Since I will leave out as much as unnecessary technicalities as possible, you can just read my further personal analysis here: http://www.mediafire.com/?gte22j9tuu7lm
Or more official sources here: www.Evageeks.com
1) Counter-escapism message
When NGE originally broadcasted, Japan was going through an economic depression, like the one we are going through now but not on a global level. Many young people were poor and unemployed, unable to begin a career and be useful members of society. There were lots of NEETs and hikikomoris wasting their lives in some basement, looking for escapism through anime. Unlike most modern anime that are about pandering otakus, NGE had the guts to be about counter-escapism, as presented by Shinji Ikari constantly trying not to run away from his problems. Which mean, a show from 20 years ago is more honest and motivational, than most of anything that is coming out today. That’s why retro wins and modern sucks.
2) Beacon of its time
The post apocalyptic setting of the series was also heavy on religious iconography and was using terminology from psychology, as a way to mirror the unrest Japan was going through at the time, with the millennium about to change, and cults talking about the end of the world being close. The subway gas attacks further fueled the paranoia of the times, which made the in-series psychologically unstable characters far more relatable with what was going on in Japan. Unlike other series coming out at the time, NGE did not water down its content as means to calm down the depressed audience. It remained true to what it was about, which is something I really appreciate because it reminds me of someone (me) who is not holding back from stating the truth, regardless of not pleasing the masses.
3) Vision of the director
Which is also why I like Hideaki Anno and old Gainax so much. Despite going through depression, he inserted his personal thoughts and ways to cope with it instead of going for pandering. The result of his attempts is questionable, as many can argue that it had the opposite effect on anime fans, who are still making waifu wars and draw hentai doujins to this day. The fact still remains that NGE is a personal work. Someone made it for himself, a purely artistic piece of fiction imbued with his thoughts and feelings, instead of a generic lifeless product aimed at pandering the masses. The fact that it eventually caters anime fans and turned into a 20 year old milk cow is something that came after the show, mostly through marketing and the fandom. By itself, the show is free of that.
4) More than fetishes
Despite sexualizing the females and popularizing the archetypes of tsunderes and coolderes, none of them were defined simply by fetishes. They had a personality and a backdrop, and this includes minor characters who were also contributing to the narrative somehow, despite not being sexualized. This is something which very few of its copycats bothered to have. Shinji Ikari is still being mocked today as the stereotypical beta male crybaby, yet how many of his counterparts in later shows are not simply spoiled brats with first world problems? Close to nobody. Shinji was excused to be acting the way he did based on the post apocalyptic setting he grew up in. The others have no excuse.
5) Reviving the industry
Even its nastiest parts can be seen as positive in the longrun. The waifu wars and doujins it begat helped the industry to get some much needed cash after the crisis was over. Combined with how it revolutionized marketing and promotion of anime through merchandising and the untapped after midnight timeslot, is enough to give it a pass since without those tactics the anime industry would be very different today. It wasn’t just influential as a series; it shaped the medium altogether.
6) Deconstruction of the genre
Something that didn’t age that well is the whole deconstruction aspect of it. Yes, it is one for seemingly being about giant robots and then becoming something completely different. The blurring of what is right or wrong was great, as its characters were not pure archetypes of good or evil. The social commentary and psychological examination of its cast were fantastic, the religious icons and naming on the other hand were not. Although they were offering food for thought to anyone looking for what everything symbolized or was named after, eventually it was just overthinking. The theories the fans were making up had nothing to do with the show besides adding to the confusion of what it’s actually about and blurring the initial message of the creator. The names and religious iconography were just superficial aesthetics for flavouring the messed up mentality of the cast; they were never meant to be taken literally. Yet the decorations ended up attracting more interest than the actual essence of the show.
7) Great directing
But it’s not like the meta is all that is good about it; the directing was also brilliant for its time. From cool robot battles, to camera angles, to timing of scenes, flashes of text, fish eye lens, strange use of filters, live action footage, characters standing still without talking for a minute, the storyboard is just fantastic when examined. And sure, the quality had its ups and downs, and they ran out of money to the point the final two episodes were badly drawn caricatures and random images flashing. Still, a typical director would have made a complete mess or a forgettable conclusion, yet Hideaki was talented enough and found a way to make the best he could out of all the limitations.
8) Battle Choreography
I might as well mention how there was close to no stock footage used despite these limitations. Every battle with an invading monster was unique and was using a completely different strategy. This is something unheard of even today, when every show uses the same old finishing move, or has the exact same transformation sequence.
Just like all series, there are still problems ranging from erratic pacing, the middle episodes not having much of a plot, lack of animation, many themes and characters not being explored much. It still manages to be a highly memorable series with the pluses overshadowing the minuses. As the recent Rebuild movies have proven, it’s not like those issues could be easily fixed without creating other problems and resulting to a completely different experience.
10) Rebuild movies
As much as it saddens me, after Hideaki left Gainax, Neon Genesis was never the same anymore. It kept being changed and reshaped into another title aimed at pandering the otakus with worthless extra, such as more waifubaits that serve nothing to the story, and more pirate eye patches for the sake of selling more cosplay accessories. All these are blatant fan service which contradicts the initial message of the show and feel far more like a marketing ploy. Studio Khara is also flagging anyone who is using footage or music of the series, even if it was made many years ago for the sake of promoting the same story they are rehashing right now.
11) Final thoughts
Despite all these issues, the original series remains one of the most groundbreaking animated titles of all times, and easily deserves a spot in the top ten of anyone’s list. Hideaki didn’t sell out completely if he can still make something like Shin Godzilla, or still throws in a personal commentary when collaborating with Miyazaki for voice acting in The Wind Rises. It’s hard to be yourself in modern times without apologizing to SJW for having an opinion. He’s resisting as much as he can, and regardless of if he one day gives up, nothing will take away all the amazing anti-escapism shows he produced over the decades, with Neon Genesis being the most influential amongst them.
Have a nice day before the Third Impact turns you to orange goo.