the real third impact

I was surprised to see an article today on Slashdot celebrating ten years of Evangelion. Their last real anime article was a review of Stand Alone Complex back in January so this was a bit unexpected. Still, it shows the real impact of Evangelion… its ability to garner an audience outside of little kiddies and otakus.


I don’t want to get into the symbolism, et al of Evangelion… it’s been said; it’s been done; it’s been beaten to a pulp. And then that pulp has been beaten to an even pulpier pulp. I was wading through the article, and there’s one thing that I noticed… Evangelion was a gateway anime for many people. It was the first anime series that a lot of people watched, mainly because their friends would go, “Hey, check out this whack-job of a cartoon!” I’ve had a few friends and coworkers in the past ask me about Evangelion, and I managed to get a few hooked on anime through it. Most of them had the same reactions… they all throught that Shinji would start off weak but eventually turn into some sort of He-Man/G.I. Joe/Wolverine-class action hero. But he doesn’t. He starts off weak… gains a spark of hope… and then spirals downward from there. This seems to take all of them by surprise since it doesn’t happen much in American cartoons let alone American TV.

Between Shinji’s anti-hero, the mind-fuck religious overtones, and Asaka’s tsundere act, something hooks them and gets them thinking, “It’s nothing like American TV.” Everybody Loves Raymond this aint. It’s an anime that is just so wildly different from what they are accustomed to yet approachable… the Christianity-ladden overtones and Shinji’s humanness makes it easier to digest in America. They want more, and I’m eager to pile on the Cowboy Bebops, the Escaflownes, and the Stand Alone Complexes to get them aching for their next anime fix. All thanks to Evangelion, the gateway drug.

(As an aside, what would you use to get a friend hooked on anime? Something like Ghibli? Bebop? Or hope to appeal to their inner pedophile with Ichigo Mashimaro?)

Evangelion also made it socially acceptable, and even slightly non-nerdy, to talk about anime with people who don’t understand anime. Prior, the “successful” anime at the time was Sailor Moon, so anime started getting this bad rep as being, well, girls running around in short skirts. Barenaked Ladies even wrote a song that had the lyrics, “it’s got those boom anime babes make me think the wrong thing” describing Sailor Moon. Evangelion showed that anime was capable of delivering thoughtful entertainment… a genre that seems to be non-existant on American TV and that’s the hook that got a lot of fans addicted. Thanks to Eva, people discovered that anime isn’t just about giant robots (well, Eva did have giant robots…) or school girl fanservice (well, Eva did have school girl fanservice) but that it can also get people to think in a way that no episode of Dr Phil or Saved by the Bell can.

Ten years later, seeing Evangelion appear on a site like /. only shows that it’s one of those rare series that can break into the mainstream. Very, very few anime have done this… maybe Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Gundam, and, maybe, maybe Inu Yasha / Full Metal Alchemist. Eureka 7 is currently up at bat. Definitely no Suiseiseki, Shana, Fate-chan, Nina Wong, or even Haruhi Suzumiya. (Though I think /. should update their anime icon from Sasami to Suiseiseki since this isn’t, uh, 1998 anymore.) Even if Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya never attains Evangelion-like status, I hope it’s not another ten years before I see another anime capable of capturing non-fans as Eva did.

29 Responses to “the real third impact”

  1. Evangelion is my all-time favorite. Let’s just get that out of the way. But I don’t know if I would use it as a way to get non-fans hooked on anime. To me, Evangelion seems like a huge risk as far as converting people to anime fandom. While I’ve seen many people become fans of anime because of it, I’ve also seen a lot of people shy away from anime because of it. And it’s no surprise why. First impressions are everything, and with a show like Evangelion, it could leave quite the impression. Sure, I think it’s an insanely amazing series, but not everyone can think that way (obviously; look at all the haters although one would think that 70% of those haters hate it because it’s popular or because of the sometimes-crazy fanbase). It can rub people the wrong way because the show is crazy in and of itself. It’s a series with a direction style that can make the series fly straight over viewers’ heads, and there’s no doubt that would make them feel dumb. As such, they would lash out at the show — and if it’s their first, who knows what they would begin to think of anime as a whole.

