Applying semiotic concepts to analysis of Japanese Anime

Relating to the works of Irvine assigned for this week, I want to apply semiotic concepts to analyze a Japanese Anime: Neon Genesis Evangeline and articulate my questions based on my understanding of the Anime and Irvine’s work.

The Anime tells a story happening in the near future ( in 2015 to be accurate, but it seems futuristic enough for people in the 90s), when  after a global cataclysm known as the Second Impact, teenager Shinji Ikari is summoned to the futuristic city of Tokyo-3 by his estranged father Gendo Ikari, director of the special paramilitary force Nerv. Shinji witnesses United Nation forces battling an Angel, one of a race of giant monstrous beings whose awakening was foretold by the Dead Sea Scrolls. The main plot unfolds following such background along with the companions and enemies that Shinji meets on his journey.

Neon Genesis Evangelion is acclaimed and controversial in its sudden overturn of its belligerent and patriotic first half after about its 14th episode. Its director, Hideaki Anno began to massively use flashback and montage techniques in these episodes to create a hypnotic ambiance, together with the conversation and interaction between major characters to reinforce the impression that Shinji saving the world is nearly impossible. Despair permeate through the latter half of the anime, with the last two episode even consisting of seemingly meaningless images that was compelled together to further confuse the audience. It probably has one of the most disputed yet profound ending scene in the anime history:

It seems like everyone is congratulating to Shinji on overcoming his weak and indecisive past self, yet judging from the plot trend of the second half, this most possibly means Shinji’s own delusion after merged into the sea of LCL, the final destine for every human being.

Also, the anime alludes to various concepts from religions, most notably from Bible. I think the Anime is worth discussing in terms of the generation of meaning, where the combinatoriality is most exemplified from religious idea stripped from its original text to produce new meaning in a media work and mass reaction which complexifies the media work by relating to their own personal experience and cultural background. Many interpretatives are generated in the process, and the meaning of Neon Genesis Evangelion’s dialogic nature is certain given the ambivalence of the director in expressing his idea and copious interpretations offered by the fanatic pursuers of the Anime.

Some questions:

How can Neon Genesis Evangeline be tied to the socioeconomic context of Japanese society in 90’s?

How different meanings are layered in Neon Genesis Evangeline?

How interpretatives of Neon Genesis Evangeline are collectively developed?


Martin Irvine, Introduction to Visual Semiotics

Martin Irvine, “Remix and the Dialogic Engine of Culture: A Model for Generative Combinatoriality