Recently I’ve been trying to include older and more ‘classic’ series to my regular anime viewing habits, and as part of that I decided it was probably a good idea to finally watch ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion.’ Knowing just how polarising this series is, I was not expecting to enjoy it all that much… but I ended up being very wrong.
(Warning, this article may contain mild spoilers.)
Normally a show about giant robots fighting aliens wouldn’t sound interesting to me, but I was drawn in from the first episode. The opening scenes of the giant “Angel” descending on Tokyo-3 immediately sets up the scenario of the series in a striking way. We’re quickly introduced to main character Shinji Ikari as he bears witness to the destruction of the city, and his fear in the face of this feels very real. Instead of being an action-packed power fantasy, Evangelion is focused on realistic human reactions and this shows from the first episode.
The designs for the Mechs (Evas) and the Angels are delightfully unique and the fights between them are exciting to watch, but it’s the human element that makes Evangelion what it is. A big central theme in Eva is “The Hedgehog’s Dilemma” (the idea that the closer two people become, they are more likely to hurt each other) and every character is dealing with this in some way. From the main pilots (Shinji, Asuka and Rei) to the staff of NERV, everyone is confronting many different personal issues and insecurities in the face of the apocalyptic circumstances. A big reason as to why I fell in love with this anime so much is that a lot of it felt very personal, and I often found myself relating to the feelings and situations presented.
Evangelion isn’t just a deconstruction of the Mecha genre, it’s incredibly thought provoking too. Not only does it raise questions about the difficulties of human interaction but the ending still has fans guessing to this day. Between the last two episodes of the series and The End of Evangelion film it’s unclear as to what the true ending of Eva is, it’s not a show that gives you all the answers and Hideaki Anno even encourages fans to try and work out the answers out for themselves. Evangelion is an anime that allows you to find your own meaning, and all the speculation from other fans gives it a whole new area of fandom to enjoy.
While Neon Genesis Evangelion might not be the easiest anime series to get into, it is one I highly recommend every fan to go and watch. Its influence can be seen throughout anime and it really is an experience to behold.