I want to spend a few sentences on.

First off, the epilogue is unnecessary, and probably detracts from the fic, in my opinion. I can understand the desire to give a more positive spin to the end of EoE; let's face it, that's hardly a sweetness-and-light ending. But at the corresponding point of the fic, the tone of the scene has already been changed enough that, IMO, the epilogue just draws things out and feels contrived. I'd prefer not to have things tied up so neatly. Sometimes, ambiguity about what happens next can be a good thing.

Second, the consistent use of the present tense instead of the past may end up distancing the reader from the events. Perhaps this is because the present tense tends to read like either a screenplay or a stage script, thus adding another level of unreality between the reader and the story. In any case, this tense is well-handled, but may hurt the sense of immediacy that the fic seems to strive towards.

Rating: Good to excellent. In addition, it's strongly recommended that you read this one before setting a fic during the EoE version of Third Impact and Instrumentality.

Best line: "The truth, and your self, are in your heart, for you to create."

Awards: Recommended by the Society Against the Bastardization of Anybody; recipient of the Great Orange Jell-O Mold for readable approaches to Third Impact; recipient of the Giant Naked Kaworu Award for actually *including* him, for once (though neither giant nor naked...what's a fangirl gotta do, bribe somebody?)

M Moneure're
September 10th, 2001
Close Window