I was rewatching Neon Genesis Evangelion the other day, as I often do, when something struck me. It wasn’t the Evas, the Angels, or the gifted teens grappling with psychosexual ennui, but something far stranger: Captain Misato Katsuragi’s Renault Alpine A310. This car, more than any underground city or meteorological shift, shows just how unequal, militaristic, and weird the world got after Second Impact.
Let me explain.
In Eva (the original series, not the Rebuild movies) Misato is introduced behind the wheel of her bright blue Renault. The show takes place in 2015, making the pre-facelift car somewhere between 40 and 45 years old. So how does this museum piece, seen in only a few episodes, reflect on the world of the series and life in Tokyo-3?
Let’s start with a few basic facts about Misato’s car. Its appearance in the first episode gives us some details, starting with one interesting one: It’s electric.
There’s some more information this image can tell us, about how the batteries operate, but we’ll come back to that later. For now, we’re going to add a few more things to our list of facts. We also know the car’s been converted to right-hand drive, and its manual gearbox has been swapped for an automatic with a sequential shift option.
It’s not clear why, exactly, this EV needs a conventional transmission at all. Companies in the real world have toyed with the idea, but they’ve done so to preserve the experience of manual driving in an electrified world. Why integrate a sequential transmission when you have a flat, electric powerband?
However the drivetrain works, it sure wasn’t cheap to put together. Misato bemoans her car’s damage from Satchiel’s attack, due to the duration left on her car loan.
It’s also not a sign that Tokyo-3’s gone all-EV. Later in the show, in the fantastic episode The Day Tokyo-3 Stood Still, we see a pretty standard kei car —identified on IMCDb as a Suzuki Carry — still in operation. By sound, we can tell that it still has an ICE powertrain under the hood.
So, Misato’s car is an EV in an ICE world, running a strange conversion drivetrain, that cost a ton of money to put together. Most oddly, though, is that the car seems oddly low-tech in its electrification. The batteries shown above, haphazardly taped together in the rear seat, may not be the car’s primary power source (they’re implied to be stolen just to get the car back on the road) but the fact that they can be quickly wired up implies a level of compatibility one would expect from a homebrew conversion — not a vehicle equipped with a normal, modern battery pack.
But, what’s so weird about that? Misato’s clearly a classic car enthusiast to some degree, and she paid a shop to to convert her Alpine to battery power. That’s far from impossible, even in our actual, real-life 2015 — an oddly prescient prediction from Anno and company. But with Evangelion’s far more advanced technology, all those supercomputers and sensors and shields that dot NERV’s headquarters, wouldn’t you think they’d have better EV conversion kits?
Not if every penny of research money goes into Evas.
Between tax credits, grants, and other forms of financing, our real-world governments have poured money into ensuring an EV future. They’ve incentivized the transition to greener vehicles, pushing automakers to build cars that will suit tomorrow’s needs. But in the world of Evangelion, that never happened.
Instead, funding has gone to the military. The Eva program, the JSDF’s electric sniper rifle, the massive carriers of the UN’s pacific fleet. Every nation has spent every possible dollar on its defense industry, massing stockpiles of expensive weaponry over fears of a Third Impact.
Anti-war and anti-military-industrial-complex themes are common — almost par for the course — in mecha anime. But in Evangelion, even something as simple as a restomodded Renault drives home just how much the world’s focus on military spending has held other aspects of life back. Who knows? If that money had gone to space research, rather than giant living bioweapons, maybe the tech would actually exist to fly you to the moon.