Neon Genesis: Evangelion Is Awesome

Neon Genesis: Evangelion Is Awesome
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Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the most famous — and polarising — anime ever created. And it always seems to fall into one of three categories: Anime fans love it, hate it, or love it but hate the ending.

I’ve talked at some length about what it was like to be an anime fan back in the 56k modem era, and how difficult it was to even lay hands on anime. Because of this, it wasn’t until my second year of high school that I saw Evangelion for the first time.

This story has been republished to coincide with the worldwide release of Neon Genesis on Netflix later this week.

I had heard about Evangelion for years — and by that I mean many people said it was “good.” It was also 30 bucks for two episodes and not available at my local video stores. But in my second year of high school, I became friends with a Russian student who was also an anime fan. utilising the new-found resources of EBAY, we each imported our favourite anime on Singapore VCD to watch with each other. Mine was Record of Lodoss War; his was Evangelion.

Like most anime I watched at the time, we marathoned it in one sitting. At first Evangelion seemed pretty standard: a young boy pilots a giant robot to stop giant monsters.

But the tone was totally different from similarly themed giant robot series. There were no happy friendships, no easily explained character motivations (for neither heroes nor villains), and a psychologically broken main character. It was simply unlike anything I had seen before.

As the series neared its climax, the early light-hearted comedy moments were steadily replaced by moments of soul-crushing despair or stream-of-consciousness philosophical debates set inside Shinji’s head. I was enthralled. And then I experienced the ending.

Frankly, I hated the final two episodes of Evangelion (sans the brief scene showing Shinji’s life if he wasn’t defined by being an Eva pilot). It was as if the end of the story had been cut and replaced with Shinji stuck in an hour-long lecture on the nature of humanity and interpersonal relationships.

Still, despite the series’ ending, I was a die-hard fan, showing the series off to friends as often as possible — though I would leave the room and let them watch alone whenever the ending episodes rolled around.

It was a year later when I first discovered and then procured a copy of what I had dreamed about: the feature film The End of Evangelion. It was everything I hoped for, a true ending to the Evangelion story showing not only the turmoil inside Shinji’s head but the real world consequences of his actions.

Image: Supplied

But when Asuka uttered her final line and the credits suddenly started to roll, I was surprised — and more than a little confused. The movie was over but it felt like the ending had been cut off half-way. I was sure I had missed something.

I rewatched it. Then rewatched it again. I began reading essays and opinions online, then went on to explore a list of biblical references that connected to the series.

For the first time in my life, a movie made me think — made me work to appreciate it. And little by little I came to understand and love the film. Even today it’s a film I revisit frequently. And every time I watch it I still find something new.

Over the following years, I watched many anime, though my watching tapered off to one or two series a year after moving to Japan. But when the Rebuild of Evangelion tetralogy of films was announced-my love was rekindled. In preparation for Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone, I went back and watched the whole series again.

Then I saw the film. I hated it. It was nearly shot-for-shot identical to the series with only the most minuscule amount of new content. Moreover, it cut out a good hour of story from the series. I felt like I had wasted my money and could see a better paced, fully realised version of the story on my DVD player at home.

So when the second film, Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance came around, I had no intention of even spending the money to see it, figuring that it was just going to be another recap. Luckily for me, I was dragged to the theatre by some friends to see it opening day.

It was fantastic. It took the setting and characters and ran with the story in a new (yet similar) direction — exactly what I like to see in a theatrical adaptation. For those new to the series, it was a good story; and for old fans, it was a constant game of using our knowledge of the series against us to form unexpected plot twists. I am excited to watch it again this month before heading into the third movie.

In closing let me say this: age has definitely changed how I look at Evangelion. It’s no longer a show about giant robots fighting monsters. Nor is it a random collection of religious imagery and philosophical musings.

For me, it’s really just a show about a boy struggling to learn how to deal with other people — a character study on the double-edged sword of loneliness and companionship. Moreover, it’s a series that exposits nothing, but, at the same time, shows you everything and isn’t afraid to make you work for your own understanding.


    • Really? The original was one of the few animes I’ve sat through the whole series for, and was thinking of picking up the new one.

      • Do it. I disagree completely with the “abortion” comment above. They are different enough that I do concede it’s difficult to reconcile them with your memories of the original series, but they’re much snappier and very enjoyable in their own way. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you watch them.

        • I loved the series and I loved the new movies as well. I think that people are just getting pissed off by the fact that they aren’t straight up remakes, but re-imaginings (at least in the case of the second film). I’d much rather the current Rebuild films than a shinier version of the series.

