Neon Genesis Evangelion Review

This is review number four hundred and thirteen. This anime is part of the Fall 1995 Lineup, and it’s called Neon Genesis Evangelion. This review is ridiculously long, and I apologize. The anime got in my head. Oh my gosh, it just ruined me. Let’s read on.

Story

Taking the Binding Armor Off

Oh gawd, it’s the big one. It’s the anime that apparently started it all. I’ll be honest, I am freaking scared of reviewing this anime, because it is a God Status anime. Yknow, one of those shows that everyone has seen, everyone has an opinion on, and everyone likes. Ok, a good chunk of people like it and a good chunk of people also hate it. The point is, it’s a legendary anime. To this day, the influences of Neon Genesis Evangelion can still be felt. If you’ve ever liked a kuudere, then you should thank Eva’s archetype. Rei started it all, and that’s just one aspect of how ground breaking this anime is. Let’s get this out of the way now, this anime is perfect. It’s a ten out of ten, because it actually established my criteria for a perfect score before I even realize what those criteria are. Whether the show itself deserves a perfect score doesn’t matter, the Third Impact has already happened and this anime stands atop it all. Fear it, and worship one of the most influential anime ever.

The Landscape Before Eva

There is always this statement that Eva changed the anime industry, and I was never convinced. Surely there are other great anime before Evangelion. I mean, it’s just a mecha anime. Why is this one so special? Well, I fired up the ol’ google machine and I started digging. First of all, the anime is, indeed, influential. It did change the landscape drastically, and not just for the mecha genre. Let’s start there though, because the mecha genre is vastly different before Eva graced our screens. The most influential mecha before Eva is the Gundam franchise. In fact, Sunrise’s bread and butter are practically a bunch of mecha shows. Mobile Suit Gundam really paved the way for the mecha genre. It featured war, compelling characters on both sides and awesome robots. First and foremost, the mecha genre is meant to sell toys. It was the ‘80s, and everything was toy centric – even in the western side. And I do understand. Imagine being a kid in the 1980s seeing massive robots, in their glorious form, in your living room TV. It’s epic, and you’d buy that epic-ness right off the shelf. Eva changed that approach though. Awesome robots weren’t part of the package. In fact, the Eva robots are grotesque and animalistic in how they’re portrayed. This is not for kids, and that’s Evangelion’s biggest game changing move.

Shows before Evangelion are very kid-centered. Browse the lineup of anime before 1995 (don’t worry it’s a very short list), and you’d find nothing but kid friendly shows. Eva changed that. Here is a very methodical anime focused on mature topics and aimed at a more mature audience. There is a new group of viewers to cater to, and Evangelion rounded them up. Eva also changed the perception of anime. This medium that was basically “cartoons” are now treated as a space to express “art”. In terms of animation and thematic content, Evangelion was an innovator. “You can do a lot of things with anime” is what Eva basically shouted to the world, and there is a big population ready to receive it. After Eva, the flood gates for mature anime opened. Anime is now a space for big think pieces meant for reflection and heavy thematic studies.  Shows like Revolutionary Girl Utena, Boogiepop Phantom and Serial Experiment Lain soon followed the path that Evangelion has created. I personally didn’t buy into it at first, because how can one show be this influential, but it is legit. Evangelion did start it all.

The First Five Episodes

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty though, and talk about the show itself. Is it good? Yeah, in a very broad sense. The anime follows the Eva pilots and the members of NERV as they try to fend off the invading aliens that threaten to destroy the world. That’s the very gist of the show, but it opened in a very weird fashion. Instead of focusing on the alien threat and the awesome robots that’ll kick alien ass, the anime goes internal to focus on one character: Shinji Ikari. Yeah, everyone hates Shinji and I bet the first five episodes are behind that as it follows Shinji’s journey into becoming an Eva pilot. He was introduced very oddly though. He didn’t speak much, he had his head down and he was forced to pilot the robot. Immediately, the show is deviating from your typical mecha format. After all, what kind of moron wouldn’t want to pilot a robot? I mean, my gawd, every kid wants to scream their special move while inside the cockpit of a mecha. Shinji is different. He’s alienating, even. The worst part is that the show is focused entirely on him at first.

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We did see a robot fight an alien, but majority of the first five episodes is all about Shinji. He hates his life, basically, and the viewers are forced to agonize with him. Your first impression of Evangelion is basically how you perceive Shinji. For my fellow bloggers, they hate Shinji. He’s among the gods of depression, and his constant moping really creates an air of annoyance towards him. He was even given chances to actually become the ideal “mecha hero” we want him to be, but Shinji would just mope around. He would test your patience, and he would drag the experience down. And with that being said, I absolutely love Shinji.

