Jack and Calumon Reviews Neon Genesis Evangelion

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NEON GENESIS EVANGELION

I couldn't review this series straight after I saw it. It would've been impossible for me to form a fair, unbiased review that made sense. When I went into this series, I was wanting to try new things, and the classics of Anime were my targets. I watched first the mind blowing, heart pumping, adrenaline fuelled ride that was Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann which made me think that the entire genre of Anime where people get into a giant robot and pilot it, also known as the "Mecha" genre, was the coolest thing that existed on this planet and that watching them would make me feel like I could take on the world every time. After Gurren Lagann, I went to watch Neon Genesis Evangelion, arguably the most well known Anime in the genre, with the expectations of another roller coaster of a TV show that will make me feel amazing.

I was wrong. I was so very wrong.

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"Evangelion" is pronounced with a hard "G" by the way, not like "Gel".

Neon Genesis Evangelion (Roughly translated to Gospel of the New Beginning) is a science fiction Anime starring giant robots with bright colours, teenage protagonists and their issues and seems to be the most marketable thing I've watched in quite a long time. One would be forgiven by looking over this brief summary and dismissing it as a thing for children, but this couldn't be any further from the truth. The show, as the title implies, carries a very heavy religious theme about it and every episode is packed full of religious references and symbolism, and even that's not the heaviest issues it deals with. It also looks at psychological issues that people suffer from, and the show does not pull any punches with the that.

The show's pivotal character that everything revolves around is Shinji Ikari, a fourteen year old boy who has been summoned by his father to come see him after he abandoned Shinji years and years ago. When Shinji gets there, he sees that his father wants Shinji to join his organisation he's in charge of called NERV, and become a pilot of the Evangelion, a synthetic humanoid robot, and with that he should fight the things attacking earth called "Angels" (While I did say there are religious references, these are not winged beings with Halos, they are much more horrifying). Along the way we meet other characters, like Rei Ayanami, a mysterious girl who is also an Evangelion pilot, Misato Katsuragi, the chief of operations at NERV and legal guardian of Shinji, and Asuka Langley Soryu, another Evangelion pilot who can only be described as hostile as a piranha. Describing the plot of Evangelion feels like scaling a mountain and the best way for you to know the plot is to actually watch the entire series, the movie retelling the series, and the movie ending the series, but make sure you watch it all again so you can understand it, because you will have questions.

Yes, the plot can be very unforgiving for those who do not pay attention, and often offers a single scene that must be thoroughly analysed in order to make sense of various loose plot threads that will never ever be explained again. Not only that, but some things will never be totally explained and instead only be implied, some things more heavily than others. This does mean that some people may be left out in the cold when it comes to the story, which is a shame because I believe it is a serious strong point and helps establish itself as something not just for kids.

However, in order for it to prove itself as something just not for kids, the themes it tackles must be right, and while Evangelion succeeds with flying colours when it comes to the psychological aspects it wants to deal with, it seems to stumble with the themes of religion. I said that there was a lot of religious symbolism, but what I didn't say was how much actually added up to something, which is not as much as it should. Some pieces are only there to look nice, something that was even admitted by the director Hideaki Anno. While it may use the depiction of Yggdrasil, the tree of life well, and can use the Sephirot, the attributes of God in a fitting way, none of it really adds up to anything. It doesn't have a clear message on religion whether it's good or bad, and the director has already said that the series was not designed to criticise Christianity, so why is it there? I don't know, something I feel I said a lot when I watched this show.

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I challenge you to find better characterisation. You'll have a hard time.

However, this show is the most influential piece of media that came out of Japan, so it certainly has its merits. The characters have an extraordinary amount of depth to them, with pretty much everything they do, all their actions, emotions and reactions all coming down to their personalities shaped by their own mental state which can be explained through what has happened in their lives. We even see sides to characters we never thought we would see. I myself found myself relating to Shinji as I had problems when I was fourteen and I shared quite a few personality traits with him, which isn't great considering how much he will angst in this show, but at least I could connect to him well. As well as the characters, the fights are simply wonderful, choreographed perfectly and complimented with animation that would make Disney feel self conscious. The voice acting, in both English and Japanese, is superb, and you can really feel that the actors are into this. It all makes a shining example of a TV show and shows that this is how one should be made, until you see the ending.

