Neon Genesis Evangelion
Updated: Apr 8, 2022
Anime is quite a fascinating medium, don’t you think? Originating in Japan, this form of animation was held in high esteem for its stylized animation, compelling characters, arc-based storytelling, emotional strength, and even for how much it can get away with in terms of content. This may be the place where you’d find the most plentiful adult animation, the ones that rely on adult storytelling rather than adult jokes to work. However, this is a bit of an acquired taste for some. People recognize anime through the more popular brands, such as Hayao Miyazaki or Pokémon. Nevertheless, anime is a captivating form of animation that can reach out to all creative corners.
However, for many of those savvy enough about anime, the one show they felt may have been the ultimate game-changer was Neon Genesis Evangelion. And I’m not kidding, I might’ve become one of those people tempted enough to label this as one of the greatest shows of all time.
The show’s story centered on post-apocalyptic Japan in 2015 AD—this show came out in 1995, so it was a distant-future show—and an organization called NERV was preparing for their counterattacks against a group of monstrous beings called Angels. What was their solution? They constructed a series of thirty-story tall robots for combat called the EVAs, short for Evangelion. NERV was operated by a cold but always collected man named Gendo Ikari. He invited his estranged son, Shinji, to join his headquarters and become the next pilot of the latest recently-developed EVA, the EVA-Unit 01. Shinji was reluctant to be on board, for he and his father didn’t have the healthiest relationship. He even questioned Gendo on having him pilot it after suffering some tremendous trauma with him when he was younger. However, after witnessing one of the other EVA pilots, Rei Ayanami, getting set to pilot the EVA despite her critical condition, on top of this occurring just as the Angels started attacking Tokyo-3, Shinji ultimately agreed to direct the EVA Unit-01 and battle the Angels with it. Along the way, Shinji went through all kinds of adventures that any boy his age and with this profession would have done, such as going to middle school and making new friends but still upholding his position as an EVA pilot. He also continued to battle against the Angels with two more cohorts; Rei Ayanami, who, once fully recovered, piloted the first EVA Robot, EVA Unit-00, and Asuka Soryu, a transfer girl from Germany who developed the next EVA Robot, EVA Unit-02. However, through his adventures with Asuka, Rei, his protector Misato, and his schoolmates, such as Toji and Kensuke, Shinji dealt with his traumas and continually experienced one devastating effect after another until he was on the verge of psychotic collapse. So, would Shinji have continued to uphold his mission to battle the Angels with the EVA Unit-01 and prove his worth to his colleagues and friends, especially his father? Or would his mental conditions and problems become too much for him to bear?
Now, let me tell you one thing about this show that amazed me. By the time this show aired, one of the other more popular shows that were on either in Japan or the USA was Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, which also dealt with teenagers battling against invading forces with giant robots. But while playing the same game, this show kicked it up a notch by emphasizing its focus on the characters, especially Shinji and the other EVA pilots. It kept its focus on them and the turmoil they had to endure, whether they came from themselves, their past experiences, or even with each other. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
One of the hallmarks of this show, besides focusing on the characters, their struggles, and the action surrounding the EVAs and the Angels, was its realistic, deeply alarming exploration of depression, as we would’ve witnessed through Shinji. Word has it that the show’s creator, Hideako Anno, suffered from severe depression and mental breakdowns before and even during the production of Neon Genesis Evangelion, so whatever he experienced during his troubling times crept their way into the show, too. In addition, Anno modeled Shinji after himself, so that may explain part of Shinji’s mental troubles throughout the show.
The scenes showing Shinji’s battles with depression felt so despairing and filled with torments that anyone who may never have experienced depression before can understand how that must feel after watching this show. But it’s not just those who never experienced depression. Anyone who experienced depression or anything remotely close to it sympathized with Shinji through the dilemmas he endured. For example, Washington Post reporter Gene Park admitted that he battled with depression and didn’t know how to cope. But when he saw Shinji watching a couple making out in a movie theater and reacting to it with forlorn frustration in the episode “The Hedgehog’s Dilemma”, he realized this hit close to home. He remembered going through precisely what Shinji did in this episode, and it helped him assess his condition more. And, late comedian Robin Williams said on more than one occasion that he was a big fan of this show. Given his infamous episodes of battling depression when he wasn’t busy with his comedic routines, I can see why. My guess is he, too, might’ve seen himself in Shinji more than once.
Do you know what makes this even better? At first, for most of the show, all the personal dilemmas and inner demons brought to the forefront were tied to Shinji as part of him battling depression. But then, as the show progressed, the supporting characters’ inner demons and personal dilemmas started becoming more apparent, too. Despite the show’s reputation with depression associated with Shinji, such supporting characters as Asuka, Rei, and Misato all had moments in which to shine and express how much they, too, were struggling with their problems. So, this was a sprouting reminder that Shinji may have had bad days and bad inner struggles, but he wasn’t alone.
