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Neon Genesis Evangelion
Neon Genesis Evangelion (Japanese: 新世紀エヴァンゲリオン Shinseiki Evangerion, Shinseiki Evangelion) is an anime series, begun in 1995, directed and written by Hideaki Anno, and produced by Gainax. It takes place in 2015 AD, fifteen years after the catastrophic Second Impact, reportedly caused by a meteor strike, which wiped out two-thirds of Earth's population and tilted its axis. Just as humanity finished its recovery from this disaster, Tokyo-3 began being attacked by strange monsters referred to as Angels. Conventional weapons are useless against the Angels, and the only known defense against them are the biomechanical mechas created by the paramilitary organization NERV, the Evangelions (Evas).
Although the series starts as a regular mecha anime, the focus tends to shift from action to flashbacks and analyses of the primary characters, particularly the main character Shinji Ikari. Anno suffered from a long depression prior to creating Evangelion; much of the show is based on his own experiences in dealing with depression and in psychoanalytic theory he learned from his psychotherapy. As a result, characters in the anime display a variety of mood disorders and problems with emotional health, especially depression, trauma and separation anxiety disorder. Although there are numerous references to other sources, most of it is fan-based, and the Eva team denies most references.
Evangelion consists of 26 television episodes which were first aired on TV Tokyo from October 4, 1995 to March 27, 1996, followed by a pair of movies: Death and Rebirth, and End of Evangelion, first screened in 1997. Death and Rebirth is essentially a highly condensed re-edit of the series plus the first half of End of Evangelion, while End of Evangelion is an alternate ending to the story, replacing episodes 25 and 26 of the television series. The two movies were subsequently re-released as a single movie called Revival of Evangelion. A manga of the series, drawn by series character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, was published by Kadokawa Shoten. It covers the same story as the series, but from the perspective of Shinji Ikari. The manga is currently still in production, though its first volume was actually released prior to the airing of Evangelion 's first episode. The manga is translated into English in North America by Viz Communications and in Singapore by Chuang Yi, and the Singaporean translation is imported to Australia by Madman Entertainment.
Merchandise for Evangelion still comes out fairly regularly despite the fact that it is a decade old. A large deal of the merchandise has an amusingly detached or hilarious non-relation to the dark nature of the series. The series has also spawned various computer games, including Girlfriend Of Steel. While shoehorned into the original plot, the sequel to the game, Girlfriend Of Steel 2, takes place in a complete alternate universe. This later inspired a manga, which uses most of the Evangelion characters in a 'normal' schoolyard drama series.
Production of a live action version of Evangelion was announced in May 2003 by the American company ADV Films (who holds world-wide rights to the series outside of Asia and Australia), and will be made by ADV, Gainax and Weta Workshop Ltd.. It is estimated to be released from as early as 2006 to as late as 2010. Hideaki Anno, the Director of Evangelion, will not be directing this live action movie, though.
Main article: Characters in Neon Genesis Evangelion
The main character of Evangelion is Shinji Ikari, a shy, dour adolescent boy and Eva pilot. He lived without his parents for many years until he is summoned mysteriously by his father at the start of the series. Fellow pilots Rei Ayanami, a silent, unemotional girl; and Asuka Langley Soryu, a fiery, proud redheaded girl, are also primary characters, as well as Shinji's father and NERV commander Gendo Ikari, NERV's head of strategy and tactics Misato Katsuragi, and NERV's head scientist Ritsuko Akagi. Most characters are, in their own way, socially maladjusted, and the patterns of relationships between the characters are fairly complicated.
There have been many hypotheses on the nature of the relations between the characters: popular theories are that Shinji, Rei, and Asuka represent the Ego, Superego and Id; that Rei and Asuka represent the Thanatos and Eros drives in Shinji's psyche; or that Gendo, Shinji, and Rei represent the three parts of the Christian Trinity.
In 2000, a group of scientists conducted an expedition in Antarctica where a large being of light, deemed by them as the first Angel, Adam, was discovered. After they made contact with the Angel, it self-destructed, creating the Second Impact. The true nature of the Second Impact was concealed from the general public, who was led to believe that the devastation was caused by a small meteorite, travelling close to the speed of light, impacting in Antarctica.
In the conflict with Angels, mankind is represented by the mysterious organizations NERV, GEHIRN (which started out as the investigation team for the Second Impact but became NERV later on), SEELE, and the Marduk Institute. NERV is, in theory, under the control of SEELE, but NERV has its own agenda, driven by its commander Gendo Ikari. NERV carries out two tasks: to defend the Earth from Angel attack with a small number of Evangelions (Evas), and the Human Instrumentality Project, which, according to Gendo, is the path to God man has yet not tried.
