It was the early 2000’s, and the impressionable young mind and anime fan such as me was staying up late to watch my favorite late night shows on Adult Swim when one night I was greeted with this:
That is one of the most catchy pop openings of any anime ever and it won my heart over before I got to the anime itself.
This is the story of the human race in 2015 after what is called the “Second Impact” hits the Earth and destroys majority of it, leaving the human race around the world scrambling for survival. In Tokyo-3, life has pretty much returned to normal except for the teensy feeling in the back of you head when you know an “angel” is about to destroy your home any second. What is an angel you ask?
What? Did you expect something outta the bible? THIS IS ANIME!!
What I love so much about this 26 episode (plus a movie re-telling of the ending, and 4 modern movies) and the reason it left such a big impact (get it?) on my life is that it was the first time I felt like I saw anime as being a really serious thing than what I was used to up to that point. Yes, I had seen Rurouni Kenshin, but that was a few years sooner even and I was younger and I was just thinking how awesome the fights were.
With NGE it was the time I was beginning to really comprehend story layers, characters and that there is a whole universe out there and it was ready to tear me apart. And so I ate up NGE like it was popcorn and soaked in all the blood it had to offer me. And trust me, it had a lot.
The series touched on the mind and heart of the human condition put under extreme conditions of home life, love life, growing up in a war torn world and being forced to grow up too fast at a young age. Tokyo-3 battled angels that came from the sky to destroy the Earth by using teenagers who were the only ones compatible to “pilot” the Evangelion units, giant robotic creatures with amazing stamina, speed and strength.
Shinji Ikari, the lead, suffered from neglect issues with his father, the trauma of losing his mother at an early age and being used by his father only as weapon for the Earth as he is always being place in some of the most dangerous situations.
Rei Ayanami, another of the 3 main pilots, was a loner who rarely ever showed emotion but sought being accepted by those around her she deemed better than her. When we found out she was merely a clone of Shinji’s mother, that is when things hit the fan as Rei wondered if she still needed to exist in this world and if she could be anything other than a mirror into other’s lives.
Asuka Langley Soryu, the final of the three main leads, is really the one true Tsundere, she was beautiful but God help you if you so looked at her wrong. Asuka mainly suffered from not be loved enough as a child and being expected to be the best at whatever she accomplished. No one could be her equal, and it boiled over near the end when she just gave up after being bested by an angel in battle. She had so much weight on her shoulders growing up it simply became too much for her.
The series mostly centered around Shinji though, who many put under the bus rather quickly usually for being a “wimpy” character, but given Shinji’s upbringing by his neglectful father, always having to move around and always feeling like he was worthless growing up it only comes natural that you would be left with a shell of human being who has great spirit hidden inside him but it is so deep seated he can only show what is left: self-pity.
When the series climaxes, our characters are forced to rethink their actions on society as they steered the fate of the Earth in their battles with the Angels, keeping secrets that could cost the whole of humanity, and coming to deal with their own personal faiths and beliefs of themselves; now that the war was over, it was finally time to see what it all was for.
Shinji is overwhelmed at first but after most introspective on his own part after battling with whether he even wanted to think about his life and future for the whole of the series, he was able to break through and overcome his insecurities. Growing into the person he was destined to be, someone who was aware of who he really was and could show it to the world.
Unfortunately, we were not told about what breakthroughs most everyone else had, and if memory serves correctly not everyone had a happy ending.
And that, is what I love about Neon Genesis Evangelion, and why it keeps me coming back.
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