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Inside the Evangelion and Japanese Swords Exhibit

posted on by Kim Morrissy

The "Evangelion and Japanese Swords Exhibit" came to Tokyo for the second time from August 30 to September 9. The exhibit was previously in Japan in 2012 and in Europe in 2014, but this was my first time seeing the swords for myself. The exhibit features 26 weapons created by dozens of Japanese sword makers.

As the exhibit materials and accompanying guidebook explain, the exhibit was conceived as a way of getting young people engaged with the declining art of Japanese sword-making. Although the Eva units themselves do not wield swords (with the exception of the Magoroku Sword, Counter Sword, and the Bizen Osafune depicted in the Neon Genesis Evangelion: ANIMA novels), series mech designer Ikuto Yamashita enthusiastically assisted with the exhibit. Giant robots with swords are cool, after all.

Recreations of the Magoroku Sword, Counter Sword, and the Bizen Osafune were the first things on display at the exhibit.

The biggest attention-grabber at the series is certainly the 332cm long Lance of Longinus, which is not an existing Japanese weapon but was crafted with traditional techniques by All Japan Swordsmith Association head Sadanao Mikami and his apprentice Shoichi Hashimoto. A video playing at the exhibit showed the painstaking process involved in creating the lance. The "skin" of the lance was created with Damascus steel, and is carved with an intricate pattern.

The Progressive Knives shown in the series are also recreated below:

Another weapon created from the fusion of traditional sword making techniques and modern anime sensibilities is the "Natayanagi." Like the naginata, which the weapon is inspired by, it has a long handle like a spear with a single bladed edge. Yamashita drew an illustration showing how an Eva unit would wield the Natayanagi.

The original sword designs are inspired by Evangelion character motifs and the weapon designs featured throughout the series. Various sword makers showed their own unique approaches to the craft, resulting in an impressive amount of diversity.

On top of the swords, the exhibit included 200 pieces of art materials from the TV series and Rebuild films, including a small sampling of designs from the upcoming Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 (Shin Evangelion Gekijō-ban :||) film. Most of the character and setting designs are from the footage of the first 10 minutes of the film. Unfortunately, that part of the exhibit was off-limits for photography, but it was fine to take photos of materials from the earlier films, so here's a sampling:

Overall, this was quite a worthwhile exhibit to attend, as the level of work and detail put into the swords and designs are appreciable even at a glance. It's quite an educational exhibit, too, with several walls dedicated to explaining the basic process of sword making and introducing the history and local differences between sword making traditions. Plus, it's nice to see anime materials from the entire Evangelion series thus far. I hope that this expanded version of the exhibit is brought overseas like the original one was.

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