Shinji is realistic. He’s relatable, and I can imagine the shock people felt when this was airing in 1995. I mean, if he can garner hate today then I bet the reception was even worst back in 1995. They’ve never seen a character like Shinji. Anime has conditioned people to “face their fears, fight their enemies, and win through grit” and here is Shinji, depressing as f*ck and chooses to run away instead of facing his problems. My gawd, the balls you have to actually make this character your lead is incredible, and I absolutely respect the show for it. We weren’t even given alternatives in the first five episodes. We were stuck with Shinji, and his attitude would set the tone for the rest of the series. Sure, there are other more welcoming characters, but Shinji is in the forefront. You feel his heavy attitude weigh the anime down, and you are forced to feel that. But I love Shinji, because he’s exactly how a fourteen year old kid forced to pilot a mecha should act. How can you rejoice when you’re taken to a place you’re not accustomed to, forced by your ungrateful father to defend the world by putting your life in danger, and just nodding to decisions made without your consent? You’d lash out, and that’s understandable. No kid deserves the kind of responsibility being pushed onto Shinji. For gawdsakes, everyone should just back the f*ck off. He’s just a kid.

One odd thing I noticed in the show is that no one celebrates when an alien is killed. For the adults, it’s just a matter of fact. “OK, one down and a sh*t ton more to go.” What about the fourteen year old kid that literally saved the world though? Why is no one acknowledging the good job he has done? I’m sure your positive words mean a lot to him. After all, he’s just a kid. Why are you acting like his victory is no big deal? Where’s his pat on the back or his “congratulations”?

Son of a b*tch, no.

Original Screenplay

This anime is a mess in terms of tone. The first five episodes is depressing pudding, while the rest of the episodes are standard mecha fare, and then it ends with more sad pudding. There is often no cohesion to the show, and some things are just thrown around for no reason. I heard that production of the anime is pretty insane. Anno (the director) would approve things last minute, and production for the next episode often begins when the previous episode just stopped airing. That’s a tight fit right there, but it depressingly gives us one of Original Screenplay’s undying traits: short sighted storytelling. Original anime is usually a mess, and short sighted storytelling is where the anime focuses more on the story of one episode instead of the overall one. You have twenty six episodes to present a cohesive story, and Evangelion chose not to do that. However, Anno did admit that he wanted the show to be open for interpretation so some things are left to look messy. Still, there is a lot of stuff thrown in last minute and it did make the story hard to follow. For example, the MAGI computer was shoe horned in one episode and it soon become a heavy focus for later episodes. The Spear of Destiny is also odd, since we never really discover what it was for. Then there’s the Dead Sea scrolls brought up to, basically, cover up a plot hole. It’s just funny that some things never change. Even the influential original anime, that blazed the trail for other original anime, suffers from the annoying traits that make O. Screenplay shows a pain to watch.

Despite the show displaying short sighted-ness, it never really ruins the experience though. It’s not like Mayoiga, that messily becomes a comedy as it tries hard to be scary, or M3 The Dark Metal, that had no idea where it wanted to end up. Evangelion is compelling to watch even though the story is a structural mess. It achieves this because of three things. One, the themes are intriguing by themselves. I mean, religious symbolisms, the “man created God” argument, and the psychoanalytic stuff make the show such a fun anime to watch. It keeps you thinking, and it keeps you engaged. Secondly, the episodes are cohesive by themselves and very strongly written. This was apparent when we’ve cleared the depressing five episodes and focus on a larger scope. There are a lot of things happening in an episode, and it doesn’t really matter if they aren’t cohesive overall. There’s still a lot to dissect in one solitary episode. Lastly, the shot sighted storytelling doesn’t really affect Evangelion because we are focused on the characters. This anime has cohesion in how the characters are introduced. In a sense, this show is very character driven and the meticulous process behind developing them makes this show amazing.

NERV: Earth’s Last Defense

Thankfully, the show did give Shinji a chance to change. He had a nice wrap up for his depressing introduction, and the anime soon followed a more straightforward path. When Asuka was introduced, the show is now more external as we try to figure out the world of Evangelion. A lot of characters are introduced at this point. Aside from the pilots, a lot of the NERV people are also introduced. The awesome scientist, Shinji’s dad, and the chief of operations soon made their impact. I love Misato Katsuragi, because she’s really the most relatable character in the show. If Shinji is understandably a kid lashing out at the world, then Katsuragi is that person that realizes Shinji is in pain. She has a very laidback approach at life, but she is also a very reliable person. I personally love her when the Angels attack. Instead of panicking over the life and death situations her choices will have, she just calmly directs people on how to solve the problem at hand. Countless times, you’ll see the pilots break down but you’ll never see Katsuragi falter. In fact, she even had the most heroic scene in the anime when she enters a nuclear reactor that had a big chance of blowing up. After Shinji’s depressing introduction, the anime does shift tone. I’d sum it up to “let the adults work” as we follow Katsuragi device a plan to defeat the Angels.

