Happy 2015! Congratulations! You might be hearing a lot of “congratulations” because 2015 marks the setting of two well known pop-culture franchises, the apocalyptic anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion (where a barrage of “Congratulations” is thrown upon the main lead way at the end) and the film Back to the Future Part II. 2015 also has some plot point importance to the cult favorite media franchise .Hack as well, but less so than these two institutions, though it wouldn’t be right to not at the least mention it as well (as that franchise is pretty underrated and deserves some
We all know how “accurate” the futures usually envisioned for us in the late 19th and later 20th century would be like and how most portrayals have fallen short. Instead of examining what they got wrong, I want to look at what they got right. In these cases, what they got wrong is actually a good thing, and what they get right, is a bit troubling.
On a superficial level both future’s shown by NGE & Back to The Future II are inaccurate barring a few things (Videochat! But 2001: A Space Odyssey and superhero/pulp sci-fi comics have had that since the 30s or even earlier) and it’s really easy to point out what they got wrong. Obviously we’ve had the explosion of widely used internet, cell phones to smart phones, mp3 players; a lot has happened tech wise since these premiered which means a lot of tech is missing. Fashion has changed. Most of everything seen in both are pretty dated. Hell things as recent as 2007 are starting to look extremely dated to us right now (now that’s scary) so they look really dated. Shinji Ikari’s S-DAT cassette player is a relic by the 2015 date as are his high waisted pants, hey everything about NGE is 90s (but also strangely not, I argue Evangelion is actually more timeless in its execution of the two though there’s no denying it’s heavily 20th century rooted). The list goes on and on.
However, what they got right, is a little less obvious.
The part of 2015 as seen in Back To The Future II that gets it right is that it is a pop culture laden one, with people in colorful uber fashions that while they got that wrong, the looks still drenched in 80’s aesthetics + super cool plastic and tin, what they got right was an even greater sense of consumerism. Suburban capitalism is the name of the game. The future in BTTF2 is laden with product placement and consumerism (namely from what I recall, Pepsi) being presented in a prolific and different way. 3D film has indeed come back (though not quite the way they predicted). Nike wants to make those lace up shoes a reality. But those are menial. Because since the late 80s, we have fallen hard into a world of consumerism and capitalism being king. We are bombarded with stuff to buy. Media conglomerates own pretty much everything since the year the movie debuted. It may be bright, charming but under the surface it’s pretty bad. Because that is the culture we created.
In a sharp contrast, NGE, their 2015 is nearly pop culture…less? Aside from a sliver of 90’s video games and Japanese arcade culture, there is not a lot in the series that shows much of a really consumerist society. It’s very parred down. But this is fitting because this is a post-apocalyptic 2015, the result of finding a sentient alien entity in one of the poles around the year 2000. After waking it up it caused a giant earth harming explosion that ultimately sparked a giant world war, with countries nuking each other in one long chain. The climate is implied to be quite messed up as a result and millions if not billions of humans were also wiped out. What’s left of Japan (where the series takes place) is not only completely changed topography wise but also caught in an implied eternal nuclear summer.
While we are still plagued with terrible amounts of corruption, wars, civil unrest and injustice (2014 was evidence enough) as well as under threat of natural disasters and climate change, the fact we have not had a nuclear war of that multitude (yet) I think shows that we are better (but only by a little) than the world shown to us in NGE. This is a good thing.
What makes NGE scary however is that it resembles reality enough that such war can happen. Despite the giant robots fighting aliens with Judeo-Christian iconography and the advanced technology involved in maintaining them (retractable cities, large domed Geofronts etc) the world presented in NGE is normal and lo-tech enough outside of the sci-fi elements that it does resemble a post nuclear war society, something Japan has dealt with before. It echoes the world left to rebuild after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Because of this there is a vaguely 50s-70s feel (yet somehow minus the visual kitsch) permeating in NGE down to it’s atomic age ending theme of Fly Me To The Moon. People carried on after WWII, but there are still huge scars. In that manner NGE got 2015 very much right with the level of unrest and uncertainty in today’s society and the scars our societies still deals with.
So yes. They got our future’s wrong. But they also got it really, really right.