Today, Netflix did something that shows their dedication to anime, albeit in a Netflix-y sort of way. They, after much hullabaloo, released Neon Genesis Evangelion on their platform (along with the original movies). Now, new dub aside, I’ve had a complicated history with the series in question. While I believe it’s an important series to understand why mecha anime behave the way they do now, I also feel that it was overly pretentious and its Stans made it hard to enjoy it, flaws and all. But it wasn’t always like that.
In 2013, I was jobless and in the middle of reconciling with my now-fiancee. We were working through things. Because of a new maturity, things progressed fine on the romantic/familial front. However, I needed an escape from job hunting when you feel no one wants to hire you. That’s taxing on anyone’s mental state, much less someone who is bipolar. I found Evangelion and started watching, since I’d heard so much about it.
I wasn’t blown away by it like some have been. Even through that, I empathized with Shinji Ikari, the protagonist of the series.
I knew what it was like to grow up without really knowing your father (or, in my case, knowing love from my father outside of getting money from him). I knew what it was like to be thrust into situations and be expected to perform. However, I hated Shinji as a character because he made things about himself while the world was literally falling apart at his feet. I guess, in some ways, what I hated about Shinji, I hated about myself.
During this time, I dealt with my own self-discovery issues. Through that, I also began to remember that while I am the main character in my life, the world’s story doesn’t revolve around me. As Shinji grew into a reluctant hero and kind of saved the day (for those who haven’t seen the series, I’ll leave it at that and won’t spoil it for you), I grew into a more competent father, provider, and employee. I dealt with my issues and hang-ups like we see Shinji do as the story progresses.
All that said, I didn’t like how the series–or the movies–ended. I thought it devolved into a goo that had a bunch of psychological ramblings while mechs destroyed Angels and each other. Instrumentality affected the entire series by the end, not just the happenings within the show.
Fast forward a few years. To alleviate some pain, I begin watching Gurren Lagann after my mother died. At this time, I’m also going through some heavy stuff at home. After completing the series, I stake a claim that Gurren Lagann is the series that Eva should’ve been. It, for me, does everything Eva does (including the psychology aspects) better. Hell, Eureka 7 sometimes did it better, but I digress. Because of the Rebuild movies, I went back and rewatched the original Evangelion.
I didn’t have the same feelings I did during that first watch.
I couldn’t empathize with Shinji as much. I thought he was a whiny shonen archetype who rarely did what he needed to do. That is, he didn’t do so without being goaded into it by Misato, Rei, Asuka, or his father. I saw through all the psychobabble-y Christianity references and saw them more as “oh, this is cool to look at.” All in all, I thought the series required, as mentioned with Drizzle Sez, brain bleach once you finished it. None of it made real sense, although it tried its damnedest to make it all work.
The show, while amazing at points, is also, to me, an amazing mess. The show went from salvation and monster of the week mecha anime to character study that sometimes didn’t make much sense.
But why? I learned more about the background of the series and its troubles, partly from Bennett the Sage’s review of Evangelion and partly because of my own interests in why the series went belly-up at the end.
Series creator Hideaki Anno wanted to make the last ten or so episodes psychological as all hell because of his own mental health issues and interests. Apparently, Anno also couldn’t decide how the series would end until the end. On top of that, the series ran short of time and funds–hence the infamous final two episodes. Financially, the series became a late bloomer hit and Gainax got the greenlight to release two films that detail the “real” ending of the series. This is all in addition to Gainax receiving a ton of death threats, vandalism and more because of those final two episodes.
Essentially, including the Rebuild series (which isn’t half-bad and actually makes more sense than the original show/movies), we have at least four endings to a 26-episode series. And all of these endings (except the original “congratulations” ending) stem from the fact that Gainax–and later Studio Khara–were like “damn, we want to do more craziness on top of the original craziness. So let’s get money and show everything go to crap in HD.”
With my own complicated history with the series, you’re probably wondering if I recommend watching it.
Truth be told, it’s, at times, a beautiful and amazing show. However, towards the end, that beauty gets convoluted by unnecessary thoughts that Stans may say are “too smart” for me to understand. The thing is, I get it. I just don’t get why it’s here, in this show, at this point. If you’re looking for a God-tier anime, you can do better. Eva is good, but it’s not God-tier to me. The intro, however, slaps! Now, if you’re looking for a God-tier mindfuck that may or may not have brought on the end of the world as we knew it? By all means, enjoy the ride and do what you want.
If you make it through, congratulations.