        • I think the new series does a good job of making it make more actual sense + actually adding to the characters emotional struggles by making them a bit more obvious.

          The next film (and the one after) will be the ones that have to be good though, as they are the ones that will primarily change the story of the last one.

        • I’m with this guy. I was dissappointed with the first movie. It stayed too close to the original. I high budget highlights real. The second on the otherhand besides improviing the production values over the first has a new direction that is fantastic. I went from being lukewarm with 1.0 to desperately wanting the sequel after 2.0.

      • I would highly recommend The Mars Daybreak series. Submarine pirates with giant robots on mars…but absolutely no teenage angst. It’s great!

    • Until you realise the new films are a meta-commentary on the original series and fandom as a whole.

      Evangelion was always about (among other things) not allowing escapism to consume you and that life, while tough, is still worth living and better than living in make believe.

      The first eva rebuild is almost 1-1 with the original series (bar some plotting changes) and sets the stage. Eva 2.22 however, radically diverges, betrays all of the character development and themes of the original series, which may seem like an “abortion” until you take it in context with 3.33.
      Eva 2.22 litterally starts with mari, a character who has already solved the issues the show revolves around (can deal with lifes problems as they come, as per her song). Rei is more human, Asuka (who has a completely different name in the new movies that now ends with “nami” to draw her in line with the other characters) develops proper feelings for shinji and the crux of the movie is Shinji breaking the rules of the established world to save ayanami, a thing that would never happen in the original.

      I’m glazing over a lot for brevity, but the second film is a meta-response to the fans that have sprung up over the decades who use Evangelion for the escapist fantasies the original show tries to decry.
      2.22 is legitimately Anno saying “here it is, the Evangelion everyone always asked for, more robots, more action, more romance and a heroic shonen protagonist shinji”. It’s shallow and betrays the original, I still love it because i’m a sucker for high production Eva but it’s definitely not in line with Anno’s orignal vision.

      Then we come to 3.33, a movie with follows up the previous films “here’s what you said you wanted” with a film in which the world is empty and hollow. Asuka hasn’t aged a day, “the curse of eva” she calls it, implying LCL stops aging, but is another meta critique on the idea that in giving fans what they think they want, they create an Eva series that never changes, has no real message and is as pointless and horrible as real escapism.
      Rei becomes the ultimate Waifu, a hollow doll that has no emotions and exists only to say yes to everything.
      Shinji (acting as audience surrogate) ends up in this world, confused that his desires created such an empty existence, struggles with the fact he cant connect with Rei because she’s exactly what you’d get if your waifu was real.
      In the end, he’s left with just the realisation that in getting what he thought he wanted, he got nothing at all. Which is what we get/got with the new films.
      They’re actually amazing, but in classic eva style, it’s the subtext that makes it a masterpiece.

  • Nothing to argue about. Hands down the greatest anime ever made. Still talking about it till this day

        • “Claymore” is another one i found spectacular as well, but yes Cowboy Beepop had something for everyone (BTW Claymore is not for kiddies, violence factor through the roof 😀 but the message is WOW)

          • But for the love of god please watch it with Japanese voices. The “Abortion” word on the 1st post of ths comments page is certainly applicable with the English voices on Claymore, especially Raki’s voice (who incidentally was the english voice director BLAHHH)

          • Claymore was terrible! Such high hopes were quickly dashed once it became apparent it was a compilation of the worst anime tropes in history. I hate shows which insert a useless powerless sidekick simply so the target audience can project. Sorry….Didnt mean to offend, I just get so worked up over what that show could have been.

    • Agreed.
      Perhaps seeing it on SBS during a phase as an avid Saturday Cult Movie watched set me up to be totally accepting of an imagery filled open-to-interpretation ending.

    • I can’t say I did. I get what they were going for but the metatext became the text so abruptly and jarringly it completely took me out of it. It just felt so lazy – like “we can’t think of a way to get this message across in story so forget the story entirely – here’s what was actually going on (not saying it was, just that it felt that way).

  • “love it but hate the ending”

    This is me. After the last few episodes I was thinking “wtf”. I even watched the two “movies” that directly trailed the end of the series…one which was basically a mash of the last few episodes into one thing, and another which was new material and a direct follow-on but left me with an even bigger “wtf”. I do understand that they kind of ran out of money in the original production hence why the last couple of episodes were done the way they were, but still…

    I might be interested in this if it actually wraps up the series in some kind of cohesive fashion so the ending…you know…actually makes sense.

    • The original endings made perfect sense, with Shinji being able to reconcile his past trauma and moving on. Which is exactly why lots of fans of the franchise detest these new movies, rather than focus on the whole point of series: an unstable boy thrusted into a world of mess, we get action, action and more action. All the symbolism that represents the protagonist has been replaced with characters that are only reconisable on the surface.

