After watching 26 episodes and a full length movie, I am feeling a little tripped out right now; what a better way to explore the realms of the psyche than with writing. For those of you who are into anime cartoons, you have probably seen NGO. For those of you who aren’t into anime, this series review is for you. This is probably the darkest review I have done yet, as the subject matter is the darkest too. Yet.
For the past couple of weeks I have been watching a show about a bunch of cartoon characters struggling with severe bouts of depression, loneliness, generational trauma after a cataclysmic event called “The Second Impact”, and coming of age. These cartoon characters are tasked with battling “Angels” with their android units called Evangelions. All of this is to stop the end of the world. So that’s the story in a nut shell.
In having now watched that story, I can see that there were many times that I found myself completely enthralled with the writers and illustrators and their courage to explore the dark realms of horror, abandonment, trauma, joy, family, escapism, and many other themes. More importantly though, I was impressed that a show was able to illicit feelings of triumph to the point of tears and keep me on the edge of my seat with intrigue. But in the same breath, there were parts that had me absolutely bored to abysmal state.
But that’s only the surface. Diving into what this show made me experience I would like to start off my saying that this world that we live in has many experiences that are ultimately beyond what any one of us are able to control, take COVID for instance. Many of these experiences (suicide, murder, betrayal to name a few), while felt by many, are experienced on a individual level, as in they are felt by you and they are felt by me. This seems pretty elementary at this point, but lets go further and see if this ties back into Evangelion.
You see, there is something ultimately mysterious about the experiences that those around us have. The kind of lived experience that you have will never be truly understood by me. You can talk about your experience, you can make art about your experience and you can even inflict pleasures and pains on others, but those experiences are your own and expecting anyone to “get you” is a far cry.
So what does this have to do with Evangelion? Throughout the show we watch characters express and experience their reality. We, the audience, watch their reality. To the best of our ability, we can only make a guess at what the characters are experiencing. Shoot, they have no idea what we experience and that’s the point of where I am going with all of this: even though I am here writing out my thoughts as best as I am able and you are reading them as much as you are interested, neither you nor I understand each other any better just as the characters on screen don’t understand their audience any better than we understand them.
Okay, so what does this have to do with Evangelion? You see, the larger problem that this show exposes is that even if you and I were able to perfectly understand each other, if there was no barrier between the characters on screen, you and I or us and them, then reality would become a unified experience devoid of differentiation, specificity, or (dare I say it) originality. It is by this fact of individuality, or the barrier of understand-ability, that warrants our yearning and desire to see love expressed towards others. It is for the fact that we are all left alone inside our own bodies, to live and die as we will, that garners the possibility of empathy for another’s life. Even if that life is a cartoon character.
Now I’ll ask this one last time, what does any of this have to do with Neon Genesis Evangelion? Well, this show evinces the terrible realities that we all must overcome, the angels we must battle within our world in order for us to remain who we are becoming, and to protect those around us whom we suspect are as lost, lonely, frustrated and traumatized by an existence they perceptively didn’t ask for, nor can they change. Neon Genesis Evangelion is a really weird show that uses anime tropes like monsters, mechanized war machines and child pilots to explore the complexities of human experience in an array of visual drama, plot driven character development, and an emotional arrangement of music. Aside from the immense feelings of despair and haunting sadness, this show explicitly captures the imaginations of each subsequent generation with its ability to say the words that we all seemed to feel growing up as prepubescent children and even as existentially drifting adults.
Alright, I am done tripping. I am going to go for a walk or something. It is way better than being locked down by these thoughts. Afterwards I will probably listen to my self play the guitar (been learning a great song lately). Then I am going to get closer to finishing my next book I’d like to report on and then cook dinner.