I’m not a huge anime fan, but picked this up due to a combination of a strong reputation and a great deal on the DVD set. (I found it in a clearance sale for $45 Canadian.) Well, by popular demand, it’s now been reviewed.

Cast and Crew Information

Spike Spencer / Victor Ugarte as Shinji Ikari
Allison Keith / Toni Rodriguez as Misato Katsuragi
Sue Ulu / Maru Guerrero as Ritsuko Akagi
Amanda Winn Lee / Circe Luna as Rei Ayanami
Tiffany Grant / Norma Echavarria as Asuka Langly Soryu
Tristan MacAvery / Humberto Solorzano as Gendo Ikari

Written and directed by Hideaki Anno. If you know him, help him find a good therapist.

Availability Information

The particular DVD edition I watched for this review has been discontinued by the manufacturer. Amazon.com is out of stock, but at the time of this writing, Amazon.ca still has copies in stock, so that’s the site I’ve linked to. The edition is notable for the director’s cut editions of episodes 21-24, which were the versions watched for this review.

Premise

Shinji Ikari’s father is a terrible, terrible father. His son is just another resource to help him achieve his personal agenda, which involves the manipulation of multiple government agencies. As far as Shinji is concerned, he’s finally been accepted by others after choosing to pilot an Eva, which initially appears to be like any other anime mech, but is soon revealed to be a living thing wrapped in control-inducing armour. The Eva’s are mankind’s last line of defense against the invading species known as angels.

Age Sensitive Content

The Canadian rating board rated this TV-14 for a reason. The violence is not extreme, though there’s a fair amount of blood in some of the fight scenes, often spraying from the wounds as if they were hoses. It’s the nudity that’s more likely to concern people. There are three females who appear topless in the course of the series, and the only reason we didn’t see their nipples is that the animators quite literally didn’t draw them. Anatomically speaking, we should have seen them. This is particular concerning because two of these three female characters are 14 years of age, but are most definitely treated in a sexual manner. There’s also off screen sex between consenting adults that is clearly heard, and some rear nudity from both genders. This is handled as respectfully as it can be when 14 year olds are involved.

High Point

Rei Ayanami is one of the most unique characters I’ve seen in any medium.

Low Point

The series was planned in advance for a 26 episode run, as far as I can tell. In that case, did we really need a clip show half way through? Given the slow start, why not just do 25 episodes?

The Review

This is an original series from my perspective. (I haven’t seen nearly as much anime as Alex or others, so I may just be unaware of precedents.) Making the mechs living things adds a huge twist, and the characters have far more depth than, say, anyone on Robotech. I give it 5 out of 6.

The animation is generally smooth. It suffers from a problem I find in a lot of anime, in which an individual frame looks a lot better than most North American animation, but in which the motion is not particularly fluid. It also seems to have been farmed out to different source, as the styles of animation used for mouths changes between or even within episodes on a regular basis. One moment, the chin and jaw will move, so that a side view shows a full sized gap through the mouth during speech. A moment later, the mouth seems to be mounted on the side of the head, and the skin surrounds it even in the side view. Generally speaking, it’s good, but if you prefer a simpler rendering with smooth motion (as seen on “The Simpsons” for example) then you likely won’t be satisfied here. I give it 5 out of 6, but others raised in this neck of the woods may have other expectations.

The story really has only one large and one small problem. There’s a lot of backstory and mystery here, which is a good thing, but the questions that jumped out at me as a viewer by the end of episode 2 were totally ignored by characters on screen until half the series was over. Waiting 13 episodes to even acknowledge that there are mysteries to look into instead gave me the impression that the characters already knew the answers and simply weren’t concerned. Things picked up considerably when those were addressed, but the delay seemed to derail the narrative, as though they could either introduce characters or investigate mysteries, and not both; that’s the large problem. The small problem is what came across to me as the oversexualization of 14 year olds. Yes, sex is on the mind of virtually every 14 year old alive, but they have an awareness that I’d expect from 16 or 17 years olds, not 14 year olds. (I teach students that age every day.) I give it 4 out of 6.

The voice acting is strong in both languages. I watched the first 10 episodes with japanese soundtrack and english subtitles, and the last 16 episodes with the english dub to get a feel for both. The english dub is not abysmal, and is often pretty good. As usual, the original language track seems to have a better fit to the emotional state of the characters, possibly because the animaters heard the relevant voice and were influenced by it. Still, english language viewers can hear their native language and expect a consistent experience. I give it 4 out of 6.

The production is solid. The editing, sound effects and foley work are all effective, and the cinematographic choices are very inventive for animation, while staying appropriate to the story. I give it 6 out of 6.

The emotional response is weak initially, but strong by the end. It can get depressing at times, but that’s hard to avoid with this type of story. This isn’t the “dear $DIETY, what have they done?” type of horrified depression that comes with watching, say, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. Instead, it’s the kind of depression that comes from empathizing with a depressed character, and speaks to the skill the filmmakers possess when it comes to manipulation of the audience. I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, it’s a strong series, and well worth watching. As always, it’s likely best to retain the original voice actors and watch it with subtitles on. If you want a unique mecha story, check it out. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Neon Genesis Evangelion receives 34 out of 42.