A lot of the episodes involving the Angels often have Katsuragi and the NERV team buckling down and trying to solve the puzzle presented to them. I love this aspect of the show, because the kids have one job to do while the adults focus on their part as well. Most mecha anime has the pilots solve the problems or just shout out their special move that’ll kill an enemy. For Evangelion, the process is entirely different. An Angel appears, causes havoc, an Eva attacks it but the Angel has a unique skill that makes it hard to defeat, then Katsuragi and her team will gather information to come up with a plan, and then they execute the plan. It’s such an impressive way of featuring a story, because there are a lot of moving parts. It’s not just the awesome robot versus the aliens. It’s often a combined effort from everyone at NERV that actually saves the day. The Angels are also part of that process, because they really make the episodes a lot of fun to watch. Forcing the humans to get creative, you’d see a lot of unique things happen in this anime. From using battleships to take down an alien to pilots becoming dance partners to defeat one, the answers to the Angel puzzles are really a big highlight of the anime. After all, Gainax’s creative muscles are being flexed with this show in terms of both the story and the animation.

Going back to the external approach of the story, I actually love how humans are a big factor in the Eva-Angel fights. You always see them being part of the fights. When an Angel appears, the first thing the humans do is collect data so you’ll always see helicopters or ships scattered about. They also maintain the Eva robots, test the pilots when Angels aren’t invading and help assist the Eva in their fights. In terms of the story, it isn’t really needed. I mean, the robots are already there so humans can just back off. I love that Gainax chooses to keep the human element in the story though. In terms of animation, it is impressive because it gives you an idea how epic the battles are.  Seeing mountains decimated or buildings destroyed are one thing, but actually seeing humans affected by the alien invasions helps paint a picture that the entire world is in peril. You can feel the danger approaching, and you feel the weight of responsibility that the pilots must uphold. One screw up, and the entire world goes “boom”. The animation delivers the danger and the awesomeness of the Angels. This is a gawd damn 1995 anime, yet the animation is still so impressive to watch.

This is old school hand drawn animation, and yet the show is overly ambitious at its presentation. One scene I personally admire is the introduction of Asuka. The anime wasted a lot of ships and fighter jets while fighting the Angel, and the animation is just so impressive. Unit 02 atop a battle ship is awesome, but the entire human force working together to defeat the Angel, as the animation keeps up, is just a level of presentation I’ve never seen before. The details, the grittiness, the different moving parts, and the impressive battle itself makes up one hell of an anime experience. It’s a top notch presentation of anime, and it’s done in 1995. I mean, I’ve been reviewing anime for five years yet this show still tops everything I’ve seen. It’s funny that as technology is able to make things easier to animate, the imagination of animators somehow narrows. Evangelion understands the limitations of animation, but look at it, it never accepts that excuse. It goes balls out, and it even dares others to try and touch what it has accomplished. You can’t. It’s a God Status anime for a reason.

The Status Quo

As the story expands though, you also get an idea of the status quo in the anime. NERV is the only group that can battle the Angels, and a lot of people don’t like that. This part is particularly telling:

Oh gosh, money and power. It’s such a human thing to demand, and you do understand why. After all, when NERV fails, the rest of the world is f*cked yet they have no choice but to accept that fact. The way NERV takes over command, waste resources and money, and just lord over everyone is scary to watch. Humans will obviously lash out, and NERV just strong arm their way to total domination. The status quo inside NERV isn’t rosy though. They’re always in the scrutiny of this group of old people constantly complaining about their actions. There is a lot of red tape in the organization, and there are a lot of shady things happening in the shadows. It’s basically just hilarious that humans facing total extinction are still battling amongst themselves. Even with terrifying Angels decimating their world, the humans just can’t help but just act, like, well, humans. It brings up one beautiful theme for the entire anime: control.

The Theme of Control

It’s stated that Anno actually battled depression for four years before making Evangelion. He actually wanted his experience to be part of the anime, hence the telling five episodes. As a viewer, I interpret his story as another thing: the lack of control. That’s basically what being depressed is, right? Boiled down to its essentials, depression is having no control over your life. That’s why most people’s answer is to regain control back by choosing to end it. It’s dark stuff, but control is a funny thing in Evangelion. The entire world is basically at the mercy of NERV. They control the situation, and they use their power to save the world. They also seem to use their power for other things, hence the red tape and the shady back deals. Think about it, does NERV really have control when the fate of the world actually lies in the hands of fourteen year old kids? Unstable, unpredictable and emotionally driven teenagers hold the Sword of Damocles for the rest of the world. It’s gawd damn brilliant, because it’s pointed out early on that the fourteen year old kids doesn’t actually have a choice in the matter. The control is taken out of them, yet they are given control over everything.

The theme of control goes a bit deeper if you think hard about it. The first five episodes of Shinji being a depressing piece of sh*t is an intentional move, right? The director forced the viewers to wallow in Shinji’s attitude. The director took the control away from us. I mean, I wanted to know his father more but you have no choice. You only have Shinji, and it’s such a beautiful way of describing depression. As control is slowly taken away from you, your options are really limited now. Its fight or flight at some point, and either outcome won’t really feel as satisfying.

