It has been 11 years since the crowning episodes of Hideaki Anno’s Neon Genesis Evangelion. Out of the mid-to-late nineties globalization of Japanese Anime, Eva indelibly carved a niche for itself, lending a stylistic vernacular for other series such as Gurenn Lagann or Rahxephon, which stood on the ‘animated’ shoulders of the Eva giant. While Neon Genesis Evangelion revitalized the “Mecha” genre in Japan, there was a delayed onset ex-Japan. American Otakus, for example, took a little while to grasp the cultural relevance of Eva, and its importance in the pantheon of greater anime .
Neon Genesis Evangelion is not a stranger to some controversy. Like any artefacts, Eva has its hater-detractors. What tends to be levelled against it: that it feels it was rushed development-wise (visually, and in terms of character arcs); that its religious allegories are tedious and overwrought, and that the script betrays a lack of a meta-narrative. Yet, like a burger connoisseur must taste In-N-Out; or a New Zealand All-Blacks fan must be able to distinguish a silver fern upon presentation; or a sneaker die-hard must be able to coherently pontificate on the self-lacing Nike’s from Back to the Future, any anime fan worth his or her shio (salt) must have watched and reflected upon Neon Genesis Evangelion.
At the center of the story is Shinji Akari, a fourteen-year-old boy who was summoned by his father to Neo Tokyo-3, a fictional city in which most of the story is set. The narrative begins with Shinji despondent over the fact that he only met his father for the first time at the very gravestone of his beloved mother. Her death might be said was a direct consequence of Shinji’s old man needing a suitable driver for the awe-inspiring Eva - 01, one of the giant cyborgs with robotic features called ‘Evangelions’ used in the war against ‘Angels,’ and Shinji’s mother being the most obvious, most proximate, most convenient default selection for his father.
Consider that Shinji’s mother, a Gehirn bioengineer, Yui Akari, disappeared in that same Evangelion(Eva-01) when Shinji was four (in Shinji’s presence by the way). Consider too that Shinji’s father, the Sir-Arthur-Conan-Doyleish-genius-sociopath scientist, Gendo Akari, chose to continue shutting Shinji out, keeping him at arm’s length even after abandoning him for all those years, denying Shinji, and us observers, the catharsis we duly need and desperately want.
Shinji’s reluctant destiny as the savior of the universe as a pilot of the Eva-01 is its own mindbender. Yet as draining as the human-becomes-cyborg dialectic is, the more prosaic dynamics of the complicated, downright Oedipal relationship Shinji has with his father and his prospective stepmother, Rei Ayanami, who it turns out is no less than a genetically identical clone of Shinji’s mother. Evangelion never ceases to push the narrative boundaries, constantly provoking us to ask ourselves: “who are we, really? What makes us human?”
The instrumental role the Eva-01 plays in the life of Shinji makes you wonder, like every other Evangelion fan, what it feels like to sit in the Entry Plug of that neon-green accented giant ceratopsian dinosaur-like violet robot equipped with power like the Absolute Terror (A.T.) fields for defense as well as godlike offensive power capable of dealing vital hits to Angels and other Evas, especially when engaged in ‘blood rage.’ Of course, let’s not even talk about the berserk mode, when the soul of the Eva takes charge of the controls leading to predicatably grim consequences.
Shinji, sometimes referred to as the ‘third child,’ would probably have to ‘empty his tank’ before he assumes his position in the Entry Plug. The single source of energy, of sustenance for Shinji is the umbilical cable attached to the spine segments of the pilots, which powers up the Evangelion. Here director Hideaki Anno presages the data and power USB cable. This visceral tether between human and machine commits the pilot to what is effectively a shared nervous system. As a result, pilots feel the injuries to the Evas even if they do not sustain tissue damage.
The Eva-01 doesn’t count as an autonomous Eva; and by the law of its accompanying technical documentation can and should only muster 5 minutes, at best, of back-up power from its internal battery---until it is a shimmering pile of steel toast. Fortunately, the Eva-01, does not play strictly by the rules decreed by its technical writers and has risen from the electromagnetic dead many times, continuing its movement and core functions on several occasions, even with its ostensible power source fully depleted.
Unit-01 is mostly made up of biomass and some mechanical components in things like the armor and the pylons – which are probably made of the recently discovered self-healing plastic. This type of ‘microlattice’ promises a very high tensile strength-to-weight ratio, making it both light and durable, enabling designers and engineers to compose Evas out of more biomorphic
curved lines instead of the triangular designs used in most mecha animes---designing to the human, rather than designing to the machine, with the human required to adjust. Along this theme of anthropomorphic-friendly design, LCL is a sort of enamel-colored transmission fluid that floods the entry plug, by which pilots can mentally link with their Evas. LCL is oxygenated, and furthermore provides a cooling function to boot, enabling pilots to engage berserker mode with less friction, with a ready-made and intuitive interface. Evas can regenerate, and indeed thay have digestive tracts; there is no doubt that in the world that Evangelion exists such granular applied physics and applied chemistry contributes a great deal to our ability to contemplate the machine as “more human than human.”
The series has blasted off on Netflix. Excited!? We are. Flood your entry plug here.
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EVA-01 model for your collection: