TV Dictionary - Neon Genesis Evangelion

Creator's Statement

Beneath the cryptic religious symbolism, unexplained sci-fi jargon, and abstract interior monologues, my reading of Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995) has always been simple: Evangelion is the story of a boy realizing what it means to connect with the people around him. Thus, for my entry into the TV Dictionary, I paired “realize” with Evangelion due to the thematic congruence between the two. 

The structuring of my video was a process of subtraction. After a broader first draft that attempted to use every definition of “realize” I could find, I restricted my essay into focusing only on the final two episodes of Evangelion, in which the protagonist goes on an interior journey of self-discovery through his subconscious. These episodes are rich in abstract imagery, and the sort of commentaries on selfhood, connection, identity, and semiotics that led me to choose “realize” as my word in the first place. I attempted to create an arc throughout the essay that traces the protagonist’s journey of self-realization through the different definitions of “realize.”

The constraints of the TV Dictionary project provided a fulfilling challenge for me. As someone who has traditionally worked with extensive voice-over narration in my videographic work, being forced to work only through juxtaposition gave me a new appreciation for the power of the image and comparison. Not having to worry about voice-over also meant I was able to pour more attention into presentation: I had a great deal of fun styling my on-screen titles after the iconic title cards present in Evangelion, and trying to evoke a feeling of the 1990s, memory, and nostalgia through VHS filters over the text. 

In all, I’ve learned a great deal through participating in the TV Dictionary that I will certainly carry into my future projects. I hope that my work can offer a new, or at least streamlined, perspective on Evangelion as a story about how we express ourselves and our identity, interpersonal connection, and the simple yet profound realization that we must take care of ourselves.



James DeLisio is a filmmaker and undergraduate student at the University of California, San Diego. He was a selected filmmaker in the 2023 Adam D. Kamil Media Awards, and received a Hometown Media Award from the Foundation for the Alliance of Community Media. His videographic criticism has been published online, as well as in collaborative works like the TV Dictionary. He is a moderator within The Essay Library, a collective where he helped organize two of the Essay Library Anthologies, which received honorary mentions from Sight & Sound in 2021. His filmmaking practice explores personal identity within grassroots communities, and his videographic criticism concerns themes of transnational cinema, generic intersections, and embodiment in film.

This is an extremely thought-provoking contribution to the TV Dictionary, which suggests a meditation on pedagogy, childhood, and the role of anime within it. 

What stands out on first and repeated viewings is the arresting use of a slide projector sound effect to introduce intertitles which interrupt the clips from Neon Genesis Evangelion. This sudden eruption of an “old” technology disrupts the viewing experience with a discombobulating cognitive dissonance. The sound effect prompts expectation of a still image – there is even a momentary freezing of the moving image the first occasion it is used – but after the intertitle, as the slide projector sound effect continues to whir, comes another clip (a moving image). This disconcerting experience reminds the viewer of the coexistence of several recording formats (the written, the analogue, the digital) all in an instant. An almost instantaneous quasi-“flashback” emerges, down through the centuries to when scholars put pen to paper to define words and back again in a matter of seconds. This prompts various questions, most pertinently regarding how precisely we should understand the pedagogical nature of the video essay when it takes the form of a dictionary entry.

The contrast between the projector sound effect and the moving images also indicates how challenging it is to capture, or to “realize,” the past via autobiographical memory. Beyond the pedagogical use of the projector, the sound effect also evokes the slideshow in the family home. As Neon is often watched by kids, the video essay prompts meditation on how to remember childhood:  whether in still or moving images, or in the more complex memories which children’s television provokes. To really “realize” the past, the video essay suggests, it may be necessary to rewatch, or even rework, a television show which shaped our childhood.

The reflections which DeLisio’s video essay prompts indicate certain shared concerns with my own on Battle of the Planets (a US reworking of the Japanese anime Kagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman). Both video essays seek to expand the range of television examples in the TV Dictionary globally, and to experiment formally with the parameters of the audiovisual dictionary entry. As importantly, both engage with the intertwining of past and present to inform (in DeLisio’s video essay the sound of projector evoking its role as pedagogical tool), and to indicate the role of children’s television in autobiographical memory (the projector also reminiscent of family slideshows, so often projected in the same living room as the television).