Speaking of which, while my mind is still fresh on the subject, let’s talk about the characters, starting with Shinji. He was a young boy who, as I said, dealt with severe mental health issues after his scarring incidents. Every time he either reacquainted himself with the sources of his dilemmas like with his father Gendo, he became tempted to leave it all behind and settle in a place that he felt would’ve kept him from experiencing the same harm he wanted to avoid. However, because of the duties bestowed upon him to pilot the EVAs and protect Tokyo-3 from the Angels, he continually rose to the challenge and tried over and over to prove his worth to his colleagues, especially with the mantra, “I mustn’t run away”. But the more he engaged in his social engagement with his friends, the more the scarring elements started to reappear and mentally cripple Shinji. Had Shinji agreed to do this because of a burning inner urge to please his father, Gendo? Or did he decide to do this for reasons unrelated to him? These questions buzzed around in my head as I watched him do his thing and attempt to cope with the uncertainties circulating about him.
Now, some people I’ve seen online complained about how quote-on-quote ‘annoying’ they found Shinji to be, feeling he was a pushover and even a bit of a coward. I can slightly see why some people would’ve felt this way about Shinji. Though not a big deal, I’ll admit that I had the same problem with Kiki during the middle of her movie. But with Shinji, it’s completely different; we’re talking about a young boy who suffered tremendous mental breakdowns. For me, if anyone experienced depression or any mental symptoms like this, one of the most fascinating, exciting parts of their journey is to watch how they would’ve reacted to certain things. Sometimes, they can approach things with ease, but other times, they would’ve struggled to overcome something else. And let’s not forget, Shinji did attempt to brave his way through his troubles and make the most out of what he’s capable of without letting his depression overcome him, especially as far as the Angels were concerned. And because of that, it made such scenes as these feel even more rewarding.
Rei Ayanami, one of the first pilots of the EVAs and later Shinji’s colleague, was a mysterious, often quiet girl who barely emoted in certain situations. She went about her duties as an EVA pilot like that was the only thing she felt was worth living for, and Rei obeyed any order given to her whether she found them questionable or not…if she could’ve. Her mysterious, unresponsive nature was met with the curiosity, concern, and even ire of some of her peers, especially by Shinji, who found himself slightly smitten by her, albeit for reasons unknown. The only reason he could’ve gathered about Rei was that she reminded him of his mother, Yui, who had died many years back. What also struck Shinji’s curiosity was that Rei seemed to have a closer relationship with his father than Shinji ever did. So, this dynamic between them would have jumpstarted curiosities and left Shinji and others within her social circle seeking answers from and about her.
The next EVA pilot, Asuka Langley Soryu, was a slightly uptight young girl. She was always so determined to prove her worth, even if it was because she felt she was the best, anyway. She was at odds with some of her colleagues, especially Rei, and constantly complained whenever she felt shown up. However, there’s such a twinge of tenderheartedness underneath her shell of snark that I couldn’t help but warm up to Asuka. She almost felt like a female Han Solo now and then. She may have been obnoxious, crass, and looked down on others, but she mostly felt determined to do what she felt was the right thing, even if it was so that she could’ve shown herself off. Another factor in her character that made her look interesting was that she came from Germany, and she tried to get the hang of how people in Japan did their thing, as she picked up from Shinji, Misato, or anyone else.
The woman who watched after Shinji, named Misato Katsuragi, was nothing short of a fascinating character. The first time she showed up, she proved herself as being two things: one, Misato was a capable, up-to-the-task captain of the EVA missions, and she always prepared for whatever came their way, especially from the incoming Angels, with a confident disposition. And two, she was a slightly rambunctious slob who was occasionally irresponsible with the additional tasks she had to juggle with her main one. In her case, she decided to take in Shinji even though he was offered a room all to himself, and she also had a complicated relationship with her ex-boyfriend, Kaji. He also worked for NERV but quickly got under Misato’s skin whenever he made his moves. To see two completely different sides of the same coin coming from someone as dignified as Misato made her come across as a multifaceted character with some hurdles she had yet to address or conquer. One thing about her that made her feel more compelling and exciting was when she, as Captain, started discovering bits and pieces of NERV that she thought were off, as if she might have uncovered something potentially sinister and damning on NERV’s end.
Misato’s colleague and college buddy, Ritsuko, felt like a reasonable scientist who always saw fit to maintain the course of NERV’s missions, even if she did that with a more obvious levelheadedness than Misato. One facet about her that I found fascinating was that her mother, Naoko, was responsible for establishing NERV’s central computer system called the Magi, which she named after the Three Wise Men. She developed it in a threefold manner with three separate branches of the system, each of which she modeled after parts of herself - one as a scientist, the second as a mother, and the third as a woman - and she named each branch after each Wise Man, as in, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. That makes me wonder: exactly which Wise Man did she correlate each part of herself to? Anyway, Ritsuko was always fascinating to pay attention to, thanks to her confidence and authority in the NERV operations.
