Neon Genesis Evangelion
|Neon Genesis Evangelion|
Logo of the anime television series
(Shin Seiki Evangerion)
|Genre||Apocalyptic, mecha, psychological drama|
|Anime television series|
|Written by||Hideaki Anno, et al|
|Music by||Shirō Sagisu|
|Licensed by||Netflix (worldwide streaming license)|
|Original network||TV Tokyo|
|Original run||October 4, 1995 – March 27, 1996|
|Neon Genesis Evangelion: ANIMA|
|Written by||Ikuto Yamashita|
|Published by||ASCII Media Works|
|Magazine||Dengeki Hobby Magazine|
|Original run||January 2008 – April 2013|
Neon Genesis Evangelion (Japanese: 新世紀エヴァンゲリオン, Hepburn: Shinseiki Evangerion, lit. "New Century Gospel") is a Japanese mecha anime television series produced by Gainax and Tatsunoko Production, directed by Hideaki Anno and broadcast on TV Tokyo from October 1995 to March 1996. The cast included Megumi Ogata as Shinji Ikari, Kotono Mitsuishi as Misato Katsuragi, Megumi Hayashibara as Rei Ayanami, and Yūko Miyamura as Asuka Langley Soryu. Music for the series was composed by Shirō Sagisu.
Evangelion is set fifteen years after a worldwide cataclysm, particularly in the futuristic fortified city of Tokyo-3. The protagonist is Shinji, a teenage boy who was recruited by his father Gendo to the shadowy organization Nerv to pilot a giant bio-machine mecha called an "Evangelion" into combat with alien beings called "Angels". The series explores the experiences and emotions of Evangelion pilots and members of Nerv as they try to prevent Angels from causing more cataclysms. In the process, they are called upon to understand the ultimate causes of events and the motives for human action. It recast the saintly inventor/father as a sinister figure, and the enthusiastic teenage protagonist as a vacillating introvert, a deconstruction of classic mecha anime tropes. The series features archetypal imagery derived from Shinto cosmology as well as Jewish and Christian mystical traditions, including Midrashic tales, Kabbalah and Gnosticism. The psychoanalytic theories of Freud and Jung also feature prominently.
Neon Genesis Evangelion received critical acclaim but also garnered controversy. Particularly controversial were the last two episodes of the show. In 1997 Hideaki Anno and Gainax released the feature film The End of Evangelion, providing an alternative ending for the show. Regarded as a deconstruction of the mecha genre, the original TV series led to a rebirth of the anime industry and has become a cultural icon. Film, manga, home video, and other products in the Evangelion franchise have achieved record sales in Japanese markets and strong sales in overseas markets, with related goods selling over ¥150 billion by 2007 and Evangelion pachinko machines selling ¥700 billion by 2015.
In 2015, fifteen years after a global cataclysm known as the Second Impact, teenager Shinji Ikari is summoned to the futuristic city of Tokyo-3 by his estranged father Gendo Ikari, director of the special paramilitary force Nerv. Shinji witnesses United Nations forces battling an Angel, one of a race of giant monstrous beings whose awakening was foretold by the Dead Sea Scrolls. Because of the Angels' near-impenetrable force-fields, Nerv's giant Evangelion bio-machines, synchronized to the nervous systems of their pilots and possessing their force-fields, are the only weapons capable of keeping the Angels from annihilating humanity. Nerv officer Misato Katsuragi escorts Shinji into the Nerv complex beneath the city, where his father pressures him into piloting the Evangelion Unit-01 against the Angel. Without training, Shinji is quickly overwhelmed in the battle, causing the Evangelion to go berserk and savagely kill the Angel on its own.
Following hospitalization, Shinji moves in with Misato and settles into life in Tokyo-3. In his second battle, Shinji destroys an Angel but runs away afterwards, distraught. Misato confronts Shinji and he decides to remain a pilot. The Nerv crew and Shinji must then battle and defeat the remaining 14 Angels to prevent the Third Impact, a global cataclysm that would destroy the world. Evangelion Unit-00 is repaired shortly afterwards. Shinji tries to befriend its pilot, the mysterious, socially isolated teenage girl Rei Ayanami. With Rei's help, Shinji defeats another Angel. They are then joined by the pilot of Evangelion Unit-02, the multitalented, but insufferable teenager Asuka Langley Sōryu, who is German-Japanese-American. Together, the three of them manage to defeat several Angels. As Shinji adjusts to his new role as a pilot, he gradually becomes more confident and self-assured. Asuka moves in with Shinji, and they begin to develop confusing feelings for one another, kissing at her provocation.
