Evangelion and Japanese Swords Exhibit at Ueno Royal Museum

Assuming both blades were scaled evenly, which would win in a fight--a samurai's katana or an Evangelion's high-frequency progressive knife? Master craftsmen from around the country presented their argument at the Ueno Royal Museum in Tokyo with a series of swords inspired by Neon Genesis Evangelion.

First up we have the classic katana. Four kilograms of iron are hammered, sanded, and sharpened down into one kilogram of swift death. The blacksmith heats overlayed strips of tamahagane ore to 1300 degrees Celsius and pounds them into a flat bar which is then folding and refolded many times over into an instrument of unsurpassed strength and malleability.

The length, curvature, and tip of the blade evolved alongside the tactics of war. For example, when battles shifted from being held on horseback to on foot at the beginning of the Warring States period, swords were shortened to make them easier to wield one-handed in mob skirmishes. If a samurai became entangled with an opponent, he could use his free hand to stab the foe's flank with a wakizashi short sword.

Next we have this ornate beauty. The plugsuit-white base of the Rei Ayanami-inspired scabbard is offset by a blue and black sine wave that symbolizes the synchronization pattern from a harmonics test. The red jewels have a singular shine like the First Child's albino eyes, while the wriggling carvings in the metal tip are done in an A10 nerve motif. Finally, the bumps on the handle represent the pustules on Lilith's lower body as a solemn reminder of Rei’s true nature.

Never bring a knife to a gun fight! Evangelion Unit 01's Counter Blade from the light novel spin-off series Evangelion Anima literally screws together a samurai sword and an anti-AT pistol. The nuts and bolts were purposely left exposed to give the synthetic resin handle a mechanical look.

The blade is a real treat for katana otaku. Take a gander at its unique hamon temper line pattern--it looks like a row of three cypress trees, or sanbonsugi in Japanese. That’s how you know it was forged by the great Magoroku Kanemoto, one of the history's most revered swordsmiths. The result is a seamless fusion of traditional techniques with modern materials for use on the post-Second Impact battlefield.

This Damascus progressive knife proves that deadly things come in small packages. The banding on the mottled blade was created by layering stainless steel, nickel, and cobalt in an artistic attempt to copy the look of Middle Eastern swords made with the long-forgotten forging techniques of wootz steel.  

Ding ding ding, I think we have  a winner! Weighing in at 22 kilograms and standing over 330 centimeters, this Lance of Longinus replica trumps the competition in heft, reach and craftsmanship. A team of blacksmiths had to physically wrench bars of hardened steel around each other to achieve the signature double-helix wrap. The result? A beautiful testament to brute force and forging ingenuity.

Of all the collaboration stunts that the franchise has pulled off over the years, this Japanese sword exhibit is the most tasteful--and most appropriate. See, people often debate whether Evangelion is a super robot show or a real robot show, but it's actually a tokusatsu giant robot show. And the craftsman spirit seen in special effects classics such as Ultraman lives on in the practical, hand-made designs of Evangelion. Tokyo-3's city planners took feng shui into consideration when orienting the buildings. NERV headquarters has a diesel generator for blackouts. Underneath the armor, the Evangelions are a stand-in for the guy in a rubber suit.   

Director Hideaki Anno recently made a plea for the government to support tokusatsu as part of the nation's cultural heritage. The practical special effects industry has fallen to the wayside just as Japanese swordsmithing had centuries before. But as this exhibit shows, there will always be a small yet dedicated pool of artisans dedicated to carrying on any true craft. 

The Ueno Royal Museum
Address: 1-2 Ueno park, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0007
Phone: 03-3833-4191
Hours: 10:00-17:00 
Tickets: 1000 JPY
Dates: November 23rd to December 23rd
Official homepage: http://www.ueno-mori.org/exhibitions/article.cgi?id=24