Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the most successful and critically acclaimed anime television series of the 1990s, and with the rebooted film series rebuild of Evangelion being just as good if not better, I'm going to take this time to look back on the original anime series and how the rebuild of Evangelion came to be.
So, why don't we start with the creator, Hideaki Anno? After a failed project, Anno had become disenchanted with the Japanese "otaku" lifestyle. Also coupled with his severe depression he sought to make an anime that was much darker and more psychological. He wanted something that showed true growth in his characters. Anno agreed to a collaboration between King Records and Gainax while drinking with King representative Toshimichi Ōtsuki. King Records guaranteed Anno a time slot for "something, anything" and so in 1993 Anno began production on Evangelion.
As production started, Anno began pouring elements of his own personality into all of his characters. As the series continued, Anno had to actually tone down his original ideas because he thought they were too dark and feared censorship. As the deadline for the show to release came closer and closer, the initial cuts of the first two episodes were screened at the second Gainax festival in July 1995, only three months before they were aired on television. By episode 13, the series began to deviate significantly from the original story, and the initial script was abandoned. The number of Angels was reduced to 17 instead of the original 28, and the writers changed the story's ending, which had originally described the failure of the Human Instrumentality Project after an Angel attack from the moon.
Starting with episode 16, the show changed drastically, discarding the grand narrative concerning salvation for a narrative focusing on the individual characters. This change coincided with Anno's development of an interest in psychology after a friend lent him a book on mental illness. This focus culminated in a psychoanalysis of the characters in the two final episodes. The production ran so close to the airing deadline that the completed scenes used in the preview of the twenty-fifth episode had to be redesigned to work with the new ending. These episodes featured heavy use of abstract animation, flashbacks, simple line drawings, photographs, and fixed image scenes with voice-over dialogue. Some critics speculated that these unconventional animation choices resulted from budget cuts, but Toshio Okada stated that Anno "couldn't decide the ending until the time came, that's his style." These two episodes sparked controversy and condemnation among fans and critics of the series, including significant vitriol directed at Anno himself. in 1997 Hideaki Anno and Studio Gainax released two animated feature films: Death & Rebirth and The End of Evangelion which were both critical successes, but Anno was still not satisfied.
Anno initially began work on the Rebuild of Evangelion films in the fall of 2002, spending nearly six months on pre-production before being delayed by various other projects. In December of 2006 issue of Newtype, Anno revealed he was happy to finally recreate Eva "as he wanted it to be" in the beginning, and that he was no longer constrained by technological and budgetary limitations. The release schedule of the Rebuild movies experienced many delays, with the first film pushed from its original summer release date to fall 2007, and the second film's release date shifted from 2008 to summer 2009, and the third film finally came out in 2012. With the final movie to still get a release date, fans are left wondering whether or not we will be satisfied with the conclusion and finally see how it was meant to end. Only time will tell.
So there you have it, a little look back on one of the best mecha anime of all time.