[WARNING: Article is not suitable for all ages]
Let’s talk about something so weird, so bizarre, so confusing that I have watched it in its entirety a few times, and sat through a few in-depth convention panels, and I still don’t quite get it. Trying to understand Neon Genesis Evangelion – with all of the religious references, complex character relations, and just the setting in general – is incredibly difficult. This is a classic series and if you haven’t seen it yet, please sit down and give it a shot. If you are a stranger to this series and don’t want to read spoilers, please turn back now as we are about to “get in the Eva”.
What I Expected:
When you read the synopsis, it just sounds like your everyday mecha anime with a few religious overtones. You have a world that needs to be saved from a threat to humanity and only one boy can do it, with the help of his giant robot and a few friends with their own mecha to keep evil at bay. Easy enough, right? But then I witnessed the second half of the series, and – trust me – my mind was blown the first time I saw it all the way through.
What I Got:
What you really get is a teenage boy who is so depressed that you really feel bad for him at first, then get tired of his attitude later. I was expecting a strong main character, but really got a spineless jellyfish. His attitude is understandable because of his severe daddy issues; not even Shou Tucker (infamous chimera father from Full Metal Alchemist) can hold a candle to the manipulative Gendo Ikari. Gendo abandons his son Shinji at a young age, only to bring him back to NERV because he finally has a use for this son.
Let’s talk about the Angels: What the heck are they, and why are they coming to Earth and destroying the place? They’re cosmic beings searching for Adam. Adam, who may or may not be a gross little fetus in Kaji’s pocket. It’s almost like they just take the form of something from Earth and just mutate it into something hideous. They’re definitely not what the word “angel” brings to mind. One gets into Asuka’s mind and brings up her horrible childhood, killing what little was left of her psyche. Another shows up in human form to befriend Shinji, getting very close to him (you know tons of fan fiction spawned from this friendship). Shinji feels betrayed after finding out that his new BFF Kaworu is an Angel, and must then crush his friend, in a scene so long it could rival the Frieza Saga in DBZ.
Now each of the supporting characters had their own issues and characteristics that are very different from one another. Which was really nice, since you found a little something in each of them to relate to – like a little trail mix of broken humans. For example, Asuka has a demanding personality, and she is who you would pick as the protagonist in a mecha anime. By contrast, Misato is very caring, even taking in Shinji when his dad still wanted nothing to do with him. But just when you finally get comfortable with some of the main cast, it goes from your straightforward mecha to such an abstract roller coaster mind fuck.
Did anyone else feel like the EVA units were like women (even though it’s pretty blatant that Shinji’s mom is in Unit 1)? If you think about it, the entry plug system is kind of like a womb; it fills with the LCL that you can breathe in, and later, when Shinji is in it for too long, it begins to smell like blood. Gendo also tells Ritsuko that the children are the only ones able to pilot these things. It is suggested that Ritsuko’s mom is the soul in Unit 00, but there are also opinions on why she isn’t inside said EVA. Asuka states later, while fighting the Mass Production EVAs, that her mom is her AT Field – insinuating that her mom’s soul is in Unit 2.
Bow-Chicka-Wow-Wow… was Gendo just getting it on with every scientist in the NERV headquarters? Starting with Yui (Shinji’s mom), it was like he used her to go further into the political world and get his chance to make EVA. Then, Naoko Akagi, and later her daughter, Ritsuko Akagi – again, pretty much using them to get NERV ahead of the scientific game. Like whoa, bro, do you really want to be with your wife after Third Impact? Then there’s Kaji and Misato, an on-again off-again relationship that’s pretty much just friends with benefits. They go so far as to have sex in front of Shinji during one of his hallucinations at the end of the series! It also seemed like Rei has a thing for Shinji, or possibly the other way around, even though Rei is like Shinji’s mom? I’m still not quite sure what all is going on there, but it’s kind of weird. Asuka has a thing for Kaji and Shinji; she sees Kaji as the mature man she needs, but he doesn’t see her like that as she is too young for him.
Have you ever been so upset with an ex-lover that you just go bat shit crazy and destroy their entire fish tank filled with clones of their own daughters? I didn’t think so, but Ritsuko does and boy, it is pretty creepy if you ask me. As she becomes angry towards Gendo, she destroys the NERV-designed dummy plug and takes Shinji and Misato down to a room filled with a tank full of Reis with no souls. She describes what they are for before destroying them as the Reis smile and laugh the entire time. Just another incident that proves how much of a manipulative bastard Gendo really is.
