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The Relationship We Didn't Get To See In Netflix's Neon Genesis Evangelion

The tale of characters in mecha suits battling giant monsters is one repeated through many live action and anime stories. But it is "Neon Genesis Evangelion" that has stood the test of time (via CBR). The 1995 series revolving around Shinji Ikari is one of the most terrifying anime, but also one of the most beloved. The series deals with resonant themes such as love, depression, and self-loathing, making the story relatable to this day. Shinji struggles with the abandonment of his father all the while piloting Evas in order to protect Tokyo-3 from monsters known as Angels.

Shinji's true battle, however, is with his inner demons. His father's flagrant disregard for his own son hurts Shinji, while he also has to deal with the many other trials of being a teenager. Shinji struggles with his attraction towards fellow pilot Asuka Langley Sōryu, culminating in "Neon Genesis Evangelion's" disturbing ending. Shinji's relationship with Asuka is important to the legacy of the series, but there was a different relationship that fans did not feel was honored in the Netflix release.

Kowaru has loved Shinji for the past 20 years

The relationship between Shinji and Kaworu Nagisa stretches back not just to the anime, but the manga that was written by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto. Though the manga is not the "source text" as noted by Vox, the story is considered to be in conjunction with the anime. Shinji first encounters Kowaru as another Eva pilot and the two quickly become close. Some interpret the dynamic between the two as simply platonic, but Shinji and Kowaru have a history of being queer coded. In the companion manga, the two friends kiss, and Kowaru confesses his feelings for Shinji.

In the anime, this relationship is more subtle and slightly more ambiguous. However, there is a large camp that considers the love between the two characters to stand in the anime (via Mashable). This is driven by one particular scene where Kowaru expresses affection for Shinji. But when Netflix released "Neon Genesis Evangelion" with a new English translation, this expression of affection was changed significantly.

Netflix's English translation changes the meaning of the scene

Since the original run of "Neon Genesis Evangelion," Shinji and Kowaru have had an emotional connection. One of the most moving moments of the series is when Kowaru tells Shinji that he loves him. The debate continues as to the true interpretation of these words: if it is romantic or platonic. However, the Netflix translation takes away this choice altogether. Instead of Kowaru stating that he loves Shinji, the statement instead translates to Kowaru telling Shinji he "likes" him, and that Shinji is "worthy of his grace." 

This moment is important to Shinji's character arc. Kowaru is the first person to tell Shinji that he is worthy of love. After years of self-deprecation and being abused by his father, this is a meaningful change in Shinji's life. The Netflix translation sanitizes this moment and makes it less impactful, as well as taking away the homoeroticism of the moment. Though some fans find this change acceptable, others are offended at the choice (via Newsweek).

With a series about the power of overcoming obstacles, this takes away one of the most important moments of the show.