Of course, control is also a big factor in the ending of the anime. As Shinji’s father gears up to execute his plan, the old people of SEELE try to regain control. As the world basically comes to an end, the characters try to grasp whatever control they have left. As the Human Instrumentality Project commences, it teaches Shinji of another option besides “control”. It offers “freedom”, and a f*cking congratulations afterwards.

The Religious Themes

I always believed that Eva didn’t really have any Christianity in its story, but I was wrong. The religious themes are all over this anime, and the open ended nature of the show lends to a lot of subjective interpretation. It’s not just Christianity and its cross though. A lot of the religious themes come from Kabballah. The Human Instrumentality Project is the biggest example of this, as it preaches the concept of the Tree of Life. I particularly don’t believe that the religious subtexts have any big impact on the story, but it does f*ck with your mind. Going back to 1995, a Japanese viewer would be perplexed to see themes like this in anime. In my opinion, the religious themes was put there as a form of statement. Anime isn’t just kids saving the world. We can tell so much more, and if this show was the very first one to do that then the impact is tremendous. It challenges its viewers, pulls up a chair in front of them, and asks them directly “what do you think”. It’s just an exciting concept, and I would love to be one of the first viewers to be infected by this anime. Unfortunately, I was five when this anime aired.

The main story of Evangelion is also heavily taken from the Book of Genesis. I am always bothered by the fact that we never discover why the angles are coming and what caused it. If you go to the Book of Genesis, the story is about God trying to destroy the world. Ok, first of all, I am not an expert on this stuff. I’m just juxtaposing it to the anime, and according to the book of Genesis: “God creates a world which is good and fit for mankind, but when man corrupts it with sin God decides to destroy his creation, saving only the righteous Noah to reestablish the relationship between man and God.” So God wants a reset, he sends the Angels to destroy the world, and someone sets out to re-connect man with God. This is basically the barebones structure of Evangelion, and it’s taken out of your mandatory Sunday school sermon. There are a lot more of religious subtext to explore in this anime, like Adam and Eve defying God, the spear of destiny lost as the world ends, and the prophesies of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It actually helps that you know these terms, since they become short hand explanations to a lot of things introduced in the show. It even has the Three Wise Men leading the world to its savior, like holy hell how deep does this rabbit hole go?

I’m going free form though, and I want to talk about my favorite religious theme in the anime: God versus Science. When the Eva fights an Angel, they are liken to babies with umbilical cords unable to function without the cables attached to them. When new Angels appear though, they adapt to the Eva’s actions and they find a way to defeat them. One after the other, these messengers of God is trying to force Man out of its womb made by Science. In its truest sense, we are witnessing a philosophical abortion and it just blows my mind. Of course, control and religion is not the only themes of this anime. We have one more as we head to the third, and final, tonal change in the anime.

The Freudian Study of Humans

In my opinion, the best episode of Evangelion is Episode 18: Ambivalence. It pushed the characters, pushed the narrative and also drastically changed the tone of the show. As I said before, the show had three tone shifts. The first five, the next twelve, and the remaining nine had very different tones from each other. The middle twelve episodes are straight up awesome robot battles with puzzles for Katsuragi to solve, but Episode 18 drastically broke that pace. The story has gone internal once more as we explore the characters. It’s not just Shinji this time though. A ton of character study is done in the final nine episodes. From Katsuragi’s Electra Complex, Rei’s existential crisis, Asuka’s underdeveloped oral stage to Shinji’s regression. As a psychology major, I smile because the show has gone completely psychological at this point. It’s even textbook psychological crises, and it’s so removed from the straight forward robot versus alien tone of the middle twelve episodes. There were always smattering of character introspection in the previous episodes, but it was never the sole focus. It was a means to root for the characters as they tackle the world ending obstacles in front of them. This time though, even the Angels has gone psychological. Their attack pattern is more indirect now, and it is more organized than the previous aliens that attacked before. There are Angels that acts like a virus, an Angel that does mental attacks and even an Angel that functions like an Eva. Each of these Angels pushes the characters to their breaking point, and they do break. They break like brittle weak glass.

I like the tone of the final shift, but it does really change your impression of the show. After averting multiple world ending crises, it feels uncomfortable to suddenly dissect the characters. The flow of narrative is more on how these characters react to the situation, instead of them trying to fix it. The final tone shift does highlight the best aspect of the show though: the intense character driven approach of the story. The dial is just turned up to eleven, and it is really surreal. If Shinji’s five episodes is annoying or down right depressing, the character study in the last nine episodes is even worse. We go full Freudian here, as we employ psychoanalysis and psychodynamics to the characters. Freud always believes that your past makes up your entire self. This is explored heavily in the anime when we suddenly see a flood of flashback dominate the episodes. Why is Asuka so competitive to the point that she’d rather die than fail? Why is Shinji always apologizing as an immediate response to anything? Why does Rei think she’s disposable? The anime gives us answers to these questions, and it gets really uncomfortable. Some of the reveals are things I personally didn’t want to know. Like, why are we, the viewers, being subjected to this psychological mindf*ck? The stability of the anime crumbles, and we lose control once more. Welcome to Hideki Anno’s mind.