After being absorbed by an Angel, Shinji breaks free thanks to the Eva acting on its own. He is later forced to fight an infected Evangelion Unit-03 and watches its pilot, his friend and classmate Toji Suzuhara, incapacitated and presumably permanently disabled. Asuka loses her self-confidence following a defeat and spirals into depression. This is worsened by her next fight, against an Angel which attacks her mind and forces her to relive her worst fears and childhood trauma, resulting in a mental breakdown. In the next battle, Rei self-destructs Unit-00 and dies to save Shinji's life. Misato and Shinji visit the hospital where they find Rei alive but claiming she is "the third Rei". Misato forces scientist Ritsuko Akagi to reveal the dark secrets of Nerv, the Evangelion boneyard and the dummy plug system which operates using clones of Rei, who was herself created with the DNA of Shinji's mother, Yui Ikari. This succession of events leaves Shinji emotionally scarred and alienated from the rest of the characters. Kaworu Nagisa replaces the catatonic Asuka as pilot of Unit-02. Kaworu, who initially befriends Shinji and gains his trust, is in truth the final foretold Angel, Tabris. Kaworu fights Shinji, then realizes that he must die if humanity is to survive and asks Shinji to kill him. Shinji hesitates but eventually kills Kaworu, causing Shinji to be overridden with guilt.
After the final Angel is defeated, Seele, the mysterious cabal overseeing the events of the series, triggers the "Human Instrumentality Project", a forced evolution of humanity in which the souls of all mankind are merged for benevolent purposes, believing that if unified, humanity could finally overcome the loneliness and alienation that has eternally plagued mankind. Shinji's soul grapples with the reason for his existence and reaches an epiphany that he needs others to thrive, enabling him to destroy the wall of negative emotions that torment him and reunite with the others, who congratulate him.
Hideaki Anno attempted to create characters that reflected parts of his own personality. The characters of Evangelion struggle with their interpersonal relationships, their personal problems, and traumatic events in their past. The human qualities of the characters have enabled some viewers of the show to identify with the characters on a personal level, while others interpret them as historical, religious, or philosophical symbols. Shinji Ikari is the series protagonist and the designated pilot of Evangelion Unit-01. After witnessing his mother Yui Ikari's death as a child, Shinji was abandoned by his father, Gendo Ikari. He is emotionally hypersensitive and sometimes does as expected out of fear of rejection, but he has often rebelled and refused to pilot the Eva because of the extremely excruciating harm that has been done to him or to his friends. Throughout the series, he says to himself "I mustn't run away" as a means of encouraging himself to face the threats of the day, and this sometimes actually gives him bravery in battle, but he has a lingering habit of withdrawing in response to traumatic events. Anno has described Shinji as a boy who "shrinks from human contact" and has "convinced himself that he is a completely unnecessary person".
The withdrawn and mysterious pilot of Evangelion Unit-00, Rei Ayanami, is a clone made from the salvaged remains of Yui and is plagued by a sense of negative self-worth stemming from the realization that she is an expendable asset. She at one time despised Shinji for his lack of trust in his father Gendo, with whom Rei is very close. However, after Shinji and Rei successfully defeat the Angel Ramiel, she takes a friendly liking to him. Towards the end of the series, it is revealed that she is one of many clones, whose use is to replace the currently existing Rei if she is killed.
Asuka Langley Soryu is a child prodigy who pilots Evangelion Unit-02 and possesses a fiery temper and an overabundance of pride and self-confidence, which often gets her in trouble and difficulty, especially during battles. As a little girl, Asuka discovered the body of her mother shortly after she committed suicide, leading the child to repress her emotions and vow never to cry. Asuka and Shinji develop intense but ambiguous feelings towards each other having difficulty reaching out to others, as their relationship was initially modeled on the one between Jean, Nadia's love interest and eventual husband in the earlier Nadia. Compared to Shinji, Asuka and Rei are presented with their own flaws and difficulty relating to other people. Misato Katsuragi is the caretaker and commanding officer for Shinji and Asuka. Her professional demeanor at Nerv contrasts dramatically with her carefree and irresponsible behavior at home. Character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto conceived her as an older "girl next door" and promiscuous loser who failed to take life seriously. Hideaki Anno described Shinji and Misato as "afraid of being hurt" and "unsuitable—lacking the positive attitude—for what people call heroes of an adventure."
