Monday, January 28, 2013

Fanfic Retrospective - Delta Invasion

Delta Invasion? What more can be said. Well quite a lot, actually.

Of all the old Elmer Studios MSTings, Delta is probably the best known and most popular of them. Something of a meme within the MSTing and Evangelion communities in its day, largely because of its ‘fantastic’ content and writing style. Even then long after the demise of Elmer Studios (and the MSting community at large), it would still have its followers. This reputation was not undeserved, as I hope to discuss.

Before I go any further, however, I’d like to thank Douglass Weeks. Back in 1998 or so, he originally ‘dibsed’ Delta Invasion, but he passed it off to us, feeling that we’d be better suited to handling it. Thanks Douglass!

Bad Fic is Good
Evangelion II D.E.L.T.A. Invasion (to give its full title) is bad, but you already know that. However, it’s also to this writer possibly the perfect combination of “good-bad”, a fic that’s so bad that it becomes downright hilarious. Now, it’s pretty clear that the fic doesn’t so much miss Evangelion’s themes and concepts as much as it gleefully inverts the premise and turns the series into the very hot-blooded heroic Mecha show it was meant to be a deconstruction of. However, it’s also impossible to take seriously, and (save for one moment), pretty hard to take seriously or get angry at.

Much like films such as Space Mutiny or Birdemic: Shock and Terror (Both of which we liberally referenced during the riffing), Delta’s appeal lies in its badness. The author may have had some fantastic idea but the clumsy and inept execution instead rendered it a comedy of nonsense and stumbling errors. And while, yes, Delta Invasion doesn’t so much mess with Evangelion’s themes, story, background, characters, concepts and universe as it mugs it, takes its wallet and leaves it in a blind alley, the result only serves to make the end product even more inadvertently funny.

Why is John Special? Why is Special John?
Of course, with Delta Invasion, the big question if always going to be “why”? In the Rebuild MSTing, the riffers began to ask themselves that a lot, which resulted in the ‘you’re thinking about the fic too much’ running gag throughout the riffing. There are just so many thing in the fic that make no sense at all and defy all explanation, and attempts to figure them out instead result in headaches. Many, many headaches.

Of those enigmas, John Barren is by far and away the most confusing. Massively built up before his own arrival and then the focus of most of chapter six, he then promptly does nothing at all for the rest of the fic save for have the odd stilted conversation with his brother of the week, get knocked into a coma and end up marrying Tom’s ex for no real reason. Aside from that, there is the odd reassurance that he’s special and that’s about it. John could be removed from the plot and there would be no effect save for getting rid of a few lines of dialogue.

The big question ends up becoming Why John Barren? Not “why anything” but more of “why everything”. Any attempt to explain the riddle of John ends up with the riffers staring blankly in confusion and shrugging their shoulders. Theories abound, but they will likely remain just wild guessing until the end of all time.

On the other hand, without John there would be no Charles and Charles. This would be bad, as Charles is frigging awesome.

Old Mistakes
The original Elmer Studios MSTing of Delta Invasion is seen as a cult classic for some reason. However, the truth is, we made two very big mistakes in the process. The first was scheduling, or more to the point, lack thereof. Chapter one of Delta Invasion was episode 46; chapter thirteen was episode 91. Each chapter more or less wandered in whenever it seemed like a good idea (or, in some cases, when we had nothing else to do) which ended up killing a lot of the fic’s momentum in the process.

The second was a lack of adequate pre-reading on the riffers part. In truth, we maybe read one or two chapters ahead at most, and just generally assumed that the fic would keep doing what t did. The result was that we weren’t prepared for a lot of its more… bizarre twists, such as the Space Trip or, well, the entirety of Delta Thirteen. It also meant we missed a lot for little things, such as Sean or the serial masochist or the non-reappearance of the ‘new’ Dragons of Doom.

The “rebuild” sought to address these concerns. Early on, the decision was made to have only a couple of breaks in the Delta run, as well as any B-Team episodes that may occur (and in truth, there were more of those then expected). Additionally, every chapter was thoroughly re-read well in advance, as well as examining details for anything we missed the first time round (Hi Sean!)

Final Thoughts
All up, the riffers’ favourite chapters are four, nine and ten for the sheer goofy value of them (Four having undergone something of a rehabilitation in the last fifteen years with a growing appreciation of its sheer nonsense value). The lest favourite is still eleven with its endless block exposition and nonsense everything. Twelve has developed something of a special place for the surprisingly awesome battle against Justice. Thirteen has the riffers’ least favourite moment in the whole series, being Tom’s attack on his ex. Two and Three are probably the most forgettable and the most obvious filler.

As near as anyone can tell, there’s no known contact for the author of Delta Invasion; he seems to have vanished and erased his presence in the last fifteen years. In all fairness, it’s hard to blame the guy, given the ‘reputation’ of his creation. With that being said, the riffers would love to interview them and talk about Delta and all it entails, and maybe even answer a few questions about it?

Will there be a Rebuild of Gates of Oblivion, as alluded to in the chapter thirteen of the Rebuild? Probably not. Stylistically, the GoE MST is much more ‘modern’ then Delta is, which in turn would mean that less of a rebuild would be needed. Besides, in all fairness, where Delta is goofy, GoE is just dry. But on the other hand, it’s not entirely out of the question.

As for Delta… well, when Gainax and Bandai next reboot the Evangelion franchise, a Delta reboot might come with it. See you in 2028!


  1. Did you guys see Pacific Rim? It's kinda like Delta.

  2. Ah, yes. Delta Invasion. This story holds a place for some sick, twisted reason that even I don't understand. Glad you guys riffed it again.