This past weekend I had the distinct privilege of watching Evangelion with someone who had never seen it before. The number of otaku (or nerds in general) who are actually Eva virgins is vanishingly small, and given the series’ controversial reputation, I was eager to see how it played to someone with no strong bias. At first I joked that this ought to be a scientific experiment, but eventually I did make a few notes about her reactions. I've included some of them below, though I've stricken her name in case of angry fanboy avalanche. Here are ten highlights from the marathon:
|When you find out what's under those bandages...|
2. She was surprised to learn the series was nearly twenty years old. The animation holds up exceptionally well, though the Director’s Cut additional scenes are clearly done with a higher budget and different sense of lighting. Gainax’s production values were untouchable, which made the still sequences funnier. It was hard not to joke about them running out of budget at those points.
3. She quickly predicted that the Evas were some version of angels being contained by our technology. By the middle, she also immediately caught the hints that Shinji’s mother had a relationship to EVA-01. It was particularly fun watching her pump her fists in the air when she was proven right.
6. She thought it was “adorable” that I needed other people to tell me Kaworu was gay. I have absolutely no sense about these things. He’s still my favorite character.
|I'm sure this is somebody's OTP.|
8. The only part of the ending that seriously riled her up was the notion that the “School Comedy” alternate universe might have been what was going on all along. I’d never considered the cop-out of the angels all being a dream. Naturally they aren’t, but her threats to “cut a bitch if this is real” made this splendid.
|However, this still earned a well-deserved "What?!!"|
10. Her positive reaction to the TV finale made The End of Evangelion movie more interesting. We both disliked it strongly. I’d forgotten how poorly written it is, managing in its first half to be more bombastic and violent-for-show than the TV series, and the second half actually managing to become more pretentious. Her only positive takeaway was a one-sentence suggestion of what the angels actually are, which I agree ought to have been dropped into the series.
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My own first viewing was biased as heck. It reached me at a time in my teens when I was struggling with paternal abandonment, serious health issues, and psychological BS. I may have been the perfect American audience for it, but now, at the decrepit age of 32, it held up as a great show. The pacing was surprisingly strong and it harbored atypically progressive storytelling for an anime, especially one that seems like it’s establishing such an obvious episode formula. It was splendid to go through it with someone who was inexperienced, smart and a good sport. Probably the greatest testament to what the show does is I'm considering re-watching it yet again starting next weekend.