The teenaged Evangelion pilots are ordered into battle by the steely Gendo Ikari, Shinji's father and the commander of Nerv. He abandoned Shinji and recalled him only to serve as an Evangelion pilot. Gendo salvaged the remains of his dead wife's body to create Rei, whom he viewed as a mere tool at his disposal to defeat the Angels and enact Instrumentality. Similar to Shinji, he is somewhat asocial and is afraid of being insulted by others and often runs away from such, often committing immoralities in the process. This fear is also what drove him to abandon Shinji. He is depicted as relentless in his drive to win, a man who "takes drastic and extreme measures, by fair means or foul, or by hook or by crook, in order to accomplish his own purpose." According to Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, the characters of Gendo and Fuyutsuki are based on Ed Straker and Alec Freeman of the television series UFO. Sadamoto designed the visual appearance of the characters so that their personalities "could be understood more or less at a glance". The distinctive aesthetic appeal of the female lead characters' designs contributed to the high sales of Neon Genesis Evangelion merchandise. The design of Rei, in particular, became so popular that the media referred to the character as "Premium Girl" due to the high sales of books with Rei on the cover.
Director Hideaki Anno fell into a deep depression following completion of work on Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water and the 1992 failure of the Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise sequel project. According to Yasuhiro Takeda, Anno agreed to a collaboration between King Records and Gainax while drinking with King representative Toshimichi Ōtsuki; King Records guaranteed Anno a time slot for "something, anything". Anno began the development of the new series in 1993 around the notion of not running away, which had been the underlying theme of Aoki Uru, an earlier Anno project that had failed to move into production. Early into the production, Anno stated his intent to have Evangelion increase the number of otaku (anime fans) by attracting interest in the medium. According to him, the plot of the series reflects his four-year depression. In the early design phase of the Evangelion project, several formats were considered, including a film, a television series and an original video animation (OVA) series. The producers finally opted for the television series as it was the most widely accessible media in Japan at that time. The proposed title Alcion was rejected due to its lack of hard consonant sounds.
Evangelion borrowed certain scenarios and the use of introspection as a narrative device from a previous Anno project entitled Gunbuster. He incorporated the narrative structure of Nadia and multiple frames of reference, leaving the story open to interpretation. Over the course of the writing process, elements of the Evangelion storyline evolved from the original concept. A female protagonist was initially proposed for the series, but the idea was scrapped. Originally, the first episode presented the battle between an Angel and Rei, while the character of Shinji was only introduced after the Angel had been defeated. Further changes to the plot were made following the Aum Shinrikyo sect's sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in March. Azuma Hiroki has said that the original Evangelion story was "too close to reality" from Anno's point of view. Basically, Anno thought that the original scenario was not suitable for broadcasting, and he feared censorship. However, he also criticized Aum Shinrikyo, because "they lost any contact with reality". For this reason, Azuma stated that Evangelion "is an intrinsic critique of Aum". The final version of the story reflects inspiration drawn from numerous other anime and fictional works. Chief among these are Space Battleship Yamato, Mobile Suit Gundam, Devilman and Space Runaway Ideon. The series also incorporates tributes to Childhood's End, the novels of Ryū Murakami, The Andromeda Strain, The Divine Invasion, the poem Pippa Passes, The Hitcher, and several television series including The Prisoner, Thunderbirds, Ultraman and Ultra Seven.
The development of the Neon Genesis Evangelion series ran close to deadlines throughout its production run. The initial cuts of the first two episodes were screened at the second Gainax festival in July 1995, only three months before they were aired on television. By episode 13 the series began to deviate significantly from the original story, and the initial script was abandoned. The number of Angels was reduced to 17 instead of the original 28, and the writers changed the story's ending, which had originally described the failure of the Human Instrumentality Project after an Angel attack from the moon. Not only did the series suffer from scheduling issues, but according to Anno, despite Gainax being the lead studio for the series, the company itself had inadequate materials and staff for the full production of the series. Only three staff members from Gainax were working on the series at any given time, and the majority of the series' production was outsourced to Tatsunoko Production.
Starting with episode 16, the show changed drastically, discarding the grand narrative concerning salvation for a narrative focusing on the individual characters. This change coincided with Anno's development of an interest in psychology after a friend lent him a book on mental illness. This focus culminated in a psychoanalysis of the characters in the two final episodes. The production ran so close to the airing deadline that the completed scenes used in the preview of the twenty-fifth episode had to be redesigned to work with the new ending. These episodes feature heavy use of abstract animation, flashbacks, simple line drawings, photographs and fixed image scenes with voice-over dialogue. Some critics speculated that these unconventional animation choices resulted from budget cuts, but Toshio Okada stated that while it wasn't only a problem of schedule or budget, Anno "couldn't decide the ending until the time came, that's his style". These two episodes sparked controversy and condemnation among fans and critics of the series. In 1997, Hideaki Anno and Gainax released two animated feature films, providing an alternative ending for the show: Death & Rebirth and The End of Evangelion.
