It’s definitely not every week and not every month that New York Magazine, The New Yorker and Vox pay attention to Japanese animation. But, of course, if there is ever an anime – not directed by Hayao Miyazaki or Mamoru Oshii – that would qualify for coverage in a mainstream English-language publication, Neon Genesis Evangelion, now available for streaming on Netflix, is that anime.

Ever since Evangelion premiered on Japanese television in the fall of 1995, and then made its way to countries around the world via means both official and decidedly unofficial, it has been the subject of intense discussion and reflection. And while it’s essentially impossible to build anything like a comprehensive catalog of “fan” reaction to Eva, what we can do is instead ask – and answer – the question of how have anime scholars responded.

As with any literature review or survey of this type, it is subject to certain restrictions and caveats. The most obvious one is of “scope” – the distinction between just passing mentions of Evangelion, and actual in-depth substantive discussion. But exactly where does this distinction lie? And beyond that, there is also the issue of “recall” – there is no way to ever be sure that a literature search is fully comprehensive. Nonetheless, and with these restrictions in mind, a look at English-language scholarly responses to Neon Genesis Evangelion still adds an important angle to considering and reflecting on Eva’s impact and effect.

Neon Genesis Evangelion Studies, 1996 – present

1996

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Azuma, Hiroki. Anime or something like it: Neon Genesis Evangelion. InterCommunication, 18.

1997

[ARCHIVED]
Woznicki, Krystian. Towards a cartography of Japanese anime: Anno Hideaki’s “Evangelion”. Blimp Film Magazine, 36, 18-26

1999

Steinberg, Marc. The trajectory of the apocalypse: Pleasure and destruction in Akira and Evangelion. East Asia Forum, 8/9, 1-31.

2000

Routt, William D. Stillness and style in ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’. Animation Journal, 8(1), 28-43.

2002

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Broderick, Mick. Anime’s apocalypse: Neon Genesis Evangelion as millennarian mecha. Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context, 7.

Napier, Susan J. When the machines stop: Fantasy, reality, and terminal identity in “Neon Genesis Evangelion” and “Serial Experiments Lain”. Science Fiction Studies, 29(3), 418-435.

Orbaugh, Sharalynn. Sex and the single cyborg: Japanese popular culture experiments in subjectivity. Science Fiction Studies, 29(3), 436-452.

2004

Redmond, Dennis. The World is Watching: Video as Multinational Aesthetics, 1958-1995. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

“Evolving rapidly from the movie screen to the television screen to the computer screen, video culture has blossomed from its origins as an obscure spin-off of the 1960s Anglo-American media culture into one of the leading art forms of the late twentieth century. And as such, video culture has grown from being the dominion of small but dedicated cult followings to becoming a near mainstream cinematic interest. The World Is Watching: Video as Multinational Aesthetics, 1968–1995 explores the origins and implications of this powerful visual medium which crosses national, cultural, and political boundaries to present provocative tales of the highest quality. Dennis Redmond’s probing study is rooted in close readings of three stylish and highly successful video efforts – The Prisoner (1967), The Decalogue (1988), and Neon Genesis: Evangelion (1995).”

[Ed. note: This title, largely ignored by both film/video scholars in general and by anime scholars in particular, is the only in-depth comparative discussion of Evangelion in a full-length scholarly monograph that I am aware of.]

2005

Sanders, Leonard. Virtual ephemeralities: Idoru and Evangelion, popular visual cultures in Japan.
In Martin Heusser, Michele Hannoosh, Eric Haskell, Leo Hoek, David Scott, & Peter de Voogd (Eds.), On verbal/visual representation (pp. 137-149). Amsterdam: Rodopi.

2007

Malone, Paul M. My own private apocalypse: Shinji Ikari as Schreberian paranoid superhero in Hideaki Anno’s Neon Genesis Evangelion.
In Wendy Haslem, Angela Ndalianis, & Chris Makie (Eds.), Super/heroes: From Hercules to Superman (pp. 111-126). Washington, DC: New Academia.

Ortega, Mariana. My father, he killed me; my mother, she ate me: Self, desire, engendering, and the mother in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Mechademia, 2, 216-232.

Redmond, Dennis. Anime and East Asian culture: Neon Genesis Evangelion. Quarterly Review of Film and Video, 24(2), 183-188.

2008

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Ashby, Madeline. Ownership, authority, and the body: Does antifanfic sentiment reflect posthuman anxiety? Transformative Works and Cultures, 1.

“This essay examines three Japanese anime texts – Ghost in the Shell, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Serial Experiments: Lain – in order to discover metaphors for female fan practices online. In each of the three texts, women overthrow corporate, governmental, or paternal control over the body and gain the right to copy or reproduce it by fundamentally altering those bodies. These gestures are expressions of posthuman anxiety and “terminal identity.” In addition, they involve confrontation with an uncanny double in some way. But how can they provide models for cyborg and fan subjectivity in an era in which bodily and textual reproduction, especially among females, is such a hotly contested issue? And how is the antifanfic backlash related to the phenomenon of the uncanny?”

2009

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Thouny, Christophe. Waiting for the Messiah: The becoming-myth of Evangelion and Densha Otoko. Mechademia, 4, 111-129.

