Anime Realm #4: Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon_Genesis_Evangelion_TV_Series-672348474-largeIn any medium, there are works that come out that will always influence and impress generations to come; they could be called iconic and legendary for many different reasons. Neon Genesis Evangelion has been put on the anime pedestal for twenty years now and with this, does it still hold up to the anime standards of today?

Evangelion takes place in an alternate 2015 where humanity is under constant attack from aliens known as Angels, and the only way to fight them is using giant robots known as EVAs, piloted by fourteen year olds. Unknown to practically everyone else is a secret society that plans to bring out the new stage of human evolution, and here the plot only gets more complex.

There are many characters in Evangelion worth talking about but I’ll only talk about the main three EVA pilots in this review. First, we have our tortured main protagonist, Shinji Ikari, who is the pilot for EVA Unit o1. Because life hasn’t been kind to Shinji, he’s introverted, whiny and suffers from many psychological issues. Usually this would lead to a character becoming more confident and heroic, but Shinji just serves as an introduction to a whole cast of characters that are messed up in their own unique ways.

Next, we have Rei Ayanami who is hard to talk about because for most of the series, she is a complete mystery. All we know is that she is the pilot for Unit 00 and she has an attachment to Shinji’s father. Rei is the emotionless character in the anime, yet the irony of this is that she was meant to show how creepy it would be in reality. Instead, Rei has become a character archetype; many characters in anime since have been written much like her.

Lastly, there’s Asuka who is so different from Shinji whilst she suffers from the same problems as him. She’s incredibly outgoing, feisty, temperamental and has an elitist attitude — sometimes to an annoying extent — but this is all to cover her anxieties. Her problems become much more apparent later on in the series as she continues to need praise from people, desperate for her self-worth not to decline. Asuka is the sanest of the three pilots but again, this is Evangelion which isn’t saying much.

The story of Evangelion is amazing but because it’s been put on such a high pedestal, those who are introduced to it with that hype are going to be disappointed. Looking beyond that, it is important to take it at face value and remember that this anime was aired back in 1995. At first, the episodes usually contain a fight between the EVAs and the Angels, of course with the Angels being defeated and the next episode repeating the cycle. However, as the series goes on, the mecha anime tropes start to fade, much like how the characters’ mental conditions fall apart in correlation, and the series starts focusing on the real gripping part of the anime: the characters.

One of the massive problems with Evangelion is the terrible ending. It’s a well known fact that money ran short during production. As a result, the last two episodes lack quality animation, bringing the series to an unsatisfying end. Whilst it could be argued that this was meant to be cryptic and symbolic, surely the ending wouldn’t have been remade twice if this was true.

Having said that, while the financial problems became more apparent after each episode, the animation certainly holds up when it comes to the battle scenes. These scenes are some of the best and remain better than some anime battle scenes twenty years later.

The dub for Evangelion is good but in the first few episodes, it’s quite clear that the actors had some trouble finding their way with the characters. Here, some lines are simply dire. Thankfully, the dub improves over the course of the show. In contrast, the soundtrack is perfect from start to finish; tracks like Decisive Battle, Fly Me to the Moon and the opening theme Cruel Angel’s Thesis are classic and instantly memorable.

Evangelion has become an absolute classic. The influence and popularity in anime is unmatched at this point. Anime fans who have gone this far without watching Evangelion must see it; it’s far too culturally important to ignore.

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