References to mystical traditions in Judaism and Christianity, including Midrashic literature, Kabballah and Gnosticism are threaded liberally through the series. Complicating viewers' attempts to form an unambiguous interpretation, the series reworks Midrash stories, Zohar images and other Kabbalistic ideas developed from the Book of Genesis to create a new Evangelion-specific mythology. Assistant director Kazuya Tsurumaki said the religious visual references were intended to make the series more "interesting" and "exotic", denying the existence of a religious meaning for the use of Christian visual symbols in the show. However, according to Anno, "as the symbols are mixed together, for the first time something like an interrelationship or a meaning emerges". The plot combines elements of esotericism and mysticism of the Jewish Kabbalah, including the Angels, which have many common features with the Angels of the religious tradition, such as Sachiel, Sandalphon and Ramiel.
According to Patrick Drazen, numerous allusions to the Kojiki and the Nihongi have a prominent role in Evangelion, along with the Shinto vision of the primordial cosmos and the mythical lances of the Shinto deities Izanagi and Izanami. Elements of the Judeo-Christian tradition also feature prominently throughout the series, including references to Adam, Lilith, Eve, the Lance of Longinus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Kabbalistic concept of Adam Kadmon, the Tree of Life, among many others. The merging of all human souls into one through the Human Instrumentality Project at the end of the series is similar to the Kabbalistic concept of tikkun olam. The Evangelions have been likened to the golem of Jewish folklore, and their visual design resembles the traditional depictions of oni (Japanese demons or ogres).
Neon Genesis Evangelion has been interpreted as a deeply personal expression of Hideaki Anno's own emotional struggles with depression. During the production of the series, he became interested in mental illness and psychology. According to him, Rei is a schizophrenic character and she represents the unconscious of Shinji. Shinji has an Oedipus complex, and is characterized by a libido-destrudo conflict. Similarly, Misato has an Electra complex, in which she loves Kaji, a sort of substitute for her father figure. Anno himself stated that he identifies with Shinji, Asuka and Misato in a conscious manner, whereas Rei and Kaworu are part of his subconscious, with Kaworu as his Jungian shadow. It has even been suggested that Shinji's entering into Unit-01 is a Freudian "return to the womb", and that his struggle to be free of the Eva is his "rite of passage" into manhood. The series contains many references to philosophical and psychoanalytic concepts, such as the oral stage, introjection, oral personality, ambivalence, and the death drive, including some elements of the works of Sigmund Freud, Arthur Schopenhauer, Søren Kierkegaard and others.
In May 1996, Gainax announced an Evangelion film in response to fan dissatisfaction with the series finale. On March 15, 1997, Gainax released Evangelion: Death & Rebirth, consisting of 60 minutes of clips taken from the first 24 episodes of the series and only the first 30 minutes of the new ending due to production issues. The second film, The End of Evangelion, which premiered on July 19, 1997, provided the complete new ending as a retelling of the final two episodes of the television series. Rather than depicting the series' climax within the characters' minds, the film provides a more conventional, action-based resolution to the series' plot lines. The film won numerous awards and grossed 1.45 billion yen within six months of its release. EX.org ranked the film in 1999 as the fifth best 'All-Time Show', with the television series at #2. and in 2009 CUT Magazine ranked it the third greatest anime film of all time. In July 1998 the films were re-released as Revival of Evangelion which combined Death(true)² (the director's cut of Death) with The End of Evangelion.
On September 9, 2006, Gainax confirmed a new animated film series called Rebuild of Evangelion, consisting of four movies. The first film retells the first five episodes from the series but from the second film onward the story is completely different, including new characters, EVAs and Angels. The first film, Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone, was released in Japan on September 1, 2007, with Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance released on June 27, 2009 and Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo released on November 17, 2012. The final film, titled Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time, was originally scheduled for release on June 27, 2020, but has been delayed to January 23, 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On February 8, 2015, Evangelion:Another Impact, a 3D-rendered short film collaboration between the Khara studio and the media company Dwango is was directed by Shinji Aramaki, was released and streamed as number 12 anime short from the Japan Animator Expo. It depicts "the story of an Evangelion's activation, rampage and howling in another world".
