Why ‘A Cruel Angel’s Thesis’ Is the Japanese ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

Asuka and Rei from Neon Genesis Evangelion Singing

There are few things in this life a person can truly know for certain, but if there’s one thing we can say with 100% assuredness, it’s that Neon Genesis Evangelion’s A Cruel Angel’s Thesisis at the top of the anime opening food chain. Sure, there are other classic OPs that reignite a fire in our souls whenever we heard them, like Cha-La-Head-Cha-La or Denki Groove’s Man Humanto pick something more contemporary. However, no other anime song has crossed oceans, internets, time, and space to become a prevailing force like the Evangelion opening has! An official music video 23 years later, a ‘matsuri’ style remake, a rendition by the actual Japanese Self Defense Force Navy band, and endless memes; the song’s lifespan has endured a healthy 25 years and shows no signs of stopping now… but there is one unexpected drawback.

Karaoke. Right up there with baseball and pachinko as the national past-time in Japan, it’s a popular enough actively that I go by myself people here routinely do it solo. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the main places where Japan’s second wave of Corona keeps on striking, but we digress. It’s practically a part of daily life here and, as you might expect, timeless songs that everybody knows statistically get chosen most. You might not think an anime opening would make the cut but according to charts released by DAM in 2018, one of Japan’s two biggest Karaoke companies, A Cruel Angel Thesiswas the third most popular song at Karaoke of the previous 24 years.

You know that old saying ‘too much of a good thing is a bad thing’? As much as its sacrilege to speak ill of our sacred Evangelion, when it comes to A Cruel Angel’s ThesisKaraoke overload, enough is enough! Much like when you go to Karaoke with your friends or, even worse, at a bar and someone throws on Bohemian Rhapsody, you might sing and play along but in the back of your mind you’re thinking ‘Damn, I really don’t need to hear this 8-minute song performed badly for the 100th time in my life.’ While the full version of the Evangelion opening is only half that length, it’s omnipresence in our culture still makes it an annoyance when regarding amateur Karaoke covers, and we’re not the only ones who think so.

With A Cruel Angel’s Thesisbeing, on average, the third most popular song that people sing at Karaoke, you know that percentage sky-rockets when you and your friend’s group are all otaku-adjacent. According to a report put out by Joysound five years ago, the other big Japanese Karaoke service, the song was far and away the anime song Karaoke patrons were most tired of seeing people perform. We can’t blame them because we get that same feeling whenever someone puts on ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ or Don’t Stop Believing‘. Heck, at this point we get that feeling when somebody puts on the Evangelion opening ourselves! It doesn’t mean we don’t adore the song itself; It’s a classic for a reason. However, can we at least get some ‘Moonlight Densetsu’ or Butter-Fly’going instead, for all our sakes?

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