Far too many times I hear people saying that Neon Genesis Evangelion is overrated, that it’s a story filled with a bunch of phallus-shaped symbolism. While that may be true (I personally have never thought of it like that, maybe these people need to get their minds out of the gutter?), Evangelion is a story about a boy trying to move forward, even when it doesn’t make any sense as to why, even when he’s lost all reason to keep going. Eva is a metaphor for people trying to navigate through their lives, and to put it quite frankly, it’s beautiful.

When we first meet Shinji he’s a meek boy who doesn’t want to even try to save the human race and the settlement of Tokyo-3, but in the end, it’s Misato (my favorite character) who convinces him. The relationship between these two characters is the most beautiful in the series; it changes and evolves as the series goes on and to witness that dynamic bond between these characters grow throughout 26 episodes is delightful. Evangelion is a metaphor for life, and this is Shinji’s “first step in a larger world.”

Life isn’t all about taking steps towards something. We take plenty of missteps as well. That is the human experience. People move forward, they make mistakes and take a step backward, and then they take another couple of steps forward and continue to learn and to grow. It’s an awe-inspiring process. Shinji Ikari is probably the most frustrating character in the history of anime because he’s incredibly realistic! He constantly has “realizations” where he will take steps forward, but at the same time the very next episode he’ll climb into a hole and refuse to take any action. Like what he did in ‘Hedgehog’s Dilemma” when he tried to run away. Or Shinji during “Rei II”, when he refused to fight after nearly being killed. It was only Misato who convinced him otherwise (again, their unique bond), and it was actually Shinji who saved both them and the world from the destruction of the Third Impact the Angel would have caused.

One of the most standout scenes in the series was with Shinji and Kaji. Kaji tells Shinji about the impending doom of the world if he, and only he, doesn’t take action, “so he’s left with no regrets.” Kaji is growing watermelons, watching the destruction as it unfolds. Shinji is confused though. Why tend to your watermelons now, of all times? Kaji’s answer is so beautiful and so fitting: what better time is there to do it? The whole scene stands out as one of the best in the series, and Shinji then springs into action and saves the day … in a way. All the personal progress he’s gained up to that point though is almost lost. Shinji reverts back to his non-resolute self, crying about how horrible his life is. Which is, yes, so frustrating. But it is also so human as well.

Misato Katsuragi is my favorite character in Neon Genesis Evangelion. On the surface, she has a bubbly personality and is incredibly easy-going. There is so much more depth to her than that. She witnessed her father sacrifice himself to save her life at the epicenter of the Second Impact in Antarctica. She was a mute for years because of this trauma. After her failed relationship with Kaji (years before the series), she’s always trying to compensate for her loneliness. This is why she brought Shinji in to live with her. It wasn’t necessarily for his benefit; it was for hers.

It’s such a human choice. She sees a part of herself in Shinji and she simply cannot leave the poor boy to his own devices, because he definitely needs some work. And when Misato plays around with Shinji and teases him in a sexual manner, considering Japanese culture, I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s entertained the idea (he’s 14, she’s 27!!!), because she does love Shinji on a certain level, even if it’s not romantic. She is the only person at NERVE who actually cares for the boy and doesn’t want to simply use him for her own benefit.

Hideaki Anno summed up the story of Evangelion perfectly when releasing a statement about the upcoming Rebuild of Evangelion films.

”Eva is a story that repeats.
It is a story where the main character witnesses many horrors with his own eyes, but still tries to stand up again.
It is a story of will; a story of moving forward, if only just a little.
It is a story of fear, where someone who must face indefinite solitude fears reaching out to others, but still wants to try.”

What Hideaki Anno is trying to say here, quite bluntly, is that Evangelion epitomizes life. It is a story of characters who are terrified of moving forward, afraid to reach out to others to fill the holes in their hearts, but still want to try. That is an incredibly moving statement and makes for an even more poignant story.

Since the time of the ancient Greeks and before, human beings have tried to make sense of their world through stories. This is even more prevalent today when we have film, animated television, live-action television, video games, and even comics (not to mention novels.) We can see a part of ourselves in the characters of Evangelion which is why we can relate so much to it. It’s helped millions of fans over the world through their struggles, and I have to admit, it helped me as well.

Evangelion acts as a metaphor for our own lives, and that is why it resonates with us.

About The Author

Founder/Editor-in-Chief

Morgan Lewis is a Video Game Journalist and Founder and Editor-in-Chief of VG Culture HQ. He has been writing about games for over four years and has written over 900 articles during that timespan. He first fell in love with gaming when he received A Link to the Past for Christmas when he was six. He also loves anime and anything that has to do with gaming culture.

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  • Jonathan Rauscher

    Nice write-up! I think you summed up NGE pretty well. I’ll be sharing this around, so keep up the good writing material!

    • Morgan

      Thank you! You’ll be seeing more Eva and more Anime content in the future!!!!