It is very rare for the New York Times to pay any attention to Japanese animation beyond Hayao Miyazaki’s films. So, when the Times does highlight a new anime, or a new anime director, it’s clear that we are dealing with something that is really out of the ordinary. And by all means, Neon Genesis Evangelion, which first began as a series that aired on Japanese television from October 10, 1995 to March 27, 1996, and has since been followed by six theatrical films, several manga, numerous games, and easily hundreds of items of merchandise is extraordinary in its impact and its influence.
Very soon after the conclusion of Evangelion’s Japanese television run, it began attracting attention from scholars of popular culture, film, media, and other related subjects. And now, close to 30 years later, it continues to do so to a degree that no other single anime title or property has been able to match.
Previously, I compiled a listing of published English-language scholarly writing on Evangelion as an AnimeMangaStudies.com post. But going forward, I think it will be more useful to have this same kind of listing available as a permanent resource that can be accessed easily and archived as needed.
Neon Genesis Evangelion: A Bibliography of English-Language Scholarship
Last updated: January 20, 2023
[Monographs] — — [Essay Collections] — — [Chapters/Articles] — — [Other]
Anime from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation
Susan J. Napier (New York: Palgrave, 2000, 2005)
“In this knowing and insightful introduction to anime as a cultural phenomenon, Susan J. Napier goes inside the world of anime to explore how it reflects and colors both Japanese society and our growing global culture.”
Although this is not immediately evident, Chapter 5, “Ghosts and Machines: The Technological Body” and Chapter 11, “Waiting for the End of the World: Apocalyptic Identity” in both the original edition and in the 2005 update (retitled Anime from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle) discuss Evangelion extensively.
The World is Watching: Video as Multinational Aesthetics, 1968-1995
(Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2004)
“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).”
forthcoming? – Dr. Michael Cronin (Associate Professor of Japanese Studies, College of William & Mary) has announced that he is currently working on “a book-length project that explores the pivotal year 1995 as represented in anime, manga, literature, and film”, and Evangelion will specifically be one of the titles that he will focus on.
These two recent volumes clearly illustrate the sheer breadth and diversity of ways of talking about Evangelion. Interestingly, Media-Specific Approaches opens with the statement that it is “not primarily dedicated to the famous franchise”, and goes on to argue that “the initial TV series of EVA…provides a case for the study of anime as distinct from, while connected to, Animation Studies, and as institutionalized within the humanities via academic societies and scholarly journals, among other things”. Its ten chapters “present 10 different aspects of Anime Studies, beginning with close attention to textual characteristics…and broadening the scope to include subcultural discourse, genre categorizations, franchising and fandom”. Evangelion here is a shared background, not necessarily the direct subject, and the individual chapters are not aimed at exploring or analyzing particular themes, plot points or character relationships. Rather, the authors of each one use Evangelion as a starting point to ask questions that can potentially be applied to anime in general.
Neon Genesis and Philosophy, in Carus Books’ Pop Culture and Philosophy series, is a very different kind of book – in its goal, scope, and approach. As with the other Pop Culture and Philosophy titles, its goal is simultaneously more straight-forward and more grounded: “to show how we can mutually satisfy our more juvenile inclinations while also leading us to reflect on ourselves (calling upon us to fulfill the Dephic command know thyself). Its nineteen relatively short chapters, grouped into five thematic sections with headings like “Finding meaning in instrumentality”, “How to think when you are (not) alone”, and “Tools to rebuild after impact” are not meant to be deeply analytical, or for that matter, to make significant contributions to any ongoing conversations. But they do nonetheless serve the purpose of introducing readers to a range of philosophical ideas and concepts – and actually, in the same way as Media-Specific Approaches – then turns to Evangelion to illustrate them.
Edited Chapters / Peer-Reviewed Articles
Evangelion finished airing in the spring of 1996. And it only took a few months for the first scholarly interpretations of it to appear – and the most recent ones have just been published a few months ago. This list is very possibly not complete even as I am compiling it, and of course, it will most likely continue to grow going forward.
