Is Xenogears the Evangelion of video games?

By Aaron Clark on Thursday, April 5th, 2018

Xenogears Cover ArtYou may not know this, but in addition to Evangelion, I’m also really into video games. Bridging that gap is more difficult than you might think, while there are quite a lot of Evangelion video games, none of them got an English release, and I barely got through Japanese 101 in college.  I want to maintain my focus on Evangelion with the content that I produce, so I want to make sure that when I’m pushing something out to people, it’s something that they’re going to be interested in.  And this brings me to Xenogears.

Over the years, I have heard two things about Xenogears.  The first is that it is influenced by Evangelion, and the second is that it is like the Evangelion of video games.

Screenshot from XenogearsI know very little about Xenogears beyond being passively familiar with some of the visuals.  What I do know is that the game originally started out as an early concept for Final Fantasy VII, putting it’s genesis (no pun intended) sometime in 1994, which would have been prior to Evangelion’s release.  However the game didn’t see actual release until early 1998, which is after both Neon Genesis Evangelion and The End of Evangelion had been released.  So while Xenogears was conceptualized independently of Evangelion, it’s possible that it might have drawn influence from Evangelion during its production.

I’ll be playing through Xenogears and taking a look at whether of not the comparisons to Evangelion are valid, and I invite you to join me.  I’ll be streaming on Twitch as well as to a channel on YouTube, where streams will be archived, so you can watch the stream live on YouTube, or later on if you like.  However I’ll be focusing on the audience and discussion on Twitch. Links to both are down below.  This is somewhat new territory for me, so I’m still working out some details.  Please feel free to follow me on Twitch, and subscribe to me on YouTube, if you’re not able to watch live, there will definitely be an archive for you to watch later.

Japan Animator Expo coming to Blu-ray in Japan

By Aaron Clark on Thursday, November 30th, 2017

From November of 2014 through October of 2015, Hideaki Anno’s Studio khara partnered with Niconico’s parent company Dwango to produce Japan Animator Expo, an anthology series intended to provide exposure to animation talent in Japan.  During the series, several Evangelion shorts were produced, and several more made brief homages to Evangelion.  These shorts were however only available for a limited time, which is somewhat atypical of web video production, and a video release was noticeably absent.

Details for a Blu-ray special edition release of Dragon Dentist surfaced in October, and a news post on the Animator Expo site yesterday detailed how nearly all of the Animator Expo shorts would be included on the multi-disc release.  So, this isn’t exactly a release of the Animator Expo shorts, it’s a Dragon Dentist release that happens to include the Animator Expo shorts.  The five-disc special edition will be released December 29th for 20,000 yen (approximately 178 USD).  The two-disc standard edition will be released January 28th, 2018 for 5,800 yen (approximately 52 USD), but does not include the Animator Expo shorts.

No word on English subtitles or an English release at this time.


Evangelion ANIMA to be published in book form

By Aaron Clark on Monday, October 16th, 2017

Eva Unit-01 from Evangelion ANIMAIt was announced that Kadokawa will be releasing Evangelion ANIMA in book form on November 30th in Japan, to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the series.  Both volumes, Evangelion ANIMA 1 and Evangelion ANIMA 2, will be released the same day.

Evangelion ANIMA was a serialized light novel by series mecha designer Ikuto Yamashita that appeared in Dengeki Hobby Magazine from the January 2008 issue until 2013.  The light novel presented an alternate story line that branched off from episode 24 of the Neon Genesis Evangelion TV series, bypassing the original ending, as well as The End of Evangelion.  It featured events set several years after the original series, with various new and redesigned mecha.

There has been some interest in ANIMA within the fanbase over the years, however due to it being a light novel, as opposed to a manga, there was a greater language barrier, so much of the information available in English is limited and comes in the form of translated summaries and character bios.  Much of the information that is available in English has been collected on the Eva Geeks wiki.

Now that Evangelion ANIMA is receiving a collected release, the possibility of it receiving an official, English language version is much more hopeful.

Sources: celebrates its tenth anniversary

By Aaron Clark on Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

A little bit over fifteen years ago, I started an ambitious little fan site called Eva Monkey that you may be familiar with.  Through much of my college experience, I spent far too many late nights tinkering with code and generally trying to build the “ultimate” Evangelion fan site, neglecting my studies in the process.  The irony is that all that misappropriated time led to an unexpected career in web development.  Upon graduation, however, I think my endeavors with Eva Monkey had taken their toll on me, as I had lost the passion for discussion and analysis of the work.  I wasn’t able to accomplish what I set out to do with Eva Monkey, and so, it made sense to merge with and form a new entity,  After which, I had meant to go into semi-retirement.  In the end, Eva got the better of me, and sucked me back in.  So much for that.

