Asuka ready to lay the smackdown!
Neon Genesis Evangelion, a.k.a. Shinseiki Evangelion
Format: 26 episodes
Dates: 10/4/1995 to 3/28/1996
Shinji is a lonely fourteen-year-old child with a dark history; his mother died under mysterious circumstances, and his father basically orphaned him to work for a top-secret government project. One day, a terror from outer space wreaks havoc upon Japan, necessitating Shinji's assistance in his father's project. The project is the creation of the Eva units, large mecha created to combat the Angels, and can only be piloted by fourteen-year old children. Pilot is the wrong term; the Eva units require the children as hosts! Is Shinji the savior of the earth? And if he is, at what expense? - summary
Highs: Mecha design; well-choreographed action scenes; strong character analysis and religious symbolism will delight some
Lows: Project goes overbudget and it shows; story bogs down in the middle; strong character analysis and religious symbolism will confuse many
This series (and the movies, which replace the last two episodes due to public outrage) is a fan favorite, and with good reason; few anime delve as deep into the psyche of its characters and offer religious overtones by the bucketful.
Those looking to watch this just for the mecha will be pleased initially, but bored the rest of the time. It takes someone with a working knowledge of Christianity and an appetite for psychology to fully appreciate this anime for all it's worth.
While we aren't probing deep into the confused minds of fourteen-year old children, we are spectator to some wonderful action sequences as the Eva pilots protect the earth from the Angels. I'm reluctant to say, however, that this is reminiscent of the "Monster of the Week" theme that permeates Sailor Moon and the Power Rangers. This, and the fact that Gainax went overbudget about halfway through the series and thus used an extensive amount of stills, seemed to dull the story and make it feel uneven.
One aspect that I find missing in most action-based anime is that every gesture, every word, every scene gives some weight to the story. Though the meaning of each may fly over your head the first time, it'll dawn on you by the end of the series. The best way to describe this anime is as a character study, a Sunday school lesson, and a thriller all rolled into one complicated mass. Anime fans should watch this if only because you'll be hard-pressed to find another as introspective.
Highs: Quiet moments; battle scenes; decent enough music
Lows: The characters; convenient symbolism; awkward science fiction
A titanic and compelling show. The most controversial series ever made. The greatest anime of all time. These are just some of the things you will hear if you mention Evangelion. Of course, like most hype, the accolades are farfetched.
Evangelion was an anime created by a thoughtful anime otaku who enjoyed his days spent watching Mazinger Z and Macross. This can be seen rather vividly in the show's violently spectacular battles. It is hard not to find glee in watching Nagai Go-inspired monsters and robots bite into each other. This, coupled with some rather impressive music, makes for an old-school mecha fan's dream. In a sort of contrast, the other impressive moments were all those little, quiet scenes; these scenes without dialogue hold the most weight. Unfortunately, this series is littered with so much techno-babble that the viewer becomes detached from what is really happening on-screen. I could care less about "Angels" and "Third Impacts" if there are no meaning to them. The script itself comes from the same "hmm"-inducing nature as a Tomino Yoshiyuki story (the traumatized teens should be a dead ringer for that) but leaves the viewers with more angry faces than widened eyes.
Though it has been the point of discussion for years, the symbolism holds very little water to the story. Most of it seems like it was placed in because it sounded cool but are vague descriptions due to laziness in the screenwriter's progressive thought. Same goes with the characters. I won't lie when I say that these characters are boring. There is very little given that makes me want to follow their journeys or listen to their stories. And by the end, I could have cared less if they made it or not.
In the end though, Evangelion is not a terrible series. Different groups of people may or may not find something enjoyable about it. So, to answer the questions everyone has: is Evangelion a series worth seeing? Yes. Is it a series that should be placed on a pedestal above other anime? Not at all.
