(That's not a good wow)
So, I had been coming across this anime's name for ages and had read over and over again that it would be the kind of anime that I would like. I tried watching it perhaps a year or two ago, and gave up, thinking that it was too like a typical mecha-action anime for my interest.
I watched the entire series (admitted skimming some of the latter episodes, seeking the more interesting bits) and it is terrible.
Okay, let me say that again. Neon Genesis Evangelion is terrible.
It is not terrible because it is too slow. It is not terrible because the animation and production value are low. It is not terrible because the characters are uninteresting or reprehensible (they are not). It is not terrible because it is too much philosophy for an anime.
It is terrible because all of that "thought provoking and symbolic and deep" themes, are neither thought provoking, symbolic or deep.
I admit that this anime may be of great historical merit. It may be a case of something like Myst. It may not stand against time or be that admirable without context. (and is not "fun" in the typical respects) But maybe it became of great renown for other reasons; Reasons like genre-defining originality/divergence or else the first example of a "mature" kind of anime/videogame and a flagship example of what the genre is capable of.
Whatever the case, Neon Genesis Evangelion is not nearly as good as its reputation would let on.
To get into the dirty details:
The symbolism and relation to christian symbols I did not find to be either deep or nuanced. Words like "adam" "dogma" "angel" "eve" "sin" "human" "soul" "psyche" are tossed around without real examination or implication.
The characters were messed up and multifaceted which I respect, however I did not find them to undergo meaningful struggles and realizations, nor did I consider them that very interesting in their uniqueness or depth of conflict. I did not find them tiresome either. I did not find Asuka annoying or Shinji overly weak.
The ending covered some concepts which I realized myself a few years ago. I found the presentation to be bad in a number of ways. I found the concepts themselves to be, to a degree, obvious. Not that they could not be profound, but that they were discussed in such a way as to be simple and not to be treated in a way which would allow them to be greater themes.
The battles were fine, but the pacing was both slow and awkward. The themes did not run through or interact in any way that would enhance their natures.
The comments made by characters was also stunningly dull. "I worry about him" repeatedly says Misato. And yet she never tries to make suggestions to him or interact with his problems. "I must not run!" says Shinji, and yet he never really builds strength, has set backs, or has a gradual realization. He sways, seemingly without reason, between focusing on Eva, his weakness, his father, and his past. He goes berserk without comment or explanation.
It is neat that the characters are realistic in this way, that they cannot really manage themselves or their problems clearly. But it there is never any depth or meaning to be found, after that is understood.
I understand that Misato's desire for alcohol and her synonymous desire and rejection of love are from her fears of being an adult. I understand Shinji's fear and defeatism and inability to stand up for himself come from his father's rejection and abandonment. I understand Rei's withdrawal and emotionless nature are part of her loneliness. I understand Asuka's bravado and pride are there to cover up her fear. I understand their small reaching out to one another and their accomplishments and their failures. I just do not see that there is anything else that happens or any commentary or any suggestion about what it means. I do not even see room for someone to speculate or create their own interpretations and meanings. It all ends up just being a series of events in my mind, rather than something worth thinking about.
I cannot say for sure how I can find such themes and allusions to be present, and yet not thought provoking. Maybe it is the way they are handled, but I cannot say what about the handling makes it so.
Oh oh, I forgot to mention, I think the monster design of the angels is superb! I'm a major fan. Where the Grey Spectrum is lived. Love and hate, beauty and vileness, science and art, truth and falsehood are shades present in everything that exists. Perspective and connexion overshadow all. We stand between the darkness and the light.