Should Shinji have been saying “We mustn’t show naked women?”

At any given point, Evangelion has a huge number of thematic, aesthetic, and plot-related balls in the air. Giant robots! Invading space monsters! Government conspiracies! Delicious sake!

That multi-faceted nature is what makes it so unique, compelling, and entertaining. But if we’re giving a thorough description of Eva, we probably need to add “horny” to the list of adjectives too. The series has no shortage of scenes which show its female cast in skin-tight outfits, swimwear, or various states of undress, and while some viewers may just accept that as par for the course in anime, a recent Japanese Twitter debate shows that some people would like Eva better if it toned down the attempts at sexiness.

“I’m watching Eva, but what’s up with all the scenes with naked women, women’s breasts, and women’s underwear, which have nothing to do with the story?” reads the tweet from Twitter user @ham_kokoro which kicked off the discussion. “It’s making it so I can’t concentrate. Can men not make it through an episode if there’s not a female body shown every 15 minutes?”

▼ Trailer for the Evangelion TV series

Some commenters were quick to agree that yes, they could do without the risqué sideshows pulling focus from the sci-fi storytelling.

“It just doesn’t fit with the rest of the series.”
“I always end up turning away from the screen in those scenes. Why do they have to show camera angles coming up from between the girls’ legs?”
“I watched Eva once, but this I why I don’t want to watch it again.”
“I totally know how you feel.”
“They show off too many of the contours of Asuka’s physique.”

But on the other end of the spectrum, others said they’ve got no issue with Eva’s sexual elements, and some even argue that they’re necessary.

“Mecha! Naked women! It’s like a combo set of guys’ favorite things!”
“I was in high school when Eva first aired on TV, and I didn’t have a problem with it. I remember thinking the violence and gore was disturbing, but I didn’t think of it as a particularly erotic series.”
“I’m a woman, but I think it needs those sexual elements for the anime to be enjoyable. They really help you feel the stimulation that [protagonist] Shinji feels.”
“Puberty is one of the themes Eva deals with, so I don’t think those scenes have ‘nothing to do with the story.’”
“When I watched Evangelion, I saw it as a story about a boy progressing through adolescence and becoming an adult, so the sexual elements didn’t seem out of place to me at all.”

As pointed out by those last two comments, Evangelion is just as concerned with exploring the mental state of main character Shinji, a 14-year-old boy, as it is in depicting the battle between humanity and the invading Angels. Actually, you could argue that the Eva TV series is more interested in taking the viewer inside Shinji’s headspace, given its bold choice to spend its last two episodes more or less entirely within his mind and abandoning any attempt to show how the conflict with the Angels wraps up. Like a lot of 14-year-olds, Shinji’s hormones are running on overdrive, and burgeoning sexuality is an especially prickly part of growing up for him because it runs smack-dab into his self-loathing. He’s already internalized the belief that no one would want to be emotionally close to him, yet he still feels nearly uncontrollable physical desires, and it’s clear that whether or not he can arrive at a better balance is going to be a huge part of determining if he can ever become a happy adult.

Of course, whether or not all those lingering shots of form-fitting plugsuits, bath scenes, and the like are an effective way of framing the world of Evangelion as Shinji perceives it or just pandering otaku fan service is a matter of individual interpretation. The potential for shock at Eva’s sudden shifts to sexualized content is also probably exacerbated by how the ongoing Rebuild of Evangelion reboot movie series has trimmed out a lot of the sexy shenanigans that went on in the original TV series, and even rights holder Studio Khara seems interested in distancing itself from skeevy perceptions of its characters.

▼ Though the trailer for the upcoming Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time does really seem to want you to notice Asuka’s butt…

Ultimately, as is so often the case with questions about the series, “Does Evangelion need to be so horny?” doesn’t have a definitive answer, and is something for fans to debate at length. In the meantime, though, if you’re looking for some completely family friendly Eva content, there’s always that new version of the opening theme sung entirely with cat meows.

Source: Jin
Top image: YouTube/Netflix
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