For those who haven’t met me in real life and those who haven’t read the blurb at the end of this blog, let me tell you a not-so-secret secret. I’m a huge fan of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Not just the “has merchandise, owns the whole show, owns the whole soundtrack, owns the whole manga” type of fan. I’m also the “goes to anime conventions to give talks about what it all means” sort of fan. And for lack of a better topic, I’m going to use that presentation’s content for this week.
First we need to consider Evangelion’s historical context. It aired in the 90’s when the anime industry as a whole had started to stagnate. There wasn’t anything new going on. Lots of overused tropes, lots of cash-ins on toy brands and such (not that this is entirely different today, but it suffices to say that it was pretty bad). Then, into this scene stepped Evangelion, along with the likes of Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell, and a variety of other anime. Anime such as these were revolutionary for a number of reasons, including standardizing the 26 episode run-time.
However, I feel that Evangelion was particularly interesting because of how brutally it criticized the anime industry and anime fans in general. The discussion of Evangelion as a deconstruction merits an entirely separate post, but for now, just consider Asuka’s character. The tsundere is a widely loved character archetype, and Asuka presents herself as the ideal tsundere from the moment she steps on screen: flamboyant and aggressive, with a bit of a soft side. But later we learn that this is actually just desperate, attention-seeking behavior. In this way, Evangelion’s creator, Hideaki Anno, is likely trying to critique the archetype and people who fawn over it by presenting a more realistically motivated interpretation.
And now, imagine yourself in Hideaki Anno’s shoes. You release this harsh deconstruction and watch as it not only popularizes the archetypes you were critiquing, but also instrumentally brings anime to the west and generates even more thoughtlessly fanatical fans across the pacific. It’s no wonder Anno is on record saying that he hates his creation.
More than the show, though, Anno hates the fans. The man is on record as saying that he’s trying to ruin the franchise at this point, but no matter what he does, the fans eat it up. They clamor for more (I am also guilty of this). There’s really quite a bit of hilarious black irony to be understood here, and I recommend you look into this more if you have time.
Michael Mauer is a sophomore in the college of Arts and Sciences majoring in Computer Science. His favorite anime is Neon Genesis Evangelion and he never leaves home without his Homura Akemi necklace. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, just hunt him down on Facebook or Google+.