You can either A) Watch the review in Video form embedded below, or B) read the transcript of the review. THE CHOICE IS YOURS!
Set in a pre-apocalyptic alternateuniverse, the world of Evangelion is under a constant threat from “Angels”,mysterious Lovecraftian-like beings that appear,basically out of nowhere, with the intention of, as far as we know, destroying the entirety of thehuman race. So like any anime that intends to be a traditional “good vs. bad” show, the human racehas created an organization called NERV and a collection of giant robots, known asEvangelions, to fight the oncoming threat. And of course, by some unwrittenrule in anime law,all the pilots for the Evasare not highly trained professionals skilled in combat, but rather a group ofinexperienced fourteen-year-old children who mustnow save the planet or end up destroyed in a cataclysmic event known as theThird Impact. Ofcourse, unbeknownstto basically fucking everyone, there is a secret society bent on the completion of the humaninstrumentality project in order to bring about a new age of human evolution.Confused yet? Don’t worry,it gets worse.
Startingoff is the case ofShinji Ikari.Shinji is the lead protagonist of the Evangelion series and resident whinylittle bitch. Having lost his mother back before he could remember and beingheavily neglected by his father Gendo, the world seems to have taken great pleasure in beating the crap outof this poor little Japanese boy and he has never really had any purpose ormeaning in his life until his father, finally finding a use for him, calls himto NERV Headquarters in Tokyo-3 to pilot a giant robot and fight aliens for thegood of mankind. Normally this sort of development would have a character growinto a more heroic and world saving role, but of course this is Evangelion andShinji is our introduction to an entire cast of characters that are all equallyscrewed up in their own special ways. Shinji himself suffers from major psychological issues, including a massive guilt complex that makes him believe that everybad situation he has ever been involved in, regardless of his actual influenceon those situations, is entirely his fault. This gives him a self-worth comparable to mostmodern JRPG protagonists, minus the ability to occasionally have a backboneevery once in a while. He also suffers from the hedgehog's dilemma, as he isunable to form meaningful human relationships without getting emotionallydamaged by the very relationships he is attempting to form. This of coursemakes him more of a social introvert thanSatou Tatsuhiro from Welcome to theNHK, and it becomes a reoccurring theme with Shinji that instead of facing his problems and notblaming himself for everything that goes wrong, he prefers to just run the fuckaway. If only he could have actually stopped blaming himself for everything andgrown a backbone, he would have been amuch better character overall.But instead,we got what we got.
Next up is the case of Asuka Langley Soryu, a character who is so incrediblydifferent from our whiny protagonist, while suffering for almost the exact same problems. Incontrast to Shinji’s introverted-ness, Asuka is much more outgoing, even sometimes annoyinglyso, with an attitude of extreme smugness and superiority to cover up her similaranxieties. As the pilotto Evangalion Unit 02, she appears in episode 8 showing off her impressivepiloting skills and being completely bad-ass at everything Shinji seems to havedifficulties with, a fact that she continually taunts him with. Her anxietiesbegin to come to light as the show progresses, as her mental state requires herto receive continual praise from basically everything otherwise her self-worthbegins to drop down towards Shinji levels. On the whole though, between thethree main Evangelion pilots, Asuka seems to be the sanest. Well, as sane as you can getfor being a character in Evangelion anyways. Yes, she has a messed up childhood and really doesn't have the bestof experiences during the show itself, but anytime I think back on her character as a whole, I remember just her bad-ass moments of awesome, making this German vixen one of my favorite female animecharacters.
And now the case of Rei Aninami. As a character, Rei is not much to talk about without gettinginto the heavily spoilerific aspects of her character, as she, for the majority of the show,remains shrouded in mystery. We know that she is the test pilot for EvangelionUnit 00, has some sort of personal connection to Shinji’s father, Gendo Ikari, thecurrent NERV commander,and also allows people to check off funky coloured hair on your Anime Wildcard Bingo Sheet. Like seriously though, blue hair and red eyes?And no one thinks this is unusually at all? Huh. More importantly though, Rei is the iconicemotionless doll character, theirony of this being that Evangelion’s creator Hideaki Anno originally designed Rei to be someonewho existed on the wrong side of the uncanny valley, attempting to be an exampleof just how creepy and inhuman an emotionless-like doll can be. Instead though, she ended up becomingher own freaking character archetype that has since exploded and is responsiblefor a vast number of attempted clones, all with the same emotionless behaviors though with some characters getting far betterdeveloped than Reiherself. Maybe Anno shouldn't have dressed her up in a sexy skintight plugsuit, I don’t know.
