, commonly referred to as NGE, Eva, or Evangelion, is a commercially and critically successful, influential, and controversial Japanese anime that began in October 1995; the series launched the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise. It is commonly regarded as one of the greatest anime of all time. The anime was created by Gainax, written and directed by Hideaki Anno, and co-produced by TV Tokyo and Nihon Ad Systems (NAS).
Evangelion is an apocalyptic mecha action series which centers around the efforts by the paramilitary organization Nerv to fight monstrous beings called Angels, primarily using giant mecha called Evangelions which are piloted by select teenagers, one of whom is the primary protagonist. It follows those teenagers and other Nerv members until the defeat of the Angels and the eventual apocalyptic ending.
Events in the series refer to Judeo-Christian symbols from the book of Genesis and Biblical apocrypha among others. Later episodes shift focus to psychoanalysis of the main characters, who display various emotional problems and mental illnesses; the nature of existence and reality are questioned in a way that lets Evangelion be characterized as "postmodern fantasy". Hideaki Anno, the director of the anime series, had suffered from clinical depression prior to creating the series, and the psychological aspects of the show are based on the director's own experiences with overcoming this illness.
In the year 2010, Gehirn had accomplished a number of its scientific and engineering goals and corporately changed into the paramilitary organization Nerv which is headquartered in Tokyo-3, a militarized civilian city located on one of the last dry sections of Japan; Nerv's central mission is to locate the remaining Angels predicted by Seele, and to destroy them. However, Nerv has its own secret agenda, as directed by its Machiavellian commander Gendo Ikari: the Human Instrumentality Project, which, according to Gendo in episode 25, is the task of uniting all human minds into one global spiritual entity. Associated with Nerv is the Marduk Institute, which has the task of selecting the pilots for the Evas, the most capable being children conceived after the Second Impact (14 year olds). The institute consists of Commander Ikari, and Nerv's chief scientist Ritsuko Akagi; supporting the two are 108 companies which are all revealed to be ghost companies.
As the first episode opens in the year 2015, Tokyo-3 is being attacked by the third Angel. Conventional weapons prove ineffective, largely due to its projected force field called an AT Field. Nerv takes command of the battles, and is able to intercept and defeat the Angels using the Evangelions (Evas), biomechanical mecha previously developed in secret by Gehirn inside the underground Geofront; the Geofront is located underground and underneath Tokyo-3.
Not knowing why his father summoned him, Shinji Ikari, a 14 year old boy who chronically suffers from anxiety, depression, lack of self confidence and loneliness, arrives to Tokyo-3 just as the Third Angel attacks the city. Shinji reluctantly agrees to join Nerv to pilot Evangelion Unit 01, and begins living with Captain (later Major) Misato Katsuragi. He and Rei Ayanami battle the successive advances of the Angels together and are later joined by Asuka Langley Soryu, the pilot of Unit 02.
Each Eva has its own designated pilot (Unit 00 – Rei, Unit 01–Shinji, Unit 02–Asuka, and subsequently Unit 03–Toji Suzuhara), and operates by synchronizing the pilot's soul and the human soul inside the Eva via the enigmatic liquid substance known as LCL. (In the context of Evangelion, a "soul" refers to an individual's conscious existence, mental structure and identity, rather than a more conventional "supernatural" entity.) Surrounded by LCL, the pilot's nervous system, mind and body join with the Eva's controls, allowing the Eva to be controlled by the pilot's thoughts and actions. The higher a pilot's synchronization ratio, the better the pilot can control the Eva and fight more adeptly. For example, Shinji had a hard time making his Eva walk with 41.83% synchronization, but with higher synchronization (up to 100%, and even 400% at one point) he could perform acrobatic feats of hand-to-hand combat. The drawback of LCL control is that the pilot experiences physical and mental pain proportionate to that experienced by the Eva; at a high enough synch ratio, injuries to the Eva may even be mimicked within the body of the pilot, potentially leading to severe injury and/or death. Almost all of the known pilots are hospitalized multiple times throughout the series as a result of injuries suffered through synchronization with an Eva.
While Ritsuko mentions at the series' beginning that the Evas do have some biological components to them, the extent to which the Evas are biological is not immediately apparent. Unit 01 is connected to Yui Ikari, Gendo's wife and Shinji's mother, since it absorbed her body and soul in a failed experiment, as shown in episodes 16 and 20. Rei herself is suspected to be a partial clone of Yui, and is known to harbor the soul of Lilith, the second Angel.
It is finally revealed, towards the end of the series, that the Evas are not really "robots" but are actually cloned Angels (Units 00, 02, 03, and 04 are made from Adam, and 01 is made from Lilith) onto which mechanical components are incorporated as a means of restraint and control. This control is not perfect, as various units are shown over the course of the series driving into "berserker" mode, in which they can act of their own will, independent of any artificial power input.
