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 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.
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.
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.
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.