Monday, June 27, 2005

Neon Genesis Evangelion

Finnish SubTV channel has shown during the first half of this year the Japanese anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995), which has gained an international cult reputation. Even though I'm not actually a big manga/anime connoisseur (when working at a local comics store, I checked out some of this stuff, nevertheless, so I have a general idea about these genres), I have followed the series with some interest. Neon Genesis Evangelion is a mixed bag and more often than not a confounding one.

Basically it's a post-apocalyptic story of a 14-year old schoolboy Shinji Ikari (what is this general Japanese fascination with adolescent characters all about?), who reluctantly becomes a pilot for one of the EVAs, a fleet of gigantic robots which protect the world against the attacks of mysterious Angels, extraterrestrial creatures named after Biblical angel characters, who wreak havoc and destroy whole cities like those monsters in old Japanese Godzilla films.

This is all basically a variation of The Transformers, but made for grown-up audiences, with chockful of mystical and metaphysical references to the Dead Sea Scrolls, Torah, Kabbala, and so on. One of the main themes of the series is Shinji's difficult relationship with his cold scientist father who heads NERV, the UN-funded organisation fighting against the Angels (Shinji's mother committed suicide when he was only a toddler).

As said, one gets mixed feelings watching Neon Genesis Evangelion, with its overflowing combination of science fiction, soap opera, a young boy's development story, Biblical mysticism, occasional psychedelic sequences and even cheapo comedy elements. Could one reason be that all the nuances of Japanese culture won't exactly translate themselves to a Western watcher? On the one hand it feels like a bunch of nonsense, on the other hand there's a lot surprising depth with characters and plot hardly found in similar Western action/sci-fi stories.

Guide to Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion in Finnish