Neon Genesis Evangelion
Neon Genesis Evangelion (Greek: Νέον Γένεσι Ευαγγελίου, lit. “The New Gospel As Inspired by Genesis”) is a Japanese anime adaptation of the New Testament, particularly focusing on the lesser-known chapters of the Bible in which Jesus Christ reincarnates in 21st century Japan. The series was produced in the '90s as an attempt to brainwash a generation raised on Sailor Moon and MTV into Christianity, mixing into the mythos poorly aged pop culture references, beginner-friendly philosophy, sexy robot fights and a highly confusing sci-fi narrative that has kept theologians around the world scratching their heads over its supposed canonical relation to the Christian belief system.
Generally viewed as pretentious nonsense, Evangelion enjoys a sort of niche cult following among insufferable pseudo-intellectuals, new age lunatics and Alex Jones fans. The series' mainstream publicity can be largely attributed to the absolute 'bop' that the theme song of the series is, it practically being the only reason why the series has been able to spawn its several movie sequels and the copious amounts of cheap licensed merchandise that range everywhere from shaving razors to a brand of automobile killer robots. The relative success of Evangelion has contributed majorly to the anime industry's growth and to the long list of reasons on why fans of any Japanese media deserve to get bullied - no exceptions.
Neon Genesis Evangelion's development began on one fateful late-summer evening in downtown Tokyo, where the aspiring writer-director Hideaki Anno had ventured in to spend a night out with his colleagues. The night went very averagely until, without warning, one of Anno's friends suddenly morphed into an octahedral prism of blue glass and killed everyone present at the bar with ear-piercing ultrasonic waves. The deeply traumatized Anno interpreted this as a some sort of divine epiphany and turned to his local Christian monastery and the Bible for guidance, not knowing that his drink had merely been spiked with psychoactive drugs as a practical joke. Regardless, Anno could never make it past page 5 of the Bible simply due to how boring it was, but he intended on portraying his own vision on the Abrahamic religion as an animated television series anyway.
Evangelion was not only the first Christian anime series, but also the first ever anime series in Japan's history to present an actual story line. This was highly controversial, as the industry had so-far solely focused their efforts on producing anime for preschoolers, preferring flashy fight scenes and highly detailed portrayals of tentacle intercourse over even remotely thoughtful narratives. Majority of Evangelion's writing process consisted of stealing ideas directly from western dramas, with the script occasionally name-dropping some random philosophers and Latin words in an attempt to make the writers appear smart and cultured. Additionally, the series differentiated itself from the more faithful western adaptations of the Bible by containing elements of eastern cultures, such as the weird sexual paraphilias, the flashy fight scenes and the heavy usage of Japanese language.
The religious subtext of the show was portrayed rather discreetly through ambiguous symbolism, subliminal messages and overly long introspective monologues, often leaving the casual viewer merely confused rather than impressed or even religiously converted. This method of blurring the religious 'core' of the show while instead focusing on the generic anime tropes and bad sci-fi writing kept on increasing as the series went on, which got series director Hideaki Anno into several heated arguments with his Christian sponsors and investors who didn't quite share his genius artistic vision. But neither did the audience, as the ratings dropped in alarming rates with each new episode - an approximate of seven viewers tuned in only to listen to theme song of the series before switching the channel by episode 24.
Episodes 1 to 24
Evangelion is set in 2015 in the distant future, and is located in the fictional country of "Japan"; a secluded island group rooted in - against all expectations and common misconceptions about eastern island groups - fundamental Catholic faith. The country has lived in relative peace and quiet for centuries, free from the sins of English-dubbed anime and polytheistic folk traditions - until one day all hell breaks loose. A group of 15 European protestants - referred to as "angels" throughout the series - sneak through the Japan Coast Guard's intricate web of deadly laser traps and vampire pirate ninja cyborg assassins, thus successfully entering the mainland. A state of national emergency is issued immediately and the Japanese population - referred to as "the Japanese" - are evacuated underground in order to prevent the prophetic cataclysm known as the "Third Impact"; the possible third occurrence in a series of culturally destructive events in Japan's history where-in the Japanese have come in direct contact with western heathens.