Along with the battles against the Angels, the central characters struggle to overcome their personal issues and personality conflicts, which factor heavily into the events of the series and its eventual conclusion. Throughout the series, many of the main characters constantly have to cope with several social and emotional problems: characters are unwillingly forced to confront socially complex and challenging situations; unresolved sexual tensions grow between numerous characters; injuries, deaths, and defeats cause blows to their psyches; and previously steady relationships begin to falter.
Over the final months of 2015, the characters begin to learn of the true plan of Nerv and Seele, the Human Instrumentality Project. Its purpose is to force the completion of human evolution, and thereby save it from destroying itself. To do so, they plan to break down the AT fields that separate individual humans, and in doing so, reducing all humans to LCL, which is revealed to be the "primordial soup," the fundamental composite of human beings. All LCL would then be united into a supreme being, the next stage of humanity, ending all conflict, loneliness and pain brought about by individual existence. At the end of the series, Seele and Nerv come into direct conflict over the implementation of Instrumentality.
In the last two episodes (the second set in 2016), Gendo and Rei initiate the Human Instrumentality Project, forcing several characters (especially Shinji) to face their doubts and fears and examine their self-worth. This ending was made up of flashbacks, strange, sketchy artwork, and flashing text "over a montage of bleak visuals, that include black and white photos of desolate urban motifs such as a riderless bicycle or vacant park benches interspersed with graphic stills of the devastated Nerv headquarters in which Shinji's colleagues are seen as bloodstained bodies", and a brief interlude depicting an "alternate" Evangelion universe with the same characters but apparently in the highschool comedy genre (and not the apocalyptic mecha genre; this alternative universe was explored in greater depth in Girlfriend of Steel 2), eventually seems to depict Shinji concluding that life could be worth living and that he did not need to pilot an Eva to justify his existence; he is then surrounded by most of the cast, clapping and congratulating him. The introduction implies that this same process took place for everyone.
The ambiguous and unclear meaning of this ending left many fans confused and unsatisfied. The final two episodes were possibly the most controversial segments of a controversial series and were received as flawed and incomplete by many. However, Anno and deputy director Kazuya Tsurumaki defended the artistic integrity of the finale.
The film The End of Evangelion begins shortly after the end of episode 24. Seele has realized Gendo's treachery and commanded the JSSDF's forces to launch an all-out attack on Nerv headquarters. During the battle, Asuka realizes that she has a bond with Unit 02 and is not just its master, and this bond gives her the strength to battle the "mass-production" Evas sent by Seele; she is ultimately defeated. Misato battles her way past JSSDF soldiers to get Shinji to his Eva but is mortally wounded in the process. Unit 01 is forced by the MP Evas to begin Seele's version of Instrumentality.
While Nerv is collapsing, Gendo attempts to implement his own version of Instrumentality by merging the embryonic Adam (bonded to his right hand) with Rei. However, Rei takes over the process and reunites with Lilith, who finally regains her soul, and creates a planet-wide anti-AT Field, negating the AT Fields of all of humanity and causing their bodies to dissolve into LCL. The souls of all human beings are absorbed into Lilith/Rei's body, causing her to grow into a supreme being of size comparable to the Earth itself. Rei gives control of the process to Shinji. His emotional suffering and loneliness prompts Shinji to accept this new form, believing that there could never be happiness in the real world. He goes through a series of mental journeys and monologues, eventually realizing that without pain there can be no joy, and to live with others is to experience joy as well as pain. This constitutes a rejection of the goal of Instrumentality – a world without the pain or joy of being a separate being. Lilith/Rei dies and falls apart, releasing the anti-AT Field and allowing separate beings to potentially come back into existence. In the last sequence, Asuka and Shinji are shown to have rematerialized from the sea of LCL, and are together somewhere near the ruins of Tokyo-3.
The meaning of The End of Evangelion is debated, and it is not agreed upon whether it is intended to enlarge and retell the TV episodes 25 and 26–meaning that those episodes reflected Shinji's point of view while inside the merged being – or instead to completely replace the TV ending with a different one. Some believe that The End of Evangelion is an alternate ending to the series, perhaps created to please those fans who were displeased with the TV series' ending. Deputy Director Kazuya Tsurumaki said he felt the series was complete as it was.
