[Throwback Thursdays] Neon Genesis Evangelion Review & Characters - Both of You, Dance Like You Want to Win!

neon genesis evangelion wallpaper

Both of You, Dance Like You Want to Win!

  • Episodes : 26
  • Genre : Shounen, Mecha, Psychological
  • Airing Date : Oct 1995 - Mar 1996
  • Producers : Gainax

Neon Genesis Evangelion Preview / Plot (No Spoilers)

As Tokyo-3 comes under attack by a giant alien monster, 14-year-old Shinji Ikari is summoned to his father’s side. Based in a huge complex underneath Tokyo-3, Shinji’s father is head of NERV, a secretive organisation which has developed giant fighting robots called Evangelions. For whatever reason, Shinji agrees to his father’s request to pilot an Evangelion against the monster, ironically called an Angel.

The battle doesn’t last long; Shinji is quickly overwhelmed by the Angel’s merciless attacks, and wakes up days later in hospital. Realising he somehow defeated the Angel, there isn’t much time to celebrate. Joined by other pilots Rei and Asuka, the Angels begin to appear more rapidly, each one stronger than the last. It soon becomes clear that there is more than meets the eye to NERV and the creatures they have been tasked to destroy.

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Who does Neon Genesis Evangelion cater to?

In a nutshell, Evangelion is for anyone who enjoys mecha and shounen anime, but also enjoys gritty psychological elements and deep characters. As a mecha anime it’s top notch; there are some seriously cool mecha concepts (how about a 100m long sniper rifle!), and the fight scenes between EVAs and Angels are action-packed, and never get repetitive. However, Evangelion really shines when it comes to the drama; no amount of hyperbole can describe how good the characters are, and though confusing at times, the plot is full of gloriously dark twists and turns.

What's so appealing about this piece of work.

The main appeal of Evangelion is the way viewers become immersed in the series. As mentioned, the characters are really something special and it’s impossible not to become attached to them in some way! That’s not to take away from other elements of the anime at all though. The EVAs are some of the coolest mechas out there, and the awesome soundtrack adds depth to the already exciting action scenes.

Neon Genesis Evangelion Trailer

Neon Genesis Evangelion Main Characters List

Shinji Ikari

Evangelion Shinji Ikari cosplay00

Voice Actor :Megumi Ogata (JPN) / Spike Spencer (ENG)

Shinji Ikari is the main character of Neon Genesis Evangelion. He transfers to the local high-school, but is shy and sullen, and finds it hard to make friends with the other students. Deeply traumatised by being abandoned by his father as a child, Shinji also lacks self-confidence, and only pilots the Evangelion for the approval of his father.

Asuka Langley Soryu

Evangelion Asuka Langley Soryu cosplay00

Voice Actor :Yuko Miyamura (JPN) / Tiffany Grant (ENG)

Asuka Langley is the third Eva pilot to be introduced, and to Tokyo-3 from Germany. Fiery and outgoing, Asuka has a secret crush on Shinji, but is unable to do anything except tease and provoke him. Though appearing confident at first, Asuka is paralysed by the thought of failure and also suffers from events from her past.

Rei Ayanami

Evangelion Rei Ayanami cosplay00

Voice Actor :Megumi Hayashibara (JPN) / Brina Palencia (ENG)

Rei is the enigmatic “First Child”, and was the first person to pilot an Evangelion. Often silent and withdrawn, Rei seems to live to serve Shinji’s father Gendo. Because of this, it seems Rei has a stronger bond with Shinji than the other characters, and the two even become friends of a sort.

Misato Katsuragi

Evangelion Misato Katsuragi cosplay00

Voice Actor :Kotono Mitsuishi (JPN) / Allison Keith (ENG)

Misato is Shinji’s guardian, and is in charge of coordinating the Evangelions from NERV headquarters. The two share the fact that they don’t have good relationships with their fathers, which makes Misato sympathetic towards Shinji. One of the most relatable characters in the anime, Misato is outwardly mature and professional, but is still a teenager at heart and is a total slob when at home.

Contains Spoilers

Neon Genesis Evangelion Review

I am obsessed with anime that make an emotional connection between the viewer and the characters, and Evangelion is really good at this! Part of the reason for this is that the characters were modelled on different aspects of director Hideaki Anno’s personality, who at the time was in a deep depression after his series The Secret of Blue Water had ended. The result of this is a set of characters who are messed up, but very real and relatable.

Part of the reason for this is that all the characters eventually have the rationale for their behaviour explained, but not in a way that is forced or tacky. Shinji initially appears weak, but we discover that his mother died when he was very young, and that he was abandoned by his father shortly after. Many anime feature characters in similar situations, but often this tragedy leads them to be incredibly mentally tough or driven. The fact that director Anno didn’t shy away from the more likely, depressing reality makes the show a lot more gritty.

