Neon Genesis Evangelion: Either the greatest masterpiece in anime or the most overrated piece of trash, depending on who you ask. One thing is for sure: Evangelion defied all boundaries and changed anime forever.
In A Nutshell
It’s 2015 and the world is being threatened by Angels, huge, strange creatures that come every now and then to attack humans. Humanity’s only hope relies on NERV, a special agency under the United Nations and their Evangelions, giant machines used to fight Angels. The Evangelions can only be piloted by 15 year olds, and Shinji Ikari, who happens to be the son of the head of the organization, is one of them.
Meet the Characters
Shinji is the best definition of a Tragic Hero. His mother passed away and his father abandoned him when he was a little kid. Ever since then, Shinji has felt worthless, avoids being close to people and, at the same time, craves their praise and attention. Piloting the EVA gives Shinji a sense of purpose and happiness.
Rei is a quite, passive girl who also pilots an EVA. She has been working with NERV before Shinji arrive, and she also seems to have a close relationship with Shinji’s father. Rei seems to be numb to everything around her and only focuses on the job, often appearing suicidal. She also remains a very mysterious character throughout the series.
Asuka is the latest pilot to join the trio. She comes from Germany and often complains about Japanese people and their lifestyle. Actually, Asuka complains about everything, including her teammates and herself. She has a very strong and loud personality that heavily contrasts with Shinji and Rei’s.
A Brief History of Neon Genesis Evangelion: The When, Where and How
Neon Genesis Evangelion is an original anime series directed by Hideaki Anno and produced by Tatsunoko Productions and Gainax from 1995 to 1996. It has only one season containing 26 episodes.
Evangelion is one of the most talked about and critically acclaimed series in anime history. It has become an icon in Japanese popular culture and has influenced later works in many different aspects. The Evangelion franchise expands to manga, movies, videogames and all sorts of toys and merchandise.
Why It’s Awesome
First things first. I have always thought that Evangelion should be watched as an experiment because if you go in expecting your usual shounen story, you’ll end up (even more) confused. The reason why NGE surprises its viewers is because it plays with viewer’s expectations and always does the unexpected. Not story-wise, but format-wise.
Evangelion has an odd structure. Instead of having a main storyline with underlying themes and metaphors, the series seems to place the main story first, only to then drop it to put to focus only on the characters. And when I say ‘focus’, I mean they put them under the microscope in the most character-driven episodes I have ever seen. What’s funny is that Evangelion is supposed to be, among other things, a parody of the mecha genre. However, all of that seems to be an excuse built as mere context, and later as pure background to analyze the characters instead. Stories that focus more on the characters than in the story are not that uncommon, but no anime has ever done what Evangelion did with its final episodes. That’s why the strongest point of the series are its characters. Everyone from the main trio to the supporting characters feel real. Why? Because they all admit feeling lonely, insecure, weak… and haven’t we all felt like that at some point? We are used to seeing main characters facing the worst possible scenarios with a badass and positive attitude. But that’s not what would happen in real life. Evangelion knows this and uses it to portray the most real, in-your-face characters you will see in a long time. Whether you like them or not is irrelevant here.
Aside from its use of the mecha genre and characters, Evangelion also has a very unique use of animation. Strange sequences such as placing a character over an empty background so that he can construct his own world or having them look at themselves in strange oneiric setting will make you feel like you’re having some strange acid trip. In fact, you will stop thinking about the characters and will start exploring yourself instead. If there’s one thing that can be blamed on Anno is that he does not answer those philosophical questions, but then again, can they even be answered?
TW: Aside from dealing with delicate matters such as self-hatred, suicide and general existential crisis, Evangelion also contains sequences dangerous to people with epilepsy!