Neon Genesis Evangelion box cover

Info

Available on VHS and DVD from A.D. Vision.
TV Series: 26 episodes on 13 VHS tapes or 8 DVDs
25 minutes per episode
Science Fiction
Version I Watched: English dubbed & subtitled in English
Objectionable Content: Violence, suggestive situations

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Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the most popular anime in recent history. The combination of innovative mecha designs, a compelling story, and heart-pumping action has enthralled many anime fans. However, along with its immense popularity comes a boatload of hype. Anyway, I'll try to cut through some of the hype and provide a fair review.

In the 21st century, humankind faces a threat from giant space creatures known as "Angels". To combat this threat, an organization known as Nerv is formed. They proceed to build giant robots called Evangelions and use 14 year-old children to pilot them.

First, I'll tackle the bad. Evangelion features passable artwork, though nothing terribly striking. The animation however, isn't very good. The battles themselves were generally well animated, but we get treated to a lot of still shots and some re-used stuff as well. In a lot of anime, usually only the character's mouth will move when they're speaking. Here, that sometimes isn't even the case. During long conversations the characters will conveniently hide their mouths with something, usually a coffee cup. Other times, the scenes will be shown from a distance so that no character animation need be shown at all. The final two episodes are made up of almost nothing but still shots and re-used animation. The visuals in Evangelion definitely won't win any awards in my book.

The dubbing job is very well done, in my opinion. The character's voices all fit their personalities quite well. I've seen both subtitled and dubbed versions of Evangelion, and confess that I prefer the dub. The music is also very pleasing to listen to. The main theme and battle music are two of favorite anime songs.

To the uninitiated, Evangelion may look like a simple "us versus them" giant mecha anime. At least, that's what I thought at first. Once you start watching, you will notice that the series strongly focuses on both plot and character development. The story is intricately woven involving a very detailed and dubious conspiracy. The whole conspiracy theme is played to maximum effect here. Each episodes provides one or two answers, but raises numerous new questions. If you're an X-Files fan, you'll feel right at home watching this series.

Just like the plot, the characters also have a fair amount of depth to them. The series focuses on a young boy named Shinji Ikari. He is chosen as an Evangelion pilot, even though he is doesn't want to. To be perfectly honest, I found him to be a complete weenie, and at times I wanted to give him a boot to the head (which I didn't for fear of breaking my TV). Rei, another Eva pilot, has absolutely no personality to speak of, and she remains an enigma for most of the series. Part of the intrigue in the series is discovering the secrets she holds. Asuka, the third Eva pilot, provides a good dose of the comic relief, even though she is an annoying snot. Other characters include Misato, a Nerv operative and Shinji's guardian, Gendo Ikari, Shinji's estranged father, and Kaji, a smooth talker with hidden motives. The characters are varied, and it's interesting to watch the relationships develop between them.

I confess I'm not a big fan of giant mecha, but I was intrigued somewhat by the unique mecha designs. The "Angels" are very striking in appearance, and are a break from the tried-and-true monster designs of the past. The Evangelions are also well-designed, and a lot of detail is given on how they function.

One thing that you'll hear a lot about, if you've been paying attention to the Eva hype, are the final two episodes. Personally, I actually liked them somewhat. Looking past the cruddy presentation, we get a lot of philosophical dialog which I found a little refreshing. It's nice to see a big series with a finale that breaks away from the traditional "kill Foozle" cliche. Unfortunately, the bridge between the final two episodes and the rest of the series is a shaky one at best. The summary on the back of the final volume is about the only way to understand what the heck is going on. Of course, that summary contains some spoilers and A.D. Vision should've thought more carefully about what they wrote there.

Neon Genesis Evangelion is a rather unique series with a fair amount of cerebral content. I recommend this series to any science fiction or mystery fan.

The Verdict: * * * * (good)