Neon Genesis Evangelion Fan Fiction ❯ Meta Monthly: November 1995 ❯ Take Care Of Yourself ( Chapter 1 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Disclaimer: Neon Genesis Evangelion is a Studio Gainax production, its characters created by Hideaki Anno. They say the word, and this story ceases to exist.
Take Care Of Yourself
Hisako Ishida learns how to live the dream.
By Yukio Koguchi
Friday, November 3, 1995
HISAKO Ishida is adrift. After soaking up the late summer sun, the production crew for Neon Genesis Evangelion has retreated to a retrofitted aircraft hangar in Minato Ward to finish principal photography. The building's steel ribs arch high above makeshift dressing rooms, blacked-out windows, and blinding spotlights, a carpenter's starless frontier. Then someone opens the side door. The gusts whipping across Tokyo Bay make prescient the meteorologists who've been predicting an early October cold snap.
To 14 year-old Ishida, the floodlights inside the converted studio have set the crew ablaze. Cinematographers hover over subordinates touching up backlit consoles and testing LEDs. Camera operators duck back out of their viewfinders; they snap their fingers at thirsty booms dipped in the frame to drink up the swearing, shouting, clapping, and scraping metal. Monstrous props hide in the shadows beyond and above the set.
Ishida stands at the edge of the dervish, where she cherishes the coffee mug she grips with her white-gloved hands. She sips carefully to avoid scalding herself and having her makeup artist do too much touchup before shooting kicks off—“Seven o' clock,” she mutters. And then louder: “Mom and dad aren't coffee drinkers because the caffeine withdrawal gives them headaches. Auntie spoils me.”
`Auntie' is Midori Makino, Ishida's manager and spitting adult image, burning through a pack of Mild Sevens in the parking lot. Resignation and giddiness flash in the girl's bone white cheeks. She could confirm the rumors she plays opposite her famous aunt as the show progresses. Instead she names the gaffers and key grips and best boys who've huddled to ensure they've killed all the extraneous shadows from the gigantic white tube jutting up above an onset gurney. The tube looks like a huge cigarette to Ishida.
“That's not what it looks like to me,” says a boy. Takeru Tagawa. Like Ishida he's swaddled in form-hugging neoprene from the neck down. As he sidles next to her, his sloppy grin sloshes to the corner of his mouth: Hideaki Anno, Evangelion's Director and Creator, has a surprise for them.
“I do pilot a giant robot,” answers Ishida. “I'm good for a surprise or two.”
“They're not robots,” says Tagawa.
Ishida looks at him. She has ironed out her dimples, atrophied her smile, and has seeped deep below her blue wig and red contact lenses.
It is 5:32 am.
Early Bird's Dilemma
The day before the shoot in Minato, Ishida is confirming a list of items in a day bag sitting on her bed before checking them off. She's become a connoisseur of adult habits, having perfected her aunt's orderliness and early riser sickness; Ishida's parents snooze quietly in their bedroom. Kenshiro Ishida would usually get up at 6:00 am—his wife, Izumi, 7:30—but made Hisoka promise to wake them before she left for a day of promotion in Nara. Their only child has grown accustomed to the cold onigiri, the navy blue mornings in their Ota Ward home.
So has Angela Ballard Hearst, who is already downstairs, finishing off one hold-me-over fruit cup, tearing the lid off another for her housemate and co-star. On the trip to Nara, there will be station food stands and Shinkansen bento boxes, followed by snapping shutters and popping flashbulbs, powdered noses and pancake foundation, autographs and tiny clip-on mikes. And after that, maybe, just maybe, hungry, sacred deer; they have free reign in Nara Park.
The prospect hurls Hisoka to the first floor of her home while Hearst strides out to their cab with legs too long for a fifteen year-old. But those legs—with her fluency in German and prodigious debut as a young prostitute in the Australian TV drama A Country Practice—carried Hearst from her Melbourne home and dropped her snugly into the role of Evangelion's Asuka Langley Sohryu, child genius and pilot extraordinaire.
