Does Hideaki Anno Remember Love?

Hey guys. Remember me? I’d like to take you on a quick little journey.

The time: A little more than fifteen years ago.

The place: Hideaki Anno’s brain. And what a dark place it is.

I’m not going to cite sources other than the slightly scuffed Encarta CD-ROM that is my own nerdy gray matter, but it’s a pretty well known fact: Hideaki Anno was a depressed guy with a lot of issues.

In the mid-90s, the co-founder of Gainax, the otaku’s studio — the self-made otaking, the führer of fan service, the sultan of super robots — was in the midst of a mental crisis. Disillusioned with his career and completely disenchanted with the otaku lifestyle which he’d had a hand in popularizing, his thoughts started coalescing into a story. That story gradually degenerated over 26 episodes into a “cruel thesis” about adults and authority figures abusively imposing their wills upon children who never have a chance to grow up properly, explain their sexual desires, or resolve their daddy issues.

You might have heard of it.

New Glasses Girl Pilot

It's got all kinds of cute girl robot pil—WAIT who the fuck is that?

Fast forward.

Evangelion 2.22 is on everyone’s mind right now. It’s hard to escape. And watching it has proven conflicting for a lot of fans, myself included. Sure, it’s exciting, it’s shiny, it’s a shot of adrenaline straight to the skull — but is it the right thing to do?

There is a lot of angst about some of the changes Anno made to his opus. Internally, it’s a battle between how awesome Evangelion 2.22 is as a standalone robot anime and how much it has altered the feel of the original.

Wait, go back. So, what did it mean?

Well damn. That’s a horrible question. Volumes have been written about it. Plenty of speculators have questioned Anno himself on the meaning of Evangelion, and his own claims that he “intentionally scatter[ed] difficult to understand phrases in order to create uncertainty” certainly don’t help your feeble attempt to find depth in the story. But while the Gnostic/Kabbalistic Judeo-Christan imagery may be more showy than symbolic, the psychological terms thrown around no doubt represented Anno’s own attempts to psychoanalyze himself.

Shinji and Gendou, avoiding looking at each other

Let’s look at the Evas themselves, putting aside the born-from-Adam’s-rib shit for a second. What are they? Robots. Mecha. Robots rooted in the Real Robot heritage of Gundam but sticking their immense toes over the line into Super Robot territory. Fanboy fodder.

But they’re also monsters, imprisoned within a metal shell that barely contains their berserk urge to kill humanity. Suddenly Anno’s mid-90s distaste for his otaku flock sounds like maybe it’s the big neon purple brush with which Unit 01 was painted. If the robot represents otakudom, its slobbering cannibalistic core represents the destructive power of such a lifestyle — and its LCL fluid becomes the unresolved oedipal desires of its overgrown-child fanboys who still live in their parents’ houses.

Unit 01 Goes Berserk

DAMMIT MOM I'm playing the new Key game

Gainax had been more than sympathetic to its otaku bread-and-butter in the past (and would again in the future), but this time the charming unwillingness to grow up was a burden that only got you beaten down harder and harder by the unrelenting adults.

Sure, like Shinji you can make your own world if you really want to be that stubborn — just don’t expect it to be very interesting or full of love and approval.

An important thing: There’s no judgment on Anno’s part here. The adults are horrible, with their scheming machinations to bring about the end of the world. But is Shinji any better? Internal conflict rarely resolves itself just because you draw a picture of it.

Fast forward again.

Back in 2010, things are the same, but… different.

The Evangelion units still have horrible monsters living inside them, able to overcome their unsuspecting child pilots and destroy them from the inside out. Rei is still a walking receptacle for obsession and oedipal baggage. And Shinji is still weak.

But something happens when they all come together like Jung and Freud uniting in some weird combiner mecha. Shinji makes a ballsy decision, mans up, and kicks reason to the curb.