Kaji, Misato’s ex-boyfriend, was truly debonair, suave, and so respectable that he always left behind a slight impression. He always balanced his wits with his good-natured personality, and he proved himself as quite capable of playing a role in developing the missions against the Angels at NERV. However, because things went south for him and Misato before, their relationship would potentially have sparked the same amount of intrigue, even if it’s not as plentiful, as Shinji and Gendo’s relationship would have. Sometimes, he also was the object of Asuka’s fantasies, especailly after he escorted her to Japan from Germany after she helped in the development of the Unit-02. He sure knows how to woo the ladies, all right.
Some of the supporting characters felt pretty fun, especially Shinji’s classmates, Toji and Kensuke. At first, Toji felt like he would’ve been the school bully before unfolding a deep, tender side to him that made him a pretty rounded, sympathetic guy. And his best friend, Kensuke, was always a comedic wisecracker, showing giddy excitement and glee whenever a new Angel appeared or whenever he met up with Shinji or anyone who had connections to NERV. And he always saw to it to record anything that went down with his camera, no matter where he went. These two characters were fun to watch, especially within the school grounds.
There’s another schoolgirl named Hikari, who was the class representative of Class 2A. She seemed to have had a slightly shy and contented personality, and the crush she harbored on Toji felt admirable whenever it arose. Plus, seeing her and Asuka hanging out like two girls would generally have done on a night out was always amusing.
The most significant character left here is Shinji’s father, Gendo Ikari. Like Rei, he’s a mysterious character, always sitting in a dismissive, composed nature and always knowing the necessary moves to battle against the Angels. However, there were elements of him that made him stand out as someone ruthless. For example, according to the show’s last third, he made love to his then-employee, Naoko, when she was still alive, on top of badmouthing her when she wasn’t around. And he allegedly did the same thing to her daughter, Ritsuko, when she took over. Worse still, it showed that he left Shinji behind when he was very young, contributing to Shinji’s depression and family turmoil. However, some elements indicated a tender side to him, too, showing that he was not 100% evil. For example, Gendo had a deep, loving relationship with his wife, Yui, before she died. And, in “Those Women Longed for the Touch of Others’ Lips, and Thus Invited Their Kisses” - or, just Episode 15 - there’s a scene where Gendo and Shinji visited Yui’s grave together and reminisced about who she was like when she was alive. To be honest, I love these angles to Gendo’s character. They made him look as if he was fierce and dangerous, yet at the same time, he did what he did out of devotion to others. Unfortunately, that was all I could remember of him, or that may have been done with him. I might be missing something here, but I wish the show dived more into those aspects of his character and showed him not just as a ruthless, cunning leader but also as a man who was as complex as he was intimidating.
Whenever the NERV operators prepared to engage in their counterattacks against the invading angels, they approached each intruder with a progressively more desperate attempt to thwart them, especially since each Angel arriving in Tokyo-3 was deadlier than the last one. The NERV operators usually reacted to their sudden arrival with general coolheadedness, especially Gendo Ikari, as they tried to concoct some clever, calculated combat strategies against these unrecognizable monsters. But it’s not just the NERV members. We do see how, outside of NERV, the citizens of Tokyo-3 would have reacted to the arrival of an Angel, whether it was out of fear of demolition from them or, in Toji and Kensuke’s case, it was to get a close-up look at the action from them or the EVAs summoned to fight them. It must be rough when, every time the Angels appeared, you’re out living your day-to-day life only to have to evacuate to the nearest shelter in the next five minutes.
But it’s not just these citizens, either. The show did emphasize the requirements that Shinji, Asuka, and Rei had to follow to function as viable pilots and assets for the mere survival of humanity itself. It meant that their job as EVA pilots would potentially have seeped into their lives as ordinary children and even as schoolchildren. And nowhere was this juxtaposition and conflict addressed best than through Asuka in “Magma Diver”. In this episode, Asuka geared up to go on a field trip with her classmates to Okinawa, only to be reminded by Misato that being an EVA pilot meant that she and Shinji would’ve had to stay behind and be on alert for the next Angel when and if it were to arrive.
Thinking about this only makes me wonder how it would typically have been like for kids who are young enough to still be in middle school to balance out their school studies with other jobs that are considered a big deal. I mean, child actors have enough going for them, what with balancing out the studies they had to do with the roles they had to play in whatever film or show they starred in. But being hired to pilot a twenty, thirty-story tall robot and use it to defend a city against invading creatures set to destroy humanity? Man, this feels equivalent to watching a kid being hired by the FBI, the CIA, or even the White House to achieve a specific governmental task for the sake of their country. How much responsibility can kids like them regularly carry on their shoulders? Well, when all is said and done, it all boils down to their talents and capabilities.
