Evangelion As A Criticism Of How WW2 Japan Is Perceived By Modern Japan

Discussion of the new series of Evangelion movies ( "Evangelion Shin Gekijōban", meaning "Evangelion: New Theatrical Edition").
The third installment debuted in Japan on November 17, 2012.

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Evangelion As A Criticism Of How WW2 Japan Is Perceived By Modern Japan

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Postby unitM » Wed Apr 11, 2018 1:48 pm


I ran into an interesting thread on Reddit which parallels a lot of Anno's past musings. It also holds similarity to many messages used in Evangelion NGE and NTE.

To begin I'd like to point out that I'm not not even remotely an expert in Japanese history.

I'll be posting some interesting quotes from the Reddit thread and then drawing comparisons in the series.

The short answer is[how Japan views WW2 Japan]: generally very negatively. It was an oppressive regime. Some of the other commenters are right that a lot of the focus is on how it affected Japan's own people... Especially in the decades following the war, Japan swung all the way in the other direction and became ardently pacifist, and very much against the WW2 era regime.

...I get the impression that the WW2 regime is at least seen as kinda incompetent.

There appears to be mixed thoughts about violence, professionalism, and responsibility with Japan's general public looking back at WW2 Japan. Many of these features are paralleled in Evangelion: should we do this? will violence solve anything? is this the correct path to pursue? Competency is another thing too: there are many organizations involved in Evangelion. Above that, there are many secret organizations. These secret organizations are also revealed to be inheritently flawed ex. Gendo pursuing the apocalypse for his own motives.

For example, consider the simple titling of NTE: You Can Not Advance, You Can Not Redo... these titles all draw our attention to what the problem is. Why can't we advance? Why can't we redo? What's to redo, anyways?

(I realize that first example may have been a far-fetched generalization but bear with me on some points here...)

How about the issue with comfort women? I'd imagine it is largely ignored

EDIT: For those asking about comfort women, they were largely Korean, Chinese and Filipino women who were enslaved and put at 'comfort stations' for the Japanese military. Then they were raped for the comfort of Japanese soldiers. Inhumane is a light description of their treatment.

I'm sure a lot of us who read that quote can think of a character in Evangelion who represents a comfort woman very clearly: Rei. While Rei isn't the defining example of a comfort women, she strongly carries traits of one: responsibility only to serve others, ordered into slavery, physically and mentally raped.

Rei isn't actually raped in the series, of course, but there are some strong implications of rape in the End of Evangelion, where Gendo forces his hand into Rei's body and Rei quivers sexually. Aside from identifying overt sexual themes involving Rei, Rei as a whole is a damaged character. Her intellectual is stolen, her body is a doll, passed down from another doll, from another doll(which connects to the male fantasy of sex involving bodies of women without strong emphasis on faces), her whole character is subservient. In Q, she is lifeless and in no way self-serving.

Anno's criticism of that attitude towards comfort women is this: Rei rejected rape and instead, stole from Gendo a prized possession. This is essentially turning the attacker into the victim. Rei rejected her subservient attitude in Q, when she grows a conscious and ejects her plug at the end. She becomes independent from Gendo, her bully. This is Anno's criticism towards comfort women, who were essentially tools in the Japanese military used for destructive purposes.

There's a comment up that actually the Comfort Women is mostly ignore and people have a "What's past is in the past" stance about it.

This "the past is the past" forgiveness towards comfort women can be drawn in Rei too. For Rei, the question is almost entirely "is the past really the past", to the point where it almost consumes the entire Evangelion series. Rei appears to function as the expression of a comfort women. The criticism is directly there: she is a vessel from the past. She is a slave to the wishes of others. Anno is drawing our attention to whether the past really can be viewed as the past - or something more.

Another quote:
There's a fascinating Quora post answering this question. Here's a snippet:

Instead of using the word “defeat”, “The End of War” is the title.

The name of the 4th NTE movie is FINAL. Not "The Defeat of NERV", even though NERV is clearly viewed as the shamanistic bad guys at the end of Q. Not "The Victory of WILLE." Just "FINAL."
"The End of Evangelion" was not named "The Defeat of SEELE."

... The point is, Germany has had made undivided and continual effort in redeeming its past, while Japan made undivided and continual effort in victimising its past. The message of peace and 'let's move forward' cannot, and should not, come from the offender.

These are messages which we often wonder about in NTE. "You Can Not Advance", "You Can Not Redo". It's possible that Anno was criticizing these modern-day views of Japan through the titling sequence. There certainly is a lot of confusion and frustration in the present messages of Evangelion - the question is whether these are criticism of history, the flowers growing in the bed of his depression, or both.

The first thing a Japanese person would think of WW2 is not the damage that the Japanese military inflicted, but instead the sufferings and sacrifices the common citizens went through to support their troops, and the realization that they were living a lie when finding out that Japan was not as strong and invincible as they thought they were against the world.

The violence of the Evangelion units is equally paralleled by the observed casualties and the problems resulting from the violence, if not more of the focus is on the casualties.

Wow, I can't believe that official textbooks are whitewashing history so blatantly. But maybe that's just because I grew up in Germany.

I just visited the Edo museum here in Tokyo. On one of their plaques in English, it describes how "The Manchurian Incident made for awkward relations between Japan and China."

This is also an explored theme of Evangelion: secret alliances and cover-ups, as seen through classroom lessons.

I could go on with a bunch of other quotes, and in all honesty, I should, but I don't plan to do an entire formal writeup for this. I don't know anything about the history of Japan and most of this stuff, from Reddit, is purely anecdotal. I wanted to open a discussion about it, however, because this attitude in Japan can make a lot of sense in influencing Anno's thoughts and writing. The thread is definitely an interesting one.

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Re: Evangelion As A Criticism Of How WW2 Japan Is Perceived By Modern Japan

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Postby DarkBluePhoenix » Wed Apr 11, 2018 8:51 pm

I agree that there are parrells to how Japan views itself post WWII. Japan has yet to fully move forward from the war, and still deny many of things that have happened. This wikipedia article can give you some examples of what is glossed over in Japan's history, and many of the things that the Japanese did were also glossed over in our own history. While we point out the atrocities of the NAzis, we barely mention what the Japanese did during the war. Without discussing the issues openly to get past them, they never will.
View Original PostunitM wrote:For example, consider the simple titling of NTE: You Can Not Advance, You Can Not Redo... these titles all draw our attention to what the problem is. Why can't we advance? Why can't we redo? What's to redo, anyways?

As for the titles, they all point to somethign specific.
    > You Are (Not) Alone - You are not the only country that has caused atrocities in the world, there are others, follow their example.
    > You Can (Not) Advance - Unless you talk about what you did wrong, you won't move past it.
    > You Can (Not) Redo - You can't change the past, but you can learn from it.
    > Final - While I doubt this will be the final official title, in its current form it would go to your point that the title will likely point to finally accepting what the has done and moving forward from it.
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