The idea for Eva Geeks was that of a communal effort, where any one person shouldn’t be burdened with operating and maintaining a large site, as I was prior to transferring the Eva Monkey Forums to Eva Geeks.  Nowadays, we’d call that crowd-sourcing, I suppose.  Still, Eva Geeks remains a group effort, where anyone can get involved.  And I’m pleased to see some of the terrific and indispensable resources that have been generated by the community.  I find myself pointing to various wiki articles here on Eva Geeks on a regular basis.

I think something needs to be said about a fan site or community that manages to not only survive, but be active for a span of ten years, especially with the current state of the web.  Fan sites, fan communities, and web forums seem to be much less common places these days, with social media platforms like Twitter, sites like Reddit, and services like Discord fulfilling much of the needs of the various pockets of pop culture fandom.  To have weathered that paradigm shift, as well as the years of inactivity of the Rebuild film series should tell you something about the strength and importance of the Eva Geeks community.  In particular, I’m pleased and proud to see that the forum that I started back in 2004 is not only still alive and well, but has accumulated over 850,000 posts!  It may be a few years from now, but I eagerly look forward to the day when the forum community breaks a million posts.

Right now, you could say that Eva Geeks is in a bit of a quiet phase.  The activity of any fan community ebbs and flows with the developments of the property that it is dedicated to.  And so, I look forward to the details, speculation, discussion, dissection, and debate that Evangelion 3.0+1.0 will bring as its release comes within sight.  With the anime long completed, and with Sadamoto’s manga completed, it will be interesting to see what direction the franchise will take with the completion of the Rebuild series.  I don’t expect a franchise as significant and lucrative as Evangelion to die out anytime soon.

I look forward to the future of Evangelion, and the future of Eva Geeks.  Here’s to another ten years!

Evangelion Shinkansen Transformer by Takara Tomy

By Aaron Clark on Saturday, September 9th, 2017

Evangelion Shinkansen Transformer500 Type Eva TransformerTakara Tomy, who produces Transformers toys in Japan, is releasing an Evangelion Shinkansen Transformer, referred to as a “Shinkalion”.  The Shinkalion transforms from the 500 Type Eva Shinkansen into a robot, with one locomotive serving as a shield, and also wields a Spear of Longinus.  For added measure, the Shinkalion can also combine with the E5 Shinkansen Transformer to form an even bigger robot, the E5X500 Type Eva Shinkalion.  The toy is being released October 5th, with a price of 8,640 yen.  There is apparently a whole line of these things, if you’re interested.

If you’re unfamiliar, there is an Evangelion-themed bullet train, or “shinkansen”, in operation in Japan through 2018.  They also released it as an N Scale model train earlier this year through Kato USA.  And, it’s also worth mentioning that this isn’t the first Evangelion Transformer that Takara Tomy has produced.  In 2014, they released a special edition Unit-01 themed MP-10 Optimus Prime, as well as several Evangelion Transformers in their super-deformed Q-Transformers line.

As far as ridiculous ideas goes, this is pretty out there, partially because it takes several ideas that were already kind of ridiculous, and combines them all together to form an even more ridiculous idea.  See what I did there?

If you’re interested, Takara Tomy released a video showing off the toy, and it’s different modes:

More information

Hideaki Anno Stars in Honda Civic Commercial

By Aaron Clark on Friday, September 1st, 2017

Hideaki Anno in Honda CivicHideaki Anno stars in a newly released commercial for the Civic, Honda’s flagship sedan line.  Anno appears and provides voice over for the commercial, as does the Tokyo-based Japanese rock band ONE OK GO.  This is not the first time that Anno has appeared in a commercial, let alone a car commercial.  Sometime back around early 2005, Anno also appeared in a commercial for Nissan’s “Touch your NISSAN” campaign.

It’s hard to say whether or not Anno has a significant interest or passion for cars, however it is interesting to note that Anno’s personal biography on khara’s website immediately segues from Anno’s marriage to Anno driving:

“On March 26th of 2002, Anno filed the paperwork for marriage with manga artist Moyoco Anno. This was his first experience with married life. Later on, people close to him would remark that Anno had changed, both physically and mentally (he lost weight and became less edgy). Following his marriage ceremonies in June of 2002, Anno started driving again. It occurred to Anno that driving is an interesting medium to facilitate communication.”

