A dark and disturbing series
Greg | Australia | 10/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Perhaps the most violent anime series since 'Spaceship Runaway Ideon', Neon Genesis Evangelion (which interestingly means new genesis or the good news of the new genesis, after the Greek word for the Christian gospel which is 'evangelion' or 'the good news' ) is a deeply complex and dark series exploring the minds of several young children and adults in a post-apocalyptic world where they must defend the last of mankind against mysterious invaders called 'angels.'
Central to the story is a young boy called Shinji Ikari. Shinji is a anti-hero, a young boy who is so overcome by a weakness of will, by depression, acedia and alienation, he is unable to do anything on his own. As the series unfolds we find out he was abandoned by his father Gendo (now the head of a secret military organisation called NERV) and his mother died in a mysterious accident involving a giant robot called an evangelion.
We find out Shinji is one of the special 'children' who can pilot these robots and defeat the angels, which seem to be bent on finishing off humanity. Half of the world's population died in an incident called 'First impact', where a meteorite moving at close to the speed of light strikes Antartica and destroys the continent and melts all of the ice, leading to the Earth's axis shifting, immense floods and tsunamis, and wars using horrible weapons such as the 'N2 mine' which can destroy cities.
Shinji meets other characters, including Rei, a mysterious young girl, Azuka, a lively redhaired prodigy who speaks German, Japanese and English fluently (and is also a maths whiz) and the sexy Misato, a busty commander who takes Shinji into her care. Shinji confronts many difficulties in relating to all of these characters, due in part to his own deep flaws and also the clashes between his introverted nature and the more outgoing personalities of Gendo, Azuka and Misato, as well as the 'damsel in distress' Rei. While showing bravery, compassion, and love on many occasions, we also see the darker sides of Shinji's nature, including his repressed sexual desire for all of these women and girls, his Oedipal hatred of his father, his neurotic tendency to avoid responsibility, as well as dark rage, anger, hate, and his insensitivity to the pain of others (a scene in one of the later episodes where Misato, who has protected and given him so much, is crying after hearing her beloved boyfriend die, approaches him for some compassion and comfort, but Shinji backs away and spurns her, is very telling of all of his weaknesses as a person).
As the series progresses we venture deeper and deeper into the fragmented and tormented psyches of all of the characters, and some dark truths are uncovered. It seems that NERV is being controlled by a secretive organisation called SEELE who is bent on bringing about the end of humankind through 'third impact', while Gendo has plans for his own. All seem to be involved in a project called the 'Instrumentality' project, which aims to transform humanity from its dead end state where all are seperate beings living lives of pain, suffering and isolation to a complete humanity where all individuals are remerged with each other, all other life, and the Godhead. SEELE appears to desire to bring this about on man's terms, not those of the Angels, whose aim appears to be to unite with a being in the depths of the NERV base called Lilith, and bring about the End on their terms.
The series concludes with the defeat of the angels, the destruction of NERV and the death of all main characters, either in the mind or the flesh. The final episode appears to be where Shinji ventures inside the depths of his concious and unconcious mind seeking the final answer to his existence, which he finds paradoxically in his own being and existence; by knowing himself Shinji finds he knows All and in so doing has the power to make whatever destiny for himself he chooses.
The series, while dark and depressing in many ways, is also very interesting and worth watching and reflecting on its themes. The journey inside to find God and the answer to existence is a timeless truth acknowledged from world religious and philosophical traditions as diverse as Philo and St Augustine in the West to Buddha and Shankara in the East. Indeed St Augustine said when you look inside yourself (like another Greek Philosopher Plotinus) you will find God and also all possibility. When Shinji finds the Absolute it is a white formless nothingness, and the world comes into being through making choices as an individual being, negating some possibilities over some others. Then the world of multplicity and all its wonders and colours comes into being, and Shinji realises another deep philosophical and mystical truth; the world does not only make you, you also make your own world through your own free will and its choices. 'I think and I will, therefore I am' was Augustine's maxim and Shinji also discovers this truth by looking within. Shinji encounters various possibilities ranging from a dull fantasy world where every petty desire of his is met to a more complicated world containing pain and contradiction and suffering. Shinji learns finally it is not so bad to be yourself after all, and to accept and love himself, and in doing so, he will also be loved by others for doing so.
The whole series then is really a mythical allegory (told in 21st century cartoon anime) about the inner journey to self discovery. Anno uses various symbols and ideas to convey these in symbolic and mythical form; however Freudians, Jungians, students of mythology or followers of Joseph Campbell, students of mysticism, or philosophers will all recognise the diverse signposts and where they are heading. The final message of the series seems simple enough; know yourself and you will know All, but is also complicated and very difficult because it is so hard for us to see past the world and our distortions and biases we project on it because of our flaws and needs. To see things as they really are, we must understand ourself; but this is the most difficult and also the simplest task. I think Anno's challenge to us mirrors his own journey (he was deeply depressed while writing and directing the series) and like other creative artists, for Anno there is no compromise.
The series and its ending differ in the 'Alternate' Evangelion though I think the basic themes are much the same."
A Fascinating start to what appears to be an awesome Series!
Queen of Annwen | 02/13/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have never seen this show before, so I am coming to you a beginer with very limited Anime knowledge. I love this genre, however, I have only begone to dabble.
First off, the magnificent animation blew me away. The action was very gripping and the backstories really started to pull me in. I especially liked the Evangelion robot, and thought that it was a cool twist in the series.
The characters so far seem like your typical anime cast, unique and unpredictable as ever. I remember maybe two names so I can't really go into detail much further than that.
My only limited complaints would be that the english actor voicing "shinji" had a vocal range that was a bit too high for me. I know he's fourteen, but most of the guys I know sound a lot deeper than that, so it just bothered me a bit. Also, the fourth episode didn't really take you anywhere, but leaves you wondering "where the heck is this going to go?" and "is the next DVD worth getting?"
Well I can't answer either of these and I can only hope they will get better. I'll be updating each time I watch the next DVD so look for my comments!
SO far, I recommend this and look forward to watching more. Hopefully it will get better and really deliver!"