"Neon Genesis Evangelion" "Neon Genesis Evangelion"

Sawako Kabuki joins us from Tokyo for the second edition of The Animation That Changed Me, a new series in which leading filmmakers discuss one work of animation that has had a formative influence on them. Kabuki’s prizewinning short films depict vomit, masturbation, and other bodily functions with a brash, kinetic energy. Her work has been recognized at Annecy, SXSW, and Zagreb, and she has directed an ident for Adult Swim. Her choice is Neon Genesis Evangelion, Hideaki Anno’s groundbreaking anime series about teenagers piloting giant cyborgs in a future conflict. Over to Kabuki:

Sawako Kabuki
Sawako Kabuki.

I believe I first saw Neon Genesis Evangelion when I was 12–14 years old — about the same age as the Eva [cyborg] pilot characters. So I was sympathetic to the uneasy feeling that is characteristic of adolescence. My brother had recorded the whole series on VHS tapes, and I borrowed them from him and watched them at home. I had heard of the series, but knew nothing about it except that it is a mecha anime.

After I watched the tapes, I felt the same feelings after going to Disneyland when I was little. It was a mixed feeling, exciting and sad at the same time. [But it became] the anime series I was most addicted to when I was a teenager. In addition to the battle scenes, it focuses on the real life of the characters as adolescents — the emotions that we’ve all experienced. That’s one of reasons why I like it so much, [even if] it’s a bit over the top.

The quality of the drawings is different for each episode, which is super odd, but I think that’s also the charm of this series. I wasn’t influenced by its technique or style of painting, but I was influenced by the depiction of a piece of everyday life and the way it captures the sadness of the brooding emotions inherent in adolescence. Perhaps that’s why a kind of sadness, sentimentality, and “everyday life” is a consistent theme in my work.

I liked to memorize lines from the series. As part of that, I impersonated an out-of-control Eva in my middle-school hallway, and some boys complained that it was too loud and annoying. I just wanted to be a part of the story and I really wanted to ride an Eva at that time. I have a kind of fascination with things that have gotten out of control. It’s animalistic and erotic.

Most of my close friends liked this series and we play-acted famous scenes together. Some of my friends made (R-rated) fan-fiction comics and illustrations, but I wasn’t interested in it that much.

I never got to discuss the series with anyone who worked on it, but I’d prefer not to experience that because it would be so awkward. I feel like I’d have a stroke if I actually came face to face with someone I’ve respected (or someone who has created a work I admire) for years.

I haven’t re-watched the tv series that much since I grew up, but I always check out new movies [in the franchise]. I’m now about the same age as the adult character Misato Katsuragi, the operations director at NERV, but I still watch it from the perspective of the Eva pilot characters. So I think I’m still going through adolescence and a rebellious phase.

“Neon Genesis Evangelion” is available to watch on Netflix.

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