If you had asked me two weeks ago if I was headed out this year toward the Los Angeles Convention Center for the anime celebration of the west coast, I likely would have given you a proud “no”. Truth is, that after last year’s record attendance, and a lack of compelling guests or panels, it has become harder and harder to keep this convention momentum up. After nearly two decades of this one has to pick and choose their battles, and last year left me parched in the desert save for another chance to catch up with old friends, industry and beyond. So this year was meant to be something of a vacation from what used to be a popular personal vacation destination. I know, sounds pretty silly now, but considering what the medium has meant to me in the wake of Evangelion, one would hope noone would begrudge me the will to catch a breath. So when the grapevine juiced up with the promise of a twentieth anniversary featuring none other than NGE’s pop muse herself,Yoko Takahashi, it felt like something that just wouldn’t allow for my smug avoidance of this now major, mainstream gathering.
So in natural Winter form, I arrived at Hall B far earlier than I had any right or need to. Not a line had formed as staff had informed me that nothing would be happening until roughly 12:30p, with the show starting at 1:30. It was 10:15. Fine. It’s alright. Not feeling terribly materialistic, so Exhibit Hall is out. Nor am I hungry for overpriced poison, so forget eating. Brought a book with me that I long to finish, so the wall of waiting it is!
How little did I know that the background sounds I was hearing behind me was going to keep me from finishing that next chapter on the densha attendant who moved the packets of sarin gas out of a train in 1995, and that the singing I was hearing was Takahashi herself. My book closed as I leaned over to my back left in disbelief. She had just finished “Zankoku na Tenshi no Tēze”, and had just started with “Fly Me To The Moon”, Wait-is that the Laputa theme? Suddenly, the reality of where I was, and the significance of the whole event began to take a severe kind of hold over my body. A little over 18 years ago, these songs were just beginning their swirl throughout my consciousness like a larva burrowing deep into me in search of a home filled with food and warmth. The songs from Eva have within them a sort of emotional knowing that composer Shiro Sagisu and Takahashi infused within them that seem to understand the unspoken heart of a series that would come to define not only its director, but a generation of myth enthusiasts. The songs become iconographic, kin to GAINAX’s visual presentation and Sadamoto’s character designs. They are an indispensable part of Evangelion’s entire spirit, and every bit as important as the animation.
There was something very intimate, very curious about listening in to the rehearsal that again let me into the show’s own penchant for process. I could just ignore it, and crack open my book again, but this is process. It’s what attracted me to the entire series in the first place. A feeling of “in progress”, never perfect, always seeking the better. I never expected to be treated to such sounds, even if it was clear that the singer was taking it easy on her voice for the moment. This didn’t come with admission, and yet, this is perhaps the highlight of my afternoon.
A few chapters later, the staff at last led us out back to line up for the show which ended up lasting all of about twenty short minutes before we were corralled into a red-tinged Hall B, where the suspense built in spite of itself. And I say in spite of because the 1:30 show had soon become a 1:53 show due to one delay or another (which is expected of AX, but not accompanied by endless loops of Angel Attack–a song that will now gnaw at my brain should one note be uttered again). So when the lights finally went down, and our emcee at last revved the 3000+ crowd up for the afternoon’s festivities, all felt more than ready to experience what I had already done so, this time at 150%.
And what a sweet demon it is..
In truly top form,a winged & horned Takahashi was both deeply friendly and commanding in her performance, which included the aforementioned songs. (with a side of “Tamashii No Rufuran” – a personal favorite) And while she was given a little time to explain with translation help, the video presentation supplied by Shiro Sagisu’s company (a public premiere), and her upcoming compilation album, her appearance was meant to be but part of a larger whole presented by the folks at Bang Zoom! Entertainment. The prolific dub studio also hosted a charming cosplay contest, a voice acting demo featuring ADV dub veterans, Tiffany Grant, Matt Greenfield, and the inimitable Amanda Winn Lee, and music by ALICE Underground & Eru. And while I couldn’t be happier to see such personal favorites come by for a spell, it was Takahashi’s presence that hinted at an event that never truly materialized. But one can just call this me being greedy, which is more than likely true.