The last character I’m going to talk about directly is Misato Katsuragi, the operationsdirector in charge of most of the Angel battles, as well as the mentor to theEvangelion pilots, regardless of her qualifications as an adult role model. Herpersonality allowsfor changes depending on the situation, as she is able to be calm and collectedduring a mission, but also to be more carefree when she’s off the clock. Likeeveryone else in the show,she suffers from her ownpersonal trauma, mostly stemming from being a survivor of the Second Impact, the catastrophicevent that originally introduced the Angels to the human race. This gives her psychological symptoms very similarto Shinji and Asuka, though her methods of coping far exceed theirs, allowing her to appearfar more upbeat thanmore or less any other character in the show. She is also the resident motherlyfigure for the Eva pilots, though less so for Rei, as Asuka’s parents are dead and Gendo really couldn't give two shitsabout his son. Thisseems to be one of the more admirable factors of her character, as even thoughat times she is as emotionally broken as everyone else on the show, she stillhas the sense to make sure those under her care are safe. Well, as safe as letting them fight the greatestthreat humanity has ever faced, anyways.
If I was to attempt to continue to explain all the other characters, I would be here allday, as the complete range of mental nitwits far exceeds that of what is ableto be talked about in a short review such as this. The vast number of character interactions andrelationships in the show deserve far more than just brief mentions, so I’ll let youexperience them yourself when you get to see them. But just know that they are all emotionally broken insome way, shape orform, even if they are only background characters or those with very littlerelevance to the overall plot of the show.
To say that the story ofEvangelion is amazing is like saying that Twilight sucks. The majority of the community know it to be true, though there areradical people with an opposite opinion. This is because, unfortunately, Evangelion is also subject to immense hype. Like any anime that hasbeen placed on a pedestal by some to be considered for the award of greatestanime that has ever existed, anime fans going into Evangelion for the firsttime might come out of it saying that it wasn't that great because it did notlive up to the hype created by its fans. If you can get past that though andtake it at face value as a show that originally aired in 1995, then you shouldbe fine.
The main focus of Evangelion has always been on its characters and theirdevelopment. Everycharacter presented in the show has interesting aspects that the viewer wouldlike to be explored, and the show obliges them, though usually in a fashion that raises morequestions about the characters than it answers. Although,in addition to that,Evangelion also follows a standard mech anime with a “monster of the week” type setup. A new Angel appearsand the characters comeup with a new way to defeat the threat that culminates in a quick battle scenebefore the Angelexplodes, usually in a symbolic cross-like fashion, before the episode ends and we do it all overagain next week. But as the show progresses, the usual tropes from mech anime start to deteriorate,usually in correlation with the mental health of the main characters. Plot elements getintroduced that quickly make the show change from a show like Mobile SuitGundam into a more darker representation of the genre in the same vein as Madoka Magica and, to a lesser extent, Digimon Tamers, all ofwhich being examples of shows that heavily deconstruct the genre to which theybelong. This is further proved when the show places less focus on the battlescenes between the Evasand the Angels –though they are great spectacles – and more on the real meat of the show, focusing squarely on the characters.
Normally I don’t like mentioning a show’s ending to a large enough degree that it warrants its own section of the review,but my philosophy is that the ending of any show is paramount and what Ibelieve stopped Evangelion from being truly great was its ending. It’s fairlywell known that during the latter half of the show’s production, money startedto run short. I could argue that the production staff knew about this eventualshortage from early on,otherwise we would have not had the immensely riveting scenes like one particularly boring scene in episode 4. But theflaws in production value slowly start to manifest as the show continues, withincreasing amounts of fan service and nudity being used in an attempt to keepviewers distracted from the flaws that were becoming larger and larger thecloser the show got to the end. The final two episodes is where all animation quality gets thrown out thewindow due to lack of budget and the show ends on a less than ceremonious conclusionthat, well, kind ofirked a lot of people.
Sure, a lot of people have taken theending and said that it was intentional and adds on to the show’s already existing religious symbolism, attempting to explain the complete nonsenseand mindfuckery that those episodes had to offer. But I take such thoughts witha grain of salt, as the lack of funds is a much more understandableexplanation. Besides, Hideaki Anno must have thought that the ending was bad, otherwise he would nothave had to remake it…TWICE.
