Neon Genesis Evangelion

To have missed out on the hype over Neon Genesis Evangelion, an anime fan would have to have been hiding on a nearby planet--a rock would be too small to hide under. It's clear that Eva (as it is often known) is a phenomenon in the States, not really witnessed since the release of Akira. It's the latest entry by Gainax, an impressive company known for such wonders as Wings of Honneamise, Gunbuster, and Otaku no Video. They have an extremely strong name, and that may be part of the whole mystique. I've been inundated with requests to review Eva -- it is by far the most requested title at The Anime Review -- and so I decided to bite the bullet and try it out.

For those of you who don't know or could use a review, the first two episodes circle around Shinji, a young boy whose father is the creator of a new kind of battle armor/mecha. It appears that Shinji is one of the only people on the planet who can pilot the thing. The mecha was designed to fight the Angels, who have reappeared on Earth. The first two episodes give us very little background on who the Angels are or what they want, or why they've ever been here or why they would be back. The focus is on Shinji himself. It's clear that he has a less-than-pleasant history with his father, and it's obvious from the outset that his father is most interested in him as a pilot, not as his son. There's quite a bit of battle, but not a ton of setup. We do meet a few people who work with Shinji's father, and I'm certain they'll become important as the series continues. We also meet a strange girl who appears to be able to pilot the Evangelion mecha as well, and it's clear that her battles have taken their toll, but we don't know her story yet. Ultimately, the first two episodes are a big honkin' tease. Honestly, you'll learn more about the plot of the series as a whole from the synopsis on the video box than from the first two episodes.

How can you rate something that acts like a teaser trailer? Objectively, the artwork is fantastic. Despite being a TV series, the animation looks like something you'd see in an OVA or even some films. It's that good. Character designs are certainly unique, and they are striking. It's also entertaining to watch. On the flip side, though, I think it's a great disservice that ADV has done to only put two episodes on a tape. I'm sure there's a realization that Eva was going to sell, and they've elongated it into 13 purchases. However, at the current price (over $25 for the subtitled version), it's unlikely that I'll be buying any more until the DVDs are released. Thankfully, that should be around Christmas, so it shouldn't be a horrid wait.

For the average anime fan, the opening will whet your interest. However, it's a brief intro, and slightly disappointing in that so little actually happens to establish the basis of a plot. Part of the disappointment is due to the immense hype surrounding the series -- in a way, I was expecting a knock-'em-dead show from the very start. That really isn't true. I look forward to seeing more to simply figure out what the raving is all about...but for now, I give it only a cautious recommendation.

Neon Genesis Evangelion Episodes 1,2 -- violence -- B+