Neon Genesis Evangelion is a major staple in the anime community. Popular for its titanic battles and known for its sheer mindfuckery. It essentially boils down to Mobile Suit Gundam on a HP Lovecraft trip. Due to these features, Evangelion has achieved immortalization in most anime circles with a feverishly dedicated fanbase. Having watched the entire anime series, the End of Evangelion movie and the three released Rebuild movies, I don't feel the euphoria others feel. Every time I've tried to get into Eva, I just feel disappointment.
I know I am not alone in being disappointed with the main anime series, though my disappointment stems far past the ending, or whatever Hideaki Anno called it. When it came to the mech battles, I don't have very many complaints. The fights are smooth, fluid and completely satisfying. The design of the Lovecraftian Angels were, for the most part, unique and mystifying. The problems that bog down the experience for me mostly come from the characters, few of whom I ever connected with or even liked. Stop me if you've heard it all before when it comes to Eva's cast. Shinji Ikari is a whiny child who runs away from his problems and never grows up, Asuka Langley Soryu was just a bitch with entitlement and abandonment issues, Rei Ayanami was just there as an emotionless doll, Misato Katsurgai was a bipolar train wreak and so on.
Now I understand what Neon Genesis Evangelion what created to do, be a deconstruction of the mech anime genre. Obviously children piloting giant robots against giant, evil monsters wouldn't react with stoic, military-style confidence and sternness. Yet intentionally annoying characters are still annoying characters. This also begs the question as to WHY children are piloting the Evangelions? I know this is some odd rule anime has with the mech genre, but if we are going to play the "realism" card, there are some things that just aren't going to pan out.
The anime even dares to be pretentious with all of the religious symbolism present throughout the series. Angels die in explosions shaped in crosses, Evangelion refers to a Gospel Book, Adam and Lillith are beings that play into the series mythology, etc. Yet according to Anno, all of these symbols are simply window dressing. They don't mean anything, they are just there to look cool.
Still, despite the ending being almost universally panned as an example of Anno's personal problems and a budget long since exhausted, there was a silver lining to it. The scene where Shinji imagines that he is a normal kid living a normal life was great moment in my opinion. His mother is still alive, his father seems like your typical cartoon dad, Asuka is his lifelong friend/potential lover, Rei is the nerdy new kid, Misato is the sexy teacher and so on. I honestly wished the series would've ended in this way, as annoying as Shinji was I think it would've been a fitting ending for him as he finds inner peace and belonging with his friends and family. It was certainly better than what the End of Evangelion decided to implement.
Then the End of Evangelion had to happen. You know, when one of the establishing scenes is of your main character masturbating over the comatose body of another main character, that sets the tone immediately and it isn't promising. Weird things are going to happen and while the action-packed first half of the movie was amazing and literally everything that could possibly go wrong in the Evaverse does indeed go wrong. I initially believed that this is the ending the anime series should've had, but once Shinji gets into Eva Unit-01, the films quickly becomes less of a conclusion and more of an arthouse film with apocalyptic overtones.
Maybe it was "too deep" for me, but I ended up lost nonetheless. The second half screamed, "Look how much money we have to spend on this project, look at our effects!". At the end of the day, it was just one big cryptic mess that ends on a bizarre note that made me question just how sane Anno was with coming with this one. I wish I had more to say about the End of Evangelion, but I just either didn't get it or it was just not getable. I'd believe both.
The Rebuild of Evangelion films have been a mixed bag, shocker I know. Evangelion 1.11 was alright, a decent, abridged version of the first few episodes of the main series meant to kick off an all new Evangelion. Evangelion 2.22, on the other hand, nearly restored the faith I had in the franchise. It isn't just my favorite Evangelion related piece of media, it is one of my favorite anime movies. Awesome fights, Shinji finally growing a backbone, Rei actually getting character development, a breathtaking closing act and a cliffhanger that sets up something big.
Then we got Evangelion 3.33 and everything went right down the crapper. It felt as though a whole other movie was missing from the equation as new characters, new Eva creations and forms and a new world were just thrust on me as I tried to follow along. Maybe that was the point, have the audience as confused as Shinji was. Yet everything good about 2.22 with the characters and plot was thrown out. How something could fall so fast and so hard mystifies me.
So in conclusion, I want to like Evangelion, but I have just been disappointed so many times by it. The manga adaption looks promising from what I've seen, but I don't know if I want to risk it. Eva may be seen as a classic and a core component of modern anime. Just wish I could bypass the hypes AT-Field of problems and disappointment.
What do you like about Evangelion? What do you dislike about it?