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Anime Expo 2023: Second Impact: The Music of Evangelion panel

Professors John Marr, David Lopez, and Elliott Jones were back at Anime Expo with another excellently informative session on the music of Evangelion. Second Impact: The Music of Evangelion is part of the academic lecture series at Anime Expo. Billy Tringali from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign moderated the session. Last year, they held the first part of this music analysis panel on Evangelion‘s music, to which over 700 attendees attempted to attend. An unexpectedly popular panel every year (yes, we’re all attending class at an anime convention by choice lmao), hundreds of attendees hoped to attend this year’s exciting discussion as well and packed every seat. Unfortunately, similarly to last year, the room was completely filled and not all hopeful attendees made it in. 

John Marr, David Lopez, Elliott Jones (left to right)

Starting off with the classic “Fly Me to the Moon,” Professor Lopez gave us a brief background about the version used in Evangelion, specifically the Frank Sinatra version, and introduced how jazz, big band, and string elements are used. Professor Lopez followed with a recording of the Claire Littley version, and showed the audience the form structure of the song as they listened. This tune has a form that functions like a traditional jazz song. 

Next, Professor Jones introduced “From Beethoven 9 =3EM27=” from Evangelion 3.0. Interestingly, Beethoven’s 9th symphony is a standard central piece of music in Japan due to its history. Originally performed by German WWI prisoners of war captured in Japan, it has since grown to be a piece that is performed by both professional and amateur ensembles throughout December annually, including the famous 10,000 person choir sponsored by Suntory. The symphony’s 4th movement, an adaptation of Friedrich Schiller’s “Ode to Joy,” was the focus of today’s presentation. 

Professor Marr then spoke on composer Shiro Sagisu who has scored music for many other well-known films, including Kimagure Orange Road, Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water, Kare Kano, Bleach, Berserk, Shin Godzilla, and Shin Ultraman. For Evangelion, Sagisu was known for the piece “Komm Susser Tod (Come, Sweet Death),” a bright song set to rather dark lyrics. Amusingly, as the song uses the famous chord progression from “Canon in D,” in the process of pointing out the progression during the playback, Professor Marr managed to get the entire room singing along. 

Following up, Professor Lopez continued with “Shiawase wa Tsumi no Nioi (Happiness Smells Like Sin)” from the Evangelion: Ayanami Raising Project. This particular song has an interesting 6/8 meter that is often seen in rock and jazz pieces. In the second half of the century, musicians often blended this meter with Latin music, resulting in complicated and interlocking rhythms. For example, a cascara pattern is usually more associated with latin dance. Including a highlighted sax solo, many of these fusion elements can be heard in this song. 

Professor Jones then presented on “Kindred Spirits (Theme Q) = 3EM0A=” from Evangelion 3.0. Though this piece is not officially an art song, it possesses many of the same elements, allowing Professor Jones to give a brief lecture about this type of music. Though songs come in many different forms, some forms specifically focus on the relationship of the music to the text. Three of these forms are through-composed, strophic, and modified strophic. “Kindred Spirits” utilizes a modified strophic form, where most stanzas of text are set to the same music, but with a verse 3 and coda that features a new melody and harmony. This song also blends classical and contemporary pop vocal styles, resulting in an interesting tonal sound that doesn’t sound quite like either extreme and widens the range of possible emotional impact. 

Unfortunately, the panel was cut short due to time, and the last song scheduled for the day, “Paris” from Evangelion 3.0+1.0, was not covered. However, Professor Marr promised that it will be slated for the next presentation, so look forward to the next lecture! 

For those that missed the panel, you can watch below for the full lecture: 

In addition, in a show of great planning anticipating the limited time and possible questions from the audience, an “office hour” session was scheduled in a separate room after the panel, where the lecturers held Q&A for another hour. 

Join the fun next time as the group plans to return with more music analyses next year.

Billy Tringali, John Marr, David Lopez, Elliott Jones (left to right)