As you could have guessed by the introductory post, I’m a self-declared anime fanboy. I have a myriad of subjective reasons to justify my love towards that particular field of human endeavor, and I could go on for days talking about them. However, when I look back, these reasons are nothing but senseless self-gratification. To really explain why I love anime, I’d have to go back in time and observe my own self some years ago.
Like many kids around these parts, I grew up watching anime series like Saint Seiya and Dragonball Z. Of course, by the time I watched them, I had little knowledge on the origin of such pieces of audiovisual art, probably because I didn’t care. I just liked watching that shiny, moving stuff that, for some reason, seemed different from the regular cartoons I could catch on the TV. It wasn’t until years later (I think I was 11 or something) that I found out the truth about those strange drawings from the faraway land of Japan. I even got past my mom’s attempt to call Satan on anime (mostly after she casually watched some scenes from Ranma ½), and started to harvest an increasing interest on it. One fateful day, my dad brought me home a VHS with the first episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion, which, for some strange reason, caught my interest in ways I can’t quite describe. Was it the giant robots? The depiction of a post-apocalyptic Earth? That the hero was the epitome of anti-heroism? The fact that it seemed more serious than any piece of animation I had seen before? I don’t really know. But for some reason, that single episode had managed to fascinate that young and immature me like nothing else in the small world my limited experience had managed to perceive.
For reasons I can’t quite recall right now, I couldn’t get around watching the whole series until several years later. I was 14 when I finally managed to do so, and was beginning to undergo the shades of that teenager depression which, some time or the other, strikes us all. I remember waiting faithfully through every single hot summer day for those episodes that aired at 7:30 PM every afternoon. And those were thirty golden minutes of pure joy. Neon Genesis Evangelion has the honor of having been the first serious work of art, animated or otherwise, to reach and affect my feelings and my way of thinking. I remember standing there, dumbfounded, with my mouth wide open, while the credits for episode 26 rolled on the screen. For a kid my age, that final scene (for everyone who’s watched it, you know what I’m talking about) was as mysterious and ambiguous as it could get, but nevertheless, it managed to make me think in ways I had never ever felt like doing before. Of course, looking back, I’m sure my appreciation of it was quite naïve at the time, but it was an appreciation, a small world that I had created in an attempt to explain those feelings such a piece of art had provoked on me, and it was as valid as any other.
Later, steadily approaching the rock bottom of my depression, came The End of Evangelion, the final piece of the mindblowing puzzle that NGE represented to me. But instead of solving the puzzle for me, the avid viewer, it rearranged the pieces in such a way that, in the end, there was no solution at all. The blank spaces were still there, and I stared at them with awe, almost with fear. What could I do? I had to get some sense out of it. Asking other people that had watched the series was of no use, the pieces they provided me didn’t really appeal me. Almost with desperation, I began to seek explanations anywhere I could find them, but none of them suited my perception of the series.
It’s funny how, sometimes, the way out of your life issues can be found in the strangest of mediums, and by the strangest of situations. By the time I was 16, I was beginning to pull out of my teenager depression, which was mainly linked to the lack of a proper identity, a way of telling others who I was and what I was doing there. Never forgetting the blank space NGE had left on my mind (and, at the same time, the deep mark it had carved), I became an avid anime watcher, and I managed to start using it as a way of identifying myself, of telling myself, “This is who I am, and no one else”. Nothing else managed to do that for me. My love of the Japanese language stemmed from anime, and with that, the kind of purpose or goal I needed to go on with my life in a more relaxed, optimistic manner finally arrived.
Why am I talking about this? Because last weekend, after a marathonic rewatching of NGE (finally in Japanese!), I found the last piece of the puzzle I was missing. And that final piece is the viewer’s own perception (something which, by the way, Hideaki Anno seems to agree with). The viewer has the duty of completing the picture, of finding a meaning in it, and such meaning is personal and unmovable, uncriticizable. And, in my opinion, the fact that NGE is both the most loved and hated anime series of all time makes it even more outstanding. Something capable of generating such strong, diametrically opposed reactions has to be onto something. It must have hit something in order to provoke such strong feelings on so many viewers. And that’s exactly the reason why it stands over every other piece of art I have seen in my entire life, and the reason why nothing else will ever stand above it in my mind.
But it’s my perception of it, and of course, you’re free to think whatever you want about it. Evangelion has left a mark in my way of perceiving art and the world, and it also helped, some way or the other, in pulling me out of my teenager depression. And that’s the main reason why I still am an anime fanboy today. I’m sure that no other anime will ever be what NGE was, and I’m sure many, if not most, people don’t consider it to be a particularly appealing field of human endeavor. But it’s my particularly appealing field of human endeavor, and that’s what matters to me, because it brings me something to identify myself with, some sort of purpose, just like studying Japanese in Japan itself is a purpose that brings meaning to my existence. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s my own missing piece, and no one else’s.