“Neon Genesis Evangelion” is one of the most iconic anime series of all time. A massive success during its initial release in Japan in 1995, it still remains one of the most popular anime franchises. The show tells the story of Shinji Ikari, a teenage boy who pilots the robot Eva Unit 01 to protect Tokyo-3 from behemoths in the ‘futuristic’ year 2015. With a run-of-the-mill science fiction set up, the show goes much deeper than it appears at first glance. Here is a compilation of the top ten reasons you should watch “Neon Genesis Evangelion.”
10. The creator
Hideaki Anno is one of the most well-known Japanese animators and directors, having started his career with the world-renowned Studio Ghibli. He has a signature style of surreal and conventional storytelling. “Neon Genesis Evangelion” has been his main work of passion for over 25 years, and its iconic status makes it stand out.
9. Deconstructs of a genre
Having teen characters pilot giant robots to save the world has been a staple of Japanese animation for decades. Part of what made the anime so influential is how it flipped common tropes within the “mecha” anime genre. Rather than being a power fantasy, piloting the giant robots in “Neon Genesis Evangelion” is a horrific experience. The young characters are put in situations in which they see mass destruction and must cope with their own struggles because of that. Anno took a typical anime like “Gundam” and made the characters respond realistically to the circumstances they’d be under.
8. The complex characters
Shinji, Asuka and Rei are the three main characters, and their dynamic drives the emotional core of the story. They are written as flawed and realistic adolescents, a far cry from what you would expect from a typical science fiction anime. The main character’s complexity is perfectly matched by the deeply troubled adult characters of the show. Shinji in particular has the most development as he gradually goes on a journey of self-actualization.
7. The visuals and art style
The entire series simply has gorgeous animation. It represents some of the best-looking traditional hand-drawn animation ever put on television. Saturated and vibrant colors perfectly contrast the darker and heavy themes lying beneath the surface. It balances fast-paced fluid action with moments of slow beauty, some of which are sure to be ingrained in your memory. The robots themselves, the Evas, exude cool, and the purple and green Eva-01 amidst the backdrop of Tokyo-3 is a sight to behold.
6. The themes
During the original production, Anno suffered through severe depression and addiction. Through that pain, he explored many psychological and spiritual themes in “Neon Genesis Evangelion.” All the characters must overcome some part of their own psychological trauma, from Shinji’s complicated relationship with his father and mother and Misato’s survivor’s guilt and reckless decisions to Rei’s journey to define what it means to be human. The story as a whole is also steeped in biblical symbolism, as the giants, robots and monsters they fight are meant to represent various figures in Christianity.
5. Surprisingly uplifting message
Shinji, the show’s protagonist, struggles with depression and loneliness throughout the series. Battling giant monsters in a mech suit, while feeling alienated from the people around him and ignored by his father, does nothing to help his mental state as the show progresses. “The End of Evangelion,” the cinematic conclusion to the show, gets very bleak and downright weird with the way things play out, but both “The End of Evangelion” and the original 26th episode ending are much more nuanced. This anime is a story about coming to terms with existence, opening yourself up to others and caring for those around you, ultimately allowing others to do the same.
4. Amazing opening and soundtrack
The theme song is bound to get stuck in your head, and in the case of “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” it’s not a bad thing. Catchy, dramatic and iconic, “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis” stands out as one of the best theme songs, the “Skip Intro” button on Netflix be damned. Paired with an iconic animation, the opening stands out as one of the most recognizable of all time, and for good reason. The soundtrack itself is also outstanding. Tense and energetic during big battle sequences, and chilling and unsettling during the more introspective moments, the music matches the show perfectly.
3. It’s finally accessible
Netflix is home to a collection of some of the best animated shows, and as of 2019, it houses yet another thanks to its redub and inclusion of “The End of Evangelion.” Infamous for being cryptic and confusing, the show begs for certain scenes to be revisited. Now that it’s finally accessible, it’s the perfect time and place to check it out. There are in fact two endings to the series, and understanding each takes a little effort. As a first-time viewer, it was definitely a trip down a rabbit hole.
2. It’s the perfect time to catch up
When originally working on “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” Anno and his team grappled with a limited time schedule. While he was happy with the original product, he decided to make a new adaptation, free from budgetary and time constraints. Overindulgent at times but still fantastically animated, four films known as “Rebuild of Evangelion,” an altered retelling of the series, were created by Anno. With “Evangelion 3.0+1.0,” the fourth film in the series, finally being released in 2021, long-time fans will finally get closure to the series as a whole, and for new fans, it’s the perfect time to start with the original.
1. It’s engaging even for non-anime fans
The aesthetic, nonlinear narrative and the unconventional, sometimes surreal, approach stands out even for those who were never anime fans to begin with. As someone who started out with Miyazaki’s works last year, Anno’s devotion to real human emotions in a fantasy setting echoes the Miyazaki method, all while giving Anno’s own twist. The show as a whole was made as a response to anime fans who overindulge in escapism, often ignoring the real world and their problems as a result. In the same vein, anyone who watches “Neon Genesis Evangelion” is sure to take away at least something valuable.