Let me just start by saying...
...What the hell, man?
Now that that's out of the way, I absolutely loved this show. Neon Genesis Evangelion is an excellent story filled with religious imagery and concepts, telling the tale of a dystopian future 2015 where giant alien monsters called Angels appear one-by-one and wreak havoc on Earth. Our only hope to stop them are massive robots called Evangelions which can only be piloted by children; three children to be precise - Rei, Asuka and Shinji.
Angel on the left, Evangelion on the right
That description seems pretty standard for a mecha anime, however NGE is anything but. Heaps of sex jokes and puns do a great job of offsetting the serious apocalyptic mood that dominates its action sequences. The anime is styled in such a way that you get a sense of how large and powerful the Evas and Angels are. The Evas display a very realistic design - as real as giant fighting robots can get, anyways - which is highly evident in their need for electricity. Evangelions are powered by an umbilical cable running into their back, and at one point even utilize a weapon that sucks up all of the electricity in Japan in order to work. When disconnected from the umbilical cable, the Eva has just minutes before it ceases operating, as our battery technology hasn't advanced far enough and self-powered designs prove unstable. Human technology is much more advanced in the show than what we have today, but everything portrayed feels like a logical extension of what humans possess in real life.
Fanservice? Check. And doublecheck.
Neon Genesis Evangelion has a lot of innuendo. Not as much as Kill la Kill, but damnit Jim, they're trying. It provides an important device to break up the constant talk of dying, the end of the world, traumatic pasts and the search to find one's place in life. NGE deals with a lot of grave subjects and provides characters with relatable flaws and traumas, but the show never feels sluggish or depressing as it bounces back and forth between drama and comedy, often putting characters in awkward situations. The art of the awkward situation is a staple in anime, especially when it involves a series of coincidences that would put Rube Goldberg machines to shame. Neon Genesis Evangelion manages to create a very awkward situation in the ending, which brings me back to my initial declaration at the top of this post...
Shinji, Asuka and the ever-excited Rei, in that order.
Before starting the series, I had read online that the ending is very confusing, even causing the creators to release another interpretation of the series climax that would be more clear to viewers, The End of Evangelion. At first I thought that maybe it was a bit artsy or made some strange commentary that was tough to connect to. Surely I would be smart enough to where it'd make sense. Yeah...no. We're faced with a surreal scene where the embodiment of how a character is seen by their peers gets interrogated by manifestations of that character's internal image of their friends. Sound confusing? It is, especially considering it lasts for 2 whole episodes and is not explained very well in the context of the show. I came out of episode 26 very perplexed, even though I understood why these people were so happy:
SPOILER: Shinji learns to love himself.
But that still didn't make me feel like I understood what happened. The End of Evangelion provided a lot of answers and put this scene in context, for sure. But I still felt the ending left some questions unanswered, the most prominent of which is "What happens now?" I want to give away as few spoilers as possible, which is why I haven't explained the true nature of the Evas, so I'll leave it up to you to check out the series and see what I mean. Neon Genesis Evangelion does a great job of answering the questions that it raises, but at the very end, it feels like the show was cut maybe 3 minutes too short, causing me to wonder what exactly was the point of all that had happened. But maybe the point doesn't matter, nor the state of the Earth and its inhabitants, because Shinji is finally at peace with who he is as a person and his place in the universe. I highly recommend NGE to anyone looking for a new anime to watch; it is a classic series that is referenced by countless shows created afterwards.
Did I mention the Angel designs were unreal? Because they're amazing.