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referred to as Evangelion or Eva, is a Japanese science-fiction animation series that first aired from October 1995 to March 1996. It was created by the anime studio Gainax and was both directed and written by Hideaki Anno. The series was received well by many critics and won several awards. It has had record numbers of sales in Japan, and its franchise has made over two billion dollars.
Evangelion is an apocalyptic anime in the mecha genre. It focuses on a teenage boy recruited by an organization named NERV to control a giant cyborg called an Evangelion to fight monstrous beings known as Angels. The show takes place largely in a futuristic Tokyo years after a worldwide catastrophe. It also centers around other Evangelion pilots and members of NERV as they try to prevent another catastrophe.
Depth and richness have been often credited to Evangelion. Throughout the series, many Christian religious symbols and terms are used, such as the Christian cross. Later episodes analyze the mecha genre and shift focus to psychoanalysis of the main characters.
In 2000, the "Second Impact", a global cataclysm, destroys most of Antarctica and leads to the deaths of half of all humanity. The Impact, thought by the public to have been a high-speed meteorite impact, causes devastating tsunamis, changes in the Earth's axial tilt (leading to global climate change), and later geopolitical unrest (including general economic distress and nuclear war). Over the next ten years, the research organization Gehirn and its benefactor, the mysterious Seele organization, achieve a number of impressive scientific and engineering goals, including the creation of giant humanoids known as Evangelions and the construction of Tokyo-3, a militarized civilian city located on one of the last dry sections of Japan, in preparation for the arrival of beings known as Angels.
Fifteen years later, 14-year-old Shinji Ikari is summoned to Tokyo-3 by his father Gendo Ikari, the Machiavellian commander of NERV (the paramilitary successor of Gehirn), and coerced into becoming the pilot of Evangelion Unit-01 on the eve of an Angel attack. Shinji begins living with Captain Misato Katsuragi and is soon joined in his mission to locate and destroy the Angels by Rei Ayanami (pilot of Unit-00) and Asuka Langley Soryu (pilot of Unit-02). However, the true nature of the Angels, Rei, and the Evangelions is increasingly called into question by the conflicting conspiracies and agendas of both Seele and NERV, and their links to the mysterious Human Instrumentality Project.
The cast of Neon Genesis Evangelion as depicted on the Japanese "Genesis" (volume) 14 laserdisc and VHS cover.
Main article: List of Neon Genesis Evangelion characters
For the series, Anno attempted to create characters that represent different things to different viewers. To some, the characters are historical, religious, or philosophical symbols, while others see themselves in the characters. All of the characters reflect different parts of Anno's own personality.
In the story, the characters of Evangelion struggle with their interpersonal relationships, their personal problems, and traumatic events in their pasts. Anno has described the hero, Shinji Ikari, as a boy who "shrinks from human contact" and has "convinced himself that he is a completely unnecessary person". He has also described both Shinji and Misato Katsuragi as "afraid of being hurt" and "unsuitable—lacking the positive attitude—for what people call heroes of an adventure." Rei Ayanami and Asuka Langley Soryu, the other major protagonists, are presented with their own flaws and difficulty relating to other people.
The characters' visual designs were done by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto. His designs of the three main female leads, Asuka, Rei and Misato, contributed to high sales of merchandise, especially the design of Rei. She became so popular that she earned the name "Premium Girl" from the media, referring to the high sales of books with her on the cover.
With the failure of the Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise sequel 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 for "something, anything", 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 initial design was a schoolboy who could switch to an "Angel form", accompanied by a pet cat.
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.
After the broadcast, Anno would tell NewType
"The development of Evangelion gives me the feeling of a ‘Live’ concert. Whether it was the story or character development, I made them without theory. During the development, while listening to various opinions, and analyzing my own state of mind, I kept questioning myself. I got the concepts from this personal stocktaking [self-assessment]. At first I thought I would produce a simple work featuring robots.
But even when the main scene became a high school, it did not differ compared to other productions in the same style. At this point, I did not really think of creating a character with two faces, two identities: one shown at school, and the other inside the organization he belongs to [Nerv]. The impression of ‘Live’ concert that gives me the birth of Eva, was the team joining me in developing it, in the manner of an improvisation: someone plays the guitar and, in response, the drums and bass are added. The performance ended with the TV broadcasting ending. We only started working on the next script once the previous one was done.
It took longer than usual. When we finished a screenplay, we went back and checked it against the previous ones. When we said: ‘Ah, I thought so, that’s wrong there’, we made corrections to the storyboard. In fact, with the last episode approaching, we have not even been able to finish on time."