Anime Academy review of Neon Genesis Evangelion
Title: Neon Genesis Evangelion, a.k.a. Shinseiki
Format: 26 episodes
Dates: 10/4/1995 to 3/28/1996
Summary: Shinji is a lonely 14-year old child with a dark history; his mother died under mysterious circumstances, and his father basically orphaned him to work for a top-secret government project. One day, a terror from outer space wreaks havoc upon Japan, necessitating Shinji's assistance in his father's project. The project is the creation of the Eva units, large mecha created to combat the Angels, and can only be piloted by 14-year old children. Pilot is the wrong term; the Eva units require the children as hosts! Is Shinji the savior of the earth? And if he is, at what expense?
Highs: Mecha design; well-choreographed action scenes; strong character analysis and religious symbolism will delight some.
Lows: Project goes overbudget and it shows; story bogs down in the middle; strong character analysis and religious symbolism will confuse many.
Review: This series (and the movies, which replace the last two episodes due to public outrage) is a fan favorite, and with good reason; few anime delve as deep into the psyche of its characters and offer religious overtones by the bucketful.
Those looking to watch this just for the mecha will be pleased initially, but bored the rest of the time. It takes someone with a working knowledge of Christianity and an appetite for psychology to fully appreciate this anime for all it's worth.
While we aren't probing deep into the confused minds of 14-year old children, we are spectator to some wonderful action sequences as the Eva pilots protect the earth from the Angels. I'm reluctant to say, however, that this is reminiscent of the "Monster of the Week" theme that permeates Sailor Moon and the Power Rangers. This, and the fact that Gainax went overbudget about halfway through the series and thus used an extensive amount of stills, seemed to dull the story and make it feel uneven.
One aspect that I find missing in most action-based anime is that every gesture, every word, every scene gives some weight to the story. Though the meaning of each may fly over your head the first time, it'll dawn on you by the end of the series. The best way to describe this anime is as a character study, a Sunday school lesson, and a thriller all rolled into one complicated mass. Anime fans should watch this if only because you'll be hard-pressed to find another as introspective.