This one is going to be long and rambly and will not make much sense.
I was not strictly part of what can be called the Eva Generation, having come of age at the time when Macross was still being hawked around as Robotech, and the only Gundam we watched did not have anything else attached to the name — it was just called Gundam (and Char is a sexy beast, but I digress).
I was well into my teens when I first watched Shin Seiki Evangelion. Having just graduated from the national science high school, I thought myself pretty liberal and no longer bound by beliefs browbeaten into me by my Catholic school upbringing. Boy, was I ever wrong. Eva was a complete mind-fück — turning many things I thought I knew about the Catholic faith on its head until they were barely recognizable. I’m still surprised that the Vatican hadn’t raise a protest, given the way they cried foul over little ole’ Harry Potter.
So Gainax had their fun (and spawned a multi-million dollar cottage industry hawking remakes of alternate realities of dream sequences), and I thought that was the end of that. And it was, until many years later when the staff went on a drunken spree and decided to make an anime that looked like the Powerpuff Girls but with gay priests and racy underwear and crack. Lots and lots of crack. To be fair, I’ve only seen about two or three episodes (and I get the feeling that I’ll be eating my own words a couple of weeks from now when the season winds up), but those two or three episodes gave me enough insight to come to a very simple conclusion: Panty & Stoking is Eva, Redux.
Completely divergent character designs and lack of battery-powered mecha aside, P&S tackles the very same issues that Evangelion first raised over a decade ago — the first and most pressing of course is: is there a God? While Eva proposes that God was an all-knowing entity hell-bent on destroying humanity and reshaping it to his own image (again), and Panty & Stocking paints him as a coin-dealing cheapskate who bribes angels into doing his dirty work for him, the two concepts basically put forward the same question — does he exist, and what are his plans?
Another concept they tackled is the appearance and purpose of angels. Catholic dogma has always painted them as beautiful blonde-and-blue-eyed manifestations of God’s inherent goodness, but who can say for sure that that is what they really are? A vapid, foul-mouthed nymphomaniac is just as valid a depiction of an angel as is a seven-story bio-mechanical monstrosity. And if their main purpose is to execute God’s plan (whatever that is), who is to say that massive property destruction and multiple sex partners isn’t part of it?
Lastly, both Gainax titles pose the somewhat controversial concept (at least, to fundamentalist Christians) that God is an anarchist. Many people equate order and universal harmony with goodness, but if there’s anything history has taught us, it’s that the exact opposite is true. Hitler is a perfect example, as is the Pacific WWII concept of the East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere (OH HAI THAR Japan!), as well as Seele and the Human Instrumentality Project. So, just like Panty and Stocking are freewheeling lunatics and Scanty and Kneesocks thrive on order and rules, each person’s deeply-ensconced instinct to question authority is the most faith-based, God-like trait we can ever hope to have.
So yes — both shows can be considered an attack on Christian dogma, but that’s just one way of looking at it. From a completely different point of view it could simply be considered a challenge for people to break off from their long-held beliefs and take a stab at something new.
In the end, animation — even animation as controversial as Gainax’s, is simply a medium to convey ideas, the same way the Church has been conveying its ideas via a 2000 year old book. How you treat these ideas is up to the individual: if your angels fly around in white wings and white robes, somebody else’s may tunnel into the earth searching for underground citadels, and yet somebody else’s may have them photo-blogging about the perfect plate of creme caramel.
There is no wrong answer.