Neon Genesis Evangelion

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Template:Infobox television Neon Genesis Evangelion (Japanese: 新世紀エヴァンゲリオン Shin Seiki Evangerion) is an anime television series, begun in 1995, directed and written by Hideaki Anno, and produced by Gainax. It takes place in 2015 AD, fifteen years after the catastrophic Second Impact, reportedly caused by a meteor strike, which wiped out half of Earth's population and tilted its axis. Just as humanity finished its recovery from this disaster, Tokyo-3 began suffering attacks by strange monsters referred to as Angels. Conventional weapons are useless against the Angels, and the only known defense against them are the biomechanical mechas created by the paramilitary organization NERV, the Evangelions (Evas).

Although the series starts as a regular mecha anime, the focus tends to shift from action to flashbacks and analyses of the primary characters, particularly the main character Shinji Ikari. The director, Hideaki Anno, suffered from a long depression prior to creating Evangelion; much of the show is based on his own experiences in dealing with depression and in psychoanalytic theory he learned from his psychotherapy. As a result, characters in the anime display a variety of mood disorders and problems with emotional health, especially depression, trauma, and separation anxiety disorder.

The television series aired in Japan from 1995 to 1996, ran for 26 episodes, and 8 volumes of videos were released on VHS and DVD by ADV Films.

Contents

Composition

Evangelion consists of 26 television episodes which were first aired on TV Tokyo from October 4, 1995, to March 27, 1996, followed by a pair of movies: Death and Rebirth, and The End of Evangelion, first screened in 1997. Death and Rebirth is essentially a highly condensed re-edit of the series plus the first half of End of Evangelion, while End of Evangelion is an enhanced ending of the story, replacing episodes 25 and 26 of the television series. The two movies were subsequently re-released as a single movie called Revival of Evangelion. In the United States, the series was one of a small number of anime to have the honor of being broadcast on San Francisco Bay Area PBS affiliate KTEH, and has also been broadcast on The Anime Network and a Cartoon Network special block of mecha anime called "Toonami Giant Robot Week".

A manga of the series, drawn by series character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, was published by Kadokawa Shoten. It covers the same story as the series, but from the perspective of Shinji Ikari. The manga is currently still in production, though its first volume was actually released prior to the airing of Evangelion's first episode. The manga is translated into English in North America by Viz Communications and in Singapore by Chuang Yi, and the Singaporean translation is imported to Australia by Madman Entertainment. The manga is also translated into Brazilian Portuguese by Conrad Editora

Merchandise for Evangelion still comes out fairly regularly despite the fact that it is a decade old. A large deal of the merchandise has an amusingly detached or hilarious non-relation to the dark nature of the series. The series has also spawned various computer games, including Girlfriend Of Steel. While shoehorned into the original plot, the sequel to the game, Girlfriend Of Steel 2, takes place in a complete alternate universe. This later inspired a manga, which uses most of the Evangelion characters in a "normal" schoolyard drama series.

Production of a live action version of Evangelion was announced in May 2003 by the American company ADV Films (who holds world-wide rights to the series outside of Asia and Australia), and will be made by ADV, Gainax and Weta Workshop Ltd.. It is estimated to be released from as early as 2006 to as late as 2010. Hideaki Anno, the Director of Evangelion, will not be directing this live-action movie, though. As of April 2005, production of the movie is on hold as a director is yet to be chosen.

Characters

Main article: Characters in Neon Genesis Evangelion

The main character of Evangelion is Shinji Ikari, a shy, dour adolescent boy and Eva pilot. For many years he lived away from his parents with one of his teachers until he is summoned mysteriously by his father at the start of the series. Fellow pilots Rei Ayanami, a silent, unemotional girl; and Asuka Langley Soryu, a fiery, proud, red-headed girl; are also primary characters, as well as Shinji's father and NERV commander Gendo Ikari, NERV's head of strategy and tactics Misato Katsuragi, and NERV's head scientist, Ritsuko Akagi. Most characters are, in their own way, socially maladjusted, and the patterns of relationships between the characters are fairly complicated.

