5 Reasons to Watch Evangelion
I like the Evangelion series. No, I should say I love it. The Evangelion series started in October of 1994. What began as a monster of the day type show (where a different enemy would be defeated weekly), audiences were quickly treated to an in depth psycho-analysis of the characters as well as a very deep, thought provoking story regarding the nature of humanity. Since it’s initial TV run, the franchise has spawned a comic adaption, video games (none of which ever saw a Stateside release), and 5 movies (with another to come in a few years). Neon Genesis Evangelion (the TV series) has remained relevant on the anime scene for nearly 20 years now. Not too many shows, even on American television can claim the same.
With the third Rebuild of Evangelion movie recently being released, (Rebuild is a series of movies that is writing a new Evangelion story, or an alternate story.) I thought it was time to introduce the reasons why you should watch the series.
While the original Neon Genesis Evangelion certainly looks dated, it’s presentation is something that many modern anime cannot pull off. Gainax, the studio that created Neon Genesis Evangelion, had a tight budget to work with, so the battles are typically short, but intense. That being said, the original TV series was never about the battles, but everything else around the battles. Nerv HQ, the center directing Eva units, the giant robots, sounds and looks like an advanced NASA. The controllers act in a very official manner, we see routine tests being run, we hear the sound of machinery and computers doing their tasks. When in the city, we never see a large population, and instead see our characters alone. The sound of cicadas chirping in the background instead of the noises of an active city add that much more to the sense of isolation our characters feel.
And then there are the Evangelion Units. They a large, pieces of machinery, that seem to be very human. They bleed, they go insane, and they seem to have free will at times. None of this is more evident than when Unit 01 goes berserk. We see a near animalistic rage from Unit 01 as it literally begins crawling on all 4 limbs to it’s enemy. It’s a scene that gives me chills no matter how many times I view it. The true nature of the Eva units is revealed through chilling, disturbing scenes such as that.
While Neon Genesis Evangelion had incredible presentation, it clearly lacked on the action side relying on build up, and resolution to keep the viewer hooked. Rebuild of Evangelion, however, fixes the action with some of the most incredible animation I have ever seen. CG animation is blended perfectly with traditional 2-D animation making the action incredibly intense. One of the enemies (called Angels) in Neon Genesis Evangelion was a simple diamond block. In Rebuild, it is instead a geometric monstrosity that has no respect for mountains, or anything else. The action in Rebuild of Evangelion is some of the best you’ll ever see.
As I said before, Neon Genesis Evangelion begins in a pretty cliche manner. Sure, there are hints, and foreshadows of where the story is going, but you will not pick up on them. After episode 16 or so, the story becomes much, much darker and the plot begins to finally come together. What is Nerv’s relationship with SEELE? What happened in The Second Impact? What is an Eva? These answers come at you, but the answer is never quite what you expect. Add to that a willingness to kill off main characters as well as some disturbing looks into the characters psyche, and you will be kept at the edge of your seat in trying to guess what comes next.
The End of Evangelion film might be the most unpredictable part of the whole franchise. With the goal of re-doing the original TV ending, EoE takes everything you know about our main characters and flips it upside down. We learn so much more about why characters made the choices they did, and we see the full effects of those choices finally play out. If you manage to correctly guess how Evangelion ends before seeing this film, then you are a prophet.
Rebuild of Evangelion had a hard task to do in regards to being unpredictable. How do you “rebuild” a classic franchise and still keep viewers guessing like the did during the original TV run? Well, without spoiling anything, Rebuild of Evangelion does exactly that. While the first Rebuild movie sticks fairly close to the events of the original series, the second film begins to carve out its own, incredibly well written, path. Characters make different choices, have different motivations, and seem well aware that more is at play than simply saving the world from the Angels. These changes will once again remind you that anything can happen in the Evangelion universe, and the only way to predict what is going to happen is to be extremely astute and pick up on even the smallest of details.
3. Giant Robots
Did you like the mindless romp of Transformers? Did you also enjoy the mind screwing of Inception? Lets combine the two and just watch your brain overheat from the awesome. I did say above that the action scenes in the original TV series were low budget. I also said they are intense. The Evangelion Units are giant humanoid robots built specifically to fight giant monsters known as the Angels. So, we have giant robots fighting giant monsters. What more do you really want? Giant robot fighting giant robot? Evangelion has that.
Rebuild of Evangelion ups the giant robot theme by making the Eva units even more bad ass by adding a new mode to Unit 02, causing Unit 01 to go god-mode when going berserk, and giving Unit 04 the justice it deserves (while unfitting music plays in the background). The Eva designs are complex and unique. In anime, mecha designs tended to blocky space craft looking robots, much like the old Transformers cartoons. Evangelion broke that mold by making the Eva units look more human, and living. They look more organic than any other mecha I’ve ever seen.
So yeah… giant robots. GIANT FREAKING ROBOTS! Did I mention the giant robots?
You can have the best action scenes and animation but still fall short of being memorable or remembered for the wrong reasons (I’m looking at you Guilty Crown). A good show has good characters. A great show has bad characters that you actually like. Every single main character in Evangelion is a bad person in one way or another. Asuka is arrogant, Misato is too carefree, Gendo is just a jerk, Shinji is a wimp… the list goes on and on. Here is one of the greatest triumphs of Evangelion; you will still like the characters. Okay, maybe not Shinji, but for everyone else you will end up liking despite your first impressions. Neon Genesis Evangelion spends a great deal of time studying the characters through all sorts of different means. We learn of Asuka’s past and we see why she acts so cocky and arrogant. We see why Misato seems to be so carefree around Shinji, we see why Rei acts so cold and distant, and through Gendo and Shinji’s strained father-son relationship we uncover the past between them and learn some especially shocking things about Gendo.
Everyone in Evangelion has flaws, and throughout the course of the show, we come to understand and accept those flaws, even if they can’t accept the flaws themselves. Rarely, if ever does a show make you hate, and like characters at the same time. I hated Shinji. I hated his apathy, I hated his outlook, I hated his lack of self-confidence, but I understood him. I knew exactly what was wrong with him and why. This understanding allows you to connect with characters, even if you have nothing in common with them. Not everything about the characters is revealed though, leading me to my final reason.
Should you decide to watch Neon Genesis Evangelion and End of Evangelion, you will notice something. A lack of information. There are many things left unexplained even after End of Evangelion. Much debate has been had over whether or not this was intention but it does do one thing. It gets you thinking and discussing. There are a ton of fan theories ranging from the ending of the show, to the back story of a character’s pet and the sexuality of a penguin. Half the fun of this show is putting your own mark on it. With a convoluted, complex plot rife with under-explanations and unresolved plot lines, filling them in with your own ideas adds a sense of ownership to the show.A friend of mine and myself often find ourselves debating over theories that we’ve come up with. Some theories are just for fun (like the penguin sexuality theory) and others are meaningful and could offer much more insight into the show and movies (continuation theory, loop theory). I promise, after viewing the show and movies, you will instantly begin plugging the holes with your own ideas… that is, if your mind ever recovers from the insanity of mixing giant fighting robots with in-depth psycho-analysis.