MyAnimeList.net

Back to Archaeon's BlogArchaeon's Blog

08-25-09, 3:34 PM
Anime Relations: Neon Genesis Evangelion
Note - some of you may notice that this is different from my original review of NGE. The reason for that is simple. This review is supposed to be critical, the other one is supposed to make people angry :)

Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the most debated animes in history. Some would argue that there are numerous hidden messages in the show, while others argue that it simply plays up to a certain puerile idealogy of the world. Whatever the case may be, NGE established itself as the hot topic in anime for well over a decade.

NGE first saw the light of day as a manga by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, and was published in Shonen Ace magazine from February 1994. It's purpose was to raise awareness and public interest in the anime version that was to be released in October of the following year.

The anime was directed by the famous Hideaki Anno, and is hailed by many fans as his masterpiece (although there are numerous people who disagree with this point of view).

Animation

The animation in NGE is actually very well done considering the time it was made (and the fact that Gainax was running out of cash). The colour palette used for the show was decidely bright in many ways, and at the time it contrasted well with the serious tone of the story.

The characters were well designed for the most part, but the real breakthrough in terms of design were the EVA units and the Angels. NGE pushed the boundaries of mecha design in anime to a new level, something which no other show of the time could achieve. It also wasn't afraid to show an enemy who had no visible relation to humans - something that was a rarity in those days (although Anno had used a similar technique in Top wo Nerae).

The animation in the show is generally very fluid, and although there are some notable flaws, they don't actually impede on the enjoyment of the show.

Sound

The sound in NGE is very good in general. The VAs in the japanese version are very good, and are able to deliver a greater depth of emotion than their american counterparts. The effects used are also quite good but never really stood out as much, partly because of the overwhelming visuals, and partly because they were generally stock effects. The music is generally good throughout the show, with a mixture of classical and other styles scattered here and there.

One of the most memorable things about the music in NGE is the theme tune. Anno had originally wanted to use Borodin's Polovetsian Dances as the theme music for each episode, but was overruled by TV Tokyo, who felt that this would confuse and alienate the audience. Instead he settled on what has become one of the most played anime theme tunes in history - A Cruel Angel's Thesis, which was performed by Takahashi Yoko.

Characters

This is the area where NGE failed as an anime. Prior to making NGE, Hideaki Anno had suffered from depression for a while, and the characters in NGE were created in such a manner as to reflect his struggle against mental illness. Each of the characters is flawed in different ways, something that was unusual in anime at the time. Given Anno's talent as a director, this should have led to some interesting, and highly original, character development. Unfortunately the show failed in this area because of one key factor - Ikari Shinji.

For many people like myself, the main issue we have with the show isn't the story, or the animation, or the sound. It's the characters, and in particular, Ikari Shinji. In creating him, Anno and the rest of the production team lost focus on the other characters. Shinji is not your typical hero in that he isn't, courageous, or handsome, or intelligent. In fact, Shinji consider's himself to be worthless. The issue I have is that the show focuses far too much on Shinji, almost to the extent where the other characters were simply plot devices for his devlopment, and not enough on the characters around him.

That's not to say Shinji is a bad character. He's not. The problem is that one can only stomach so much unjustified self pity (which unfortunately most of it was in his case), before wanting to slap some sense into the person in question. It's been pointed out to me that Shinji wanted to kill himself because he thought he was worthless, and that he should be pitied because of the bad hand he was dealt. I'm sorry but that argument doesn't wash with me. If someone truly wants to kill themselves then they will, so Shinji didn't really want to die. In addition to that, I know quite a few people who have been dealt the worst hands possible, yet they do not whine and complain about it (and many of these people did consider themselves to be useless/worthless at one time or another - yet they suffered in silence for the most part). What Shinji wanted was for people to pity him and tell him he wasn't worthless, and while this is not necessarily a bad thing, it was over-used in NGE (to the point where I wanted to put him out of his misery - and not because I pitied him). The fact that Shinji's character has a tendency to ram his sense of worthlessness into the faces of the other characters is what put me off, as that type of behaviour is usually for attention rather than a cry for help, and because of the show's focus on Shinji, you can imagine how much I wanted to hit him afterwards. It wasn't that I didn't understand, it was just that they failed to depict him as an object of pity, and instead he came across as a whining, self pitying, attention seeking, and generally loathesome person.