An interesting aspect of the Freudian theme of the anime is the exploration of the Id, Ego and Super Ego. This review has become a lecture, and I apologize. The Id is the part of your mind that seeks pleasure. How many characters are driven by their Id? The Super Ego is the part that acts as your criticizing and moralizing role. This part tells someone that they are weak or pathetic. Now, how many characters is Super Ego driven? The Ego is the realistic part of the mind. It talks to the Id and Super Ego, and balances them per the situation outside the mind. How many characters is Ego driven? Our main characters are basically the three parts of your mind. An Id driven girl, a super ego driven boy and an ego driven girl makes up the anime, super imposed into a gigantic soup of religious subtexts. This anime is insane. Please remember though that we are focusing on Freud’s (admittedly outdated) concept and his alone. No Carl Jung here or anyone else. This anime is just a giant focus on Freud and his theories, and I find that so fascinating.

The Last Two Episodes

A lot of people hate the ending, and I do understand. Not just in terms of story, but the animation is kinda sucked out of the ending too. The last episode even devolved into its storyboard, which feels insulting. Think back to 1995, you’ve watched the show from beginning up until the last episode. You’ve had weeks to think about the themes and the characters, and then the finale comes around to a disappointing conclusion. I’d personally be pissed, because the anime already hooked us with its strong statement that “there is more to anime outside the kid centered shows”. The ending just feels like a slap in the face, and the congratulations just feels weird. I personally stood up, and I yelled “that’s it?! What? No, that’s not an ending?!” as the ending credit plays. I can’t defend the ending, because it just doesn’t feel right. Did they run out of money? Did they run out of story to tell? What the hell is happening here?

I don’t know.

I do know that this is on purpose. This was the intended ending, and I think the show does invite the viewers to react to it. How did you react? Were you pissed? Were your expectations cut short? Was the control taken away from you? Did you feel helpless when it happened? Did you feel cheated? Did you feel like you deserved more? Did the show’s ending elicit strong reactions from you? It was already a messy and abrupt show, so why did you feel like you invested on something that wasn’t going to shortchange you? Did you expect this gloomy anime to actually give us a happy ending? Like what? The world is saved, and the heroes celebrate as cheerful music play? You mean like any other anime that preceded it? Isn’t this anime making a statement that there is more than that? Then isn’t the ending a statement as well? This is anime now. We can do more now. We can elicit stronger emotions from our viewers. We can make them feel things beyond what a 2D cartoon can deliver. We can break them. We can break their expectations, and we can go beyond.

I’m not gonna lie, I hate this ending. I think the movie was created because of the massive backlash, but I also respect this ending. This move was risky, and it had every opportunity to blow up in the creators’ faces. This move will understandably be not well received, and yet they still did it. In a time where anime is “for kids”, Gainax pushed the envelope in every sense of the word. They were brave about it, and I respect them for that. The ending also makes sense, if you think about it. I hate it, but I think it is a wonderful way to end a revolutionary anime. Congratulations.

Hideki Anno and Gainax

I’ll skip the characters, because this review is insanely long. I’m not doing it on purpose either. Holy sh*t, this anime just ruined me and all thanks goes to Hideki Anno. His style is incredible. He focuses a lot on the characters, and it makes this shows a lot more intriguing to watch. Even though the animation is in top form too, he uses the visuals to actually flow with the characters thoughts and feelings. Evangelion is his masterpiece, but I also enjoyed his style in Kare Kano. In a sense, this director actually utilizes the powers of visuals to effectively illustrate a story. It’s something taken for granted, especially today, so I just appreciate a director that knows how to truly visualize a moving medium and maximize its effectiveness. Character driven stories are his thing, but his directorial work is also pretty impressive. In a hand drawn time, he’s style is incredibly ambitious. He captures the scope of the mecha battles through the animation, he shifts tone through strong images and subtexts, and he lets the visuals flow with the character’s emotions at times. His style is incredibly unmatched. I have yet to see someone as ambitious as Anno, and I doubt I ever will. The guy even had the gall to use stills, absolutely stopping the show and just showing a drawing for unsettling long seconds, and it still comes off as impactful. To deliver so many layers to an anime, I seriously doubt you’ll ever meet a Hideki Anno ever again, so you better indulge in Evangelion now.

Gainax also gained massive popularity thanks to Evangelion, and you see a lot of former Gainax employees celebrating the spirit of what Evangelion has accomplished. The show’s legacy is just immortal at this point. It’s truly a God Status anime now. Gainax has a small lineup of shows, and I think the behind-the-scenes stuff kinda lend a hand to that. The last show I’ve seen from them is Medaka Box, and I know I screw up reviewing that anime. I don’t think they ever captured the success of Evangelion though, and it’s a shame their later works are not as impressive. I think in terms of “anime making a statement” though, then Gainax does have that in spades. TTGL and Panty and Stockings are great show by their own right, and they do embody the spirit of Evangelion. It’s really annoying that we’ll never see another Evangelion anime for a long time. As a reviewer, this is the show that I want to keep watching and sadly that can’t happen. There is only one Evangelion, and its impact can never be replicated anytime soon.

