Neon Genesis Evangelion

Alt title: Shinseiki Evangelion

TV (26 eps)
1995 - 1996
Fall 1995
4.017 out of 5 from 48,457 votes
Rank #890

In the future, a devastating event known as Second Impact has destroyed Tokyo as we know it, giving rise to Tokyo III - a city under siege by mysterious lifeforms known only as Angels. Mankind's only line of defense are the Evangelions, a set man-made machines piloted by a trio of fourteen year-old teenagers, Rei, Shinji, and Asuka. The fate of Japan and the entire world now lie with these three children, though they might not have the power to save the most important thing of all: each other.

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StoryNeon Genesis Evangelion was extremely popular in its time (some would say, it still is) and I believe the main reason for this is its captivating storyline. While the idea of humans riding around in giant robots wasn't particularly new when it was released, with series like Gundam and films like Roujin Z preceding it, Evangelion does successfully bring new ideas to the "mecha-table". We're given the impression right from the very first episode that the Evas aren't fully under the control of the humans who created them - that there is something more to their existence than meets the eye. The same can be said for the Angels, the enemies who seem intent on destroying the human race, though it becomes apparent during the series that they are an unknown enemy. Shinji, the main character, finds himself frequently asking why he is fighting them, and at one or two points, the border between friend and foe becomes noticeably blurred.So why not a higher score? Admittedly, despite the "enemy of the week" format that is never really explained (the attack in episode 1 is said to be the first in 15 years, and then they happen nearly every episode after that - why the increased frequency? Who knows...), it would have achieved a much higher score - without the final two episodes. What ruined this series for me, quite simply, was the ending. Without spoiling (though there's not a lot to spoil), I detested the way the director felt it necessary to alter the tack of the series in order to explain his overriding philosophy. I much preferred the small anecdotal philosophies that had subtly been dotted throughout the series up to that point - but in the home straight, all plot was thrown out the window in favour of some arthouse nonsense, that didn't seem to deserve the time spent watching it.What annoyed me most is that this was considered "an ending" when nothing ended at all. The series ends in stasis. It ended more because the 26 episode limit was up than because there was a reason to end it.AnimationI'm afraid to say that Evangelion is feeling its age now. I acknowledge the fact that this was the last cell animation of its kind (before CGI was introduced into anime production) but it is found to be lacking at times. A number of occasions, I found myself staring at a still image for what seemed like an eternity for no apparent reason - sometimes even without dialogue! I admit that some of the scenery is still stunning (the forest landscapes and Tokyo 3 when it's in lockdown in the Geofront) and, in its right place, even the "arty" ending scenes could be inspiring - but (and it's a big but) I feel the only well-animated scenes are the Angel battles. If it wasn't for their extravagance, this series might as well be a slideshow.SoundOne of the few things that Evangelion gets right most of the time. Yes, the music is reused a lot of the time (especially the Angel battle music) but it suits it well, and there's a genuine feeling of menace behind it. I also felt that the inclusion of Beethoven's Ode to Joy was a nice touch and one that becomes weighted between two of the characters late on in the series. The opening song deserves an honourable mention as well, purely because it's a great piece of music, which is quite rare for anime openings these days.CharactersI'm often torn on this subject, though I feel it's largely because I'm looking at the characters retrospectively. Because of series like Bokurano and Now and Then, Here and There, the idea of depression and trauma in characters doesn't seem as new to me as it did when I first watched Evangelion in the late 90s. However, the motivations are key to what makes this anime worth watching. Shinji's hatred for his father is dissected, analysed and re-evaluated several times throughout the series, and it becomes more interesting than the Angel battles themselves. Similarly, this is one of the few series where you're more interested in how the characters don't interact with each other rather than any possible romance that could form. From very early on, you get a good idea of character and while there's progression, they never stray into the land of stereotype. Coupled with the most reluctant hero ever to grace the screen, and you're onto a winner.My only regret is that Rei Ayanami (who I maintain is by far the most interesting character) isn't explored as much as she should have been. There are a number of revelations about her that are somewhat eye-opening if confusing, but they never really amount to anything in the series, and it becomes a frustration that you never find out what the truth behind her actually is.OverallConsidering how much I enjoyed the beginning of the series, this is a low score, but I'm afraid the ending just killed it for me. It made me feel as though the director had given up on the plot, that the plot hadn't actually been important at all, and that all that remained was a driven philosophy that I had little taste for. This series would have been so much better with a well-thought-out ending that actually tied together some of the loose ends left from earlier in the series. It's fine to delve into character motivations, but Evangelion does it with a blinkered eye, and all its good points are lost when you reach that final episode.I still recommend Neon Genesis Evangelion, as it is a thrilling watch, and at points, you will be carried away by the story. However, brace yourself for a disappointing ending. The director released two movies to rewrite the ending, so the series is far from complete, and I can only hope that in watching those movies, I will find the conclusion I feel this series deserves.


