The masterpiece that is Neon Genesis Evangelion

Spoiler Alert!

So, it has been a while now huh?

Over the past few months, watching anime has gotten less and less enjoyable for me. It has become more of a chore than anything, just doing it because that’s what I do and not really because I want to. Whether it is the number of terrible exposition dumps or the often stale animation that I encounter in almost every anime I watch, I don’t know. But something has changed. It wasn’t like I have watched too many bad shows or anything, I have watched a lot of terrible English movies but I still love watching them (Here’s my letterboxd if you know what that is. Check that shit out). It was almost the opposite, where most anime are so painfully forgettable that it makes the whole anime experience just that. I recently made a MyAnimeList account just so that I could see the average score that I give anime. And while a 6.22 isn’t exactly bad or anything, it is ultimately forgettable and pointless. Good but ehhh… The excitement and interest I got from watching ‘Little Witch Academia’ isn’t there anymore. It was almost as if I was beginning to fall off.

So one day I decided that I wouldn’t do this anymore. Not that I would stop watching anime or anything. My favorite anime of all time is an anime so I would never lose my hope that easily, at least for now. But I decided that I wouldn’t watch normal anime anymore. I would only watch the classics. Those that had aired years ago but stood the test of time and are still known today. I didn’t want to watch just another anime. This had to be great. And what a good way to start that off with Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Neon Genesis Evangelion, directed and written by Hideaki Anno, follows Shinji Ikari, a 14-year old boy, who told that he needs to pilot an Evangelion, a sort of mech robot, or otherwise earth is doomed. He tells everyone that he won’t be able to do it since he has never done anything like it before, but as more and more pressure builds up he climbs into the robot and saves the earth. Or at least for now. And while the show starts just like another mecha show, it slowly turns into a character drama about mental health and the everlasting change in the human mind. And that’s the best part of the show. While there are many good anime about mental health like A Silent Voice or arguably Your Name, I find that too many of them don’t take it seriously enough. While I haven’t watched an anime that truly disrespects people with mental illnesses, but too many of them are way too comedic. So when I watched this and saw how serious and true to reality that depression and anxiety were portrayed in the show I was very glad. It showed how Hideaki truly knew what depression felt like, so knowing that he was depressed at the time wasn’t a surprise. It made Asuka an extremely good character in my eyes. While I found her charming and fun in the early episodes, which I was surprised by since I usually find Tsundere archetypes annoying, her backstory was what made her so good. Even in the early episodes, we see Asuka often saying that she’s the best and that she’s already an adult. That she is good enough. And while it sounded normal in the beginning, at one point I started to realize how it wasn’t exactly that. We see how her relationship with her parents has only made her less emotionally controllable, and how it has affected her future. She keeps telling herself that she is better than everyone else because that’s the only way for her to control herself a little bit. That her parents didn’t give her enough attention as a child so she can only hide it by telling herself that she’s the best and already an adult. That is until it doesn’t work anymore. Until it becomes too much. The elevator scene in episode 22 shows this very well so I was surprised to see how much infamy it has gotten. How she tries to ignore the problem until it becomes too much and the only way she can escape it is by telling the world that she is better than everyone so she can feel just a little bit better.

And this sort of change in character becomes very consistent. Shinji becoming more of an opinionated person as he meets new and more vibrant people, needing to become an adult and take on bigger responsibilities, and again with Asuka showing how parents can have a big effect on their children. And I found all of that very interesting. Character development is common in media but the amount of it here was very surprising. I might’ve not have understood what happened all the time, but I could often tell what they were supposed to mean which I think is more important in some cases.

On the technical side, I was very impressed. The cinematography does an extremely good job at conveying the relationships between the characters, the colors always fit the tone of every scene and the animation never feels too stiff. But I had a very big appreciation for one certain thing though, that being the mech fights. Not necessarily because they were well animated or choreographed, though they were for sure. But I loved how they always make them feel like team efforts. In episode 11 there’s a blackout in the base, meaning that they can’t activate the Eva’s like before. An angel would be the worst thing that could happen, so it does of course. It seems hopeless for them, a spider angel is walking through the city and nothing can stop it. But there is still hope, and everyone works together to manually activate the Eva’s with a lot of hard work. And it shows how it’s not just the pilots who have a role in defeating the angels, but everyone. How the fights are never just punching the angels until they are dead, but that there’s an actual strategy to it, like when they use all of Japans electricity to shoot off a massive beam at an angle or when they use the Eva’s as bait like fishing. It was always fascinating to see how the team would overcome a problem, and that’s what I want from mecha shows.

In the end, Neon Genesis Evangelion is both a psychological drama and a mecha show and it does both of those aspects incredibly well! And while I have my problems with the show like a few lines that felt a little too on-the-nose and expository, I think Neon Genesis Evangelion is an amazing show that might’ve gotten me back into anime again.


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