FUCK THAT CALF!
In which we slay the things others hold dear.
NEON GENESIS EVANGELION
Everyone has that thing they like that other people just don’t ‘get’. It can be because the thing itself is ok but the other fans are douches or it can be a medium where the absolute worst part of it also happens to be the most prevalent. Anime is a bit of both of those things. And if you’re like me at all, you just know that the only reason your friends hate something is they haven’t seen that one thing that will make it click.
That’s where Neon Genesis Evangelion comes in. It’s the show that everyone ever says even non-anime fans will like, the show that will change their minds by blowing them. And it isn’t. Not only is not a good intro to anime or what it has to offer, it’s an example of everything that’s wrong with most anime. It’s like trying to get someone into boxing by making them watch Mike Tyson’s rape trial.
I do like anime. Some of my favorite movies are anime. But I get why other people don’t. It’s because even more than other mediums, almost all of it is shit. It’s just that the parts that aren’t are actually really, really good. Those are the exceptions though. Most anime falls victim to a huge number of flaws and I would make someone watch NGE if I was specifically trying to point them out. I will do that now.
The first and one of the most obvious problems with this show is that it’s about teenagers. Most anime is about teenagers because it targets them. That’s a big warning sign right there. Now Akira isn’t about teenagers. Akira is about puberty. It thus stars the young’uns because a movie about pueberty starring 30 year olds would be creepy. Neon Genesis stars teenagers because it wants them to watch it. It’s simple, flashy crap designed to get people whose tastes haven’t fully developed into it.
It also features giant robots for this reason. And sure, giant robots are cool. But they’re an example of exactly what holds most anime back – the fact that you can show everything. Because anime is drawn, there’s really no practical limit to how crazy you can make things. Drawing two giant robots fighting is just as easy as drawing people. But it’s the difference between Star Wars and the prequels. In the originals Lucas couldn’t have giant battles with clones or droids, so he had to fill that space up with boring stuff, like character development or motivation. In the prequels there were no constraints and there isn’t in anime either. That means the drive to ‘get small’ in a huge world comes from the director and writers, and most of them don’t have the talent to pull it off.
And there isn’t a lack of character development because they’re too focused on some grand, sweeping plot. The story of NGE barely ever moves beyond Power Rangers freak of the week levels. We learn there’s a base with robots and they have to defend the earth from Angels. Every week a new Angel shows up and they can’t beat it at first but then do. Now if you skip character and plot you can still have an interesting show if the action is really good. But NGE can’t even get that right. The fights are boring as shit. It’s 90% standing around, 5% talking and 5% one killing blow that ends it. That was ok in Dragon Ball Z when drawing a frame took 8 weeks and killed a dozen orphans, but technology has advanced a little since then. Hardly any orphans at all have to die to animate a frame these days.
A lot people will defend the show, saying that the fights are drawn out so it’s tense. But a fight can’t be tense without fighting if the characters are stupid. And people will say the characters aren’t stupid, that they’re just something something. To those people I say – read a book. Or watch a movie. Just find something good and consume it, because you obviously don’t know how characters work. Or people. And even though I just insulted them, they’ll keep defending it – usually by pointing out the show’s psychological themes and exploration of religion. To that I simply say that I referenced the Matrix for a reason. NGE really isn’t any deeper or more complex than Inuyasha or Bleach or any other teenime show, but Yoshiyuki Sadamoto really, really wanted it to be. It’s like if the Wachoochoo brothers, instead of trying to make the Matrix and making the Matrix, tried to make the Matrix and made White Chicks.
It’s frustrating enough to try and show people the few things in this genre that have quality without having other people pushing this crap on you. If you want to see good anime, watch Akira. Watch Spirited Away. Watch Samurai Champloo or Cowboy Bepop. There’s a ton of stuff out there that’s way better than this. NGE has just enough flash and Matrix-style psuedo philosophy to appeal to a lot of people but it’s ultimately hollow. If someone suggests it to you, run. They’re a time succubus. They want you to watch 26 episodes of a show where nothing ever happens to no one and gets even worse in the last two episodes. If you’ve already been convinced to watch it, I’m sorry. I could tell you that there’s much better out there but you’re probably lost already.