An anime series highly regarded as a classic for its “depth.” But was it really that good to begin with or were we just mistaken?
|Studio||Gainax, Tatsunoko Production|
|Original run||1995 – 1996|
|Number of episodes||26|
|Purchase DVD collection||Purchase from Amazon.|
|Purchase DVD collection||Purchase from eBay.|
Warning: The review contains NSFW content and BIG spoilers.
Mecha anime. Pilot your own giant robot, tear shit up. Easy cash grab. Good, right?
Well, aside from the Gundam series, there is an old school series that has skyrocketed to fame sometime in the mid-’90’s. We’re talking about, of course, Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Even though Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water came before this series, Neon Genesis Evangelion is considered to be the series that puts Studio Gainax on the map. It is said to play a part as a major influence on later mecha anime, especially the likes of Gainax’s later creation, Tenga Toppa Gurren Lagann.
But how well does it actually hold up? Honestly, there is no easy answer to that.
And because this is a decently long series, I’m not going to spend an awful amount of time nitpicking every little thing or explain all of the intricacies of the plot—especially with the fucking bizarre plot elements at hand. If I do that, you’ll going to be here for over an hour and I’ll be editing this damn thing for days.
Neon Genesis Evangelion features three gifted young people piloting their own mechas called Evangelion as they fight giant monsters known as Angels.
One of these weird things.
They work for a military organization founded by the United Nations called NERV, which seems to carry a few sinister secrets of its own.
But fuck that. BADASS GIANT ROBOTS!
As far as the plot goes, it seems straightforward. The odd alien creatures known as Angels appear and the Eva Units have to go out and destroy them all. Rinse and repeat. Many anime series at the time follow this similar formula. If they fail, the world and all of humanity could be destroyed. But as the series enters its final steps, the plot takes a weird turn for the worse—which I will get to later.
However, some episodes do drag. Do you know how many times NERV is unprepared for an Angel, and the Eva Units just don’t work as NERV operatives want them to? A lot.
Waaaaah! Waaaaaaaaah! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!
Our hero is Shinji Ikari, the “Third Child” and pilot of the Eva-01. He is also a whiny twat of a boy whose sole purpose is to cry about his daddy issues, act like a socially awkward weirdo, and enter random bouts of depression. Well, okay, he pilots a giant robot and goes off to kick Angel asses—competently later, on par with fellow pilot Rei Ayanami.
He is forced into his role by none other than his father, Gendo Ikari, the commander of NERV.
Yeah, this asshat.
Good god, this shady man is a dick of the highest caliber. What makes him so is that he is more than willing to use his child as a military weapon rather than giving even one indicator that he cares for his son. No compliments, no pats, not one nice thing to assure that he is proud and confident in his son. At one point in the series, he did say, “Good job, Shinji.” But that was the nicest he had ever been.
But instead, Gendo himself is like a robot who would call his own son a “spare” [pilot]; unfeeling, ruthless, and cares more about his work than he does his own flesh and blood. Oh, here are some of the people he works with.
Meet Sneery McSinisterBrow and Shady Grimaceton.
Does he have a reason to be such an asshole? Yes and no. While he prioritizes the safety of mankind and the planet, there is no real reason why he has to be such a terrible father. It doesn’t help that he cares more about Rei’s safety than Shinji’s. By the time the series is over, you will be hating this man’s guts.
But back to Shinji.
The big problem with Shinji is that he never truly evolves as a character in the series, though you could say he comes to some conclusion regarding his character on the very last episode. He is a docile character but very submissive. His worst moments include his intense friction with fellow pilot Asuka Langley Sohryu and when he bitches about his father. His hatred for his father is so deeply rooted that it becomes his defining character trait to many viewers.
This is a list of how he behaves in the early episodes:
- Thinks about his father’s cruelty while bathing
- Stares at a ceiling and thinks about “why he’s here” (he does this many times in the series)
- Reminisces about a battle that happened to him not too long ago while in a fetal position
- Confesses to a bully that NERV “made him” pilot the robot and implies it’s not his fault that the bully’s little sister got injured (which, of course, gets his ass kicked)
- Runs away from his apartment to mope, have more nightmarish visions, and escape responsibility
- Shouts at his schoolmates that he deserved to be hit
NO ONE UNDERSTANDS ME!
This kid is a walking self-pity party, and no one likes that quality in a hero. At times, it is just hard to watch because this is the character we are supposed to identify with! But who really wants to be like Shinji? No one.
Example of his outcries:
Shinji: Why did you send for me?
Gendo: You know why I sent for you.
Shinji: So, you’re asking me to take this thing and go out there and fight?
