The year is 2015 and humanity is being attacked by mysterious beings called the "Angels". The NERV agency is founded to develop bio-mechanical giants called Evangelion to battle the angel threat. Evangelions are based on the genetic pattern of "Adam". (the first Angel?) and can only be piloted by a child who is born 9 months after the mysterious meteor impact which destroyed half the human population.
|Shinji Ikari -- Japanese high school boy, pilot of Eva-01, son of Gendou|
|Misato Katsuragi -- Head Commander in Operation at NERV, mentor of Shinji|
|Rei Ayanami -- clone of Shinji's mother, ward of Shinji's father, pilot of Eva-00|
|Gendou Ikari -- Chief Commander at NERV, he was thought to have married Shinji's mother, a researcher, to gain access to her Evangelion technology|
|Souryu Asuka Langley -- German-Japanese biracial girl, pilot of Eva-02|
|Suzuhara Touji -- Pilot of EVA-03, classmate of Shinji, Asuka and Rei. Friend of Shinji, dislikes Asuka|
|Kaworu Nagisa -- Pilot replacement for EVA-02, the 17th Angel|
|Kaji Ryouji -- Double agent for Japanese Government and NERV, Misato's ex-boyfriend|
There are numerous shots of nude female figures. In the end trailer of each episode audiences are treated to a spinning silhouette of a naked Rei for quite a few minutes.
We get to see frequent close up shots of Misato's breasts and hips and Asuka's butt. There is also a sex scene between Misato and Kaji.
Kaworu, the child intended to replace Asuka as Eva-02's pilot, appears towards the end of the series. He is slender and charming, always smiling, with pale gray-blue hair and red eyes. Shinki gasps when Kaworu puts his hand on Shinji's hand while they were sitting naked in the shower. Later, Shinji blushes while looking at Kaworu sleeping across from him. Kaworu turns out to be the final Angel. He is killed by Shinji during a gruesome scene in which Eva-01, piloted by Shinji, snaps Kaworu's head off.
Evangelion is basically a teenage boy's sexual fantasy riding the genre of high tech anime. In one scene, Shinji accidentally falls on top of a naked Rei who has just walked out of the shower. When Asuka and Shinji have to share a room, he lies down next to her, his face 2 inches from hers, after he thinks she has fallen asleep. In another scene, Asuka forces Shinji to kiss her. In yet another scene, Rei and Shinji collide on the way to school, exposing Rei's panties.
The finality and horror of the implicitly gay Kaworu's fate contrasts harshly with these male-fantasy-focused heterosexual encounters, all of which have no negative consequences.
It seems a coincidence that Evangelion is full of Biblical/Christian references, from the cross Misato wears (a gift from her father) to a diagram of the Sefirot (from Jewish Kabbalah) in the starting trailer of each Evangelion episode. The trinity of NERV supercomputers is called the Magi, and the names of 2 of the supercomputers are Melchior and Belteshazzar (both Biblical names)
The writer of Evangelion seems to be obsessed with Judeo-Christianity and sex, and unfortunately does not actually address the issues, but rather, combines them in a conflicted manner.
The issue yours truly has here is not with teenage boys' sexual awakenings. Tenchi Muyo, another alien technology anime about a teenage boy surrounded by attractive females, has much fun with teen sexuality without resorting to a hypocritical mix of homophobia and biblical references.
Kaworu is not the kind of character that would be created by a homophobic writer. His actions are neither lustful nor overbearing; he showed his attraction to Shinji with gentle affection. The way that attraction was treated, not as a joke but as a sincere expression of love, shows a fundamental maturity by the creators in the handling of this relationship. He comes across to the viewer as profoundly innocent, with selflessness that is all the more noble simply because he is unaware of it.
The fact that Shinji responds to Kaworu's kindness with a kind of surprised embarrassment (not, I might add, with displeasure or revulsion) is simply a function of his character.
Here is a boy who is, as you say, awakening to his own sexuality, but whose only experiences with physical contact have been awkward (Rei) or forced (Asuka). His sexually dysfunctional caretaker Misato is incapable of giving him the stability he needs, and his fellow Eva pilots treat him with either open ridicule or icy aloofness. That, coupled with his mother's death and his father's chilling disregard for him have left him an emotional eunuch. Perversely, he still reaches out, but he does it with the knowledge that he'll be slapped away.
When he finds open kindness in Kaworu, Shinji gets a reprieve from the horror around him, a chance to heal. But in the end he sacrifices his friend, the only person he really loved, to save a world that never cared for him. The brutality of Kaworu's death only makes his choice more harshly ironic, his devastation all the more real. Kaworu is by no means a throwaway character.
I agree with you that the Christian overtones are rather superficial, but Evangelion contains greater spiritual themes. As a young student of Eastern religions, I can tell you that Eva has a philosophical base that shows itself fully only in the later episodes.
The series touched on many of the spiritual issues that I have faced along my own path, such as the loss of identity in the face of nothingness, the limitations we place upon ourselves in our fear of absolute freedom, and the dualistic nature of the soul. I'll admit I found many of the sexual scenes in Evangelion unnecessary, and lending nothing to the plot, but I'm willing to forgive them because of what the series became for me.
Tenchi Muyo was "fun." Tenchi in Tokyo delved a bit deeper into the storyline, but I think you'll agree that the series was mostly about antics, one-shot bits that worked for what it was shooting for - a comedy. Evangelion started out fun, and I think that many fans wanted the "smash 'em up" shounen mechafest that it promised at the beginning. When Eva became a much different beast, I'm sure it made many fans uncomfortable. At times it was silly, at times poignant, at times brutal. Episode 25 was an entire half hour devoted to the psychological torture of the characters, for God's sake. Personally, I liked the ride. I'm sorry you didn't. The fact that you linked to Eva fan sites shows you're open-minded, and I respect that, but to say that the series was simply "a teenage boy's sexual fantasy riding the genre of high tech anime" is unfair.
My own opinion on the controversy is that yes, Shinji and Kaoru were in love. Shinji blushes at points (classic shounen sign of romantic interest), and is even more paranoid about Kaoru than he is about people in general. I will admit, however, that the word "koui" (good will) is often misheard as "koi" (love), basically meaning Shinji deserves to be treated better. Kaoru says similar things to Rei.
Either way, the only thing relevant to the discussion is that Kaoru/Tabris let Shinji kill him primarily because he couldn't imagine a life without Shinji. Shinji had to sacrifice the only person who cared for him to save a world that didn't.
The girls' sexuality, Misato's in particular, seems to be a parody of fanservice common in shonen anime. Basically, a lot of shonen anime will have boys just entering puberty interacting closely with busty twenty-somethings who seem to have a pedophilic bent.
As for the Judeo-Christian influences, it plays rather loose with them, a la Xena with Greek mythology.