Anno’s Idea of a Beautiful World??

The song “Beautiful World”, which features in both of the Rebuild of Evangelion movies  is cryptic (as lots of songs are when you really look at them).  There’s an interesting thread at evageeks [here] where you can find people debating interpretations and even whether one should pay attention to these lyrics anyways (which is an excellent question in it of itself).  For this post I’ve done my own translation and then commented on how the song might intersect with the show.

It’s only love~
If I could make only one wish come true
It would be for you to let me sleep by your side, anywhere would be fine.

Beautiful world~
I am looking at you without fail.
Beautiful boy~
You still don’t know your own beauty?

It’s only love~

When you’re asleep and when you’re awake
All you do is read shonen manga and dream.
Don’t you like yourself or what??

You don’t know what you want, you just want.
Lukewarm tears trickle down your cheeks.

I don’t have anything I want to tell you.
I just want to see you again.
I cannot tell you what I want to tell you.
Maybe I don’t have the guts.
And that’s fine but…

If I could make only one wish come true.
It would be for you to let me sleep by your side, anywhere would be fine.

Beautiful world~
I am looking at you without fail.
Beautiful boy~
You still don’t know your own beauty?

It’s only love~

Go ahead and try anything.
Even if you lose, you’ll be a bit more experienced.

I don’t need things like newspapers.
The important things aren’t on them.
How have you been?
If you’re doing OK
then that’s fine but…

If my world will vanish before I meet you again
let me sleep by your side, anywhere at all is fine.

Beautiful world~
As these ever so empty days pass us by
Beautiful boy~
It’s natural our feelings will be erratic.

If I could make only one wish come true
It would be for you to let me sleep by your side………………….

***

The official story goes something like this: Hikaru Utada is a fan of the TV series.  She talks in an interview about how she watched the whole thing over 3 days (which, considering how busy Utada must be, is an amazing feat).  Evangelion director Hideki Anno reads the interview and hires her to do the theme song for the 1.0 film.  Utada gets to pretty much write the song anyway she pleases.  Then the song is remixed for use in 2.0.  THE END.

Everything in the official story has to be taken with a grain of salt.  Some fans argue Utada is probably not a fan of the show at all, and so these lyrics are completely irrelevant.  The funny thing is that these fans are assuming that Utada wrote the song (as the official story has it) without any outside help.  Maybe the lyrics were handed to her, regardless of whether she’s seen the show or not.  Who knows?  The best thing we can do is listen to the song and be open to what it tells us.

Hikki caught red-handed!! (though technically Biomega is seinen, not shonen)

The Japanese language uses pronouns very sparingly, and when I translated the song into English I had to add tons of them, which means I had to decide who (I, you, we, they) was saying what in a lot of cases where the original is unclear!  This must be kept in mind.  Most of it might be one person speaking of and to themselves, or it could be one person speaking mostly of a second person, or there might be shifting perspectives, it’s hard to tell.

Most fans have decided the song is about Shinji in one way or another.  I agree 100%.  The English words “beautiful boy” can only really apply to Shinji in this series, the other boys are far too minor characters.  Also the phrase I translated as “my world” is originally “boku no sekai” using the usually masculine first person noun “boku” and Shinji fits this use better than anyone else (Utena uses “boku” all the time but that’s another show!).  So assuming that this song actually has to do with Evangelion at all, then definitely the image of Shinji is connected to it.

The problem, to me, is that Shinji doesn’t strike me as a shonen manga aficionado and daydreamer…

The truth is that I’d been listening to this song for quite awhile, having forgotten it was tied in with this anime until last week.  I always thought a big part of it was a criticism of otaku (which struck me as odd coming from an Utada song), especially the lines:

“When you’re asleep and when you’re awake
All you do is read shonen manga and dream.
Don’t you like yourself or what??”

So coming back and looking at the song from the Evangelion angle, I’m reminded of Anno’s tortured relations with the otaku community and his own otakuness.  And so my sense is that, whether Utada picked this theme from the end of the TV series and the crisis surrounding it, or whether Anno gave explicit directions to write this in, we’re getting once again into a confrontation between the product that is Eva and its would be consumers.  And knowing this might in turn give us a clue as to how the films are going to end.

Anyway, I like the song~

~ by Haloed Bane on May 10, 2011.

20 Responses to “Anno’s Idea of a Beautiful World??”

  1. Sounds nice, never did leave much of an impression on me when I first heard it beyond… “that sure sounds like Utada Hikaru” …as for musicians and performers getting into the anime, its harder for something like Evangelion (to determine authenticity of such statements) than it is for Macross…

    The musicians are interpreting songs by the characters, so they need to represent something authentic from the show. In Nakajima Megumi’s case (Frontier), she is also the voice actress of one of the leads and sings her songs.

    • Yeah, Macross is all about music so musicians should have more of an affinity to it.

      I’m a fan of Utada’s and I know (with as much certainty as I can have from my position of ignorance) that she writes practically all of her songs but considering the juggernaut that is Evangelion, and Anno’s commitment to this baby of his, I find it almost impossible to believe that he’d just ring her up and say: OK, you go ahead and write whatever you feel like and we’ll go with that!! 😀

  2. I think it’s funny when people try to over-analyze lyrics and especially for something like this. Lyrics rarely, if ever, mean exactly what they say, unless they mean EXACTLY what they say. When it comes to lyrics, if I can get a good sense of what they might mean through extensive research (much like I do with anime) then I’ll formulate my personal idea of what they mean, but otherwise, I assume nothing is official unless Word of God says so, or if God says “it means whatever you want it to mean” as many artists do.

  3. I haven’t heard much of Hikaru’s music, but I have to say that I never would have expected her to be involved with Eva. From what little I’ve heard of her stuff, it seems quite light and sugary, whereas Eva is often utterly submerged in morbidity and gloom. I didn’t actually like the sequence in the film when this song played, but I have to admit, the song is sort of catchy.

