June 21 was Father’s Day, so hopefully everyone took a moment to appreciate all the things your dad has done for you. But while a father’s job includes providing loving support and teaching some of life’s most important lessons (such as how to believe in yourself, have empathy for others, and drive a manual transmission), it takes more than just kindness to be a good parent.
Sometimes, a dad has to give his child a push in the right direction, which is why it’s appropriate that one day after Father’s Day, June 22, 2015, is the in-anime date of the first time Neon Genesis Evangelion’s mad and sad scientist Gendo Ikari looked at his son Shinji and told him to get in the damn robot.
It might not have been apparent in the very beginning, but deep down, Evangelion really isn’t overly concerned with its on-the-surface storyline of aliens attacking Earth and the giant robots trying to fend them off. What the franchise really wants to do is show what’s going on with its human characters.
Usually, drawing viewers in with the promise that they’ll get to see robots punching things and then shifting the focus to humans talking is just about the quickest way to make an audience feel hoodwinked. Evangelion manages to pull the shift off, though, by basing its teen protagonists’ larger-than-life psychological crises on common base fears and insecurities regarding family, friendship, and isolation.
But to make its characters and the world they live in relatable, Evangelion couldn’t take place too far in the future. So when the hugely influential anime made its Japanese TV premiere on October 4, 1995, it was set just two decades later, in 2015, with the in-series date of the first episode, when Shinji pilots Evangelio Unit-01 for the first time, being June 22, 2015.
Doing so let the creators have their cake and eat it too. 20 years gave the designers plenty of room to play with in thinking up fantastical advances in the burgeoning fields of biotechnology, genetics, and robotics. It also meant that the show’s cast would have grown up with influences from societal and cultural movements occurring in the real world at the time Evangelion was airing, keeping the show’s commentary on those issues relevant to the audience and consistent with its characters.
Of course, the 2015 of reality is different from the 2015 of Evangelion in several ways. That’s probably a good thing, since while plenty of anime fans fantasize about living inside their favorite show, no one is really clamoring to experience Eva’s world first-hand, what with an extremely emotionally unstable teen being the only thing standing in the way of a near-constant threat of genocide and/or all of humanity transforming into a big batch of Tang.
Still, no one knows what the next 20 years will bring, and now that you’ve told your dad a heartfelt “Thanks,” it might be a good time to start thinking about what you’re going to do for your own kids, whether the path you choose is to start putting away money in a college fund, playing a game of catch in the yard, or building them a gigantic super robot.