Everything you heard about Evangelion is true. It gets almost everything right. If you ever wondered what’s the big deal over anime, Evangelion sums it up pretty well. It’s an all-around great work of animation. It uses the strengths of the medium while not abandoning the old qualities that make for great storytelling. It also loses itself in the last two episodes.
It’s not the awful ending that Death Note has. It doesn’t make all the time spent seem fruitless. It’s an icarus kind of thing. The last two episodes are where the series gets truly experimental. It abandons traditional storytelling and tries using inner monologues. It’s a bold idea, especially in an anime that’s until then just upgrades the Mecha genre.
It doesn’t work, though. The monologues are not just about the characters but discuss the various themes that pop up in the anime. As the anime progresses, it makes it clearer and clearer that there’s more than well-constructed fights to this. Instead of using some creative method to wrap the themes, and maybe take advantage of all the symbolism they left lying around.
Sadly, they chose monologues. That’s just a way of beating the viewer over the head with your themes. We don’t need them. The 24 episodes that came after that make an excellent job of developing characters. The backstory of the Angels is barely revealed, and that’s great. The creators know that why things happen is less important than the reactions to the characters. We don’t always know why things happen but we always react. That’s the series’ greatest strength. Beneath the giant robots and the fighting, it’s an excellent chronicle of relationships and how they develop and change.
Not to say that it’s a pretentious thing that believes that great dialogue make up for anything else. Another reason why Evangelion is so brilliant and why it deserves its classic status is because it takes advantage of the format. There’s just as much effort put into the design. Developed characters aren’t an excuse to make bland looking characters. Rei, Misato, Suzuhara, Gendo, the Fifth Child each has a unique design that doesn’t try to be real but look cool. There is no excuse for bland character design. If looks aren’t important in your story, it should be a novel.
The Angels are where the design choices shine the most. They are unique at every aspect. Every single one has a distinctive look, and each one functions differently. The variety is so big that the idea that they’re of the same ‘race’ comes off as pretty far-fetched. Either way, they make for both cool-looking enemies and interesting ones. The unique attributes also means the fights aren’t just extended sequences of stuff exploding. There’s a problem-solving elements to it. Each battle is a puzzle the characters have to solve. It may be not as meaningful as the relationships between the characters, but it’s great that the series is also willing to have fun.
Evangelion is an anime that wants it all. The characters are both developed and good-looking. The battles are pure fun, but the drama is strong. Evangelion wants both the fun energy of Mecha and the qualities that make for any classic story. The last two episodes make for a very underwhelming finish, but they don’t undo the other 24 episodes. Evangelion is worth watching regardless of your opinions on anime. It’s a great piece of storytelling at all fronts.
XTC’s logo also makes a cameo appearance.