Child employment aside, I should also mention some things about Tokyo-3; it feels very futuristic and retro all at once. It showcased a variety of technology that only our past selves would’ve dreamed possible of being made into a reality. Half the time, such technology as those I’ve seen here had yet to be made by 2015, just like the technology seen in Back to the Future Part II. Nevertheless, what we got out of this show was a highly sophisticated, slightly stylized outlook of how far humanity and technology could evolve or could have evolved. The city also felt unique in that it can act as both a functional city and even an exterior entrance to a more massive and expansive unit that encompassed where humanity could’ve been destined to live as if it’s a hidden utopia safe from the hazards of the outside world.
Though, I did notice one peculiar thing about Tokyo-3. In this show, Tokyo-3 was rebuilt after the Second Impact in 2000. So that tells me that Tokyo-3 was just the third iteration of an already existing city, and I find that just bizarre. In Akira, another classic anime, and this show, they both portrayed Tokyo as a functional, living city after it experienced a major catastrophe that left a big dent in Japanese society. It’s funny how both times, these two works took place in the distant future, and each time, they expressed their visions of the future as if they were anticipating another Hiroshima-level disaster, or two, to strike them and force them to relive anew. Well, here we are in 2022, and so far, I have not seen or heard of any major disaster that befell Japan or Tokyo. The closest thing I heard of to a tragedy that struck them was the earthquake and tsunami that hit Tohoku in 2011. Some countries and cities have all the luck, I suppose.
The animation throughout the show was marvelous. This first premiered in 1995, and this was back when 2D hand-drawn animation was used everywhere, especially when computer animation was getting started with Toy Story. The movements, postures, and expressions all felt very smooth and elegant, adding to the delicacy of the linework and angles, as well as to the epic scope accompanying the action scenes, which I’ll get to very shortly. The human characters were drawn with the utmost attention to detail in the anatomical presentation. Even though there were one or two, maybe more, scenes in the show where it’s just the crowds standing still and not moving, they still conveyed genuine human expressions. One thing I like about anime was how they would have incorporated the same amount of energy and comedy you would see in the classic cartoons but also sneak in some quieter, more contemplative, and more hectic moments that you’d normally see in a serial drama. This kind of method seems unfathomable in terms of effortlessly blending into one another, but anime, for all I know, generally does a great job of exploiting that mixture and experimenting with it to achieve the more genuine or memorable moments, just like this show.
While I’m still on the subject regarding the animation, it excelled at staying in a specific position on the same characters for an extended period of time. This was noteworthy because, unlike many other animated shows, anime or otherwise, these shots benefitted from focusing on the characters in the forefront as they stayed still. These scenes went on for about a whole minute before something else came up or if anyone came to break the silence. Some people felt like these scenes dragged on too long and tested their patience. For others like me, though, they instead came forth as pauses for effect at their finest, helped let the general feelings associated with these scenes ooze through the screen, and suck you into their emotional spheres. They were super simple yet so superbly done.
Speaking of memorable, the action. With this being a Mecha series, I knew there would be action scenes aplenty throughout the show, but man, did the action always keep me engaged! Whenever it dealt with an EVA fighting off against a new Angel or with any of the main characters getting entangled in personal crises, the rhythms associated with these scenes made the severity of the situation feel heightened, always keeping me glued to see what would have happened next. Some of these action scenes were even massive enough to occur either close enough to space or in a more spread-out area, and they always felt magnified in terms of the scope and investment. However, I will say that by the time you get near the end of the show, the action started to take a grislier turn, with the likelihood of people dying from the attacks more and more likely. By then, the action became even more intense and more suspenseful. The action was fired on all fronts throughout the show’s run, and they, like the characters, all held the show aloft to make it sustain its high energy for a while.
The designs of the EVA robots were all colorful and unique. They all felt lean, clean, angular, and had enough of a human touch to make them feel like their engagement in the battlefield would’ve been the answer to mankind’s problems. Sometimes, these EVA-Units ran about, lunged forth, carried gigantic ammunition to fire, and even engaged in synchronized combat at one point in the show, which only heightened their elegance and human capabilities as the pilots commanded them. It was also nice how they barely expressed anything outside of their movements but could still have been perceived differently from the Transformers, the Megazords, and even the Iron Giant. However, one reason for that may involve more suspicious truths about them.
