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Neon Genesis Evangelion is anything but an ordinary anime show. It redefined a genre, provided a new template for the serialized Japanese Anime, and has a huge impact on Japanese culture. A “typical” shonen anime follows a male protagonist as he becomes more powerful by defeating foes and learning new techniques. Evangelion uses the tropes of shonen anime to show a child overcoming his emotional conflicts in addition to the next big enemy. Anime series like Gundam showed powerful machines battling against each other over the fate of the universe, paving the way for Evangelion to blow up the constructs of the genre. Audiences marveled at the thought of piloting giant mechanical beasts, but Studio Gainax and writer/director Hideaki Anno had another idea — what if piloting giant mech wasn’t cool, but instead downright terrifying?
Shinji Ikari is a 14-year-old boy who has closed himself off to everything and everyone around him until he becomes thrust into a situation that defies all logical explanation: he’s been asked to save the world. Shinji is brought in to pilot an EVA (short for Evangelion). EVA’s are cyborgs piloted by children, the last line of defense against “Angels.” The term Angel is used to describe god-like beings whose only goal is to destroy human life. They are towering beasts with advanced weaponry. Only select children can pilot the EVA’s, and the pilots must be able to synchronize with the units. Evangelion explains the need for children because their brains are still developing, and they can handle the stress put upon them during their operation of the EVA.
Shinji and two others, Rei Ayanami and Asuka Langley Soryu, are selected to save the world. If that wasn’t stressful enough, Shinji has to work under his father, Gendo Ikari, Commander of Nerv, a covert government agency tasked with protecting the Earth. To say that Shinji and his father don’t see eye-to-eye would be an understatement. To further complicate his life, Shinji has been assigned to live with commanding officer Misato Katsuragi, who is annoying and messy but shows deep affection for Shinji. None of that makes the boy any more comfortable.
There’s nothing like having to save the world, go through puberty, and interact with your estranged father to make life complicated.
Neon Genesis Evangelion is finally coming to Netflix this summer, and it will be the first time that it is available for legal streaming since it made its television debut. The series hasn’t been available in the U.S. in any form since the late ’00s when the DVDs went out-of-print. Now viewers will be able to experience the landmark anime series for the first time — again. Included here is a comprehensive ranking of the worst to best of the 26 episodes in the TV broadcast of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Enjoy!
26. “Take Care of Yourself” (Episode 26)
We begin at the end. This episode was quite a shock considering the journey Anno took us on with epic battles between EVA’s and Angels. Director Anno suffered from depression frequently during the production of Evangelion. Shinji acts as an avatar for Anno, so instead of an epic battle to decide the fate of humanity, the show ends as an allegory for a man overcoming his inner demons. Shinji discovers that living with other people and opening himself up could lead to a far greater joy than shutting himself down. That leads to him to not only saving himself but all of humanity.
This finale suffers as a rush job because Studio Gainax had run out of financial support — that is what plagues most of Evangelion’s most disappointing episodes. Most of these issues began during the second half of the series when sponsors of the show were unhappy with the show’s content, and scheduling issues made the production more difficult. Fans were upset with the weird and inconclusive finale that wasn’t a big celebration of everything Evangelion, but rather something that felt unfinished. Anno would return to the franchise and create another ending known as the movie, End of Evangelion, which also polarized fans. Either way, Anno couldn’t find a satisfying conclusion for Evangelion.
25. “Weaving a Story” (Episode 14)
This episode is in two parts — the first of which is a clip show. “Weaving a Story” suffers the same production woes as the finale by utilizing common money and time-saving techniques such as the re-use of animation, still images while characters deliver dialog, and the frequent use of pans to fill episode time. The second half of the episode delves into the mind of Rei, while Nerv experiments with having the children piloting different EVAs than their own. If you’ve been watching Evangelion sequentially, the episode comes across as a filler episode without much additional information.