Manga and books
Ten months prior to the television broadcast of Evangelion, the character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto illustrated a manga version of the story, initially as a supplement meant to promote the animated series. The first installment of the manga was published in the February issue of Shōnen Ace in December 1994 with subsequent installments produced on an irregular basis over an eighteen-year period. The final installment was published in June 2013. Several publishers were initially concerned at the selection of Sadamoto to develop the manga adaptation, viewing him as "too passé to be bankable". These concerns proved unfounded upon the strong commercial success of the manga: the first 10 volumes sold over 15 million copies, and the eleventh volume reached number one on the Tohan charts, selling an additional two million copies. The manga series won the 1996 Comicker fan manga poll. The story has been adapted into several other manga series in addition to the original Sadamoto project: Campus Apocalypse, a mystery story that omits the Evangelion units, and Petit Eva: Evangelion@School, a parody series which received its own original net animation serial show.
Soundtracks and music
Shirō Sagisu composed most of the original music for the series. The soundtracks released to high rankings on the Oricon charts, with Neon Genesis Evangelion III reaching the number one slot for highest sales in 1997; that same year, Sagisu received the Kobe Animation award for "Best Music Score" for his work on Evangelion. Classical music by Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Sebastian Bach, Giuseppe Verdi and George Frideric Handel were also featured throughout the series. Additional classical works and original symphonic compositions were used to score later movies produced within the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise. In total, the series' discography includes 21 full studio, live, compilation and soundtrack albums and six CD singles. The series' opening theme is "A Cruel Angel's Thesis", performed by Yoko Takahashi. It ranked on two TV Asahi polls, reaching #55 for best anime theme songs of all time, and #18 for best anime theme songs of the 1990s. Fifteen years after its release, the theme won JASRAC's annual award for the royalties it continues to generate from its usage in pachinko, pachislo, karaoke and other venues. The end theme of the series was a version of "Fly Me to the Moon" arranged and sung by Claire Littley (credited only as CLAIRE).
Several video games based on the series have been developed, ranging from RPG and adventure games to mahjong and card games. The series has also spawned visual novels, two of them inspired the romance and comedy-focused manga series Angelic Days and Shinji Ikari Raising Project.
The original home video releases in Japan included VHS and Laserdisc sets using a release structured around "Genesis 0:(volume number)", with each of the first 12 releases containing two episodes each. Each of the episodes received minor changes and Episodes 21–24 were extended with new scenes. "Genesis 0:13" and "Genesis 0:14" contained the original and the alternate versions of episodes 25 and 26 first presented in Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion. A fifteenth and final release for Laserdisc, entitled "Genesis 0:X", contained the broadcast versions of episodes 21 to 24 and was a special mail-in offer for fans who purchased all 14 discs. The first Japanese DVD release was spread across seven volumes; all contained four episodes with the seventh volume containing both the original and alternate versions of episodes 25 and 26. This version was identical to the previous laserdisc and VHS release. The Movies were also released as a special set, just like before. In 2000 and 2001, three box sets were released to commemorate the fictional Second Impact which occurred in the year 2000 in the series. The Second Impact Box contained the 26 original episodes and both movies on 9 DVDs—three per Box. The versions were the original broadcast and theatrical versions respectively and therefore different from the previous DVD release. In addition, the video game Girlfriend of Steel was included in the third box set.
In 2003, the Japanese-only, nine-volume "Renewal of Evangelion" DVDs were released on June 25, with improved acoustic effects, remixed dialogue and remastered soundtrack for 5.1 stereo sound. The first eight volumes covered the original 26 episodes, including two versions of episodes 21 to 24: the (extended) video version (that was available in previous releases) and a reconstruction of the shorter broadcast version, which was now made available for the first time since the Genesis 0:X laserdisc and also wasn't censored like in the original broadcast. The ninth volume was named Evangelion: The Feature Film and Revival of Evangelion and contained Death(true)² and End of Evangelion (omitting Rebirth) on two discs. The Renewal Project release formed the basis for the western "Platinum Edition". On December 1, 2014, Studio Khara announced a Blu-ray boxset that will contain a new HD-remastering of the television series, the video versions of Episodes 21–24, as well as the two movies, both as Revival of Evangelion, the director's cut, which was available in the Renewal DVDs, and as their original theatrical versions Death and Rebirth and The End of Evangelion. In addition, another DVD set, titled Archives of Evangelion, was announced that contains the original unaltered broadcast version of the television series as well as the broadcast version of Death (True) & Rebirth that aired in January 1998. Both sets were released on August 26, 2015, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the TV series.
