Neon Genesis Evangelion is an interesting anime with an equally interesting history. The director, Hideaki Anno, had clinical depression which got worse after the previous series he worked on didn't get the ratings.
Giant robots had long been a big part of Japanese television. Giant robot shows were cool, fun, and filled with things exploding, which was awesome. Anno, having depression, decided to take this formula and make it depressing, so he could spread depression to everyone. This concept became Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Anno and his team made Eva a unique giant robot show with interesting characters and backstory. They also put in a bunch of religious symbolism and mythological references, quote, "to give the show a more exotic feel." This is producer-speak for "No, they don't mean anything, we just threw those in there because we could."
They burned through most of the budget halfway through the series. Some scenes toward the end consisted mostly of a single frame and nothing happening. With all of their budget gone, Anno threw together some stock footage from earlier episodes and called it a finale. The most coherent part of these episodes was an extended scene that had no relation whatsoever to the rest of the series. I am not making this up.
The fans responded in a calm and collected manner by sending Anno death threats. They told him to make a real ending, one that didn't suck. Anno, probably half crazy by this point, responded by saying "Oh yeah? Fine! I'll make a fucking ending! It'll be an ending about how much you all suck!" And it was. He made End of Evangelion, a movie which, among other things, told the audience in no uncertain terms that they all sucked. All things considered, it was a pretty good movie, although it is confusing the first time around and begins with one character masturbating onto the comatose body of a second character. That's probably the most infamous scene in the series; even the character beating off admits it's fucked up.
After making Evangelion and End of Eva, the entire staff of GAINAXwas depressed. The higher-ups decided to give everyone a break by giving them some money and telling them to "make whatever the fuck series you want." They decided to make something wacky and fun, and so Fooly Cooly was born.
After airing in the US and gaining a wide following in the ten years since its first release, a retelling of the series, titled Rebuild of Evangelion, is currently being made. It will hopefully have a proper ending.
Plotwise, Evangelion is complicated. The main premise is, alien-like beings called Angels are attacking the earth and a group of psychologically disturbed teenagers must pilot giant robots to stop them. The characters are all mentally disturbed in some way or another, and as the series goes on you can see them all slowly break apart under the pressure. Behind the scenes, the organization everyone works for, NERV, is really a shadow government at odds with another shadowy organization, and they have plans that mean the end of the world as we know it. As a whole, the series is a deconstruction of many of the common character archetypes often found in anime and the super robot genre in general.
The series is polarizing, to say the least. Many people praise the symbolism used and the depth of the characters, while others like the complex plotline. On the other hand, many people denounce it for being pretentious, its characters annoying, and its plot confusing. Watch it and find out where you lie.
Person 1: Neon Genesis Evangelion rocks! You should totally watch it.
Person 2: Neon Genesis Evangelion sucks! You should totally skip it.
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