Shinji mans upAnd the one anime that I couldn’t shoehorn into my “It Takes A Fanboy” manifesto suddenly fits neatly into the Gainax pantheon. This new Evangelion (for better or worse) is starting to look like a story of overcoming not only the external forces of authority, adulthood, and society, but also the internal demons that come along with choosing that kind of a life.

This is the product of a very different mind. It’s not paranoid, depressed, and at odds with the things it loves. It’s embracing those things, and returning to the LCL-filled womb of Gainax’s roots, a garden of Eden where Adam the original Angel cavorts with bouncy-boobed teenage girls in striped panties and everyone’s overcoming insurmountable odds.

Asuka in the test plugsuit

Do you remember fanservice?

Or to quote Anno:

“It is a story where the main character witnesses many horrors with his own eyes, but still tries to stand up again.”

How times have changed. And everything old is new again.

The gripping conclusion

Hideaki Anno

I'm so freakin happy right now.

I’m not trying to say whether I approve of these changes as a fan. I’m not even ready to say I loved it yet, although I am ready to go watch it another 14 times.

I am willing to say that yes, Hideaki Anno remembers love — and to go as far as to say he’s remembering love he never even knew he had.

Feel free to hurl all available accusations about Rebuild of Anno’s Wallet 2.22 in the comments, I can take it.

I mustn’t run away…

This entry was posted in analysis, Evangelion, fanboy, today's special guest writer and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

70 Responses to Does Hideaki Anno Remember Love?

  1. Anonymous says:

    tl;dr Eva fans are fucking weird

  2. lelangir says:

    Yu aah namba wan~

    sorry, I have nothing to say, really.

  3. 2DT says:

    Seeing your name by this entry made me smile. And it was really good!

    Rediscovering love seems like the new M.O. for Anno. Assuming the next two movies don’t go into a total mindtrip and fool us all, it does seem like getting married (and bathing regularly, according to interviews) really has helped him out.

  4. Excellent post, especially interesting for me since Evangelion was a little before my (anime) time, which meant that I didn’t really have the historical context of Anno and Gainax when I watched it. It’s certainly different seeing Eva redone like this, but it makes it more interesting to consider how Anno has changed and whether his views have or that he’s just ‘grown up’ in a way. Congratulations Hideki-kun! (repeat congratulations several times from different characters.)

    • otou-san says:

      Historical context can definitely add to your enjoyment because NGE was so incredibly ahead of its time, but it also seems to exist on its own plane so even without that context you could certainly be blown away. As a budding anime fan, even I knew at the time it was something incredibly different.

      And LOL at the EoE moment, I’d forgotten about that somehow…

  5. Tsulaa says:

    I’m new to your site, relatively new to anime, & if I said I was into mech-based anime I’d be lying. That having been said, I enjoyed this article; the ending being particularly humorous.

    Of course I’ve heard of Evangelion. There isn’t an anime-centric blogger, vlogger, podcaster, reviewer, or critic out there who hasn’t mentioned it at some point. It doesn’t seem to matter the aspects of Evangelion that may happen to irritate or disappoint a viewer, I’ve yet to find someone who, by the end of their rant/review, doesn’t recommend you watch it anyway.

    Your article pushed me the rest of the way over the fence, & Evangelion will be the next entry to my Watch List. I surrender!

    • otou-san says:

      Thanks for stopping by! I’m a guest blogger myself, but ghostlightning has a nice place here and he does a great job of keeping it friendly to the non-mecha-heads.

      There are plenty of frustrating things about Evangelion — like I mentioned, there are a lot of elements that Anno and co. threw in just to be frustrating. But at the end of the day, it’s like nothing else out there and it’s what made an anime fan out of me (and plenty of other people).

      Glad to hear you’re gonna tackle it, I do recommend starting with the series; it’s the real deal and besides the movies probably won’t be finished for a while.

      • Tsulaa says:

        Thanks for the welcome! Yeah, I quickly learned it’s best to try to find the earliest series &/or adaptation possible before diving into something new.
        Oh, & taking the time to familiarize myself with Japanese culture, history, & folklore has helped a lot; especially for anime such as Shigurui. A little knowledge goes a long way towards a richer, more compelling, viewing experience.

