As I’ve said, my relationship with Eva is a complex, complicated thing, possibly more complex than the show proper at times. As much as I hate it and think it’s an overrated piece of work requiring the strongest of brain bleach, I deep down still empathize with the Shinji Ikaris of the world. I mean, I did re-release a few of my Death of the King tracks to coincide with the Netflix release, after all. As much as I think some of the psychobabble was unneeded, I get (at least, I think I get) what Hideaki Anno was going for when he sat down and put the series together.
It’s like thought-provoking McDonald’s for me. I know I shouldn’t like it because there’s better examples of anime hamburgers out there. But sometimes I just want a McDouble, even when a $15 Shake Shack burger is right in front of me. It’s equal parts nostalgia and trying to understand why people love it so much. Maybe that’s not the best comparison, as Eva is a masterful mess. But the point still stands. If you ask someone who knows anime for a “thought-provoking” series, they’ll probably mention Eva like some people mention McDonald’s for hamburgers. None of that makes it inherently good or bad, though. It just makes it recognized as being a part of something.
It’s not like it’s the Burger King of anime or anything.
As much as I resisted it, curiosity grabbed hold of me and I began the Netflix version for myself. And all in all, it’s not as brain-bleachingly insane as it was the first few times. Are there still points where I groan loudly at the wild shit I’m seeing on screen? Oh yeah, definitely. Are there times where I wish the Gainax crew spent more time explaining things than doing the route of psychoanalysis of Shinji’s character? Definitely, save that for the fan forums. However, this watch of the series hit differently for me than the previous times. I actually enjoyed the series and wasn’t trying to over-analyze things or throw my brain off a cliff at the mental gymnastics needed to make it make sense.
Maybe it’s because I knew what to expect. I knew that, around episode 15, things would go off the rails, Gainax would lose time and money, and everything would become a psychological analysis on what it means to be human. I knew the beats of the story and the beat-you-over-the-head symbolism. I knew what the Evas were, I knew who lived, who died, and who turned into goo to a 90s pop-R&B song by the end of it all. Through the 26 episodes and two movies of the original series, I’ve come to a conclusion that should end all talks of Eva on this site.
In short, my complicated history with Evangelion continues and will continue for as long as I watch anime.
I understand why the Stans hold it with such reverence, but I also stand by my statements that it’s a convoluted mess by the end. It’s not that it’s incredibly deep–even though it has a lot to say. It’s more that some of what it has to say just doesn’t make sense. Even with that in mind, I appreciate what it says about social awkwardness and mental illness, specifically depression. On the flip side, I still feel that Shinji is a character you shouldn’t like, even if you empathize or feel sorry for him. I get what Anno may’ve been going for when we got Sad Boi Shinji. He was a proxy for viewers and for Anno himself.
I feel that, if Eva was released today, you’d get a million thinkpieces about the relationships in the show. To be fair, you don’t need to be that thinkpiece ready to talk about the relationship between Kaji and Misato, or the relationship between the Reis and Gendo, or the relationship between Shinji and Asuka, or…you get the point. But they’d exist. Shoot, they’ve existed since the show first reached airwaves in 1995. It’s a masterful mess, but it’s my masterful mess.
As I’ve mentioned, I go back to Eva in times of darkness to remind myself that, yes, things can get messed up but at least I’m not piloting a robot-human hybrid towards omnicide. I joke, but it’s the truth. Things could be so much worse for me and the series, for better or worse, always reminds me of that. So, do I hate Eva? No. Do I love it? Eh, no. It’s my comfort food in times of severe mental anguish. I could do better, but sometimes, you just want what you want.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some JoJo/Eva memes to watch.