Should you watch Utena before Evangelion hits Netflix?

Content Warning: The TV shows discussed in this thread (i.e., Neon Genesis Evangelion and Revolutionary Girl Utena) include depictions of depression, trauma, sexual violence, and incest. Therefore, this discussion may cover these same topics.

Potential Spoilers

Should the people waiting for Evangelion’s arrival on Netflix, watch Revolutionary Girl Utena first? A few of my friends have never watched Eva. They want to prepare so they can get the most out of the show. I am not sure if I should recommend Utena. I am afraid of suggesting another dense, emotionally intense series, as my friends may become overwhelmed to the point of avoiding Eva entirely. However, I noticed that watching both series in conjunction has deepened my understanding of Evangelion.

To touch upon Utena, it is not controversial to say that the show explores how characters internalize gender dynamics, that may negatively affect their interpersonal relationships and mental health. The same can be said for Evangelion. The rebuild movies intersect with these ideas, so much so that the most recent one – 3.33 – can be seen as a spiritual successor to Utena. Experiencing these works together has provided me with a sense of clarity and ease when reading into these themes. In other words: Utena made connecting with Evangelion easier. But I wonder if Utena’s avant-garde aesthetic is too much for some people. My friends expect logical plotlines set in fully realized worlds. They prefer monolithic myths over abstraction.

For those who are familiar with Eva: Would a companion piece like Utena help my friends find meaning in the Eva TV show? Or should they dive straight in?

BTW For a few years, Utena has been available free and legally on Youtube. I do not know how long it will stay there. Nozomient’s official channel hosts all of the episodes in the U.S., but I am unaware of the situation in other territories.

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the answer to “should you watch Utena” is literally always “absolutey fucking yes”. its literally the best anime ever made by a significant margin

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I don’t think I’d say that Utena is a good “introduction” to anything? It’s longer than Evangelion, it’s deliberately repetitious and filled with silly jokes, and it deals with subject matter that’s both oblique and traumatic. The directors of Utena and Evangelion are buddies, sure, but their particular obsessions and histories are pretty different.

That said, like Evangelion, Utena’s one of those miracle projects that only comes around once every decade or so. You can’t even say “anime isn’t made like this anymore” because anime wasn’t made like this then, either! It’s the project of many talented people who went on to become legends in their own right (Hiroshi Nagahama, Mamoru Hosada, Takuya Igarashi etc.) working on an absurdist girl’s adventure story/cruel melodrama scored by prog rock legend J. A. Seazer. It’s great.

I will say: if you’re having trouble getting into Utena, I’d recommend Princess Tutu as well? It skews a bit younger and is more accessible, but it’s the brainchild of another group of ex-Sailor Moon staff that interrogates fairy tales and has fantastic characters (and silly jokes.) If you’re a fan of classical music you’ll especially love it.

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I need to rewatch Utena because I remember having issues with it but it has been over a decade since I’ve seen it. And Eva is one of those things where I don’t remember if I didn’t like it or if I thought it was massively overrated. Again, another show I haven’t seen in a decade.
Wholesale recommend princess tutu though.
My thoughts on EVA was always that the Theme song is SO. FUCKING. GOOD. that it propelled me through twenty minutes of whatever was coming next.
But as to the actual question. I don’t think you need any prep to get into either show. Just watch it. If you dig it finish it, if not stop watching it and enjoy something else. I think you should just let your friends watch the show. Maybe they’ll find deep meaning in it, maybe they’ll enjoy giant robots, maybe they’ll hate the art. I think overly setting up themes and meanings in media you recommend to people can often distort their viewing of it. Save the deep philosophy for after they’re into it and want to go deeper.
Actually it turns out I haven’t seen Utena is two decades.

this is basically what I came here to say.

everyone: please watch Utena and also tell all your friends to watch Utena. Like they can watch Eva, too, thats fine, but I don’t think one should necessarily be watched in preparation for the other or anything, regardless of thematic similarity.

It’s really awesome that one helped you work through your thoughts on the other! But it may be better to let your friends decide how they want to engage with each show and discuss your readings of both from there!

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I can say for a fact those videos are not available in the UK, unfortunately.

Sounds like regardless Utena is worth a watch.
I hadn’t watched Evangelion before and went in without any prep, I liked it a lot and I don’t think it needs like a primer or anything, just know it’ll Go Places and brace for that.

What exactly does Utena have to do with Evangelion, there’s lots of good anime out there but why would you have watch that show before Eva? I imagine most people who saw eva did not watch Eva and “got the most out of it” anyway.

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Listen if you want your friends to watch utena you can just say “please, watch utena, it fuckin rules” and you don’t actually have to talk about NGE at all

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Like others have said, Revolutionary Girl Utena is a great show that’s always worth recommending if you think the other person will get something out of it, but I don’t think it’s necessary to see before Evangelion. They’re two very distinct shows that are working with different genres, don’t share much in way of production staff (to my knowledge, at least!), and while there’s maybe some points of thematic overlap I think ultimately they’re saying very different things about the world.

If your friends are interested in getting some context on Evangelion before watching it, my recommendation would be to check out some of the mech shows that predated and inspired Anno’s work. The big one here is the original Mobile Suit Gundam, which is also about (among other things) children working through their trauma by getting in the robot. I think it’s a really fantastic show on its own merits, and watching it has definitely given me a better sense of what Anno is bringing to the table in Eva, for better and for worse!

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Thanks for all of the replies. My friends watched through the first 12 episodes of Utena and they cannot stop. It all worked out.

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I really need to watch Utena but something about the art style keeps pushing me away