        See ya’ around!

  6. Landon says:

    The way the second movie ended, I’d argue that the movies are MORE pessimistic than the TV series.

    Despite everything they do and despite Shinji growing a pair, all of their efforts are rendered impotent by forced out of their control.

    The characters themselves are a good deal more optimistic and could show a more positive stance towards people, but the resounding failure that takes place despite their best efforts comes off as a far more harsh perspective to me.

    Guess I find the fact that Shinji chose failure in the TV series to be more positive than the “there is no hope” vibe I’m getting from the movies. It’s that lack of control.

    • otou-san says:

      Probably too early to tell, I certainly am always waiting for Anno to pull the rug out from under us just when we think things are looking up. But the ending has been promised to be vastly different, and who knows who’s going to be in control by the time 4.0′s end credits roll?

      I definitely don’t want to imply that I think it’s gonna be a walk in the park; it just wouldn’t be Evangelion if it didn’t have a dark edge. But from recent interviews he does seem more focused on excitement, entertainment, and accessibility this time around.

  7. “like Jung and Freud uniting”
    Into Jung Freud?

    • otou-san says:

      Fufufu… Diebuster was as much a tribute to the man himself as it was a sequel to Gunbuster. Makes you wonder: was his pal and protege Tsurumaki poking a little fun at his psychological references?

  8. Robert Weizer says:

    It’ll be interesting to see where the movies go, a prevailing theory is that Rebuild takes place after EoE or something.

    • otou-san says:

      So, after the events of EoE? Almost seems kinda Groundhog Day, no? Shinji gets a chance to get it right this time. When I first read your comment, I thought “the people with this theory are bonkers” but it makes a half-reasonable amount of sense…

  9. kadian1364 says:

    That made my fucking day! :D

  10. I was given a pretty sobering thought: we are only two movies in, and it might be premature to say Shinji has manned up and Anno has lightened up (based on the content of Rebuild by itself).

    At episode 19 of the TV series, Shinji defied or stood up to Gendo much the same way — only for Toji’s sake and not Asuka (the pilot of Unit 03). The love story touches and triumph make for an interesting case that Shinji has indeed done a ‘Simon’ but we’re only halfway, Anno could still send Shinji and the rest down a panopticon of psychological blenders.

    I still want to subscribe to the Anno remembers love idea, but the narrative may well in the end follow a far more cruel thesis.

    • drmchsr0 says:

      If Anno could remember the love he never had in the first place, then I’ll fucking eat my army boots. And I’m going to eat the ones with icky Gore-Tex.

      If Anno could embrace his inner geek and come out swinging, then he’d probably won’t need to give speeches to hardcore rightwingers.

      But if Eva is going the whole hog, then by bloody fuck, I DEMAND DRILLS.

  11. aquabluesweater says:

    Watched this at the cinema and it was so awesome to see it on big screen! It was nice also that unlike part 1.0, it’s not a rehatch of the old series so there are plenty of surprises I did not expect. It will be fascinating to see which direction this thing is going to turn to in the next two installments.

    I was listening to Anime World Order podcast once and they were saying on there that what the Evas themselves are based on and should be compared to is actually Ultraman and not any robots. Afterall, they are genetic huge being with armours on, which is unlike any other mechas out there. Never thought about that but it makes a lot of sense.

    By the way, how come you are calling it Eva 2.22?

    • otou-san says:

      Ultraman makes sense as a root as well, Anno definitely had tokusatsu influences. But to simplify it like that would be to neglect a lot of the other influences. I mean, they do have pilots, and there’s plenty of Real Robot gear-grinding and engrish technobabble. In a way, the Evas were the ultimate otaku’s mecha — a bit of Ultraman, a bit of Gundam, with an epic scale that was straight out of the old super robots.