    Personally, I would recommend something a little more “sane” and “normal.” Yeah, something like Cowboy Bebop would be an excellent choice. It’s mature, well-produced, not silly, and different enough from American cartoons and other things that it could work effectively in converting non-fans.

    Oddly enough it was Chobits that got my sister [somewhat] into anime. That’s definitely something I wouldn’t recommend to anybody trying to get into anime. lol

  2. What I use: Last Exile, Full Metal Panic, NARUTO, BLEACH etc.

    These tend to be easier to understand or epic series. Once the newbs start off on Naruto and Bleach, I won’t talk to them till they outgrow it. But it’s a good way to start.

    It’s much easier to start people off with action comedies that have good visual effects. That, or the epic with great visual effects. Visuals seem to be very important for newbies.

  3. [[ Visuals seem to be very important for newbies. ]]

    Seeing is believing.

  4. and it’s also nice to see that ADV just recently said that they think that there’ll be an A-list director signed onto the live-action adpatation by the years end.. so quite fitting time for it to be brought back up

  5. To get people hooked, you need as big a first impression as you can get, and thus you need a Anime Movie. You also have to remember that the key audience is the people between 7 to 16 year old, so anything too violent or sensual is out of question. I believe the one I would use would be Castle in the Sky, Laputa. Awesome view of clouds, good characters, and enough light moments to ensure that parents won’t drag their kids out of the theater. For audience of 13 to 20, I think Macross the Movie ‘Love, Remember?’ should do the trick. It is visually captivating enough with good song and twists in the plot. There is a reason why Robotech was the first Japanese anime series of 80s to be shown on American Forces Korean Network. For female viewers, Fruits Basket might work well due to interesting characters and situations. It is interesting that unique pretty faces have stronger appeals to females compared to males, thus I am not surprised by appeal of Chobits, despite the problematic Reset Switch location.

    I just remembered an excellent choice to assert the superiority of ‘our’ animations: Beyond the Clouds, The Promised Place. It got it all, visual, plots, and audio. this is the piece to win over intellectuals and critics as well as anyone whose interest go beyond violence and nudity. Trouble is, there just are too many males interested only in violence or nudity, and too many females interested only in what is vogue or good looking; they are beyond redemption.

  6. “Oddly enough it was Chobits that got my sister [somewhat] into anime. That’s definitely something I wouldn’t recommend to anybody trying to get into anime. lol ”

    i got hooked onto anime through Chobits as it was the first series I watched while consiously knowing it was japanese anime

    should i be ashamed?

  7. I agree with tjhan: no matter what you say about Naruto, it still works as a good series to get people interested in anime. I won’t go into the repercussions of watching this type of Toriyama stuff, but heck, it sure works as a drug.

  8. It was my gateway drug. I rented EVA off the cuff (never having seen a full anime series before) and watched the first few episodes with — believe it or not — a room full of missionary friends (not your typical American whacko type, mind you). They were all instantly hooked, perhaps because they were also familiar with Jewish mysticism. EVA is so successful, as you’ve pointed out, because it breaks with a lot of the preconceptions people have about cartoons/anime. There isn’t too much fanservice and cuteness, DBZ cartoon violence, or other turn-offs. Something about EVA screams “you can take me seriously.” And they respond.

    Let’s face it, most Americans will never get into anime. That’s just how it is. Even the humour of a Fruits Basket or a Fumoffu is simply lost. I think EVA will stand alone for sometime as a gateway series, though I do love Haruhi.

  9. I use “Le portrait de la petite Cosette”: short, freaky and very well done. It worked pretty well so far, but i have some weird friends.

