The Netflix Evangelion Controversy

Neon Genesis Evangelion has been released on Netflix for a few days now, and it has garnered a large reaction to say the least. There have been a fair amount of reactions to the iconic show finally streaming, from love and hate from new fans, to love and hate from old fans. This is mainly the result of the show getting a new English dub, as well as some script changes, with a few particular lines being cast under major scrutiny. There were also some other aspects of the show that were changed to make a bit of a situation out of it.

The first and most apparent change to Neon Genesis Evangelion was that of the English dub. The entire voice cast has been changed, and the results are varying. Some characters sound as good as their original counterparts, like Misato and Rei, some are much better like Gendo and Kaji, and then there’s the most divisive, the main character Shinji. Now, I think the new voice actor does a good job, but not only does Shinji now sound more like a girl, a fair amount of lines don’t have the same impact as the original. Overall though, I think the dub is really good, and mostly better than the original due to the additional focus and effort put into it. And while we may have lost the pilot who sounded like he was from Ed, Edd, and Eddy, at least Numbuh 2 from Codename: Kids Next Door voices Kensuke.

One thing Hideaki Anno (the creator of Evangelion) loves to do in his work is have black screens with text on them appear. This is present in both Neon Genesis Evangelion and his other works like Shin Godzilla, and is part of his style. Episode 14 has tons of text screens, and is almost built around it, and those screens are translated with subtitles. The problem though, is that those are the only text screens with subtitles. There are tons of different screens that pop up, but nothing is able to be gleaned from it by those not fluent in Japanese, which would be most people watching the English dub. This was a bad choice, as these slides are a part of the story, and translations for them have not only been done before, but were also necessary for an entire episode. The decision to not have these text screens outside of episode 14 is one of the few that’s not understandable from any angle you look at it from.

One of Neon Genesis Evangelion’s most defining features is its incredible soundtrack. There are many different orchestrated pieces that can help instantly set the mood between joy, tension, anguish, and so much more. Obviously, the main theme Cruel Angel’s Thesis is also one of the greatest songs ever made, but the new Netflix version omits the second most iconic song from the series, Fly Me To The Moon. Originally, the Bart Howard song was played at the end of every episode, with different singers (sometimes even cast members) singing it. The sheer iconicness of the song makes it strange that Netflix will pay $100 million dollars to hold onto the streaming rights for friends, but won’t spend money to get the second most iconic song in Evangelion.. A peculiar fact though is that the song isn’t entirely gone from the show. In the Japanese release, the song still plays as the end theme, and the music can be heard in episode 17 when Misato and Kaji are talking. Even though the song is there in the background, its removal from the ending makes this version lose something compared to the original version of Evangelion.

Finally, we’ve reached the most controversial change yet, and that’s of one line change that Kaworu says to Shinji. Originally, the scene had Kaworu saying to Shinji “I love you.” Obviously, this was an important scene as it both showed a different side of Shinji’s love life opposed to Rei and Asuka, as well as had somebody saying they loved Shinji for the first time. The new Netflix dub has Kaworu say to Shinji “I like you,” which many people see as straight washing this character. Dealing with translations is always a very tricky thing, especially when dealing with the context of the scenes. The japanese word used is “suki” and it does mean like rather than love, but it has a romantic undertone to it, as opposed to just a level of enjoyment. This translation change, as well as other changes such as saying “Third Children” for Shinji, isn’t due to Netflix though. This was done by Studio Khara and the new translation has some lines being taken more literally. So while this translation is obviously a controversial change, it wasn’t actually Netflix who did it.

This one line change has been under fire for two major reasons, the first being the erasure of the only gay relationship in Evangelion, and the other being the narrative impact of Kaworu and Shinji’s relationship in the show. In regards to the relationship erasure, it is undoubtedly less explicit, but it’s still there. Remember, this line is uttered within only hours of the two meeting each other, and Kaworu’s presence is still felt from this episode through the last two and into The End of Evangelion. While the japanese word fits better in the context, there is an argument to be made for both sides of the love or like debate. However, with such an iconic line for an insanely iconic relationship that has branched out more in the remakes, not to mention this was during pride month, the hate it has received is understandable.

When it comes to the narrative aspect though, this can make Shinji’s tragedy even more vehement. The original line has Shinji seeking love so desperately that he’ll take it from anywhere, including an Angel. However, the new line shows just how isolated and hated Shinji feels. Then Kaworu comes along and not only shows but tells Shinji that he likes him, that’s the only person Shinji believes. This is backed up by how in The End Of Evangelion, Shinji imagines everybody hating him. Everybody except Kaworu, that is. This is also post-Kaworu/Rei giant formation, by the way.

Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the greatest shows of all time, and even though this new netflix rerelease has been met with some controversy, it has still brought tons of new fans into the show. These controversies with this new version are all valid, and while some are more important to the show and its culture overall, they have sparked discussions about the show for a whole new generation. The Netflix Evangelion is far from perfect, but despite its flaws, its better than what we had before. The visuals are better, the voice acting is (for the most part) improved, and it’s way easier to watch than ever before.

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