In all, the music was powerful yet brief, the appearances sweet but fleeting. And while I could certainly appreciate everyone for pulling this together with the resources they had, one could also make the case that we at Anime Expo were getting something more akin to a digest celebration. A series of tasteful morsels without going full banquet. Even when the crowd chanted for an encore, the repeat of “Thesis” only hinted at something that could be just that more involved. Or perhaps again, this is my curse of Evangelion. It always leaves me wanting more. Not so much more of the same, but more of that human touch that allows Hideaki Anno’s spirit to reach more of us.
As it is, I felt like all we received was a heartfelt, yet still passing glance as opposed to an intimate glimpse into one of the great modern myths.
10 thoughts on “Sense Impressions: NGE 20th Anniversary Celebration at AX 2015”
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To be honest, I was surprised at how hurried & brief the event was. I was only contacted at the last minute and flown to LA the day before for that very brief appearance! I sure wish it had been a longer event overall. More befitting the legacy of NGE. I would’ve liked to have done more than read lines from the show when people could just watch the DVD. Matt encouraged me to do the “Oompa Loompa” line because it was originally my ad-lib, and he always liked it. FYI – Amanda warned them in advance that no one would be able to hear her as Rei, but they ran out of time to do a mic check for her. At least Takahashi did sound great!
I was wondering this was all the case. There was something both hurried, and almost early con slapdash about the whole affair that both charmed and mildly disappointed. And while it all felt more like a taster than a full course, it was great to see you guys up there again. Would also have loved to have witnessed something more than what felt more like promo for the upcoming Japanese Blu-ray release. Perhaps in another few years time? This said, everyone looked and sounded great.
Now, for someone to get cracking on that dream international cast and creator panel featuring Shiro & small orchestra. I know that’s a killer pie in the sky, but one can dream, yeah?
Thanks so much for sharing tale, Tiffany. Always happy to see you!
As you can imagine, MANY people have asked about the BluRay release of the TV series and, although I have no exact information , I wouldn’t expect to see it here anytime soon. The TV rights got scrambled when Anno split with Gainax, and now no one in the US has distribution rights for the TV series. God only knows when that will come out OR (please don’t ask!) when Eva 3.0 will come out. It is a complete mystery to me why it isn’t out already. We’ll all just have to wait and see. I really wish someone would hold a proper 20th anniversary celebration, and I could get my friend Miyamura (Asuka) back to the US. Now that would be awesome!
Any gatherings with veterans on both sides of the pond could not be more welcome.
And about the US BD release, believe me when I say that I have enough patience not to even ask.
When it happens, it’ll be worth it.
Until then, always open to grand celebration.
Got to meet Mitsuishi at Sakura Con a couple years ago – VERY exciting! She was super nice. In a non-Eva related note, we both played Kome Sawaguchi in Blue Seed, so I was additionally excited about that. I wish Expo had put more into that 20th Anniversary event. It could’ve been pretty spectacular, and Takahashi should’ve been able to perform for much longer. But then again, no one asked me!!
The “Grrrrrs” rise from a simmer to a melancholy boil.
Perhaps come the 25th Anniversary? I want to believe.
(Holy. That Mitsuishi story. So excellent! Also a fan of both voice casts for that series as well.)
All I can hope is that the 25th anniversary celebration will be bigger, better and much more awesome! I never thought playing an obnoxious redhead would’ve lead where it has. Who knew?
Well, many of us were certainly happy and thrilled to see and hear you guys again.
I know I was.
Now, for more of us to push for something even more focused and intimate next time!
Thanks so much for stopping by. Honored and privileged!
Just did a tiny con in Buffalo – a total 180 from last weekend! It was great to see everyone at the AX event, and I appreciate your comments. Thanks!
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