The series was distributed in North America and Europe by ADV Films. The 13 English VHS tapes, released from August 4, 1997 to July 7, 1998, contained two episodes each and were released using the same "Genesis 0:(volume number)" titling convention as the first Japanese home video release. Two laserdisc collections were released as Collection 1 Deluxe Edition and Collection 2 Deluxe Edition, containing episodes one to four and five to eight, respectively. The first DVD release by ADV Films was the eight disk Perfect Collection in 2002, containing the original 26 installments. In 2004, ADV released two DVD compilations titled Neon Genesis Evangelion: Resurrection and Neon Genesis: Reborn, encompassing the directors' cuts of Episodes 21 through 24. In the same year, the Platinum Edition release was announced by ADV in 2004, consisting of seven DVDs released between July 27, 2004 and April 19, 2005. The Platinum Edition contained the original 26 episodes and the four "Director's cut" versions of episodes 21 to 24. A six-disc version of the Platinum Edition, the Platinum Complete Edition, was released on November 22, 2005, and omitted several extras included in other versions, including commentary and trailers. A seven-disc Platinum Perfect Collection tin case version was released on November 27, 2007, and included the extras that were omitted from the Platinum Complete Edition. On November 18, 2008, a seven-disc Holiday Edition DVD was released, this would be the final DVD release of the series from ADV Films. In late November 2011, it was announced the series was going out of print.
On November 26, 2018, streaming company Netflix announced that it had acquired the worldwide streaming rights to the original anime series, as well as Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death (true)² and The End of Evangelion, for release in Q2 2019. On March 22, 2019, Netflix announced a June 21, 2019 premiere date for the titles. Following the dissolution of ADV Films in late 2009, the Netflix release includes a re-translated script from Studio Khara's in-house translator Dan Kanemitsu and a new English-language cast chosen by Khara. The Netflix release omits "Fly Me to the Moon" in certain regions due to licensing issues. On May 30, 2020, British anime distributor Anime Limited announced it had acquired home video distribution rights for the original series, Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death (true)² and The End of Evangelion in the United Kingdom and Ireland, with an "Ultimate Edition Blu-ray" release scheduled for 2021, marking the international release of the original series on Blu-ray. On October 3, 2020, North American anime distributor GKIDS announced it had licensed the original TV series, Death (true)² and The End of Evangelion for home video, theatrical, and digital download release with an Ultimate Edition to be released in 2021, making this the first Blu-ray release of the franchise in North America.
— Nick Verboon, Unreality Mag (June 13, 2013)
Neon Genesis Evangelion received critical acclaim both domestically and internationally during its initial broadcast and in the decades since its release. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the series has an approval rating of 100% based on 29 reviews, with an average rating of 8.29/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Neon Genesis Evangelion, both a cultural touchstone for Japan and an uncompromising auteurist vision by creator Hideaki Anno, doubles as an enthralling apex for the mecha anime genre and as a harrowing exploration of depression – making for a wholly singular epic about angels and inner demons."
Following the conclusion of the series' original television broadcast, the public and critical reception to Neon Genesis Evangelion was polarized, particularly with regard to the final two episodes. The experimental style of the finale confused or alienated many fans and spawned debate and controversy; the criticism was largely directed toward the lack of storyline resolution in the final two episodes. Opinion on the finale was mixed, with the audience broadly divided between those who considered the episodes "deep", and those who felt their meaning was "more apparent than real". The English voice actors admitted that they also had trouble understanding the series' conclusion. The Mainichi Times wrote that after episode 25, "nearly all viewers felt betrayed ... When commentator Eiji Ōtsuka sent a letter to the Yomiuri Shimbun, complaining about the end of the Evangelion series, the debate went nationwide." Despite the criticism, Anno stood by his artistic choices for the series' conclusion. Critic Zac Bertschy remarked in 2003 that "Most of the backlash against Evangelion existed because people don't like to think". The initial controversy surrounding the end of Evangelion has had no lasting negative influence on the popularity of the series.