As for the other characters, in particular Rei and Asuka, they did get a certain amount of development throughout the series. Unfortunately though, their characters, as well as the rest of the cast, were overshadowed by the mammoth amount of development given to Shinji.

Story

I actually quite enjoyed the concept behind NGE, as it made a nice change of pace. I did, however, have some issues with the convenient deus ex machina of Unit 01, as well as a number of other "coincidences" that were scattered throughout the series.

The story itself isn't all that original, and it has clearly borrowed elements from other sci-fi stories. What made the story seem to be original was the inclusion of psuedo-religious and psuedo-philosophical concepts, as well as the inclusion of "Fruedian" psychology. These formed core elements of the story, so what would have been a standard "save the earth" scenario became a dive into the psyche of the characters. The basic plot is borrowed directly from Space Battleship Yamamoto, and the idea of "young" people protecting the earth was used by Anno himself in Top wo Nerae.

Unfortunately the story breaks down in several places. Anno tried to make a show that merged all perspectives into one single view, and while he managed to achieve this in some measure, he failed because he focused too much on Shinji, to the extent that no other options were ever considered.

Here's what I mean. NERV is a quasi militaristic outfit, and as such, would generally have backup options available to them. The convenient deus ex machina I mentioned earlier effectively removes all chance for anyone else to come to the fore - except for Shinji that is. If the viewer is to believe that an organisation such as NERV was supposed to protect the earth, then they would at the very least, look for other options, especially considering Shinji's character flaws. This would effectively mean that they would have at least some combat veterans or trained soldiers who could handle the EVA units. The use of teenagers as the leads in the show was simply so that it would appeal to the teenage audience.

Another area where the story breaks down is in it's use of religious symbology. Many fans believe that what is shown in NGE is taken directly from religious beliefs, in particular Kabbalism, Judaism and Christianity. While the names used in the show may be true to those religions though, in many cases the manner in which the reference is used is actually based on Anno's own definition, rather than the religious viewpoint (something for which Anno has been heavily criticised).

In truth, The religious symbology used in the show was only really used to give the series an edge over other "giant robot" anime (i.e. Macross, Gundam, etc), and all of the various interpretations since have been ascribed to it by the viewers rather than the creators (something which is very well documented).

One big plot hole that I noticed, and one that should have been obvious to most people as well, was Shinji's isolationist attitude, and Gendou's reaction to it. It's obvious to any who've watched the series that Gendou feels little sympathy towards Shinji, however due to that convenient plot device using Unit 01 I mentioned earlier, Gendou needs Shinji to pilot the EVA unit. So, what you effectively have is the leader of a militaristic organisation who feels little for others, and a teenager with supposed mental instabilities. This being the case, why wasn't Gendou forcibly dosing Shinji with meds to make him more compliant? If your purpose is to protect the earth and it's people from attack by extremely powerful beings, and you're basically a selfish person with your own agenda, then conscience or paternal instincts don't come into it, you simply do what's necessary, no matter what anyone else says.

It's interesting that the whole "psychology" angle is only really supposed to apply to Shinji, isn't it? Characters like Gendou have been "toned down" because their actions would have drawn too much attention to themselves, another convenient plot device.

Enjoyment

Neon Genesis Evangelion is a tough show to rate. According to Anno, if you're a normal, well rounded person then you won't learn anything from the show. While this may be true in some cases, the things that one can learn from the show are juvenile at best. Many of the older fans of NGE have a tendency to view the show through the rose tinted lenses of nostalgia, and while this is not a bad thing, it inhibits the ability to view the show objectively. Many of the younger fans, on the other hand, are fiercely loyal to the show, and have a tendency to react harshly to any criticism of the show. The unfortunate side effect of this is that the show has gained a certain notoriety that it could have done without, and many people who watch the show for the first time, do so with certain preconceived notions already embedded in their heads.

