Neon Genesis Evangelion

By Hideaki Anno

As far as classic anime goes, Eva has become more like a cult phenomena over the years since its 1995 debut. The series has spawned multiple video games, manga adaptations, movies, merchandise, and extra content.

Eva takes all the familiar hallmarks of the mecha genre and injects psychological realism and an increasingly dark tone until the show itself begins to feel less like a mecha anime and more and more like Anno’s personal manifesto on depression and suicide ideation.

That would be because it was.

Hideaki Anno was deeply depressed at the time of creating the series, and it very much shows. From the protagonist’s total despair, to Asuka’s rage, to Rei’s apathetic acceptance, there is a relatable character who displays every possible facet of depression and anxiety. The entire landscape around the characters reads like a psychological landscape of despairing self reflection: the world slowly narrows down to just the core cast, removing other countries, people, buildings, and options until a minimal set of protagonists and their reflections are left. The cicadas buzzing is often the only sound at all, unless the Ode to Joy is mocking humanity in the background.

The series only becomes more bleak as time wears on; even though it is a mecha, the fights become bloodier nd bloodier until the Eva are viscerally tearing one another to shreds, staining the earth as red as the sea.

If you are interested in psychology, psychological horror, or character development, this is the series for you.  If you are interested in positive resolution or happy endings or subscribe to any form of optimism, you may want to skip this one.

To understand the ending, watch episodes 1-24, the End of Evangelion film, then watch episodes 25 and 26. Death and Rebirth is a compilation film that can be skipped altogether. The Rebuild series, 1.11, 2.22, 3.33, and hopefully one day 4.44 (or 3+1, or Finale) are completely reworked retellings of the entire series, also directed by Anno. Until You Come to Me is a short film that is highly recommended to round out the series. The manga is a separate, but no less integral part of Eva that offers a third retelling.

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