To start, let’s not kid ourselves into thinking the Evangelion franchise has been anything less than a roaring beast of pandering fanservice of various natures since the show made it big in the 90s. Rei is arguably one of the progenitors of moe as a fetish, after all, and you could probably crush a prison population under the weight of all those cheesecake figurines (because when I came through the other side of EoE’s crushing malaise of loneliness and tentative hope for humanity, I know my first thought was, ‘sure I watched Asuka implicitly being cannibalized, but how can I more effectively stare at a miniaturized version of her ass?’). And let us not delve into that strip pachinko game.
The key separator, of course, is that all of that is spinoff material. Like the Star Wars Christmas Special or that time 4Kids made their own Yu-Gi-Oh movie, it’s an act of fringe cash grabbing that can be easily ignored in favor of the central media work that brought the fanbase together. But nothing is sacred and no work remains untouched, so we have remakes to contend with.
And lest this be construed as an exercise in handwringing and the transposing of moralities (though one can hardly say that Japan is more sexually liberated than the US so much as it’s differently neurotic), they’re within full rights to make sexy statues of 14 year old girls (it’s almost never Misato, the actually sexually confident adult, but that’s another rant) – though the common ‘age of consent is 13’ assumption is an oversimplified assumption (in truth it varies from region to region, making the national average effectively 18, BUT there are places where 13 is the age of consent BUT only regarding other 13 to 17 year olds BUT there’s no laws against non-physical ogling by older people hence the theoretically non-sexual student escorts BUT….you see my point). And let it never be said that I’m above prurient interest in two dimensional collections of lines (certainly I’ve voiced a fair appreciation for Akio Ohtori and Sayo Yamamoto’s Fujiko Mine in the process of writing about them).
But this isn’t directly about sex or sexualized merchandise or the particular hangups that lead to emphasizing the sexual appeal of girlish innocence over adults with full sexual agency. That is a master thesis, or a very hefty book, and I’m nowhere near versed enough to write it. Instead, we’re going to talk about the use of nudity in the original Evangelion versus Rebuild, and why the latter proves not only uncomfortable but nigh counter to the original work.