There are some animes out there that redefine whole genres, and there are some animes that revolutionize anime itself. Neon Genesis Evangelion is one such anime. It is an anime that has achieved legendary status among fans of different genres. The anime was produced by studio Gainax and directed by Hideaki Anno from 1995 to 1996.
Since its initial release, Neon Genesis Evangelion has managed to become one of the most iconic and influential anime series out there, generating a huge number of merchandise and collaborations even today.
Neon Genesis Evangelion, on the surface, is a story about humanity’s struggle for survival against mysterious beings called “Angels” the anime follows the life of a 14-year-old boy named Shinji Ikari, who is recruited by his estranged father to pilot big robots called “Eva” in order to defend humanity from the threat of angels.
However, Neon Genesis Evangelion is nothing like mecha animes. While mecha animes mostly focus on the action and are mostly driven by the plot, Evangelion does non of that.
Neon Genesis Evangelion explores the psyches and conditions of its characters and also delves into themes like the nature of consciousness, the importance of human connection, and affection. As the series progresses, the plot becomes more complex and philosophical, eventually challenging viewers to make assumptions about the world of Evangelion.
It is this complex yet engaging nature of Neon Genesis Evangelion’s story that has allowed it to gain a dedicated following big enough to rival whole new animes. Currently, Neon Genesis Evangelion has a 26-episode series along with a movie that came out in 1997 as well as 4 more “rebuild” movies that came out during the 2000s.
So, we have written this review in order to help you decide whether you should actually watch Neon Genesis Evangelion or not. This review mainly goes over the main 1995 animated series and may have some minor spoilers.
The anime starts off with the introduction of our main protagonist Shinji Ikari entering a new city in search of a person. After failing to contact this person, Shinji contemplates searching for shelter. While contemplating, Shinji sees an image of a girl staring at him from the middle of the road, only for her to disappear the next moment.
Soon after, sirens and jets are heard, along with the appearance of a giant bipedal organism, later confirmed as an angel. Forces of the United Nations are shown engaging this angel with little to no avail as all their attacks, and weapons get negated by the angel.
Shinji is then picked up and escorted to NERV headquarters by Katsuragi Misato, the person he is looking for. At first, both Misato and Shinji are oblivious to the reason behind escorting Shinji to the headquarters.
Soon UN forces allow Gendo Ikari, Shinji’s estranged father, to deal with the angel after their own forces failed to do so. Gendo then expresses his confidence about handling the threat of the angel, and soon it is revealed why.
Shinji is later escorted to a big room that houses one of the only hopes of humanity, a huge humanoid mecha called “Eva,” that is supposed to help humanity fight against angels. But unfortunately, Unit 01, the Eva in question, lacks a pilot.
It is then revealed that Gendo ordered Shinji to be escorted to the NERV headquarters to act as the pilot for Eva Unit 01. Shinji then lashes out at his father because of the fact that his father contacts him years only because he needs him for some work, all while refusing to pilot Unit 01.
Gendo then tries to manipulate Shinji by bringing in an injured pilot named Rei, claiming that she’ll have to pilot Unit 01 instead of Shinji. Due to the still ongoing attack of the angel, a beam collapses right above Shinji, but he’s saved by Unit 01, who somehow moves even though Evas shouldn’t be able to move without their plugs attached to them.
This peculiar occurrence, coupled with Shinji’s desire to help Rei, compels him to pilot the Eva. Shinji, though young and inexperienced, manages to activate Unit 01 with the help of Misato and the NERV support team.
After a short time, Unit 01 and the angel clash together. The battle proves to be difficult and too much of a burden for Shinji as he passes out shortly after Unit 01 sustains huge damage from the angel.
The episode then cuts to Shinji waking up in a hospital bed with hazy memories of his battle with the angel, unsure as to how he is alive. Later in the episode, it is revealed that Shinji did pass out, the NERV team then tried to rescue Shinji, but Unit 01 had gone berserk.
The angel was defeated rather swiftly by a berserk Unit 01, which had even managed to regenerate and heal all its injuries that were inflicted by the angel.
Evangelion is a really complex story with multiple plots moving at the same time. The anime is filled to the brim with religious imagery and references like the “Dead Sea Scrolls” or “Adam and Eve.” It is a story that will need hours and hours of reading and research in order to actually understand the plot to its fullest.
