The theory of SPGS-analysis or how to detect cruel postmodernist jokes

There are some common features of the stories such as NGE or Prometheus which allow to single them out as artificial postmodernist jokes. This set of features comprises the postmodernist obfuscation which is applied to an ordinary story to make it look like a postmodernist one, i.e. vague, self-reflective or self-ironic. Authors may use this approach for commercial purposes to make the audience interested in their works for a long time; stories seem interesting and profound until they are completely understood, and there is virtually no way to completely understand such stories if you don't know how the obfuscation works. This is a kind of joke and mockery because such a story rises many diverse interpretations, and it's cruel because people believe that only their interpretations are correct, although it's actually may be possible to restore the original underlying story and get the possible author's meaning at some degree which is defined by the level of detail of the obfuscated story. The straightforward analysis will not work in the case of the obfuscation, and it's necessary to remove the obfuscation first trough the "SPGS-analysis".

Eden by Hiroki Endo may be used as an example of the inversion of the obfuscation applied to NGE, so it's a joke on a joke. Basically it's yet another clone and a paraphrase of NGE on the basis of Gnosticism instead of Kabbalah (Kabbalah itself is based on Gnosticism so they look very similar) but inversed obfuscation makes Eden almost ordinary story and shows how NGE may look without the obfuscation, although you still need to know how obfuscation works to pull out all the guts from the story. Below I'll try show why Prometheus (which is discussed in the previous post) is also a clone of NGE and to formalize the obfuscation through the exploration of other clones.

Why Prometheus is a Clone of NGE 

There are some common features in the both stories which make to believe that the construction of NGE was taken as the basis for Prometheus, but it's not possible to reconstruct a unambiguous base plot of Prometheus as it possible for NGE because there are not enough details for this. Prometheus is a structural clone of NGE because it does not contain similar notions of instrumentality or salvation but includes all the features of the obfuscation (the complete structure of obfuscation and only few parts of the NGE plot are cloned).

The common features of the both stories

Feature NGE Promethieus
Two-fold name In NGE it names fighting machines and the hidden story: the Kabbalistic salvation of the humanity by transformation of it into Adam Kadmon through an artificially created messiah, this resembles the events from the Gospel, and evangelion means gospel in Greek. In Prometheus it names the spaceship and denotes the process of the creation of the humanity through direct reference to mythological Prometheus (the person who created the humanity remembers a figure from the Greek epos).
Creation of the humanity through a demiurge and biotechnology In NGE the demiurge is Lilith created by the first ancestral race which referenced as "God". In Prometheus this is the person which resembles a Greek titan from the race of progenitors which formally is a god of the humanity.
Only explainable through religion Seele's fear of blasphemy. Behaviour of the progenitors.
Possible use of DNA markers In the mechanism of forbidden reunion. To distinguish descendants from the progenitors.
Some facts could be obtained only through visual hints Pillars of salt at the South Pole and Terminal Dogma. Difference in the level of technology (the sanctuary and Vickers' module).
Presence of a heavy symbolical layer which hides or overlaps the substrate layer (so, at least two non-contradictory intrerpretations of base plot in different contexts could be obtained) In NGE the symbolic layer is Kabbalah and the substrate layer is the alien biotechnology of the first ancestral race. In Prometheus the symbolic layer is religious and the substrate layer is the Alien franchise.
Deconstruction (when you see not what you expect but told that you would not see anything suspicious) mecha/shounen Superiority between the progenitors, humans and androids.
The layer of meaning based on the deconstruction Theme of solitude. Theme of choice between natural and technical development.
Heavily disconnected base plot Yes Yes

The Other Clones

There are also other relatively little known intricate works deeply inspired by NGE: Eden, Xenogears and Xenosaga which are a kind of NGE with their own form of "salvation" or instrumentality based on Judaism/Kabbalah/Gnosticism and mixture of other religious and philosophical beliefs (the xeno- stories are also obfuscated, but the analysis was later published by the authors in the "Xenogears Perfect Works" and "Perfect Works" of Xenosaga).
Relations between their symbolical layers result in the fact that all deep clones and also Prometheus contain a common idea of an intermediate progenitor or demiurge such as the first ancestral race and Lilith in NGE, Deus and Hawwa system in Xenogears, the Gnosis and the lineage of worlds in Eden and finally the God and the lineage of races in Prometheus.
Some other works, such as RahXephon, Eeureka 7 and other clones also contain some common attributes such as their own kind of instrumentality or salvation and obligatory a heavy symbolical layer (for example, Eureka 7 uses the rave culture as a symbolical layer), but they're just shallow carbon copies of the visible layers of NGE because they're are not enough obfuscated, i.e. they are connected, their symbolical layers do not hide or overlap substrate layers or do not have solid internal structure (such as the layer of the rave culture), they also do not contain a notable deconstruction which in turn may generate a notable layer of meaning (except Eureka 7 where the Earth is such a matter).