Galbraith, Patrick W. The Evangelion boom: On the explosion of fan markets and lifestyles in Heisei Japan.
In Noriko Murai, Jeff Kingston, & Tina Burrett (eds.). Japan in the Heisei Era (1989-2019): Multidisciplinary perspectives (pp. 234-244). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
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Hoffer, Heike. Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ikari Shinji, and J.S. Bach: Using music to define the Japanese yūtōsei. Historifans (August 4, 2022).
Lamerics, Nicolle. The emotional realism of anime: Rewriting characters and affective reception in Evangelion 3.0+1.0: Thrice Upon a Time. Mechademia: Second Arc, 15(1), 81-102.
Afanasov, Nikolai. Messiah in depression: Religion, science-fiction and postmodernism in Neon Genesis Evangelion. State, Religion and Church, 7(1), 47-66.
[original version in Russian]
Gatti, Giuseppe. The mecha that that therefore we are (not): An eco-phenomenological reading of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Series: International Journal of TV Serial Narratives, 7(1), 63-80.
“In the late 1960s, the Japanese animation inaugurated a prolific science fiction strand which addressed the topic of mediated experience. In a context of transnational reception and consumption of anime, the ‘robotic’ subgenre (particularly the one that will be called ‘mecha’ in the 1980s, i.e., narratives of giant robots piloted by a human within) occupies a strategic place. By highlighting the peculiar synergy between themes, forms of storytelling and ‘out-of-joint’ consumption, the Japanese robotic animation series thematized and popularized content and perspectives on mediated experience that I define as ‘eco-phenomenological’: ‘phenomenological’ because (i) it reevaluates the quality of the subjective experience in its historical and biocultural context; ‘ecological’ because (ii) it look at the environment as an intelligent system; and (iii) it proposed a multidisciplinary approach between the human sciences and the life sciences.
The article proposes an analysis of the forms of narration and reception of the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-1996), in its ability to have intercepted, synthesized and internationally popularized in an innovative and almost unparalleled way, the complexity of the eco-phenomenological perspective. Views and epistemological approaches at the center of the contemporary scientific and cultural debate will be reconstructed, discussed and analyzed through the concepts of body, mind, environment and presence which are promoted in the Evangelion series.”
Stojnic, Betty. Boy with machine: A Deleuzoguattarian critique of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Journal of Anime and Manga Studies, 2, 27-56.
“In this paper, I provide an analysis of the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion and the feature film The End of Evangelion through the theory of French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari as outlined in their seminal work Capitalism and Schizophrenia. I tackle the authors’ concepts of Oedipus and absolute deterritorialization in order to provide a philosophical consideration of the series’ central plot points and developments. My aim is to employ Charles J. Stivale’s concept of academic “animation” to critique Evangelion’s emphasis on the nuclear family structure and its influence on subject-formation, as well as to demonstrate that a Deleuzoguattarian framework is uniquely suited for this task. I conclude that Evangelion, through its experimental use of animation as a medium, produces a compelling depiction of absolute deterritorialization in the form of the Human Instrumentality Project. However, the series ultimately remains loyal to its prioritisation (rooted in psychoanalysis and the Oedipus complex) of the family unit, with the protagonist Ikari Shinji rejecting Instrumentality and preferring, instead, to live as a unified subject defined by familial relations.”
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Tsang, Gabriel F. Y. Beyond 2015: Nihilism and existential rhetoric in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Journal 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 some important 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.”
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.”
Tam, Antony Chun-man. Serial communication experiments: You (cannot) advance.
In Elsa Bouet (ed.). The (un)certain future of empathy in posthumanism, cyberculture and science fiction (pp. 29-40). Freeland, UK: Inter-Disciplinary Press.