However, there are several hints indicating that the movie portrays the physical aspects of the end of the series, while the episodes deal with the interior, or emotional aspects, and the two form a whole. In movie episode 26', when Instrumentality is finally launched, Shinji questions himself about his life and what he really wishes through Instrumentality; Shinji's lines and reflection process in this sequence are almost identical to what they were in TV episode 26, however in a much more condensed form. Similar reflections on the part of Asuka and Misato are also reflected (if briefly) in the film. Watching both thus allows a fuller understanding of the series. There were serious budget and schedule restraints in the later episodes of the series, and the film allowed for a more complete ending to be realized. During the TV series ending, a number of sketches from scenes that were later included in the movie are shown, hinting that the film, or something like the final production, was the intended finale all along. Indeed, the original script for episode 25 (which included, among others, a bloody fight between Asuka and the MP Evas) was abandoned due to censorship, budget and time restraints, yet the actual TV episode still featured some remnants of the first script (Misato and Ritsuko dead, Asuka inside her Eva in the water). Later, the original script was re-used for Episode 25: Air, a part of the End of Evangelion movie. Also, in the opening animation for the series, there are shots of Unit 01 with the angelic wings that it sprouts in Episode 26: A Pure Heart For You.
It's strange that 'Evangelion' has become such a hit - all the characters are so sick!|30px|30px|Hideaki Anno, quoted in Wong 1996
The characters of Evangelion are continuously struggling with their interpersonal relationships, their inner demons, and traumatic events in their pasts, creating a complex pattern of relationships.
Anno described the hero, Shinji Ikari, as a boy who "shrinks from human contact", and has "convinced himself that he is a completely unnecessary person, so much so that he cannot even commit suicide." He describes Shinji and Misato Katsuragi as "extremely afraid of being hurt" and "unsuitable — lacking the positive attitude — for what people call heroes of an adventure." When compared to the stereotypical hero, Shinji is characterized more by lack of energy and emotion than by any sort of heroism or bravery. Rei Ayanami and Asuka Langley Soryu, the other major protagonists, have similar flaws and difficulty relating to other people.
According to Anno, Evangelion was an attempt to make all perspectives into one, creating characters that represent different things to different viewers to make it impossible for everyone to arrive at a single theory. To some viewers, the characters are psychological representations, while to others, they are philosophical, religious, historical, and even themselves. It seems the main goal was to present characters who reflected the deep depression and eventual recovery that Anno experienced before beginning work on Evangelion; the characters all reflect at least a little of Anno.
However the deeply pessimistic nature of the series as well as the rarely seen huge array of problems in all the characters has drawn curiousity on why there is no real happiness in the setting's world. Assistant Director Kazuya Tsurumaki said of the series, "But when all is said and done, Hideaki Anno's comments on 'Evangelion' + 'Evangelion' are that it is a message aimed at anime fans including himself, and of course, me too. If a person who can already live and communicate normally watches it, they won't learn anything."
The character designs by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto have also contributed to the popularity of Evangelion. Sadamoto's attractive designs of the three main female leads, Asuka, Rei and Misato, led to extremely high sales of merchandise (especially of Rei, the "Premium Girl), and they have been immortalized in the dōjinshi community, garage kit models, and in subsequent anime (such as Burst Angel).
"General Products had closed shop. We'd pulled out of Wonder Festival [sic] and garage kit making altogether. We weren't taking on any subcontracting work for anime production. We did continue to make PC games – Akai had seen to that – but there wasn't a lot of work tossed our way. With mere pennies coming in, we were having a hard enough time just paying everyone's salaries. Finally the order came down for us to halt production on Aoki Uru. We were simply incapable of taking the project any further.
With the failure of the project, Anno who had been slated from the beginning to direct Aoki Uru was freed up. Legendarily, he would soon agree to a collaboration between King Records and Gainax while drinking with Toshimichi Ōtsuki, a representative at King; with King Records guaranteeing a time slot, Anno set about actually making the anime. Unsurprisingly, elements of Aoki Uru were incorporated into the nascent Evangelion:
"One of the key themes in Aoki Uru had been "not running away." In the story, the main character is faced with the daunting task of saving the heroine … He ran away from something in the past, so he decides that this time he will stand his ground. The same theme was carried over into Evangelion, but I think it was something more than just transposing one show's theme onto another …
The original early plot line for Evangelion remained relatively stable through development, although later episodes appear to have changed dramatically from the fluid and uncertain early conceptions; for example, originally there were 28 angels and not 17, and the climax would deal with the defeat of the final 12 angels and not with the operation of the Human Instrumentality Project. As well, Kaworu Nagisa's appearance was changed from being a school boy – who could switch to an "Angel form" – accompanied by a pet cat, to his eventual actual design, etc.
Production was by no means placid. Sadamoto's authorship of the manga (Neon Genesis Evangelion) caused problems as multiple publishers felt "that he was too passé to be bankable"; the stylized mecha design that Evangelion would later be praised for was initially deprecated by some of the possible sponsors of a mecha anime (toy companies) as being too difficult to manufacture (possibly on purpose), and that models of the Evangelions "would never sell. Eventually, Sega agreed to license all toy and video game sales.
