Monday, July 1, 2013

Anime Review: Neon Genesis Evangelion

NEON GENESIS EVANGELION: Sometimes, what makes a series good is not its story, but its characters.

It’s been more than a decade since Neon Genesis Evangelion has been first released, but the hype it has created still lingers on to this very day. In fact, this hype is so sensationalized that it comes to the point that the series is hailed as the best anime of all time. Surely, this publicity sparks the curiosity of both anime enthusiast and not, and so they would want to check if the series deserves all the fuss. And, I must say, that these potential fans will not regret checking it out.

Neon Genesis Evangelion’s story, in plain sight, is really nothing special. It is just about a bunch of kids who are entrusted to pilot the Evangelions, the only hope of humanity in countering the invading aliens known as the Angels. This kind of synopsis is very formulaic and cheesy for a Shounen anime; so many mature viewers will easily be turned off. However, this action-packed plot is nothing but a sugarcoating of Neon Genesis Evangelion’s true account, so the viewers who are judging the series prematurely should just sit back and continue watching.

The real focus of the series is the psychological analyses of the characters. What really makes them a legitimate focus is the fact that these characters are very complex and suffer from serious psychological issues. They do not pretend to be role models. They do not pretend to be fierce, powerful, and reliable heroes that would save the day. They cry. They cower. They fear the ghosts of their pasts. And, sometimes, they just couldn’t do anything but give in to their own inhibitions.

These characters, even though they could be very annoying because of their personal issues, are what render the generic plot exciting. It is very interesting to see how their interactions and decisions, either good or downright awful, affect the development of the story critically. This is where the viewers will discover that the series is a very character-driven one. And the plot is only used as a catalyst to connect them all.

Personally, I’ve never seen more compelling anime characters than the characters of Neon Genesis Evangelion. And the important part of that is the idea that these characters are undergoing psychological dilemmas that are rather common. Thus, they become very relatable to the viewers that, sometimes, they see themselves in them. Put these broken characters in a story with open symbolisms that mostly suggest self-discovery and catharsis, and the viewers will find themselves on an expedition to their own minds -- not to have a tour, but to discover their own selves.

This is what makes Neon Genesis Evangelion a very compelling series. It has the ability to influence the viewers so greatly that they experience a somewhat catharsis after watching. And, surely enough, these viewers who judged the show hastily would swallow their prides and thank Neon Genesis Evangelion for such a therapeutic experience.


  1. Our main reason for liking Neon Genesis Evangelion are exactly the same, the characters. NGE was one of the first anime series that I watched, and it was really my introduction to the "weirdness" of anime. I do not mean that in a bad way because NGE is one of my all-time favorites, but it kind of prepared me for some of the other things in anime. As for the series its self, even though the plot kind of went a little off the rails towards the end, it was still great to see the character cope with their psychological problems. Asuka is my favorite character of the series, but I will admit that I always like tsunderes and Asuka is a great deconstruction of the archetype. Shinji is my second favorite character because he is so realistic and flawed. A lot of people call him a wimp, but would any 14 teen year old with his background actually do any better?

    In terms of classic 90s anime series, it is a toss up between NGE and Cowboy Bebop for my personal favorite. They are both fantastic and revolutionary in their own right, and I am not sure if I could pick a favorite between the two.

    As always, excellent review! I should have my review for the series up soon.


    1. Yes, up until now that I've watched a somewhat fair amount of anime, I still think NGE has one of the most compelling set of characters. I actually didn't mind the direction of the story, just so I could see these characters.

      For me, the real downside of the show is how it has lacked budget in the later half, resulting to the incorporation of sexual themes and still shots that, I think, can even last a full minute. This lack of budget has also affected the execution of the final episodes. *SPOILER* Human Instrumentality, as much as I like the overall concept of it, ruins the ending because of how it has been portrayed. (But really, in theory, it is an amazing ending. The real problem is the lack of budget that resulted to poor execution).

      I haven't seen many classic anime. But so far, NGE is the best I've seen, even better than Bebop.