Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion anime poster featuring Asuka, Shinji, and Rei
Neon Genesis Evangelion

Overview

Over the past three days I finally got around to watching Neon Genesis Evangelion and End of Evangelion (instead of episodes 25 and 26). There’s so much I want to talk about with this series so expect more content about this in the future.

The first thing I want to say about this series is despite it being from 1995, it holds up extremely well. It was also the oldest anime I had seen for a few hours until I watched Akira the same day, so expect a review of that in the next couple days as well.

NGE is widely considered to be one of the most influential anime ever created, as well as one of the most referenced. While I do feel like maybe I understand some visual references to the series, I kind of feel like a lot of other things people call references may just be coincidence.

The first possible visual reference I noticed was that the shoulders of Ainz Ooal Gown from Overlord look just like the core and rib cage of the first Angel we see in NGE. The second is the way Roy Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist leans on his gloved hands on his desk, just like Commander Ikari.

Other than visual references like those, I think a lot of the other “references” people find are possibly just due to genre and medium similarities. I could argue that the titan-shifters from Attack on Titan are references to the Evas, but I feel like they reference the mecha genre as a whole more.

References aside, for anyone who doesn’t know what this series is about, alien life forms known as Angels have descended on Earth and a corporation known as NERV created the Eva series of mechs to fight them. It’s a pretty straightforward sci-fi mecha plot for the most part.

While later on in the series, and especially in End of Evangelion, things get a bit more involved, I think the real important part of the series isn’t so much the story, but the characters.

Characters

Shinji Ikari is the protagonist of the series who everyone hates because he’s a coward. However, I felt that his character was kind of refreshing compared to the same male protagonists we seem to get in every anime today.

He’s a 14 year-old kid who just wants his father, the founder of NERV, to be proud of him. When he suddenly finds himself being forced to pilot a giant mech, the Eva Unit 01, he’s afraid and doesn’t want to.

While a lot of people seem to hate Shinji for this, it makes sense to me from his perspective. As viewers, we aren’t really in his situation so we can say we’d get in the mech without any repercussions. For Shinji, however, he’s being asked to go fight against a giant alien and he has no idea what’s going on.

Further, who knows if the mech can even really protect him from the enemy he’s about to fight? We later learn that the Evas can survive essentially anything, even being blown up, but at the time Shinji wasn’t aware of this so his fear makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense to me is Shinji’s continual refusal to accept his new life working as an Eva pilot. For the better part of the series, his life really isn’t so bad. Sure he has to fight aliens, but he’s relatively safe, has friends, and has a new family who seem to care about him.

Before being in the Eva program, he was a loner who wasn’t getting anywhere in life and didn’t really have a family so what is there really for him to complain about?

Rei Ayanami is the first other Eva pilot we meet besides Shinji. Rei is a kuudere character which means she’s the silent, stoic type. At the beginning of the series I brushed her character off as one who I didn’t care about, because in general I don’t care about kuuderes.

However, as the series went on and we saw less of Rei in the middle and more of Asuka, I found myself wanting Rei to come back as a bigger part of the series. Sure, she doesn’t often show emotion, but she does sometimes and she seems to genuinely be a good person unlike someone else.

One thing I did find odd about Rei was her relationship with Commander Ikari. It’s explained more in the later part of the series as well as End of Evangelion, but their relationship is still a bit odd and unsettling.

The final character I’m going to talk about is Asuka Langley Souryuu, the worst girl.

For the first five or so episodes before Asuka was introduced, I knew she would be coming into the series, but I just didn’t know when. At this point, since I didn’t really care about Rei, I was waiting for “best girl” Asuka to show up.

However, once she finally made her entrance into the series, I learned the error of my ways. On the surface, Asuka is the type I usually like in anime; she’s a tsundere with long hair, not a kuudere with short hair like Rei.

However, while Asuka may seem like “best girl” at a glance, she’s actually just a terrible person who nobody would really ever want to be friends with. Even so, towards the middle of the series it does genuinely seem like she and Shinji start to get along before she spirals out of control.

