(This post contains major spoilers for the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion. If you have not watched the series, and wish it to remain a surprise, you should not read further.)
In this Covid season, I have been watching anime with my kids. Particularly with my 12-year-old son, who likes mecha stories.
One could say my boy is not old enough to watch so intricate and intense a series. But I remember that when I was 12, I was already dabbling in many things of which my parent knew nothing. Preteens are natural intitates into the esoteric. So I decided to act as his Virgil here.
And in guiding him, I found my own thoughts.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion really is a masterpiece. The elevators and escalators. The skewing of tropes. The gushings. The grandeur and the horror. The ballet-like combat. The intricacy of character. Eva deserves all the praise it gets.
- Eva is not what it was supposed to be. The basic summary of the series, the TV Guide version, is: “Children pilot giant robots against alien invaders to save humanity.” Which is entirely accurate except it’s 100% false. It’s a feint. It’s how it was presented to the anime viewing audience to draw them in, whereupon it cut off their heads.
- What is Eva is a story of Αποκάλυψη. Eva manifests both meanings of the word: “the end of the world” and “unveiling, revelation.” The world of Eva has ended. It ended on September 13th, 2000. The series is the unfolding of the working of that end. In a way, everything we see in the episodes is lagniappe. But Eva is also about revelation, revelation to the characters as to the viewer, revelation of NERV and SEELE, of Evas and Adam, of the Human Instrumentality Project. We live their revelation.
- In that, Eva is the fulfillment of our worst fears of the present time: that we have already passed the point of doom, we are now merely working out the mechanisms of apocalypse. So we see it here.
- If you wish to be cold about it, Eva embodies two dead mythos: Judaism/Christianity and Freudian psychoanalysis. The fossils of both litter the series as the failed Evas do the boneyard in Episode 21.
- This is not the first time I’ve watched the series. I was in my late twenties then. Yet I remember little. It makes sense now. I understand, in a way I couldn’t.
- When you’re young, apocalypse has an adolescent appeal–first because you can’t see how the world can go on (having too little experience in understanding how it got that way in the first place), second because you have less to lose. With age come a truer grasp of what Apocalypse might entail, and how horrible it would be.
- The second half of Episode 26 is also a feint.
- Someone made an Anime Music Video matching Eva with The Doors’ “The End.” It’s one of the most appropriate AMVs I’ve ever seen. I’ve written before that “The End” evokes Apocalypse to me, and the sight of the series footage behind the song brilliantly elucidates that.
This is The End,
This is The End,
My only friend
Everybody, clap for Shinji!
Of our elaborate plans
Of everything that stands
No safety or surprise
Clap for Shinji!
C’mon, clap! Everything will be happy as long as you’re clapping!
This is The End.