Off-Topic: Why I’m watching Neon Genesis Evangelion yet again

From time to time, when the urge to write outside of scope takes me, I will share posts about all sorts of general interests. I will mark all of these posts with the “off-topic” title and category to make these easier to identify.

I first watched Neon Genesis Evangelion in 2013 in the run up to a trip to Japan with my best friend. I had never watched a Japanese anime (the term used for animated productions from Japan for a variety of ages) and I wanted to immerse myself in things that were popular in Japanese culture before I went. I also tried cooking Sushi and Ramen and took up Japanese classes for a few months. But nothing stuck with me like Evangelion did.

The series has been recently re-released on Netflix with a brand new English dub (which is very good) and my other half keeps a subscription, so I decided to give it another spin when I am bottle feeding or doing my ironing.

Originally released in 1995 to 1996, on the face of it Evangelion is about teenagers piloting giant robots (the Evangelion) to defend humanity from the strange and seemingly invincible threat posed by huge monsters called Angels. The series follows Shinji, who is effectively conscripted into the defense of humanity by his estranged father. For all of its traditional Japanese anime tropes (giant robots, 14 year old boys as the main character and borderline perverted depiction of women) it uses a ton of other complex story telling elements, and it quickly reveals a ton of more complex psychological themes such as the challenges of puberty, depression and abandonment. It also deals with hard hitting themes like genocide, religion and the human condition. And best of all as the story progresses the action just ramps up and up and up, and never lets go until the very end.

eva units figthing over tokyo
Giant robots fighting over a city? Yes please.

Despite all of this, the style of the anime is very unique, both at the time it was originally released and to this day. It is staggeringly beautiful in places, then flicks to seriously hardcore action, then back to calm, and then progresses into more and more psychedelic as the story rises to a crescendo.

On the face of it, I am watching it again because the Netflix release is available to me, and represents a new way to watch it (having previously watched it in Japanese with subtitles). The English interpretation actually makes some of the dream sequences massively more watchable, and some of these are a little bit lost in translation in the Japanese version. And the voice acting is for the most part excellent, with all of the characters sounding like their Japanese counterparts and so retaining that aspect of the characters.

But this is my third re-watch of the series, and so the above doesn’t quite cover it. In part I am watching again because it is a thoroughly enjoyable ride, with rich characters and lore, and isn’t too long (around thirty 20 minute episodes).

a typical dream sequence
A typical dream sequence from the anime where the main character discusses his actions with the internal child like part of himself

But the main reason I enjoy watching it time and time again is that it gives me something different every time. This is both a by-product of its unique and varied style throughout, but also the hard hitting and intense psychological nature of the show. I find that wherever I am in my life, Evangelion speaks to a different part of me. Before I went to Japan it served my interest in cultural differences. On the second watch through I got focused instead on the deep lore. On the third watch through I was going through a patch of poor mental health, and found comfort in the depiction of depression and feeling lost. On this watch through, my first since having children, I have focused on the plight of the children in the show, burdened with the sins of their fathers as often the next generation does.

Wherever I am in my life, something always resonates with me, and that’s why i keep going back.

It also helps that the giant robots are really awesome.

It’s also worth noting that there has been a reboot of the franchise in the recent “rebuild” films. These are much more focused on the action and cinematics and as such are a totally different experience. My advice would be to start with the original.

Neon Genesis Evangelion is pretty much only available on Netflix, and then as bootleg versions. Thanks to its short length it is totally watchable as part of a free trial, so sign up for a free trial and get watching!

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