Speaking of the dummy plug system, Gendo decides they need a new pilot for the new EVA coming from America so he figures it’s best that he enlist one of Shinji’s friends and not tell him. Toji (Shinji’s friend) gets all ready to go and test out the new EVA and then, oops it’s an Angel. As it takes out both Rei and Asuka’s EVA units, Gendo tells Shinji it’s his next target; Shinji finds out there is someone inside and decides he doesn’t want to. NERV installs the dummy plug, which allows the EVA to function with no pilot, and the EVA destroys the Angel on its own. Shinji screams for his dad to stop and Gendo just smiles away at the carnage. After he finds out who the pilot was, Shinji decides to hold the EVA hostage. Ah, such a warm family bond I feel between these two.
Also, what is up with Kaji being a triple agent? Like yeah, Kaji uses Gendo for information while Gendo uses Kaji for his own purposes. Likewise with Seele, although their motives with him aren’t as straightforward, but why is he in this for himself? If it’s for personal knowledge of the Human Instrumentality Project, it’s a really dangerous mission – which, yeah, he finds that out when some unknown assailant guns him down. Also, melon farmer? Really Kaji, that’s your hobby?
I would like to talk about my displeasure with the last 2 episodes of the TV series. You begin to wonder what the hell was going through Anno’s mind when he slapped together these episodes. It’s almost like a VHS tape that has the tracking all messed up, with white lines all over the place and words just jetting around. Shinji just kind of sits around depressed while Instrumentality is happening. A lot of questions are asked subconsciously in Shinji’s mind by Rei, Asuka, and Misato and of course they have to be naked, because fan service? Then BAM, he feels better and everyone appears in a circle around him on what seems to be a planet, congratulating him for something. Even his dad is there. So now Gendo is proud of his son? Oh and when did his mom come back to life? Okay, so now resurrection happens in this series as well? Just like everyone else, I really do not like the last 2 episodes of the TV series; they just kind of come out of the blue. I have heard that Anno was rushed to end the series, and these episodes brought many death threats to his office (which I find utterly ridiculous out of fans).
Oh, and can there be any more renditions of Fly Me To The Moon in this series? Some were okay, but some not really that great. About 7 episodes in, it felt like my ears could bleed if I were to hear that song again. The theme song, though, is fantastic. It’s so catchy, and I’ve read that it’s still a hit in Japanese karaoke bars.
My Personal Fan Theory, A.K.A. How I’m coping with the world of Evangelion
So the thing about Evangelion is that it’s strung together so crazily. Just when you think you’ve figured it all out, you watch it again and your perspective is changed. Anno himself said, “Evangelion is like a puzzle, you know. Any person can see it and give his/her own answer. In other words, we’re offering viewers to think by themselves, so that each person can imagine his/her own world. We will never offer the answers, even in the theatrical version. As for many Evangelion viewers, they may expect us to provide the ‘all-about Eva’ manuals, but there is no such thing. Don’t expect to get answers by someone. Don’t expect to be catered to all the time. We all have to find our own answers.” To me, it’s kind of like he’s saying he’s not sure where he was going with this but we can figure it out on our own. I feel like this is why we are still creating fan theories about Eva. I’ve seen the entire TV series and the movies, including the Rebuild series. I even faithfully attend any Eva panels dedicated to the series when I frequent anime conventions. I just can’t get enough; I’m a glutton for punishment!
I want to believe that the TV series is all just a dream for Shinji, while the Rebuild movies represent what is really happening in the Evangelion world. Think of the first two films going with the normal flow of the story and following through with Third Impact. Now go back to him being frozen; the TV series is the dream he has, where the story plays out but at the end everyone congratulates him for saving the world and finding himself. His dream is everything he wanted to happen: His dad happy for him, his mother alive again, and the happiness he has been searching for, just like how a good dream is supposed to end.
In the 3rd film Shinji wakes up from being cryogenically frozen, not understanding why Misato and the others are working for a new group called Wille. He is seen as a threat and must wear a DSS choker, which will blow his head off if he pilots an EVA. Everyone tells him that Rei is not the Rei he once knew, but he can’t believe it. He’s upset over what happened and goes back to NERV with Rei, but it’s been destroyed. Kawrou is at what is left of the headquarters and again befriends Shinji quickly – just like the TV series, but a lot closer than before. Kawrou takes him outside to see what is left of the world after Third Impact.
So how will Evangelion 3.0+1.0 turn out? This is the new mystery that we will all have to wait for, as Anno has just finished with Shin Godzilla. Knowing Anno, we could be waiting for a few years, but this is a movie we won’t want to miss. Did I miss one of your favorite WTF moments from the series? Please let us know in the comments section, as I enjoy revisiting the series and finding stuff I missed that others caught.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to watch it again.