It isn’t surprising that Neon Genesis Evangelion is taking the anime community by storm again, as the series and its sequel movies debuted on Netflix over the weekend. Fans of Hideki Anno’s dark masterpiece who are looking to have their minds blown a second time can’t go wrong with the shows below, as each successfully evokes Evangelion‘s psychological intrigue and deep dive into madness.
Anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion | Devilman Crybaby
Devilman Crybaby follows Akira Fudo’s life after he’s possessed by a demon and gains the supernatural powers of the Devilman. As he and his best friend Ryo try to purge the world of Satan’s creatures, true identities and motivations are revealed. Manipulation and guilt are two themes that Devilman shares in common with Evangelion, considering how the adolescent characters in each show constantly wrestle with their identities.
It’s impossible not to notice the religious imagery on display throughout each series too, especially as both ramp up to their grisly finales. Fans of shameless violence and soul-crushing narratives may find Devilman to be right up their alley.
Anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion | Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Puella Magi Madoka Magica may seem like the complete antithesis of Evangelion on the surface. After best friends Madoka and Sayaka encounter a cute cat-like creature called Kyubey, they enlist to become magical girls in hopes of eliminating the world of evil beings called witches. As they interact with other characters like Mami, Kyoko, and Homura, they begin to understand their real purpose and come to terms with their newfound responsibilities.
Madoka Magica evokes Evangelion in that both use the spectacle of their respective genres as a veneer for dialogues on human exploitation. Magical girls are nothing more than pawns on a chessboard, just as EVA pilots are used as instruments to serve Gendo Ikari’s mysterious project. It goes without saying that each show challenges anime tropes and dares fans to approach the medium differently.
Anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion | Akira
Considered one of the most influential animated films of all time, Akira is set in a post-apocalyptic version of Tokyo and tells the story of biker gang leader Shotaro Kaneda and his best friend Tetsuo Shima. After the latter discovers he has psychic powers, the two try to organize a rebellion against the militaristic regime that governs the city and its inhabitants.
The biggest similarity that Akira shares with Evangelion is its premise. Humanity is still desperately piecing itself together after a cataclysmic event decimates a lot of what it once knew. Each show evidences the harsh ramifications of war and recalls Japan’s history with nuclear power. A sense of fear permeates both of them, as if arguing that we as humans know very little about the weapons we proudly brandish.
Anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion | Bokurano
Like Evangelion, Bokurano places innocent children in giant mecha so they can prevent the end of the world. It’s nothing new as far as the genre is concerned, though what makes Bokurano just as thought-provoking as Anno’s series is its focus on each pilot’s psychology.
Past traumas and anxiety issues manifest themselves in the heat of battle. When the dust settles, the show’s characters question why they’re being forced to fight against enemies they know nothing about. Each series successfully evokes the feeling of constantly being left in the dark. For better or worse, Gendo’s treatment of Shinji, Asuka, and Rei can be found all over Bokurano.
Anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion | Serial Experiments Lain
Serial Experiments Lain stars a reclusive girl named Lain Iwakura, the likes of which begins receiving emails from a classmate named Chisa Yomoda after her supposed suicide. The protagonist begins using the Wired (a phenomenon similar to the internet) to begin searching for answers, all the while reading new messages from Chisa explaining why she left her physical body to connect with someone she perceives to be God.
Similarly to Evangelion, Serial Experiments Lain pushes the envelope as far as religious and existentialist connotations are concerned. Both also explore the concept of loneliness and how a person can transform when subjected to intense conditions. It’s morbidly fascinating to witness Lain and Evangelion‘s characters evolve or regress as each series moves forward.
Anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion | Eureka Seven
Mecha fans who find Evangelion to be intriguing but too dark may enjoy Eureka Seven. Renton Thurston lives with his grandfather in what he considers to be a boring town in the middle of nowhere. He idolizes a mercenary group called Gekkostate and dreams of joining their ranks someday. When one of the squad’s members, Eureka, crashes through his room, Renton seizes his chance to help out the people he’s idolized.
Eureka Seven is fun and lighthearted throughout most of its early episodes, but starts to become more dark when Gekkostate’s motivations are called into question and the alleged enemy doesn’t seem to be as villainous as some characters claim. While the show isn’t rife with symbolism, it’s narrative challenges our views on heroes and questions humanity’s success at the expense of others.
Neon Genesis Evangelion is a cultural phenomenon for good reason. As evidenced in the shows above, its thorough examination of the human psyche has influenced creators everywhere. Here’s hoping that Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 continues to push boundaries next year and that Anno hasn’t lost his touch yet. Until then, fans have a slew of other disturbing anime to catch up on.