The "richness" of the characters and "complex and layered" narrative has received praise by critics, with Mike Hale of The New York Times describing it in 2009 as "a superior anime, a giant-robot tale of unusual depth, feeling and detail." Evangelion has developed into a social phenomenon beyond its primary fan base, generating national discussion in Japan. The series has also been the subject of numerous media reports, debates, and research studies worldwide. Evangelion has received review by critics, academics and sociologists alike, including by Susan J. Napier, William Rout, Mick Broderick, Mari Kotani, Shinji Miyadai, Hiroki Azuma, Yuriko Furuhata, and Marc Steinberg. The series has been described as both a critique and deconstruction of the mecha genre. Theron Martin (Anime News Network) described the character design as "distinctive, designed to be sexy rather than cutesy", and the mecha designs as "among the most distinctive ever produced for an anime series, with sleek, lithe appearances that look monstrous, fearsome, and nimble rather than boxy and knight-like". Mike Crandol stated "It no longer seems contrite to say that Evangelion is surely one of the all-time great works of animation". Japanese critic Manabu Tsuribe considered that Evangelion was "extremely interior and is lacking in sociality, so that it seems to reflect pathology of the times." In February 2004 Cinefantastique listed the anime as one of the "10 Essential Animations".
Neon Genesis Evangelion has scored highly in numerous popularity polls. In 1996, the series won first place in the "Best Loved Series" category of the Anime Grand Prix, a reader-polled award series published in Animage magazine. The show was again awarded this prize in 1997 by a large margin. The End of Evangelion won first place in 1998, making Neon Genesis Evangelion the first anime franchise to win three consecutive first place awards. The website IGN ranked Evangelion as the 10th best animated series in its "Top 100 Animated TV Series" list. The series placed third in Animage's "anime that should be remembered in the 21st Century". In 1998, EX.org's readers voted Neon Genesis Evangelion the #1 US anime release and in 1999, the #2 show of all time. In 2007, a large-scale poll by TV Asahi found Evangelion was the second most appreciated anime in Japan. The series was ranked as the most popular of all time in a 2006 survey of 80,000 attendees at the Japan Media Arts Festival.
Evangelion won the Animation Kobe award in 1996, and 1997. The series was awarded the Nihon SF Taisho Award and the Excellence Award Japan Media Arts Festival in 1997. The film ranked #6 on Wizard's Anime Magazine on their "Top 50 Anime released in North America". In the August 1996 issue of Animage, Evangelion characters placed high in the rankings of best characters with Rei ranked first, Asuka third, Kaworu fourth and Shinji sixth. Rei Ayanami won in the Female Character category in 1995 and 1996 and Shinji Ikari won the Male Character category in 1996 and 1997. In 2010, Newtype magazine recognized Rei Ayanami as the most popular character of the 1990s in the female category, and Shinji Ikari in the male category. TV Asahi recognized the "suicide of Ayanami Rei" as the ninth most touching anime scene ever. "A Cruel Angel's Thesis" won the Animage award in the Best Song category in 1996, and TV Asahi recognized it as the 18th best anime song since 1990.
Influence and legacy
Evangelion has had a significant impact on Japanese popular culture. The series also had a strong influence on anime, at a time when the anime industry and televised anime series were in a slump period. CNET reviewer Tim Hornyak credits the series with revitalizing and transforming the giant mecha genre. In the 1980s and 1990s, Japanese animation saw decreased production following the economic crash in Japan. This was followed by a crisis of ideas in the years to come. Against this background, Evangelion imposed new standards for the animated serial, ushering in the era of the "new Japanese animation serial", characterized by innovations that allowed a technical and artistic revival of the industry. The production of anime serials began to reflect greater author control, the concentration of resources in fewer but higher quality episodes (typically ranging from 13 to 26), a directorial approach similar to live film, and greater freedom from the constraints of merchandising. According to Keisuke Iwata, the global spread of Japanese animation dramatically expanded due to the popularity of Evangelion. After the success of the show, otaku culture gained wide attention. In Japan, Evangelion prompted a review of the cultural value of anime, and with its success, anime reached a new point of maturity. With the interest in the series, otaku culture became a mass social phenomenon. The show's regular reruns increased the number of otaku, which John Lynden links to a boom in interest in literature on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Kabbalah and Christianity.
Evangelion has influenced numerous subsequent anime series, including Serial Experiments Lain, RahXephon, Texhnolyze, Gasaraki, Guilty Crown, Boogiepop Phantom, Blue Submarine No. 6, Mobile Battleship Nadesico, Rinne no Lagrange, Gurren Lagann, Dual! Parallel Trouble Adventure, Argento Soma, Pilot Candidate, Generator Gawl, and Dai-Guard. References, homages and tributes to the series are also contained in the third episode of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, Koi Koi Seven, Hayate the Combat Butler, Baka and Test, Regular Show, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Gravity Falls and Keroro Gunsō. The show's mixture of religion and mecha influenced several Japanese video games, including Xenogears and El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron.