The flash of insight that zeroed in on Hearst was as accurate as the net that captured Ishida was wide. Rei Ayanami, fellow pilot, was over three-hundred girls—twelve to eighteen year-olds, Japanese and Koreans and Canadians, Belgians, Peruvians, Taiwanese—whittled down to what Ishida defined Rei to be: Deadpan. Laser-astute. That stillness of being magnifying minute inflections in her words and mien. Anno loved her smile.
Ishida piles in the cab with Hearst and Makino in time for Makino to slap a manila envelope into her niece's lap. The label on the packet shouts NHK Presser!!! Look SHARP, Ko-chan. Another envelope bridges Hearst's thighs (To the NINES, Angie).
“You just know that plugsuit question is coming,” says Aunt Midori. She thumps a pack of Mild Sevens against her palm. “Of course you look good in them—you're pretty girls. Because we know what's under there means we're indecent? Indecent to whom? Can we help it if all some people see is sex? Why doesn't anyone complain about the suit Tagawa wears? Come on.”
The cab pulls away. Ishida starts glamming up the stapled packet with a hot pink highlighter—her eyes shuffle through the deck of index cards. Hearst's face is lost in the curtain of brazen red hair she tames into a ponytail. Then she looks through the rear window at the house; Kenshiro and Izumi Ishida are still sleeping. When Kenshiro wakes up, he'll find a note scratched out in his daughter's rush hour kanji—and with it the sketch Hisako drew of herself, its little crescent smile tapering into tails of smudged black ink.
A Surprise or Two
Tagawa promises his intentions are noble. When Ishida starts after him, keeping the mug between her and Takeru, he slings another sloppy grin at her. He says he's filling his jerk quota before having to stuff himself into Shinji Ikari, Evangelion's lost and wounded protagonist. She sacrifices a chuckle as she skips over a cable guard.
Laughter was easy between Ishida and Tagawa through the first cast meet-ups, pre-production, and the early days on set. Both products of Ota Ward, they'd strike up loose conversation about jumbo jets with foreign livery swooping into the Big Bird Passenger Terminal at Haneda Airport, and Ishida performing and Takeru watching the Jindai-Kagura at the Senzokuike Hachimangu Shrine.
She played Titania, he, Nick Bottom, in Ota Municipal Yukigaya Junior High's annual production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (Tagawa, 15, performed a year before Ishida). They'd reflect on their student lives ending with that last bit of compulsory education, and between takes would serve each other quotes from The Taming of the Shrew. She'd edge closer to him. He went to BellBe Bakery! How did she miss him? Their similarities mattered.
So did their differences. When Rei Ayanami slaps Shinji in the episode “Rei I,” the act is equal parts anger and a compact, textbook rebuke. It took 14 takes. Ishida would come across Tagawa's face like she was wiping chocolate stains from his mouth. After take 12, Tagawa stormed off the set. Ishida wrung her hands, shadowing him to a water cooler. There she scrounged up the voice to ask if it was really okay to actually slap him.
“Verily, whore,” he said.
Ishida sat alone in her dressing room, stunned and dizzy, until Aunt Midori led her back out to the set. Anno hardly began take 13 before Ishida whipped her palm through Tagawa's face and dashed back to her room. She burst into tears. There in the room, her makeup artist tended to her runny foundation; an EMT tended to Tagawa's split lip.
And now Ishida follows Tagawa into a room with an embarrassment of beautiful people: There's Misato Sonoda, who plays Misato Katsuragi, polishing off her raspberry cruller and hazelnut coffee; Atsuko Sugiyama—the model's cut her hair boyishly short for her role as Maya Ibuki—mouths something to Nao Tokaji (Ryouji Kaji), who shakes his head; Hearst lazes on a couch and blinks groggily at a weathered script; extras and staff members mingle. A staffer hefting a radio controller wades out to what everyone is ignoring for as long as they can: the toddler-sized mound in the middle of the room, draped by a white sheet the staffer removes with melodramatic flair. Heads turn. Rumors die on the vine. It's Pen Pen.