2010

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Bryce, Mio. Cheung, Paul, & Gutierrez, Anna Katrina. Clones, hybrids and organ transplants in manga and anime. International Journal of the Humanities, 8(5),279-290.

“Manga and anime are commonly regarded as media products geared primarily towards entertainment and merchandising opportunities. However, some are capable of offering critical commentary on society, humanity and more broadly, life itself. Following the lead taken by the ‘God of Manga’ Tezuka Osamu in “Seimei-hen” in “Hi no Tori” (“Life” in “Phoenix”, 1980), a number of manga and anime have produced unsettling images of clones and hybrid beings, particularly those resulting from organ transplantation. These works question, typically ahead of the technology of the time, the value of life, the integrity of its form, and its immunity from commodification. In spite of their fictionality, these narratives are associated with a great sense of reality and immediacy, due in part to rapid developments in biotechnology, computing and engineering. At the same time, humanity itself appears to have changed along with these developments and the fictional narratives can be said to embody fears, hopes, and dreams concerning life and its significance. They deal with a range of pressing social and ethical issues, especially those related to the self and its multiple boundaries, whilst entertaining their readers and viewers. Using several narratives as exemplars, this paper will explore the use of biotechnology in manga and anime as devices in envisioning ‘life’ – what it may be, how it is formed and how it could be dealt with, at the individual as well as collective level. In doing so, the paper will demonstrate how these manga and anime narratives and others like them are relevant in a wide range of contexts despite their apparent linguistic and cultural specificity.”

2013

Li, Carl, Nakamura, Mari and Roth, Martin. Japanese science fiction in converging media: Alienation and Neon Genesis Evangelion. Asiascape Occasional Papers, 6, 1-15.

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Ruh, Brian. Producing transnational cult media: Neon Genesis Evangelion and Ghost in the Shell in circulation. Intensities: The Journal of Cult Media, 5, 1-23.

2014

Ballus, Andreu, & Torrents, Alba G. Evangelion as Second Impact: Forever changing that which never was. Mechademia, 9, 283-293.

DiTommaso, Lorenzo. Apocalypticism and popular culture.
In John J. Collins (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of apocalyptic literature (pp. 473-510). New York: Oxford University Press.

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Savoy, Katherine. The artificial restoration of agency through sex and technology in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies, 14(3).

“In this article, I will discuss the origin and limiting factors of identity in the series Neon Genesis Evangelion and the relationship between the individual and the community. I will examine the process of outsourcing one’s identity and, in doing so, relinquishing agency and responsibility. To elaborate on these points I will dissect the show’s patriarchal structure, looking first at the role of women and then sexuality as it applies to the struggle between free-will and imposed external regulation. I will follow the growth of identity through the presence of technology, and question the assumed binaries between man and machine as well as how the series challenges such concepts. Finally, I will look at denial as the internal control of identity, contrasting with the use of self-awareness for social domination within the community.”

2016

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Tsang, Gabriel F. Y. Beyond 2015: Nihilism and existential rhetoric in Neon Genesis EvangelionJournal of International and Advanced Japanese Studies, 8, 35-43.

“Generally categorized as low art, Japanese manga and anime draw insufficient overseas critical attention, regardless of their enormous cultural influence in East Asia. Their popularity not simply proved the success of cultural industrialization in Japan, but also marks a series of local phenomena, reflecting social dynamicity and complexity, that deserve interdisciplinary analysis. During the lost decade in the 1990s, which many scholars studied with economic accent (Katz 1998, Grimes 2001, Lincoln 2001, Amyx 2004, Beason and Patterson 2004, Rosenbluth and Thies 2010), manga and anime industry in Japan entered its golden age. The publication and broadcast of some remarkable works, such as Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, Crayon Shin-chan and Slam Dunk, not only helped generate huge income (nearly 600 billion yen earned in the manga market in 1995) that alleviated economic depression, but also distracted popular focus from the urge of demythologising national growth.

This paper will focus on the TV-series version of Hideaki Anno’s Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995–1996), a well-received anime broadcast after the Great Hanshin earthquake and the Tokyo subway sarin attack perpetrated by terrorists of Aum Shinrikyo, both happening in 1995. I will base my discussion on someimportant concepts of Jean-Paul Sartre, such as le pour-soi (the for-itself) and bad faith, to illustrate how Hideaki Anno represents his protagonists as figures emancipated by existentialist morality. His frequent use of monologue in latter episodes individually enquiring the meaning of personal existence, following the dystopian fall of Tokyo-3, echoes the nihilistic context of both post-traumatic Europe and over-capitalized
Japan. I argue that the subjective bonding between given existence of self-consciousness and innate search for fixing the purpose of being has pre-universalized relevant reflection. It sustains the celebrity of Neon Genesis Evangelion until now, especially when Japan has not yet recovered from the 2011 earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tohoku, which carried unresolved economic challenges.”

2 Comments on Neon Genesis Evangelion: A Bibliography of English Language Scholarship

  1. What about ‘Sex and the Single Cyborg: Japanese Popular Culture Experiments in Subjectivity’ by Sharalyn Orbaugh in the November 2002 issue of Science Fiction Studies (same issue as the Susan Napier essay)?

    • Good point – it’s been a *while* since I read that paper, and since the title doesn’t mention Eva specifically, and it doesn’t have an abstract, pretty much forgot what it actually touched on. Thank you for the reminder – added!

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