Can someone please explain the symbolism in this series?

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Can someone please explain the symbolism in this series?

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Postby The Forgotten Knight » Tue Jan 04, 2011 5:39 am

So Neon Genesis is one of the first Animes I've ever watched. I love the series and have seen it a few times over the years. However after watching the reimagined movie I realized I never did too much research in all of the religious meanings and overtones in the series. After coming here I now know that there's a whole bunch I've missed in what the creator was trying to reference, acknowledge, and represent. If someone could explain this to me I think it would help my further understanding of the series.
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Postby Eva Yojimbo » Tue Jan 04, 2011 6:12 am

It sounds strange, but the religious symbolism isn't meant to be religious. Rather, it's Anno (writer/director) using religious symbolism as allusions that correspond abstractly to the series' more psychological/philosophical themes. You have to understand how the symbols are used in their original context, but you have to understand that most of the strictly "religious" aspects of the symbols are dropped. You can read some of my writings on the subject here, here, here, and here.
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Re: Can someone please explain the symbolism in this series?

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Postby Kendrix » Tue Jan 04, 2011 12:04 pm

View Original PostThe Forgotten Knight wrote:So Neon Genesis is one of the first Animes I've ever watched. I love the series and have seen it a few times over the years. However after watching the reimagined movie I realized I never did too much research in all of the religious meanings and overtones in the series. After coming here I now know that there's a whole bunch I've missed in what the creator was trying to reference, acknowledge, and represent. If someone could explain this to me I think it would help my further understanding of the series.


Most of the religious things are for lulz, they're used no different than today's authors use greek myths. Look for the Freudian things, tough.
Or forget it - the most important part is not to overananalize it, since any symbolism is inserted as a 'bonus' - the actual meaning is of purely philosophical nature - amongst other things, that your own thoughts/perceptions/perspective significantly influences how you see the world and that you can improve your life with a better attitude - and they pretty much spell it out in 25/26.
I don't think you missed all too much if you didn't dig into each and every allusion/symbol.
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Re: Can someone please explain the symbolism in this series?

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Postby Xard » Tue Jan 04, 2011 12:09 pm

View Original PostThe Forgotten Knight wrote:So Neon Genesis is one of the first Animes I've ever watched. I love the series and have seen it a few times over the years. However after watching the reimagined movie I realized I never did too much research in all of the religious meanings and overtones in the series. After coming here I now know that there's a whole bunch I've missed in what the creator was trying to reference, acknowledge, and represent. If someone could explain this to me I think it would help my further understanding of the series.


Simple, they're thrown in for the lulz and sophistic pedantry

They don't mean anything
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Postby InstrumentalityOne » Tue Jan 04, 2011 1:25 pm

There´s a lot of symbolism in the show that is perfectly legit, but the whole crosses thing is predominantly just thrown in for kicks.

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Postby Mr. Tines » Tue Jan 04, 2011 1:44 pm

A starting point on the use of generally Kaballistic images would be the statements cited here -- http://wiki.evageeks.org/FGC:OP_Cut_002b
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Re: Can someone please explain the symbolism in this series?

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Postby Eva Yojimbo » Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:57 am

View Original PostKendrix wrote:Most of the religious things are for lulz, they're used no different than today's authors use greek myths. Look for the Freudian things, tough.
Or forget it - the most important part is not to overananalize it, since any symbolism is inserted as a 'bonus' - the actual meaning is of purely philosophical nature - amongst other things, that your own thoughts/perceptions/perspective significantly influences how you see the world and that you can improve your life with a better attitude - and they pretty much spell it out in 25/26.
I don't think you missed all too much if you didn't dig into each and every allusion/symbol.
I guess this is one area where I will be forever :facepalm: ing at the fandom. I'll never understand this ludicrous dismissal of a key aspect of the series. 50 pages on the biological property of LCL and yet the same people in that discussion continually ignores the allusions and symbols with a wave of the hand.

InstrumentalityOne wrote:but the whole crosses thing is predominantly just thrown in for kicks.
I could argue that of all the symbols in the series, the cross is the most important. How else better to sum up sacrifice, death, and rebirth within a single image that also works as a narrative and dramatic device?