Eventually, Evangelion began to be shown: the first episode aired 4 October 1995, long after it was originally planned to air. Initially ignored (although received positively by those Gainax fans invited to early screenings), viewership grew slowly and largely by word of mouth.
Episode 16 marked a distinct shift that would characterize the second half of Evangelion as being more psychological than action or adventure. This change in emphasis was partly due to the development of the story, but also partly because by this point, production had begun running out of funding and failing to meet the schedule; this collapse has been identified by at least one Gainax employee as the impetus for Evangelion[mecha]s turn into metafiction:
I didn't mind it. The schedule was an utter disaster and the number of cels plummeted, so there were some places where unfortunately the quality suffered. However, the tension of the staff as we all became more desperate and frenzied certainly showed up in the film … About the time that the production system was completely falling apart, there were some opinions to the effect that, "If we can't do satisfactory work, then what's the point of continuing?" However, I didn't feel that way. My opinion was, "Why don't we show them the entire process including our breakdown.
But nevertheless, by the 18th episode, it had become enough of a sensation that Eva-01's violent rampage "is criticized as being unsuitable on an anime show that is viewed by children", and episode 20 would be similarly criticized for the offscreen depiction of Misato and Ryoji Kaji having sex With this popularity came the first merchandise, "Genesis 0:1" (containing the first two episodes). Beginning a trend, it sells out. As the series concluded on 27 March 1996 with Take care of yourself., the story apparently remained unresolved: Third Impact and the Human Complementation Project are implied to have begun or even finished, but the episodes focus largely on the psychology of the characters, leaving deeply unclear what actually happens.
The radically different and experimental style of the final two episodes alienated many fans and spawned debate and analysis, both scholarly and informal; even mainstream publications like the Mainichi Times would remark that "When Episode 25 first aired the following week, nearly all viewers felt betrayed...when commentator Eiji Otsuka sent a letter to the Yomiuri Shimbun, complaining about the end of the Evangelion series, the debate went nationwide. (It's worth noting that the ending received such coverage in part because Evangelion had attracted viewers not typically interested in such fare; the TV series was extremely popular Anno commented in various interviews after the conclusion of the series that "anime fans need to have more self-respect" and to "come back to reality"; in a Newtype interview 10 May, after the announcement on 26 April of a new movie and re-edited versions of the TV series, he also stated that "computer networking is graffiti on toilet walls." These statements were even more controversial.
After that, the tapes Genesis 0:11 and 0:12 were released and contained the redone episodes 21-24 and Genesis 0:13 and 0:14 contained both endings, each containing both episodes 25 and 26. In 1998, the Evangelion films were released in their original intended form, without the extra scenes in the recap movie (Death(true)²) and with the full new ending.
In 2000, the "Second Impact Box" was released in 3 parts, containing the 26 uncut, remastered episodes and the 2 movies (also including "Rebirth").
In 2003, the nine-volume "Renewal of Evangelion" DVDs were released, with the series' sound and picture remastered for HD and 5.1 technology (for example, new background sounds were recorded). The first eight volumes covered the original 26 episodes (with two versions of episodes 21-24: the uncut version and a reconstruction of the edited version). The ninth volume, containing two discs, named "Evangelion: The Movie", which contained "Death(true)²" and "End of Evangelion"
The Renewal release formed the basis for the western "Platinum Edition" (which didn't include the movies, as the movies were licensed by Manga Entertainment, while the series was licensed by A.D. Vision).
It should also be noted that the "Platinum Edition" features slightly different English subtitles than the original VHS and DVD releases of the series.
Evangelion is dense with allusions to biological, military, religious, and psychological concepts, as well as numerous references or homages to older anime series (for example, the basic plot is seen in earlier anime like Space Battleship Yamato) – a tendency which inspired the nickname for the series, the "remixed anime Anno's use of Freudian jargon and psychoanalytical theory as well as his allusions to religion and biology are often idiosyncratically used and redefined to carry his message. This tendency of Anno's has been criticized as "Total plagiarism!" and "just more mindgames from the animation crew". However, Anno has defended himself by denying the possibility of really original work without borrowing in anime:
"There is no longer room for absolute originality in the field of anime, especially given that our generation was brought up on mass-produced anime. All stories and techniques inevitably bring with them a sense of déjà vu. The only avenue of expression left open to us is to produce a collage-like effect based on a sampling of existing works."
"The people who make anime and the people who watch it always want the same things. The creators have been making the same story for about 10 years; the viewers seem to be satisfied and there's no sense of urgency. There's no future in that.