“Though critical posthumanism proposes the formation of an ultimate inclusive community, there is a lack of a practical solution. Through analysing two anime, Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-) and Serial Experiments Lain (1998), this chapter explores how this ideal holism can be achieved through pursuing effective communication. In contrast to traditional posthuman beliefs, this chapter argues that holism is never a stable state. Referring to the informational nature of universe, the development of the posthuman instead forms a cycle. This chapter starts by analysing the barriers to effective communication. In the two anime, the message form determines the communication process. This materiality prevents the exchange of true thoughts. Characters tend to stress only the information instead of its materiality. Yet as the stories develop, it is revealed that materiality is also an important piece of information of individuality. If materiality is also informational in nature, the whole universe is essentially composed of information. In this sense, the true barrier to effective communication is the incomplete information transfer. The two anime hypothesise the condition in which effective communication can be achieved. Through the condensation of information, a divine (omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent) collective consciousness, or God, is formed. Nonetheless this being is destined to self-dissolution, as it is in need of understanding its identity and power. After all, information is only valuable when it flows. The traditional posthuman holistic ideal is thus rejected. One can never completely understand or be understood by others. To end the loneliness resulted from the incomplete information transfer, one can only identify with those who have similar qualities and form groups. Yet when a group becomes too inclusive, collective consciousness would again be formed, resulting in a loop. This circular vision of the posthuman implies a cynical yet existential view of the popular culture upon life.”
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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.
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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.”
“Three Faces of Eva” (special review section, Mechademia: Annual Forum for Anime and Manga Studies, 5)
- Editors’ Note (pp. 245-246)
- Malone, Paul M. Cruel angels? Cruel fathers! (pp. 246-248).
- Ashby, Madeline. Epic fail: Still dreary, after all these years (pp. 248-249).
- Lamarre, Thomas. The rebuild of anime (pp. 249-253).
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Thouny, Christophe. Waiting for the Messiah: The becoming-myth of Evangelion and Densha Otoko. Mechademia, 4, 111-129.
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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?”
Vuckovich, Rob. Evangelion and existentialism: The case of Shinji Ikari.
In M. Berman (ed.). The everyday fantastic: Essays on science fiction and the human being (pp. 73-86). Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
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.
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.
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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.
Routt, William D. Stillness and style in ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’. Animation Journal, 8(1), 28-43.
Steinberg, Marc. The trajectory of the apocalypse: Pleasure and destruction in Akira and Evangelion. East Asia Forum, 8/9, 1-31.
Woznicki, Krystian. Towards a cartography of Japanese anime: Anno Hideaki’s “Evangelion”. Blimp Film Magazine, 36, 18-26.
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Azuma, Hiroki. Anime or something like it: Neon Genesis Evangelion. InterCommunication, 18.
The specific purpose of this list is to compile scholarly publications on Neon Genesis Evangelion. But, over the years, Eva has also been the subject of numerous articles in various “popular” publications – newspapers, magazines, websites, etc. Tracking all of them is essentially impossible, but it may be useful to present at least a sample of this kind of coverage! And perhaps, if one day we do see a live-action adaptation of Evangelion from a major American film studio, we can be prepared for much more!
- Charles B. Solomon, The New York Times (Aug. 6, 2021)
‘Evangelion’ Director Explains How He Finally Found His Ending
- Eric Vilas-Boas, Vulture.com (June 27, 2019)
Anime Classic Neon Genesis Evangelion is Finally on Netflix, so Why Are Some Fans Upset?
- Aja Romano, Vox.com (June 25, 2019)
Netflix’s Re-Translation of Neon Genesis Evangelion is Drawing Backlash for Queer Erasure
- Maya Phillips, The New Yorker (June 21, 2019)
How “Neon Genesis Evangelion” Reimagined Our Relationship to Machines
In addition, at this point, I have specifically not listed any Japanese scholarly/critical writing on Evangelion. But if you would like to suggest other materials to add, whether in English, in Japanese, or in other languages, please send in your suggestions!