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Well, its been a long time in the making, but with its recent arrival on Netflix I was finally able to watch one of the most iconic anime of all time: Neon Genesis Evangelion. As of writing this post I have yet to watch End of Evangelion, the sequel film which, by many critics accounts, is supposed to be the “proper” ending, not because I want to be a contrarian, but rather because I wanted to absorb the original for what it is. With that said, here are my final thoughts on the show.
The most common criticism I heard from people who saw Evangelion and who had talked about the show was its horrible animation, and the long sequences of time where literally nothing happens. At first, I thought this was just a really long-running joke within the anime community, but as I watched the show I started to realize that, well, those people were not kidding. In fact, there are a lot of scenes that have still frames that last up to thirty seconds, sometimes even longer. This becomes even more prevalent towards the end of the show, with the last few episodes being particularly bad. There were definitely some parts that could be dramatically justified in being still frames, but even then it was used far to often for it to not be a negative.
Evangelion, Religion, and Acknowledging My Lack of Understanding
Since I’m talking about a show that is not only universally praised for how good its story is, but also one that has a story filled with religious imagery and references, I felt I should be completely honest about my understanding of the show: I know little to nothing about Christianity. Even though I was raised Catholic, I honestly do not have the first clue about the bible and a lot of stories contained within it. I have a vague recollection of the story of Adam and Eve, but that is about it. Still, despite lack of understanding, the show’s story and ideas are not entirely lost on me.
Loneliness and Self-Hatred. That’s it, That’s the Show
Well, not entirely, but they do play a major factor in the story of Evangelion. Almost all of the main cast, including Rei, Asuka, and Misato, along with Shinji at the center, are dealing with Loneliness in their own way. Shinji famously deals with his loneliness by running away, Misato by distracting herself with guys, Rei by finding comfort in Shinji’s father, and Asuka by trying to act tough and put her effort into piloting her Eva. Shinji in particular becomes lonely to the point of self-hatred, and begins to wonder pretty quickly in the series why he pilots an Eva to begin with.
However, the ending of the show is where I think a lot of people find solace. In the end, despite all of the horrible things that have happened up to this point, Shinji learns that reality is only as powerful as you want it to be, and that your outlook on life can change a lot by just thinking about it differently. When Shinji finally comes to understand this, he is greeted with all of his friends and family, telling him “Congratulations.” It feels weirdly like the end of a video game, almost like the final boss was himself all along, and that all he had to do was just not hate himself. Personally, I find the message a little troubling from a mental health perspective, as most people with depression and anxiety will tell you it is not as simple as just getting over it, but I do appreciate the idea of trying to have a more positive outlook.
Still, despite the extremely budgeted animation and my lack of understanding of the show’s religious references, I found myself really liking it overall. Definitely worthy of the title “classic.”
How do you all feel about Evangelion? I did think about touching on the translation controversy, but my feelings can basically be summed up like this: Its a dumb translation, and not only does is it not cool to get rid of the gay elements of the story, it also just sounds horrible when watching the show. It should be changed if possible. Still, I’m curious as to your thoughts. Let me know in the comments. If you want to support Animated Observation, check out my Kofi:
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