For example, in the second episode, after Shinji successfully defeated the Angel, Sachiel, in his first mission as an EVA pilot, he noticed the helmet of EVA Unit-01 fall off. Then, in the reflection of a glass building beside him, he got a peek of what appeared to be a mass amount of flesh with an alien-looking eye peering out at him. Naturally, this raised plenty of questions about them. If they’re not robots, then what were they? Where did they come from? How did they ever intertwine with mankind? Did they have any connections with the Angels? How about with humans? Suddenly this one little peek from Shinji’s end boosted the intrigue that came with the EVA-Units and with the show.
Before I forget, let’s talk about what I’ll bet many people understandably labeled as the elephant in the room: the Angels. These creatures were genuinely menacing, packed a wallop in their power and energy, each one got more dangerous as the show went on, and the idea that these things were even called Angels would inevitably have raised an eyebrow. Not even one of them resembled the Heavenly Hosts that we know so well, and yet these monsters who looked like they could have come from a different planet had the same descriptions and even the same names as the angels mentioned in the scriptures.
You read that right, by the way. The angels all had specified names, and they were all contextually fitting and surprisingly eclectic. They originated from existing Angels or might have been made up for the show while still maintaining their religious origins. The third Angel’s name? Sachiel. The spider-like creature’s name? Matarael. The massive winged creature hovering in space? Arael. The first Angel that emerged and caused the Second Impact that wiped out almost all humanity? Adam. The second Angel to ever have emerged after him? Lilith. In addition, half of the angels in the show were named after deities mentioned in a spiritual text called the Book of Enoch. So that you know, Enoch was the name of Noah’s great-grandfather. And this is a scripture you can’t find in something like the Bible, the Torah, or the Quran. It is its own separate text.
Watching these things go into action and lay waste to their surrounding environment would inevitably leave you asking what this show’s idea of angels was. Still, one thing about them that kept them so engaging was their design. They were massive and innovative, and each one felt so unique and dangerous whenever they struck that you eventually might not mind it after a while.
Do you know what adds to these Angels’ strangeness? Every time they attacked and shot some blasts, they always exploded in the shape of a cross. So, were these Angels the same ones mentioned in the Abrahamic religions? Could they have been not as human as we pictured them to be? Or have they received the forms they came in for some strange reason? Or, may they have been separate beings from the Abrahamic angels, and they just happened to share the same name? And, most interestingly, did they come from up in Heaven, or could they have come from elsewhere? None of those questions were answered here, but that only makes them feel more mysterious and intriguing.
Now, I will say that, out of all the angels that appeared in this show, the most captivating and memorable of these angels was the last one: a young boy named Kaworu Nagisa, who claimed to have been born by the time the Second Impact occurred. He came forth when Shinji was at his lowest, and he talked to him so politely and with such astuteness that Shinji felt like Kaworu was the first person he ever talked to who understood how he felt. He spoke of Shinji’s troubles with reassurance, and he had a complicated view of all the Angels who came before him. But then, he attempted to sneak into the deepest part of the NERV headquarters, where the body of the second Angel, Lillith, was held, and everyone feared that if an angel got in contact with her, it would’ve jumpstarted the Third Impact.
One of the most striking things people loved about Kaworu was his tender personality and the fact that he might have had feelings for Shinji, as he said with the declaration, ‘I love you’. The last one especially got people excited because they thought of it as a sign of LGBTQ love, especially when homosexuality was starting to break out of its shell and into mainstream attention. Me? While their enthusiasm over the matter is understandable given what it implied, when he said, ‘I love you’, I understood it as him loving Shinji the same way any angel would love anyone. Because hey, that’s what he was, right? But then, that was also curious because of his goal and what his motives turned out to be.
So, this got me thinking: what was Kaworu like? Did he want to get a firsthand look at how humanity was like, or was he just cunning enough to sneak his way into the NERV headquarters and closer to Lillith? And did Kaworu speak to Shinji the way he did because Kaworu really did love him, as he said, or did he say that to distract him from getting in his way?
The Judeo-Christian themes scattered throughout the show were so bountiful and so infused into the show’s DNA that this was what caught my interest in checking out this show, even though, at first, I was anxious about that. Being a Christian myself, I was wary of how this show would’ve portrayed either Christianity or Judaism and just stayed away from it for a while. But then, curiosity got the best of me, so with an open mind, I decided to watch all 26 episodes of the show, and…well, where to start? The monstrous beings were called Angels, yet NERV, with its slogan being ‘God’s in His Heaven, All’s Right with the World’, sent out the EVA-Units, named after Eve, to fight against the Angels and prevent the Third Impact from coming to fruition. Even the supercomputers in NERV’s systems, as I pointed out, were named after the Three Wise Men who visited baby Jesus in Bethlehem. Frankly, I had no idea what to think of the show’s religious themes at first. I simply just shrugged it off and went with the flow.