Regardless, Anno seems to have hoped to reinvigorated the genre of anime – seen as lifeless and moribund in the early 1990s – and restore originality: to create a new anime. This desire is also the reason Anno cited for creating the Rebuild of Evangelion movies:
"Many different desires are motivating us to create the new "Evangelion" film … The desire to fight the continuing trend of stagnation in anime.The interpretation of the symbols and concepts varies from individual to individual, and it is not clear how many are intentional or meaningful, nor which were merely design elements or coincidences. Anno himself said, "It might be fun if someone with free time could research them." A number of these symbols were noted on the English DVD commentary for Death and Rebirth and End of Evangelion.
The desire to support the strength of heart that exists in the world…
Many times we wondered, "It's a title that's more than 10 years old. Why now?"
"Eva is too old", we felt.
However, over the past 12 years, there has been no anime newer than Eva.
Many of the characters share their names with Japanese warships from World War II (such as the Sōryū, Akagi, and Katsuragi, though the ship names and character names are written with different kanji, they share the same pronunciations.) Other characters' names refer to other works of fiction, such as the two characters named after the protagonists of Ryu Murakami's Ai to Genso no Fascism ("Fascism in Love and Fantasy"; the two main characters are named Aida Kensuke and Suzuhara Toji).
From the start, Evangelion invokes many psychological themes. Phrases used in episodes, their titles, and the names of the background music frequently derive from Sigmund Freud's works in addition to perhaps some Lacanian influences in general Examples include "Thanatos", "Oral stage", "Separation Anxiety", and "Mother Is The First Other" (the mother as the first object of a child's love is the basis of the Oedipus complex). The scenery and buildings in Tokyo-3 often seem laden with psychological import, even in the first episode
The connection between the Evas and their pilots, as well as the ultimate goal of the Human Instrumentality Project, bear a strong resemblance to Freud's theories on internal conflict and interpersonal communication.
The hedgehog's dilemma is a concept described by philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer and later adopted by Freud. It is the subtitle of episode 4 and is mentioned in that episode by Misato Katsuragi as descriptive of her relationship with Shinji.
Many of the characters have deep psychological traumas in relation to their parents. Shinji's introversion and social anxiety stem from the death of his mother at an early age and his abandonment by his father. Asuka was the target of her mother's insanity, and discovered her mother's body after she hanged herself; her tough, bullying personality is a means of distracting herself from her pain, and she has made piloting Unit 02 her only source of pride and satisfaction. Misato's father neglected her when she was a child; after he was killed in the Second Impact, she stopped talking for a couple of years. In episode 25, Misato states that she was both attracted to and afraid of Ryoji Kaji because he reminded her of her father. Ritsuko saw her mother having an affair with Gendo Ikari; after her mother's suicide she felt both attraction and hate towards Gendo. Indeed, the last two episodes are "stripped of the high-tech gadgetry and the colorful visuals that characterize the earlier episodes in the series, these last two episodes take place largely in muted tones… a form of interrogation proceeds to be carried out as he [a "flea market for garage kits"] asks himself – or is asked by an unseen voice – probing psychological questions." The questions elicit unexpected answers, particularly the ones dealing with Shinji's motivation for piloting the Eva – he feels worthless and afraid of others (especially his father) if he is not piloting the Eva. Asuka and Rei are also depicted in deep introspection and consideration of their psyches. Asuka comes to the realization that her entire being is caught up in being a competent Eva pilot and that without it, she has no personal identity: "I'm the junk… I'm worthless. Nobody needs a pilot who can't control her own Eva." Rei, who throughout the series has displayed minimal emotion, reveals that she does have one impulse; it is Thanatos, an inclination to death: "I am Happy. Because I want to die, I want to despair, I want to return to nothing." In episode 25 Shinji and Asuka both show that they in fact suffered similar pasts and found different ways of dealing with it. This is further established in Shinji when he claims he has no life without Eva and this is disproven by the world shown in Episode 26 followed by the famous "Congratulations" scene.
The most prominent symbolism takes its inspiration from Judeo-Christian sources and frequently uses iconography and themes from Judaism, Christianity, Gnosticism, and Kabbalism, in the series's examination of religious ideas and themes.
Assistant director Kazuya Tsurumaki said that they originally used Christian symbolism only to give the project a unique edge against other giant robot shows, and that it had no particular meaning, and that it was meant to be susceptible to multiple interpretations. Hiroki Sato, head of Gainax's PR department, has made similar statements
References, with multiple equally plausible interpretations which exist, include:
Neon Genesis Evangelion and particularly the Human Instrumentality Project show a strong influence from Arthur C. Clarke's novel Childhood's End, an influence Anno acknowledged. Similarities between the works, such as the larger theme of humanity's evolution to a higher plane of existence, or lesser details such as the declining birth rate after the Second Impact, were gleaned from this work.