EDIT: OK, to kinda reiterate my post to Xard since above wasn't clear: The cross symbol isn't ALWAYS used to symbolize death, rebirth, sacrifice, etc. to parallel what's happening in the narrative ala EoE. But even during the series it is still used as a narrative device in the sense it's setting up a motif that will be used throughout the series (so the more meaningful use in EoE isn't a random asspull), while I think its drama is contained in its portentousness; the idea that it "suggests" these larger-than-life themes from the beginning (even when there's nothing to immediately connect them to) is important. It's a meaningful symbol without its obvious parallel at the start, which makes its effect all the more dramatic in EoE.

Clear enough?
Last edited by Eva Yojimbo on Wed Jan 05, 2011 5:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Ornette » Wed Jan 05, 2011 5:09 am

Stick to the points, not the person.

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Postby Eva Yojimbo » Wed Jan 05, 2011 5:14 am

View Original PostOrnette wrote:Stick to the points, not the person.
Err, a lot of those later posts WERE dealing with the symbolism...

EDIT: Nevermind, I just edited to restate the important part.
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We're all adrift on the stormy seas of Evangelion, desperately trying to gather what flotsam can be snatched from the gale into a somewhat seaworthy interpretation so that we can at last reach the shores of reason and respite. - ObsessiveMathsFreak
Jimbo has posted enough to be considered greater than or equal to everyone, and or synonymous with the concept of 'everyone'. - Muggy
I've seen so many changeful years, / to Earth I am a stranger grown: / I wander in the ways of men, / alike unknowing and unknown: / Unheard, unpitied, unrelieved, / I bear alone my load of care; / For silent, low, on beds of dust, / Lie all that would my sorrows share. - Robert Burns' Lament for James

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Postby Carl Horn » Wed Jan 05, 2011 4:01 pm

I think the religious elements don't mean anything in this sense: I don't think Gainax was using them to make a statement about their own religious beliefs. I think the religious elements in Evangelion are being used in a fictional manner, so that they have meaning within the fiction--that is, meaning within this fictional world and to some of these fictional characters, and that this shouldn't simply be dismissed, in the same way we are willing to accept other things in the series that don't necessarily make sense, such as how positronic rifles fail to blow up when used in Earth's open atmosphere despite shooting a beam of antimatter, or how the Angels can be genetically almost identical to humans despite their powers, forms, and being made of "particle wave" material.

Cross-shaped explosions are often used as the quintessential example of how the religious elements in Evangelion should be dismissed, even as fictional plot events. But this argument is easily turned on its head. Within the plot, after all, these cross-shaped explosions are regular facts of life--that is, they are things that happen, not once, but over and over again; moreover, they are closely associated with the central (overt) conflict in the plot, the battles with the Angels. It's precisely the fact that they don't make sense from a physical standpoint that marks them as another distinct element of this particular fictional world, just as much of what is said about the Angels doesn't make sense, but we don't dismiss it as meaningless--again within this fictional world. What happens in Evangelion, happens in Evangelion; what's there in the series, is there in the series.

Certainly they may "look cool," or "look different" from a creative viewpoint, but there is a further distinction to be made here. Evangelion is not the kind of series that constantly breaks the fourth wall, so the viewpoint of the creators and their creation can never be identical; Evangelion is not a documentary. Presumably Gainax doesn't believe that Angels and Evas actually exist, and they never had to be in the middle of a fight between them; but their characters did. Evangelion is a fictional world to its creators, but, generally speaking, it is a real one to the fictional people inside their creation. Gainax does not personally live in this world, but their characters do. Presumably the people in the story do not do things and say things, nor do events occur, with the motive of "looking cool" to us, an audience they are aware of. Fiction has a right to be real for the people within its story.
Last edited by Carl Horn on Wed Jan 05, 2011 4:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Trajan » Wed Jan 05, 2011 4:38 pm

I think most of the symbolism is just there to make it look more sophisticated and complicated. You can find Freudian imagery almost anywhere (aka my mouse looks like a sperm cell), the crosses just look cool and the biblical imagery adds an aurora of mysticism to the setting. Anno has said that everyone should interpret Eva for themselves, and since everyone has varied opinions on the meaning of the show just asking what said symbols mean will likely give you four or so different answers. Like I said, most of it seems to be there for the coolness factor, but I will listen attentively to anyone who thinks otherwise.
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Postby Eva Yojimbo » Thu Jan 06, 2011 5:05 am

View Original PostCarl Horn wrote:I think the religious elements don't mean anything in this sense: I don't think Gainax was using them to make a statement about their own religious beliefs. I think the religious elements in Evangelion are being used in a fictional manner, so that they have meaning within the fiction
This is a succinct way of putting it. And part of the fiction are the various themes that are expressed through the allegorical narrative and the symbolism, and I definitely think the religious allusions fall into this category.