NGE is one of those shows that could have been great. Unfortunately the glaring flaws in the plot, coupled with the lack of develpment amongst the other characters in comparison to Shinji meant that I, at least, only found the show to be mediocre. NGE was a let down for me as I am a big fan of Top wo Nerae, the show that is effectively the older sibling to NGE (and is considered by quite a few people to be the superior show).

I'm not going to suggest anyone watches the show, as that is a decision you should make for yourself. Likewise the choice of whether you love it or hate it is something that only you can decide. The only thing I can say about the show is that, when watching it, be as objective as you can.

NGE is no Top wo Nerae by any measure, but it is a classic. Unfortunately, it really isn't Anno's best work, and the rebuild is making the same errors all over again.

Posted by Archaeon | 08-25-09, 3:34 PM | 11 comments
figuette | 06-01-13, 2:21 PM
I think you are spot on about Shinji's character reflecting Anno himself.

He is depressed and the fact that you mention that "one can only stomach so much unjustified self pity before wanting to slap some sense into the person in question" just shows how well he depicts a depressed person. So well that it might be off-putting to any healthy individual. Dealing with a depressed person _is_ frustrating because depression is not something you can reason with or find logic behind it.

However Shinji is not suicidal ....or rather you could say he reaches that point at the very end (I mean the movie) and that for him that point is a turning point.

The whole progress of Shinji's character probably mirrors Anno's own mental state way too close. The fact that Anno knowingly (to a degree) shows so openly what happens in his head speaks volumes about how bad his condition was and how frustrated he was. From the very fist episode i've found NGE to be very disturbing and Shinji was the main reason (with other characters not falling too far behind), even the way the mecha move and fight is grotesque. For me NGE is one big ball of frustration and anger thrown at the unsuspecting viewers. I'm not saying it as a praise, it made me very uncomfortable.

On the side note, I do think that NGE is an important milestone in the long history of mecha shows, in fact I tend to think of it as a deconstruction of the whole genre, a deconstruction that in a way lead the genre to mature in some ways (but not in others)
 
Animewolfguy | 04-20-12, 11:20 AM
This show is so overrated but it is worth watching once.
 
karas667 | 06-14-10, 12:22 PM
ok firstly

"Many of the older fans of NGE have a tendency to view the show through the rose tinted lenses of nostalgia, and while this is not a bad thing, it inhibits the ability to view the show objectively."

i am almost definatly one of these people however

"and while this is not a bad thing, it inhibits the ability to view the show objectively."

this part i disagree with as i completely agree with some/most of what you have said the focus on shinji is far too great and i fealt the other characters where very over looked and even neglected at points.

"The use of teenagers as the leads in the show was simply so that it would appeal to the teenage audience."

"The huge amount of information "fed" to the viewer from episode 21 onwards is an attempt at tying up all the loose ends that Anno had left hanging, which is why the whole story veers off into the wild blue yonder in the original finale episodes."

i'd like to combine these 2 points so to speek, i agree with them both but at the age i was when watching it i didn't mind info being given (force fed) to me.

"NGE is no Top wo Nerae by any measure, but it is a classic. Unfortunately, it really isn't Anno's best work, and the rebuild is making the same errors all over again."

i've never seen any of anno's other work so couldn't comment.
the rebuilds are annoying and nothing more than a "cash cow" (to borrow your phrase) in my oppinion however that fact that they keep selling shows fans desire for more but rather than re-build i think it would be better to scrap it all together and start again from ep1 and fix the flaws. with all the characters and story fully explored we could get 2-3 awsome seasons

to finish up i love the fact that you mention "Fruedian psychology"
as its a part on the show that interested me and the oedipus complex (shinji and rei) is something way over the head of the average "fan boy", with that i think ive covered everything.
 
Miguel_Aiman | 04-18-10, 11:58 PM
It's just a good feeling to know your not alone. I happened to think NGE was good. But it's the fanboys that really irk me, or I should say people who find it untouchable.

I found this review encouraging. Because I feel like a lot of kids around my age (late teens early twenties) and older anime fans 30+ hold this show up on a pedestal it doesn't deserve to be on. I think it's still iconic as far as anime goes, and I'll pay my respects to it.

