Gen Fukunaga knows a lot about anime, so his opinion about the fate of a show as influential as Neon Genesis Evangelion carries a ton of weight in the anime world. In 1994, Fukunaga founded Funimation and set a new bar for the rest of the anime import industry. Funimation does excellent work translating, dubbing, and distributing some of the best titles in animation, and helped transition the industry from physical media to streaming. So when Fukunaga had the following to say in an interview with Polygon, fans around the world were listening:
“Honestly, Netflix is willing to significantly overpay for something like [Evangelion] and outbid anybody by multiples, no matter what their ROI is. I’m 100-percent sure that we’d have done a much better job brand-managing it and turning it back into what it was.”
With all due and earned respect to Mr. Fukunaga, I humbly disagree. With a program as mind-shatteringly important as Neon Genesis Evangelion, the best platform is the one that can get the most eyeballs on the show in the easier and quickest way possible. Netflix’s nearly 100 million international subscribers positions the streaming service to be able to get Neon Genesis Evangelion to an incredibly large audience in a very short period of time.
Evangelion is the absolute pinnacle of pre-digital anime, and I know people who have literally challenged their own ingrained, life long belief systems after watching the show. It’s compelling, thought-provoking, and intensely frustrating; in it’s own way, Evagelion is as much essential viewing as most classic cinema. Evangelion has been studied, emulated, and imitated ad nausuem.
A recent example of a programming move by Netflix that could beneficial to Evangelion was the recent release of They’ll Miss Me When I’m Dead, and The Other Side of the Wind. The former is a documentary about the latter, the last film that legendary filmmaker Orson Welles attempted to make. The Other Side of the Wind was confiscated from Welles in the late 1970’s by French authorities, and most fans assumed the film would never be seen again. Until the film and its accompanying documentary surfaced on Netflix – solving a decades-old mystery while giving Welles’ fans the opportunity to see the final film of his masterful career. With Wind on a platform with a hundred million subscribers, a legion of new viewers are just waiting to be introduced to Welles’ work.
The same could happen for Evangelion when it returns to television via Netflix in spring 2019. Rights to the anime have been in limbo since ADV and Gainax had a falling out in 2010, and fans have had to rely on bootlegs and now out of circulation DVDs to revisit the show. Now there’s hope – Evangelion will be back, and soon fans will be able to share the love once more.