I hate Asuka as a person, but I love her as a character. I’ve mentioned before that my favorite characters in anime tend to be the ones who feel real and who aren’t simply a copy and pasted trope. While Asuka appears to be no more than a trope on the outside, she’s anything but deep down.

She’s a teenager who’s struggling with depression and shows signs of mental instability which just get more extreme as the series progresses. At first Asuka is seen as just an angry teenager, but over time her manic mental disorders come to the forefront.

While I found her mental breakdown to be extremely interesting to watch and a great way to further develop her character, I also loved watching her in the role of the teenager who’s angry at the world, everyone else, but mostly herself.

One scene that stuck out to me in particular is the elevator scene in which we watch Asuka and Rei standing in an elevator in silence for the better part of a minute. For most of this time we’re really just watching a still frame with no dialogue, but I found it to be a powerful scene.

Even though nothing is explicitly being told to us, and nothing is technically happening, we can feel the tension in the air around these two characters. There’s the feeling that at any second all of their pent-up emotions could be explosively released.

At the same time, we learn more about Asuka’s character just by her body language. While Rei is standing normally in the center portion of the elevator, Asuka takes up a leaning position against one of the walls in an attempt to “act cool.”

She doesn’t want to let Rei see that she’s actually emotionally drained and so she puts on a facade. However, despite her best attempts at hiding her emotions, we see that she eventually caves and lashes out at Rei, but she’s really just angry with herself.

Despite her unpleasant personality, Asuka is my favorite character of the series because of her complexity.

Eva Unit 01 from the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion
Eva Unit 01

End of Evangelion

Due to falling behind schedule, the final two episodes of NGE are apparently much worse quality than the rest of the series and so a year after the completion of the series, the movie End of Evangelion was released.

End of Evangelion is an alternate ending which is apparently closer to the original ending the series was supposed to have before it fell behind schedule and changes had to be made. However, it’s a very strange ending that has spawned a large amount of fan theories.

The End of Evangelion movie was also more sexualized and violent than the series, but that could in part be due to it not being made for TV broadcast and so they were allowed to make it as they originally envisioned. Either way, it had a slightly different feeling than the series.

The first half of the movie was good and had a lot of action, but it’s really the second half that I have the most to say about. However, before getting to the second half, the movie ends.

That’s right, around 45 minutes into the hour and a half long movie, it says “to be continued” and then plays through an entire credit roll before starting the second half of the movie. It’s like they made two 45 minute short films and stuck them together without editing out the credits in between.

The final 30 minutes or so of the movie are where it gets really weird though. So weird that after watching it, while I followed what happened, I don’t know what I watched. I understand the ending, but I don’t know how to describe it because it’s so different from anything else, ever.

I’m not even sure if I can call it a real ending. It just kind of happens, if that makes any sense whatsoever.

A quick summary of the ending is this: (spoilers incoming) the world ends because all the different warring factions wanted it to end, but for different reasons. Everyone dies and becomes one, but then Shinji decides everyone sucks so he’s going to go back to being alone on Earth.

He then wakes up to find Asuka also back on Earth with him, and nobody else (sounds like hell, being alone with Asuka forever). He then attempts to strangle her, and she touches his face, while expressionless herself; there are a lot of theories about this scene.

The theory I find most compelling is that by strangling her he’s testing to see if he’s back in the real world. If the world he’s in is still the perfect dream world, then Asuka will die without fighting back. If she fights back, he’s back in the real world. However, she does neither and so Shinji doesn’t quite know how to react.

Conclusion

It’s said that everyone needs to watch NGE so they can form an opinion on it and that you’ll either love or hate it. Going in, I was expecting this series to be pretty average, but I ended up liking it much more than I ever expected.

While I know people who aren’t fans of NGE, I really don’t see any reason to dislike it other than the ending of End of Evangelion because up until that point it’s just a great mecha series which explores some dark themes. End of Evangelion is where it got weird.

That said, I gave the series an 8/10 and the movie a 7/10. I really think that if the movie had an ending that had anything to do with the rest of the series it would have been an 8 or possibly even a 9. The military raid on NERV’s headquarters was cool, but it’s overshadowed by the mess that is the ending.

The OP for Neon Genesis Evangelion can be found here.

Loading Likes...

Leave a Comment

Bitnami