Neon Genesis Evangelion

Creator: Hideaki Anno
Producer: Gainax
Runtime: 1995-96
Episodes: 26 (+2 special episodes)
Rating: R

This is a review of both the series, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and the finale movie, End of Evangelion.

Neon Genesis Evangelion has on numerous occasions been deemed the greatest anime of all time. Evangelion not only breathed life into the mecha subgenre of anime, but added in psychological theory, religious dogma, and post-apocalyptic fantasy to create a new anime form all its own. For these reasons, Evangelion is deserving of its place among the greats, but like most groundbreaking shows, the series suffers from certain setbacks that are perhaps to be expected when one ventures into the unknown.

It is the year 2015. In 2000 an event called "Second Impact" occurred which resulted in the death of half of the world's population. In this new world the organization NERV operates biomechanical creatures called Evas to defend what remains of humanity from giant entities known as Angels. Fourteen year olds, born 9 months after "Second Impact," are necessary to pilot the Evas. One of these children, Shinji Ikari, has just been recruited to pilot Eva Unit 1. Alongside the other Eva pilots and his companions at NERV, Shinji will fight to prevent humanity's extinction while facing the demons within his own soul.

Evangelion is, first and foremost, psychological. The vast majority of each episode (at least until the last 1/3 or so of the series) is spent on character development, focused on delving into their psyches and understanding what it is that makes them tick (and what it is that makes them eventually snap). Nothing more could be asked from an anime as far as character development goes: these are highly dynamic, complicated individuals that, for many viewers, will probably touch too close to home for comfort. It is through the analyses of these characters that Evangelion eventually forces the viewer to analyze his own psyche. The series ends with a powerful moral/psychological lesson for anyone who has also felt alone and a lack of self worth. This is the teen angst anime, but given that these problems can plague one throughout life, it can have meaning for viewers of various ages.

Evangelion's plot is highly original and well-executed, but it becomes clear that things are too complex and the budget too tight to resolve everything within so few episodes. The broad, overarching plot elements are ultimately resolved, but the viewer is left with numerous important questions (for instance, not nearly enough explanation is given regarding the prophecies). Many of these are answered in one liners from characters, but the resolution is generally not enough. The apocalyptic plot suffers for the sake of the psychological plot; nowhere is this more apparent than in episodes 25 and 26, which, for lack of a sufficient budget among other reasons, focus solely on the mental events happening in the mind of Shinji and tell us virtually nothing about how things are resolved in the external world. Fortunately episodes 25' and 26' (those created after the series and released as the movie, "End of Evangelion") do provide this external world ending, but even these feel rushed and are packed with insufficient explanations. It is in this respect that many have walked away from Evangelion feeling like they have been led on a wild goose chase: there is an overwhelming complexity to the show but a lack of planning and failure in execution toward the end. Perhaps it is for this reason that the Evangelion enterprise lives on in new movies such as Evangelion 1.0: You are (Not) Alone; the original Evangelion project simply lacks coherence and completeness. However, the credit due to End of Evangelion cannot be stressed enough. The film may not completely conclude the series, but it brings light to many issues.

Evangelion's animation is top notch, especially given its age. There is a significant level of detail (especially in the scenery and for the Evas) and the quality is movie-like throughout. The show employs a variety of anime styles to capture different feels (e.g., mental events within a character's head) and the Eva-Angel battles are typically not repetitive. Simply put, this is probably the best animation (short of Miyazaki films) of its time period. Evangelion's soundtrack is a masterpiece that does a superb job of capturing feelings of both suspense/action, e.g., Eva 00 and fear/eeriness, e.g., Marking Time Waiting for Death. The ending song, Fly Me to the Moon, while not a creation of the show, is a perfect selection for the series and the later remixes are very well done. The weakness of the OST stems primarily from the nature of the show itself: this isn't a particularly deep or beautiful soundtrack. It is the soundtrack for a mecha anime; it fits the show well, but it's probably not something you'll want to listen to apart from the show. The voice cast, both Japanese and English, is very good and each character is both unique and well-fitted to his voice.

Evangelion is tough to review. Many love it from start to finish, and even those that don't love it typically criticize only its somewhat failed ending. Either way, this is a very powerful series that reaches a level of complexity rarely matched in other anime. One must see Evangelion. Whether he will walk away believing it to be possibly the greatest anime ever made will likely depend on how well he can relate to the characters and their psychological issues. For many, Evangelion speaks to them. For others like myself, Evangelion has done something truly remarkable in its psychological aspect but has failed to provide a coherent, complete, well-executed anime due to the lack of attention given to aspects of the apocalyptic plot. A lot of interesting things are done with Evangelion, but it's not a perfect package.

Story: 8.5
Animation: 9.1
Sound: 8.1

Overall Score: 8.5 (Excellent)

Download Dual Audio (English/Japanese) Episodes

1 - Angel Attack
2 - The Beast
3 - A Transfer
4 - Hedgehog's Dilemma
5 - Rei I
6 - Rei II
7 - A Human Work
8 - Asuka Strikes!
9 - Both of You, Dance Like You Want to Win!
10 - Magmadiver
11 - The Day Tokyo-3 Stood Still
12 - She said, "Don't make others suffer for you personal hatred"
13 - Lilliputian Hitcher
14 - Weaving a Story
15 - "Those women longed for the touch of others' lips, and thus invited their kisses."
16 - Splitting of the Breast
17 - Fourth Children
18 - Ambivalence
19 - Introjection
20 - Weaving a Story 2: Oral Stage
21 - He Was Aware That he Was Still a Child
22 - Don't Be
23 - Rei III
24 - The Beginning and the End, or "Knockin' on heaven's door"
25 - Do You Love Me?
26 - Take Care of Yourself

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