    This is the first time I’ve seen the lyrics. I personally love analysis — I think the fact that there is rarely an ‘official’ or objective explanation is exactly what makes it so enjoyable and special. We all sort of read into it and take away different things, depending on our mindset/personality/etc. Granted, sometimes you read interpretations that make you roll your eyes or wince at someone who appears to be making bizarre conclusions, but it’s all in good fun.

    I agree that these lyrics definitely fit Shinji very well. It sounds like a song about someone who has low self worth (‘you still don’t know your own beauty?’ / ‘don’t you like yourself or what?’) and someone who is frustrated and simply unhappy with themselves, giving way to a sort of listless/apathetic appearance (‘you don’t know what you want, you just want’). It reminds me of when Shinji was so broken by everything around him that he just went away by himself for a day, sitting on a train, watching people in the cinema, etc. He looked almost as if he had detached himself from everything. As for the ‘Manga’ bit, I had a similar reaction to you, when you pointed out how ‘we’re getting once again into a confrontation between the product that is Eva and its would be consumers’. Nicely put.

    Of course, it’s entirely possible that Hikaru (or whoever wrote it) intended none of this and was just trying to make a generic pop song. Either way, it’s always entertaining to think about this stuff.

    • Utada has many songs that are less than sugary, though come to think of it many of these songs are serious in what they talk about, but they still sound kinda happy. It’s kinda Misatoesque!!

      Anyway, I’m sure the main factor in having Utada do this was the fact that she sells so well in Japan AND she has an international presence as well…

      Wait, was the song actually played during this film? I didn’t catch that at all, can you remind me where? I only heard it at the end when Ritsuko says Third Impact is about to begin. Or is that what you were referring to?

      Analysis can be tons of fun indeed. I’m a footnote lover when it comes to books too so…

      I just read your blogpost on Eva TV series. Very nice. I agree probably the greatest strength of the show is in how so many characters are portrayed so profoundly and realistically (from Shinji and Asuka to Ritsuko and Kaji)🙂

      • Oh, sorry — been quite a while since I saw the movie, so I got the songs mixed up. I just realised that Hikaru’s song plays over the credits, and the one I disliked plays during the last scenes of the movie. I prefer Hikaru’s track.

        Very glad to hear that you liked my post on Eva. (Thanks for reading!) I’m a massive fan of the show, which is why I was a bit dubious when I heard about these new movies…I still haven’t decided whether I actually like them or not. Either way, I’ll definitely write more about Eva in the future — there are just so many things to talk about when it comes to that series.

        • Ah, OK. I think we’re in agreement on the songs🙂 I like the idea behind the kid’s song that Hayashibara sings, and the timing and placement of the song in the scene, I just don’t like the execution.

          I think the only people who will NOT be ambivalent toward these movies are those who never saw the series, or those who gave up halfway through because it was so dark or silly or something.

          I find it very difficult to write about Eva, maybe because of what you are saying here, there is so much to write about!!!

          About your blog, I also read and enjoyed your post on Faye. If you haven’t do check out this post:

          http://ghostlightning.wordpress.com/2009/02/10/faye-valentine/

          • I know what you mean about having almost too much to write about…it feels hard to know where to even start sometimes.

            Thanks for reading my Faye post — I enjoyed writing that, as Bebop is another one of my favourites. A lovely series with a subtle, powerful touch.

            Oh, I’ve never actually seen that ghostlightning post, so I appreciate you linking it for me. I’m really glad there are other posts examining Faye’s character, as she’s definitely one of the gems of the entire series. (And one of my favourite characters in the medium for sure.)

            • And Valentine and Ayanami are both voiced by Hayashibara…a fantastic achievement.

  4. Almost everything I know about Utada I get from cultural osmosis (i.e. glimpsed on Chinese gossip magazines), and my overall impression is, if she says she’s an Eva fan, it’s definitely true. However, I can’t quite tell why I get this idea in my head.

    • You’ve got the same notion that we all have about her. She’s always come off as honest and sincere. She’s been her own songwriter from the very beginning of her career too. Personally Shiina Ringo and her are the two Japanese singers I respect and admire the most.

  5. Haha, I posted this article in EGF, so now things come full circle. :3

    Interesting analysis. I wonder if maybe the ending of New Movie Edition (however 4.0/Final will end) can somewhat shed some light on Beautiful World being used… Or we’ll get some Word of God from Anno. Still, I really do think it is about Shinji. It would be kinda interesting if it should be from Kaworu’s POV towards Shinji (who uses “boku” and “kimi” or Mari’s (who so far uses “kimi”. I forget if she addressed herself first-person yet). 😄

    • Full circle indeed!

      Yeah, Shinji’s in this one way or another. It’s just that maybe Shinji here is symbolic of many other people out in the real world besides.

      I just read my translation thinking of Kaoru singing it and OMG there’s a lot of interesting connections, aren’t there? Especially in the light of a sequel theory… Kaoru comes back, knows that probably time is short again, but is interested to hang out with Shinji for a little while.

      Of course if Kaoru met Shinji when they were children then that would explain the “again” business in a whole different way..

  6. Certainly food for thought, that’s for sure! (Whether or not Kaworu’s interested in Shinji romantically or just generally speaking.)

    • I’m guessing Kaoru as an entity is not interested in what we call romance, but his interest in Shinji might go even beyond what we would call romantic.

  7. Mmh. Personally, I find Rei/Lilith and Kaworu/Adam (Yui/Eva-01 too) to have selfless love for Shinji, but that’s just my take on things.

    • I think you might be right, but selfless love can have very shocking consequences if you think about it😉

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