Is Evangelion Overrated?

Evangelion ScreenshotDictionary.com definition of Overrated:
To overestimate the merits of; to rate too highly.

Critics of Evangelion claim the series exploits theological, psychoanalytical, and philosophical imagery and concepts to make it appear to be more than it really is. It is also accused of not answering basic plot points not because of any artistic merit, but of either inconsistent storytelling or of an attempt appear more sophisticated than it really is. Fans of the series however maintain that a lack of knowledge and understanding of such concepts often leaves first-time viewers frustrated, leading to undue criticism.

So who is right? As is often the case, the answer hides somewhere in between. Firstly claiming anything to be overrated is by nature very subjective. After all, there are some people who claim the Bible to be overrated. Perhaps the most accurate way of measuring the merits of Evangelion may be to point to its popularity and international success.

RahXephon ScreenshotThere is no Anime fan on the planet who has not seen or heard of Evangelion, and if imitation is the ultimate form of flattery, one has only to look as far as Revolutionary Girl Utena (1997), Serial Experiments Lain (1998), RahXephon (2002), Fafner (2004), and Genesis of Aquarion (2005) to see the influence of Evangelion. Considering the effect and influence the series has had on the Anime industry, its success is nothing short of frightening.

The series may however be a victim of its own popularity, leaving many first-time viewers scratching their heads. It important to note that despite the show's appeal, it is not a retelling of the Bible. Hideaki Anno, the director of the series, has himself stated that Evangelion should not be taken so seriously. Evangelion is an Anime series that tells a compelling sci-fi story. Neither the producers nor the director have claimed otherwise.

The success of Evangelion is not attributed to what it says or the questions it answers, but rather to the questions it asks. In many ways Evangelion may also be considered educational, as to many young viewers it represents the introduction to such concepts as psychoanalysis, philosophy, theology, and psychology. This in turn provokes discussion and a drive to learn more (the fact that you are reading this proves this point).

Evangelion ScreenshotThere are as many interpretations of the series as there are fans, which also adds to its appeal. In fact the series was designed in such a way as to make it impossible to reach a single conclusion, particularly with the release of the feature film The End of Evangelion, whose conclusion is to this day a source of debate among fans. So why is this appealing? Because it allows viewers to experience the series as they like, in a way making it theirs.

If one watches Evangelion for what it really is; a thought-provoking Anime series utilizing concepts from various sources of human intellect, one can hardly consider it overrated, though ultimately it does remain a form of entertainment, not a source of revelation. While this web site (hopefully) serves to appease viewers who like things neatly laid out for them, the genius of Evangelion is not that it offers answers, but that it asks questions. To quote director Hideaki Anno, "Don't expect to be catered to all the time. We all have to find our own answers."

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July 11, 2014
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