But I feel like if someone dislikes this show, their automatically deemed stupid and inferior minded. That they just don't get Anno's genius.

Anyways thanks for the objective review XD

I need to go back and re-watch NGE but before I do that I think I'll watch Gunbuster, Gunbuster vs. Diebuster, and Gunbuster 2.
 
bunnlose | 02-15-10, 2:56 PM
I am no man of words, I like to talk but most times have a hard time to express myself in matters like review and tests.
Reading your posts and reviews make me feel like you take the words out of my mouth. It seems like we get the same idea about several animes (i've read a few of your reviews), alltho you make yourself aware of it and afterwards write about it. Admirable. At least from my point of view =)

Ahh, ontopic: NGE was the first anime i ever watched, I was told it was the best anime out there. At first it was all good action and stuff, but then the psychedelic stuff in the end where nothing else mattered than Shinji going insane. I too wanted to slap him, badly. Ive seen the anime several times, at least the parts with the "heavy material" and I still dont get it all. I think its too much for me, im just not that clever I guess.
Anyways, i really enjoy reading your writings. If its about an anime you liked it makes me wanna watch it too (that could be dangerous).
Btw, do you write for a living? If I was that good writing Id never leave my macbook ;)

greets from norway
anders aka bunnlose

ps, i was about to pm you and add you to friendslist so i could easily track if you write something, but after your read your profile i dont dear too :S
 
Toast-Junkie | 02-03-10, 4:08 PM
I think due to the relationship with his father, that he's seeking attention from his father through all the self pity. I think Anno tried to portray this, but didn't make it very obvious, but if you watch the re-make this can be more clearly seen.
That's my 2 cents. Thought NGE was alright but not really my cup of time, a bit pretentious to be honest....
 
Sick_Bastard | 01-18-10, 9:50 AM
I have to agree that the rebuild is making the same errors all over again.
 
Prede | 01-12-10, 7:37 PM
Ah this was a very fair and even handed review from a person who obviously does not like the show very much.If I were to review a show I hated, or even disliked, I'd destroy it. I hate being fair sometimes :P . I have a LOT of bones to pick with this review, but I won't. It doesn't seem nice for me to come here randomly and write out what I believe are the problems with this review. Still from this review I can totally get where you're coming from, I just disagree with you most of the time. On the large I understand your frustration with the show (I think...), but on the small there are many things I disagree with. Hope that makes sense. I do think this series may have struck a nerve with you though, perhaps that's why you seem to not like it very much.

Anyway keep writing reviews and I'll keep reading em. Your a very good writer, much betetr then I could ever hope to be.
 