The Signs of the Obfuscation (an approach to the formalization of the SPGS-analysis1)

Mainstream literary movements such as romanticism, realism, symbolism, [post]modernism and so on (where the most of the meaning may be implied unconsciously by the author) are primarily aimed to the exploration of culture, reality and other matters through the highlight, refraction, interpretation, reflection, etc., so probably it's possible to compare them with magnifiers with a lens of its own kind. Such complex and artificial methods as the obfuscation described below (where the most of the meaning is put consciously) are probably only common for the entertainment works, and it's hard to say what purposes such methods may have except commercial ones, although this may be also a form of a common pattern or tradition, and the analysis may be an entertainment by itself.

The signs of the "postmodernist" obfuscation:
  • Existence of at least two intertwined contexts one of which may hide or overlap another (context may be detected through the clues in the plot and connections between these clues). Generally there is a symbolical context which resides at the top and also some substrate context which may be partially covered or hidden by the symbolical context. Some facts and connections may be mapped into the both contexts, some may be divided between certain contexts, facts from one context may be used to find the corresponding facts from another context. Generally, the existing network of facts and events of the symbolical context may be useful to reconstruct connections between the corresponding facts and events of the plot in the substrate context, and vice versa. Both layers of the story obtained from these contexts may not contain any meaning.
  • Heavily disconnected base plot (a network of causal connections between facts and events of the story), so, many pivotal connections are not shown. It's possible to reconstruct this network by collecting as much facts as possible and consciously connecting them to obtain a rough approximation of the base plot. Connections may also be suggested by the existing network of a context, for example, the mythological connection between the state of the chamber of Guf and appearance of a messiah may suggest that a similar connection in the substrate context may exist. Although it's possible to use intuition to connect the facts (and probably it's impossible to connect them without intuition at all), and the network also should be logically tested for the presence of contradictions and paradoxes, or the obtained base plot may dramatically differ from the one actually incorporated into the story. Then you develop the approximation of the plot you have in the iterative process where you formulate hypotheses through synthesis by using some facts which may point to the presence of some object and check for its presence through analysis. The process of analysis may be complicated by the diversity between the contexts described above (some facts may be interpreted and connected by several ways), so different interpretations of facts may produce different possible networks (interpretations) of the base plot, and moreover, several interpretations may not contain contradictions. The presence of several non-contradictory interpretations may be an indication of that there is not enough facts has been collected or exists in the plot and they were replaced by incorrect assumptions (it's may be necessary to introduce assumptions to connect facts and eliminate paradoxes, so this may produce sets of incorrect plot solutions).
  • Presence of a deconstruction in some context. The deconstruction could be detected by the difference between that was supposed to see and what actually has been seen. It may appear through irony, reflection, dualism, paradoxes or the breaking of patterns.
  • A layer of sense (which may produce assumptions, highlights or conclusions) may present in the context of a deconstruction (the context of a deconstruction may be used to connect facts and events in already reconstructed base plot), but there may be more than one deconstruction, and only one may bear some sense.
  • A two-fold name of the story (it may highlight some context) may be detected after the detection of the other sings of the obfuscation, or it may denote an obfuscation if it has been detected before them.
The pattern suggests that generally the meaning of a such story revolves somewhere around a deconstruction, but, of course, an obfuscated story may not contain a deconstruction, and obfuscation itself may take different forms of complexity.
1 SPGS is the direct latin transliteration of a meme used in certain local communities, it literally denotes the abbreviation of "The syndrome of the search of a profound meaning" as an ironic remark to desperate attempts to find a hidden meaning of a story. Its use here in the form of an obscure abbreviation is a tribute to the cognitive dissonance caused by the obfuscation.

What 'meaning' or 'sense' of the story could mean in general?

I think, there are two sides of the same coin. At first, 'meaning' may be something new for you, and in this case it may be directly outlined by the author (as in the case of Eden) or hidden (as in the case of NGE). You may consider a story meaningless if its meaning is too trivial or too common, and thus it brings nothing new, so only children or, for example, people who are not familiar with a particular genre could find it interesting. On the other hand, 'meaning' may be something purposely hidden (consciously or not), and you need to interpret the story to discover it. It may bring something or nothing new, but in this case you may consider a work meaningless if you couldn't find a right context (or contexts) to uncover the meaning, although there is no way to ensure is there something hidden or not.

There may be something hidden if contradictions or unanswered questions are left, but there also may be something hidden if there is nothing of above and vice versa. Moreover, it's possible to use not a correct context to interpret a story and get a meaning absolutely not supposed by author, or author may obfuscate the story or even not to put any conscious meaning into it to make fun on you. So, there is generally no way to check if the obtained meaning correct (matches author's meaning) or not, and this is the point of postmodernism.

