One of the primary attractions at Anime Matsuri in 2018 was the Evangelion Exhibition, a traveling exhibit featuring more than 1,000 art pieces from the Evangelion anime, movies, and manga. Attendees had to purchase modestly-priced tickets to enter the exhibition space and its official store, but despite the extra charge and long lines, it was a worthy experience for Evangelion fans, though perhaps underwhelming for those who are not.
The Evangelion exhibition first toured in Japan (the Anime Matsuri showing was advertised as the exhibit’s first time outside the country) and was developed under the supervision of Hideaki Anno and Studio Kahara. While providing some context for the series, the exhibit expects most attendees to be intimately familiar with the franchise and instead takes them on a journey from conception to completion through artwork and panels that describe how an anime series or movie is developed.
The exhibit contains hundreds and hundreds of sketches and other pieces of art, mostly hand-drawn, from different parts of the animation process, such as scripting, storyboarding, layout, and CG conversion. The proximity to the art, to the lines, was really enthralling; there were so many scenes on paper that took to animation in my head as I remembered the series, little moments as well as big. The magic of seeing “where it began” cannot be underestimated.
The exhibit space itself was odd, and while there were times where you didn’t know which direction to go, it was used fairly well (though ticket holders were forced to wait for hours in some instances to get in—after all, it takes time to assemble an exhibit). Explanatory panels were given for each step of the process, but additional wording—dialogue, explanations, director’s thoughts—would have made the exhibition more interesting, especially as you continue to move forward and fatigue sets in. A life-size Rei model and another model of Lillith impaled by the Spear of Longinus help break the endless aisles of sketches, as do video animations on monitors, though some are recycled from Rebuild of Evangelion extras.
The store, too, focused on Rebuild. A lot of the goods were fun, and I didn’t find the store more overpriced than expected, but there was certainly a lack of variety in the merchandise. Clothing, bookmarks, postcards, jewelry, pillows, and models were offered, but there were no special items, and not nearly as much for sale as in the Japanese stores.
For a con-goer, the value of a convention experiences is partially measured in what you bring home—in merchandise, photos (not allowed in the exhibit space), and memories. But in all honesty, this exhibition wasn’t meant for usual attendees: it was for Evangelion fans and for those who enjoy exhibits. And so while relatively bare-boned, it was still a memorable experience, and one worth attending if the exhibit ever makes its way to a convention near you.