I'm not going to lie, the ending is the worst ending I have ever seen in a TV show, film, book or any other piece of media. It's not only near impossible to understand but it's an enormous let down. We see numerous ways in which the TV show manages to tell it's story and then it delivers an ending that can be described as the main characters just talking at us for two final episodes. This is not how you end a show and all it did is leave me disappointed as numerous things went unexplained and the whole thing was incomprehensible. The reason for such an ending? There was apparently little money left, so the studio had to make a compromise. I wasn't the only one who felt this way and so they made a movie called "End of Evangelion", which I'll talk about another time.

In reference to what I said at the start, this show is not for the faint of heart as it is depressing beyond belief and some of the things it shows I can only describe as traumatising. The show was originally designed for kids, but the director, Hideaki Anno, overhauled the project and decided to take it into a direction it could never turn around from, and the sheer grimness of the series can be unbelievable. It's actually got so bad at one point that the TV network considered taking it off the air in Japan to escape outcry, but settled instead on slashing the budget, creating the bad ending we have before us. For this reason, I felt so depressed after this show, it was almost maddening, so I could not talk about it in great detail, even after I finally figured out the story.

All you need to know is this, Evangelion is a series with many good points, but also bad points that seem to subtract from them. It's great characterisation is muddled with a story that doesn't have time to tell itself, it's great writing is marred by some pointless symbolism, and everything about the show, the people watching as well, are insulted by an ending that doesn't make sense. How much you will enjoy the series will vary on who you are. Personally, I found this to be an immensely enjoyable show, and for the sole reason of how influential it has served in both the east and the west, you owe it yourself to watch this. The DVDs are hard to find nowadays, but are well worth it if you can find them.

Neon Pretentiousness Evangelion. Boy that takes me back...
Sorry. I agree, it has it's moments but i always felt something was lacking. Maybe it was talent, maybe they smoked too much reefer, maybe they were one blunt short of getting a good ending, either way it's not the best giant robot show i've seen but it's preferable to the shit they've churned out recently. Not a classic, but not as bad as IS: Infinite Stratos.

Come to think of it, the whole "Mentally unstable teenagers are our only salvation" thing was played pretty hard in Puella Magi Madoka Magica which i liked; though that one, sadly, had a happy ending. Still, i prefer Homura and Kyoko to Shinji and Rei.

First off, great job on the review. Especially considering NGE's polarizing nature, it's a bit difficult to get a viewpoint which isn't vicious debasing it or praising it out the wazoo.

But now to deal with a common misconception.

Jack and Calumon:
I'm not going to lie, the ending is the worst ending I have ever seen in a TV show, film, book or any other piece of media. It's not only near impossible to understand but it's an enormous let down. We see numerous ways in which the TV show manages to tell it's story and then it delivers an ending that can be described as the main characters just talking at us for two final episodes. This is not how you end a show and all it did is leave me disappointed as numerous things went unexplained and the whole thing was incomprehensible. The reason for such an ending? There was apparently little money left, so the studio had to make a compromise. I wasn't the only one who felt this way and so they made a movie called "End of Evangelion", which I'll talk about another time.

The exact reasoning for the series ending of NGE is buried in myth and rumour; most commonly, that the budget ran out. While the studio was having financial trouble at the time of it's creation, that doesn't seem to be the case. In fact, you actually got quite close to the answer here:

Jack and Calumon:
It's actually got so bad at one point that the TV network considered taking it off the air in Japan to escape outcry, but settled instead on slashing the budget, creating the bad ending we have before us.

The budget was not slashed, the original version final two episodes were just refused to be aired; apparently, a certain head falling into the drink at the end of episode 24 was the last straw. This refusal apparently came at the last minute, leading to the last two episodes being what they were due to the time constraints rather than the budgetary ones.

This raises the obvious question of what the original ending was meant to be; there are glimpses of it in the final two episodes (...I think) and the next episode previews (might be director's cut and/or DVD only), and many of them look like scenes from EoE. The surprise success of the series in general is what led to the film, which is closer to what could be called the "true ending". Though it should be noted that many fans of the series say both EoTV (the last two episodes) and EoE are merely different perspectives of the same chain of events, internal and external respectively; they ultimately end up complementing eachother, covering details the other does not.

