Monday, November 29, 2010

Sometimes It Writes Itself (Evangelion & The Aum Anime)

No sooner do I get back into old habits and I stumble into something so bizarrely fascinating, it just calls for me to write something about it. And a lot of this came about in a sort of two-layer fashion (naturally for me) as I began looking for materials to share with my Combo Attack!! co-hosts regarding the anime phenomenon, Shin Seiki Evangelion, and an upcoming podcast. Now this has been something that I often fall into whenever talks begin to brew over the 1995 series/franchise, I begin looking into the history of the series, and revisit certain totems of the time in which it first aired to remember just what contributed to such a cultural supernova.

And over the years, I have caught up with many devoted fans with the internet's capturing of the general zeigeist of Japan, and discovered many things that may, or may not have contributed directly. One major one being the deepening economic recession whom Japan has still yet to ever fully recover from. Others include closer nuggets of the true to life regarding director Hideaki Anno's crippling emotional state in the years following Nadia. But one of the most curious, and admittedly unexpected elements that so many miss out on is the ordeal dealt out by the at-first considered benign cult known as the Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth), who went on to create a media firestorm the likes few had ever seen in Japan. Led by the charismatic Shoko Asahara, the religious group went on to spark a reign of terror upon Tokyo's subway stations as well as targeted high ranking officials in the hopes of starting what Asahara saw as a coming(and necessary) world war. No laughing matter, and aside from the horrific 1995 Sarin gas attacks perpetrated in several train stations, crimes such as multiple murders &  forced servitude were revealed over time.

And amidst this time, the Aum went so far as to procure hard weapons training in Russia, and had an impressive influence before things went haywire. Naturally, the reports were all over the news around the time of Evangelion's production, so it does stand to reason that there is some significance to the use of religious symbolism, as well as the apocalyptic storylines, whether they be of a global, or psychological one.

And one of the strangest findings I made today was of this little snippet of anime, obviously made as the group was still gaining steam, and hoping to welcome scores of new members. Perhaps it's just me, but the surreality of seeing Asahara animated in this manner makes me wonder of the folks at GAINAX ever saw this, or took any of this in as it was going down. I can't help but think of Ayanami's desolate room, with only a glass of water & bandages to adorn it.

The Doraemon theme is a nightmarish little touch...

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