The design and personality traits of the character Rei Ayanami were reused for many anime and manga characters of the late 1990s, such as Ruri Hoshino of Nadesico, Ruriko Tsukushima (The Droplet), Miharu (Gasaraki), Anthy Himemiya (Revolutionary Girl Utena), and Lain Iwakura (Serial Experiments Lain). The character of Asuka was parodied by Excel (Excel Saga), and some of her traits were used to create the character of Mai in Gunparade March. According to Italian critic Guido Tavassi, Evangelion's mecha design, characterized by a greater resemblance to the human figure, and the abstract designs of the Angels, also had a significant impact on the designs of future anime productions. Nobuhiro Watsuki designed several characters for Rurouni Kenshin based on characters from Neon Genesis Evangelion, namely Uonuma Usui, Honjō Kamatari and Fuji. Anime director Makoto Shinkai declared that the genre of anime owes a cinematographic debt to Evangelion. In the aftermath of Evangelion, Anno reused many of its stylistic conceits in the live-action Love & Pop and the anime romance Kare Kano. Neon Genesis Evangelion also influenced some music artists, such as the UK band Fightstar and its debut album, Grand Unification, and the Japanese band Rey, which derived its name from the character of Rei Ayanami.
— Tim Hornyak, CNET (July 16, 2013)
The popularity of Neon Genesis Evangelion extends to its merchandising which exceeded $400 million within two years of its release. The series has established itself greatly on the Japanese market, developing a varied range of products for adult consumers, such as cell phones (including a special Nerv and MAGI-themed Sharp SH-06D smartphone released in 2012), laptop computers, many soundtracks, DVDs, action figures, telephone cards and an official set of Japanese coins. The stylized mecha design that would later earn praise for Evangelion was initially criticized by certain toy companies as being too difficult to manufacture, with some expressing concern that models of the Evangelions "would never sell." Eventually, Sega agreed to license all toy and video game sales. At the time of the release of the Japanese film Death & Rebirth and The End of Evangelion, estimated sales of Evangelion merchandise topped $300 million, of which 70% derived from sales of video and laser discs, soundtrack CDs, single CDs, computer software and the three-volume manga. Multiple merchandising products were released during the Renewal Project, such as CDs, video games, cel-art illustrations and collectible models.
The commercial exploitation of the series for the home video market achieved record sales and remained strong over a decade later. The fame of the show has grown through home video sales, which exceeded two or three times the sales of other contemporary anime series and films. The series contributed significantly to the spread of the DVD format in Japan and generated a considerable impact on the Japanese economy, calculated in billions of yen. In 2006, Matt Greenfield stated that the franchise had earned over $2 billion. A 2007 estimate placed total sales of 6,000 related goods at over ¥150 billion. In 2015, pachinko manufacturer Fields Corporation revealed that Evangelion pachinko and pachislot machines sold over 2 million units, generating a revenue of ¥700 billion.
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By tying their fortunes in battle to their psychological states, and setting the endpoint to its apocalyptic drama as a renegotiation of the fundamental relationships between human beings, Evangelion insists that there is nothing more epic, consequential or important than the deeply personal.
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There was this replacement by a robot, so the original mother is the robot, but then there is a mother of the same age, Rei Ayanami, by [Shinji's] side. [She is] also by the side of the real father. There is also another father there, Adam, who governs the overall course of events. An Oedipus Complex within these multiple structures; that's what I wanted to do.
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[The final] episode ends with the captions "To my father, thank you." "To my mother, farewell." "And to all the Children." "Congratulations!" Eva is something of an Oedipus complex story, where a boy feels love and hatred for his father and mother, so the first two captions can be thought to means that Shinji has come to an understanding with his father and grown out of his dependence on his mother.
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The idea of a play within a play and making it like a stage came to me at the last moment, but Shinji-kun went on looking at not only the surfaces of strangers, but their pasts – No matter what kind of person it is, is it not the case that they have filthy aspects? [...] That's Dr. Freud's theory of a good mother and a bad mother at the oral stage of development, though. In short, a mother is someone who simultaneously protects you unconditionally and restrains you—which you could call the bad part. Additionally, it's not the case that a mother is in a good mood every day. For example, when you cried, if she was in a good mood, she might have said something like, "Be a good child, a good child; you mustn't cry," but if she were irritable and in a bad mood, she might even shout, isn't that right? From a child's perspective, you can't see the two as the same person. Therefore both a good mother and a bad mother exist, and when you recognize that they are contained within a single personality, you're able to see for the first time what's known as a stranger. I intended to do that.
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