This month saw the release of Neon Genesis: Evangelion on Netflix, resulting in one of the most influential animations to come out of Japan in the last 30 years finally being available on one of the most ubiquitous global viewing platforms. Whilst the news saw hither unseen mainstream coverage on this cult classic work, it’s arrival hasn’t been without controversy from its existing fans. Internet fire storms have raged, as they are want to do within the world of fandoms, and they have ranged from the trivial issue of being able to skip the intro song and the traditional bun-fight of subs v dubs, the curious copyright tale of why the iconic end music isn’t available in all countries, to the more serious complaints about how the new version of the script has changed elements of the story itself.
Wherever you stand on these issues (personally, I like being able to skip A Cruel Angel’s Thesis and get straight to the mechas & trauma), one thing remains true: Evangelion being on Netflix has opened up the show to an audience that it never had before. Whilst it’s maintained a constant level of popularity within the anime community since its global release in 1997 by ADV Films, a year after the series and films had come out in Japan, availability of the show to the casual viewer over the intervening two decades can only be described “patchy” at best. It’s now out of the shadows and into the spotlight of mainstream audiences, and the impact of that is going to shake things up as much as Greedo shooting first in the Star Wars Mos Eisley cantina.
For a major portion of viewers, the Netflix version of Evangelion will now be their “true” version of the series. It will be the one that makes or breaks their love of Hideaki Anno’s world, that gives them a shared experience with other viewers of the work, and that decides if they want to go deeper into that universe and interact with fellow traveller. And how the established Evangelion fandom reacts to that is going to be very important, because it runs the risk of greeting those fresh eyed future aficionados with a banner reading “You Like The Wrong Thing!!” Just like the “Han Shot First” t-shirsts, a generational divide is ready to be made that could loudly, and proudly, tell the latest recruits that they didn’t fall in love with the real thing and that an adoration of what was sold to them as authentic isn’t enough to let them in the club house.
If this split happens, and how it will affect the community, is difficult to tell at this time. The fandom could open its arms, let everyone sit at the table, and let the differences between the versions become a part of the discussion and enjoyment of the series. Or it could offer fandoms more traditional response to change. But it will certainly be worth watching and noting what happens, as this is going to be the largest influx based on a revised addition that an established anime community has gone through, and if it can make it work (as I hope it does) then other fandoms will have some valuable lessons to learn. Beyond how to get Shinji into the robot.
Andrew “Raggedyman” Watton-Davies
The above is a personal commentary on current events in Geek Culture and does not represent the view of Bunkazilla UK.
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