Anime Discovery #7: Neon Genesis Evangelion

(Author’s Note: Man, I have a lot to work with. No, seriously, this is the hardest anime I ever had to review or try to analyze in a way due to most of its many themes of psych analogy, mental illnesses and emotional problems and yes, this is that anime.)

What anime should I start with in the new year?

 

 

This is Neon Genesis Evangelion.

 

From the earlier days of famed anime studio, Gainax (creators of later works as FLCL & Gurren Lagann), Neon Genesis Evangelion centers around efforts of NERV, the paramilitary organization to fight the monstrous outer beings called Angels by using giant mechas called Evangelions, which are being piloted by select teenagers, which I really do not get. Why you select teenagers to fight these Angels? I get that people who are 18 or up can have permission to fight overseas but then again, with me being in the Western part of the world, there are different standards and traditions around the world after all but like a crime procedural, there are about 16 (well, 17) angels to battle in most of the episodes and it’s kind of the monster-of-the-week show while we get into more of the character development, and speaking of the characters……….

 

 

The cast of Neon Genesis Evangelion as depicte...
The cast of Neon Genesis Evangelion as depicted on the Japanese “Genesis” (volume) 14 LD and VHS cover. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The likability of the characters in the show averages to “they are decent characters” and “somebody, please, slap one of them”. Meet Shinji Ikari, the main character (or the Third Child) and pilot of the EVA Unit 01, although it’s not like he wanted the job, his father Gendo Ikari forces him to do it. Yeah, Shinji was some major daddy issues considering that he was abandoned as a toddler and a motherless child. I wanted to think that there were some similarities between him and Tidus from Final Fantasy X, but Shinji wasn’t that annoying, although if I hear, “I mustn’t run away!! “I mustn’t run away!! “I mustn’t run away!!” I swear I will throttle him but this isn’t the worst phrase I heard. Shinji tries to develop himself to speak up more, be more confident, and man up but that just goes nowhere and that can become very annoying.

 

Rei Ayanamiis the First Child and the pilot of the Unit 00. Rei, to me, is a neutral character to deal with. She is an introvert and impersonal, with Gendo Ikari being the closest person she ever contacted with. However, she is, in fact, a doll as clones of her were developed in case she dies and her soul is transferred to another body. Rei is seemingly the only one who does keep her cool at a few times, but here is a few warnings for my description of the next character: If you happen to like this character, you might hate me or just respectfully disagree with me and that is………. Asuka Langley Soryu and she are the Second Child & the pilot of Unit 02 and also, my least favorite character of the show. But why is she? It is because she’s brash? No. Sometimes she can tell the harsh truth that needed to be told. It is because of her verbal abuse to everyone she meet? Mostly, but not because of Shinji, he might have had it coming. But she is just a capital B-I-T-C-H! Yes, sometimes bitchy characters who act like that for the sake of acting bitchy annoys the hell out of me and maybe she doesn’t do that all the time but with her, you just want to— you know what, I’m not like that. I don’t believe in violence against women at all and I hope that did not send you the wrong message of me.

 

Misato Katsuragi is the chief operations officer of Nerv. She is a more flawed character throughout in the later episodes and yet, this is my favorite character of the show. How she was brought up is an example; when she was 14, she has gotten seriously injured as the Second Impact was beginning. She survived the Katsuragi Expedition, but her father did not. She also plays the role of guardian for both the whining angsty little bi—I mean, Shinji & Asuka and she has a penguin!!! YAY Penguins!! Wait………a penguin……..that she keep by giving it the fridge for a room. Well, at least, she didn’t order a gaggle full of penguins (unlike a certain Mr. Jim Carrey) and the fact she gets really drunk and is a slob off-duty. Yeah, despite all of that, I still like her. Also other characters include the head scientist of Nerv, Ritsuko Akagi, who are aware of the Evangelion’s true nature, friends with Misato (but they often argue many times) and Ryoji Kaji, who is Misato’s ex and a triple agent investigating Nerv for the Japanese Government. Also there is the classmates Toji Suzuhara, Kensuke Aida & Hikari Horaki, two of the former are friends with Shinji (they aren’t that important) and the latter is Asuka’s only friend (Gee, I wonder why? Yeah, I know why. They’re both [bleep].)

 

As I explained earlier, the show has a lot of influential themes and symbolism (mainly Christian & Kabbalistic), such as philosophy, military, biological, psychology, religion, Buddhist beliefs, and the Japanese otaku subculture with creator Hideaki Anno’s own experience with clinical depression at the time.

 

Examples:

The destruction of the Second Angel caused an ...
The destruction of the Second Angel caused an explosion which was cross-shaped: one example of Christian icons being used in Evangelion. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

Nerv's logo featuring half a fig leaf;
Nerv’s logo featuring half a fig leaf; “God’s in his Heaven, all’s right with the world” is a quote from a song from Robert Browning’s Pippa Passes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many examples that some of the characters are named after Japanese WWII warships and such as the two non-important supporting characters I previously mentioned named after the protagonists of Ryu Murakami’s Ai to Genso no Fascism. Many of the characters suffer from deep psychological traumas connected to their loved ones (a la Shinji, Asuka, Misato, Ritsuko) but some of those themes and symbolism does get shoved in there, especially the final 2 episodes and mostly it gets garbled trying to understand it all and if you’re really on an intellectual level that above me, hopefully you can understand it better than me. Most of the time, the angst levels of the characters go so high, you swear you are watching an annoying teen soap. It’s not up to emo levels but Shinji is that one character who really never gets the whole situation. Well, as much as my disdain for Asuka, Shinji never even bother to improve on himself and it gets very forgetful if not.

 

After those two final episodes, that was a movie called The End of Evangelion to recreate a more detailed ending to replace it and then there is The Rebuild of Evangelion, where just the re-tooling is or completely new version of NGE. I don’t know if that is just milking the franchise so much, soon people will just grew tired and irritated and send death threats to the creator and trash the studio—Oh wait, that did happen. It may have worked on most franchises but some of them have different storylines and characters.

 

In other terms, the animation does show its age (made over 17 years ago) and great for its time and for most mecha shows, it didn’t feel that generic. The music…….Yes, I love the opening theme song “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis”, which is very energetic and the score is passable, too, with the action and dramatic themes and how many versions of “Fly Me to the Moon” are there or at least covered by many artists at the time? 31. There are thirty-one versions of that song in the franchise itself. I can’t say which one I like the most considering that there are even more versions of that song.

 

FINAL VERDICT: This is one of the most confusing, mind-boggling, intriguing, love-hating, and nerve-racking and one of those anime that you have to watch in order to understand the form of it more. The themes can be very interesting at best but it can soon sound mostly contrived. The characters are slightly average with people that you like, feel neutral about, or just loathe. The themes get rattled once you watched it. But the problem with it is that it’s just so pretentious, it wants the audience to understand the philosophical ideals but the show has a hard time trying to explain it on time. It doesn’t have to be a long explanation of clunky and disjointed dialogue but for what it does in the earlier episodes, it’s enjoyable to watch.

And this gets the final score of:

8/10 –

A Hardcore Trippy Time

Planet Tyro Rating – High Solid B.

 

NEON GENESIS EVANGELION – animation by GAINAX, distributed by AeSIR Holdings.

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