Home > HIGH OCTANE NIGHTMARE FUEL > Sweet Dreams: Day 1 – Neon Genesis Evangelion

Sweet Dreams: Day 1 – Neon Genesis Evangelion


If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the Japanese love their giant robots.

And then there’s this.

You think LOST is confusing? Compared to NGE, LOST is Barney in complexity. No I am not kidding. I have seen this show from beginning to end about 4 times along with some of its movies. I still don’t understand a lot of what’s going on.

But Kendall, you ask, why is this show so horrifying to you?

And I answer by way of an example, this is the show that coined the term “mind rape”.

Hoo boy.

The basic premise of the show? What’s left of Earth’s population (a spoilery cataclysm destroys Antartica and the resulting flood kills about 2 billion people. Many more die in the wars over food shortages) is under attack by otherwordly monsters known as Angels. The UN has tasked NERV-Tokyo (a military organization) with the defense.

The sole weapon capable of fighting the Angels on a somewhat even footing? Biomechanical behemoths known as Evangelion which are piloted by one of several 14 year-olds.

Shinji Ikari – Son of Gendo, NERV commander, and Yui Ikari, the “deceased” scientist that built Eva Unit-01 which Shinji is brought in to pilot. He has unbelievably low self-esteem and is hesitant, to say the least, to open up to people for fear of being hurt. Despite this, he does have his moments of suicidal bravery while piloting.

Asuka Sohryu Langley – The last of main three pilots we are introduced to and the daughter of Kyoko Sohryu who built Eva Unit-02. Competitive, abrasive, full of false bravado; Asuka is constantly competing with Shinji over who is the better pilot. Lives for combat.

Rei Ayanami – To avoid getting too deep in spoiler territory, Rei is a quiet, emotionless (at first) girl who bears a strange resemblance to Shinji’s mother and was “raised” by his father.

All 3 of these characters, and the adults around them, are all very very broken people and their various traumas do eventually lead to their downfalls if not deaths. Should you be worried when these are the people who fight to defeat these monsters?

Yes. Yes, you should.

Both the opening credits and let’s say about the first 18 episodes are a fairly normal mecha anime with creepy monsters, cool robots, comic relief (like a beer-drinking penguin that lives in a fridge), and fanservice.

And it’s all a trap.

Episodes 18-24 and the alternate ending movie are hellbent are driving every last character through new mental and sometimes physical tortures until they utterly snap. From the moment when Shinji’s friend and classmate is chosen to pilot Eva Unit-03 which is corrupted by an Angel during transport and goes berserk when activated.

Shinji, unable to bear hurting his friend, refuses to take out the out-of-control robot. So what does daddy dearest do?

Activate the dummy plug which take control of Shinji’s Eva and uses it to crush Unit-03 with Touji inside. Touji survives, although mangled. Shinji is utterly horrified. Gendo does not care. Shinji then quits and as he is leaving the city, another angel, Zeruel, attacks.  It wipes the floor with both Asuka and Rei and Shinji gets back in Unit-01 to try and stop it. His Eva eventually goes berserk and well…it eats Zeruel.

But the weird shit doesn’t stop there, oh no. Because Shinji was so in tune with Unit 01 during the battle, he dissolves within the cockpit and merges with the Eva. At which point he meets his mother. Whose soul is trapped inside from when she built it and has been with him ever since.

Oh and we partially see what the Eva’s face looks like beneath its armour. “Face only a mother could love” is both ironic and an understatement.

And it only gets worse from there.

Asuka? When the angel Iruel invades her mind we see what happened back when she was first chosen to pilot as a little girl. When Kyoko activates Unit-02, it steals part of her soul. Specifically, the mother aspect. She was so fucked up that she believed a doll to be Asuka and give it all her affection while she referred to Asuka as “that girl”. The day Asuka is chosen to pilot she comes home to tell her mother, hoping that she just might be proud of her for once. What does she find?

Yeah. Keep in mind Asuka is maybe 8 at this point. So after Iruel’s Mind Rape Train, she is nearly catatonic.

But it’s not over yet.

Rei? Well, she sacrifices herself to save Shinji. But it’s OK because we have more! The Rei we had seen up to this point is a clone, designated Rei II. Which begs to the question of what ever happened to the first? Who she is a clone of? Shinji’s mom. Oh and the mother of all mankind, Lilith. Who is a crucified Angel beneath NERV.

And lastly there’s Shinji who between Rei’s sacrifice, his inability to save her, his inability to help Asuka, is not in the best of mental places. Enter Kaworu Nagisa, a white haired pretty boy who is probably the second nicest person (after Rei II) towards him. Keeping with the tone of the show, Kaworu is an Angel in disguise who Shinji is forced to kill.

If the anime ended here, it would have still be rather horrific. But no, after the…strangeness that was the show’s ending, they made a movie that retconned the final 2 episodes. Whereas one is the single most confusing thing I have ever seen, End of Evangelion is basically Kill ‘Em All.

– NERV gets invaded, most of the secondary characters die.

– Gendo tries to initiate the End of the World using Rei. He succeeds. Kind of.

– Asuka is outnumbered by fake Evas. For a moment it seems like she has triumphed.

And in the end after all the death and trauma, Shinji is done as says the world can just die.

Except it doesn’t.

I think.

And that’s NGE. Aside from Rebuild. And the manga. And the games.

Yeah, it’s just that kind of franchise.


That isn’t funny.


What are you going to do next?


*Neon Genesis Evangelion ©1995 belongs to Hideaki Anno and Studio Gainax.
  1. phampants
    October 1, 2010 at 8:11 PM

    Dude, I LOVED NGE when growing up. I have the movies Death & Rebirth. Yeah, they’re so messed up but I liked it

  2. July 19, 2012 at 7:50 AM

    Evangelion is the best anime series EVER. Have you read the ‘Red cross book’? It’s very helpful to understand the series 🙂

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