Until the fire in September, the crew forgave the first Pen Pen his rogue taxidermy vibe for the sake of the penguin's fluid animatronic puppetry. His operators determined a frayed wire had become exposed to water in one of Pen Pen's many bathtub scenes. The short ignited the synthetic feathers from tail to crest, and before the fire marshal hosed him down, Pen Pen had waddled a path of hellish carnage across the set. All that remained was for the crew to figure out how to write the bird out of the rest of the series (“Dies in a fire” was narrowly voted down).
The new Pen Pen's electro-pneumatic entrails already spill from a mortal wound in his side to a patch panel and air tank. The staffer thumbs a switch on the controller. Everyone jumps when Pen Pen snaps to life—bobbing his head with puffs of pressurized air, rolling glassy eyes, silicone tongue lolling from his plastic beak. Then he shudders like a heroin addict in withdrawal and leers at two things at once. "What's wrong with it?" someone asks. Terror reigns when Pen Pen takes a zombie lurch forward. Hearst tucks her legs into the couch cushions. Tagawa flails wildly to keep it at bay. Ishida climbs onto his back and screams in his ear.
With their transfer in Kyoto, Nara is only a half hour away. Makino and Hearst quibble over photo negatives spread over a seat tray. Ishida was staring at the morning sun sliding across the horizon and warming up all the blues in the sky. Now she studies an index card with coffee stains stamped into it. Looking straight ahead, she says, “I think we all have our own methods for this—for, um, acting, because it can be a hard business. I realize it's all a privilege, but you work hard exactly because it's a privilege. And we cope different ways. So I do six push-ups before I'm called out to set, always. Why six? Well, why not six? That's just my thing.
“Sometimes we yell. Or we say things we don't mean or we go to extreme lengths to motivate each other. And you're not always going to like it. But that's caring. That's trusting and wanting to be trusted. That's what I've learned since starting the show. And I've learned to accept it.”
“Takeru is an asshole,” says Hearst. No accent. She is seven months removed from graduating high school in suburban Melbourne and moving in with the Ishidas to immerse herself in the flow of daily Japanese life; the genius behind Asuka is real. “Print it.”
Makino shakes her head. “No, don't print it.”
“Print it,” says Hearst.
Ishida buries her face in a pamphlet for Todai-ji temple until they glide into Shinomiya Station. Waiting for the shuttle to Nara Hotel wasn't the plan, but after standing on the curb for 15 minutes, Makino is speaking into a pay phone. Her voice spirals out of her control until she slams the phone in its cradle: a pileup on the 369. Hearst is already standing at the taxi stand. Ishida wonders aloud if the deer in Nara really bow to visitors who feed them, but no one answers her.
The taxi stutters through the stoplights on the scenic route to the hotel. All the traffic on Route 369 has been rerouted to the local streets, locking the trio in the choked flow of frozen sedans, hatchbacks, and delivery trucks. A bus wipes Ishida's view of the south side with a decal of Shinji, Asuka, and Rei; their arms shoot down into fists bolted to their hips, their hair starched into glorious tousled locks. They stare off into a future they are determined to face together every Wednesday at 9:00 pm on TV Tokyo. Ishida closes her eyes.
Meta Monthly: November 1995
A/N: I apologize for any anachronisms or factual inaccuracies. My defense is it's a work of fiction about a fictional history involving (mostly) fictional people—and I don't know anything at all about the real Hideaki Anno, and don't claim to; and if that isn't good enough, look over there while I climb out this window. Big thanks to Fresh C for the beta.
Random A/N: If anyone wants to know why I didn't finish The Silent Night After the Party, please read the explanation I posted on my profile. The reason is the opposite of impressive. Right now, I'm just happy to have produced something again.
Thank you for reading and your criticism. Ja.