Neon Genesis Evangelion (Japanese: 新世紀エヴァンゲリオン Hepburn: Shin Seiki Evangerion?, from Classical Greek meaning “The Gospel of the New Genesis”, literally “Teachings of the New Beginning”), commonly referred to as Evangelion or Eva, (stylized as EVΛNGELION) is a Japanese anime television series produced by Gainax and Tatsunoko Production, and directed by Hideaki Anno. It was broadcast on TV Tokyo from October 1995 to March 1996. The original Japanese cast includes Megumi Ogata as Shinji Ikari, Megumi Hayashibara as Rei Ayanami, and Yūko Miyamura as Asuka Langley Soryu. The music was composed by Shirō Sagisu.
Evangelion is an apocalyptic anime, set in a futuristic Tokyo fifteen years after a worldwide cataclysm. The story centers on Shinji, a teenage boy who is recruited by his father into the shadowy organization NERV to pilot a giant bio-machine mecha called an Evangelion in combat against monstrous beings known as Angels. The series explores the experiences and emotions of Evangelion pilots and members of NERV as they attempt to prevent another catastrophe. In the series there are many references to psychoanalytic concepts, such as the oral stage, introjection, oral personality, ambivalence, and the death drive. It features religious symbolism throughout the series, including themes and imagery derived from Kabbalah, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Shinto.
Neon Genesis Evangelion gained widespread critical acclaim. Regarded as a critique and deconstruction of the mecha genre, the series has become a cultural icon and influenced an artistic and technical revival of the anime industry. Subsequent film, manga, home video and other products in the Evangelion franchise have achieved record sales in Japan and strong sales in overseas markets, and by 2013 gross revenues had reached over 150 billion yen (approximately $1.32 billion).
In 2015, fifteen years after a global cataclysm known as the Second Impact, teenager Shinji Ikari is summoned to the futuristic city of Tokyo-3 by his estranged father Gendo Ikari, the director of the special paramilitary force NERV. Shinji witnesses the United Nations forces battling an Angel: one of a race of giant monstrous beings whose awakening was foretold by the Dead Sea Scrolls. Because of the Angels’ near-impenetrable force-fields, NERV’s giant Evangelion bio-machines, synchronized to the nervous systems of their pilots and possessing their own force-fields, are the only weapons capable of keeping the Angels from annihilating humanity. NERV officer Misato Katsuragi escorts Shinji into the NERV complex beneath the city, where his father pressures him into piloting the Evangelion Unit-01 against the Angel. Without training, Shinji is quickly overwhelmed in the battle, causing the Evangelion to go berserk and savagely kill the Angel on its own.
Following hospitalization, Shinji moves in with Misato and begins settling in to life in Tokyo-3. In his second battle, Shinji destroys an Angel but runs away after the battle, distraught. Misato confronts Shinji and he decides to remain a pilot. Evangelion Unit-00 is repaired and Shinji tries to befriend its pilot, a mysterious, and socially isolated teenage girl named Rei Ayanami. With Rei’s help, Shinji defeats another Angel.
Ritsuko Akagi, NERV’s chief scientist, reveals that the Second Impact was not caused by a meteor strike as officially reported, but instead resulted when the first Angel to arrive on Earth, codenamed Adam, exploded in the Antarctic. The pilot of Evangelion Unit-02, teenage girl Asuka Langley Soryu, moves in with Misato and Shinji and joins her fellow pilots in defeating the next Angels. Shinji’s schoolfriend Toji Suzuhara is selected for Unit-03, but during his first test synchronization with the Evangelion, Unit-03 is hijacked by an Angel. When Shinji refuses to destroy the rogue unit, his control over Unit-01 is cut off and supplanted by a prototype autopilot system known as the “Dummy Plug” system, and his Evangelion rips apart Unit-03 crushing Toji’s cockpit. Shinji is devastated and quits piloting the Evangelion, but is forced to return to destroy an Angel that has defeated both Asuka and Rei. Asuka loses her self-confidence following her defeat, and spirals into a deep depression. This is worsened by her next fight, against an Angel which attacks her mind. In the next battle, Rei self-destructs Unit-00 and dies to save Shinji’s life. Misato and Shinji later visit the hospital where they find Rei alive but claiming she is “the third Rei”. Misato forces Ritsuko to reveal the dark secrets of NERV, the Evangelion graveyard and the Dummy Plug system which operates using clones of Rei.