Evangelion shows influences from the science fiction author Dr. Paul Linebarger, better known by his pseudonym, Cordwainer Smith. Linebarger was raised in China, became the god-son of the nationalistic leader Sun Yat-sen, and during World War II, worked in psychological warfare on behalf of the U.S. Army, including propaganda efforts by the U.S. against the Japanese. Linebarger's work included strong influences from both East Asian culture and Christianity. His science fiction novels revolve around his own concept of the Instrumentality of Mankind, an all-powerful central government of humanity. Like Seele, the Instrumentality of Mankind see themselves "to be shapers of the true destiny of mankind." Although Anno insisted that be translated as "Instrumentality" in English, perhaps as a way to pay homage to Linebarger, the two authors' conceptions of "instrumentality" are extremely different.
Existential themes of individuality, consciousness, freedom, choice, and responsibility are heavily relied upon throughout the entire series, particularly through the philosophies of Jean Paul Sartre and Søren Kierkegaard. For Sartre, humans ultimately exist in an abandoned and free state. There is no essential truth about what human beings want to be or ought to be- instead, each person must find their own identity and their own purposes. This incredible freedom, in a way, makes us "condemned to be free", because our actions and choices are our own and no one else's, which makes us responsible for them. We are constantly making decisions and choices, whether to continue doing something or to stop and do something else. Being aware of this fact, can bring on despair or anguish; and typically we try to avoid the consciousness of our own freedom.
Sartre's position can be seen as standing in opposition to the theories of Freud, which held that we are not in control of ourselves, but are more at the mercy of primordial unconscious mechanisms which drive us. Sartre found such theories dangerous, since he believed that human passions arise not from the animal element of human nature, but from the fact that human beings are not merely animals or objects, and not merely minds or free subjects either, but always both. In the series, even the mecha Evangelion units turn out not to be machines, with Unit 01 moving without a pilot to protect Shinji and fighting even without the aid of an external power source when it goes berserk. Eventually, it is learned that the Evas' external armor is actually to restrain its freedom and to bind it to the control of Nerv, and that they are not just simply machines or animals, but have souls of their own.
To act as if one is merely an object or label or to use outwards perceptions and actions to change their inner thoughts and feelings is what Sartre called bad faith, which was in a sense an individual rejecting their ability towards free choice and definition. Examples of this include Rei's single-minded allegiance to Gendo and Nerv's agenda, Ritsuko's dying her hair blonde to hide her similarity to her mother (even as it is hinted throughout the series, particularly in her relationship to Gendo), and Shinji calling himself a coward as if that is an excuse that makes it impossible for him to act differently. This sort of self deception was also addressed by Kierkegaard in a paradox he called "the sickness unto death," someone who goes on pretending in life as though he has no soul, and as a result, is in danger of losing his "self." Episode 16's title, is a reference to this work.
Sartre in Being and Nothingness calls the conditions that bring about consciousness (ourselves, the world, others) "instrumentalities." Martin Heidegger, another existentialist, wrote an essay describing technology as an instrumentality that reveals "truth." Philosophically, the Human Instrumentality Project is a representation of the idealism developed by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: a unification of all conflicts and tensions between societies, knowledge, and consciousness through a sort of historical evolution. Earlier philosophers such as Fichte had proposed that the human ego had come about through the instrumentality of freedom; it was Hegel's theory that this consciousness was not separated from the world, but was a part of it and would eventually evolve into an Absolute spirit or mind, a sort of God-like being with absolute freedom. In the movie End of Evangelion, Shinji literally becomes such an absolute being, dissolving all other conscious beings and merging with them. Søren Kierkegaard criticized Hegel's theory, not only because it was arrogant for a mere human to claim such a unity, but because such a system negates the importance of the individual in favor of the whole unity. He writes:
So-called systems have often been characterized and challenged in the assertion that they abrogate the distinction between good and evil, and destroy freedom. Perhaps one would express oneself quite as definitely, if one said that every such system fantastically dissipates the concept existence. … Being an individual man is a thing that has been abolished, and every speculative philosopher confuses himself with humanity at large; whereby he becomes something infinitely great, and at the same time nothing at all.As illustrated in episodes 25 and 26, part of what shapes us as individuals are limitations: gravity, the horizon, a body, and other people. Misato tells Shinji in the first episode, he has to learn how to deal with his anxiety and how to deal with others. Sartre in his earlier works went so far as to say that "hell is other people". Other people limit our freedoms, or may tell us things we do not like to hear, and they may see aspects of our personality we do not. Shinji later reflects upon the fact that everyone he knows has their own impression of him that may be different from his own. But in his later work, Sartre said he felt that both Hegel and Kierkegaard had a point. Individuality is important, but because part of who we are is shaped by the way others see us, we can have an effect on others too, and must work together with others in our collective struggle for existence.
