Evangelion (Neon Genesis Evangelion)
|Multi-layered and thought-provoking, Neon Genesis Evangelion
is without a doubt the most influential and most popular mecha
series to come out in the nineties. Deserving of its reputation
as a complex work, this series has spawned more heated intellectual
discussions (live and on internet messageboards) than any other.
Its introspective nature and its privileging (especially in
the latter half of the series) of Freudian and Jungian psychology,
along with its heavy use of Judeo-Christian and Darwinian metaphor,
are what make Evangelion more than just another mecha
|The post-apocalyptic series begins with 14-year-old Shinji
Ikari (right) being called to the secret underground NERV headquarters
and being told by his father that he must pilot Evangelion Unit
01, a giant (and frightening) mecha, and use it to fight the
attacking Angels. In a move deliberately contrary to the traditional
mecha formula, director Hideaki Anno creates in Shinji a true
anti-hero--depressive, brooding, and at times disturbingly passive--which
is shown up front when Shinji tells his father that he doesn't
wish to pilot Unit 01.
||Ultimately, Shinji decides to take on the awesome responsibility
of piloting the Evangelion. At this point Anno could have let
Evangelion sink into a more traditional, action- and
male-oriented rut, and on the surface, the first half of the
series does appear to follow the monster-of-the week
formula: out of nowhere an Angel appears, Shinji and others
fight the Angels in their Evangelions, the Angel is defeated,
the credits roll. But Anno has deeper intentions.
|| Not only do these early episodes lull the viewer into a false
sense of security (which will then be torn apart later in the
series), but they contain a sophisticated and subtle treatment
of some of the series' themes: most notably, disfunctional sexual
and familial relationships as well as the problematic role of
science in the modern world.
|Anno really gets going in the second half of the series, taking
the audience down considerably darker, more twisted roads...
so dark, in fact, that after the airing of episode 18, the Japanese
PTA complained about the series' growing use of disturbing violence.
But there is more to the series than shock value, and the latter
half delves even deeper into the themes subtly set up at the
start. The Judeo-Christian themes in particular become impossible
to ignore: cross-shaped explosions, monstrous attackers with
Jewish names, Stars of David, the Tree of Sephiroth, and explicit
references to the Dead Sea Scrolls all appear in greater frequency
as the series builds up to its controversial ending(s).
The TV ending
Due to budget and time limitations, Anno was forced to rewrite
his original ending for Evangelion, and what then appeared
on television as episodes 25 and 26 caused quite the controversy.
Taking place largely in Shinji's head, these episodes are
a fascinating and thought-provoking conclusion to the series.
While they tie up the show's psychological (Freudian) themes
exceptionally well, they fail to deal with the show's religious
themes, much less resolve the plot of the series.
The movie ending
After being surprised and confused by the TV ending, Japanese
fans demanded a remake of the ending. GAINAX (the company
that made the series) raised the funds, and the movies Death
& Rebirth and The End of Evangelion were the
result. The End of Evangelion in particular gives the
series a true sense of completion, as it focuses more on external,
literal events than does the "internal" TV ending.
Truly a masterpiece, Hideaki Anno's Neon Genesis Evangelion
is a must-see for any anime fan wishing for something deeper
and more thought-provoking than a mindless action series.
All images used on this page are copyright GAINAX
Co., Ltd., and are used with permission.