ULTIMATE ANIME COUNTDOWN #6 of #20: Neon Genesis Evangelion
Neon Genesis Evangelion is undoubtedly one of the most important and influential anime series ever made. It is also one of the most controversial. To this day, people still cannot decide whether it is an extraordinarily complex philosophical study masquerading as a giant robot show, or a pretentious, thematically hollow exercise in cynical posturing. It was one of the first anime to encourage serious academic study, but many doubt that buried in the show’s reams of (mostly meaningless) religious imagery and countless references to Freud is anything worth serious analysis.Honestly, for all it’s strengths I’d never say that Evangelion was the best work by Gainax, or even the best work to totally eviscerate its genre. It’s certainly not the best anime of all time, as some have said.
So now that we know what Evangelion is not, here’s what it is: a by parts sympathetic and uncompromising portrait of a kid with depression fighting against impossible odds; a vicious critique of self-absorption as well as of the very audience who are likely watching the show; a study in miscommunication and how much it can sometimes hurt to connect with people; a giant robot show made by people who love and understand giant robot shows; a giant robot show made by people who believe that they can make giant robot shows better, even if it costs them their sanity. And while Evangelion may not be the best anime of all time, there are frequent moments seeded throughout the series when it is. These are images and events of such power that they sear themselves into the viewer’s skull, never to be forgotten. Evangelion may be inconsistent and even disappointing at times, but it can be so raw and uncompromising and flat-out exciting that whatever flaws it might have are made up for many times over. Taken together with its movie sequel End of Evangelion, it’s an imperfect but often electrifying work.
Yay, an Eva critique/description that I actually mostly agree with! bless this post.
I would add that, like a lot of stories I enjoy, Evangelion is a show that can be as philosophically interesting as I want it to be in any given mood. It gives me plenty of ideas and references to play with, but I don’t think it has any canonically set and painstakingly planned deeper/hidden meaning that requires intensive academic excavation in order to be understood. The essential themes are pretty damn obvious. Anything beyond that I take more as artistic gesture and food for thought.