always be my evangelion

Wanna fight, punk?


A while ago, we had some friends over to watch the seminal event of the year: Netflix’s release of Always Be My Maybe the final “let’s just get the damn thing over with” episode of Game of Thrones. The Fashion Czar and I even bought a new sofa chair from Ikea so we can accommodate more people in front of our 4K OLED TV.

Back in the early 2000s, I would host people to watch Neon Genesis Evangelion. ADV just started to release the first R1 Evangelion DVDs, and I bought them and invited people to watch on a flatscreen CRT TV (and later my roommate’s plasma) and “assorted” furniture after each DVD arrived. At that point, I’d already seen Evangelion. I had a collection of VHS fansubs and also VHS taped off of KTEH’s airings. It was interesting to see everyone’s reaction. I knew that Asuka’s first episodes would be crowd pleasers. I knew that Shinji would drive people crazy. I knew someone who eventually ask, “Wait, he’s piloting his mom?” I knew people couldn’t help themselves in re-creating the Gendo pose. With my Three-Eye Raven-like powers, I knew that the final two episodes would help people cope with the Siege of Winterfell in Game of Thrones.

Now with Netflix’s release of Evangelion, a new generation finally can see what the fuss is about… and also a new generation to add their responses and reactions and reaffirmations and repudiations to the show. And that’s why I’m here. I’m here to tell you Evangelion isn’t the best anime of all time. It’s okay to not like this anime. It’s also okay to love this anime.


What Neon Genesis Evangelion is though is an anime that is different to everyone who watches it, and it happens to re-occur at the perfect time. Even when I first watched it in the late nineties, on my 13” CRT VHS combo with mono sound, I had no idea what I watched. I hadn’t watched decades of anime at that point. I hadn’t written fourteen years of thin slicings. I haven’t suffered through Evangelion wannabes, do nothing after school clubs, battle high schools, and isekai yet. I like parts of it. I don’t like parts of it. I don’t understand all of it. So when a person is confused, what do we do? Find other confused people. I hopped on anime forums, IRC chats, and Usenet to shitpost talk Eva. And anime. And other stuff. To put it in 2019 terms, “It’s like how /r/freefolk became the most popular GoT subreddit after the ending of GoT. Everyone wanted a place to vent and dish out their hot take pancakes.” Evangelion is a blueberry hot take pancake smothered in pure Canadian maple syrup and topped with baked pecans.

Evangelion was a gateway to get me and a lot of other people to talk to random strangers on the internet about anime. (Okay so you’re probably now sneering “I KNEW IT— EVA WAS A MISTAKE!”) Everyone wanted validation of what they saw in Eva, and it overcame our laziness, our unwillingness, our geographic constraints, or our shyness. “How can Gendo be such a terrible dad?” “What does the ending mean?” “Did Shinji really pleasure himself in front of his dead mom’s clone’s body?” “Where can I find videos of Kaji’s and Misato’s thirty day sexathon?” It just hit at perfect time when people of niche hobbies just found a way of communicating with each other. It was a cultural impact.


And that’s why, when I got the DVDs, I invited a group of people over to watch. People want to talk about what they saw. If Eva is your first anime experience, don’t you want to know, “Wait, is all anime like this?” If you’ve only watched Tenchi Muyo, Akira, and Blue Seed up to that point, would you be like, “I either want more of this directly injected into my veins” or “Delete this from my memory, and let’s watch some You’re Under Arrest next time.” If you’re someone who has gone through it once already, it’s fun and refreshing to see a new viewer’s thoughts. Evangelion would never become just an anime. It would always be an anime and its discourse. Talking about Evangelion without acknowledging the flurry of opinions and thoughts and dissections and opinions and horny fan fics around it would be as unnatural as Kirito not dual-wielding swords or Lelouch not giving Suzaku bedroom eyes or Rin not aggroing a doggo or seeing Miku without her headphones. This second cultural impact happened at a time when it was much easier to discuss anime on the internet, and Adult Swim released their version, which caused a lot of people to realize for the first time, “Hey, Japanese is a language full of subtleties.”

