Anime Pocket Reviews Ep. 65 – Neon Genesis Evangelion, Dr. Stone

Welcome back to APR!

Is it just us, or has this recent anime cycle been particularly quiet? While a lack of original ideas has caused something of a lull, it has given us an excuse to go back and watch some true classics! Later on, we review one of the few new series that have truly gripped everyone’s attention, but before that, we finally get around to introducing one of anime’s most famous stories.

Neon Genesis Evangelion Anime Screenshot

Neon Genesis Evangelion

(1995-96, S1, 26x24mins) Sci-Fi, Action

One of the most influential anime shows of all time. Neon Genesis Evangelion is a name that rings through the heart of many an anime fan but also the entire medium in general. For many, NGE is Day 0 for the modern anime landscape we see today. However, over twenty years since its creation, can this notorious series still hold its own?

Set fifteen years after a catastrophic event known as the Second Impact, Earth finds itself at the mercy of a string of incredibly powerful monsters called Angels that continue to invade the planet. Earth’s only hope lies in NERV, a United Nations organisation with machines called Evangelions that can fight the Angels. However, Evangelions require pilots that are specifically compatible with the machines. Shinji Ikari (centre) is a 14-year-old boy who is drafted into NERV as a pilot, leading him on a collision course with his father, who left him as a child and is now head of the organisation. As Shinji and the other young pilots are drawn into the global fight, tensions become taut, and the true nature of the Angels and NERV is revealed.

It’s something of a shame that we’ve seen and reviewed over 100 different anime series before watching the blueprint for many of them shows! However, after watching Neon Genesis Evangelion, you begin to understand the hype surrounding the series, both in its time and to this day. First of all, the plot for the story is awesome, setting up vulnerable people as the last stand against a superior enemy, while dark motives unfold in the background. The story itself is remarkable in both its emotional strength and delicacy, playing on so many themes that you would never associate with a ‘robot anime’ but doing so in a way that was really clever. Yes, there are times when the show goes classically 90s anime and almost slapstick in its approach, but the majority of the time, this story’s most powerful moments are surprisingly quiet. There is a shocking bluntness to the humanity in Neon Genesis Evangelion, which you begin to understand once you dig into the series’ famous production.

For those that are unaware, Evangelion is nowadays as famous for its incredible, genre-defying story as it is for its calamitous production. Director Hideaki Anno suffered with depression while creating and leading the series, which gave birth to increasingly dark moments as the story progressed. While adored in hindsight, the chilling scenes were meat with criticism, particularly from parents. This backlash, combined with a complete lack of money at the end of the season, meant that the final few episodes of the series are famously poor. In the end, the final few episodes of this classic anime are as bad as the other twenty-odd are good! This was so much the case that the ending was re-written twice in two follow-up films that were quickly released after the show’s conclusion. We will likely review those at some point on this platform, but for now, we’re focusing on the TV series.

While Neon Genesis Evangelion ends in disappointing fashion, this should not take away too much from the remarkable 20-odd episodes that occur beforehand. This series hits the mark in so many respects, with emotional value backed-up by some exciting character design and good action scenes. On that note, the animation in NGE is awesome, not just from a nostalgia point of view but also in terms of pure quality. The colours and lines are sharp, while the movements are fluid, perfectly capturing the best sides of that iconic 90s style of Japanese animation.

When viewed as an entire series, Neon Genesis Evangelion is badly let down by a conclusion that literally collapsed in on itself under the weight of external pressures. However, that shouldn’t take away from the sheer excellence of this series up to that point in every respect, nor should the conclusion overshadow the show’s importance to anime as a medium.

Is NGE one of the most important anime ever made? Absolutely. Is it one of the greatest anime shows of all time? Not quite, but it’s seriously close!

ANIME RANKING: #14 – A very good ranking for a series that would have been comfortably in the top 10 at the halfway stage! Still, NGE sits ahead of great series such as Steins;Gate and The Tatami Galaxy!

If you liked this you’ll love: Psycho Pass (#6) – The obvious next step from NGE is another mecha series such as Gurren Lagann. However, if you’re looking for another futuristic action-thriller with a psychological edge, then Psycho Pass is the show for you! Set in a futuristic city, this crime thriller is one of the best anime series ever made and, in the grey city and smart characters, you can sense NGE’s historic influence.

Dr. Stone Anime Poster

Dr. Stone

(2019, S1, 24x23mins) Action, Fantasy

The incredibly bright Senkuu (pictured) and his friend Taiju are living a relatively normal high school life until one day, in a flash, every human in the world is turned into stone. Thousands of years later, Senkuu is suddenly freed from his petrified state and awakes to a word of mountains, forests and stone statues. When Taiju awakes to join him and the two of them discover how to free others from their stone shells, Senkuu sets off on a mission to rebuild civilisation from scratch through the wonders of science. However, other people born into the new world have different visions for what the future should hold.

Adapted from a manga of the same school as My Hero Academia and Black Clover, there was much hype about Dr. Stone being the next blockbuster series to join the two giants of modern anime. Matching those series will be no easy task, but from its relatively early beginnings, it’s clear that this has all the potential to be a huge franchise.

As with those aforementioned shows, the first thing that strikes you about this series is its sharp art style. Despite its setting in a natural world, the colours are bright and at times over-the-top. The character designs are sharp and unnatural, in appearance and abilities, creating a superhero feel throughout the show. Their designs help to provide clear distinction between characters, which allows the dozen-or-so side characters already in this series to feel like people you want to get to know – another notable trait of these big-budget franchises.

Unlike the MHAs and BCs of this world, however, Dr. Stone’s story takes on a much more linear, thought-out path. While large in scope, the story’s world feels incredibly small, while a great sense of adventure helps to pull the story through. The remarkable abilities of some of the characters is perhaps this story’s most glaring weakness, taking away from the very natural feel of the story and its ambitions. However, if you’re capable of taking that in stride, the story becomes incredibly exciting, as each development takes them closer to creating a civilised world.

The first season of Dr. Stone has been a great watch and would probably go down as one of the more exciting anime series of the year. However, it’s obvious that this show’s ambitions reach beyond 24 episodes. The story is running at a great pace which you feel would have to slow if it wants the longevity of a My Hero Academia or Black Clover, and it is during these moments that the ‘poster boy’ nature of the show’s main cast will be truly tested. Can Dr. Stone deliver the emotional power to accompany its bright and exciting story? That will determine whether this is a good show or a great one.

ANIME RANKING: #28 – A great platform to be built upon, Dr. Stone ends its first season ahead of shows such as Space Dandy and just behind classics such as Carole & Tuesday and Darling in the Franxx!

If you liked this you’ll love: Akame Ga Kill (#15) – Of course, if you’re looking for a similar writing style and production then My Hero Academia and Black Clover are good options. However, both these shows have a slightly different style of plot to Dr. Stone. For a show with a bigger sense of community and camaraderie, Akame Ga Kill is one of the most underestimated action fantasies in anime; bursting with colour and action, this is a delight to watch!

Subscribe to The Culture Cove for regular anime reviews and recommendations! Keep an eye out for episode 66 featuring our look at the second season of Final Space!

Final Space Season Two Visual

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