Shinji: *sobs* HOW CAN YOU DO THIS TO ME? I THOUGHT YOU DIDN’T WANT ME! WHY? WHY DID YOU HAVE TO CALL ME NOW, FATHER?
Gendo: Because I have a use for you.
Shinji: But why? Why me?
Gendo: Because there is no one else who can.
And yes, while his father is a cold son of a bitch, the big trait about Shinji that pisses fans off is the fact that he lets his daddy issues get in the way while an Angel is out there tearing shit up. He will tell himself, “No, I can’t. I can’t do this!” Then he looks for a way to squirm out.
And someone in the viewing audience will go, “Get in your robot, you selfish asshole!”
Hell, Shinji is aware of his flaws too. It doesn’t make him any better though. He even ASKED to get his ass kicked at one point.
Okay, everyone had their shot at this kid. The general defense for him: “Well, he’s a kid and he went through a lot of shit! Of course he isn’t brave or confident or strong. And he pretty much holds the fate of the world in his hands. You would be the same had you been in his shoes!”
Well, not necessarily. Yeah, it’s possible to end up being a pansy ass but it’s also possible to be independent and strong. And the thing is, with the way he’s been acting… it’s like he wants to be treated like garbage at times.
And well, that is the big gist of Shinji’s character. He is not meant to be a heroic archetype in any sense but instead becomes an uncommon type of an anti-hero. And the reason why he is a widely hated character is because fans want a stronger character to relate to. People want to relate to the main character, who is usually the image of power and stability. They want to feel like they can enter the character’s role and imagine themselves in having that kind of power.
This is a huge trait that gets shounen anime to sell. The protagonist is often portrayed as strong, confident, and passionate about their goals. Even if they are inept at what they do, they still try to move forward and fans want to be in that character’s shoes and live their power fantasies.
You just can’t do that with Shinji Ikari though.
Misato: Stop complaining! You’re a boy, you know.
Oh yes, I forgot to mention Shinji’s caretaker.
That is Misato Katsuragi, a Captain (later Major) from NERV and a sympathetic ear for Shinji (presumably due to her own tragic past). She lets him live in her apartment and functions as a “big sister” figure to him.
And they did get a cool shot of the city of Tokyo-3.
One of the more interesting aspects of Misato’s character is that she takes her role as a NERV tactician very seriously, but at home she’s a total slob who chugs her beer in a matter of seconds.
Oh, and also a target of some fanservice.
She is also the main voice of reason, as she always takes the safety of her Eva pilots in mind and is also one of the characters who ends up exposing a hidden government plot. There is also a subplot involving her and her former lover (Ryoji Kaji), which forces her to confront her own psychosis. To be honest, I liked this character more than the main protagonists because she had a thirst for vengeance against the Angels which goes at odds at her protective big sister role. She also seems to be the most human of them, as almost everyone else has a dirty secret and has some weird character traits.
And speaking of weird…
Rei Ayanami is one of our female lead protagonists, who draws an uncomfortable amount of attention from Shinji. She is a strangely popular character, though she literally has a distinct lack of a personality. She is a blank slate who speaks in a monotone voice, very much like a doll, though she occasionally displays random bits of emotion, especially when it involves Gendo Ikari.
Yeah! Beat him, Rei!
But considering her disturbing backstory, it does make sense for Rei to turn out this way. And whenever she experiences emotion, like sadness, she questions why.
And in even stranger (and admittedly, fanservice-y) examples of her behavior, she doesn’t mind being nude next to a person. In one scene, Shinji walks right into her apartment without knocking after she has taken a shower. He ends up tripping over and accidentally laying on top of her (while in a towel) and knocks over her underwear. And he just gawks at her while his hand is on one of her breasts.
Strangely looks like a sex blow-up doll…
And for those who have seen the series, Rei is basically a modified clone of Shinji’s MOTHER. Sure, he may not know at the time, but it doesn’t mean he should be lying on her for a FULL MINUTE without her consent. With this knowledge in mind, this shot is even more disturbing.
Get off her, you weirdo!
And furthermore, he just watches her putting on her bra and slipping on her panties. God, Shinji, none of your teachers have ever shown you how to interact with people? You’re supposed to GET OUT or at least look away. Some gentleman you are.
And then our OTHER female protagonist, Asuka Langley Sohryu. Oh my god. This cunt mistress.
If you thought Shinji Ikari could get annoying at times, how about a character who is in WAAAAAAAAAY OVER HER HEAD?
Unlike many of the other characters, Asuka first appears as late as episode 8. And she is loud, abrasive, rude, short-tempered, overconfident. egotistical, whiny, jealous, pretentious, and a privileged, spoiled brat. DO I NEED TO SAY MORE?
