Neon Genesis Evangelion had many flaws: Exploring why it wasn’t noticed

Unit-01 from Neon Genesis Evangelion

There are countless shows that have shaped their legacy in the anime community. Shows like Dragon Ball, Code Geass, Initial D, Astro Boy, etc. Among these shows lies a show that is considered the Holy Grail of anime, specifically mecha anime, and that is Neon Genesis Evangelion.

The show is an amazing mix of various mature themes, however, what one would usually not see being talked about the show is the number of flaws it has managed to rack up silently. There are many instances of these flaws throughout 26 episodes and in this article, I’ll go through them, understanding why they were seen as artistic marvels instead of being seen as loopholes.

 

Neon Genesis Evangelion

Set in a dystopian era, Earth is being ravaged by celestial beings called ‘Angels’ after a cataclysmic event called the ‘Second Impact”. Mankind is on its last ropes as nothing but giant humanoid robots, Evangelions, can battle these beings. These robots are under the control of the organization called NERV, headed by Ikari Gendou.

After 14 years of neglect, Ikari Shinji returns to his father’s organization as his mother is no more. Stumbling upon a chance encounter with a high-ranking NERV officer, Katsuragi Misato, he finds the missing maternal attention that he craved for. However, his life has already taken a different turn as the only reason his father arranged his return is for him to pilot Unit-01, which synchronizes only with Shinji’s biometrics.

Katsuragi Misato from Neon Genesis Evangelion
Katsuragi Misato | Courtesy of Gainax

This fateful turn of events leads Shinji toward a life of unimaginable horror, tragedy, and depression, one not meant for the frail heart. His journey as an Evangelion pilot is a mirror of the reality of child heroes and the suffering they go through. Laden with expectations, it is a story of how they crumble within themselves as they fail to recognize who they really are.

Beauty found in its flaws

Asuka Langley from Neon Genesis Evangelion
Asuka Langley | Courtesy of Gainax

The show has considerable flaws, that most have assumed to be its beauty. If these flaws were to be in a different show, the perception of that story would be drastically different than the one we see with the holy grail of anime. The anime is perceived to be a show with few to no flaws in its execution, but here’s what they agree to unsee:

  • Long Sequences of single framed shots: There are many instances of these shots, such as elevator scenes and moments before Kaworu’s death. It creates tension for the audience and is usually seen in very dramatic and high tension moments. However, here it felt like there was a lack of budget for this lazy animation, mainly because of how excessively present it is in the show.
  • Lack of animation hidden by shadows: Mostly attributed as a directorial artistic take, these also imply the lack of budget and lazy animation.
  • Repeated footage from earlier episodes: This is attributed to the depiction and expression of psychological processes within the psyche of the characters, however, from a critical perspective, it seems like the lack of budget and lazy animation.
  • Psychobabble: The dialogues have consistent use of psychological and scientific analogies and terms, making it difficult for its viewers to understand what is going on within the minds of the characters. This has been mostly attributed to representing the complexities of Eva and Human psychology, however, this is mostly sloppy writing.
Within Shinji's psyche
Within Shinji’s psyche | Courtesy of Gainax
  • Ambiguous Plot: The story keeps its mysterious charm and hides every answer behind a puzzle that requires multiple watching of other variations or movies of the franchise. This prevents the viewer from enjoying the show, considering End of Evangelion is a set of movies and the TV season ends the story. The end of the TV season leaves the viewer with multiple unanswered questions. This is, again, sloppy writing that had to be fixed with sequels.
  • Weak Characters: The characters lack what one might call a development period. This criticism is not because people now are more accustomed to the shonen formula, but mostly because leaving the lead role with a half-baked character is simply ruining the premise of the plot. All the characters were left halfway through without giving any sort of resolution.
    • Shinji does not have to receive healthy mental health or a happy ending for his character to be viable. However, allowing him to reconcile with himself even with a wrong answer would have sorted his character. Something the sequels attempted to do.
Ikari Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion
Ikari Shinji | Courtesy of Gainax

These reasons clearly demonstrate that Neon Genesis Evangelion had multiple flaws in its execution, which were then attempted to be covered with its alternative setting, End of Evangelion. It is a reputed franchise, however, one must be critical when one acclaims that a show is a masterpiece.

Conclusion

Neon Genesis Evangelion has been a cherished franchise as well as one of those shows that has defined childhood for many. As such it clearly deserves a seat in the Hall of Fame. It is being marked as one of the most perfectly written shows in the industry, which is clearly untrue. If you agree with my analysis in this article, subscribe to Spiel Anime’s Newsletter, where we bring a lot of these analyses on various things in the community.

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