      In short: They’ve removed the reason why the series was such a classic and turned it into every other show.

    • Consider this, if you will.
      The series took and second original movie lead up to the moment where (SPOILER)

      Shinji causes the third impact and returns all Lillin (humans) to Lillith, but all life wants to return to individuality, thus the world is reborn.
      Now, consider the number of mass produced EVAs in the 2nd original movie: how many angels have we seen thus far in the Rebuild series?
      Look at Kaworu, he has a total 17~minutes of screen time in the original series, he looks down at Shinji and says “THIS TIME, I will show you true happiness.”
      Oh, and let’s not forget the many references to The End of Evangelion in 1.11 You are (not) alone. Among the first scenes, Shinji sees a bandaged Rei, something that appears in the end sequence of The End of Evangelion.

      Consider the rebuild to be what happens AFTER The End, the rebirth of life and the cycle of improvement that Lillith causes.

      To those who say that 3.33 is an abortion, consider the first two movies and Rei’s words to Shinji: “Do you not have faith in your father’s work?” She was asking Shinji if he had faith in HER, “I will be replaced” and “I can only live here…” Are references to her cloned state and requirements that she be treated regularly, as well as New Rei’s bare living requirements and the fact that she is unaware of many facets of human personalities, something Old Rei was still learning, look at 1.11 to see how she was living at first and compare it to 3.33, they don’t know any better.

      That’s all that jumps to mind, have fun puzzling!

  • Could not disagree with you more. The rebuild movies are brilliant and fantastic addition to the Eva universe. I simply can not wait for 3.0 to see what direction the takin his.

  • I’ve always been part of the group that feels Evangelion was majorly overrated. Was it interesting sure but it suffers from plot holes, a rather annoying main character and a confusing ending. I would certainly rate it overall as a solid anime but not even close to the likes of DBZ,CB, FMA, OP, Bleach and Ghost In The Shell. That’s just to mention a few. I’m yet to see the new version perhaps it has a more stable plot and a coherent ending.

  • It’s funny that this article comes out as I just finished watching the new series, followed by the old series. I was never really into it when it first came out, mainly because I was a little less mature, and a little less educated. Now though, I find it fascinating although I was exceedingly lucky to find a Platinum Evangelion collection because it’s been out of print for ages because of the new license. I hope that the current studio either relinquishes the license afterwards back to Madman because I want to watch EoE without having to resort to morally grey means.

    As for the new series, it was kind of confusing watching it first as it takes a lot of the original series and swaps about the characters and sequencing of events, meaning that when I watched the original after it I’d be like, “Wait, wasn’t he the one that got… Oh, didn’t she do the… No wait, what!?”. Still, looking forward to pirate Asuka.

    • LOL I still have my original R4 EoE dvd if you want to buy it. The commentary is hilarious.
      I really hope it gets a bluray release some day though.

  • Absolutely love 2.22. It blew my mind. I can’t wait to see what the last two films do with the series.

    • Couldn’t agree more. Can’t wait for 3.0… let alone 4.0. I’m waiting for the blu-ray box set of all 4… that will be a great day!

  • Haven’t seen the new movies yet, I wasn’t a huge fan of the series. I really enjoyed it but I found the last two episodes went from ‘surreal and complicated, but you can follow it’ to ‘We are never going to explain this. What are the scrolls? These two characters found out and now they’re dead. We’re not going to resolve everything!’ which would be totally fine but in order to even understand the endings you had to have a huge knowledge of the lore, and I had to read all sorts of message boards for explanations to get any sense of closure.

    There were some really great moments, like that scene with the human angel he’s holding in his hands, and giant robot was creepy while still being cool, but it went over my head, and I personally found it pretentious. Which is crazy because I was totally able to follow Serial Experiments Lain.

  • I remember watching it for the first time. I thought it was great (not the best).

    But after watching it a second time I realised how much I hated it and how pretentious it is.

  • Hold on a second while I do my best Shinji Ikari impressio-


    It’s funny, though, because while the original is a ‘deconstruction’ of the giant robot genre, rebuild is literally rebuilding Shinji’s personality up, which means the movies are going against the original ideas of Evangelion. Kinda funny, but hey, at least he manned up.

    • I mustn’t be afraid,
      I mustn’t be afraid,
      I mustn’t be afraid,
      I mustn’t be afraid,
      I mustn’t be afraid,
      I mustn’t be afraid,

      • I mustn’t RUN AWAY!
        Dammit! borked the line.

