As the classic anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion is released on Netflix, fans have noted that this new release features changes which some consider controversial.

When Netflix announced in November that they had acquired the rights to stream Neon Genesis Evangelion, the streaming platform also announced that the series would feature a new American dub in place of the now-iconic ADV Films dub that many fans were familiar with. This news was met with mixed reactions from fans, with the fan base excited for the series to be released on a large, accessible platform but wary of the possible changes to the script the new dub may entail. With the series finally arriving on the platform on June 21st, these fears have been realized, as fans report that the Netflix release features major changes to the series.

The most obvious change is the new voice cast, though this change was expected and is considered to be the least offensive change thus far. Classic performances, such as Spike Spencer as Shinji Ikari, Tiffany Grant as Asuka Langely Soryu, or Amanda Winn-Lee as Rei Ayanami have been replaced by new recordings from voice actors Casey Mongillo, Stephanie McKeon, and Ryan Bartley, respectively. Little has been critiqued regarding the quality of their performance, but some have noted that their lines are occasionally delivered awkwardly, but this is an issue that ultimately comes down to personal preference.

The series’ ending has also been altered, as Claire Littley and Megumi Hayashibara’s or Yoko Takahashi’s cover of Frank Sinatra’s classic song, Fly Me to the Moon no longer plays over the end credits of each episode. In the original production, each episode featured a different rendition of Fly Me to the Moon, but the Netflix release seems to replace the unique pieces with a rendition of Rei I, otherwise known as Rei’s theme, uniformly across each episode. It is important to note that on the Japanese Netflix platform, Fly Me to the Moon is still present, meaning that the US-specific change was most likely due to copyright and licensing issues:

‏The most glaring change identified by users is an apparent change to the script regarding a conversation between Shinji Ikari and another EVA-unit pilot, Kaworu Nagisa. In episode 24, named The Final Messenger in the original Japanese production and The Beginning and the End, or “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” in the ADV Films dub Shinji and Kaworu share a bath at a public bathhouse, and during their conversation, Kaworu informs Shinji that he is worthy of love, and tells the protagonist, “I love you.” In the new release, which also changes the title of the episode to The Last Cometh, Kaworu instead tells Shinji that he merely ‘likes him’ instead, thus completely removing the romantic implications of the scene:

Neon Genesis Evangelion Lands on Netflix Featuring Controversial Changes To The Series

Left: The subtitles featured on the ADV Films release. Right: The subtitles featured in the new Netflix release.

While the new script certainly erases the romantic subtext between Shinji and Kaworu, some have argued that the new dub is closer to the original Japanese script, as Kaworu’s word choice more closely translates to ‘like’ than ‘love.’ According to the Evangelion FANDOM Wiki:

“Kaworu telling him he loved him was very significant for Shinji as he felt utterly alone and believe[d] nobody cared about him. It should be noted, however, Kaworu uses the ambiguous “suki” form which has possible non-romantic and simply intimate connotations and can simply mean “like” or “fond of”, and that he is deserving of “koui” (行為), which means simply “good will” or “favor”, not “koi”, “love”. When he mentions this to Misato later, Shinji also uses the ambiguous “suki” form and the “-nda” form, which indicates uncertainty.

Interestingly, it is important to note that the debate over the true intent behind Kaworu’s words is not a new debate, as Evangelion-fan site Second Impact referred to this issue in 2001:

“Kaworu only said that he ‘liked’ Shinji, not loved him. So, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything.”

This one requires a bit of explanation. Most translations have Kaworu saying that he “loves” Shinji, not “likes” him. Strangely enough, AD Vision used two different translations in their English adaptation. In their subtitled version, Kaworu says “like,” and in the English dubbed version, he says “love.” The Japanese word that is used here is “suki,” which can either mean, or just a liking or fondness. However, based on the context of the statement and the way that the word is usually used when referring to other people, most people have chosen to translate it as “love.” (If you listen for it, “suki” is used very frequently in other anime in declarations of love.)

Just before Kaworu tells Shinji that he loves him, he tells him that he is deserving of “koui.” This has been mistakenly heard by many people (including yours truly) as “koi,” which is romantic love. However, in Japanese scripts and transcriptions, the word clearly is “koui” (). “Koui” means “good will” or “favor,” so basically, in this line, Kaworu is just telling Shinji that he deserves to be treated well.

All 26 episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion, along with Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death (true)² and The End of Evangelion are now streaming on Netflix.