hamza-kun | 12-18-09, 11:39 AM
i came across this after viewing your knk 7 review and i just want to praise u for ur excellent work as for this review of nge i agree with u about everything except for the cara the story and the enjoyment parts.
the cara part:
shinji ah shinji a new type of hero as u said a pathetic hero that required a lot of focus and care to be made,it's true that he was longing for others pity for instance he just ran so that misato will look for him and that's why he couldn't leave and returned with her after having the pity of aida and sunohara but shinji will never be a hero if his cara was just that. after a lot of thing he awakened from his dream and know that other's pity is nothing that's why he ran away again but he returned not coz he was showed any pity coz even if he is a worthless scum he is the hero who should shoulder everything but that was just an excuse he made to himself that's why he refused to leave the eva side and chose to ran one more time but his mother didn't wish for it to end there so he was saved again or should i say he was shoved again in his cruel reality, misato again showed him a little affection and that's what made him continue but the truth is that misato didn't want to loose her tool for revenge coz she just thrown him away when she lost his beloved kaji, well shinji was after all the dark side of anno personified as someone who wanted not pity but to be accepted but was used in stand. everyone used him, misato for revenge, asuka for her to be special and gondo to reunite with his beloved wife yet he did not accept the truth and thought that he is the worthless and that what helped them to use him more so after all shinji is not that worthless but what make me angry those who say that shinji wanted to die it's wrong soo wrong shinji never wished to die he wanted to kill others who use him and throw him after and that's what happened in the EOE.
for the story:
you said nerv is supposed to protect the earth that's was being feed to it staff and to all people but it purpose was to protect only lilith, eva 1 and later adam and that's why they make it look like a military organization just to fool it staff that's why when seele the true military org didn't want nerv anymore wiped it out soo easily
as for gondo,he was just using anything he got his hand on to be reunited with his wife that's why nothing more was said about him coz his longing for his wife was the only thing he had but what's funny is to say gondo has affection for shinji if not why didn't he use meds to make him obvident the truth is if he had the tiny bit of pity not affection for shinji not as his son but just as a human being he would have used meds on him but he hadn't after all gondo hate shinji coz he think that he have lost his wife affection after shinji was born and that's why he used the dummy system and made his son shoulder the sin of killing his friend (it's a dark anime too dark to be seen by teens that's why some part of it are a little bit hidden so that teens who see it will not be affected and that's the mistake anno made well gainax was out of money restricting the age of viewer was out of option and that's why we have the blue sky ending )but the use of teens in the anime was not done so teens will love it well it may be part of it but it's not the reason but just think of a grown up adult blaming himself while others use them and u will not watch at all that's why coming from a child can be accepted as innocence or naivety
as for other's cara "they were relegated to being mere plot devices. Furniture, in other words, for Shinji to sit on" i just can't see that i will just speak about ritsuko for instance when she was striped of her human dignity and was protecting the one that killed her mother for the sake of the one she loved and who didn't even look at her so just how can you see her as a chair for shinji just where is shinji she was using him to please her beloved man she didn't give a damn about what will happen to him so how can she be a chair for him to sit sorry i just don't see what u mean
for the enjoyment:
nge is a dark story that tell u how cruel human can be
for it to be mediocre i just can't understand how but what i can't understand is why the fact that if a series has a similarity with a newer series so the new one is a pale imitation that disappoint the older series fan is just like people saying rah-xephon is a bad imitation of nge but well i can't tell which one is best i have to see Top wo Nerae before answering but be sure i won't say it's bad or it's inferior to nge coz i know that anno is a great man and for me every work has his good part and no work is a mere copy of another.
 
Archaeon | 11-29-09, 6:41 PM
@ IRLtroll

1. Erm, Anno wasn't referring to the darkness in all of us, but the one he found inside himself during his depression and subsequent breakdown midway through production. When I said that if someone wants to kill themselves then they will, I'm not simply referring to the show, but stating a medical fact. From a psychological perspective, a person who deems themselves truly without worth will have no issue with seeking and end - something which is extremely well documented. Shinji not being able to commit suicide was based on the fact that Anno himself couldn't do it in real life, but that isn't because of self worth. Don't underestimate the instinct to live, to survive, as it's the most powerful of all our behaviours, and one which can and does override all others at times.

If Shinji had truly considered himself worthless, then hewould have killed himself - period.

2. NERV is charged with the protection of the planet against the aliens, EVA units or no. The fact that it has to rely on combat using the EVA units is not actually the issue. NERV's entire set up is based on that of a military organisation, not a civilian one. Gendo is the commander, Misato holds the rank of captain (and major later on), etc, etc. It's a military organisation, and because of this it should have fallback options, plans, redundancies, etc, otherwise it's an unbelievable entity. There is no military organisation anywhere in the world, state run or otherwise, that only relies on one plan of action.

3 & 4. These "explanations" are the deus ex machina I was talking about. It just so happens that this happened, which led to that happening, which ultimately led to Shinji being pilot of EVA 01. The huge amount of information "fed" to the viewer from episode 21 onwards is an attempt at tying up all the loose ends that Anno had left hanging, which is why the whole story veers off into the wild blue yonder in the original finale episodes.

The problem is that the viewer is expected to believe the numerous concidences that conveniently occur, often without any real justification, for the majority of the series. When the explanation does appear, it's hurried, convoluted, and mixed in with several other "more important" facts to remember.