My Three Criteria for a Perfect Score

Let’s get this out of the way before I talk about the visuals. I have three criteria for a perfect score. After clearing the basics (the premise, story, characters, animation, music, use of theme and genre, the pacing of the anime, and the ending), a show will now be considered for my three perfect criteria. Firstly, the anime must be genre defining, and I think Evangelion passed that with no problem. I mean, jebus, it defined more than the mecha genre. It basically opened the floodgates for a more interpretative take at anime. It shook the anime industry itself, and the impact is still being felt to this day.

My second criterion is RARITY. It’s an anime you’ll never see again, and Evangelion fits that. In terms of how much the show balances, then this anime is unmatched. There are so many themes, and I barely even scratched the surface. The characters are amazing and relatable as they function in the complex story. This is topped by its incredible animation and the ambitious style of Hideki Anno. I say this with confident, you’ll never see this kind of anime ever again. No other anime comes close.

My last criteria is Long Lasting Appeal, and what the f*ck do you think? I’m reviewing this in 2017, and my mind is racing at how much I enjoyed this anime. So, with that being said, everyone rejoice. This anime is perfect, in every sense of the word.

Sight and Sound

Character design is done by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, one of the founding members of Gainax. His design is amazing. It’s minimalistic in a sense, since animation is still hand drawn at the time, but his detail work is amazing. His design is instantly recognizable, and you can just stare at Rei to understand that. From the simple hairstyle to their outfit, the characters just stand out. I guess they’re iconic at this point, and I think the Eva pilots are already ingrained in pop culture. I mean, gawd, Asuka in her pilot suit is just amazing. Her figure is complimented, but the striking red colors also nicely capture her personality. I cannot see Asuka in any other color, and it completes her as a character. The same goes for Rei and the color blue. The strong display of fan service, while also embodying the character, is a strong reason to why the character design is so influential too. It’s also stated that the staff actually wanted to increase the numbers of otaku in Japan, and I think anyone that has seen Asuka in her pilot suit is easily converted. She is just such an eye candy, and I bet she looks even better in the recent films.

The mecha and the Angel designs, done by Hideki Anno himself, are also impressive. I love the minimalistic take on the Angels, since they are just basic shapes. One is just literally a circle, and it still has a huge impact design-wise. You often wonder too, why the design is so simplistic when these are the intimidating creatures that want to destroy the world. I think some of them are chosen to fit the theme, since the circle Angel is used symbolically to indicate re-birth. If you look at the simple designs in terms of thematic subtext, then there is a lot to explore there. The Evangelions are impressive in terms of design. They move like animals, but you still feel the weight of their robot bodies. I love how they crouch and slump like they have an animalistic personality. Putting a mouth on a root is also brilliant, but actually letting that mouth eats borders on genius. I really love the mechanical designs in this anime. From the battleships to the helicopters to the buildings and the mechanical parts of the Eva, the design gives off a gritty sci-fi feel that is reminiscent of the ones in Aliens (the Sigourney Weaver film), whose style is meant to be humans trapped inside submarines as they move about the claustrophobic man-made space (a visual style that counters 2001: A Space Odyssey’s clean look of the future). It’s just a very well-conceived style that I really enjoy.

The animation is impressive. This is hand drawn, and you feel every ounce of effort put into the show. I personally love how the foreground and background share the same color. The movements of the mechas are just amazing. The way they glide and run through a large environment is so fun to watch. The way they destroy houses and mountains is so impressive. The amount of detail put into these movements is pretty incredible as well. Every strike, every massive explosion and every environment destroyed just has weight to it, and it adds to the visual storytelling Anno is doing. I love his style. I love how he puts the robots in a place populated by buildings, towers in the foreground and something else in the far background. This is actually something he does best. The relationship of the foreground and the background creates a very intriguing picture that flows with the story. You often don’t have to hear the characters speak, because the visuals are shouting at you already. Anno also has a good command of character blocking and camera angles. He loves doing different angles to characters, and he also tells beautiful stories with the blocking. Subtext is loaded in how he directs an anime, and it really makes up for the messy short sightedness of the narrative itself. My favorite aspect of Anno’s directing is the use of shadows. I know it’s often used as a cheat for animation, but he makes it special in his own way. He utilizes it during strong character moments, and he mixes it with his other styles. When the shadow, foreground-background relationship, and the ambitious blocking and angles come together, you often just feel in awe at how Anno executes his masterful directing. On top of the incredible hand drawn animation, the show is just in a league of its own. If you strip away the themes and the strong character driven narrative, you still have the eye opening animations and it is still incredible on its own. Every part of Evangelion is just top notch by itself, and it combines to really give us a true God Status anime.