Neon Genesis Evangelion Review:
Neon Genesis is a revolutionary title that came out in 1995, written by Hideaki Anno and animated by studio Gainax. Neon Genesis Evangelion is an anime that delves into ideas far beyond anything that a mecha anime should be delving into.
It is a convoluted story containing cryptic religious imagery, pseudo-scientific jargon, and hidden conspiracies. Amongst the most complex parts of the show are the emotions of its characters, and at the center of this complexity are three damned teenagers who are also Eva pilots, Shinji, Asuka, and Rei.
All three of the Eva pilots are missing a part of themselves, and this is the only thing that makes them capable of piloting an Eva.
In the beginning part of Neon Genesis, Evangelion makes use of typical mecha machine vs. alien fights while subtly hinting at something messed up going on behind the scenes, indicated by the berserk Eva unit and the biological features of Eva.
The plot of Neon Genesis Evangelion is thick, and it’s chock-full of interesting stuff like the dead sea scrolls, biblical imagery, and mentions of entities like Adam and Lilith.
Neon Genesis Evangelion manages to put all this stuff in their anime while also being a story that tackles the themes of trauma, the need for love, humanity, hope, and self-acceptance. And it manages to do all this in an anti-escapist manner.
The characters are well-written and fleshed out, and each of them has unique motivations, trauma, and issues that they are suffering from. Above all else, this anime explores the depths of the human psyche and the state of depression like no other anime in its time ever did. That is why this series is so critically acclaimed and loved.
The animation of Neon Genesis Evangelion is good compared to other animes that came during the 1990s. Overall, the anime is phenomenal. The soundtrack and the OP are amazing. The design of the Evas are unique and are really unique.
The rebuild movies expand upon an already solid foundation by making use of new technologies to give new life to Neon Genesis Evangelion. The last rebuild movie Evangelion 3.0+1.0 was released in 2021, marking the end of the franchise as a whole.
Neon Genesis Evangelion Review: Short-Comings
Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the most influential anime series out there. The sheer number of merch and collaborations birthed by this franchise overshadow every other mainstream anime.
Still, every anime has its shortcomings. There are mentions of multiple plot devices like the previously mentioned dead sea scroll and all the other religious symbolism, but none of them are explained with proper substance.
The focus of the show shifts midway into the series from angels vs. Evas to a more character-driven plot, exploring their inner conflicts, their past failures and fears, their insecurities, and each character’s unique way of coping with their insecurities.
Neon Genesis Evangelion telling its story in a non-escapist manner opens up ways for a unique storytelling experience while also being one of its greatest setbacks. The non-escapist story of Evangelion births great characters, but almost none of them are lovable.
This brings us to the protagonist of Evangelion, Shinji. Shinji is one of the most polarizing protagonists in almost all anime. Shinji is a 14-year-old motherless child in the post-apocalyptic world of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Abandoned by his father, he lived a meaningless life in search of someone or something that might give him meaning.
Due to this kind of life, he developed many issues. Which are prevalent throughout the series as he thinks about Misato and Asuka.
This is where the non-escapism of Neon Genesis Evangelion comes in. In a normal story, the protagonist would’ve gone through many experiences which would’ve contributed towards the growth of the protagonist, but Shinji stays the same all throughout the series of Neon Genesis Evangelion.
This is one of the biggest letdowns of Evangelion. There is almost little to no development in Shinji, paired with his questionable ways of dealing with trauma makes for a really divisive character. One-half of Evangelion fans commend Shinji for being an accurate representation of a normal 14-year-old kid who would suddenly need to shoulder the burden of saving the whole world.
While the other half hates Shinji with a burning passion for being an annoying character in general, the lore of Neon Genesis Evangelion itself is a mess, and the anime explains almost nothing. There are three ending to Neon Genesis Evangelion one in the original animated series, one in the 1997 movie End Of Evangelion, and another in the rebuilt movies. And all of these endings are actually canon.
The sheer amount of research needed to understand the lore of Evangelion is something every anime fan should consider if they are thinking about getting into Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Neon Genesis Evangelion Review: Our Final Verdict
Neon Genesis Evangelion is not for everyone, even though it is one of the most critically acclaimed animes ever. There are many plot points introduced, but almost none of them are properly explained. The plot is convoluted, and the main protagonist himself is really annoying.
If you are a fan of the mecha genre alone and also want to watch something that’s a bit deep and philosophical and is ok with gore, then you should try Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Our Rating: ⭐ (4.7/5).
Also read: Neon Genesis Evangelion Watch Order & Guide