The Evas have the outward appearance of massive humanoid robots and can be piloted only by 14-year old children (i.e. those born soon after the time of the Second Impact). Pilots are selected by the Marduk Institute, which is later discovered to be composed of about 108 ghost companies; qualifying pilots must have lost a mother or a very close loved one, which is then used as the soul of the Eva (the Eva also behaves like the soul inside it, often lashing out at old enemies). Only the designated pilot of an Eva can pilot it, due to the bond between the pilot's soul and the soul of the Eva; otherwise, any other person who tries to synchronize (simply put, to technically work as one mind) with the Eva will be refused. It is later apparent that the Evas are not really "robots" but rather living, biomechanical organisms, even though in the very first episode, it is described by Ritsuko Akagi as a "synthetic lifeform".
The secret second task, the Human Instrumentality Project, intends to start an artificial evolution of mankind. Considering the religious implications of the term "evangelion", this event was said to bring about the salvation of mankind in the context of a newly created Earth. SEELE is the main driving force behind this project, for reasons unknown, but they mention that humanity must evolve or it will die, thus the need for a forced evolution. This artificial evolution strives to merge all human souls into one by disposing the individuals of their AT-Fields, which causes their bodies to revert to LCL. When everyone comes to this state, they will no longer feel the pain or loneliness that would typically precipitate from interaction between humans; it is comparable to death.
The plot of End of Evangelion and the plot of the series seem to diverge at the end of series episode 24. In the series, episodes 25 and 26 are abstract introspections of the characters and, especially, Shinji's psyche. The ending is left highly interpretable: clearly, Shinji eventually overcomes his issues with others and comes to accept being with them, but whether Instrumentality followed through or if it occurred at all are left unanswered, directly. The specifics of Instrumentality are not explored in the series, either. In End of Evangelion, Shinji initiated Instrumentality, but rejected it in the end. There is some contention as to whether End of Evangelion is a complement to, or a replacement of the TV episodes 25 and 26. The highly stylized nature of these episodes leaves them very open to interpretation. Some fans believe that the final scene of episode 26 where all of the characters are shown telling Shinji, “Congratulations” is a sign that Shinji accepts the Instrumentality Project and therefore is at odds with End of Evangelion. Others believe that the characters are congratulating Shinji for finding his own identity. This interpretation is reconcilable with End of Evangelion. For more information on End of Evangelion, see its own article.
From the period from 1984 to the release of Evangelion, most of the highly acclaimed animes had a style somehow distanced from the usual styles of anime. For example, Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro (1988), and Kiki's Delivery Service (1989) were both low-key works, and Akira (1988) took most of its influence from American comic books. Mamoru Oshii had been quoted as saying that nobody wanted to watch "simple anime-like works" anymore. Evangelion, however, shows the reversal of this trend. It fully embraced the style of mecha anime, and in particular shows a large influence from Yoshiyuki Tomino's Space Runaway Ideon; particularly, there are scenes in End of Evangelion which are clear homages to the last movie for the Ideon series.
The series started broadcast after the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway on March 20, 1995, and production occurred around the period of the attack. The feeling of constant anxiety in Evangelion can be seen as a reflection of the constant anxiety Japan felt after the attacks destroyed the image of Japan as a clean, violence-free society.
Evangelion is thick with allusions to biological, military, religious, and psychological concepts. Though the religious and biological concepts are sometimes (perhaps intentionally) used in ways different from how contemporary Christianity or biology used them, Anno's use of Freudian jargon and psychoanalytical theory is fairly up to date with what was contemporary theory at the time. For example, we can see in a paragraph, circa 1990, from literary theorist Victor Burgen which might be described as "Eva in a nutshell":
- In the terms of the thermodynamic model which informs Freud's concept of the death drive, what is feared is the "entropy" at work at the heart of all organization, all differentiation. ...By this same token, however, the woman also signifies precisely that desired "state where everything is the same": the pre-oedipal bliss of the fusion of bodies in which infant and mother are "inextricably mixed", that absence of the pain of differing, condition of identity and meaning, whose extinction is deferred until death.
When first aired in Japan at a time slot intended for teenagers, Evangelion was not especially popular. However, when aired again in a time slot more suitable for adults, its popularity exploded and rekindled many adults' interest in anime.
After the ending of the TV series, Gainax and Hideaki Anno received numerous letters and emails from fans, both congratulating and criticizing his last two episodes. Among these were death threats and letters of disappointment from fans who thought Anno had ruined the series for them. Due to those, Gainax launched the project to create a movie with a "proper" ending for the series in 1997. Due to scheduling difficulties, they released Death and Rebirth, consisting of a character-based recap of the entire series ("Death") and half of the "proper" ending to Evangelion ("Rebirth"). The project was completed later in the year, and contained the complete section of "Rebirth", i.e. End of Evangelion. The film made around $12 million at the Japanese box office. (Blockbusters in Japan usually make $40-60 million, and a movie is considered to have done well if it makes more than $10 million).
Despite the success of End of Evangelion, its ending was considered controversial by many fans. Some believe that it was a manifestation of Anno's frustrations with the fan culture that attacked his original ending, and used End of Evangelion as revenge against those. Many others believed that the story in End of Evangelion had always been planned by Anno, but was unable to be done due to budget and censorship restraints in the original series.
