Neon Genesis Evangelion is a lot of things. It's a treatise on the effects of depression and isolation. It's a big religious metaphor that leaps in and out of various philosophies. It's a horrifying examination of the burden that family can put on people. But it's also a show where big robotic units (called EVAs) fight stuff. And that's the part I want to focus on right now.
Because while you can't go into Evangelion expecting a mindless buffet of nonstop mech brawls, you're also doing the show a disservice if you treat it like a stuffy academic paper. While I wouldn't describe Evangelion as a show that you can fist-pump your way through, it's also not devoid of moments that make you remember just how rad it is when giant cyborgs get into combat.
So, to celebrate a part of Evangelion that often gets lost in the discussion, I'm going to run down the 10 most awesome scenes from the show. Yes, these are the scenes that will please you most if what you want out of Evangelion is big metal UFC, but they also serve as a balance to the more cerebral and emotional parts of the experience.
The First Appearance of an Angel
In the very first episode, it becomes apparent why creator Hideaki Anno was chosen to direct Shin Godzilla. The debut of the Angel is a terrifying one, a seemingly unstoppable creature that is treated as a real threat rather than cannon fodder to be inevitably stopped by an EVA. Sure, you run through a bunch of giant monster tropes ("Our military firepower is useless!"), but it doesn't diminish the danger. From the very first episode, Evangelion is a show with stakes.
The EVA Units Going Berserk
As soon as you see an EVA unit go "berserk" for the first time, it's pretty much affirmed that Evangelion isn't an ordinary "mech" show. And while I love a good Gundam, there's just something awe-inspiring and terrifying and uncomfortable about watching an uncontrollable EVA unit. I won't spoil exactly why they go berserk for those that haven't watched the show, but just know that it makes the whole thing waaaaay sadder.
Unit-00 and Unit-01's Team-Up
I may be biased here, but thanks to stuff like Godzilla and Dragon Ball Z, I love anything that features a giant laser. Whether it's a long-lasting laser or it's being struck by another giant laser, I'm for it. And that's why the scene in Episode 6, when the Unit-00 has to shield the Unit-01 so that 01 can get off a shot at an Angel, is so great to me. The shield is warping and the Unit-00 seems to be melting from the sheer heat and intensity of the blast. But it (and Rei) stays strong and allows Shinji to deliver the final blow to the Angel. Perfection. I want to get it tattooed on my chest.
The Activation of Jet Alone
You know what I love more than giant lasers, though? Plotlines where some idiot boss is like "My robot/monster/soldier is ten times more effective than your robot/monster/soldier, Protagonist. Allow me to demonstrate!" and then the New Coke of robots/monsters/soldiers ends up making a mess of everything. There's a little plot twist with this one, also, but hearing bad guys yell "We've lost control of it! We can't stop it!" is basically ASMR to me.
Misato in the Jet Alone
Misato Katsuragi is the most underrated Evangelion character, so I'm always glad to revisit the part where she has to go into the Jet Alone in order to shut it down. It's a tense scene that shows that no one handles her business (or her beer) better than Best Human Katsuragi.
The Underwater Angel Attack
Episode 8 features an attack in the sea by an Angel and Episode 10 features a tussle in a volcano with an Angel. However, I give my vote to the ocean adventure, mainly because it a) Ends with them cramming two ships into the mouth of a monster and blowing it up, and b) Doesn't involve the "Hey, this random science lesson I learned at the beginning of the episode comes into play in the climax!" trope, and c) Is the closest thing to Jaws that Evangelion gets. And every work of art, whether it's an anime or a song or a finger-painted mural, should aspire to be Jaw.
The Double Team Ballet
Shinji and Asuka syncing up and taking down an Angel in unison is probably my favorite scene in the entire series. It's a beautiful display of action choreography and is the reason that I decided to write this list in the first place.
Angel in the Machine
I probably would've been happy if every Angel was some kind of titanic beast, but I'm glad that Anno went out of his way to give them a bunch of different forms and therefore increase the variety of threats. When an Angel infects NERV's computer network, a whole new crisis emerges: Since these people are so reliant on their technology, what's gonna happen when their technology turns on them?
Shinji Bursts from Leliel
There's a lot of heavy stuff in Episode 16. It is a roller coaster of traumatic events and it includes a lot of screaming and sobbing. So basically, it's your average episode in the second half of Evangelion. That said, the image of Unit-01 tearing itself from the inside of the Angel Leliel and unleashing a roar of madness is iconic to me. It also signals that all of the triumph — the taking down of various Angels, the working-together stuff — was almost a fake-out. From here, the show begins to spiral in the best and most heart-wrenching of ways.
The Horror of the EVA Neon Genesis Evangelion
Both Episode 18 and 19 end with us being absolutely terrified of& the robo-mascot of the show. Gone are any hints that this series might be working its way toward a typical ending where we learn that the EVA units are actually a 100% morally perfect idea and that it's just people that can be jerks. Instead, we find out yet again that these EVAs are savage, whether they're being controlled by one person, a bunch of scientists and engineers, or....well, I won't spoil it.
Basically, the EVA vs EVA and EVA vs Angel violence in these two episodes is top notch and a cruel reminder that maybe you should've bought Gundam Wing from the "Japanimation" section of Suncoast Video after all.