Thursday, November 17, 2011

Forming a List (Anime, Part III)

Today we will turn to one of my favourite shows.

Neon Genesis Evangelion

One of the things that has drawn Western viewers into anime has been the complex nature of the storylines compared to the relatively simplistic storylines of American animation. Taking the most stereotypical tropes from giant robot shows, the staff at Gainax, under Hideako Anno's direction, created one of the landmarks of mid-90s anime that told a multi-generational story with action, angst, humour, and drama.

While some viewers are turned off by the angst of the main characters and the use of religious symbols to create an air of mystery around the alien invaders, called "Angels" (in the English version) and each named after Christian angels, I have remained facinated with Evangelion since I first encountered it in 1996 or 1997.

From the first episode, it is clear that the show starts in the middle of things. Main character Shinji arrives in Tokyo-3 just as it is being attacked by one of the mysterious Angels. Shinji is confronted by his long-absent father and is told he must pilot a giant robot, which may not actually be a robot at all, to fight the attacking Angel. It is a great hook, and we are sucked in deeper and deeper into the story from there.

Evangelion's influence can be seen in anime from the mid-90s onwards. For example characters like Rei Ayanami, one of the other Evangelion pilots, can be seen in shows from the mid-90s onwards in anime shows. At the same time, Evangelion itself was influenced heavily by shows that came before it, from Space Runaway Ideon to the British live-action series UFO.

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