Even Hideako Anno and Assistant Director Kazuya Tsurumaki admitted that they threw in the religious imagery for two reasons: one, they threw it in there because they thought the imagery associated with the religion looked cool. That’s it. And two, because there was plenty of other Mecha shows on the air in Japan at the time, they decided to use the Christian imagery to set it apart from the others. Well, they sure did a good job setting it apart from the other shows, all right! Although, they admitted that had they known it was going to air in America or Europe, too, they would’ve not used the religious imagery at all.
Now, I can see where they’re coming from, especially when they thought the religious imagery may have acted too much as a modifier. But personally, if it weren’t for the religious themes scattered throughout the show, the show would not have been half as compelling as it had become, nor would it have gained as sizable an audience as that which it roped in.
Getting back to the show’s religious themes and its opinion on them, I didn’t bother to look too much into them because of how all over the place and inconclusive they were. But then, it wasn’t until I saw the episode, “Don’t Be”, where Asuka got mentally tormented by the Angel Arael with a beam of light, set to, of all things, Handel’s Messiah. Usually, a beam of light with heavenly music would be seen as one of the most joyous things you can ever experience. But here, it’s shown as if it could be the most painful thing you can ever experience. Even Kaworu’s descent to the depths of NERV in search of Lilith, a moment that humanity dreaded would’ve happened, was set to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.
So, experiencing those two events got me thinking: what is humanity or religion like in this show? After thinking it through, I eventually drew upon a whopping four conclusions on the matter.
My first conclusion? It may be in line with how I predicted the show to be even before I first saw it: the show was a product of a Japanese artist expressing his views on the Christian religion, however abstract and weirdly placed the references were. It didn’t matter what the monsters were or what religion they devoted themselves to if any. As he and Tsurumaki said, they just threw it in because of how pretty it was. They didn’t have any knowledge or devotion to what the religion they chose might have meant; they snuck them in the show only to have fun with it without making any heavy leanings. Regardless, the result inspired interpretations of them either glorifying Christianity, diminishing it, or, in an indifferently charming way, doing neither.
But if this applies to the show from within, then this leads to my second conclusion: the humans, NERV, and Japan all attacked the Angels because of cultural barriers. Think about it. Japan is an Eastern country, whereas Christianity and Judaism are predominantly Western religions. So, the coordinated attacks Japan enacted onto the Angels were seen as Japan saw it, and it could be that they did what they did out of a colossal misunderstanding of the Angels’ intentions. Perhaps the angels were there to make things right, except Japan might have mistaken it as an intrusion. Who knows? Except—oops, I remember now—there were extended branches of NERV scattered throughout the globe, especially the USA, and they were all said to have been building extra EVA-Units for Japan to deploy against the Angels. Not to mention, NERV even had ties with the United Nations, meaning that these two shared the same goals. So, what does this say about humanity’s retaliation against the Angels unless this was from Japan’s point of view?
Well, this leads me to Conclusion #3: it feels as if humanity itself strayed too far from what was considered righteous. Here they were, the last human beings alive, and all they were doing to keep humanity alive was to destroy the Angels with artillery and weaponry. The angels may have come onto Earth to destroy it and its people, but what for? Were they doing this to announce the end of the world drawing near and that mankind had to prepare for it? And that mankind’s only response was to destroy the angels, if for little other reason than to delay the Apocalypse? Or could it be that what was left of humanity was so dedicated to its human potential, even if it was because they were the last humans alive, that their views of righteousness became distorted in the process? In which case, this would’ve made every single one of the characters in the show, from the main characters to the one-off characters, look morally and motivationally misguided. Not only that, but as the show went on, it did start segueing into discussions of what the cost of having the power of God would’ve been. Not a god, but God himself. Those included humans using that power to create life, as God did in the Book of Genesis. It puts what was left of humanity in this show in a morally complex light as they tried their hardest to make something good and worthwhile for the sake of what’s left of humanity in the face of catastrophe. Still, their methods of doing so have become increasingly questionable. That sheds new light and a new outlook on how everyone did their own thing here in the show.
Now, as for the fourth conclusion? You wouldn’t be wrong to call this the most outlandish of the conclusions, but this still might not be unthinkable. And it could be this: may it have been God and the angels themselves who were led astray? And that their motives were far removed from their initial role? One result of that would’ve been for the deities to warp something generally joyous and magnificent into something lethal and dangerous, like what Asuka endured. If that were so, then it would’ve made humanity’s reaction against the Angels suddenly feel justified and that their retaliation was indeed righteous after all. It would’ve made them look like they were carrying out what God and the angels started, even if they had to remind them of that through brute force. And the things that God and the Angels did? Could they have done what they did due to forces beyond our human understanding, or was it due to the boundaries of the prophecies mentioned in the Bible rather than the prophecies themselves?