Asuka is reduced to a catatonic state by her depression, and Kaworu Nagisa replaces her as pilot of Unit-02. Kaworu, who initially befriends Shinji, is revealed to be the final Angel. Kaworu fights Shinji, then realizes that he must die if humanity is to thrive and asks Shinji to kill him. Despite his initial hesitation, Shinji kills Kaworu. Soon after this act, NERV and SEELE trigger the forced evolution of humanity, termed the “Human Instrumentality Project”, in which the souls of all mankind are merged into one through Rei. Shinji’s soul grapples with the reason for his existence and reaches an epiphany that he needs others to thrive, enabling him to destroy the wall of negative emotions that torment him. This allows him to be reunited with all of the main characters, who congratulate him.
The Evangelion series is permeated with references to Kabbalah, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Shinto, and Gnosticism, complicating viewers’ attempts to form an unambiguous interpretation of the series. Of particular influence are the Midrash, the Zohar and other Kabbalistic texts on the Book of Genesis, which are reworked within the series to create a new Evangelion-specific mythology while still maintaining a connection with the original texts. Assistant director Kazuya Tsurumaki said the religious visual references were intended to make the series more “interesting and exotic”, and denied the existence of a “Christian meaning” for the use of Christian visual symbols in the show. However, according to Anno: “As the symbols are mixed together, for the first time something like an interrelationship or a meaning emerges”. The plot combines elements of esotericism and mysticism of the Jewish Kabbalah, including the Angels, which have many common features with the Angels of the religious tradition, such as Sachiel, Sandalphon and Ramiel.
The series contains numerous allusions to the Kojiki and the Nihongi, the sacred texts of Shinto. The Shinto vision of the primordial cosmos is referenced in the series, and the mythical lances of the Shinto deities Izanagi and Izanami are used as weapons in battles between Evangelions and Angels. Elements of the Judeo-Christian tradition also feature prominently throughout the series, including references to Adam, Lilith, Eve, the Lance of Longinus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Kabbalistic concept of Adam Kadmon, the Tree of Life, among many others. The merging of all human souls into one through the Human Instrumentality Project at the end of the series is similar to the Kabbalistic concept of tikkun olam. The Evangelions have been likened to the golem of Jewish folklore, and their visual design in the series resembles the traditional depictions of oni (Japanese demons or ogres). Strong themes of the more generally accepted Biblical canon are also present. Of special import is how Jacob is renamed “Israel” as it was a blessing for fighting and defeating an angel (Israel translates from Biblical Hebrew as “One who wrestles with Angels).” Leaving an indirect or vague relation to the Eva pilots with Jacob/Israel. This blessing is given to him by either the defeated angel or God. The earlier of the two verses has the Angel and not God surrender the blessing or power in exchange for mercy, parallel with SEELE and NERV having captured and used the Angel Lilith and “Angel” Adam to create the Evas. There is also a reference to the fairly obscure Tree of life (biblical) in Eden in The End of Evangelion.
Evangelion has been interpreted as a deeply personal expression of Hideaki Anno’s own emotional struggles. During the production of the series, he became interested in mental illness and psychology. According to him, Rei is a schizophrenic character and she represents the unconscious of Shinji. Shinji has an Oedipus complex, and is characterized by a libido-destrudo conflict. Similarly, Ritsuko has an Electra complex, in which she loves Gendo, a sort of substitute of her father figure. Anno himself stated that the main character reflects his character, “both in conscious and unconscious part”, referring also to Kaworu as his Jungian shadow. It has even been suggested that Shinji’s entering into Unit-01 is a Freudian “return to the womb”, and that his struggle to be free of the Eva is his “rite of passage” into manhood. In the series there are many references to psychoanalytic concepts, such as the oral stage, introjection, oral personality, ambivalence, and the death drive. In particular, the series references elements of the works of Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Arthur Schopenhauer, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Jean-Paul Sartre and others.