Neon Genesis Evangelion

Alt titles: Evangelion, Shinseiki Evangelion

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FalseDawn's avatar
Dec 11, 2007

Story

Neon 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.


Animation

I'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.


Sound

One 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.


Characters

I'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.


Overall

Considering 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.

6/10 story
4/10 animation
8/10 sound
9/10 characters
6.5/10 overall
Ladieburd's avatar
Oct 27, 2009

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!

8/10 story
9/10 animation
10/10 sound
8/10 characters
9/10 overall
roriconfan's avatar
Apr 30, 2012

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.

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.

8/10 story
9/10 animation
9/10 sound
8/10 characters
9/10 overall
Gzerble's avatar
Jan 28, 2015

Some people think mecha stuff is great. Some people think that character driven stories are where its at. Some people think that psychological drama is the way to go. Neon Genesis Evangelion spits in the face of all three groups. It is literally everything bad about all three. The mecha battles are unimpressive, the characters range between obnoxious to downright infuriating, and the psychological aspect here is about as subtle and clever as an axe to the face. And yet it is first and foremost a character driven psychological mecha anime - meaning everything else in there is actually worse. And my god, this is some terrible stuff.

The main character has to be the single worst male lead in anime history. He is a pathetic wimpering loser. He starts out that way, he ends up that way, and he will never be anything more than that. Of course the show decides to have a lazer focus on his perspective, which manages to taint everything good in the series by how much you will want to slap him around. Never, ever, has there been a character more detrimental to the enjoyment of anime TV anything than him. What's worse is that because of the huge success of Neon Genesis Evangelion, we still have whining losers that can do nothing except be pushed around as male leads in anime.

There is the classic quiet tortured girl, and the violent and loudmouthed obnoxious one. There are also other characters that don't matter. There are mecha fights which may have been impressive twenty years ago, but now look not only outdated but at times downright boring. The slow pace makes the terrible characters the center of it all, like a rock in the middle of a snowball to the face of the viewer. Oh, and if I hear a kid screaming in determination in real life, I may very well backhand him due to Neon Genesis Evangelion.

It is so bad that it has left me scarred for life. It was the first anime I ever watched, and caused me to leave it for five years in favor of smarter and deeper things like South Park and Invader Zim. You might say "but Neon Genesis Evangelion has an actual plot", and to that the answer is "well who the hell cares when it's so terrible!". And that really does sum it up - the things that should give it an edge over others are the weakpoints, so it ends up a complete piece of garbage that we are unfortunate enough have recycled pieces of it ruining modern anime.

Writing (Story and Characters):

Titanic. No, not the size nor the movie, the disaster. Whatever you say about Neon Genesis Evangelion, it is a good bet that the writing staff was so high that they just gave up on common sense. It is like they tried making a trainwreck on every single level. Seriously, writing so bad and yet not being even slightly funny is a challenge that none have excelled at like this since.

At best, the story reaches the heights of an incoherent mess. At worst, it is crystal clear, just plain stupid. Pretending to be smart does not make you smart, and someone should have told that to the writing staff. Aliens invade. Of course we need a kid to save the day in his robot suit. Of course there is no other option. Also, his dad and two girls are something-something-we-don't-care. How can something be so deliberately stupid and boring at the same time? Seriously, aliens invade, robots fight, characters talk. Done: terribly, terribly, painfully bad.

The characters. Oh god are they a cringeworthy bunch. When the alcoholic is the most sympathetic character in the cast, you know that something has gone horribly wrong. Other than having the dubious honor of the absolute worst male lead in broadcast history, the rest of the cast of Neon Genesis Evangelion manages to be a combination of annoying, obnoxious, and most of all uninteresting. The alcoholic is the only character that made me not wish a horrible death upon them. I just sat there hoping that the aliens would kill everyone and the show would end at that. They were that bad.

