Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-1996) – By Timothy Martinez

 At the beginning of the third millenium Earth suffers a catastrophe when a massive meteorite impacts in Antarctica. The polar ice cap melts as a result of this event and the seas begin to rise worldwide. Approximately half the Human population of Earth is wiped out in the ensuing chaos. Nearly fifteen years later, what is left of the Human race seeks refuge in huge subterranean cities. Above them on the planet’s surface a war is raging for control of the Earth…and for what may be hidden beneath it’s surface. On one side of this deadly conflict are the strange and mysterious extraterrestrials known only as Angels, while on the other is Humanity’s last best hope for survival: the special agency known as NERV and their latest tools to defend mankind, the gigantic Evangelions.

The series centers on fourteen year-old Shinji Ikari, a new pilot recruited by NERV and the son of the organization’s mysterious director, Gendo Ikari. He is the third person to qualify as an Eva pilot, after the quiet Rei Ayanami and the prideful Asuka Langley Soryu. Shinji hardly knows his father and is sent to live with Major Misato Katsuragi, NERV’s operations manager and sole survivor of the impact in Antarctica. Quickly thrust into the heat of battle with the giant Angels, Shinji must deal with his own doubts and insecurities, learn to pilot an Eva and adjust to a new school. Adolescence was bad enough before the survival of the earth was at stake!

Despite the continual onslaught of the enigmatic Angels, mysteries surrounding NERV and the people running it persist, as well as dozens of unanswered questions concerning the original meteor impact, known now as The Second Impact. Just why was the Earth attacked all those years ago? Why does NERV classify the first Angel to attack the city of Tokyo-3 as the third Angel rather than the first? What secrets lie hidden deep within NERV’s headquarters? What is the truth behind the origin of the Evangelions? Why are children born exactly nine months after the second impact the only persons qualified to pilot the Evangelions? What is Gendo Ikari’s true agenda? These and other questions plague the main characters in this seminal anime series.

If you like your science fiction deep and thoughtful, then this is the series for you. This one excels at both deep character introspection as well as more sweeping examinations of the meaning and perception of thought and reality. In a word: it’s weird. There is plenty of Mecha action, big science fiction concepts, well developed and realistic characters, religious undertones and a twisting plot with enough surprises to please the most Machiavellian of viewers. However, be warned – for the first twenty-four episodes things are great. The series builds on each new revelation and the mysteries only deepen, but in the final two installments things just go straight to hell. To call these last two episodes weird is a MASSIVE understatement. Do not expect to have everything neatly tied up at the end and definitely count on having to decide for yourself just what the hell happens. For those who want their endings to be less cryptic, then check out the feature length movie The End of Evangelion, which supplies a slightly more sensible alternative to those last two installments and contains a much more satisfying conclusion…but even it leaves the viewer with plenty of questions.