Strangely enough, throughout the show, I always wondered if the angels in the show were indeed messengers from God, and well as why the humans were attacking them. In Episode 11, “The Day Tokyo-3 Stood Still”, Shinji asked Asuka precisely what I wanted to ask them as I watched the show. To which she responded:
What are you, stupid? They attacked us! When someone’s attacking you, you can’t just sit there and do nothing, right?
I guess that’s supposed to stay in tune with the show’s mysterious nature of handling that observation.
Whether it was intentional or not, if Hideako Anno’s intent to sneak in such religious themes throughout the show invited this many interpretations to swirl about in connection to the show, then you know that he may have unleashed his inner genius.
Tell me, what is your take on the show’s portrayal of Christian imagery and themes? And for those of you out there who are devout Christians and Catholics, I’m all ears. If you mustered up enough courage to watch the entire show beginning to end, what did you walk away with once you finished it up?
The music in this show ranged from upbeat and joyous to tender and soft. Whenever the action scenes went on, the music accompanying them blazed forth with a bit of bravado in the score. And many scenes that dealt with serious issues either had no music at all—which lets the atmosphere sink in, and that I’ll get to very shortly, too—or were accompanied by soft, moody music to emphasize the emotions the characters were going through in any given moment. Of course, the most outstanding music in this show, for me, would be the opening and closing themes. The opening theme, ‘The Cruel Angel’s Thesis’, felt like a super-upbeat J-Pop song that somehow carried none of the show’s heavier themes, and yet the lyrics implied that this was Shinji’s theme song. This may be in stark contrast to Shinji, who always dealt with depression throughout the show. But, the theme song still opened each episode off with catchy, energetic music that slightly felt in sync with the action scenes we would’ve seen in each episode.
And the closing theme? It is simply the classic song, “Fly Me to the Moon”. This song felt like the quieter, more mellow equivalent to the opening theme song but still carried enough undertones to correlate succinctly to the show. This song dealt with the need for love, which, while indirect, was one of the things Shinji sought throughout the show. However, here’s another part of the show’s usage of this song that makes it even more impressive: there’s a different variation of that song playing at the end of every episode. This was impressive because having different song variations implied that it could apply to other parts of the show as well, most notably its supporting characters. Though having existed before, this song felt cleverly utilized throughout the show for that reason.
I should also tip my hat to the voice actors, which are for the ADV dub. Each one of them translated each character for the English-language audience well but also infused them with a believable sense of realism and emotion into the forefront. Spike Spencer portrayed Shinji with a heavy level of dejectedness while also strengthening the emotional vibes apparent in his battle modes, frights, and agitations. Amanda Winn-Lee performed as Rei with a keen sense of softness to hit home just now mysterious and yet how out of the ordinary she was from your everyday middle school girl. Tiffany Grant brilliantly portrayed Asuka with a bossy demeanor, down to maintaining it within her more tender moments, plus her angrier and more downhearted moments in her worst periods. Allison Keith lent her character, Misato, with a far more fluctuated range of expressions, whether she was a reckless or irresponsible older sister figure or a fierce, considerate, and committed Captain of the EVA missions, making her come across as a more rounded character. Sue Ulu gave Ritsuko a full range of inflections to strengthen her expertise as a top-ranking NERV scientist while strengthening her status as a more reasonable old friend for someone like Misato. Tristan MacAvery helped give Gendo Ikari a sterner yet confident and high-ranking tone to fuel his cold and unpredictable nature. The actors playing Toji and Kensuke both felt like they were having fun, making them feel like goofy schoolmates of Shinji. But in the case of Toji, he had more than one voice actor to portray him throughout the show, and yet, I never once felt like they were off with his character. They all just gave him the right amount of boyish comedy and even moodiness. Yep, even Toji had his emotional moments, too, especially when he worried about his hospitalized sister, and even in the performances, it all felt in character.
Long story short, all the actors and actresses who voiced these characters in the ADV dub may have been a little too hammy in their performances. But where they all excelled was giving them their performances to match their personalities with a strong emotional undercurrent.
I was also impressed with how much of a sense of humor it can have from time to time. In some of its more modest moments, the show had enough time to let the characters indulge in comedic routines, which felt exaggerated by the otherwise smooth and realistic animation. For starters, Misato and Shinji, besides sharing the same apartment, also had a pet penguin staying with Misato named Penpen. I don’t remember seeing him do very much in the show, but his presence seemed to give off a sneaky wittiness to the social ordeal.
On top of that, I thought of two moments in the show that were so funny that they’re just too good not to address here. The first was in Episode 2, “The Beast”, when Shinji got set to take a bath, only to run into Penpen, who was getting out. Having never seen him before, Shinji lunged out to tell Misato about it in stammers. But after Misato introduced Penpen to him, the camera then showed Shinji still in his birthday suit, but with Misato’s can of beer obscuring his private parts. Then, Misato was about to pick up the can as if we might see his private parts, but then, it revealed a box of toothpicks, which still obscured them! This little play on visuals was just priceless.