  10. ahhh my old evangelion how i love them , and yes it was the anime that had got me to watching anime before i knew it was called anime

    my first anime i can remember i seen was armitage 3 poly matix when sci-fi channle (us) played anime and i was 9 that was long time ago i started watching real anoime starting with evangelion 10 years ago! (funn right?) i was 11 and my friend gave me all the boot leg anime of evanghelion and i must say i was so excited to watch it and it was so great and rei is my one true love

    and still is , for the last 9 years i have had rei as my computer background for years and i have no chance in changing it

  11. My first anime was the Frist Ep you’re Under Arrest Tv with the addition of the new Member to the police dept >_>;;; that a couple of Nadeisco got me hook. I rented Eva of the shelf of the local Video Rental Store and did that gave me a suprise althought it took a 2nd viewing to clue me to how great Eva was.

    I recommand using movies to hook people in. Something like Memories: Magnatic Rose. A short 45min movie with a compelling storyline and a great visuals. Or for the more action oriented, Spriggan.

  12. >> What I use: Last Exile, Full Metal Panic, NARUTO, BLEACH etc.

    I’m not sure about Bleach and its ilk just because sometimes they get hooked on that and refuse to try anything else. I have a much younger cousin who I gave Bleach GNs to as a present, and now he doesn’t watch anything else. I can’t even get him to watch One Piece.

    >> live-action adpatation by the years end.

    ADV is seriously going through with it? Man, I can’t imagine it being good… who would they cast? Can Frankie Muniz capture the angst and loserdom of Shinji well enough? Who would be Rei? Linsey Lohan? Train wreck… I’m not looking forward to this. Well, maybe I am.

    >> My first anime was the Frist Ep you’re Under Arrest Tv with the addition of the new Member to the police dept

    Whoa, that’ll be the second re-make of YUA… the one where Saori joins the force, right? In the original, Saori was the problem youth that Miyuki and Natsumi took care of. Of course, all of this was lost in the horrible live action version where Miyuki was a slut, and Mariah Carey sang the OP/ED. (See, this is why I’m not high on live action versions… can you imagine a Celine Dion song popping up in the middle of Eva? I wouldn’t put it past ADV…)

  13. Wait, there was religious overtones in Eva? I thought it was about them girls, and the lack of ShinjiXKaoru yaoi.

    *only watched one episode of Eva, and that was when Asuka joined NERV.

    I need to sit down, watch the entire series, and give a fair, balanced review.

  14. I never cared for Evangelion.

    One of the first anime that I saw was something like “Star Sherriffs” some time in 1980s. It was a giant robot show, shown on a pirate cable channel (yes, our town had a cable channel which showed pirated shows in that time). Then, there were licensed broadcasts of Sailor Moon and Speed Racer on over-the-air TV, and a few other things – like Robotech.

    I thought I knew and liked anime until I saw Azumanga in 2002 or so (on fansubs). That show completely destroyed everything I thought I knew about anime, and turned my world upside down.

    Around me, I think the largest recruitment of fans happens simply when children raised with Pokemon grow up and tap into more mature anime. Evangelion is relatively minor in the big picture.

    If we want to talk about anime grabbing pre-existing grown-ups the most, it’s probably Haibane Renmei for those in their 40s and 50s, and Spirited Away for those in 30s. Evangelion might have been a gateway before, but it largely faded in this area as well.

  15. Jason, Not the live action stuff. But the TV form early 90s. The frist of the TV follows the 4 ova Ep. It introduce the new cop who transfer in who is a cross dresser.

  16. I still stand by my conviction that EVA was little more than AsukaxRei, blasphemous, and justification of cowardice in the face of the enemy.

    I wouldn’t promote this series as the first step I jumped in with Macross and MY Neighbor Totoro. There are plenty of first class animes that can be used for intorductory purposes. Besides I would not show EVA to wee little kids.

    What’s wrong with Sailor Moon? I saw it as a kid and it never destroyed my rather prudish nature. Sure it seems dated now but it was a trail blazer and Pantheon simply because it spawned a whole genre.

  17. both your links go to the same slashdot article, the ghost in the shell review?

  18. >> new cop who transfer in who is a cross dresser.

    Oh yeah, you’re right. Forgot about Aoi. ^^

    >> AsukaxRe

    I think Kaoru x Shinji is more likely.