As for your train of thought, tis slightly flawed. The reason why I call the path from Yui a plot device is because there was no real analysis done on Gendou, something which really should have been there. Without it, the viewer's left with a half baked reason to "destroy" humanity, without any inkling as to Gendou's downward spiral. For Gendou's actions to be believable, then Anno should have focused on him more than we see in any version of NGE. He's the "bad guy" after all, and without understanding his reasons you only get half a story.

The reason why this happened, and why NGE is so focused on loneliness, is because Anno really couldn't comprehend characters like Gendou, Shigeru, Ritsuko, etc, so in the end they were relegated to being mere plot devices. Furniture, in other words, for Shinji to sit on.

Oh, and Nerv was born of Gehirn, but Gehirn wasn't born out of Seele. Those two organisations ran parallel to each other. I thought Seele's attack on Nerv would have given that away.
 
fruitsp01samurai | 11-29-09, 4:26 AM
You make some good points, but I want to make some things clear. I'm going on the assumption that you know the terms I use.

"Shinji is not your typical hero in that he isn't, courageous, or handsome, or intelligent...It's been pointed out to me that Shinji wanted to kill himself because he thought he was worthless, and that he should be pitied because of the bad hand he was dealt."
Shinji is supposed to be the character which shows the bad traits in all of us; that's why people can't/won't relate to him because nobody wants to be the whiny crying kid. This also makes him one of the most despicable characters in the whole series, which I'm pretty sure was the intent by the creators. When Anno described Shinji, he said he that Shinji was someone who was lacking so much self-worth that he couldn't even bring himself to kill himself (if you really want the source for it then I'll try and find it).

"NERV is a quasi militaristic outfit, and as such, would generally have backup options available to them."
The only weapon NERV has is the Eva units, and backup probably would be backup to Shinji's unit.

"This would effectively mean that they would have at least some combat veterans or trained soldiers who could handle the EVA units. The use of teenagers as the leads in the show was simply so that it would appeal to the teenage audience."
This WOULD be a glaring flaw in the plot if they hadn't "explained" (clues throughout the series) it. Eva units are bio-mechanical robots with souls implanted in the core. Pilots can only synchronize with the mecha since they were born after Second Impact, and along with that, they only synchronize well when the soul inside the mecha can respond well with the pilot. This means that Shinji is the best candidate for piloting the mecha since his mother's soul is in the robot, likewise for Asuka, and following a similar principle for Rei, but your second statement also is very strongly true.

"I did, however, have some issues with the convenient deus ex machina of Unit 01, as well as a number of other "coincidences" that were scattered throughout the series."
I don't really think that it was convenient, nor were many of the scenes coincidences that happened in the series. SEELE is formed out of a desire to unite the human race as one single being to rid the whole world of suffering by use of Instrumentality. NERV is born out of GEHIRN which was born out of SEELE. Which means that NERV's true objective is to carry out the Instrumentality project under the guise of protecting the world. Yui Ikari works at GEHIRN and meets Gendo. Gendo exactly knows what Instrumentality is and presumably Yui Ikari knows the project. Neither of them want that to happen, so they plan to stop it from the inside, but Yui feels that their current efforts aren't enough, so she willingly joins with Eva-01 to ensure the future for her son. Gendo now changes his plan to proceed with Instrumentality just to reunite with his wife at any cost. Yui now has everything planned out (kill angels->go to the point of near full instrumentality->get son to stop instrumentality->exile self in outer space as an imprint of mankind forever). Call it a deus ex machina if you will, but it certainly isn't one that is straight out of the blue.

"If your purpose is to protect the earth and its people from attack by extremely powerful beings, and you're basically a selfish person with your own agenda"
Contradicts with what I said in the above wall of summary text, and I fixed the "your/you're" usage cause I lost myself for a second reading that.

Sorry for clunky sentence structure and paragraphs at 5:30 in the morning.
 
Queen2408 | 11-21-09, 3:31 PM
Oh, you just reminded me why I didn't like NGE almost ten years ago, seriously, I only remembered hating it at the time. I couldn't help but wonder if I had missed something, since it seems to be a masterpiece to a lot of people. Good job with your review :), I can only congratulate you for that great writing, makes me feel at a loss of words!
 
Help     FAQ     About     Contact     Terms     Privacy     AdChoices