Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon Genesis EvangelionType: TV Series
Episode Count: 26
Genre: Sci-Fi / Psychological Drama
Vintage: 1995

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 29 Jun 2008

Grade: A+

One of the most popular and controversial series ever created; beware newbies… this is not the mecha show that you may think it is.

Plot Summary
In the year 2014 in Tokyo-3, Shinji Ikari has been summoned to the NERV organization by his father Gendo, who is in charge of its operations. NERV’s function is to protect Japan from strange beings known as Angels, the first of which was encountered 15 years ago in 1999 and led to an event known as the Second Impact, which wiped out much of the planet’s population. To do this, NERV uses giant humanoid machines called Evangelions. As Shinji is trying to find his way to NERV, the event that people have anticipated and feared for 15 years occurs… the second Angel arrives. Shinji must now be brought to NERV to pilot an Evangelion to defend Tokyo-3 against this invader.

The Review
If ever there was a series that was difficult to describe without giving away anything, Neon Genesis Evangelion is it. It is so incredibly popular that chances are that you have already seen it and have already made your own conclusions about it. This review is intended for the rare soul in anime fandom who does not know anything and everything about it. I will attempt to describe it without ruining anything for the first-time viewer.

Neon Genesis Evangelion is a series that is multi-layered, has complex characters, and is not what it first appears to be. Those looking for a mecha fix similar to Gundam will not find it here. What begins as a straightforward ‘save the world from invaders’ story soon morphs into a psychological and symbolic tale of the fate of mankind. To say much more would spoil it, so that and the plot summary above are all I’m going to describe as far as that is concerned.

In a more general sense, the series makes extensive use of imagery and ideas drawn from Western religion – Christianity to be specific – to aid in telling its story. It shows up in ways that are probably not expected by anyone who truly does not have any previous knowledge of the series. Also, these elements are not used in a religious context per se; they are used as devices important to the story that is being told within its own context.

Character study is another important part of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Every major character possesses a major personality flaw, and the events that take place test each one and push them to their limits. The story of the characters co-exists with the greater story at hand with NERV, the Evangelions, and the Angels.

So, despite all of the hype and the declarations of overratedness that exist for this series, it really is an excellent story that works on multiple levels. On top of that, it was a vehicle for director Hideaki Anno to vent some personal issues of his in an artistic manner, so Neon Genesis Evangelion was also a way for Anno to figuratively lay down on a psychologist’s couch and get some things out in the open.

Love it or hate it, Neon Genesis Evangelion may be one of the most important anime series ever created, so it’s at least worthy of consideration to be seen by anyone who is a fan of anime.

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