During the period Kierkegaard wrote The Sickness Unto Death he wrote in his journal a poem listing seven discourses. He wrote: "Let not the heart in sorrow sin" so you abandon faith in God, so you abandon faith in men, so you abandon hope of eternity, so you abandon hope for this life, so you abandon love to God, so you abandon love to men, and finally, let not the heart in sorrow sin so you abandon love to yourself. The last episode of the series is fittingly subtitled "Take Care of Yourself."
Interestingly, some Eastern philosophies, such as Brahmanism and its derivatives, teach that enlightenment involves liberation from individuality through the re-absorption of the soul into a great All-Soul of creation. Seele attempts to engineer such enlightenment for the entire human race, unifying all souls into one and causing all pain and misunderstanding to end. If one wants a separate existence from others, one must be limited and opposed to others, causing pain and suffering (the Hedgehog's Dilemma inevitably arises); Buddhism identifies existence as inevitably bringing pain. The way to avoid pain is to extirpate desire and become formless. In the final episode, Shinji realizes how to attain his individuality, that he can come to have an identity separable from being an Evangelion pilot, a self he can perhaps come to love and not hate. Arthur Shoepenhauer, whose work is referred to in the title of The Hedgehog's Dilemma, was heavily influenced by Buddhist thought, but Friedrich Nietzsche and Sartre both came to a similar conclusion, rejecting many of his tenets.
As much as Evangelion has been impacted by other works like Devilman, the series itself has become a staple in Japanese fiction. The nature of the show made it a landmark work in the more psychological and sophisticated vein of anime that would be picked up by later works such as Revolutionary Girl Utena (1997) that, like Evangelion, center on an ambiguous world-changing event to come. Serial Experiments Lain is a later anime which dealt with many of the same themes as Evangelion, and so is often thought to be influenced by Neon Genesis Evangelion, but the writer did not see any of Evangelion until he had finished the fourth episode of Lain. The show His and Her Circumstances (1999), which was also directed by Hideaki Anno, shares techniques (the experimental 'ripping-apart' of the animation and use of real photographs) and portrayed psychological conflicts in much the same way (although the various cinematic devices can be traced back to works other than Eva, such as Tezuka's manga).
Evangelion dramatically changed the design of giant robots in animated works. Previously, mecha or giant robot shows took their "mechanical suit" designs from Mobile Suit Gundam, Mazinger, and other similar shows from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Evangelion changed this with its fast and sleek Evas, making a noticeable contrast to the comparatively bulky and cumbersome looking Patlabors and Transformers of the past. Indeed, the style set and created by Evangelion has become more common since its release, yet series like The King of Braves GaoGaiGar have continued to use the classic "mecha" style. RahXephon, a show with designs inspired by 1970s mecha shows, was compared to Evangelion by many English language reviewers. Evangelion is generally viewed to be a part of the soft science fiction genre, by avoiding the technical hard S.F. approach of Gundam and other popular mecha anime in favor of psychological struggle and metaphysical symbolism.
Evangelion has been frequently parodied and explicitly referenced in popular media. In the Digimon Tamers series, many Evangelion elements were used in the back stories for the three main children, their friends, and D-Reaper. The same can be said for both WarGrowlmon and Gallantmon Crimson Mode, as they bear a resemblance to Unit 01. Gainax's own His and Her Circumstances and FLCL had Evangelion parodies, as did Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi. Invader Zim's Christmas episode, "The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever", had a cameo parody of Evangelion (a reference to when Shinji was assimilated inside Unit 01). In the episode "Hamstergeddon", Ultra-Pipi (the class hamster that Zim accidentally mutates into a giant monster) rushes at Zim's War Cruiser in a manner that is a rip from the blitz that Unit 01 makes at the Third Angel, Sachiel (as admitted by the episode's director in the commentaries). In the online community, Evangelion is a common source of parody. Numerous webcomics, such as Tsunami Channel, have featured Evangelion tributes. Some 'creatures' also appear in other works such as the manga Berserk where a transformed demon soldier, in chapter 233, shares an uncanny resemblance with the unleashed Eva-01.