View Original PostCarl Horn wrote:Certainly they may "look cool," or "look different" from a creative viewpoint,
What I don't get about the "looks cool" argument (not from you, but from others) is that we never even see a lot of the religious allusions like Genesis and the Fruits of Life/Knowledge. They're referenced, but they're never shown. So it makes no sense to use them "for looks".

View Original PostTrajan wrote:I think most of the symbolism is just there to make it look more sophisticated and complicated... but I will listen attentively to anyone who thinks otherwise.
I think otherwise. Please read my above links and see if you think my interpretations of the religious symbolism holds water.
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Postby Trajan » Thu Jan 06, 2011 5:26 pm

The allusions are defiantly important (i.e. The Wall of Jericho, Angel names) but the random crosses that are stuck everywhere are in my opinion just designed to add atmosphere just like a martial arts movie is going to have a dragon somewhere and probably a Taijitu.
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Postby Ornette » Thu Jan 06, 2011 7:03 pm

View Original PostEva Yojimbo wrote:What I don't get about the "looks cool" argument (not from you, but from others) is that we never even see a lot of the religious allusions like Genesis and the Fruits of Life/Knowledge. They're referenced, but they're never shown. So it makes no sense to use them "for looks".

It's probably not the case for most people here since digging deeper into the series, but 100% of all the people I've recommended NGE to all came out of it with 2 things. 1) It's a show that has nothing to do with Christianity/Judaism/etc. 2) It's a show chock full of symbolism of Christianity/Judaism/etc. that serve no purpose. Coming out of the experience with these 2 things, I can easily see why they think it's there just to "look cool", or in some cases "look stupid".

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Postby Carl Horn » Thu Jan 06, 2011 7:13 pm

View Original PostTrajan wrote:The allusions are defiantly important (i.e. The Wall of Jericho, Angel names) but the random crosses that are stuck everywhere are in my opinion just designed to add atmosphere just like a martial arts movie is going to have a dragon somewhere and probably a Taijitu.


If by dragons and the Taijitu, you mean images of them used as decor and such, that kind of usage does appear in Eva (for example, on Gendo's ceiling and floor--but even then we have to ask, why does he have it there?), but in Eva, it's also taken one step further, as it would in a martial arts movie where you saw physical dragons appear (such as the cross-shaped explosions, which are physical phenomena in the story) or gigantic yin-and-yang images appearing in the sky during the climax (such as the Systema Sephiroticum during the start of Instrumentality).

I personally took Asuka's "Wall of Jericho" reference to not be a direct Biblical allusion, but more of a reference to the classic romantic comedy It Happened One Night (start at 2:41):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_CsWOx9QJs&feature=related

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Postby Born of Lilith » Thu Jan 06, 2011 7:23 pm

View Original PostOrnette wrote:1) It's a show that has nothing to do with Christianity/Judaism/etc.


Uhhh

How does the show called Evangelion with Angels and crosses and shit have nothing to do with Judeo-Christianity?
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Postby The Abhorrent » Thu Jan 06, 2011 9:00 pm

View Original PostBorn of Lilith wrote:Uhhh

How does the show called Evangelion with Angels and crosses and shit have nothing to do with Judeo-Christianity?


Surprisingly little, the religious symbolism is predominantly superficial (or perhaps alluding to an older or even the original interpretation of that symbolism). It's easy to forget that christianity and other related faiths are uncommon in Japan, and the established viewpoint someone has if they were raised with that faith can cause the viewer to have a biased interpretation because of it.
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Postby Carl Horn » Thu Jan 06, 2011 9:44 pm

View Original PostThe Abhorrent wrote:Surprisingly little, the religious symbolism is predominantly superficial (or perhaps alluding to an older or even the original interpretation of that symbolism). It's easy to forget that christianity and other related faiths are uncommon in Japan, and the established viewpoint someone has if they were raised with that faith can cause the viewer to have a biased interpretation because of it.