But it's a fallacy to say that the meaning of any story is completely depends on a reader and no author's meaning supposed at all (or any analysis would be pointless). It's correctly to say that you have found some meaning which may match author's [not only] conscious meaning at the some degree. This degree is defined by the amount of the facts of the story you have, the amount of correct connections between them and the amount of the facts of the story covered by your context, and there also may be several meanings. The story also may be vague or so obfuscated that it would be very hard to find any reasonable meaning (in this case the meaning would be defined mostly by your context and it's also may be tricky to detect obfuscation), it may be just a surrealist mess, or it may be very hard to find clues (contradictions, questions or references to some context) which may point to a hidden non-trivial meaning, so there is most likely no such a meaning (in this case it may be a purely entertainment work where emotions are prevail over the sense).

And finally, what a from 'meaning' could obtain? This may be some kind of a magnifying lens, as it was described above, for example, an emphasis on something which is not generally obvious, this may be simply an assertion or conclusion, or even a hidden story or layer which in some way related to the story itself. Generally it should not contain internal contradictions and its complexity or triviality is defined by the complexity of the logical scaffolding which emerges from the context and connects facts and motivations of the story. The scaffolding itself also may be valuable because it may raise some interesting questions or conclusions which are not related to the story directly.

Formally 'to get a meaning' may mean: to connect a part of the network of some context (a context of meaning which may be not directly related to the story) to a correctly connected network of facts and events of the story itself, the form of the meaning is defined by amount of connections available to consciousness, and your ability to understand is defined by amount of contexts you have. Yes, somewhere in the depth of the brain understanding may be just a horizontal connection of facts and events of the narrative and vertical connection between the networks of contexts through synthesis (when your intuition searches an unknown object by its structure) or analysis (when you check the structure of a known object against a context) both driven by pattern matching. It looks like a mystery for us because the most part of it happens in the unconsciousness, and only few vertical or horizontal connections are visible as a result. Humans also have emotions which are basically just signals emerging from unconsciousness, for example, an anxiety or dissonance caused by a contradictory network in unconsciousness or a relief after a non-contradictory result is obtained. Computers have neither emotions nor unconsciousness, and they are deprived of the ability to understand in human sense, although no one knows how the pattern matching of the intuition works, and may it be algorithmically modeled or not. The way in which brain builds the model of reality using networks of objects comprised from networks of other objects and images (which are represented as networks of encoded visual, audio and other data obtained from receptors) conceals the old unsolvable philosophical question about what is primary substance: matter or knowledge. We may synthesise arbitrary things in our brains, but only some of them may correspond to real ones, and all this are just networks of heterogeneous voltage and current in our brains.

What Eden is about? [spoiler warning]

In essence, Eden is a fictional interpretation of Gnosticism in the context of science mixed with social fiction, shounen and post apocalyptic, in the same way as NGE is an interpretation of a possibility of  the real existence of a world described by Kabbalah.
Because obfuscation is reversed here, the symbolical but not the substrate layer is hidden, and you need to use references to Gnosticism to understand what happens at the symbolical layer. In Eden a computer engineer obtains the Gnosis, transforms it into the form of AI and commits suicide. A secret Gnostic society recovers the AI and starts a plan of the Gnostic salvation of the desperate part of the humanity plagued by the social injustice, the plan also implies a messiah (a human impersonation of Gnosis, although there are also two messiah)  and a form of instrumentality as in NGE. The protagonists counteract this plan because it may lead to the "salvation" of all the humanity, but not all people wish to be "saved".
The point of NGE is that the salvation of Kaballah may actually bring suffering, and the point of Eden is that salvation of Gnosticism may actually bring a relief, but a relief also could be obtained without a salvation. All this of course are conclusions of the concrete author's interpretations, and these points are necessary only to highlight the theme of solitude in NGE and the theme of social injustice in Eden.
The entertainment (emotional) layer is more radical here and contains violence/drugs/sex/promiscuity/prostitution/pubescent erotic/crime and other nice things, but all this is balanced by very bright and honest characters, which are hardly possible to find in the reality.

The Splashes of NGE

Finally there is a couple of interesting links between Eden and Deadman Wonderland (the nanotechnology and one of the characters of DMW is a direct reference to the Automater from Eden, this makes DMW a kind of Eden but with emphasis on the psychological sense because the rest is just an ordinary fighting/shounen spiced with a meaningless heavy symbolical layer of birds). DMW in turn has a direct reference to Madoka; one of the characters of DMW is also named Madoka, and preaches the ideas of Madoka Kaname (I suppose, that every character in DMW is a reference somewhere). How small is the world.

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