Netflix recently released the 1995 anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, a dramatic post-apocalyptic series in which young people control large bio-mechanical suits to fight off giant destructive monsters. And while fans were initially excited to have the entire series at their fingertips, they quickly realized that Netflix’s new “English-language translation and voice track dials back [the show’s] famous homoerotic subtext,” according to Vox.com.
The late-series love expressed between the main character, Shinji, and his close friend Kaworu, seems to have been inexplicably reframed as a less overtly romantic kind of friendship — to the extent that in some scenes, the word “love” has been replaced with more euphemistic words.
In one particular scene, a boy named Kaworu declares his love for Shinji…. or at least he used to until Netflix got a hold of it. One Twitter fan showed the change in dialogue for that scene: the original 1995 dialogue is on the left and Netflix’s new dialogue is on the right.
sorry but this is not ok (right is from the new netflix eva script) pic.twitter.com/LehJYFjMng
— Jimmy Gnome (@jimmygnome9) June 21, 2019
Dan Kanemitsu, a translator who worked on the Netflix re-release, responded to upset fans in a series of tweets:
While I am not in a position to refer specifically to the decision involved in the scene you described, in all my translation of any title, I have tried my best to be faithful to the original source material. Bar none.
The power of storytelling sometime depends on the ability of audiences to establish emotional relationships with the characters, as well as, recognize intimacy between people based on inferences.
It is one thing for characters to confess their love. It is quite another for the audience to infer affection and leave them guessing. How committed are the characters? What possible misunderstandings might be talking place? Leaving room for interpretation make things exciting.
He added in an e-mail to Vox, “It is not my intention to marginalize queer relations in media, as I have fought hard to ensure free speech should cover queer relations in manga and this material should be made available to the largest audience possible.”
Vox also points out that the couple were unambiguously gay and sexual in the original manga comic book that the series was adapted from. Netflix has yet to publicly respond to fan complaints, but we’ll update this article if they do.