Does Neon Genesis Evangelion say something to you? If not, here is what you should know about Japanese mecha anime and the illustrious anime now available on Netflix
Mecha is a popular genre of anime and manga. With the first series dating back to the '50s, mecha anime is one of the oldest and most popular types of anime watched worldwide. It was first used to tell stories about war featuring kids as main characters. The teenagers we followed in their adventures struggled to hold it together in a world that could easily end their life at any time. Mecha registered a whirl winding success and therefore entered multiple industries, like fashion and gambling. Hence, no one is now surprised to find out that you can play Pachinko slots inspired from mecha anime series in Japan. In fact, Evangelion Pachislot Series is one of the most crowd-pleasing ones.
But if you just heard about Neon Genesis Evangelion and you're still trying to figure out if you should watch it on Netflix, it can be a bit daunting to understand what it implies and how it managed to influence generations of young people.
Fortunately, this article's purpose is to present you with a short introduction into mecha anime and bring light on why Netflix acquired streaming rights for Neon Genesis Evangelion. It seems like it's a big deal in the anime world.
What is mecha?
Mecha is a popular Japanese anime and manga genre that includes and focuses on technological and mechanical advancements. Androids, cyborgs, robots, and space stations are common appearances, with robots being the main interest category. Each series presents a particular type of robot that can vary from humanoid robots (Osamu Tezuka) to robots used for battles (Mobile Suit Gundam). The robots' origin also differs from a series to another, and therefore some are created through science while others through magic.
Mecha gained soaring popularity in Japan following the end of World War II because the country experienced rapid technological and economic growth. In the 1950s, two series came to light that would later define the foundations of the genre Mighty Atom and Tetsujin. Both feature robots fighting other robots or technological monsters to save the world. The format reached the heights of popularity in Japan somewhere around the 1970s and 1980s with Mazinger Z that featured a giant robot battling the bad guys.
Japan wasn't the only country to welcome the new genre; America also showed interest. Americans fell in love with the model kits of the popular mecha series and toy lines featuring robots. The Japanese brand Takara Tomy introduced a line of robots that could change into other objects like cars. Does it ring a bell? The American company Hasbro used the concept to create the Transformers. The success of mecha has waxed and waned in the following decades, with bestselling series like Neon Genesis Evangelion breaking the market. This particular series is special because it turned multiple conventions on its head and presented the public with a gloomier psychological story.
What robots should you expect to meet in mecha anime?
Mecha anime and manga usually feature two categories of robots, real robots, and super robots.
Real robots are science-based mass-produced machines, usually made for war like the ones from All You Need is Kill, Battle Angel Alita, and The Ghost in the Shell. These stories follow real robots, also called cyborgs, that battle in dystopian environments.
Super robots are unique and have pseudo-mythical abilities and powers they inherited from ancient civilizations or their creators. They can often merge with other robots to create giant machines like Voltron.
And now let's talk about the anime with the most confusing ending Neon Genesis Evangelion, the one that inspired the Evangelion Pachislot Series.
Why is Neon Genesis Evangelion one of the most important anime series in the history of the genre?
In 2018, Netflix acquired the streaming rights for Neon Genesis Evangelion. The move marked a historical movement because the streaming giant finally managed to take the anime off Japanese shelves after years of licensing disagreements. Neon Genesis Evangelion aired on TV in Japan from October 1995 to March 1996, comprising 26 episodes. In 2007 four-part movie series was launched in theatres to retell the classic story, with the final film reaching the screen in 2020. Evangelion's action (also called Eva) happens in 2015, 20 years in the future from the series' debut, with a damaged-beyond-reconstruction Earth during what is called the Second impact. The UN works with a special military organization Nerv to protect the survivors from the arrival of extra-terrestrial killer machines known as Angels. Only Nerv robots, called Eva Units, can defeat the Angels, and sadly there are only four of them. Eva isn't the most fun to watch mecha anime, but it definitely triggered the most fuss around the genre and entered many industries. For example, Pachinkos, the national obsession in Japan, include a Evangelion Pachislot Series to allow the fans to explore the world in a non-conventional way. Even if all gambling games are illegal in Japan, this one generated 30 trillion-yen profit annually, and Japan legalized all pachinko activities in 2018.
Eva's cultural impact extends worldwide
For all the criticism the series registered, its worldwide success is undeniable. At a moment when the Japanese entertainment industry considered anime pandering and lowbrow, Evangelion broke boundaries and met audiences' expectations. But its release was also well-times because it premiered after a tumultuous period for the Japanese population struggling with an economic downturn. In 1995, they had a terrorist attack in Tokyo, and an earthquake in Kobe that left the country as devastated as the Earth is in Eva. Mecha anime and manga brought hope that transformed it into a social phenomenon.
But Eva's characters are also well-known outside Japan, and many Western movies and cartoons paid it homage. Its arrival on Netflix introduces it to a new public, part of never watched anime before, but are charmed by its magic and are curious about it.
If you don't find Eva engaging enough, that's fine. You can choose from many other anime series.