It’s been over 25 years since acclaimed director Hideaki Anno’s mecha series “Neon Genesis Evangelion” premiered in 1995. Yet, the series still remains a juggernaut of merchandising and a cultural icon. Even though the show has finished airing, it still remains more relevant than ever.
“Neon Genesis Evangelion” follows the life of 14-year-old Japanese schoolkid Shinji Ikari, who is drafted by his absentee father Gendo Ikari to pilot the giant mecha known as the Eva to fight giant alien creatures called Angels. The real core of “Evangelion,” however, isn’t its plot; it’s the characters and their relationships that really form the crux of this series.
Shinji is not your typical mecha protagonist. Other mecha anime have an upbeat compassionate protagonist who smile in the face of adversity, but Shinji is a scared little boy, ruled by his feelings of self-loathing and loneliness. His teammate and love interest Asuka is violent and brash, but underneath her violent expression lies a scared person who really wants to be noticed. This is often very relatable, as communicating with people about our struggles can be really hard and seeing them struggle gives a human touch to the show.
Often dubbed the loneliest anime ever, the horror of this series comes not from its horrifying imagery, but in the quiet moments that reveal how broken these characters truly are. Characters will often sit in long still shots which emphasize how uncomfortable the situation is for the characters to be in.
“Evangelion” doesn’t shy away from darkness, in fact, it fully embraces it as its visuals call back to ancient motifs that pierce through the viewer’s soul. The ideas presented are ones that people struggle with in real life: loneliness, regret and the struggles of connecting.
Even with all the haunting symbolism and crushing character moments, “Evangelion” is a surprisingly positive story about facing your insecurities head on and finding the will to keep on living.
While uplifting, happy heroes will never go out of style, the truth is that in a world that seems more broken than ever, a show like “Evangelion” makes the uncomfortable seem comfortable. “Neon Genesis Evangelion” will always be relevant.
“Neon Genesis Evangelion” can be streamed on Netflix.