Highs: Intense action; fitting music; some good early episodes
Lows: Goes horrifically overbudget; overly symbolic; one-dimensional
characters; convoluted finale
Ah, Evangelion. Arguably one of the most polarizing and controversial
anime series ever made. Thousands love it, while just as many loathe
it. Virtually anyone who considers themselves a fan of anime has at
least heard of this beast. With that said, a series with this much
hype is bound to fail on a few occasions, and this anime is no
The story starts off nicely enough, albeit with an "Angel of the Week"
feel to it at first. Some rather interesting concepts are thrown into
the picture, and some of the characters seem genuinely flawled at
first. Sadly, nothing is done to change anything once the
introductions are done. Much of the main cast is shown to have little
to no depth outside of their given characteristics. There is very
little growth in their personalities as they remain set in their ways
through the majority of the series. It's very difficult to care about
whether someone is fine or not when I can't connect with the cast on
virtually any level. This is especially apparent in Shinji, who
single-handedly vaulted himself to the top of my "Infuriating Main
Character" list. I understand how he became the way he is, and on a
small scale I can sympathize. However, when absolutely nothing is done
to try and break from the seemingly endless cycle of misery and
self-pity, it grinds against my patience rather quickly.
Along the way, the viewer is barraged with various pieces of symbolism
that run the spectrum of religion to Freud and everything in-between.
Some of these pieces fit the mold when used, but it is then beaten
into the ground over and over again to the point where it loses its
meaning and becomes nothing more than an overly used plot device. It
wasn't always this way. This symbolic overdose didn't become too much
of a problem until the second half of the series (Episode 16 to be
exact). That's when the psycho-analysis side of Evangelion takes the
reigns and never lets go. Oddly enough, it was right about that same
time that the series began to show that it blatantly went overbudget
in typical Gainax fashion. Reused animation sequences and still shots
become an all too common occurance in a hurry. Using these devices in
moderation to save a bit of money is quite all right, but Evangelion
takes this to a whole new level and does so shamelessly. You know
you're strapped for cash when you use a still for nearly 80 seconds to
begin an episode. Several other series have been able to take such a
shortcoming and make it work (His and Her Circumstances is a prime
example...moslty), but Evangelion does nothing to try and hide it.
Everything comes to a head in the last two episodes, which culminates
the series' spiral into a Freudian mess of stills, reused animation,
and more psychological jargon than you can shake a stick at. In the
end, we are not given a concrete conclusion to the first 24 episodes.
Rather, we are given a psychological epiphany. Some love it, many hate
it. You can safely put me in the latter category.
Despite the shortfalls, there's just as much to actually enjoy about
this series. If you want action, then you've come to the right place.
The battles within this series are among some of the most creative
ones that I've ever seen. There is plenty of excellent choreography in
these fights which helps keep things fresh on the battlefield.
Violence junkies will take great pleasure in watching several of these
battles, especially later on when this series takes a decidedly
darker, more morbid turn. These fights are made even more engrossing
by the sheer imagination that the staff had in designing and creating
not only the angels but the evangelion units themselves.The near
demonic designs of the mecha are simply impressive and nothing short
of memorable. These designs are far from your typical mecha series,
that's for certain. Complementing the battles, and the non-combat
scenes as well, is a fitting and generally wonderful soundtrack
composed by Shiro Sagisu. Battles are accompanied by fittingly
sweeping and driving pieces, while quieter and more subtle scenes are
further enhanced with soft piano pieces or a light string
accompaniment. I also must make a mention of the use of Frank
Sinatra's "Fly Me To The Moon" as not only a music theme by Sagisu,
but also as the end theme for this series. While I will say that there
were about ten variations too many, Claire's vocals are simply
stunning when they're heard.
Few anime have been able to be as long standing and influential as
Neon Genesis Evangelion. With several manga and movie sequels,
including an ongoing "Rebuild", it is doubtful that this franchise
will ever lose its popularity or steam in the near future. It beats me
as to why it's so popular, but to each their own, I suppose.
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