Nobody would ever condone smearing paint on Mona Lisa's smirk or lopping off David's marble genitals.
Why, then, would anyone be okay with Netflix removing "Fly Me to the Moon" from Neon Genesis Evangelion? Netflix's decision to remove the outro from such a culturally important anime is akin to any other defacement of great art.
Within the anime community, Netflix's release of Evangelion was genuine cause for celebration. The original 1995 Evangelion series remains one of the most influential anime series of all time, but actually finding a way to watch it in the West has always been a massive headache. Up until now, Evangelion has been completely unavailable for streaming, even through paid rental. Viewing options were limited to illegal downloads or shelling out the cash for an expensive DVD box set. Widespread availability on Netflix means more than just ease of access––it means greater exposure for Anime as Art (both with capital "A's").
To fully grasp why Netflix's removal of "Fly Me to the Moon" is so egregious, it's important to understand where Neon Genesis Evangelion falls within the larger anime canon. Before Evangelion came out in 1995, the anime industry had grown stale. Long-running mecha (giant robot) franchises, particularly Gundam, dominated the airwaves. Massive piloted robot battles in space were fun in their own right, but not especially groundbreaking.
Evangelion changed that. It was indeed a mecha series, like Gundam, but instead of focusing on the robot battles, it focused on the pilots––young teens tasked with inhabiting giant robots to fight destructive alien beings called "Angels." Whereas Gundam banked on the "cool-factor" of their robot battles, Evangelion fights weren't fun––they were inevitable sources of loss, destruction, and trauma. Characters suffered from anxiety and PTSD, struggled with their maturation amidst absurdly traumatic circumstances, and explored religious ideologies. Evangelion was not just the first anime to deconstruct its own genre; it was one of the first anime series to garner mainstream Japanese appeal. Evangelion wasn't just a great anime; it was a work of art that explored deeply complex themes and paved the way for similarly ambitious, complex series like Cowboy Bebop.
But why is "Fly Me to the Moon" so important to Evangelion as a work of art? Because it's the outro, and in anime the outro matters—a lot. Outros, or Ending Themes (EDs), are the songs played at the end of each episode of an anime. Unlike Western cartoons, which usually use instrumental versions of their opening themes, anime outros are full-blown affairs. Intended to leave viewers with a specific emotion post-episode (excited, sad, wistful, etc.), outros tend to be originally composed pieces, complete with lyrics and matching, stylized animation. In essence, outros are fully intertwined with a show's theme, and they provide an integral endnote to the viewing experience of any given episode.
This is especially true for Evangelion, wherein each of the series' 26 episodes ends with a different rendition of "Fly Me to the Moon." Performed by various artists, including voice actors from the show, the renditions switch up everything from tone and tempo to instrumentals, creating a dissonant experience across episodes; the viewer is always left feeling in flux. This mirrors the unease felt by the characters in Evangelion, who grow up in an environment where everything they love can be taken away from them at any moment. Coupled with the space-based subject matter, the "Fly Me to the Moon" outros never seemed like an afterthought, but rather like a painstakingly crafted, curated, essential piece of Evangelion.
Fly me to the moon - Ending Evangelion (Versión completa) www.youtube.com
Removing them is no different from stealing an essential aspect of any other iconic work of art. Evangelion without "Fly Me to the Moon" isn't Evangelion; it's a fake, a bootleg, a flawed rendition. Without "Fly Me to the Moon," anyone watching Netflix's version of Evangelion for the first time will be missing a core emotional beat to their viewing experience. At this point, it's best to just buy the DVD set.