It’s this rawness that also makes the character relationships so riveting. As viewers we can’t help but hope that *something* happens between Shinji and Asuka, but at the same time we know that they both have their own problems to deal with. The “romance” culminates in a kiss between the two of them, before slowly spiralling out of control as the stresses of the job get to Asuka.

This is the aspect which truly sets Evangelion apart from other anime. As the situation becomes more hopeless, people who seemed to be rational or happy start to show their cracks. Even Misato, who starts the story apparently without a care in the world, starts to feel the pressure after discovering the true nature of NERV’s plans. The show doesn’t leave much to the imagination, particularly when it comes to characters reacting to what’s going on.

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Ok, so Evangelion isn’t just about depressed characters moping about their problems and the end of the world! Evangelion is also a very respectable mecha/shounen anime in its own right. There are some hilarious moments, particularly those spawned from Shinji’s awkwardness when faced with sexual moments with Asuka and Misato. I also mentioned before how awesome the battles between the EVA units and the Angels are!

The design is also a highlight, particularly that of the Evangelion units themselves. Radically different from the usual medieval knight-in-armour design, the EVAs are lithe and organic, hinting at something alive underneath their mechanised exterior. While the world is painted with a fairly neutral palette, the EVA units stand out even more with their iconic punchy colours.

As well as the EVA design, the future tech is brilliantly imagined (i.e. it’s super cool). The command centre has every sci-fi trope going, with giant futuristic displays, and even a supercomputer with three actual brains in it, but none of it feels tacky or overused. This is because all of the sci-fi elements of the series are really well thought out, with many things that seem strange at the beginning being explained by the end of the series (apart from some exceptions, but I’ll get to that!). One thing which I really enjoyed was slowly realising that the EVA units were essentially Angel clone-cyborgs!

Evangelion’s soundtrack also adds so much depth to the series. Literally every moment possible is bolstered by the score, from the light-hearted overtones to mealtimes at Misato’s apartment to the rousing theme which accompanies the episode preview. Of course the soundtrack also makes the show much more emotional, with sombre strings to tease the extra feels out of particularly sad or depressing moments.

evangelion asuka langley

Let’s get one thing straight, as a series Evangelion is good, but it’s only truly great as an experience. The show began to lose funding after the 16th episode, and the quality of the animation starts to drop. Clips are frequently reused, and there are some scenes which are literally static images featuring long monologues by the characters. As a result the series becomes much more psychological, and the final two episodes abandon a coherent plot altogether.

This obviously frustrates a lot of viewers, and to truly get a picture of what the heck is going on it’s necessary to watch the whole series, the Death/Rebirth and End of Evangelion movies, the Rebuilds, and also to trawl the internet looking to fill in all the remaining plot holes. This obviously isn’t for everyone, but if you can get past the gratuitous (and at times over-the-top) use of religious references, an interesting plot emerges.

So let’s wrap this up! As anyone who enjoyed the anime as much as I did will know, Evangelion will change the way you look at anime forever. It’s a brilliant mecha anime in itself, with superb design and animation, and big robot fights. It has a rousing soundtrack too, but at the heart of this anime is the drama played out by the characters as they react to the impending apocalypse. Like any anime it has its flaws (and I am willing to accept that purely based on the series, Evangelion has a few gaping ones), but this doesn’t stop Neon Genesis Evangelion being my favourite anime of all time. Below are a few personal highlights from the series.

1. Dark Discoveries

evangelion review Dark discoveries

As the series rushes towards its dark conclusion many of the characters become aware of the dark secrets behind NERV and the Evangelions. It’s hinted throughout the series that Rei is a clone, but it’s truly a dark twist when we discover that Rei’s clones are being used in the dummy plugs.

2. Futuristic tech

evangelion review Futuristic tech

Evangelion has some of the coolest mecha concepts out there. One of my favourite scenes in the anime is when Shinji destroys the fifth Angel, with the positron rifle. Just to emphasise, this is a 14-year-old boy controlling a giant cyborg alien-clone, armed with an 80m long sniper rifle powered by the entire electricity grid of Japan. In case you didn’t realise, that’s seriously cool!

3. Dancing Training Montage

evangelion review Dancing montage

The depressing tone of the series serves to highlight the happy and triumphant moments, making them really memorable. Chief among these is the scene where Asuka and Shinji train to defeat the seventh Angel. Playing on the past comedic moments between the two, it shows the squabbling at first, but eventually cooperating and nailing that dance!

That’s all for this Evangelion review! It’s a controversial topic, so I’m expecting a few haters in the comments, but for all the fans out there, let’s hope they hurry up with the final Rebuild!



Author: Adam

I think I do too much sports to be an otaku, but I like science, anime and video games too much not to be a nerd. Currently working in a lab in Japan's least Japanese city.

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