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That out of the way, I actually found the ending to be interesting and enjoyable; while it doesn't exactly provide closure to the events of the series which preceed it, it brings about a thematic close in a very thought-provoking manner. Still, there's no denying it's not for everyone; it's some fairly heavy-duty introspection, and brutally honest with itself. Fitting considering the creator pretty much used the series to work through his own personal issues (which makes all the angst a bit of a given, and maybe some of what could be called "pretentiousness"), but not everyone is willing to sit through it (especially when they might be expecting some sort of climatic conclusion). This is one of the reasons it's claimed that the series connects with people who have gone through bouts of depression themselves, which could also be why others really don't like it.

As such, I'll be watching for your eventual viewpoint on EoE; I expect it to be most interesting.

There's quite a bit more which could be said, but it's always good to see a review of Evangelion which isn't completely for or against it. The fans shouldn't be blind to the flaws of series, just as those who dislike it shouldn't be blind to it's strong points... though between the passion in both camps the sheer volume of subjective materials, that's easier said than done.

Anyhow, keep up the good work!

I really.... thought about this series.
I can't really think of a word to describe exactly how I feel so "thought" is good enough >.>

Perhaps due to its hype before I saw it, its entertainment value is severely decreased but I found it to be so depressing and traumatising to a fault that I couldn't consider it very "good" or "enjoyable"
That's not to say I don't like talking about it. Ever since I first watched it, it's been on my mind to some degree but I still wouldn't call it an enjoyable watch, though it is something I couldn't stop myself from continuing.

I didn't really like it because it was too depressing nor did I hate it because I loved the psychological aspect of the show and the idea of perception that it latches onto in the last few episodes (a subject of interest for me).
I do have to disagree about the ending. It was probably the only thing about the series that I outright loved.

Difficult to talk about and you managed to convey a lot through your review, so good job :D

Terrific review.

As for the religious symbolism; It doesn't mean anything. It's simply a framing device for the lore of the show. It's there to add some "oomph" to all the various aspects of the science fiction. A lot of people claim that this is the show trying to be more deep than it actually is. But when you, for instance, have a trio of super computers, calling them Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar sounds a lot more impressive than calling them Computer 1, Computer 2, and Computer 3.

The real problem I had with the ending was...

And it never follows up on that in the rest of the episode. I had to wait till EoE to find out what actually happened.

It's still my favourite anime show, and I love how uncompromising it is in the depiction of its characters. Which is usually the reason most people hate them.

There's a theory that the last two episodes are happening in Shinji's head, while EoE is what is happening around him.

If you haven't already seen it, the new Evangelion movies are awesome, and they look absolutely fantastic on Blu-ray.

Daystar Clarion:
There's a theory that the last two episodes are happening in Shinji's head, while EoE is what is happening around him.

If you haven't already seen it, the new Evangelion movies are awesome, and they look absolutely fantastic on Blu-ray.

Actually, I think it was that the entire show was happening in his head.

Episode 25 and 26 are the present time, and all the previous episodes is Shinji reminiscing on all the events that occured when he first came to Nerv. That's apparently the meaning behind him constantly switching between track 25 and 26 on his walkman throughout the series.

May I suggest the Rebuild of Evangelion?

I'm a huge fanboy for the series, owning every NGE DVD known to man (and several known to monkey), but I can't deny the facts... there are a lot of problems with it...

...the fact that you have to go through the series with pen and paper, pause after every episode to mark down important notes, quotes, and figures so you can go back later on and understand exactly what the fucks going on, was probably the one I had the most trouble overcoming...

Great review! Can't wait for the EoE

Pyramid Head:
Neon Pretentiousness Evangelion.

I didn't find the series to be that pretentious in all honesty. I can buy the classical music soundtrack, the symbolism and the sometimes abstract moments.

Of course, I've yet to talk about End of Evangelion...

Daystar Clarion:
If you haven't already seen it, the new Evangelion movies are awesome, and they look absolutely fantastic on Blu-ray.

ThatLankyBastard:
May I suggest the Rebuild of Evangelion?

I have both the films, and I will be talking about them both. Might end up just making this a huge long review of everything Evangelion.

