#1 Because nobody will tolerate it if you don’t
Pretty much from the moment I began wandering the cruel, hostile wastes of the internet, Neon Genesis Evangelion has been an ever-present force. Even before I began to really dig into anime, I was aware of its legacy and fame. When I finally began testing the waters of fan-subbed anime, people were jumping at the chance to recommend Evangelion. For years I have seen anime commentators and columnists praise the show and even individual scenes, I have witnessed furious forum arguments unfold between fans and haters, and the memes… so many memes.
Jokes aside, one can’t deny that Neon Genesis Evangelion has had a major impact on not just anime as a business and cultural medium, but also on the community that surrounds it both in and outside of its native Japan. If you are invested in anime and have an interest in its history, or even if you just want to participate in the discussions that surround the show, then I can honestly recommend watching it for that reason alone. For a long time now I resisted because I dislike being told how and which media I should enjoy, but now that I have relented I am honestly glad I watched it.
Now I get to write the fancy articles!
#2 Every fight is tense
Diving into NGE so soon after finishing Run=Dim really highlights how much the latter was ripping off this anime classic and, more importantly, where it was going wrong. Similarly to that trainwreck from a few weeks ago, Neon Genesis Evangelion presents us with an earth that is more than a little shaken up. After an event known as The Second Impact melted most of Antarctica, the remains of humanity worked hard to recover, only to now face extinction at the hands of the Angels; strange, almost divine invaders of unknown origin.
A barrage of tanks and the largest bombs mankind can conjure up merely serve to temporarily halt an angel in its tracks. The only solution are the EVA units created and managed by the mysterious NERV organization, commanded by the fierce Misato Katsuragi, and piloted by a group of young teenagers able to mentally synchronize with these powerful, often unpredictable robotic creatures. It is great material, and the director/writer Hideaki Anno wastes no time establishing how each and every fight will determine the faith of all humanity. If these kids fail, nothing else stands in the way of the angels.
The angels are gigantic and almost Lovecraftian in nature, with an ability to adapt to the EVA project in ways that feel uncanny for anime villains to do. While some of the early episodes feel like regular anime battles, even if each is exciting to watch in its own way, later down the line you really get the sense that with each encounter the cast is just barely getting by, with the battles causing major damage, ruining what little civilization is left standing, and breaking the characters apart both physically and mentally.
I was on the edge of my seat when Shinji managed to just barely shank an angel to death within a brief time limit in the first few episodes. My butt was nowhere even close to the edge anymore during Asuka’s final battle.
#3 Brilliant directing
Hideaki Anno is an industry name few other directors could hope to compare to and even before I got around to watching the show that earned him most of this fame, I had a lot of respect for the man’s work and influence. Having seen the show now only served to amplify my appreciation for him; rarely have I watched a show where I had to pause this often to appreciate how much deliberation, artistry, and skill went into it.
The line of tanks greeting the first angel in episode 1, followed by the absolute overkill amount of explosives the military throws on the creature, immediately sets the bar high. From there the show proves its versatility, with it being able to handle not just amazing fight scenes, but also enjoyable comedy bits, heated arguments between characters, romance, and horrifying imagery as characters begin breaking down under the pressure.
I am honestly at a loss for what I would describe as my favorite scene, because that would be a tie between Asuka’s colorful and fun introduction to Shinji and his friends, an exciting battle set to a bombastic, religious chorus, and the long, drawn-out death of a major character. All of them completely different, all of them excellent scenes in their own right.
#4 This penguin is in it
Why did none of you fanboys mention this before?!
#5 Characters that are different
Characters in anime tend to be really easy to define, the sheer fact we have such commonplace categories like “yandere” tells as much. The characters of Neon Genesis are not so easy, not just because the story is confusing and opaque in places, but also because I honestly feel that I am not entirely in my place to comment on them after having seen the show just once.
The characters are layered and experience a lot of growth across the story that manifests in ways that are often not as immediately obvious until you rewatch stuff. I wasn’t fully aware of how Shinji slowly grows more familiar with the people in his home situation over time or how the appearance of Asuka makes him more vocal and defensive, until I was reflecting on the series days later. On top of that some of the characters were just so unlike anything I had seen in anime before. Gendo Ikari especially was baffling to witness, I have rarely seen a character with such an imposing presence, who pulls the most awe-dropping dick moves, but who you honestly can’t help but respect and fear.
Every character in the story ended up being way more interesting than my first impressions indicated, and I found myself growing deeply interested in characters I would pay little heed in any other show. Asuka especially goes through so much development that, by the end of the story, I almost felt bad for assuming she’d just be some loudmouthed ego-tripper.