I’d also like to point out the voice acting. 1995 is such a different time in anime. The voice acting is really an integral part, since the animation is still a bit limited at this time. Yeah, Evangelion’s animation is top notch, but the voice acting still needed to carry some aspects of the show. Shinji’s depressing pit is felt immensely thanks to Megumi Ogata’s whiny voice. When I first heard Shinji, I laugh because I hate his voice. It’s so whiny and complacent, like a kid talking back to an adult authority. I think back to my students and how much I hate the tone they use when they talk back to me. Megumi’s range is incredible though, since Episode 17 featured an over confident Shinji suddenly shrinking into a helpless baby as he cries out for other people to save him. The emotion is delivered in the voice alone, and it’s so gawd damn effective. The same goes for Megumi Hayashibara playing Rei. I had chills when she first spoke, because it was just so unique. It felt insulting, but Megumi’s delivery is so captivating as well. Coupled by her strong visuals, Rei as a character is really strongly conceived and Megumi Hayashibara played a part in making Rei an anime icon. Of course, Yuko Miyamura’s Asuka is also amazing and so does the rest of the cast. Fumiko Takachi playing Shinji’s father is powerful as well. He often has one line in certain scenes like “I don’t care” or “Don’t call me ever again”, but it’s still so effective and impactful. There seems to be a discipline to voice acting back in the 90s and such, and I think the voice acting industry relaxed a bit as time moves forward. In some cases, some VAs tries too hard while others rely on their identifiable voice to create a brand for themselves. I have no problem with that, but voice acting has “acting” in it and I don’t think most VA understands that.

The anime’s OP is “Zankoku na Tenshi no Thesis” by Yoko Takahashi. This OP song is pretty iconic by itself, right? Yoko’s voice is amazing here, and the opening lines are just so thrilling to listen to. It sounds so dark, and the lyrics are so prophetic in a weird sense. This song is amazing as it hypes you up for the anime itself, but the striking images in the Op does send you for a loop though. The tree of life is smartly placed in the OP as a nod to the Kabballah theme, and everything else just rushes at you. I love the shot of a clear blue sky though with Shinji in it, since it kinda gave away the ending of the anime. The split second images are also a treat to watch, as it gives you an idea of the impending insanity that’ll happen in the show. It also ends with Shinji smiling, so that’s ominous in its own.

The anime’s ED is “Fly Me to the Moon” by Claire. This is an odd song to end the show, and I really don’t understand its significance. If you look it up, some people goes full Eva canon about a base in the moon and the later installments of the series kinda stained whatever intention this song had solely for NGE. I think it’s about ‘escape” in a general sense, but I don’t really know. I also suck at understanding music, so I can’t really make sense of it. I do lik the song, especially when sung by the characters. It has a whimsical appeal to it, and it’s just a nice way to end the show. A viewer in 1995 would probably be sleepy when the show airs at 11:30 PM. I think the song is just a way to send the viewers on a goodnight sleep (but it did originally air at 7:30, so I really don’t know).

Overall Score

10/10 “It’s multilayered and impactful, and it truly deserves its God Status title. “

This anime is incredible, and I know for a fact that you’ll never see another one like it. Its influence is still felt to this day though, and it just gives you an idea of the legacy this anime has created. There’s always an argument that you aren’t a true anime fan unless you’ve seen Evangelion, and there is some truth in that smug statement. Evangelion is just a one of a kind anime experience everyone should try. Don’t be like me that stubbornly refuse to watch it until gawd damn 2017. Evangelion is a landmark anime for a reason, and you should definitely try it. I highly recommend it.

15 thoughts on “Neon Genesis Evangelion Review

  1. Two.. Well, three things:
    First; Congratulations!! *clapclap*
    Second; the ending. This isn’t really me trying to defend it or anything, but rather just offering a perspective that helped me stomach it — for lack of a better term. What he have here (we’ll call it the “true end”) is Shinji accepting the singularity and how the now unified conscience of humanity is congratulating him on his decision. It’s a cop of an ending, but it does help setup the movie (instead of the movie trying to save it) in that the movie let’s us see the “alternate route” so to speak, with Shinji /rejecting/ the singularity.
    Third; well, this is is just something I want to add to the history lecture that is 1/3 of this post. Among its many post-humous accolades and contributions Eva is also widely credited for its part in the “moe boom” in the 90s — with Rei and Asuka becoming figureheads of “characters we can openly show affection towards” owing to their status as badass mech pilots while being attractive (both design and attitude-wise) to boot.

    • hahaha, you really want me to watch the movie, huh? give me one more reason, leap! xD
      I kid, I’ll have to track it down and maybe I’ll just see the entire franchise, why not.

      moe boom. that makes sense.
      they basically a template for future characters now.

  2. Really great article of amazing anime ever..

    I can’t wait for next season xD

    Btw congratulations 😍

    If your don’t mind can you please take a look at mine?