    >> both your links go to the same slashdot article, the ghost in the shell review?

    Oops, my bad. Fixed. o_o;;

  19. >>I think Kaoru x Shinji is more likely.

    That was probably the biggest buzz kill for men and a few women who were expecting an early form of yuri. I suspect that over half the EVA fan population suffered through it all in the vain hope that Rei and Asuka would play nice, after Shinji gave in to his craven nature. Any one who bought the “let’s all become one” BS is a fool. Imagine haveing to face an eternal awkard moment when the last girl you asked out knew how many times you spanked the dolphin, not to mention spending eternity listening to son basket case whine ehile people are starving in Africa.

    I sat through it all to see “the Greatest Anime of all Time” as advertised, what I got as a utter waste of hard earned money. Unfortunately society would never allow negotiating for a refund with 5.56mm NATO rounds.

    It is also yet another intriguing fact that fuels my current conspiracy theory that Gainax is really a front by the ultra right LDP to further their agenda by destroying anime and wasting money by producing crap like He is My Master.

  20. well… love hina oddly, sadly, was the entry piece for me. dunno, it just seemed… ahead of everything else at the time, and all the big series were either too mature, or just hard to find (this was before boxtorrents came around, and before I discovered that IRC even existed)

    although Clamp is pretty good a hook too, if they’re not scared off by the fact that it’s for kids mostly, and therefore not very into mature, different themes.

    personally i’d recommend Child’s Toy for anyone below the age of 20, and… perhaps Eva or Bebop afterwards, just cuz Child’s Toy was that hilarious.

    yes, i’m a sucker for drama T.T

  21. It’s the 21st century! Time for another gateway anime. I recommend Kamichu!

  22. Kamichu is too wholesome. Modern mass culture presumes lots of sex (or, even better, gay shepherds), lots of senseless violence, and above all, lots and lots of 3D effects. I don’t see Kamichu delivering the experience. It can snatch those dissatisfied with the common fare, but they are few.

  23. Hmm… no mention of Akira?

    That was the anime that made me aware of the concept of anime. Before Akira, anything animated was known as cartoons to me.

  24. Rurouni Kenshin should be the anime to get people into anime. It’s just so simple and kick-ass at the same time. Most of the people I know who got into anime got into it through RK.

    As for Eva, Eva is the series that got me into anime. Before Eva, anime was hardly distiguishable from American cartoons. After Eva, I was opened to an entirely new world of entertainment. Eva truly is one of the greatest works of all time and it will probably stand alone in the pantheon never to be touched.

  25. For me, my entry drug was Gall Force on the SciFi channel. Mmmm… Memories.

    Anyways, I’d really customize wat I showed people based on what their interests are. I think I’d tend to reach for Crest of the Stars or Last Exile for SF types, Beyond the Cloud for artistic types, or Haibane Reinmie for older people. I suppose I’d consider Alien 9 for the “wow thats messed up” reaction, but that OVA is something of a risk…

  26. >>> Before Eva, anime was hardly distiguishable from American cartoons.

    I beg to differ.

  27. >> It’s the 21st century! Time for another gateway anime. I recommend Kamichu!

    Let’s petition CN to air Kamichu! Maybe they can bundle Yurie and Haruhi into an Adult Swim Diety Hour…

    >> Hmm… no mention of Akira?

    Read the last paragraph…

    >> well… love hina oddly, sadly

    No shame in that. If it’s To Heart 2, then tons of shame.

  28. Evangelion made me emo for a day.

  29. Evangelion is one of the most influential anime ever. There’s one surefire way to start a riot at an anime convention, and that’s to shout “EVA SUCKS!” Some people love it some people hate it but there’s almost no one in between. Never before or since has an anime so effectively polarized the fandom. I like Evangelion, but at the same time I find it very disturbing. I’ve often said that Evangelion is to animated sci-fi as 2001: a Space Odyssey is to live action sci-fi. People go in to the theater expecting a “cool” sci-fi thriller but walk out of the theater talking about God and about philosophy.

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