Neon Genesis Evangelion, or simply Evangelion, is one of a handful of apocalyptic animes with a lot of staying power, not to mention a fan base the size of Russia (figuratively speaking). It could be criticized (and is) as unsatisfactory in terms of the plot, the sheer magnatomy of the themes presented, and the fact that they ran out of money before they could finish the series - hence the two movies that follow: Death and Rebirth and The End of Evangelion. However, interwoven between the blatant use of Christian symbolism (every explosion is in the shape of a cross - figure that one out), the ever-growing pile of psychological issues with each of the characters, and the impending doom of the end of the world is a story about just how hard growing up can be. The Story The year is 2015 - fourteen years after the Second Impact that destroyed Antarctica, causing a tidal wave that wiped out half of the cities on the planet. With the appearance of a new enemy, dubbed the Angels, mankind must find a way to fight them if they are to survive. Enter Shinji Ikari, a fourteen-year-old boy summoned by his estranged father, Gendo, head of the UN organization NERV, to pilot a machine designed to fight the Angels - Evangelion, a machine cloned from the remains of the first Angel. The majority of the series revolves around Shinji and his fellow EVA pilots, Rei Ayanami (who bears a disturbing resemblance to Shinji's dead mother), Asuka Langely Soryu (a German redhead with an ego), and his guardian, Misato Katsuragi (who remains perpetually drunk throughout most of the anime). The plot also invovles detailed aventures into each of the character's psyches, which helps to explain why they think the way they do and why they are the way they are. Grade: B. The characters are popular and memorable, but the hero is largely unlikable because of his inability to do anything (and I mean anything) without someone's permission - there isn't anyone in this series who isn't psychologically f***ed up in the head. And you thought it sucked to be you. The series was also not finished properly because the production company ran out of money, which left fans with more questions than answers. The recent remake of the series, Rebuild of Evangelion is just as compelling and much better addresses many of the questions left unanswered by the original series. A word of advice though - going through at least episodes 1-24 of the original series may help you understand what is up. The Art Though the series was aired in Japan in 1995, it is amazingly streamlined, particularly in comparisson to some of GAINAX's other later animated ventures such as FLCL (2000) and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (2007). What I find remarkable about the art isn't necessarily related to how well the animators could draw, but the scope in which it is drawn. What the anime lacks in terms of a coherent plotline it makes up for in the portrayal of a post-apocalyptic Japan. The series doesn't get overly cartoony at any point, which also adds to the story. Grade: A. Considering it's 1995, the choreography of fighting and explosions is well-executed, but leaves room for improvement - however, I am willing to cut the animators some slack. The Music Shiro Sagisu pays some tribute to the Christian elements of the series with the insertion of such classics as Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus," using this theme of classicism for the majority of the soundtrack. Evangelion's soundtrack is extremely compelling and beautiful, portraying a significant amount of heartbreak and terror in equal measure. The opening theme "Cruel Angel's Thesis" by Yoko Takahashi (who does the ending theme "Fly Me to the Moon" as well) fits the anime disturbingly well - and is also pretty darn catchy. Grade: A. It may be going out on a limb, but even if the anime isn't enjoyable for you, the music certainly leaves a lasting impression and is well-liked even by those who haven't even seen the anime. Overall Grade: A Evangelion is, let's face it, depressing and with the often convoluted plot line can make your head hurt. However, despite this, Evangelion has so many layers to it that one will get something more out of it each time they watch it - because in all honesty, this anime needs to be watched at least twice to keep everything straight. Yes, it is a mecha anime. Yes, you will get bored and tired and it will make you think more than normal. But the fact is that even if these things don't necessarily appeal to you, the character's struggle to figure out their place in an ever-changing world is something everyone can relate to. Happy Watching!


Since I will leave out as much as unnecessary technicalities as possible, you can just read my further personal analysis here: more official sources here: 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. 9) Flaws 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.

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