Neon Genesis Evangelion or Evangelion aired in 1995 and became a massive hit upon its release. It is regarded as one of the best anime ever made and is a point of discussion even after 25 years of its release.
Evangelion was directed by Hideaki Anno and produced by studio Gainax. Hideaki Anno started his career while working under Legendary Hayao Miyazaki in the early Ghibli movie Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Studio Gainax though now inactive has produced great works like Gurren Lagann, Royal Space force, Nadia, and Fooly Cooly.
Evangelion takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting, where most of the life is destroyed, and what’s left of it are living inside giant underground cities. When cities are attacked by giant monstrous beings also known as angels, it is up to our leads to protect humanity. Our lead characters Shinji, Asuka, and Rei are teenagers who pilot giant bio-mechanical robots to fight against angels. This whole operation is conducted by a shady organization known as Nerv. The whole story revolves around our leads fighting against angels and Nerv secretly trying to execute a top-secret Human Instrumentality Program.
Our lead Shinji is a depressed teen who has abandonment issues. He lives with Misato, who even though an adult, struggles to leave her past behind. Our other lead Asuka who from the outside is confident and hot-headed but inside has insecurities and is struggling to prove herself. On the other hand, our lead Rei shows no emotions at the start but we find sparks of personality inside her.
What makes Evangelion special is how grounded the characters are. Every character gets its chance to play a central role. Every character is imperfect and broken in some regard. Most of the drama comes from this broken cast trying to fix problems and situations around them.
The psychological horror
On the surface, Evangelion looks like some generic mecha show where kids pilot giant robots but inside it’s a psychological horror, that can be depressing to watch. It opens its audience to the self-doubt, insecurities, and pain of its leads which a lot of time feels personal and relatable. The fights can be gruesome and bloody but that’s not the scariest part, instead of giving hope to its leads, it double-downs on the feeling of depression and throws them into the darkness. Evangelion is more of a character study than a mecha show.
Quality and Impact
Even though the show is more than 25 years old at this point, it still looks good. The animation is slick and the robots have a weight to them. Its cinematography is still discussed today. It has a lot of long-held shots, which creates a unique sense of immersion and also keeps the show grounded. Creators have included a lot of similar recurring shots to create a sense of poetry in the show.
The show originated various tropes and character stereotypes and has an impact on the anime industry overall. We are still seeing the imitation of its formula, not only in anime but also in Hollywood. Pacific Rim is one example of where a similar formula is used in a live-action movie. Not only sci-fi but we see similar characters and situations in other anime also. Evangelion has a big cultural impact, not only in Japan but worldwide. We see it in video games, figures and people are making giant statues of its mechs.
The end of Evangelion
The original ending is more abstract and introspective. Unlike the whole show which was more dark and flashy, the ending used a more blank and abstract art style. The original ending was more about opening up and finding hope in life. Though the original ending found a lot of support some people didn’t like it.
There was a backlash from a lot of fans and both studio and director received hate letters and even death threats. In response to that, the studio decided to rework the ending. The new ending was flashy with an amazing, great soundtrack and a lot of action, but in a lot of ways, it was a dark ending.
People relate with one ending or another but both are worth watching.
Rebuild of Evangelion
Later director Hideaki Anno decided to separate from Gainax and created studio Khara and decided to redo the whole series also known as Rebuild of Evangelion. The first film in the Rebuild titled “Evangelion: 1.0 you are (not) alone” was released in 2007 and retold a part story without much diverging from the original run. With the second movie “Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance” the director slowly diverged from the original. By the time the third movie “Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo” was released, the whole story was flipped.
The fourth movie “Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon A Time” was released this march and has become a smashing hit in Japan. It has become Hideaki Anno’s highest-grossing movie.
Evangelion is one of the most influential and amazing anime ever made. It is still a topic of discussion among its fans and has a major impact on the anime industry as we know it. It’s a true gem and a must-watch for any anime fan.