The theory of a pre-planned ending in addition to episodes 25 and 26 is backed up by some evidence, including the still frame shots of the death of Misato and Ritsuko which appeared in the TV ending. The death of these two characters correspond to events in End of Evangelion and would tend to disprove the theory that the tragic and violent end of various characters in End of Evangelion is due to Anno's frustration towards some fans, In addition, the plot of End of Evangelion does seem to match those of the TV series, providing closure to things such as the Instrumentality Project, the true purpose of NERV, and the private agenda of Gendo Ikari.
On the other hand there is some evidence that Anno's frustrations began earlier than End of Evangelion, and that this film was only a culmination of a growing anger as evidenced by the sudden shift in tone around episode 16. Several sources (interview with Kazuya Tsurumaki, interview with Hiroki Azuma) seem to indicate that Evangelion was not preplanned and that the series was actually written as it went along. The shift in tone corresponded with a shift in Anno's worldview that would lead him to abandon the "otaku lifestyle" and temporarily leave anime for more serious live-action film.
Despite being generally highly regarded, the series has numerous detractors, who find it self-important and see the many religious and psychological references as superficial rather than meaningful. One reason for this schism in reception is that the series was originally intended as a strictly commercial venture: the primary backers were toy companies Bandai and Sega, and staff of the project has said that they originally used the symbolism of Christianity (an uncommon religion in Japan) only to give the project a unique edge against other giant robot shows. Despite creative conflicts between the sponsors and its director, the series was not perceived as being the work of an auteur such as Hayao Miyazaki.
Evangelion was, and continues to be, a strong influence on anime in general. The psychological nature of the show influenced later works such as Revolutionary Girl Utena (1997) and Serial Experiments Lain (1997), both which, like Eva, center around an ambiguous world-changing event to come. More superficially, it caused a wave of use of Christian symbolism in other animes and related fields. The creators of the video game Xenogears (1998) have stated that the game was very much influenced by Evangelion. In the Digimon Tamers series, a lot of Evangelion elements were used in the causes of the three main kids, their friends, & D-Reaper. The same can be said for both WarGrowlmon & Gallantmon Crimson Mode, as they were modeled after EVA-01.
The Japanese title for the series, Shin Seiki Evangelion, translates literally from a combination of Japanese and borrowed terms as "Gospel of the New Era/Century". The decision to call the series Neon Genesis Evangelion in English was a decision made by Gainax, not by translators as some fans have believed.
Genesis literally translates from Latin (from the original Greek) as "beginning" and is the first book of the Bible, describing the creation and beginning of the universe. The Japanese term for the first book in the Bible is "Souseiki," a wordplay (with two different beginning and ending kanji) with the "Shin Seiki" in the Japanese title.
Evangelion is an anglicised version of the Greek for "good news", and is typically translated "gospel" in the Bible. Initially, the word meant "good messenger", the prefix "ev" meaning "good" and "angelion" meaning "messenger" (from the same word that means "angel"). It only came to mean "good message" or "good news" over time. This dual meaning may be the reason both the series itself and the "mecha" are called Evangelion. Additionally, "Eva", a frequent short name for the Evangelions, is the name of biblical Eve (who was made from the rib of Adam) in Greek, German and numerous other languages.
"Children", the plural of "Child", is used to refer to each of the Eva pilots in the singular (i.e. Shinji is the "Third Children", not the "Third Child".) This is intentional, and not a translation error. The English language dub produced by ADV, however, uses the word "Child" instead of "Children".
The Japanese word used to refer to the Angels is shito (使徒), which literally means "messenger" or "apostle". The usual Japanese word for "angel" is tenshi (天使). It should be noted, however, that the English angel is derived from the Greek for "messenger" as noted above. Unlike the translation of Children into Child, which was altered by ADV, this was specified by Gainax.
- Angel (Neon Genesis Evangelion)
- Evangelion (mecha)
- Characters in Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Neon Genesis Evangelion glossary
- Neon Genesis Evangelion Official Expanded Universe
- List of Neon Genesis Evangelion media
- List of Neon Genesis Evangelion topics
- Burgen, V. (1990). Geometry and Abjection. In J. Fletcher and A. Benjamin (Ed.), Abjection, Melancholia, and Love: The Work of Julia Kristeva (pp. 104–123). New York: Routledge.
- Evangelion newsgroups from Google (Japanese and English languages)
- The japan.anime.evangelion FAQ
- The Evangelion Otaku Page
- Guide to... Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Neon Genesis Evangelion Primer (spoiler free)
- Eva Monkey, The Ultimate Evangelion Resource Site - Evangelion related news, Evangelion Forums, Archive of essays, interviews, and other articles, as well as various resources such as scripts, omake, and commentary.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion :: Live action movie - News site on the upcoming movie adaptation
- Anime or Something Like It: Neon Genesis Evangelion - Japanese Cultural critic Hiroki Azuma analyzes Evangelion.
- An extended interview with Azuma covering the same topic
- EvangelionNet - An NGE page with episode guide, online games, a Forum and some downloads.
-  An MSN Group about Evangelion
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