Neon Genesis Evangelion has 8 Cringe-Inducing Changes on Netflix
Jun 26, 2019   •   Matthew Arcilla
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Jun 26, 2019   •   Matthew Arcilla
After years of being (legally) unavailable in English, the streaming giant Netflix has dropped Neon Genesis Evangelion onto the world again. Given that’s a classic anime series that inspired and influenced a generation of anime creators and anime fans, that’s cause for celebration. At last, would be viewers no longer have to bid for high priced DVD box sets or go to torrents to experience this seminal work of popular culture.
Unfortunately, the version that dropped onto Netflix isn’t one that fans are happy with. While it might be serviceable to the casual lookie-loo, several changes and omissions are rather cringe inducing. Some of these are born out of necessity. Netflix couldn’t get the license for the original dubs produced by companies like ADV Films and Manga Entertainment, while other takes on the material are totally unapproved fansubs.
And while some viewers who don’t feel particularly attached to the versions they saw before might be fine, it still feels wrong for a series’ biggest fans to be dismayed. Here are the 8 most cringe-inducing differences between Neon Genesis Evangelion’s Netflix release and its previous versions.
The first change fans will notice is the omission of the anime’s distinctive end credits song, “Fly Me To The Moon.” A lounge hit classic popularized by Frank Sinatra, different covers of it were laid over the credits. Instrumental piano replaces it on the version on Netflix, and the currently believed explanation is that licensing fees are to blame. Still, that doesn’t account for the fact the version on Netflix Japan remains unchanged.
Many fans who grew up on the version of the show distributed by ADV Films cherished the sound of the English dub. Personally I found many of the voices shrill, but many are understandably upset and find Netflix’s new voice cast jarring. Some of the recast choices are pretty cool – like the fact that protagonist Shinji Ikari is now voiced by a trans woman, highlighting his psychological ambiguity – but for an entire generation it’s a shock.
In addition to the redub, Netflix had the original Japanese script translated again. That would be fine if the new translation recaptured the care and thought that went into previous translations both official and fan-made but instead it appears to be a more literal rendering of the script. That’s led to some controversial and awkward results like Shinji being referred to as “the third children” which makes no sense in conversational English.
Meticulous localization efforts usually go above and beyond to ensure a minimum context and subtext is not lost in translation, and that usually means providing subtitles for signs, documents and displays that appear in Japanese text. That’s not the case with Netflix’s Evangelion, which leaves all of them untranslated, leaving the meaning of most computer screens and city signs a mystery to those who can’t read Kanji.
The omission of “Fly Me To The Moon” has another unfortunate side effect: it totally changes a pivotal scene where Misato listens to a heartbreaking voice mail message. Where the song used to be is just empty silence, which in the sarcastic parlance of this generation, “is a choice” but it totally changes the emotional tenor of the scene.
Countless changes to the script have been a source of dismay for fans. And while many seem relatively minor in the grand scheme of a twenty-six episode long work, others not so. There’s a line that goes “All is right with the world,” that’s been changed in the Netflix version to “All is very good.” Except the first version was a purposeful choice: it’s a quote from a poem by Robert Browning that is also the slogan for NERV. Lolwut.
In the original translation, a pivotal scene between Shinji and fellow pilot Kaworu Nagisa has the latter telling the former that he is “worthy of love,” saying outright, “I love you.” The new version says, “You’re worthy of my grace,” and, “I like you.” It’s an awkward phrasing that seems to downplay the romantic and sexual connotations of the relationship between the two. Simply put, the scene’s queer coding has been “straight-washed.”
It’s not an entirely malicious change as the original Japanese script goes for a culturally specific form of ambiguity, and as such the new version is more literal about that ambiguity. But given a society that tends to insist on the least gay reading possible, it’s a cringe-inducing change that relegates a two decades long interpretation to mere “fanon.”
Swear words aren’t really present in the Japanese language, at least not in the way we understand them in the English language. So while anime characters don’t really drop F-bombs or make obscene remarks about each other’s sexual configuration and parentage, translators often add a few profanities to better communicate the nuances of dialog for anime with the kind of adult themes that permit the language.
For example, “I’m the lowest of the low,” is a more literal take on a scene that once had Shinji saying, “I’m so fucked up” but it lacks some of that urgent desperation. Similarly, the line “So fucking what if I’m not you” was changed to “Fine, so I’m a stranger,” which undercuts some of the indignant rage in the first take. A literal rendering of the language might seem like a more faithful choice, but it obscures some of the emotion and meaning intrinsic to the series.
What do you think of these changes? Tell us below!
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