It has taken me nearly a year to finish watching this series. I started by renting the first DVD, and the first night I had it I watched all four episodes...twice. Then I watched it once more two days later before I returned it, for good measure. Since then I've been waiting patiently for the DVDs to each be released, avoiding forums such as this one like the plague, lest anything be spoiled inadvertently. And finally I have seen all 26 episodes.
To introduce the series: After a mysterious worldwide catastrophe causes much of the human population to be wiped out, the Earth becomes vulnerable to the attacks of strange beings known as Angels. To combat the Angels, a group called NERV is formed which will build giant robots called Evangelions, or Eva units, who will defend the Earth from these strange creatures.
Generally, I do not watch mecha anime. But Evangelion cannot really be called a mecha series. Rather, the Eva units and the Angels, like each of the other characters, are a means to an end - to explore human nature, human relationships, and to put it simply, to consider "Who am I?" and "Why am I?" Evangelion is about people who build mechas, and people who pilot mechas, but not necessarily the mechas themselves.
It's about people. About one man who is trying to control the fate of all humankind. About three teenagers who must submit to his will for the sake of all humankind. Teenagers who must push both their minds and bodies to and beyond the breaking point. People who run from their past only to meet it headlong in the future. People who must confront their loneliness, their hatred, and their identity. Numerous others whose destinies are swept up in the chaos and thrust against a dam which may burst at any moment. People who live, love, and endure.
For certain, much of how this series comes across depends upon how you interpret the facts you are given. Viewers may object to the use of religious symbology in Evangelion, but again I feel this is just a means to an end. I don't think that it had to be Judeo-Christian ideas that were used, but they provided a good framework in which the true story could be told...one boy's quest to find an identity, to find a reason to live, to belong, and in the true spirit of Socrates, to "know thyself."
The visuals presented here are simply beautiful. It is clear to me that significant time was spent designing the look of each of the characters. Each has a distinct look, distinct expressions and movements. The Eva unit and the angels are each also unique, and their battles are carefully planned out and executed. Even in the final episodes, when the whole series takes a more abstract and artistic slant, the simpler character designs which sometimes are no more than pencil drawings due nothing if not enhance the dialogue of the show.
And in this sense Evangelion is special...not only does it have beautiful artwork and exciting action sequences, but it is also very much dialogue-driven. The interactions and relationships of the characters are a major focus in the development of the story. It is not simply the case that the angels are some unknown entities that are attacking the earth and the Evas must defeat them. There are numerous plot twists along the way to keep you intrigued, enthralled, and to make you think. Though not all the characters were particularly likable, it's difficult to not be at least sympathetic to them. Each had their own obstacles to clear, whether it was Shinji and his relationship with his father and the loss of his mother at an early age, Misato trying to deal with the loss of her own father, Rei and her mysterious past, or poor Asuka...Asuka is not particularly likable when you first meet her, but eventually when you learn more of her past and see what she has had to endure, it's difficult not to pity her.
As to the music, the opening and ending themes are very enjoyable. The opening, "The cruel angel's thesis" is actually quite catchy, and I like the way the ending varied in style in a number of episodes. The ending was a variation of "Fly Me to the Moon" which I believe was originally perfomed by Frank Sinatra. Regarding the background music, this for the most part was very good. There were a number of striking scenes which used music from Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" The rest of the music fit the show very adequately. And the ubiquitous locusts I'm convinced must symbolize something. Maybe loneliness.
Overall...it's difficult to sum up the entire series without doing it injustice. There was a definite artistic feel to this series. On occasion the image would shift from character to character, with no dialogue, just focusing on their face, and their emotions. Or else any number of images would be aimed at you, rapid-fire, displaying the characters' inner turmoil. And with each little detail revealed, however minute, you slowly gain an appreciation of the effort involved in creating such a convoluted, yet immensely satisfying story.
Every time I bought the next DVD in the series and watched it, I couldn't wait for the following disc to be released. But each time I was forced to wait one or two months. And now I feel my patience has been rewarded. Many people find fault with the ending of this series, but I think that it was well done, and I got a good feeling of closure from it. Again, it's just a matter of interpretation. Eventually I hope to post my interpretation of the ending, but for the sake of this review, I won't say anything just yet.
Regardless, I now must wait more than three months for the movies to be released to DVD. You may wonder why I didn't just watch the VHS. All I can say is that I wish I lived in a town that was cool enough to actually have complete series available for rent.
Composite grade A+ (4.00)