She frequently picks on Shinji for no reason, other than to use him as a means to compare her “superiority” to him or covering up her own insecurities. She refuses to take responsibility for her own messes and pins the blame on someone else (notably Shinji), and is absolutely full of herself. Oh, and she claims she has finished college despite that she is 14, shows no sign of maturity, and probably tortures dicks in her spare time. An attention whore in every meaning of the phrase.
…And completing college at age 13-14? Unless you were a child genius—which you showed no signs of—I call bullshit.
Oh, and she flaunts her body.
Yeah, this girl is a cocktease despite her apparent problem with “perverts.”
She is the other extreme to Shinji Ikari and can be just as annoying, if not worse. And she can be so bad that she makes Shinji look rational, brave and competent in comparison. I shit you not. She is so insecure about not being the center of attention that she would willingly screw up the mission.
Oh, and if you thought Shinji can be a whiny little bitch, Asuka had him beat. Here are some tidbits.
Asuka: And if this lousy visibility isn’t bad enough, I’m also too hot in this disgusting suit stuck to my body with sweat. This really sucks!
And she complains just about any superficial thing too.
Hehe… you know… the thing I have against the tsundere character is that I really want to deck them every time they bitch about something. But watching Asuka getting humiliated due to her incompetence can also get entertaining too. That may make me a sadist, but I don’t care. Just the mere act of watching her suffer just gives me a little more hope for humanity.
…HA HA HA HA! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!
In fact, Shinji and Rei work together much better at this synchronization game, which makes Asuka throw a fit.
The darndest thing about that scene: a female classmate just so happens to be in the room and she blames it on SHINJI for humiliating Asuka. EXCUSE ME?
Hikari: Go apologize!
Hikari: You made her cry, you jerk! Go find her and tell her you’re sorry!
Uh, how about no? She had it coming.
But of course, Shinji does attempt to make amends with Asuka and prompts a rant from her.
Asuka: No matter what, I’ll put Rei and Misato to shame!
Shinji: But still, you don’t have to squash them.
Asuka: You’re being too simplistic, even if you are a male! I must avenge myself. My pride… It’s a matter of honor now, can’t you understand that?
No, because I’m not an egomaniac who wants to spill the blood of my rivals after losing a game of Super Smash Bros. Seriously, learn some restraint, stop abusing other people, and grow the fuck up.
Annnnnnd… cue creepy attraction to angry chick chugging a soda…
And there is also the forced sexual tension between Shinji and Asuka. Episode 9 is basically Shinji and Asuka attempting to be good friends and perhaps more, which is just cringeworthy to watch.
Nag-nag nag nag nag nag!
Ahhhh! Get out of my space!
Ah, yes. Nothing like sleeping next to a girl who verbally and physically abuses you. I rather neuter myself and tell her that she is so unattractive that she is even unworthy of getting fucked by the prissiest man who doesn’t have any balls.
Oh, and Shinji actually tries to kiss Asuka in her sleep, but doesn’t go through with it because he finds her too childish. Think about that for a sec.
It does eventually come full circle (I guess) when Asuka decides she’s “bored” and wants to kiss a boy. She picks the boy closest to her, which just so happens to be the one she hates, and enters a rather uncomfortable make-out scene.
Mmmmmm~ Tastes like bitch.
You would think that with all the friction, Asuka had a crush on Shinji but had no idea how to express her feelings, and this scene in particular would cause a relationship to foster.
NOPE. Asuka, even though she deliberately forced this scenario, ran into the bathroom to spit in the sink and gargle with mouthwash. They have never spoken of this again.
I don’t think there is anything worse in the series than these two trying to develop mutual feelings for each other, and God have mercy on those who have to sit through it. They are an extreme example of a polar opposites couple, and this romance subplot is just uncomfortable to say the least.
Look! Even this guy thinks this is stupid!
The series goes out of its way to explain that Asuka acts this way because of a Freudian excuse. In her childhood, her mother hardly paid attention to her due to negligence by her husband, and she substituted her own daughter with a doll. Asuka’s mother committed suicide and tried to take her daughter down too, but Asuka gave herself an excuse to continue living, to live independently.
And apparently, this makes her believe that she can act as arrogantly as she wants too. In the end, her arrogance ultimately becomes her downfall as she directly disobeys orders, resulting in her Eva Unit-02 getting torn apart and her getting mind-raped.
This might make me a demon, but I just don’t give a shit. Some viewers can sympathize or pity her, but I have no mercy to give to this character.
But enough about the characters. Let’s get into the more… ahem, interesting aspects of the show.
