After years spent waiting, eager Neon Genesis Evangelion fans are finally able to see the conclusion to the most recent Eva film series. With the final installment, Evangelion: 3.0+1.0: Thrice Upon A Time, slated for a release this month, it's a great time to be a fan.
The original series is now more than 25 years old. But a steady slate of Evangelion merch, side-stories, video games, and the like have kept fan interest high. And as we near the end of this current film cycle, we can look back and appreciate what Evangelion has meant for the broader anime community.
The Evangelion Story
Creator Hideaki Anno found himself at a low-point in his life when the idea came to him. He had recently completed work on 1992's Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water and found himself without direction on where to go from there. Aimless, he drifted into a deep depression.
It was during this period that Anno found himself out drinking with Toshimichi Ōtsuki, a representative for King Records. In the course of their evening, Anno to a collaboration between Studio Gainax on King Records.
King offered Gainax a time-slot that they could fill with anything that they wanted. With creative freedom guaranteed, Anno turned inward and mined his own feelings for inspiration.
He also pulled from Aoki Uru, an unproduced project of his. It was from this abandoned series that he drew the core theme of not running away, which became the backbone of the original Evangelion series.
Over the next several years, Evangelion faced tumultuous development and production.
Finished scripts were abandoned and rewritten. Characters were worked and reworked. And last-minute changes we made to scenes to avoid comparison to the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway.
It was so troubled a production that it never should have made it off the ground. And even well into the series' run deadlines were always looming as scripts were being changed at the 11th hour. But against all odds they got the series to broadcast and changes the course of the industry in the process.
Evangelion debuted to critical acclaim at home and abroad, and its reputation has only grown in the decades since. Review aggregator, Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 100% rating.
Looking through some of the reviews, both from the time and in recent years, you can see the unfailing praise. Evangelion is cited as not only a landmark anime series but a gripping character study. Their series is credited with being both a sterling subversion of the mecha-genre and as a moving, introspective work.
Beyond its critical acclaim, Evangelion has gone on to become a major pop-culture phenomenon. It has been the subject of debate and academic study, with academics and sociologists alike weighing on the anime's themes. For their part, Studio Gainax themselves even spoofed the enduring conversation around Eva in their subsequent work FLCL, with one character having written a whole book about "the deep mysteries of Eva".
But most notably of all are its contributions to the medium. For many soon-to-be creators, Eva was the series that sparked their interest in anime. And it has no small number of celebrity admirers, with a memorable scene from One Hour Photo having been the idea of real-life mega-fan Robin Williams.
And of course, it was only due to the passion of the fans that 2019's subpar Netflix release of the original series was met with such vitriol.
Celebrating the Occasion With the Right Evangelion Merch
Evangelion merchandise has played an important part in sustaining the fandom in the periods between major releases. With fans often going years without new content, clothes, figurines, and video games were often all the fans had to sate their appetite.
However you might feel about Shinji Ikari as a character—he can be a controversial character in some circles—he and Eva Unit-01 are the de facto faces of the series. So a shirt that shows off both is a great indicator of your status as an Eva megafan. It also comes in a muscle tank variant as well, for when the winter finally gives way to warmer months.
But this is January after all, so maybe something a little warmer would be more fitting. For those brisk days between now and spring, try on this long-sleeved tee. Showcasing Asuka Langley Soryu and Unit-02 in action, it will keep you nice and toasty while you represent the Second Child.
Or if you have a soft spot for the more sinister characters, then this Gendo shirt might be more your speed. Showing the NERV directed backlight by a glaring emergency alert, it's a piece that makes a bold statement.
A Legacy You Can't Run Away From
It's difficult to gauge the true impact that Neon Genesis Evangelion has had on the anime industry. So many creators cite it as the key influence that inspired them to pursue the medium, that without Eva scores of series may have never come to be.
And now with the current film franchise coming to an end, it remains to be seen what the future holds for this legendary franchise. Most likely the franchise will enter another dormant period. But it's hard to imagine that it will stay away for long.
In any case, there will never be a shortage of Evangelion merch to sate the appetites of its ever-growing fanbase.
In the meantime, you might start exploring some of the franchises Evangelion either inspired or influenced. And if giant robots are your thing, you can start by checking out our list of the best mechan anime that you should watch.