      And 2.22 is the video designation. The first one was called 1.11 on video as well. Same diff as calling it 2.0 really, it’s just not everyone was as lucky as you to see it in the theater :D

      • Fair point, I think I might have omitted the bit where I should have said the ultraman-influence is as strong, but not exclusively so, as mecha influence.

        That’s one of the beauty of being in Singapore:) They do have some showings of Japanese films every once in a while, which of course I tried my hardest not to miss out on. Got a chance to go see Eva 2.0, Summer Wars and Nodame Cantabile the live action movie which is really really awesome!

        • gwern says:

          I won’t bother to link it, but on the Evageeks forum, commentators have shown with screenshots that the scene of Shinji diving in to save Rei is almost shot-for-shot borrowed from an _Ultraman_ movie.

  12. Jack says:

    @aquabluesweater “By the way, how come you are calling it Eva 2.22?”

    There have to be three DVD/BD releases or else Gainax won’t have quite enough money.

    I’m guess I’m withholding my opinion on whether Anno has remembered love until the end of the movie series. We can only hope, but I suppose the signs are fairly positive.

  13. aquabluesweater says:

    I forgot this is GAINAX and Eva we are talking about, milking it however much they can… I wonder though if people keep track of how many releases of a title that has been put out, would Eva win by a landslide?

    • otou-san says:

      People tend to call Gainax horrible blatant cash-grabbers for all the Eva re-releases but there’s two main things about that:

      1. I don’t know where you’re from, but the loudest complainers tend to be Americans, because we really did get a billion redos. ADV established itself as a company based off the NGE license, and practically sustained itself on new versions.

      2. The original DVD release was horrible. The digitization or transfer or whatever you call it was bad. The next (Platinum in R1) fixed the issues.

      • But then again, when you have hot properties like Evangelion, you would do the most to milk as much out of it, just because you can, so I don’t blame them (both Gainax and ADV)too much on that! I guess when mention Gainax it’s because they have not seem to produce anything too much after eva and they seem to live off its popularity…

        • I’m halfway through rewatching the TV series. I just realize how difficult it must be to exceed such excellence. In relative terms, how many great works does a person (or a small team) have in him (them)?

          Frank Herbert had Dune, Isaac Asimov had Foundation (arguably also the Robot series that eventually found its way into the Foundation saga), Tolkien had The Lord of the Rings. Tomino has UC Gundam, Kawamori has Macross (and the installments of these have variable quality and are not universally appreciated within their own respective fandoms).

          Do we respect them less for not coming up with new ‘classics?’ The authors (or their respective estates) profit from the continued publication of new editions of the same novels — the SAME novels.

          Do we really expect J. K. Rowling to equal or better her Harry Potter series?

          • otou-san says:

            some people really do only have one opus in them. I think Anno’s track record outside of Eva is pretty respectable, and would look great on any other anime director’s resume. It’s just overshadowed by that one…

  14. sadakups says:

    So when I can see Evangelion 3.13661234161234 Special Edition Super Samoan Version: You Shall (Not) Stop Doing Evangelion Remakes For The Next 20 Or So Years?

    • DTU says:

      LOL, I’m not watching it yet for that very reason. When they release the Super-Awesome-Ultra-Reloaded-Redux-Seriously-This-Is-The-Last-One,-I-want-to-make-a-decent-Gunbuster-sequel-now version, THEN I’ll go watch them.

  15. DTU says:

    Honestly, the concept of a less depressing and more fun-to-watch Evangelion sounds awesome to me. I really liked the original until the 3/4 point when the writers all lost the will to live or whatever.

    • otou-san says:

      Hehe, personally that’s when I started to really enjoy it, especially the EoE version of the story. But I’m a glutton like that. I’ll admit one thing: focusing on excitement rather than abject depression and misanthropy makes for a better theatrical experience. Imagining what it was like to see this on the big screen kills me.

  16. aquabluesweater says:

    But then again when you can (re)make an anime and have it become one of the best selling BD titles in Japan every single time, who needs love?