Episode 19 reveals that the Evangelion are, in fact, giant humanoid creatures wearing some sort of suppression armor. And Eva Unit-01 has the soul of Shinji’s deceased mother.
Oh my god, I’m gonna shit myself.
And remember when I said Rei was a modified clone of Shinji’s mother? Well… just look…
Don’t let those adorable smiles fool you. They want your soul.
…Yeah. Who would have thought that an anime series about giant robots fighting bio-mechanical aliens make such weird turns? Oh, but it doesn’t stop there. In episode 24, we also have…
A homosexual Eva pilot who also happens to be the final Angel who sympathizes with Shinji’s daddy issues, bathes with him, sleeps next to him, and confesses his love to him in a short time. Oh, and he also wishes to die.
So somebody reminded me of yet ANOTHER twist. In episode 24, the Angel Kaworu Nagisa mentions that all of mankind are children of the 2nd Angel known as Lilith and he refers to them as “Lilin.” And episode 25 takes this even further by mentioning that mankind is the 18th Angel. And furthermore, Adam is the 1st Angel while the 3rd to 17th Angels are all his spawn.
To be honest, I feel this twist is really out there. So humans are a product of…
And not just that, but it is also what makes Evangelion Unit-01. By extension, humans are related to giant bio-mechanical aliens. Furthermore, the whole invasion plot by Adam’s children is just a ploy to become the dominant species of the world by wiping out mankind. Survival of the fittest and whatnot.
And all of this information comes in at a very short time too towards the end of the series, so it’s a lot to take in. I don’t really know what to make of it, because it is an outright bizarre turn. Yes, this is very obvious religious symbolism, but you can just as easily say that mankind is related to the Flying Spaghetti Monster with this logic.
Thanks again, Pokeace.
And with that little mindfuck, the story pretty much ends. Yeah. Because the last episodes, 25 and 26, are a massive deconstruction of all of the major characters in the show. Why? Because Studio Gainax didn’t have enough money to deliver a proper ending. It wasn’t until Studio Gainax released the movie The End of Evangelion that the series got a conclusion.
And pretty much all that happens in these last episodes is every character getting attacked by their own perceptions of how they viewed each other, spiraling into this madness-induced lecture about existentialism. Episode 26 in particular is a total mindfuck, focusing squarely on Shinji.
…This anime’s world. Are there, like, no fucking psychiatrists to help these people out? You’d think Gendo Ikari would hire someone since he approaches his work objectively and wouldn’t want inconveniences due to the mental state of his pilots.
The show ends when Shinji comes to grips with himself and decides that life is worth living, prompting the most bizarre ending…
Yeah! Congratulations for sitting through 26 episodes that lead nowhere! Now go buy our upcoming movie, you dumbasses.
WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED?!?!?!?!
Yeah, this ending is widely remembered to this day for just how out of nowhere it is, coining the term “Gainax Ending.” And Studio Gainax takes pride in these kind of mindfuck endings, continuing to use them to this day.
With that said, what do I think of the series? Well…
Honestly, I don’t know what to make of it. It’s not really good, not really bad… just weird? But even that doesn’t fully describe my thoughts.
But I can definitely say that this series is complex and interesting. The art and animation both add a lot to the anime’s presentation and visual interest. The fight scenes are fun to watch and the overall strangeness makes for a fun series to watch.
One thing I didn’t mention though is that Neon Genesis Evangelion is widely considered to be thematic, so much to the point where it got ACADEMIC ANALYSES. Aside from some obvious religious symbolism, there are also the psychological aspects of our main characters. Yeah, this anime is being analyzed like a classic literary fiction novel. Think about that.
Some might call this anime pretentious (especially when concerning the last episodes), but it has been in discussion for many years as fans continue to seek meaning to this day, which I’d say is a good thing. Intelligent discussion is a great trait for a scholar to have, no matter where you go to.
Honestly… I think the series is decent. It has its flaws, but what work doesn’t? Some character choices that I wasn’t too fond of? At least they’re thematic choices to an extent. Not necessarily a great storytelling technique, mind you, but at least it isn’t pointless. And the series is widely self-aware too, showing the confidence that it knows what story it wants to tell.
So, go ahead and watch it. No harm done.
P.S. This anime took place during the year 2015. Well, it’s 2015 now. WHERE ARE THE GIANT ROBOTS, DAMN IT?!
Neon Genesis EvangelionPrice Varies
- Beautiful animation and detailed artwork that still hold up today.
- Easy to pick up on (for the most part).
- Giant robots vs. Monsters, nuff said.
- Visually interesting with some disturbing plot threads.
- Some obnoxious character traits, including those of Shinji and Asuka.
- The mindfuck ending, if you were expecting something conclusive.