    Yu-Gi-Oh

    Thanks really appreciate it.

  3. The movies they released after are fantastic. Death and Rebirth provided a great recap, but specifically “The End of Evangelion”… it is my favorite movie of all time… well top 5 lol same 5 all rotate depending on my mood.

    I have seen it so many times, it has my favorite musical composition “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” by Bach which plays in the film and it is just… HAUNTING and yet beautiful.

    The uneasy live action spliced in…

    Juxtaposition. Uncomfortable. Profound. And so appropriate.

    LIFE!

    If you want to smell your brain cooking then definitely watch End of Evangelion.

    Plus it has a legendary commentary track, I have the original dvds and they had awesome posters inside…. just fantastic in every regard. Such nostalgia…

    Evangelion and Berserk are my favorites and they are what got me into anime in the first place.

    Great review, great analysis, couldn’t have said it better myself.

    • just for a more reasonable ending, I’d try the End of Eva, lol.
      and gosh, Anno and his live actions splices. the last episode kinda skewed that way too.
      thanks for the comment.

  4. Not much to say here, but I think you uncovered everything great about this show.

    The only compliant I have is that I think you over generalized shows that aired before Eva. While Eva opened the door for more psychological material, not everything was for kids. (Not that being for kids is a bad thing either).

    • that’s true. it’s not my era, so I have no idea about 80s anime. I just generalize, but early 90s are very kid centric. I do know OVAs at the tiem are dark and really gory. But again, my research is shallow compared to people that actually grew up watching them shows.

      and thanks, i try to be thorough. 12 pages of word thorough. xD

  5. Evangelion has to be hands down one of my favorite anime series. The themes went over my head when I was a kid, but the series made more sense after re-watching it as an adult.

  6. I actually caught the last two episodes of the series first, and I rather enjoyed the discussion within it, so when it rolled around again, I watched the whole series. I actually didn’t like most of it, I found it pretty boring, and then when we went from “story” to “personal philosophical discussion” so instantaneously… yeah, I can see why people didn’t like that. Having seen the last two episodes first, I thought that the characters were like trapped in some kind of limbo, but that turned out to be a bust. And then the complete incomprehensibility of the movie… yeah, it’s just not my cup of tea. But if you like it, more power to you! 😉

  7. Ever since I’ve discovered you two years ago, I have been waiting…and waiting……and WAITING for you to review Neon Genesis Evangelion and you finally did! I guess good things come to those who wait, because I seriously consider this review to be one of my favorite Christmas presents of all time!!! =)

    Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of those shows that absolutely tears me apart. On one hand, there are so many amazing things about it. I’m not talking about the giant robot battles (you can get those anywhere nowadays) but the relationships between the characters. This show treats the characters and their relationships with a subtly that I haven’t seen before in any medium. On the other hand, some of the characters and themes are half backed and don’t nearly live up to their potential.

    You absolutely love Shinji? Oh boy, were we watching the same show? Granted, if I were his age and put in that situation, I would probably act like him, but that doesn’t make him a likeable character. I find the kids to be the weakest part of the show. Shinji is a whiney brat, Rei is an empty shell of a human being, and Asuka is a downright sociopath with no redeeming qualities.

    As far as I’m concerned the adults are what make this show great. At first, I thought Shinji’s dad was a lame stock character, but as the story progresses you find that the shit he does and the relationships he is involved in are fucked up to the point that they are absolutely delightful. You have to watch for it too, the show doesn’t make it obvious, but if you pay attention you will realize what a screwed up, manipulative son-of-a-bitch he is. Misato is fun and likeable and I love how she interacts with Shinji. Ritsuko is great in a tsundere sort of way, but becomes way more interesting later on. Ryouji is just cool, which makes it more impactful when he finally meets his fate.

    I love the understated dark theme of the show. Angles attacking the planet do make for a dire situation. Think about it, angels attacking the planet, what could possibly be worse? I actually didn’t notice that no one celebrated when an angel was killed, but that does perfectly fit with the desperate situation of the plant. The whole thing devolving into just a military matter just seems like an appropriate answer to how hopeless the situation is.

    On that note, I found the religious themes to be superficial. With the title literally translating to “Gospel of a New Century” I was somewhat disappointed the characters didn’t have any deeper ruminations or contemplation of philosophy. The aliens are called angels, and sometimes they exhibit religious imagery like crosses when they die, but that’s all there is to it, the whole religious theme seemed rather forced. Why don’t the people on the planet call them aliens instead of angels?

    Does it deserve a 10/10? That’s such a loaded question, I completely understand why you would give it a 10. For the modern viewer I’d give it a 9/10. It deserves to be a 10 in the same way some people think Citizen Kane is the greatest movie of all time. In terms of innovation and all the new and great things they did, there was nothing like it, but it’ impossible to ignore their substantial flaws nowadays.

These are my thoughts. Feel free to add yours.

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