Just not Death and Rebirth. That's just the series again. Or the Manga, I haven't any of it past Book 1.

Julianking93:
I really.... thought about this series.
I can't really think of a word to describe exactly how I feel so "thought" is good enough >.>

Perhaps due to its hype before I saw it, its entertainment value is severely decreased but I found it to be so depressing and traumatising to a fault that I couldn't consider it very "good" or "enjoyable"
That's not to say I don't like talking about it. Ever since I first watched it, it's been on my mind to some degree but I still wouldn't call it an enjoyable watch, though it is something I couldn't stop myself from continuing.

I didn't really like it because it was too depressing nor did I hate it because I loved the psychological aspect of the show and the idea of perception that it latches onto in the last few episodes (a subject of interest for me).
I do have to disagree about the ending. It was probably the only thing about the series that I outright loved.

Difficult to talk about and you managed to convey a lot through your review, so good job :D

Oh I love the ideas of perception that the series takes on. "I am the me who is perceived by you." is one of my favourite quotes of the entire series. But from a story stand point, regarding it continuing the plot, the ending doesn't really do that. Kind of leaves us hanging until End of Evangelion.

But I know how you feel, I suffered from depression before and this brought back that same sensation, feeling of swirling emptiness. I actually think it caused me to fall behind in my English Literature studies, desperately trying to claw my way back up to speed now. This series was in my thoughts, what I saw in that show is now burned in my mind forever. Really, it's not good what it did to me, feels like an abusive relationship. I love it but it keeps hurting me, EoE especially.

I do feel better about the series now, I just focused on the things I loved, like the soundtrack (Something I forgot to talk about in the review, and it is so very very good), Asuka's awesome moment in EoE and Episode 24, just all of episode 24, especially when the ninth kicks in.

NGE is one of my favourite shows but yes the TV ending sucks balls!

I've watched the TV show (never got to see the movies), and while overall, I give the shows a B for it's work, it has had some problems for me, which you pointed out.

And really, after watching the entire series, all that came to me was that everyone had some sort of mental disability and their fight against the Angels was them fighting against reality.

That's what my mind came up with when I was 15 and watched this show.

I'm glad I found this thread! I just watched nearly all of Neo Geo over the weekend. I've now seen all of the original series, End of Evangelion, 'You are (Not) Alone,' and 'You Can (Not) Advance.' The Rebuild films are some of the best animation I've ever seen, however they do go a little overboard with CG-masturbation in a few scenes. (The 3d trains in particular)

A few things I'd like to throw out for you guys:

Religious Imagery

Here it means nothing. The creators took Christian imagery and ran with it, in the same way that we Americans like to run around with Egyptian religious imagery (for example see 'The 5th Element,' 'Stargate,' anything with mummies. see also 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,' where the same thing is done with Indian religion) For the most part, it's pretty cool. However, it gets a bit heavy-handed at some points. End of Evangelion and the new rebuild series have a few sequences where watching them almost feels like Hideaki Anno is standing behind you, repeatedly smacking you in the temple with a crucifix.

Why the Hell are the Pilots all Fourteen?

Due to the nature of the Evas, the pilots have to have been born shortly after Second Impact, and there are (horrifying) reasons why each particular pilot became a pilot in the first place.

What do you mean, 'the nature of the Evas?'

The Evangelions aren't robots. Each one is a living abomination against mankind. They were cloned from the Angels, (somewhat) in the image of humans. The armor they wear is meant more to restrict and control them than for their protection. This is pretty spectacularly shown in the climax of 'You Can (Not) Advance.'

The pilots, when synched with the Evas, basically use them as a surrogate body. At a high sync ratio (or a deep plug depth in Rebuild) they feel what the Eva feels, and the Eva moves because they will it to move in the same way that a person wills his own body to move.

In the original series, each pilot is specifically tied to one Eva. I won't spoil why here, if you're interested in the series watch it, and if you're interested in spoiling it there are a couple good Neo Geo wikis with incredible amounts of information, speculation, and I can't think of another suitable '-ation' so I'll move on to the next thing.

The next thing - In the Rebuild continuity, pilots apparently aren't tied to their Eva. Asuka pilots Unit 3 at one point and Mari (new character from Rebuild) steals Unit 2 and pushes it just as far as it will go, without any trouble. No trouble until she finally gets her ass handed to her, anyway.