It's not like there weren't any chances to make things interesting. This is like scoring the lowest possible on the SATs, it is so hard to not get something right by accident that you have to do it on purpose. I think that whoever was responsible for the writing on the show did it specifically to mess with the viewers. Some kind of weird power trip in just how foul a dish he can serve and the morons will eat it up. There is no other explanation for the catastrophe that is the writing in Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Art (Animation and Sound):

It was good at the time. Thank heavens that nearly two decades have passed. What was then impressive is now a bunch of stangnant scenes and mediocre fights that have absolutely no wow factor. As opposed to older anime with clever directors (Akira, for instance), the artwork manages to not have a single tidbit of artistic flair.

The soundtrack is pretty decent, but the voice acting is ultimately mediocre in the roles here. I do not blame the voice actors. I blame the director of this disaster. Over the top is over the top. Call it art all you like, but unless you intend for it to be a parody, tone it down.

Really, the art is the strong point of Neon Genesis Evangelion. By today's standards, it is well below average.

Overall:

Do not watch this. People have said (repeatedly) that Neon Genesis Evangelion is good. They are wrong.

1/10 story
3.5/10 animation
3.5/10 sound
0.5/10 characters
1/10 overall
ohtoriakio's avatar
Oct 5, 2009

This series is a bit of a disappointment to me. It started out well and the built up was really great and suspenseful. Come the middle, the action became more intense and made you come back for more, however somewhere near the end it really loses steam.

Some aspects of the animation were great for their time. The character designs are pretty good, although nothing excellent but the Evas and some of the Angels are designed creatively. The backdrops are also very good although they are reused too often. What does not help the animation in this series are the very long shots of one scene that go on forever - one of the longest was a still frame that went for about 53 seconds. If the series did not go over the budget so much (reported fact and also visible in a few scenes that could have benefited from some editing), the fluidity of the animation would be more prevalent and would make the animation as a whole a lot better.

The sound is pretty good in this series as the opening and ending songs are two very enjoyable compositions. Depending on which version of "Fly Me To The Moon" you listen to, the feelings of inadequacy and detachment are conveyed very well. The normal background music also fits the series very well. Some tracks are obviously more memorable than others yet I would personally not want to own the soundtrack as none of the tracks had a replay quality for me.

The voice acting is pretty good on all accounts. With the seiyuu for Misato (also Sailor Moon's) really getting into her character. Same goes with the Asuka voice actor (Wedding Peach's Hinagiku) who sees the complexity of the character. Other characters are also good with a few just alright overall, like Gendo, Shinji and Rei. As all three are either passive or extreme characters, it must have been very hard for the seiyuus to bring them to life and in some scenes it shows, as the visuals carry more weight than the dialogue.

The story is one of those that have been done in older series such as Macross (themes of loss, inadequacy, separation from family) and Patlabor (mostly the mecha theme as Patlabor plays more like a comedy), and because the themes have been explored before - these series have already expressed some of those themes more coherently. The most original theme this series brought to the mecha genre would have to be religion (as far as I can tell). Though with this, imagery is shown but not explored to its full potential (especially with something as rich as the Christian Bible, it is disappointing.) The series tries to explore a few too many themes and as a result does not really do any of them justice. The story is told adequately, but it does not take the series as far as it should. Sometimes, they just throw in a cheap twist as a way to get the action sequence without really resolving the story from the beginning of said episode.

The characters in this are strangely developed. Only Misato comes out being a coherent and multi dimensional character. The likes of Asuka and Shinji are just given situations to further emphasise what we already know about them instead of developing as characters or resolving any of their dilemmas. My main gripe is actually with Gendo, as he had the makings of a great character - unfortunately he is hardly even touched upon. Maybe this was for the audience to relate to how Shinji felt about his father, however I felt it was a real failing on the series' part as I wanted to UNDERSTAND who he was. There were also many other possibilities between him and Rei, or Yui, or even Ritsuka, however those are only really hinted at as well. As it is, the character development available makes them out to be just about what they need to be to move along the story(in a convenient, but ineffective-for-the-audience-to-relate-to way).

The value of this series gets lost somewhere in the middle as I would recommend it to a few people who already have an interest in the mecha genre but chances are they would have already seen it   I did enjoy the series enough while I was watching it but I am not sure how much of it I want to see again. I know a lot of people will disagree with me on this but it could have been benefited from biting off less than it could chew.

7/10 story
8/10 animation
8/10 sound
6/10 characters
7.3/10 overall