Here’s the “Go, Vantage Point” commercial with Hideaki Anno:

Idea Channel on Evangelion, the Death of the Author, and the Overthinking of Pop Culture

By Aaron Clark on Saturday, August 26th, 2017

Idea Channel

PBS’s Idea Channel is coming to a close after five years of diving deep into and sharing ideas about pop culture on YouTube.  One of their final few videos, on the overthinking of popular culture, is a topic that has always been a concern of mine.  Quite often I find myself, as an Evangelion fan, concerned about society’s judgments, because I put a significant amount of time and effort into discussing, researching, writing, and speaking about an anime.  I can’t separate myself from the fact that it is a cartoon, and even though anime as a medium is much less stigmatized now than when I was introduced to it in the late 90s, I can’t escape the fact that I acclimated myself to the medium during high school, a time when there was even greater criticism of my identity and interests.  For that, I am extremely guarded about my fandom, particularly in professional or “adult” situations.  There’s a lot to think about with the validity of studying younger artistic mediums like comics, anime, and videos games, and I think Idea Channel’s defense of overthinking pop culture is extremely relevant to Evangelion fans in particular.  Evangelion is even mentioned, though briefly, in the video.

Idea Channel on EvangelionIt is also worth mentioning that Idea Channel initially crossed my radar several years back when they produced a video examining Evangelion as a representation of the death of the author.  The video provided some interesting material on a subject that I unfortunately haven’t studied, and could certainly benefit to, as it is quite relevant to the study of Evangelion.  However, there was one thing that was unfortunately overlooked in the production of the episode.  Regardless of whether it is something to be agreed with or not, Hideaki Anno himself, as far back as 1996 has effectively said as much, that while Evangelion is a reflection of himself, it also open to personal interpretation.  At his panel at Anime Expo in 1996, Anno had this to say about Neon Genesis Evangelion:

“Evangelion is like a puzzle, you know. Any person can see it and give his/her own answer. In other words, we’re offering viewers to think by themselves, so that each person can imagine his/her own world. We will never offer the answers, even in the theatrical version. As for many Evangelion viewers, they may expect us to provide the ‘all-about Eva’ manuals, but there is no such thing. Don’t expect to get answers by someone. Don’t expect to be catered to all the time. We all have to find our own answers.”

—Protoculture Addicts #43, translated by Miyako Graham from the November 1996 issue of Newtype

I feel like this is the sort of source that would be the cornerstone of a video about this topic, but it was unfortunately overlooked, or at the very least, escaped mention.  Nevertheless, I think the video is a good conversation starter among Evangelion fans on the subject of interpretation and meaning.

Despite my criticism of their video on Evangelion, Idea Channel has produced some really thought-provoking content over the years, and I bid them a fond farewell.  Check them out their YouTube channel sometime, and wish them well on Twitter.


Eva Monkey Version 4 Redesign

By Aaron Clark on Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

Eva Monkey Version 4I started Eva Monkey over fifteen years ago.  And to be perfectly honest, it seems like ages ago at this point.  The very earliest incarnation of Eva Monkey, if you could call it that, was on a personal Tripod page I built at the end of 2001.  It was a section called “Evangelion Dissected”, and I cringe whenever I look back on it.  It’s not the content itself that bothers me, as there was almost none to speak of, but the fact that, in my youth, I thought lime green Comic Sans text on a dark blue background was a good idea.  I frequently say that I “like to think I’ve grown as a designer over the years”, however digging up my old Tripod page does really hit home the fact that yes… yes I have.

In the early days of Eva Monkey, I decided that I wanted to periodically redesign the website, and possibly change graphics and color scheme from time to time, in order to keep things fresh.  The first version of Eva Monkey (“Red Cross”) began on a Keenspace account in the summer of 2002, and was replaced on the first anniversary of Eva Monkey existing on its own domain.  This new version (“Cold Gaze”) represented a pretty substantial improvement in myself as a designer.  The next version, (“Version 3”) wasn’t anything to write home about, but it had a minimal aesthetic that I think I appreciated at the time.  It’s from here that I got lazy with the design of Eva Monkey.  In all, version 3 went through an additional three variations, denoted as “True”, “Truer”, and “True Squared”, in the spirit of the three edits of the Death portion of Death & Rebirth.  There was a completely new design in there somewhere, however it got abandoned for reasons that I can’t recall.

Over the past five years, the design of Eva Monkey has remained exactly the same, so I redesigned and redeveloped Eva Monkey from scratch as part of a broader brand identity.  I’m really pleased with how this new version (“Version 4”) turned out, it has a number of dedicated features that the prior version was sadly missing, such as social media icons, search feature, callouts, and so on.  And, in particular, I’m relieved that Eva Monkey is finally fully responsive, so it should look great regardless of what device you’re using.

In closing, while I don’t have any plans on redesigning Eva Monkey anytime soon.  I do hope it doesn’t take another 5-10 years.

I will be presenting at Otakon 2017!

By Aaron Clark on Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

Hi everyone, I just wanted to give a quick update because next week is Otakon. This year is a special one, not only is it the first time that Otakon is being held in Washington DC, but it’s also the first time that I will be a featured presenter. So needless to say, I’m a bit excited. If you’re going to be there, I wanted to give you a heads up for what you can expect from me.

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