In both the East and West, anime has a reputation for being a form of entertainment created for and consumed by children and teens. That being said, anime also has a long history of avant-gardism and experimentalism, with many series rivaling high-art in terms of emotional and intellectual sophistication. Perhaps the best example of this is Neon Genesis Evangelion, widely considered one of the greatest anime franchises ever made.
Neon Genesis Evangelion was created by the director Hideaki Anno, who had previously worked with legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki on Studio Ghibli films, including Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. The series aired in Japan starting in 1995 and eventually made its way over to the United States in 2000, where it began developing a cult following.
In the years since the show has been declared a masterpiece. Its inclusion in Takashi Murakami’s Superflat exhibitions in the early 2000s garnered the show much acclaim as museum-quality, legitimate art offering a deeply complex reflection of director Anno’s struggles with depression, a commentary on the postmodern condition, and a meditation on Japan’s post-nuclear anxieties.
With that in mind, NGE is far from the most accessible piece of art ever made. The fact that the show has multiple endings, multiple timelines, and multiple spin-offs doesn’t help the matter either. In anticipation of the release of the fourth and final Neon Genesis Evangelion rebuild, confusingly titled Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time, we’re offering an extremely truncated summary and explanation of the franchise — so you can be ready for when the last movie drops in August. Bear with me: this is about to be confusing.