There have been many hypotheses on the nature of the relations between the characters: popular theories are that Shinji, Rei, and Asuka represent the Ego, Superego and Id; that Rei and Asuka represent the Thanatos and Eros drives in Shinji's psyche; or that Gendo, Shinji, and Rei represent the three parts of the Christian Trinity.

Plot summary

In 2000, a group of scientists conducted an expedition in Antarctica where a large being of light, deemed by them as the first Angel, Adam, was discovered. After they made contact with the Angel, it self-destructed, creating the Second Impact. The true nature of the Second Impact was concealed from the general public, who was led to believe that the devastation was caused by a small meteorite, traveling close to the speed of light, impacting in Antarctica.

In the conflict with Angels, mankind is represented by the mysterious organizations NERV, GEHIRN (which started out as the investigation team for the Second Impact but became NERV later on), SEELE, and the Marduk Institute. NERV is, in theory, under the control of SEELE, but NERV has its own agenda, driven by its commander Gendo Ikari. NERV carries out two tasks: to defend the Earth from Angel attack with a small number of Evangelions (Evas), and the Human Instrumentality Project, which, according to Gendo, is the path to God man has not yet tried.

Missing image
EvaUnit02Still.jpg
Eva Unit 02 crouching on a battle cruiser

The Evas have the outward appearance of massive humanoid robots and can be piloted only by 14-year old children, those conceived during or after the Second Impact. Pilots are selected by the Marduk Institute, which is later discovered to be composed of about 108 ghost companies; qualifying pilots must have lost a mother or a very close loved one, which is then used as the soul of the Eva (the Eva also behaves like the soul inside it, often lashing out at old enemies). Only the designated pilot of an Eva can pilot it, due to the bond between the pilot's soul and the soul of the Eva; otherwise, any other person who tries to synchronize (simply put, to technically work as one mind) with the Eva will be refused. It is later apparent that the Evas are not really "robots" but rather living, biomechanical organisms, even though in the very first episode, it is described by Ritsuko Akagi as a "synthetic lifeform".

The secret second task, the Human Instrumentality Project, intends to start an artificial evolution of mankind. Considering the religious implications of the term "evangelion", this event was said to bring about the salvation of mankind in the context of a newly created Earth. SEELE is the main driving force behind this project, for reasons unknown, but they mention that humanity must evolve or it will die, thus the need for a forced evolution. This artificial evolution strives to merge all human souls into one by disposing the individuals of their AT-Fields, which causes their bodies to revert to LCL. When everyone comes to this state, they will no longer feel the pain or loneliness that would typically precipitate from interaction between humans; it is comparable to death.

The plot of The End of Evangelion and the plot of the series seem to diverge at the end of series episode 24. In the series, episodes 25 and 26 consist of abstract introspection by the characters, especially Shinji. The ending is left highly interpretable: clearly, Shinji eventually overcomes his issues with others and comes to accept being with them, but whether Instrumentality followed through or if it occurred at all are left unanswered, directly. The specifics of Instrumentality are not explored in the series, either. In End of Evangelion, Shinji initiated Instrumentality, but rejected it in the end. There is some contention as to whether The End of Evangelion is a complement to, or a replacement of the TV episodes 25 and 26. The highly stylized nature of these episodes leaves them very open to interpretation. Some fans believe that the final scene of episode 26 where all of the characters are shown telling Shinji, “Congratulations” is a sign that Shinji accepts the Instrumentality Project and therefore is at odds with End of Evangelion. Others believe that the characters are congratulating Shinji for finding his own identity. This interpretation is reconcilable with End of Evangelion. For more information on The End of Evangelion, see its own article.

Historical context

Missing image
Nervlogo.jpg
NERV's logo. The caption reads "God's In His Heaven, All's Right With The World."

