The Great Evangelion Incident of 2010

Studio Khara and Gainax have been amping up the advertising for the upcoming DVD and Blu-Ray release of Hideaki Anno’s Evangelion 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance.

In some previous posts I mentioned how record shops such as Tower Records, Japanese fast food chains, iPhone Apps, and even Japanese convenience stores were all heavily promoting Evangelion this month through special deals and products. In particular, Lawson, a Japanese convenience store chain, even decided to totally make over one of their stores in Hakone Japan to be entirely devoted to Evangelion, with everything from special plastic shopping bags to toothbrushes, posters, pens, notebooks, and even Evangelion coffee and bread.

Hakone is a small town in Japan that has been getting alot of press through Evangelion the past few months. In the series Hakone is the location of Tokyo-3, the primary city within the world of Evangelion. Below Tokyo-3 is the underground headquarters of NERV and also where the Evangelions are stored and launched from. Essentially, the entire story takes place in an ‘alternate future’ Hakone.

To celebrate the upcoming release of the second film in the Rebuild of Evangelion film series, Studio Khara hosted special screenings of the new film at a high school gymnasium in Hakone which was apparently used as a model for the school where Shinji Ikari and the other Evangelion pilots are enrolled in. Hakone is a fairly small town in Japan (especially in comparasion to Tokyo) and it seems like a fun idea to have a bunch of special events in the same area that the fictional story of the Evangelion series takes place in.

The special Evangelion-themed Lawson store (where all of the pictures in this article are taken) was opened just last week and was supposed to revert back to a regular Lawson convenience store as soon as the promotional event ended on May 17th. Apparently, the fan’s reaction to this store and the other events in Hakone was tremendous. The normally small town with tiny roads and few parking spots was apparently flooded by Otaku over the weekened eager to pick up some of the special-event items available only at this store.

The store in question and the surrounding area became an overnight Otaku pilgrimage destination and the locals complained of cars being parked in every space possible and hordes of Otaku travelling through the hard-to-navigate roads to get to this tiny Lawson convenience store.  Complaints flared as quickly as people arrived to see the shop and eventually the official Evangelion website was being updated warning people to not cause the locals trouble by parking illegally and just generally making a huge ruckus at this 24 hour convenience shop. Although the Lawson company has not made any official comment, it also seems that some of these visitors were also behaving in an ‘inconsiderate fashion’. Due to the excessive noise, parking problems, and huge influx of people (even more than usual for the area as this week is also Golden Week in Japan — a national holiday) the event was quickly cancelled by Lawson just a few days after it began and all of the various items and posters were quickly taken down at 10:00 AM April 25th.

American fans have often criticized the sheer amount of promotional crap that has been released for the Evangelion franchise since it began in 1995 but regardless how one feels about the many ways this series is marketed there is no desputing the fact that it has been wildly successful. Although the special Lawson store has removed anything related to Evangelion it doesn’t seem that the other events (such as special screenings of the film) have been cancelled. I am posting more picutres of the store in question below. Many of these come from the Japanese Evangelion blog Minna no Eva (http://neweva.blog103.fc2.com/).

Although many other anime franchises get plenty of odd kinds of advertising, Evangelion is the only series I know of to get such an extreme level of attention as shown below (and also including all of the other countless different products that aren’t pictured here). A few other American anime blogs have claimed that it is series like Evangelion which are killing the genre but I think that is an over-simplification of the situation. Despite all of this crazy advertising, it can’t be said that the original TV series and the subsequent films have been entirely lacking in substance or merit (Indeed, it is my personal favorite anme series).

Something clearly resonates with the Japanese when it comes to the imagery and story of Evangelion as well as to American fans as well. Despite the people who complain about it, no other anime is as debated and fought over as Evangelion. It is also the only series and franchise that has enough associated merchandise that one could probably decorate an entire living space only with Evangelion-related products. Even packing tape and materials to toilet paper. Truly, Evangelion is a product of our times. Evangelion 2.22 is being released on home video in Japan on May 26th and the previous film, Evangelion 1.11, is available on DVD and Blu-Ray here in the United States from Funimation.

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