The last two episodes and End of Evangelion

Everybody has a different take on this. In my opinion, the final episodes take place during the events of End of Evangelion. EoE details the events that led up to the beginning of Third Impact. Episodes 25 and 26 take place in the minds of some of the characters at the beginning of Third Impact, but before the visions shown in EoE. In my opinion, some of the visions from the final episodes represent characters coming to grips with their own baggage before being fully integrated into the mass consciousness. I also think Shinji was blocking his memory of 'that' scene from the beginning of EoE, which in my mind explains how Asuka didn't know anything about it during the episodes. Then, everything was laid out on the table when he and everyone else actually joined the mass consciousness.

This show generally gets thrown in with the giant mecha genre, but it doesn't really fit there. I feel that this is a show about the actions of a group of people who are willing to commit atrocities for the advancement of man, and the suffering of the people who have to deal with the consequences of those actions firsthand.

Jack and Calumon:

But I know how you feel, I suffered from depression before and this brought back that same sensation, feeling of swirling emptiness. I actually think it caused me to fall behind in my English Literature studies, desperately trying to claw my way back up to speed now. This series was in my thoughts, what I saw in that show is now burned in my mind forever. Really, it's not good what it did to me, feels like an abusive relationship. I love it but it keeps hurting me, EoE especially.

I do feel better about the series now, I just focused on the things I loved, like the soundtrack (Something I forgot to talk about in the review, and it is so very very good), Asuka's awesome moment in EoE and Episode 24, just all of episode 24, especially when the ninth kicks in.

As to the depression thing, I've actually had the opposite effect. I've been pretty depressed for the last few months, and for something to do last weekend, I power-watched the whole series. (seeing about 80% of it for the first time) I actually found it very cathartic, and I genuinely felt better for having seen it. I think part of it was being beaten over the head with the psychological aspects until a few elements in the characters became awfully familiar, and I got a tiny bit of insight into some of the things I've been doing wrong.

And yes, the soundtrack is epic, except for the one in EoE that sounds ripped from 'The Young and the Restless'

the director has already said that the series was not designed to criticise Christianity, so why is it there? I don't know, something I feel I said a lot when I watched this show.

This stuck out to me, it was there because it was a useful tool to make a very interesting story, the idea of man fighting against god provides an abstract look into what it must be like to fight against that which cannot lose. I loved the first ending since it was an abstract look into something that can't be realized or seen, to be honest I disliked the EoE movies since they tried to show what the final moments would have been like.

Firstly, that was a wonderful review. I agree with some of your points, especially the one about religion. Why is it there? Secondly, I too was annoyed at the ending but I was very satisfied nonetheless. Why? Because it shows the final bit of development for Shinji. That the world around him is how he perceives it. It was very confusing but I was delighted to know that he matured. I could relate to him at times. Of course it was a bit more straightforward since I share his age. But I could still relate, like how NERV uses him.

This is a remarkably sane viewpoint on an anime that generally drives people into hysterics, so congratulations! *clap clap*

Otherwise, don't really have much to say that hasn't already been said. I would say, though, that I don't find the many convolutions of Evangelion's plot as important as the actual characters that inhabit it. You could spend all day arguing about religious symbolism or what exactly the Angels are or why everything turned out the way it did, but look at the show as the story of a handful of flawed, remarkably human characters struggling against incomprehensible forces of nature and I think it becomes a bit more understandable.

Now that you've seen Evangelion I'd recommend checking out Rahxephon, for a similar project that attempted to take on the same themes in a more coherent way. I think Evangelion's the superior show but plenty of others think differently, and the two shows do make a really interesting comparison. Then check out Revolutionary Girl Utena, because that's a show where, in contrast to Evangelion and its relatively loose appropriation of Christian imagery, literally every reference, image, piece of symbolism, etc. ties into the greater whole. It's also girly as hell and occasionally as dark or darker than anything from Evangelion but you should definitely check it out!

The religious symbolism is there just to mess with you.
Also, in my opinion you can't review NGE without reviewing End of Evangelion. It's the ending the series would have gotten if they had money at the time

 

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