From the period from 1984 to the release of Evangelion, most highly acclaimed anime had a style somehow distanced from the usual styles of anime. For example, Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro (1988), and Kiki's Delivery Service (1989) were both low-key works, and Akira (1988) took most of its influence from American comic books. Mamoru Oshii had been quoted as saying that nobody wanted to watch "simple anime-like works" anymore. Evangelion, however, shows the reversal of this trend. It fully embraced the style of mecha anime, and in particular shows a large influence from Yoshiyuki Tomino's Space Runaway Ideon; particularly, there are scenes in End of Evangelion which are clear homages to the last movie for the Ideon series.

The series started broadcast after the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway on March 20, 1995, and production occurred around the period of the attack. The feeling of constant anxiety in Evangelion can be seen as a reflection of the constant anxiety Japan felt after the attacks destroyed the image of Japan as a clean, violence-free society.

Evangelion is thick with allusions to biological, military, religious, and psychological concepts. Though the religious and biological concepts are sometimes (perhaps intentionally) used in ways different from how contemporary Christianity or biology used them, Anno's use of Freudian jargon and psychoanalytical theory is fairly up to date with what was contemporary theory at the time. For example, we can see in a paragraph, circa 1990, from literary theorist Victor Burgen which might be described as "Eva in a nutshell":

In the terms of the thermodynamic model which informs Freud's concept of the death drive, what is feared is the "entropy" at work at the heart of all organization, all differentiation. ...By this same token, however, the woman also signifies precisely that desired "state where everything is the same": the pre-oedipal bliss of the fusion of bodies in which infant and mother are "inextricably mixed", that absence of the pain of differing, condition of identity and meaning, whose extinction is deferred until death.

Response

When first aired in Japan at a time slot intended for teenagers, Evangelion was not especially popular. However, when aired again in a time slot more suitable for adults, its popularity exploded and rekindled many adults' interest in anime.

After the ending of the TV series, Gainax and Hideaki Anno received numerous letters and emails from fans, both congratulating and criticizing the last two episodes. Among these were death threats and letters of disappointment from fans who thought Anno had ruined the series for them. Prompted by these responses, Gainax launched the project to create a movie with a "proper" ending for the series in 1997. Due to scheduling difficulties, they released Death and Rebirth, consisting of a character-based recap of the entire series ("Death") and half of the "proper" ending to Evangelion ("Rebirth"). The project was completed later in the year, and contained the complete section of "Rebirth", i.e. End of Evangelion. The film made around $12 million at the Japanese box office. (Blockbusters in Japan usually make $40-60 million, and a movie is considered to have done well if it makes more than $10 million).

Despite the success of End of Evangelion, its ending was considered controversial by many fans. Some believe that it was a manifestation of Anno's frustrations with the fan culture that attacked his original ending, and used End of Evangelion as revenge against those. Many others believed that the story in End of Evangelion had always been planned by Anno, but was unable to be done properly due to budget and censorship restraints in the original series.

The theory of a pre-planned ending in addition to episodes 25 and 26 is backed up by some evidence, including a still in the intro depicting unit 01 with wings and still-frame shots of the death of Misato and Ritsuko which appeared in the TV ending. The death of these two characters correspond to events in End of Evangelion and would tend to disprove the theory that the tragic and violent end of various characters in End of Evangelion is due to Anno's frustration towards some fans. In addition, the plot of End of Evangelion does seem to match that of the TV series, providing closure to things such as the Instrumentality Project, the true purpose of NERV, and the private agenda of Gendo Ikari.

