Note: this review is spoiler free.
Hugely experimental and wonderfully unique, Evangelion is a roaring success.
The basic, initial, plot goes thus: a 14-year-old boy named Shinji is called to NERV (an organization charged with defending mankind from extinction, no less) by his estranged, seemingly cold and calculating father. There, his fathers' first words are an order to pilot an immense robotic machine, the titular Evangelion, and fight against the monster that's attacking Tokyo-3, the city under which NERV has it's headquarters. These illusory 'monsters' are called Angels and are seemingly invincible - traditional weaponry, even in the year 2015, has minimal effect upon them. Only the
Eva 'biomechs', which can be piloted solely by certain selected 14-year-olds can stop them. This [i]is[/i] merely the basic, initial premise of the series. As it goes on, everything gets a lot more complicated; There's a metric ton of mystery, suspense, twists and turns in Evangelion's plot, all routinely thought-provoking and intensely interesting.
The characters are excellent. This is an important point as the series is more about them than about the Angels or NERV. Shinji Ikari is one the most believable and genuinely sympathetic character ever conceived in anime. Though some would complain that Shinji is overtly emotional and annoyingly so. But, really, no one wants Shinji to become the 'Hollywood hero' and save the day with a smile on his face - no such human could ever really exist, and studio Gainax understand this and apply it perfectly to the series. Shinji's mental struggle is dealt with effectively by Hideki Anno, through the use of complex monologues and largely successful experimental cinematic techniques. Asuka and Rei, the other chosen children, are both polar opposites and ingenious characters. Both develop a great deal in a very interesting way throughout the series, and this character exploration and growth is at the heart of Evangelion.
The design aspects are wonderfully unique - the Evas themselves are strikingly colourful and the Angels are attention grabbing and memorable with many towering over Tokyo-3's skyscraper. The Angels appear in many different forms (one Angel takes the form of a gargantuan, blue diamond while another is too small to be seen with the naked eye and acts as an organic virus, crippling NERV's computer system) which helps Eva avoid the repetitve "Monster of the Week" format and keeps the action aspect of the series consistently fresh and enjoyable. Judeo-Christian references are famous (or rather, infamous) in Evangelion and despite widespread condemnation, I am of the firm belief that the symbolism is never obnoxious, and always evocative and visually shocking. It must be noted these references are usually fairly shallow, but they make you sit up and take notice of the deeper meaning in the series as a whole. Animation is crisp and clear for the platinum re-mastering that I watched, and I hasten to add that this re-mastering is only version of Eva worth buying. Visuals are regularly stunning and scenes from this series will surely stay with you forever. The regular provocative imagery is often times shocking and sometimes awe-inspiring. The image of a crippled Rei, bleeding and covered in bandages in the first episode provides the first real shock of the series. Such imagery contrasts with the visual gags present throughout - a toothpick container obscuring Shinji's nether regions in episode 2 being one of the most memorable.
The music is, much like the rest of Eva, superbly memorable. It excels at setting the right mood and tone, using inspirational trumpets to highlight Asuka and Shinji's success in battle, and nuanced reflective tunes to convey the character of Rei. The OP is among my favourites of all time and you'll not tire of hearing it throughout the 26 episodes of the series.
The final two episodes are controversial (more controversial than the rest of the series at least!) because they are both the peak of experimental Eva. While I certainly wouldn't call them "bad", they are frustratingly unsatisfying as an ending. Thankfully, the subsequent movie release titled 'End of Evangelion' rectifies this with bombastic aplomb. EoE - which essentially tells the story of what happens in eps. 25 and 26, but this time outside of Shinji's mind - is truly magnificent, and definitely lives up to the sky high standards set in the series, and perhaps even exceeds them. As well as being one of the greatest anime movies ever made, EoE gives the series an extraordinary conclusion.
I haven't even mentioned the dub, the pacing or the sound effects, but rest assured that they are all of a fantastic standard. Overall, I think this series deserves it's iconic status - it's easily one of the absolute best TV series (anime or otherwise) that I've ever seen. Every single episode is nothing less than a masterpiece and an utter joy to watch. I whole heartedly recommend Neon Genesis Evangelion. It is imperative that you watch this anime!