Neon Genesis Evangelion has always been regarded as one of the greatest animes of all time, as well as the best mecha anime of all time, but that isn’t because of the huge spectacle of seeing giant cyborg robots fighting monstrous aliens. It’s because, deep down, this is an unforgettable character drama that tackles deeper, raw human issues like spirituality, intimacy, abandonment, isolation, depression, insanity, sexuality, joy, and sorrow. This is a character study, a journey through the human soul and all the troubles and issues that come with that. The main concern is not just with the giant monsters that threaten the planet, it is human interaction, even when it’s between each other and of the unknown. The pain of human intimacy is brought up at the beginning of the series with the hedgehog’s dilemma metaphor: “the closer we become, the more deeply we hurt each other”.
The characters here aren’t your typical heroic archetypes we see countless times in pop-culture over the years. They are all damaged individuals in their own different way due to their contrasting mindsets or extreme feelings of self-doubt and insecurity because of their unfortunate, tragic backstories. This is a story about life, finding a purpose, growing up and overcoming sorrow and depression. This will no doubt resonate heavily with those going through similar issues right now in the real world, but this is also deeply personal for the show’s creator Hideaki Anno who was clinically depressed prior to making the series, so he chose to inject elements of himself and his personal struggles into each character in the show.
This deep study into character psychology is wonderfully visualised thanks to its stunning animation by Studio Gainax, who’s work still holds up 26 years later. The design work on the Evangelions and the monstrous Angels are absolutely inspired, with clearly a lot of care, attention, and detail poured in. Each monster design is incredibly creative, varied, distinguishable, imaginative, yet very monstrous and quite horrifying and disturbing at times. The sound design is also impeccably impactful in its fury and the performances from both the English and Japanese voice cast provide memorably iconic portrayals of the characters involved. It goes without saying that the music is very memorable, especially Yōko Takahashi’s A Cruel Angel’s Thesis, which still stands as one of the most beautifully iconic theme songs in anime history.
An unforgettable experience like no other, Neon Genesis Evangelion stands as a legendary and iconic anime, up there with the likes of Ghost in the Shell, Akira and Cowboy Bebop. It presents real, complex human issues and injects them into a visceral monster story that will stay with you long after the series finishes, and especially after its gut-wrenching feature-length finale, The End of Evangelion. The show’s impact and legacy is undeniable at this point, and any die-hard anime fan should check this out when they are able.
Neon Genesis Evangelion is out on blu-ray on December 6th