        Shows how long it’s been since I watched Evangelion 😛

  • I think one of the great things about Evangelion is its rich intertextuality. The first time I saw it I was eleven, and watched it because weird shit was happening and I loved it. But I got older, and with each re-watching of the series there was always something new to get out of it. I’ll learn something new about Jewish Gnosticism or Freud and realise it was actually intentionally put in the show for that purpose and it changes the series each time for me.

    I think that’s what these new movies are all about. It has the same purpose as the series before it, and is essentially the retelling of an old story, but each retelling adds something to the tradition of the story while allowing us to further understand the original series.

  • I enjoyed it the first time, though looking back it became apparent I held such a high opinion of the show because it was my first anime. The second viewing many years later was conflicting. I kept telling myself I should be enjoying it more, but it didnt happen. Its by no means a bad show, I just dont consider it brilliant like I once did.

  • “I mustn’t run away”. Those 4 simple words still ring in my ears from Shinji’s first real outing in Unit 1. From that moment on I was hooked on Evangelion. I’ve been holding off on the re-make until they release the third now it may just be time to jump in and see if Yui can keep her son safe this time.

  • Well said! Well said… er, except that yeah, I’m in the ‘last 2 eps were actually really interesting’ camp. Also I watched end of Eva for the first time in Japanese with no subs, not knowing any Japanese. It was… interesting.

  • I have watched this series, movies and rebuilds about 10 times each (if not more) and can assure you, it all makes sense.
    I could write a 5000 word essay (and have before) on ‘The End Of Evangelion’.

    Essentially it is the Third Impact gone wrong for everyone (although its eventual end is quite similar to SEELE’s original plans).
    I assume everyone that watched the movie was fine until the 2nd half.
    I dont want to ruin the essence of it for everyone, but if you learn about the Black Moon, why Shinji was tormented through the series, the significance of Lilith in combination with Kawrou and Rei, why Gendou relied on Rei as the catalyst along with Adam, and why there are so many Rei’s turning everyone into the orange liquid (which name escapes me atm) then it will become much clearer.
    Remember that every Eva has a soul inside it, and that Eva01 is the only “true” Eva.
    Once you have understood the movie in context to the Lore, you will be able to interpret all the symbolism properly.

    In a nutshell, it is a metaphor of mans attempt to bring itself within the power of gods, to create its own death and rebirth of humanity, and to have infinite evidence of our existence in the universe.

    I just love this series so much and its the only time in my life that I will ‘fan boy’.

    • Oh and if you cannot understand Shinji’s struggle and why he’s such a bitch all the time, you’ve missed the point.
      You are NOT necessarily meant to like him or any other character for that matter.

  • Did any body else fall in love with Evangelion and Beebop from cartoon network late Saturday night anime? I was 11, so much awesome, still is.

  • Loved the tv series, except the ending (started watching the end, but couldn’t stomach it, so stopped).

  • Just picked up the series and accompanying movie, excellent recommendation. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

    But the end. Either one…


  • I loved the series, though the ending and following movie were kind of obtuse. Then I watched the first Rebuild and was all “huh, there was something a little odd about how they did that…” (but goddamn did some of the Angel reduxes blow me away). Then, after months of waiting, I finally watched the second Rebuild and it just flew away from all expectation. This was NOT a straight-up remake. This was something else. I can’t wait for the remainders. Interesting thought that a number of my fan friends and I (and the internet at large have been debating) – the Rebuilds are the world of the original series REBUILT following the 3rd impact, with Shinji subconsciously trying to right the wrongs he couldn’t fix before the world ended last time (also, whether he’s aware of this is under contention). As far as “rebooting” a series goes, and considering how integral Shinji’s psyche is to how it unfolds – especially towards the end – I really hope this is actually the case. The manga adaptation is different again, slightly. We’re getting iterations of the same story repeating itself ad infinitum…

  • Always loved this series. Loved the surreal dreamlike sequences and complex characters. I always liked the original tv ending but it left too many loose ends. The End of Evangelion is still one of my favourite anime movies ever. It makes so many bold story choices and animation is top notch. So many iconic scenes.

    I’m also really enjoying the rebuild. It cuts the awkward silences and makes the characters more likeable. I like the way that they clearly explain important story points that they never explained in the series, especially in 3.0.

  • I remember thinking, when I first saw it, that the religious mysticism was a bit over the top and a tad stupid. Then years later Hideaki Anno basically admitted that they’d pulled it all out of their arses!…

  • Oh boy. Please write another article after watching 3.0. I only recently watched it and it is something else. I think I enjoyed it?

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