Screengrab via Netflix

'Neon Genesis Evangelion,' The Anime of Your Dreams, Is Now On Netflix

All 26 original episodes!

by Paige Katherine Bradley
Jun 21 2019, 4:30pm

Screengrab via Netflix

It’s hard to resist superlatives when it comes to describing the best anime, given that their reputations tend to precede them. When Netflix announced late last year that Hideaki Anno’s 1995-1996 TV anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion would finally be available for streaming (legally) for the first time in North America, you could have been forgiven for not knowing exactly what this show was, but it’s unlikely you haven’t seen a reference or an allusion to it somewhere else in popular culture on or offline, with Travis Scott’s music video for “Can’t Say,” released in February, being one recent example of a solid shout out to the show’s indelible imagery.

New Zealand’s Weta Digital, Lord of the Rings’ director Peter Jackson’s visual effects company, even had concept art circulating back in 2003 for the franchise’s ultimately unrealized live-action remake, but given how adaptations of anime tend to be handled and received, as recently seen in the fracas over Paramount Pictures’ 2017 version of Ghost in the Shell, it’s probably for the best!

Loyal fans have long fanned flames of passion around the show with a fantastic profusion of memes and miserably endless online debates, and in the past few years Anno has even gone ahead and remade the whole thing as a collection of new animated films that retell the original story, with the fourth and final due installment out in Japan next year. But before all of that, there were just twenty-six episodes and a handful of movies that cleaved both the anime industry, and surely a great number of viewers’ lives, into a before and an after. Get in binch, we’re introducing you to Evangelion.

Set in Tokyo-3 in 2015, fifteen years after a cataclysmic event known as Second Impact, the show follows teenage boy Shinji Ikari after he’s summoned by his father Gendo, who commands an agency called NERV, to pilot an ornate robot capable of fighting back against a race of angels that are invading Earth, as foretold in the Dead Sea Scrolls—a reference to an actual collection of mostly Hebrew documents discovered in the West Bank in 1947. This is but one of many allusions to Judeo-Christian texts and iconography that Evangelion deploys, and probably the less one knows about any particular form of Christian or Jewish faith the more easily the odd cultural appropriation will go down.

Shinji has a few co-pilots too: Rei, a presumably Japanese girl with an adorable blue ’do who tends to quietly work some kind of wound as part of her look, and Asuka, a redhead German wunderkind with a bad attitude. Asuka and Shinji are quartered with a NERV officer named Misato, who efficiently plans and runs combat missions for them at work but otherwise serves as a bumbling, underdressed babysitter with a penguin for a house pet. They’re all pretty cute and sad for distinct reasons though, and while the routine invasions of bizarre angels as well as the truth about NERV’s agenda unfurling across the episodes provide the structure and plot for the show, what becomes clear around episode 16 is that the characters’ relationships to each other will be the real focus, as opposed to heroic battle scenes and uplifting romance.

The show was controversial on its debut mainly because it gradually strayed from seeing through its own plot, and lacked any impressively bombastic showdown for its original final two episodes. Theories abound as to why that was the case, with low production budgets or censorship from the show’s broadcaster both commonly floated. It’s something of a fool’s errand to continue the speculation, so just a forewarning that if the notion of seeing adolescents saving the world seems like a more plausible and entertaining option for your evening’s amusement than startling and minimally rendered considerations of how they might be warped and broken by such obligations, then “too bad,” as Anno said in an interview at Anime Expo in Los Angeles in 1996.

There’s always the sequel film End of Evangelion, for anyone left totally deflated and depressed by the TV show, but please trust that while the film’s production delivers a true feast for the eyes, and ears with this bastardization of “Hey Jude”, the movie’s histrionic rendering of apocalypse is not exactly going to make one a happy camper either. Unless the notion of an enormous, gooey white naked Rei holding an egg with all of humanity’s souls swirling into it turns you on, in which case you should probably cut your losses and stop watching anime altogether.

It can be binged as of this Friday, but it would be best to top off an Eva marathon with a shindig with one’s best friends— if they can agree on Asuka being the best girl—that has at least this level of energy, and sassy parade of Christian iconography, included.

All twenty-six episodes of the original Neon Genesis Evangelion TV series, as well as the two 1997 sequel films, Death Rebirth and End of Evangelion , will begin streaming via Netflix worldwide on June 21.

Neon Genesis Evangelion