Now we are in Evangelion’s third cultural impact where because of many questionable business decisions by many parties, this anime was basically hard to find for most people for a decade after ADV went belly up. The last major DVD release was back around Gurren Lagann’s debut (wow Gurren Lagann is old), and the BD boxset never made it out of Japan. So we have this unique scenario where a new generation has not only been deprived of Eva, but that new generation also grew up on social media. I’m old– my generation did not grow up on social media– we grew up on 14.4k modems and archie/veronica meant something other than characters on Riverdale. This third impact of Neon Genersis Evangelion, this Netflix era, is just a perfect storm of a lost anime being rediscovered by a new audience who are proficient at oversharing their opinions.

The timelessness and impact across generations is the fascinating part of Evangelion. Themes like loneliness, cowardice, love, duty, death, sexuality, etc. never change. These are all part of humanity yet we can interpret each differently. And this mecha anime with a bad dad, a tsundere red head, and a loser male lead somehow is a perfect focusing lens for them all. It is hard to watch this show and not have some sort of opinion. It is a piece that allows for multiple interpretations, and it just so happens to be available to the masses at eventful times. Evangelion might not be the best anime, but it is an unique timeless anime take just makes us all just want to vomit our hot takes for it. I have not forgotten Eva’s first cultural impact, it’s second, or will forget this third— and I am looking forward to my own fourth, which is when my daughter will look at me and ask, “Is Shinji a pervert, Baba?”



For me, the most fascinating puzzle pieces in the past two decades come from Hideaki Anno’s wife and this obscure Hayao Miyazaki dude. Moyocco Anno has written a lot about Hideaki in Insufficient Direction. Evangelion starts looking a lot less than some psychological experience he was undergoing and more like his love letter for (and also resume to direct) Kamen Rider. Anno loves Kamen Rider, and he also wanted to direct his own Kamen Rider series, which he finally got a chance two decades after Evangelion. My favorite thing about this though is that some Eva fans get irrationally upset when anyone brings up that Eva is probably just an audition tape for a Kamen Rider gig. What if this is true? Why would Moyocco lie to us? Is the same lucky-go-happy otaku Moyocco depicts the same person who directs Evangelion? Maybe I need to read Aoi Honoo to get an even better picture.

Evident in The Kingdom of Dreams of Madness, Miyazaki loves Anno. He treats Anno more of a son than he does Goro as shown in NHK’s documentary 10 Years of Miyazaki. Miyazaki hates Eva because he knows Anno won’t ever be his successor at Ghibli because of it. Now that’s a thought. Miyazaki wanted this Kamen Rider otaku who sings anime songs in his car with his wife to succeed him at Ghibli yet someone like Mamoru Hosada who makes very Ghibli-esque movies got drummed out of Ghibli. Maybe is it because Anno can’t adhere to a schedule much like Miyazaki while Hosada actually releases movies regularly and on time? Special bonding occurs over poor project management skills? “Dude, this Hosada guy actually comes into work on time. He’s gonna make me look bad. Let’s get rid of him.”

(The UI and graphic design of Evangelion still hasn’t been surpassed by any anime– or really– anything since. I hope to see the Magi interface next to an iPod click wheel, an Eames lounger, and a Braun razor in a design museum someday.)

(I might have written this post because “Rin not aggroing a doggo” is a line that I needed to work into this blog at some point. How many anime does the line apply to? What anime popped into your mind first?)

3 Responses to “always be my evangelion”

  1. Fate/Stay Night’s Rin with Lancer?

  2. According to anime lore, the staff that made Eva decided for their next project to make an ‘anti-Eva’. They would cut loose, get silly, and FLCL was born. So Evangelion has that going for (or against) it.
    If you’re curious about what Eva would have been like under less fortunate circumstances, go watch Sunrise’s BRAIN POWERED!

  3. BRAIN POWERD? My vote is for RahXephon though, BP felt a bit too gundamy (but that’s just me)

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