(Welcome to Pop Culture Imports, a column that compiles the best foreign movies and TV streaming right now.)
I’m doing something a little different this week in celebration of the Netflix release of Neon Genesis Evangelion, the seminal anime series that has launched a million essays and even more memes. This entry of Pop Culture Imports is themed to Neon Genesis Evangelion and its creator Hideaki Anno, including the acclaimed 26-episode series itself, as well as the follow-up feature films The End of Evangelion and Evangelion: Death (True). Also featured is Anno’s excellent kaiju film Shin Godzilla and an NHK documentary series on Anno’s mentor Hayao Miyazaki.
Fire up those subtitles (because we’re sub, not dub, people) and let’s get streaming.
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Fandom is a religion that thrives on killing its own gods. In Neon Genesis Evangelion, there’s a passing line of dialogue that suggests self-destruction is the natural endpoint of evolution. The Japanese television and film series periodically evokes deicide with exotic Judeo-Christian imagery, such as god-killing spears and figures nailed to crosses. Yet it’s known for the line, “The fate of the destruction is the joy of rebirth.” Evangelion is a franchise that evolved to the point of self-destruction, only to be reborn, or rebuilt, numerous times over. Its latest rebirth is on Netflix, where it became available to watch last Friday.
The ability to conveniently view one of the greatest anime works of all time should be cause for celebration among U.S. fans, whose main avenue for watching the series since the DVDs went out of print years ago has been illegal streams, expensive copies from third-party Amazon sellers, or the sketchy online market of bootlegs. Due to licensing entanglements, however, the situation with Evangelion has come to resemble Star Wars, whereby the original, unaltered theatrical trilogy is unavailable on home media. Here again, the version that is out there for mass consumption is different from the one fans first experienced, with redubbed voices, new subtitles, censored relationships, and missing music.
The reaction on social media had been typically harsh, enough so that it almost plays right into Evangelion’s metaphorical god-killing cycle, as complaints drown out discussion of the anime epic’s lasting virtues and the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater all over again. What’s important is that the series is catching a wave of renewed interest, and as it finds a fresh audience, it’s ripe for discussion, particularly as it relates to themes of personal dysfunction, social withdrawal, and the intersection between fan culture and storytelling.
This article contains spoilers for the entire series.
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