Neon Genesis Evangelion

Today I will continue my practice of being flame-bait, by discussing Neon Genesis Evangelion.

You know, the anime many American anime fans will swear by, the one that made them love the genre...the one that almost got anime banned in Japan.

Well, forgive me, maybe because I saw it years later than they did and could compare it with other, better things, but...nope, sorry. Just can't respect it all that much. Yes, nice mecha (although they're technically cyborgs). Interesting, if rather sketchy, premise--but see below.

They draw the nicest hands I've seen in anything.

The opening is good; the ending, being a sultry cover of a Sinatra song, rather intriguing (especially the version on the second soundtrack album, performed by Her Majesty, Queen of the Seiyû, Hayashibara Megumi, Rei's voice actress).

On a neutral note, Dr. Gendou Ikari looks eerily similar to Dr. Thadeus Venture, but with hair.

Now for the negativity. First off, Japanese writers need to knock off the Christian imagery--let alone the Jewish! They just don't get it, they're basically embarrassing themselves, and what they say comes off rather offensive. I say the same thing about Western writers and Buddhism, just so we're clear. It's a rule I think most writers should follow: Don't write about radically alien religions, unless you can discuss them where they're the native/predominant religion, and not make a fool of yourself. Similarly practically everyone, especially Europeans, is forbidden from discussing Native American religions. Unless you think you're qualified to discuss emergence narratives as they relate to clan-based ritual structures, or the cultic underpinnings of the factions of Friendlies and Hostiles, just to reference the Hopi alone.

Second, the premise is essentially the same as the older and arguably better Silent Möbius, but with the girl-cop capital-defender motif replaced by a Gundam-esque quasi-"chosen one" boy who rides giant robots. Admittedly that's one overused trope replaced by another, but still.

Third (SPOILER ALERT): Rei being not-so-implicitly a clone of Shinji's mother, and him not-so-implicitly having a crush on her. Um...far too many Japanese writers, especially of that generation, have just got to get over this Oedipal thing. This is an unusually cringe-inducing take on it--what with Dr. Ikari being creepy as all get out, and manipulating Shinji, his late wife, and Rei in his own freakish little power play--but even Maetel and Tetsurou from Galaxy Express 999 was pretty skin-crawly. We don't see that one so much anymore, thank God.

Fourth: every character in the story (other than, arguably, Misato and her on-again, off-again spy lover) is nothing more than a ball of angst. Yes, I know Anno had clinical depression. Speaking as an anxiety sufferer and occasional depressive, I'd never make any character in my work, let alone my audience, go through it with me. It's demeaning to a writer's illness, it's unfair to the characters, and it's openly disrespectful (and hopefully annoying) to the audience, to have a mentally ill artist make his characters work through his problems for him. Plus, it's not believable. Shinji is a moron to have his existential problems when he does--you leave your identity issues and Oedipus complex off the battlefield, kid. Ditto Asuka and her freakish look-at-me, ain't-I-pretty issues. That and her mom's suicide--it's like something you write in tenth grade because you heard that characters need problems. Adult writers are supposed to know that "all the characters are crazy" is not the same thing as, indeed it's the opposite of, "psychological depth." Take it from me: the whole nastiness of mental illness is that there is no psychological depth. Everything is subsumed by anxiety or depression or paranoia or what have you, and there's no room for anything else. In order to have complex characters, they need to be sane. Oh, a little bent here or there, eccentric, sure--but the minute "pathology" can be mentioned, they're probably not that interesting anymore.