I think that's actually part of the problem when it comes to people dismissing the religious elements of the plot and dialogue in Evangelion. That is, people raised in a Judeo-Christian culture, where most people claim to believe, may have trouble accepting the idea that a story could use these elements for the sake of fiction (as in Evangelion) while at the same time not believing them in a religious sense. It's the very fact that Japan isn't a Judeo-Christian culture that makes it easier for them to use its ideas fictitiously; it frees them up artistically, as it were. In fact, most Japanese are likely more familiar with the idea of Judeo-Christianity as an artistic device (through the study of Western painting, sculpture, and music) than they are as an everyday religious practice. This doesn't make them ignorant of Judeo-Christian concepts and ideas; it means that they absorb them through a different route and perspective.

Mamoru Oshii is perhaps the exemplar of this; he's said that the Bible is his favorite book, yet he's also said he's not a believer. In American cultural terms, that seems a very strange attitude--if someone here told you the Bible was their favorite book, your first assumption would be that they must be very religious. But because few people in Japan are Christian or Jewish, Oshii is more easily able to view the Bible as a work of literature, which to him, has profound insights into the human condition. Of course, the Bible has had an immense influence on literature in Judeo-Christian societies, too, but the difference is that in these societies, there is the additional, commonly-held assumption the Bible represents the will and revelations of a super-human entity that exists beyond us and has power over us; i.e., people believe in it as a religion, too.

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Postby Eva Yojimbo » Fri Jan 07, 2011 5:10 am

View Original PostTrajan wrote: but the random crosses that are stuck everywhere are in my opinion just designed to add atmosphere.
I guess nobody feels the urge to give my interpretations any consideration at all? Really?

View Original PostOrnette wrote:100% of all the people I've recommended NGE to all came out of it with 2 things. 1) It's a show that has nothing to do with Christianity/Judaism/etc. 2) It's a show chock full of symbolism of Christianity/Judaism/etc. that serve no purpose.
Yes, 100% of people think that because they are all utterly clueless as to how allusions work in fiction! I could tolerate such ignorance if said people showed a proclivity for reading and considering substantial and valid interpretations like mine when they're presented, but it's just perverse obstinacy when people continue to insist that the symbolism has no purpose when they've never addressed my interpretations that argue that they DO have purpose AND meaning. How does that even make sense?

View Original PostCarl Horn wrote:people raised in a Judeo-Christian culture, where most people claim to believe, may have trouble accepting the idea that a story could use these elements for the sake of fiction (as in Evangelion) while at the same time not believing them in a religious sense. It's the very fact that Japan isn't a Judeo-Christian culture that makes it easier for them to use its ideas fictitiously; it frees them up artistically, as it were. In fact, most Japanese are likely more familiar with the idea of Judeo-Christianity as an artistic device (through the study of Western painting, sculpture, and music) than they are as an everyday religious practice. This doesn't make them ignorant of Judeo-Christian concepts and ideas; it means that they absorb them through a different route and perspective.
Abso-fucking-lutely. QFMFT.
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We're all adrift on the stormy seas of Evangelion, desperately trying to gather what flotsam can be snatched from the gale into a somewhat seaworthy interpretation so that we can at last reach the shores of reason and respite. - ObsessiveMathsFreak
Jimbo has posted enough to be considered greater than or equal to everyone, and or synonymous with the concept of 'everyone'. - Muggy
I've seen so many changeful years, / to Earth I am a stranger grown: / I wander in the ways of men, / alike unknowing and unknown: / Unheard, unpitied, unrelieved, / I bear alone my load of care; / For silent, low, on beds of dust, / Lie all that would my sorrows share. - Robert Burns' Lament for James

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Postby Ornette » Fri Jan 07, 2011 5:30 am

View Original PostEva Yojimbo wrote:Yes, 100% of people think that because they are all utterly clueless as to how allusions work in fiction! I could tolerate such ignorance if said people showed a proclivity for reading and considering substantial and valid interpretations like mine when they're presented, but it's just perverse obstinacy when people continue to insist that the symbolism has no purpose when they've never addressed my interpretations that argue that they DO have purpose AND meaning. How does that even make sense?

Oh, they're quite versed in film and literature (one of them is a director, currently making a movie about the old Yankee stadium), that's one of the reason I recommended NGE. They just didn't like Eva all that much, and thus, don't really feel inclined to spend any more energy thinking about. I'm not saying they're right, and I doubt any of them can be convinced to read your interpretation (or even remember what Eva is because it's been so long). My point is that on the surface, it's very easy to come away with thinking the symbolism is there to look cool.


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