Anno himself has also poked fun at his work. In the Evangelion soundtrack Addition, a twenty minute audio drama (directed and written by Anno) was included that reunited the entire voice acting cast, titled "After the End." The drama is set after episode 26 and has the characters breaking the fourth wall and discussing a sequel. Anno is believed to be featured as a guest voice in the piece, taking on the role of the "Black Space God." On a similar note, Spike Spencer made fun of the series' rather ambiguous ending by acting as Shinji throughout the ending credits in a hidden track in the Platinum re-release of the series, highlights of which include him deducting that previous advice given to him towards him not running away doesn't apply to his current predicament on the account that he's on "a big blue ball" and complaining that the animators "ran out of ink", a reference to the lowered budget to the second half of the series.
Evangelion has been referenced in American media as well. In the 2002 movie One Hour Photo starring Robin Williams, the character Jake begs his mother to buy him the "Eva" 05 action figure, and Williams' character later offers it to him for free. It is commonplace for movies and shows to rename or repackage existing products with a generic name and graphic logo. In this case however, the toy was from Williams' personal collection (he is said to be a fan of the show), and so the series name Neon Genesis Evangelion and the graphics on the blister card are left untouched, and are clearly visible.
Fan interpretations and reworking of Evangelion have ranged from various stories , fanfictions , and even screenplays that expand or reinterpret the ending to comical fan-dubs such as Evangelion: ReDeath and even hoax posters such as that for the fictional sequel Reprise of Evangelion.
The indie group LeetStreet Boys song "Yuri the Only One", a love song using anime and gaming reference, contains the line, "You're my Angel out of Tokyo-3". In the music video, an image of the Third Angel Sachiel appears.
The song Arue by Bump of Chicken is dedicated to Rei Ayanami. The title is written as RA, the intials of Rei.
The Japanese title for the series, Shin Seiki Evangelion, is composed of two parts: "Shin Seiki" from Japanese and "Evangelion" (εὐαγγέλιον Anglicisation eüaggélion, gospel, good messenger, good news --etymologically unrelated to the Hebrew word Eva (name)) from Ancient Greek. The decision to call the series Neon Genesis Evangelion in English was originally made by Gainax, and not by translators; the use of the word "Evangelion" in particular was chosen by Anno "because it sounds complicated It appears in the eyecatches of the original, untranslated episodes, and is used by Gainax to market the series worldwide.
The title Neon Genesis Evangelion (νέον γένεσις εὐαγγέλιον, New Beginning Gospel) appears to be wholly Greek, except that "genesis" is not grammatically connected to the other two words. Genesis (γένεσις) means "origin, source" or "birth, race" and is the Greek title for the first book of the Hebrew Scriptures, describing the creation of the universe and early Hebrew history. (If the title was to be translated to Ancient Greek it would have the form Νέας Γενέσεως Εὐαγγέλιον [néas ɡenéseɔːs ewːaŋɡélion] "New Beginning’s Gospel", where the two first words are the respective grammatically/syntactically appropriate allomorphs of νέον and εὐαγγέλιον --that is, both genitive case and feminine gender) The Japanese term for the first book in the Bible is , perhaps a wordplay (with two different beginning and ending kanji) with "Shin Seiki" in the Japanese title. Euangelion (Latinized evangelium) originally referred to a reward offered for good news (eu (εὖ) meaning "good" and angelos (ἄγγελος) meaning "messenger", and later "messenger of god; angel"), and later came to mean "good news" itself. Eventually it became most commonly associated with the Christian gospel (from Old English gōdspell "good story"). It is the source of the English word "evangelist." This dual meaning (message and messenger) may be the reason both the series itself and the "mecha" are called Evangelion.
There has been debate over the correct pronunciation of "Evangelion." In the original Japanese version a hard 'g' (ɡ) pronunciation is used by Japanese characters, and, episode 18 of the series, a native English-speaking announcer. Official secondary dubs, including the English one, use the pronunciation /ˌe.vænˈgɛ.liən/ with a hard 'g'. On the other hand, in related words in English, such as "evangelist", the 'g' is soft (/dʒ/). If the word "Evangelion" were in use in Modern English, the pronunciation would employ a soft 'g'. For the same reason, the pronunciation /ˌi.vænˈdʒɛ.liən/ (with the first vowel rhyming with "Eve" instead of /e/) is not uncommon.
The hard 'g' and /e/ is correct in the original Greek and Japanese, and are the pronunciations preferred by Gainax since Evangelion is a Greek word.
In the first episode, Ritsuko names the robot with a hard 'g' /ˌe.vænˈgɛ.liən/ when presenting it to Shinji.
The three influential organizations, Gehirn, Nerv and Seele, originate from German cognates. Gehirn is translated literally into the English word brain or mind, referencing it as the brainchild of the EVA Project. Nerv comes from the German Nerv meaning literally nerve, referencing it as the nerves of the EVA Project. Seele, pronounced "Zé-lé" in German, means literally soul, referencing it as the soul of the EVA Project.