  17. coburn says:

    From an analysis of you brain-chart, I see that sweet robots are located in the primordial stem. With regard to the new function of the robots, maybe Mari is relevant to your ideas. Since she appears to win by consciously harnessing the primordial, rather than just intermittently giving in to it.

    Anyway, while the elements you name certainly do seem like a significant addition to the franchise, I’m not sure the film is really coherent enough as a stand-alone piece to work as an exercise in mecha assertiveness/the happy.

    I mean, Shinji got lanced in the post-credits sequence, and although he had kicked reason to the curb, his action did rather appear to be triggering the apocalypse. The film certainly is less catastrophically cruel than End of Evangelion, but the tv series had its share of levity and all that – I’m not sure this new version is all that much brighter.

    • otou-san says:

      I suppose the end will be the true measure of this — but perhaps you could say that triggering the apocalypse is a better turn of events than having the apocalypse triggered despite anything you do?

  18. crazydave says:

    With all the buzz on the blogsphere about 2.22 I thought it would be a decent time to actually get around and watch the orginal series. So last night me and two friends marathoned the first 18 episodes of the series. Watched most of it in sub, but I gotta say watching some eps in dub where just plain hilarious. Can’t wait to finished the series and then watch the movies. But just to make sure I understand things, how many movies are out?

    • Movies:

      For Rebuild of Evangelion, 2 of 4 are out.

      Prior to this, you have Death & Rebirth, then End of Evangelion. These are sequels to the TV series and you should watch them prior to Rebuild.

      • otou-san says:

        and, to that end, Death & Rebirth is probably optional as it’s mostly recap. Haven’t seen it in a while though so grain of salt on that one.

  19. crazydave says:

    So after I finish the series I then watch Death and Rebirth, End of Evangelion, and then Rebuild 1.11 and 2.22?

  20. >>Or to quote Anno:

    “It is a story where the main character witnesses many horrors with his own eyes, but still tries to stand up again.”<<

    Very important, this, I think. I don't see this movie as any 'different' from the series. It's just… how it should have been told.

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  22. Matt says:

    Eva dork returning to these characters after many years and remembering love because of this film. Though I really have to wonder whether the film itself remembers love. For one, there’s no doubt characters will be coming up short, depth-wise, in a film when compared to a full television series, so why aggravate that? Who is this Mari and why is she taking all the scenes that clearly should have been Asuka’s? If anybody were going to activate Unit 02′s beast mode, wouldn’t it be Asuka? Those scenes are wasted on a new character – she’s got glasses, speaks some English, the nerds will love it. But who is she, exactly? Who even *is* Asuka to someone watching this film without any knowledge of the show? Would somebody who hadn’t seen the series really care about Misato, Ritsuko and so on judged by their characterization in this film? The film moves so quickly and is so quick to drop references to its mythology that I feel like this would be lost on the casual viewer (I submit this is a weakness, some might disagree). It becomes a wankathon about mechs and monsters instead of the psychological and spiritual drama that made the original series, where the former served the latter. You might say, “But now it’s taking all that stuff and doing it SUPER ROBOT style! Yesss!” and, right, that’s cool, but how many hot-blooded super robot shows have there been and will there be? Plenty. How many, on the other hand, are like Eva – and I don’t mean its rip-offs (well-meaning though they might be) – I mean series that really try to be about something more, go for it, and nail it, with all the messiness that results? Super robot Eva with Gurren Lagann cartoonishness and flat characters might be fun, it might be epic, it might even be remembering love to a certain extent, but it ignored what was most important and is ultimately a lesser and unfortunately superfluous document.

    • Robert Weizer says:

      We’re only two movies in, boyo.

      • otou-san says:

        Well, you’re both right to a degree, IMO.

        We are only halfway through this mess, but I agree (and digiboy goes into this in his own post, linked in the trackback above) that Asuka did get a bit shafted. Not just the kissing scene I mentioned, but the synchronized attack episode and of course the infamous “I’m so fucked up” moment. We may still get the latter. But in a product that is already going to come up short in the character-depth department thanks to its reduced length, why try to pack another character in there?

