新世紀エヴァンゲリオン/Neon Genesis Evangelion

[Screenshot]Man. Neon Genesis Evangelion. It would be difficult to fully describe the influence this series has had. The best analogy perhaps is to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Both worked in a pretty timeworn corner of their particular medium (mecha anime, superhero comics). Both introduced an astonishing psychological depth to their characters which imbued the tired genre with new life. Both have been seminal influences on the shape of both their genre and medium for over a decade. And, finally, neither of them is actually all that good.

I’m not going to enumerate The Dark Knight Returns‘s flaws today; suffice it to say that it’s a slightly more nuanced version of the problems Frank Miller has exhibited since. Focusing on Eva, there are a lot of obvious places to poke holes: the navelgazey quality of episode 16, the simultaneously condescending and confusing explicit exposition, the occasional lapses in production quality, the ultimately empty coöption of Kabbalistic and Christian symbolism, the tremendously long stills, and of course the completely nonsensical final two episodes (I haven’t seen End of Evangelion yet, but it’s got to be better). It’s actually a fascinating study in production meltdown, since almost all of the series’ woes can be traced directly to one or both of Hideaki Anno’s depression or Gainax’s shaky finances. That doesn’t make it any better for the viewers, who frequently find themselves watching fifteen minutes of Anno sticking his hand up one or the other Ikari’s ass and using him as a puppet to espouse confused philosophical views (while his head hangs in shadow, to save on the expense of animating lips).

And yet, for all its obvious faults, Eva deserves its seminal status. It actually succeeded in its goal of telling a psychological story through the lens of a typical mecha story. If you filter out all the going on and on about Human Instrumentality and Lilith and Third Impact and suchlike, the underlying story’s an unrepentantly grim look at human interactions, delivered through fairly realistically fleshed out characters. There is actually a good story, and an extremely atypicaland daring story for a mecha series, hiding under this all, and it does seems to have induced an overall worthwhile change in anime.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia, Anime News Network.

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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