Overrated Anime: Neon Genesis Evangelion
Neon Genesis Evangelion: *sigh* an anime that has received far more adoration than many animes that deserve more recognition than this mediocre title. The anime isn't bad, but I don't like it at all. This is an anime strewn with main characters that don't deserve the title, while it has supporting characters that are far more compelling and a backstory that would seem more relevant than what was made in this production. Now there have been releases of movies retelling the series, but I'm not getting into those as I have seen only one of said movies, and this new take on the story has yet to be finished. What I am focusing on is the series and only the series. This is a series that is lauded as one of the best animes out there and to some it really is, but to others like me, I don't like it and it's mainly because of the outcome of the series entirely. The ending is weak, much of the main characters are, in my opinion, unlikable in a very serious way when the writers of this anime tried very hard to make them compelling. The result of such is a mess of emotion that begs to be asked, why is this anime so popular? Why do we find these characters compelling when we should be trying not to be them at all? Well that's what I'm here to find out, I won't go into too much detail on the story as anyone who has heard of it knows all too well as to how this anime goes. I will, though, go into detail on three of the main characters as they are the main reason I don't enjoy this anime, and why you shouldn't either.
We'll start off with Shinji, forced to come back to his father after apparently living abroad for much of his life. Shinji is a character you shouldn't like at all, but for some reason you are forced to. Why? Because this boy is supposed to save the world! Why him? Why? Seriously, this kid has no moral standings that anyone should commend. He's weak at the start of our story, as many characters in anime are, and at the end he's still....weak. Wait, aren't protagonists supposed to overcome obstacles and become stronger because of said obstacles and be the shining hope of tomorrow? Well apparently to the writers of this series the answer is no. Shinji is a character that constantly fights his fate to become another toy to his pedophile of a father, yes you heard me pedophile. Now I like to see, read, and even write about characters who try to fight against fate, but there is a difference as to how I write about a character and the writers of this series portray one: Selflessness. Shinji is a selfish child, and told on several occasions so, and wants only what's best for him. This is completely all right for a character we are first introduced to and the reason he should be scared is because of the sudden weight dropped on him as shown in the first episode, but no, he remains selfish throughout. There is one almost forgiving moment in the series where Shinji tries to become better and after a tragic turn of events he reverts back to said selfish spoiled brat and never comes out of it. How is this supposed to be compelling for a viewer when heroes are supposed to define qualities that are to be applauded? Apparently what we learn from this is that being a selfish spoiled brat is a-okay and if we whine hard and loud enough we'll get what we want. Let's compare Shinji to a character that is in the same series, but completely different in every way: Toji Suzuhara. Toji is a character that should really be commended, despite the fact that he is only a supporting character, his moral standing is certainly greater than that of Shinji's. We'll start with a few words that define both characters starting with Shinji. Shinji is a quiet, selfish, immature, terrified wimp that only thinks of his dead mother and feels hatred toward his father for abandoning him so he can try to save the world. Toji is a charismatic, responsible, mature character that looks after his ailing sister that sacrifices his education and health to see that she gets better. Later in the series Toji is proclaimed as one of the children able to pilot the Evas and is killed by Shinji's Eva. Now I understand that killing a character such as Toji can be used as a motivating and molding tool for weaker characters, heck martyrdom is used very periodically throughout history and in literature, but the outcome of this is wrong. Shinji only grows weaker because of his death because of the responsibility he takes for it. Now the weight of someone's death can be used effectively, take Bruce Wayne for instance. He felt responsible for the death of his parents and yet he made it his strength to become the Dark Knight and turned that responsibility into something positive. Shinji, with his weak-minded ideals turns it into something negative and continues to be negative about everything through the rest of the series. This is not a character that is to be idolized or even put in a position of this type. He may be able to get the job of ridding the planet of the creatures that are attacking the planet, but he is in no way to be seen as a hero. You know what, from now on whenever I think of this character I'm just going to think of him as a satire of the hero archetype, honestly Shinji Ikari is the satirizing of the classic hero archetype.
Ah Rei Ayanami, the sole reason I trudged through this mess of an anime to further understand the mysteriousness that surrounded you and only to be heartbroken and utterly disappointed by the outcome. Rei is your typical mysterious heroine that throughout the series is compelling just because she has that innocent yet provocative look of wisdom. Rei at the beginning of this series was an amazing character, the more screen time she got, the more I wanted to know about her. She was a detached girl from the rest of the world, unknowing of basic things yet had the wisdom of a woman in her mid years (yup that was pretty much a spoiler there). Throughout the story Rei was compelled to aid Shinji's father no matter what the cost, hmm sounds like self-sacrifice to me. This is a girl that believed that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, something that Shinji should probably look to admire, which for a while he does when he gets to know her better. Although the one flaw, early in the series before I began to hate her entirely, I really didn't like in this series was the fact that she had a thing for Shinji's father Gendo Ikari. Gendo, as I stated before, is a pedophile tried and true, he cares so much for Rei throughout the story and you question why until the truth comes out: Rei is a re-created version of Shinji's mother. This I have no real problem with it's a good plot device used but I had really hoped that Rei would get a better satisfying result to her mysterious origin. Rei is nothing but a clone and every time something bad happens to her, another new clone is brought out. Now I really have to question Gendo on one little matter here: if you wanted to re-create your wife why would you want to make her 14 years old? Answer: Gendo is a pedophile. But beyond that after this truth about Rei is revealed, her personality and likability goes down the drain entirely. Rei was another shining example of potential only thrown to the wolves and torn to bits. I still like Rei, I really do but the fact that she wasn't used to her full potential really disappoints me as a fan of anime and a writer. Characters that are given such remarkable traits shouldn't be used and punished in the way that Evangelion did to its most amazing characters, especially with Toji. Which leads me to the character I despise and hate mostly in this series.
Asuka Lanley.... forgive me I just felt a chill when I typed her name. Asuka is a tomboy and very vibrant character that shows enthusiasm and egotism through the beginning of the series. I found this character amusing when first introduced to her, but the more the writers tried to flesh out her character the more I started to dislike her. This girl is supposed to be the love interest, one of them at least during the start of the series. The problem with this is that she abuses Shinji to a fault whenever he tries to outshine her. Asuka is a very egotistical character, which is supposed to be a part of her charm from what I can understand, but she really just comes off as a bully. I will say, however, that this abuse and bullying does tone down during the series' run but what comes of this is something I can only describe as depressing. Asuka turns from a strong-willed young woman who then turns into a depressing character that loses all hope in living, apparently she's been taking ques from Shinji on that part. I can understand that one would object in this and say that she was always depressed especially with the history of her and her mother. But why go from hiding said emotions while trying to overcome them only to fall victim to become a bathtub occupying helpless little girl (I am not joking this seriously happens in the series)? Asuka is another broken character that breaks a series that could have really defined this series by having these characters overcome their emotional drama and stop thinking about themselves for once and think about saving the damned world.
Neon Genesis Evangelion isn't a bad series, but it is very flawed in delivering character to these puppets that are supposed to act and look like ones. I will say this about the manga though, it's better handled in a way that I actually like where the story goes and how the characters are developed. But the series is seen as something that is far greater than what it really is. Seen as an equal to many series such as Cowboy Bebop, Dragon Ball Z, Trigun, not to mention an apparent rival to the Gundam series, this is an anime that tries to hard at trying to outshine its competition with very hard to comprehend idealistic theories rather than just trying to tell a compelling story. If given the choice to see this series again for pure entertainment I'd rather just read the manga books I have on the series, there is just far more entertainment value from there than there is in this series.