Evangelion is a challenging show.
I realize that sentence should elicit a chorus of “No duh, Dick Tracy. Where’d you park your squad car? Up your nose.”
The people who would say that are right. I’m not passing down some wisdom from on high. This was a show made by a man who suffered from depression and reportedly had a nervous breakdown (though the reports change depending on who is telling them.)
Of course, Evangelion is a challenging show. It’s challenging in so many ways. You have a main character who struggles against the plot, a parent figure who is confused about being an adult, a love interest who fears love and a golem who becomes human.
In the end, you have a story that simply ends with the resolution that says, “You will never be happy. You will never be understood. Everything you do is for naught.”
This show is the goth chic outside of the school dance, smoking cigarettes and just straight up being too cool for anyone.
And when I watched this show about 15 years ago, I don’t think I was ready for the challenge.
Eva 15 years later
When I first watched Eva, I was fundamentally unhappy. I worked jobs I hated so I could make ends meet. I wasn’t married. I didn’t have any pets. My life was a gerbil wheel filled with nails.
When I finally came stumbling over the miserable finish line of episode 26, I felt defeated and drained. I stopped watching any anime for a couple of days.
It took me years to come up with a theory for why. As I explained in my first post, everyone becomes Shinji in the end. Even though I believe that is the premise of the show, it doesn’t help me understand why I handled it so much better this time.
The last time I watched Eva,, I don’t think I really understood it. I wanted a show that would take me away from life. I wanted heroes and epiphanies and people accomplishing things.
That is not Eva. At its heart, Eva is a tragedy. Each character is propelled by some fatal flaw. They each have some relationship that defines them —Shinji and his father, Asuka and her mother, Misato and her father, Gendo and Yui, Fuyutski and Yui — and no matter how much they fight it that relationship eventually leads to their doom.
(Well maybe. It does depend on what you think happens at the end of the show to Shinji, Asuka and Rei.)
When I realized this show was a tragedy, it makes it much easier to understand. As I realized that Shinji, Rei, Misato, and even Asuka has more depth than I gave them credit for, I learned to enjoy Eva.
But I don’t think I’ll ever love it.
Respecting the masterpiece
I could list a multitude of aspects that I respect about Neon Genesis Evangelion. The filming is amazing. So many times I stopped for a screen grab just because I thought the shot was pretty.
I’m astounded by the vision of a mecha show without mecha, where the main character is a man without purpose and the villain is someone we never see.
I could go on, but I would spend a long time gushing. This show deserves its place in anime history and fandom.
Somehow though, I’m still walking away from it unsatisfied. I can’t help but feel Eva is a show of its time. Much like the shows it influenced, like Lain, it’s soaked in end-of-the-century ennui. And like those shows, it doesn’t offer us an attainable answer, or even an interesting question. It throws up a wall and says, “You will never be better.”
I just can’t get behind that level of hopelessness.
In the end, Eva is a challenging show. It even challenges you to love it.
I just don’t think I ever will.
As always thanks for reading.
So this is my final post about Evangelion. There were a few points where I wondered if I ever thought I would get to the end. I’m still thinking about going through RahXephon next. I hope you all will enjoy it as well.