This is definitely anarea in which Evangelion tended to fall harder than most. I already mentionedthe financial problems that affectedthe animation quality as the show neared to a close, though honestly when it wasn't a battle scene between the Evas and the Angels, Gainax skimped basicallyeverywhere they could. One common production shortcut that a lot of shows liketo take is restricting character movement so that only a character’s mouth is animated. Evangelion goes a stepfurther by having many scenes where the character who is speaking has theirmouth either covered, or off camera, so as to further skimp by not even having to animate themouths moving. The entire production from start to finish is a perfect exampleof what you get by doing the bare minimum the majority of the time. The only exception tothis is the aforementioned fight scenes, and in those cases, well it’s clear tosay where the majority of the budget for this show went, as those scenes in particular far exceedthe rest of the show in terms of quality.
In terms of theoverall soundtrack,Evangelion is nothing extraordinary, minus a few tracks that stand out for interesting reasons. One of my favorite songs from theentire soundtrack of the original series is a song called “Decisive Battle”. It’s usually played inthe buildup to a fight and even during the fight depending on how long thebattle lasts. Fun fact though is that this song puts Evangelion up alongsideFull Metal Panic and Big O for having a song that was heavily influenced by analready existing composition. As the song Decisive Battle from Evangelion borrows a theme from James Bond for its main battle music, but hey, imitation is thesincerest form of flattery.
The dub for Evangelion can bea little harder for people to handle than most; while overall I personally applaud theentire cast for their performances, I do admit that the actors do take theirtime settling into their roles, and there are moments early on in the show thatare wince-worthy inhow some lines are delivered.
The only other notablething as far as sound goes is the opening theme , and Evangelion’s OP gets a lot of love,appearing at the top of a lot of people’s lists for the greatest anime openingin existence. WhileI will admit it has its merits, I would never put it up that high myself. Sure, it’s a catchy song andall, but you know what else was catchy? The Black Plague. Just because it’s catchy doesn't mean it’s good. Also, if you ever have thetime, go ahead and look up the translated lyrics to the opening, then keep inmind that the entire song is about Shinji. It’ll make you laugh, well, maybe.
Considering how oldthe show is getting nowadays, it might be harder todescribe it as a modern classic, but its influence and popularity is fairlyunmatched. There isn't much more to say that hasn't been said, while avoiding spoilersin some form or another. I could have written a section on the religioussymbolism that takesplace within the show, but let’s be honest. If you’re not overly religious yourself, then the majority of this symbolism will goright over your head and have no effect in your enjoyment of this show as a whole. I willhowever give a recommendation to skip the final two episodes of the show in favor of insteadwatching the original film End of Evangelion. Of course, you are free to watch the original ending if youwish and you probably should watch it at some point just so you can understandwhat all the fuss is about when people mention it in conversation. The story continues in the film, though theending still lacks the answers you might be looking for. Also, when you do get around to buying the show – which, if you are a self-respecting anime buyer, you should –for the love of Haruhi, don’t buy thecollectors tin, because this thing is a piece of shit. You can’t even get your fingers inside topull out the DVDs.So just buy the thin pack or something, anyways.
With all that in mind, I have meticulously calculated values for the categories of Story, Characters, Animation, Sound,and my own personal enjoyment, and after having its DNA analysis confirmed blue and having Holden (From HoldenReviews on Youtube) declare “IT’S ANANGEL”, has meawarding Neon Genesis Evangelion with a score of 8.06 out of 10 and rating the showCertified Frosty, a rating reserved only for the best of the best and the show’s too important toignore. At the time of this video, the show has previously been licensed by ADVFilms, but is currently available from Section 23 Films since ADV nipped off tothe back and died. Itis also available from Madmen Entertainment,if you happen to live in Australia. For everyone else, you’reshit outta luck as it’s not even available for legal streaming at current,besides possibly Netflix or something, though hopefully someone will get onthat at some point. As far as alternate anime recommendations, I’ll be quick tomention the possible Evangelion clone RahXephon. Though if you’re wanting something a bit more upbeat, then I would highlyrecommend Gurren Lagann,as it’s a fantastic anime also done by Gainax. And lastly, since I know it’s going to be brought upin the comments, I will get around to talking about the Rebuild of Evangelionmovies whenever they all get released in English, but until then and probablyeven after, I’llstill recommend watching this original series first, as it lays a lot of the groundwork andstory that just gets cut out of the films due to a lack in running time. Sowith that, I leaveyou. Until nexttime, ladies, gentlemen, and others, stay frosty.