As Japan turns into a war zone, an entirely new line of weaponry is set in development to hunt down and exterminate the foreigners with - the EVA units; huge 300-feet tall exoskeletons that are supplied with the destructive capacity of a million Hiroshima bombings and exteriors reminiscent of cheap bootleg Gundams. The engineers utilize
the overworked and exploited lower class population the latest advancements in ecologically sustainable technology, with the machines running on the actual life force of the pilots who are subjected to various untested chemicals, tubes and uncondensed orange juice extract. Test pilots of the first prototypes report feelings of numbness and dissociation, amnesia, temporary physical paralyses, suicidal thoughts and ever-increasing urges to participate in long-winded philosophical monologues. Either way, the tests are a great success, and so the EVAs are set into mass-production.
Joining the EVA pilot team are the titular main protagonist of the series, Evan Gelion (also known as Shinji Ikari in some incorrectly dubbed versions); the German exchange student and BDSM-enthusiast Asuka Soryu Langley (also known as the "best girl" of the series); and the token "quiet and reserved character" of the series, Rei Ayanami (also known as the "trash girl" of the series). Together they fight the baddies and uncover the terrifying secrets behind the orange juice extract industry, all-the-while they explore their sexuality and discover their various incipient mental illnesses.
As the story progresses, it is revealed that a certain antagonist known as Gendo is not only the biological father of Evan, but also the commander of the EVA unit forces, and that all of this was apparently explained in the first episode already. Regardless, Gendo is also a member of the secret society known as "SEEL", a sort of doomsday cult that deviously plans to turn all of humankind into seals.. or something like that. The exact details of their plans and motivations are quite unclear as it is all told through eccentric dream sequences in completely backmasked dialogue - as if the Japanese language wasn't already impossible to comprehend. Regardless, tensions begin rising between the main characters as they attempt to deal with the ever-accelerating fate of the world and the constant long-winded philosophical monologues, right until..
Episodes 25 & 26
“Oh yeah, I'm sure they'll like it.”
...nothing happens. Disagreements over the artistic vision of the series led to the budget of the show being cut off halfway through the production, resulting in the rushed release of the infamous conclusive episodes that ditched all conventional storytelling structures and previously explored plot points in order to focus on the theistic angle of the show, something which the writers had completely forgotten about around three episodes into the series. Episodes 25 & 26 consist of unfinished animation and static images of series director Hideaki Anno jacking off to his own drawings, all the while voice actors and actresses from the show recite direct passages from the Bible in whispered hushes over the footage as a sort of artistic last resort. Suffice to say, they failed miserably.
Most broadcasting companies outright refused to air the episodes, believing that not even the 3 hardcore fans that were still reportedly following the show would deal with this crap. During Evangelion's American airing the two episodes were completely ignored and instead substituted with a rerun of King of the Hill's first season, which is still seen in certain circles as the canonical ending to Evangelion - some widely circulated bootleg copies of the show even included the King of the Hill -episodes, which was for some Asian audiences their first exposure to American anime.
But the descent of Evangelion didn't just stop there.
End of Evangelion - The Evangelic Boogaloo
Frustrated over the unfair treatment and the negative reception that Evangelion's finale received, director Hideaki Anno wasn't content with just leaving things as they were. Returning to his drawing desk, Anno swore to show the world the very definition of "artistic vision" and began working on a new alternate ending to the series, titled the The End of Evangelion - an ending that would truly be the end of all endings (and evangelions).
The End of Evangelion finally hit the theaters in 1997 and instantly killed everyone that went to see it with shock. The 2 hour long film not only depicted the brutal deaths of every character from the show for absolutely no reason, but also had a heavy emphasis on footage of the urban Tokyo scenery, showcasing various random street cats and close-ups of phone wires, Anno's greatest fetish. The film concluded in an epic 30-minute long one-shot take that Anno himself filmed from the window of the Nagoya-to-Tokyo-line bullet train, and while the scene did give some valuable insight to the Nagoya-to-Tokyo route, it did once again very little to bring actual sensible closure to the series.