And the second was in Episode 15 when Shinji and Asuka shared Misato’s apartment while she was out on a date with Kaji. Asuka became bored, so she asked Shinji if he ever kissed a girl, to which he said no. So then, Asuka told him that she kissed people to pass the time and decided to try it on him. The buildup here was not without some excitement, that’s for sure, but the way it came about felt exactly like how any kids experiencing kisses would’ve reacted. First, Asuka, as her lips got close enough to his, complained about his breath, and then, their lips finally touched. The kiss was long, and when they were finished, they both looked like they were gasping for air as Asuka had to wash her mouth out of the kiss. The skittishness, the awkwardness, they felt so on point and came about in a way where you couldn’t help but chuckle over it.
But as far as I know, the one part of this show that caught everyone off-guard was the last two episodes, arguably the most unprecedented and abstract episodes ever achieved through animation. Throughout the show, the viewers anticipated the show to conclude with a climactic showdown involving the EVAs in action. What we all got instead was a twofer of full-fledged, head-on dives into the tormented fragments of Shinji’s mind, somehow all arranged as part of the Human Instrumentality Project.
Shinji endured one hard-hitting question after another by what seemed to be imaginary recreations of his close friends and family, and each question made him think long and hard about a variety of topics. Were his actions worth anything? What did he set out to prove to everyone? What did he intend to prove to himself? Meanwhile, sandwiched between these mental trips were the ones that some of the other main characters endured, like Asuka, Rei, and Misato. That told me right away that these characters were dealing with what Shinji had to deal with, too, for the same reasons I mentioned earlier about their individual struggles.
These last two episodes came out the way they were made because Gainax, the company that helped make this show, ran low on money near the end of the show’s run. So Gainax and Hideaki Anno had to compile these two episodes together to make up for low costs. And I’m pretty impressed; for such small-scale episodes, they excelled at making so much out of so little, as they demonstrated through their simplistic journey into Shinji’s conflicted psyche.
I will admit, though, I think I got more out of these two episodes than everyone else did, because when these episodes aired in Japan back in 1996, Hideako Anno received countless death threats and demands to provide a more satisfactory, definitive ending. Sheesh, was this where all the hardcore bozos out there got the idea to demand a redoing of The Last Jedi or Game of Thrones’ final season? But getting back on track, the result was the feature-length movie, The End of Evangelion. From what little I dared to read, many people considered the film the external finale to the 25th and 26th episodes’ internal finale. Either way, it seems to me, until I see the movie, that both these endings were satisfactory and each wrapped up the series in their own fashion, similar to the film version of Little Shop of Horrors.
Whether you were aware of this show or not, I can tell you that this still developed quite a massive following across the globe. Cases in point? Besides Robin Williams, heralded filmmaker Wes Anderson was also a fan of this show, particularly The End of Evangelion, and he called this film one of his top ten all-time favorite animated movies. He even went as for to call it a partial influence on one of his animated movies, Isle of Dogs.
And I can safely say that I had a blast with this show, too. The characters? Astounding. The story? Packed. The animation? Stellar. The action? Spectacular. Its sense of philosophy?
You know, it should come as no surprise by this point how this series left such a profound impact on those who were familiar with it. In just 26 half-hour episodes, what could’ve been presented as a greater-than-average Mecha series instead came out as something more unique. It dazzled audiences everywhere with its fascinating premise, a fruitful helping of thoughtful contemplations, a necessarily troubling look at depression, an adrenaline-fueled series of showdowns, and an attention to detail that made this series offer more than it meant to give out. It is just a masterpiece, plain and simple.
Glory to (our) God in the Highest, and so, too, may it be considered of this show.
Expect my thoughts on The End of Evangelion later this month.
A low A+
Knowing that this show was the product of a Japanese artist bending the principles of Christianity in an artistically evocative way resulted in one most curious thought buzzing around in my head. And it was, “Man, imagine if there was an American filmmaker somewhere who did the same thing with Buddhism and passed that off to the world and see how Asia would have responded to that.” How do you think it could turn out?
You know, if the Angels in the show were the show’s idea of angels, then I sure would shudder to consider what its idea of God, Christmas, Heaven, or even Hell would’ve been like.
I just remembered, the characters talked a lot about experiencing the Second Impact and trying to avoid a Third Impact from occurring. Did they ever mention anything about a First Impact? If they did, what was that like?
Park, G. (2019, June 27). Perspective | How ‘Evangelion’ opened my eyes to my depression. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/06/27/how-evangelion-opened-my-eyes-my-depression/
Thomas, O., & Tsurumaki, K. (n.d.). Amusing Himself to Death: Kazuya Tsurumaki Speaks About the Logic and Illogic That Went Into Creating FLCL. Akadot.