        Could be a simple equation: more girls = more fans. It really does speak to just how concerned he is with accessibility this time around. Perhaps too much so, to make up for his stubborn insistence on being oblique the first time.

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  25. Narkins says:

    Er….Well….I…… Fuck…

    Well that just awakened the rabid little fanboy inside me, Eva was the first series I actually marathoned in those giddy days long ago when didn’t have a full beard and you could find pretty much any anime you wanted on Youtube. I loved it and it reignited my interest in Anime which CN had started but failed to sustain.

    This however was good, how good depends on a couple of rewatches and probably some heavy drinking.

    Oh yeah someone eariler mentioned drills. There’s always been drills in Eva the lance of Loginus is practically one and the angels in 2.22 often ending up making some out of their… arm thingys.

    • otou-san says:

      That’s funny, Eva was one of the first series I marathoned as well — to whatever degree I could, living near a Blockbuster video rental and watching on a 13″ tv with the admittedly horrendous ADV dub (the release that made their company, pretty much). We went from renting one at a time, oh hey this is pretty good, to two at a time, to finally three tapes at a time and taking them back the next day.

      It’s a shame about CN, it introduced me to Bebop and quite a few other great anime, but they really don’t do much outside of Bleach/Naruto territory these days.

      • Narkins says:

        I’m from england, anime doesn’t really exist on telly anymore though its true that CN introduced me to anime. DBZ, tenchi, Bebop, outlaw star etc were all shown at some point before its kinda died out.

        I agree with your analysis though, a decade and a half is going to change a person and Eva now, the main characters especially, seem more positive. Asuka’s slightly more open, Shinji more backbone, Rei more human heck even Gendo appears more compassionate. He agree’s to Rei’s invite and doesn’t attempt to drown his son in LCL untill Shinji’s line about Gendo should have lost some close to him. I thought he looked rather angry after that.

        However the newly positive characters doesn’t mean that the world itself will be more positive or kind, afterall Asuka’s new openness got here a trip to quarantine and Shinji growing a pair set of the third impact. Seele are getting involved again and shit will hit the fan in the next 2 movies so we’ll see how long this more positive outlook lasts.

        Right where did I put my original series DVD’s?

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  27. Marigold Ran says:

    Will you ever do a series on the manga, Berserk? If you thought Anno was messed up….

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  29. Jessman says:

    About time he got laid.

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  32. Carrot Glace says:

    It’s as you read my mind! I love this post!
    As fans, we have not only the right, but the duty to ignore a remake if it is spoiling the memory of the original. For me, Evangelion still is 26 episodes + 2 movies.

  33. Dunks says:

    I’m not sure why everyone’s so upset about Shinji growing a pair. It’s not like he hasn’t gone on a senseless rampage before (with two other people in the cockpit, even) and this time he literally just screwed the entire world. This isn’t a Simon moment of “the girl, the universe, I’ll save them both.” This is Shinji throwing the world to the wolves to save one girl. This is him showing he can (not) stand to be alone. It’s an utterly foolish decision, one that would have surely been the end of evangelion if it weren’t for Kaworu’s interruption, and that’s what made it real for me.
    That’s just my take on it though.

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  36. dionisius says:

    well, as an animator and art director…and fan of evangelion…
    i remember buying all the VHS traveling to buenos aires to buy the new one, and calling t othe comic shop to know if the new vhs was coming… i can say that when i heard the news that eva was being rebuilt, i said…sad, they run out of ideas…
    do the same thing again? do they have nothing else to say? kare kano was great, and fresh, and new…why do eva again?

    anyway, i saw the film, and i liked it…
    it feels like eva, and it has something new…certainly more possitive…
    i don´t know if the movie was worth the effort, i would have been more happy to see a new series by Mr.Anno. a new story, and new characters…

    but what the hell, eva is still great, and still alive, so enjoy the film, and leave your mind aside.

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