Neon Genesis Evangelion
See original review.
To say Neon Genesis Evangelion is popular would be an understatement. Many feel that with its great cast of characters, awesome art and animation, a deep, evolving story, a great soundtrack, and direction by one of the greatest anime directors of all time, it's the greatest anime ever. Period. And by my early glances at the series, I would almost agree. But by the time I finished this series, I just had to ask these people...
Are you watching the same series as me?!
If anything, Neon Genesis Evangelion's reputation is grossly exaggerated. Although the series, for the most part, is interesting, its usage of confusing religious references, combined with weak, poorly developing characters, and sub-par dialogue between its characters, push this series down to slightly above average at best.
Problem #1: the cast. Nearly everyone in the series angsts over their dark pasts (and mind you, EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER has a dark, unhappy past), and few do anything to change it. The main character, Ikari Shinji, does nothing but angst literally two-thirds of the series. Although I didn't hate him, I did find him to be a spineless wuss who failed to realize that some people actually care about him. But he's too busy angsting over his ass of a dad, the creepy Ikari Gendo (the man with the "I want to be God" complex), to do anything about it. And when the characters are not angsting, they're yelling. Asuka is a prime example of this, always yelling at everyone being an idiot as she hypes herself above all others as being the greatest of the pilots of the EVA units, when she's probably the most useless. Two episodes after her debut, I began to shrug whenever Asuka appeared on the screen.
The only character who doesn't fit into either category is Kaji. He's the ONLY person in the series who isn't angsty or a selfish jerk with a big ego. Sadly, Kaji is in very little of the series, and most of the time early on he's stuck with Asuka (who considers him to be the only man, ne, person in the universe worth giving a damn about. I used to think that was stupid of her to do so, but considering the rest of the cast, I can understand her liking him above all others). Kisagiri Misato, the cute, cheerful caretaker of Shinji, would fit into this category as well, but she goes into angst mode two-thirds through the series as well (though granted, it's nowhere to the extreme as Shinji or Asuka later do).
I wouldn't mind if the characters angsted or complained so much if they developed over time. Shinji opens up a little, and that's about it. Besides, everyone's too busy being weighed down by childhood trauma to cheer up. While the early episodes of the series are cute and funny, the later episodes are unfunny, dreary, and at times, boring. No one develops, no one opens up (save maybe Shinji), some characters actually go backwards in character development...the cast of Evangelion is one of the weakest casts in an anime series I've seen since Wedding Peach (and to compare ANY anime's cast to Wedding Peach's is a VERY bad thing). From the lifeless Rei, to Asuka the bitch, to the creepy Gendo, it's hard to find a single character to tolerate, let alone like.
Problem #2: Writing. The main story in this series has its twists and turns, and is VERY involving. The story is definitely stronger than the weak characters that are in it, and doesn't play down to its audience (you actually have to use your head in this series). Why is NERV attacking the Angels? Why is Gendo so cold to his son? Who created the EVA units? All these questions, and many more, are answered as the series progresses, and some may never be answered at all. Plus, every character's past, at one point or another, is looked upon, giving us insight into that person's life. And the surprises in the final episodes will surprise you, such as that..well, you have to see them for yourself.
Although the story itself is deep, engrossing, and well-done, I wish the dialogue between characters was of the same calibur. Most of the dialogue between characters consists of either references to religions you'd have to look up in an encyclopedia or online to fully understand, or about the EVA units running loose. Any other dialogue consists of either characters yelling at one another, or angsting. Watching these episodes once, like I did, will soon make you realize that Evangelion is one of those shows where watching the series more than once is not only considered, but practically required.
Problem #3: Animation and art. The art design of this series is very nice, whether it be the well-drawn characters, or the very realistic landscape. Animation is of a surprisingly decent frame rate, considering that GAINAX is a low-budget animation company.
Unfortunately, GAINAX being a low-budget animation company shows in the later episodes. Later episodes consist almost entirely of still shots, whether it be of mountains, trains, or alarm clocks, and characters barely even move their mouths, let alone their bodies. But I guess GAINAX didn't realize they didn't have a big enough budget for 26 episodes, so they had to cut corners. Clip shows, flashback footage, recycled animation, etc., are all used in the second half of the series. It's not really that bad (compared to what I've heard about GAINAX's later work in His and Her Circumstances), but if a series is going to be 26 episodes long, shouldn't all the episodes be of the same animation level? I mean, GAINAX did a great job animating Nadia only five years earlier, and that was 39 episodes long.
Problem #4: Music. Music can make or break a series. Even if the series is sub-par, it will have at least one redeeming quality (I would've despised .hack//SIGN had its soundtrack not be awesome). Sadly, Neon Genesis Evangelion is not very good in this category. While the OP theme is good, the background music is sparse, with few music pieces (and yet there are at least 2 CDs featuring BGM from this series...must've missed all that music), and the remixes to the old 50's song "Fly Me To The Moon" (the ending theme of this series) by Hayashibara Megumi, Mitsuishi Kotono, and others, will have you realize quickly that seiyuu and 50s Frank Sinatra songs don't mix.
Combining all this with a mediocre directing job by Anno Hideaki, and then throw in a mediocre English dub (the guys sound fine, but in typical ADV fashion at the time, all the females sound like loud, ill-tempered bitches), and you can see why I don't think Neon Genesis Evangelion is the best thing ever. It's said that Anno Hideaki was depressed when he worked on Evangelion, and after watching this series, I was depressed as well. Depressed about all much better the show could be if it only had character development and better dialogue between characters.
It had a LOT of potential to really be the best ever, but lost track along the way. Those who don't mind angst, or those who like mecha, in their anime can add a star, perhaps two. Don't like angst? Take off one or two stars. — Tim Jones
Recommended Audience: When NGE first aired in Japan, a small outcry came out protesting that the series was too violent for television. To some extent, that's true. Although actual _human_ deaths are far and few in between, there's plenty of graphic mecha violence and more than a few innuendos and adult situations. Not for the Saturday morning crowd, but older teens will really get a kick out of this series.
Version(s) Viewed: Broadcast airing (Anime Network), English dub
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Neon Genesis Evangelion © 1995 Gainax / Project Eva / TV Tokyo
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