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Debunking the Internet Myth of the A.T. Field

Mamerto Adan is a feature writer who is back in college once again. Science is one of his favorite topics.

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One of the Evangelion’s claim to fame is being unique. This was achieved by deconstructing what we knew of traditional anime genre, to create a rather unconventional form of storytelling. What we have here is an animated show that defied the rules of conventions, with realistic and intriguing characters in a somewhat depressing world. It’s like creation through destruction, with the Evangelion being an “anti-mecha and anti-otaku" genre. Nevertheless, it became a highly influential series, joining the ranks of the Gundams, Macross, and other classical mecha legends in the anime pantheon.

And so much is the Evangelion’s uniqueness, that it basically generates some myths of its own among fans.

People consider this as the result of the Evangelion’s mystique, though one might find it creepy all the same. For example, I still remember this crazy fan theory about the End of Evangelion. You know, in the closing scene, we see Asuka getting reanimated before Shinji attempted to choke her. But some fans claimed that the girl wasn’t Asuka, but a combination of the three girls Shinji adored: Misato, Asuka and Rei. But this is just some crazy misconception cooked by an overly creative mind, as various sources already debunked this theory.

Then, there is the A.T. Field, and the claim that it was an actual psychological term. Intriguing as it sounds, we all know it’s false.

The Absolute Terror Field

Asuka employing the A.T. Field of her Unit as a weapon.

Asuka employing the A.T. Field of her Unit as a weapon.

Seasoned fans knew all too well what is an A.T. Field. For newbies wanting to learn more without the risk of getting ridiculed by elitist smug, this brief explanation might help. Evangelions and Angels generate this force-field barrier that conventional weapons can’t penetrate, and this is known as the A.T. Field, or Absolute Terror field. Generally, this defensive barrier is invisible, though it can make objects move or distorts the air around it. Some hypothesized that this enabled some Angels to levitate. And when two A.T. Fields collide, luminous octagonal lines appear. Being a force field, it’s used is primarily defensive, though it could be employed as an offensive weapon as well, as some episodes of the Evangelion series showed.

All living beings possessed A.T. Fields, but the EVA units and the Angels got powerful ones. Yet, A.T. Fields were not entirely indestructible, as what an enraged Unit-01 did to Sachiel’s Field. Using the Spear of Longinus and its copies are another way of breaking through this mystifying barrier. Or one could fire a positron rifle or blow an N² mine. All in all, an A.T. Field is basically a weaponized safe space. A barrier that keeps people from each other, and a friend joked that a lot of folks today possessed abnormally powerful A.T. Field due to their sensitivity.

The Myth

A strangely shaped A.T. Field

A strangely shaped A.T. Field

In the Evangelion series, the A.T. Fields of mere humans hold the ego, hence separating them from each other. But in the real world, fans suspect that it means something deeper. That apart from being a fictional defensive barrier, it’s actually an actual psychological term.

We need to blame various anime websites for propagating such idea. But it goes like this. We will first start with people having special needs. In this article, I will use the term special children, special needs, or people with autism, just to eliminate some negative effects. And having known some people with special needs, any random stranger calling them the r-word will feel the end of my fist. But we all know how people with special needs tend to be separated from the world around them. Being socially impaired, with problems with interacting and socializing is one of the challenges a person with autism faces.

But somehow, Evangelion fans connected such social impairments with A.T. Field.

Again, they claimed that the A.T. Field exists as a real psychological term, whereas it is a psychological barrier that separates people with special needs from everyone. We could picture this “real-life” A.T. Field as a physical, or mental proximity, sort of a safe space. And people will become irate or violent once this safe space will be intruded by people they don’t recognize.

Normal Humans Also have One

And like the fictional A.T. Field, it was claimed that every living being with regards to their personal space possesses one. And with that said, people with special needs have higher ego, and stronger A.T. Fields. The same can be said to normal people with high levels of sensitivities to strangers or with trust issues with everyone.

The notion that an element of the Evangelion series exist in real life sounds intriguing. Plus, it could give an added twist and depth to reality. The Evangelion series might have opened some form of psychological revelation...

Only if it’s true.

Sorry to burst your bubbles, but there was no real A.T. Field term in psychology. It was old plain myth propagated in the internet.

And it’s all an Internet Urban Legend!

The cover of the "Red Cross Book."

The cover of the "Red Cross Book."

Firstly, we must start with the term itself. Because Absolute Terror Field never sounds like native English or genuine scientific term. I mean it is too colorful to begin with, and these are the types of words one will hear from a sci-fi show. And just to be sure, we made our own research just for the hopes that there is a drop of reality behind this lore.

And we came up with nothing.

We also interviewed some friends with real psychology studies background. And they confirmed what more knowledgeable fans were saying. That there is no such thing as A.T. Field in Psychology. It was all made up!

The claim that A.T. Field was a real psychological term dates back from 1999, from an old fan site. But one might wonder how the whole thing started. Actually, it was the results of simple mistranslations.

The Neon Genesis Evangelion series is a bit too complicated for an animated show. Hence, pamphlets were printed and sold in theatres to help the audience catch up with this convoluted series. Nicknamed the “Red Cross Book”, it contains all the definitions of unfamiliar terms one might encounter in the show, and one of them is the A.T. field. The problem here was that it was written in Japanese, and some fans took the trouble of translating it, but not without errors. And unfortunately, the A. T. Field definition got mistranslated, and phrases like “in the field of psychology,” and “patients with autism” got wrongfully inserted.

And the rest was history.

And when it came out in the web, an urban legend was born.

And there you have it. The myth that A.T. Field is a real psychological term was the result of mistranslation of the Evangelion theatre pamphlet.

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