The film was extremely negatively received and a huge commercial flop, making only an estimate of 150 million yen (¥), roughly the price of a cup of Starbucks coffee. Monetary issues were of little importance to Anno at that point however, as he had just birthed pure unfiltered art into the world and was happily satisfied with just that. Deeming that there is no more meaning in life after this magnum opus, Anno committed ritual suicide as his one last artistic statement. However, as Anno hadn't yet fulfilled the complete terms of his work contract, he was revived by Japan's leading medical professionals and dark magicians, and has ever since been imprisoned in a facility wherein he's forced to produce remakes and sequels to the series every couple of years as is the tradition in entertainment business. Notable entries in the so-called Rebuild of Evangelion-spin-off franchise include a homoerotic softcore film titled Evangelion 3.0 - You Can (Not) Disagree That Shinji is the Best Girl, and a reboot of the classic Godzilla-film series that pits the legendary big screen monster against not only the cast of Evangelion, but also against the various deities of Norse mythology.
- This section covers only the characters with the most pornographic value. For the full list of characters, try Wikipedia or other sites dedicated to lame nerds.
- Evan "Shinji Ikari" Gelion - The main protagonist of the series. Not much can be said of him, but neither does he say anything of much value anyway. Evan whines, screams and whimpers his way throughout the series, while story elements and events just happen to revolve around him.
- Asuka Soryu Langley - The chick with the red hair. Her main defining feature is the fact that her hair color is the polar opposite of Rei's, the blue-haired chick of the series.
- Rei Ayanami - The chick with the blue hair. Her main defining feature is the fact that the color of her hair is blue as opposed to Asuka, the red-haired chick of the series.
- Misato Katsuragi - The other chick with the blue hair. She's the captain of the EVA unit program and represents the sort of old-school faction of military personnel whose actions are mainly influenced by the amount of beer cans consumed. Her role in the story is questionable, but her drunken escapades in revealing clothes do serve the role of awakening the Oedipus complex in young viewers of the show.
- Pen Pen - The actual mastermind behind all the evil plottings of the show. Throughout the series Pen Pen is depicted as an Antarctic pet penguin that resides inside Misato's fridge, until the very last episodes where he is revealed to be the secret spy of the United Nations and the 16th "angel" that has been hiding inside a penguin suit the whole time. His schemes of world domination come to an abrupt end when he trips on his own feet while trying to move in the suit, falling head first into a pool of orange juice and suffocating.
The Evangelion franchise has had its fair share of controversy and criticism, usually from those that lack the intellectual capacity required to truly understand Evangelion. Its status as the "first Christian anime series, like, ever" has been repeatedly challenged by critics and other know-it-alls who claim that series doesn't actually even depict anything remotely Christian, but actually mainly explores Jewish and Shintoist concepts. Regardless, the show is still shown in Asian schools as the primary studying material on world religions and is the basis of modern day Christianity in Japan.
Evangelion's thought-provoking content has been the topic of many intricate philosophical debates, although most of the online discussions seem to consist of drooling over the two underage heroines of the cast, Asuka Soryu Langley and Rei Ayanami. An average critical discussion of Evangelion usually revolves around questioning the sexuality of anyone who disagrees with one's opinion on who the hottest female character of the show is, which then goes back-and-forth for entire days. It is because of these debates that the series is seen mainly responsible for the general consensus on the gentlemen that the anime-community consists of.
The unexpected success of Evangelion's unconventional story structure and genre blending has led to an influx of similar genre-bending shows, shows that seem to promise one thing but end up offering something else entirely - similar to how politicians operate. This sub-genre of anime has come to be referred to as "deconstruction", which, surprisingly, has actually nothing to do with any construction or demolition-work themed anime series, such as Fullmetal Alchemist.