On the other hand there is some evidence that Anno's frustrations began earlier than End of Evangelion, and that this film was the culmination of a growing anger as evidenced by the sudden shift in tone around episode 16. Several sources (interview with Kazuya Tsurumaki (http://www.evaotaku.com/html/Tsurumaki.html), interview with Hiroki Azuma (http://www.nettime.org/Lists-Archives/nettime-l-9802/msg00101.html)) seem to indicate that Evangelion was not pre-planned and that the series was actually written as it went along. The shift in tone corresponded with a shift in Anno's worldview that would lead him to abandon the "otaku lifestyle" and temporarily leave anime for more serious live-action film.

Despite being generally highly regarded, the series has numerous detractors, who find it self-important and see the many religious and psychological references as superficial rather than meaningful. One reason for this schism in reception is that the series was originally intended as a strictly commercial venture: the primary backers were toy companies Bandai and Sega, and staff of the project have said that they originally used the symbolism of Christianity (an uncommon religion in Japan) only to give the project a unique edge against other giant robot shows. Despite creative conflicts between the sponsors and its director, the series was not perceived as being the work of an auteur such as Hayao Miyazaki.

Evangelion had, and continues to have, a strong influence on anime in general. The psychological nature of the show influenced later works such as Revolutionary Girl Utena (1997) and Serial Experiments Lain (1997), both which, like Eva, center around an ambiguous world-changing event to come. More superficially, it started a wave of using Christian symbolism in other anime and related fields. The creators of the video game Xenogears (1998) have stated that the game was very much influenced by Evangelion. In the Digimon Tamers series, a lot of Evangelion elements were used in the backstories for the three main children, their friends, and D-Reaper. The same can be said for both WarGrowlmon and Gallantmon Crimson Mode, as they were modeled after EVA-01.

Translation notes

Title

The Japanese title for the series, Shin Seiki Evangelion, translates literally from a combination of Japanese and borrowed terms as "Gospel of the New Era/Century". The decision to call the series Neon Genesis Evangelion in English was originally made by Gainax, and not—as some fans have believed—by translators.

The title Neon Genesis Evangelion is Greek. Neon, the neuter form of the word "Neos", literally means "new" or "recently born". Genesis literally translates from Latin (from the original Greek) as "beginning" and is the first book of the Bible, describing the creation and beginning of the universe. The Japanese term for the first book in the Bible is "Souseiki," perhaps a wordplay (with two different beginning and ending kanji) with the "Shin Seiki" in the Japanese title. Evangelion is an anglicised version of the Greek "ευαγγέλιο" (euangelion) for "good news", and is typically translated "gospel" in the Bible. Initially, the word meant "good messenger", the prefix "ev" meaning "good" and "angelion" meaning "messenger" (from the same word that means "angel"). It only came to mean "good message" or "good news" over time. This dual meaning may be the reason both the series itself and the "mecha" are called Evangelion.

Additionally, the term "Eva", a frequent abbreviation of Evangelion used in the anime, is the name of the biblical Eve in Greek and German, as well as many other languages, coming from the Hebrew name "Chavva" meaning "breath" or "life". There are frequent allusions to the biblical Adam and Eve throughout the series, as well as to the Evangelion's relationship with the Tree of Life.

Other Words

The term Gehirn is German for "brain". Seele is the German term for "soul". Nerv is the German term for "nerve".

"Children," the plural of "Child," is used to refer to each of the Eva pilots in the singular (i.e. Shinji is the "Third Children," not the "Third Child.") This is intentional, and not a translation error. The English language dub produced by ADV, however, uses the word "Child" instead of "Children."

The Japanese word used to refer to the Angels is shito (使徒), which literally means "messenger" or "apostle." The usual Japanese word for "angel" is tenshi (天使). It should be noted, however, that the English angel is derived from the Greek for "messenger" as noted above. Unlike the translation of "Children" into "Child," which was altered by ADV, this was specified by Gainax.

Sub-topics

References

  • Burgen, V. (1990). Geometry and Abjection. In J. Fletcher and A. Benjamin (Ed.), Abjection, Melancholia, and Love: The Work of Julia Kristeva (pp. 104–123). New York: Routledge.

External links

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