So for my first act in this newly-minted blog of awfulness, we’re going to tackle Neon Genesis Evangelion, recently-released on Netflix. Released in 1995 by Studio Gainax, Evangelion tells the story of Ikari Shinji, a shy, timid boy whose father is an obsessive megalomaniac trying to fight Space Gods alongside his friend Joe Biden and their company of cohorts, using Mechanical Space Gods powered by the ghosts of dead mothers. It’s billed as a nineties mecha coming-of-age literal fuckfest with heavy religious overtones and a terrible ending due to budget restrictions that required two movies and four rebooted movies to properly articulate the overall story. I’ve heard the phrase “Japanese-equivalent to Star Wars” and considering the similarities between Hideaki Anno and George Lucas, I’d say it’s about right.
Evangelion’s fanbase has historically always been akin to Cowboy Bebop, but edgier. They passionately love to pontificate upon its creator’s insecurities and depression as a means of framing the story because in today’s thoughts-and-feelings world, they want it to mean everything to their identity. You are free to have that opinion, but the show was honestly nothing to really wax poetics over.
Now, I am not deliberately shitting on Eva. I first watched Eva on VHS tapes a friend of mine a class above me in high school lent me the day before 9/11. On the night of 9/11 after that terrible tragedy occurred, I sat in my room sort of contemplating everything that had happened in the day, and concluded that I just wanted to watch something and not think about shit. I had those tapes, and Bakaretsu Hunters. I chose the latter because he had told me that the show was kind of dark and weird, and on that day, maybe I shouldn’t watch that. So I put off watching that for another week or so before diving in.
When I finally watched it, I was royally confused about halfway in as to what I was watching. That feeling never really went away even after the second time I watched it. I’m not really someone who has studied or am aware of religious doctrine or overtones, so a lot of that aspect of the show went over me. The ending also just threw me for a loop. As the years went on, and I watched the movies of the last two episodes, some things were explained better, but I was still left with a somewhat bad taste in my mouth as to what I was watching.
The release of three Evangelion: ReBuild films certainly put a modern polish on the series, and probably did its best job in expanding and clarifying the intentions of its creator. But then if you need a reboot and expanded funding to achieve this objective, your original attempt probably shouldn’t have been made, or at best, reflective of its time. Eva is a series that had it was never made in 1995, and made in 2015, would have absolutely shattered every ground it walked upon, and it would have automatically earned a place in Netflix’s library just based on the kind of shows that have dominated that space previously. But you could say some of those shows might’ve drawn inspiration from the roots Eva put down in the 1990s, so it’s a delicious catch-22.
But what ended up being more obnoxious and off-putting than the show itself was the fanbase. The sort of jaded culture-regressives that look upon the Rick and Morty fanbase with disdain need look no further than the fandoms that were attached to many legacy franchises like Eva when it comes to studying the effects of a show that largely flew over the heads of many, but contained enough red meat for them to declare it a fucking masterpiece of anime, however justified or misplaced. The problem is, we’re at the twenty-four years later part. People who were young when this came out are in their thirties or forties, like me, and have kids old enough to be in their low-gravity weeb orbit. But even post-9/11 babies who weren’t aware of the Eva boom on 4chan and the Rebuild movies, are now old enough to satiate their nihilistic dreams with the ultimate nihilist fantasy, perhaps even having their own toddlers to subject to flashing colors on the screen. We have a minimum of three generations involved in Evangelion now, and they’re all going to have different takes on how the show is and what it means.
So of course, I figure this is as good as time as any to give the show a proper full-rewatch, and really see if eighteen years later, what kind of impression I still have on the original material. I may even give the two movies and the Rebuild movies a re-watch, but at minimum we’re going to spend some quality time on the original TV run.
Now, the plan was to watch it on Netflix with everyone else, because I am too lazy to go into the attic for my original-run ADV-made DVDs. But it seems this release is not without its own basket of problems:
There should be no surprise that Netflix, who has never classically been at the forefront of understanding what weebs want out of streaming anime, would drop the ball on licensing the one good aspect of Eva’s ED theme. Licensing will arguably fall on deaf ears, because only boomers like myself even remember “Fly Me to the Moon” was popularized by Frank Sinatra in 1964, but it was originally written ten years prior by Bart Howard and Kaye Ballard. It’s a track that has been covered hundreds of times by so many different artists and bands that it is culturally ubiquitous at this point. Which makes it confusing that Netflix, a company with an ungodly purse with which to purchase things, would skimp on the licensing for this song to properly play it in the United States region. Yes, it works just fine on JPN Netflix. Pretty strong middle finger there, Netflix.
But let’s be realistic, anyone who has seen Eva before is just going to go into this to get their nostalgia fix. Nothing will have fundamentally changed for them. If they have kids, they will most certainly DOING PARENTING RIGHT and drag them into it as well. The few brand-new-to-Eva people are going to skip the intro and outro, watch it dubbed, and probably pity our poor defenseless protagonist from his booly father and over-bearing caretaker. It’s best to just take this as it is, without any of the frills or commentary.
Hell, the only reason you are here is because you watched it too, and you just want to see what I have to say.
I’m okay with that.