NOTE: This is a very heavy and personal discussion. Please comment with maturity. Part of the Diary of an Anime Lived series.
When I was fourteen years old, I was “so fucked up.” That’s probably why Neon Genesis Evangelion was the first anime to effect me on a personal level.
Flash back to early June 2006. I will turn fifteen in about 2 months. I haven’t watched much anime in the past couple of years, having gone through a video game phase for a year, and now being in the middle of a major music phase. I have seen eight episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion on my cousin, Funeral’s, DVDs years ago, and have always wanted to watch what I know is supposed to be the most legendary (if hard to understand) anime of all time. For the first time in my life, I go to a girl’s house (to study) and she owns the platinum box set – she lets me borrow it.
My brother and I are quite excited about the opportunity to finally watch the show. I set aside a day, and we marathon the entire thing all at once with only a short lunch break in the middle. (This would later mean that I can not remember most of the early part of the show, and stop listing it on my favorites list until further notice.) We watched it dubbed, and Asuka was such a total bitch. (A year and a half later I hate dubs and learn that Asuka is not a bitch.) I do not blink during the last two episodes once. I cry afterward. Neon Genesis Evangelion is by long and far my favorite anime of all time.
But that’s just the setting, the surface. Inside, this was the most confusing, confounding part of my life. My life had started to head downhill ever since a year before, when I was starting high school. I had always been a huge internet person, but I’d taken it to the extreme in the past year. From September 05 to February 06, we had lived in downtown Richmond Virginia – a really bad area with a crime and death rate through the roof, and a graduation rate that was a third the number of freshman at school. We should never have lived there – as always, my family was bouncing between extremes of upper-middle-class and complete poverty depending on the spiritual and relationship patterns of my parents. Things are just… out of whack.
A lot of weird shit has happened, as it tends to when you are fourteen. I was hormonal – I had thought I was gay for a while, and eventually settled on the idea that I was bisexual (I later figured out this was utter bullshit.) While we lived in Richmond, I never had a friend. I was the only white kid at my school, and I had always been shy and introverted anyway from a childhood of bullying. I turned to the internet. And to desire.
I often tell people ‘I think I really might have been insane for about a year of my life.’ I did a lot of personal experimentation, and I started deciding that everything was wrong with me. I started researching psychology and spirituality using my dad’s books like The Celestine Prophesy, and I started deciding that there was a deeper meaning to the world. And yet, I was in a ton of netships. I fell in love with a girl I knew online – fell in love HARD. I am almost convinced now that she was one-hundred percent fake. Everything about her story was bullshit. She kept me in the friendzone no matter how many times i told her I loved her, and her drama was off the fucking chain. In the time I knew her, she supposedly got raped and impregnated. It was the stupidest fucking story ever. And then she moved to Japan. Total bullshit. I ate it up. That ‘relationship’ had been coming to an end around this time.
It’s no stretch to say that the entire time between summer 2005 and summer 2007 I was manically depressed. It would only ever get worse before it got better, and no one knew about it. The only people who knew anything were my unwilling internet audience – and even online, I was always a laughing stock. I had no one. It wasn’t that I truly loved that girl. I would have fallen in love with any woman who talked to me nicely. She was just the one who talked the most.
I was ‘so fucked up,’ in that way that every fourteen year old is, even if I may have taken it to the next level, with the new ways I discovered you could masturbate, conversions I had with myself, and torturous thoughts of the spiritual politics of suicide. And right there, at the height of the spirituality; the mental conflict; the depression: right then, I watched Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Shinji Ikari was the first person to convince me that I wasn’t alone. I would have thought that if I couldn’t even find someone on the internet that understood me, than no one existed, but here he was, in anime form. A fucked up kid. He’s a coward. He always runs away, and regresses. The first time I truly realized that I was the same as Shinji Ikari was in the episode “The Hedgehog’s Dilemma.” It was explained that he always wanted to be close to people – he wanted so bad to have friends – but he didn’t know how to deal with it. In his confusion, he pushed everyone away, and they couldn’t understand why. That was me.
Loner. Loser. Failure. Shinji would fall in love with any and every woman who so much as looked at him the right way. Even if they were cold to him, treated him like a kid, or were an outright bitch towards him, he still chased after them in his head and heart, but never with his body or words. Shinji Ikari was hopeless. So hopeless, and so confused, and so desperate, that he fell in love with a man.
Shinji wasn’t bisexual. Shinji was desperate, and Kaworu was the first person who never once pushed him away. He melded with Shinji perfectly, just as I had with a friend on the internet who had once told me he loved me. I stopped talking to him after a week. I couldn’t handle it – it was way, way more than I could mentally deal with. Shinji murdered Kaworu. Like me, his confusion led him more than any real desire, and he ended up breaking things off before he ever knew where he had really gone.
And then there was the ending. My, my. The ending was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. Funny thing, too, since prior to Eva I had always disliked trippy things. I think it was my obsession with Tool and The Mars Volta at the time that had opened me up to trippy things, and then Eva really burst the door open for my slow road to total art-fagginess. Visually, it was the most awesome thing I’d ever seen. But that wasn’t the real meat.
It wasn’t enough that I was Shinji was me. The ending confirmed all of the spiritual beliefs that I had come to nurture. I had begun to believe that people all had a spiritual connection. In Evangelion, it was revealed that all people were one entity subjecting itself to existence. That you could control existence with your mind, and shape it to your will. This is what I had wanted to hear. It all made sense now. It was a revelation.
Neon Genesis Evangelion didn’t change my life, like some of the other shows I will talk about did. It didn’t even really get me back into anime – that responsibility would be taken up by The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya about six months later, which would pretty much have a similar effect on me to Evangelion, but manage to introduce me to the anime community. NGE didn’t end my depression. That would happen in March of 2007 when I moved into a new house that I loved, started watching anime seriously, and made my first good friends in a long time, namely Zerodyme.
What Neon Genesis Evangelion did was affirm my existence. It told me that it was okay, if not expected, for me to be pathetic. It told me that someone understood me, and that my way of life could properly be explained through simple psychology and philosophy. It taught me that I could find salvation through spirituality, and that my spiritual beliefs really did make sense (and, sure enough, spirituality would come to greatly aid me much later on.) It gave me something that I could point to and say – ‘this is the kind of thing that I am into.’ A piece of art that truly defined my life, my interest, and my beliefs. A true blue ‘favorite anime.’ The sheer impact it had on me and my memory of that impact would keep it in my top five until long after I’d forgotten any of the details about the show.
I picked this show to do first for a number of reasons. Firstly, because this was the first anime that I truly felt on a personal level. however, it is also because this story encompasses my post-child life up until my otakudom began. Prior to being fourteen and ‘so fucked up’, I had never lead a complicated life – I was just a kid who liked bloody Japanese cartoons and video games. It was this period that started building the structure for who I am today, and this section of my life was perfectly reflected in Neon Genesis Evangelion, right up until the start of my otakudom provided a new turning point.
I hope you enjoyed this story. Bits and pieces and details of it have been told to no shortage of people over the years, but I was always careful to never give any one person the whole story (ask Owen, he got one chunk, and I think Lolikitsune did, too!) There may not be heavy details involved, but I think this post is the most comprehensive thing I’ve ever written about this part of my life.