Religious Symbolism in Neon Genesis Evangelion Explained - Anime Jinsei

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Religious Symbolism in Neon Genesis Evangelion Explained

Apocalypse is known for its Impact. The firepower used could wipe a small country off the map. There are no weapons of mass destruction only weapons of mass salvation. The pilots of robots are kids with deep-sided psychological problems. The robots bleed. Welcome to the world of Hideaki Anno's Neon Genesis Evangelion

shinji ikari and asuka langley soryu

The 18th Angel 

In the beginning, there was a god-like being who split into two: Adam and Lilith. From Adam came Angels, from Lilith came Man, the Lilim. The offspring of Adam and the offspring of Lilith know that there will be a final "day of judgment" but there are two possibilities: the offspring adjudged as a whole or adjudged individually. 

If, for example, an Angel were to unite with Adam, from whence he came, the offspring will be adjudged individually. If, for example, an Angel were to unite with Lilith, this would trigger a reversal wherein Adam and Lilith would reunite as one, assimilating their offspring, and everyone will be adjudged as a whole, devoid of pain and suffering. 

Some of the offspring of Lilith believed that being adjudged as one entity devoid of pain and suffering is better than being adjudged individually. Some of the Lilim then set forth to control variables to achieve this end. 

They found Adam in Antarctica, tried to control him, succeeded in reverting him to his embryonic form, and in the process, unleashed the Second Impact which melted the polar icecaps, killed billions, and awaked the sleeping Angel from their slumber. 

There was indeed the First Impact and it had the same results, the melting of ice, a sort of purification by water. This happened when Adam and Lilith split into two entities. 

The organization NERV (formally Gehim) was founded by a higher organization called SEELE supposedly to prevent a catastrophic Third Impact from happening. They are there to prevent any of the awakened Angels from merging with "Adam" whom they housed in Central Dogma beyond Heaven's Door beneath GeoFront, which is the NERV headquarters. 

In order to achieve this end, Evangelions were created. Evangelions are giant clones of Adam who can only be controlled by pilots born after the Second Impact. These giants bleed. Unbeknownst to them, they are all mere pawns in a game of salvation. 

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Bringing about the Third Impact is in a game of salvation. Bringing about the Third Impact is the end result of SEELE's Human Instrumentality Project (also often referred to as Instrumentality or Human Complementation Plan). 

The duty of overseeing NERV belonged to Gendo Ikari. The business of administering to the computerized system called MAGI and other technological matters belonged to Ritsuko Akagi. The charge of military operations, security, caring for Evangelions and pilots fell on Misato Katsuragi. The responsibility of piloting the Evas rests on the shoulders of the Children. 

the pilots of neon genesis evangelion

The First Children is the impassive Rei Ayanami, actually, a clone of Gendo Ikari's wife Yui combined with Angel DNA. The Second Children is the brash Asuka Langley Soryu. The Third Children is Gendo's own son Shinji, whom he abandoned at an early age. 

Add to the mix Gendo's right-hand man, the upright Kozo Fuyutsuki, brazen double agent Ryoji Kaji and SEELE's Keel Lorenz. They all played major roles in this theatrical redemption but, in the end, the fate of humanity rested in the hands of a sniveling 14-year-old boy named Shinji Ikari. 

After the Children, with their Evas, defeated all the 17 Angels as depicted in prophecy, SEELE unleashed unto NERV an adversary they were unprepared for, a human army. With the back of the NERV personnel against heaven's door, SEELE released its more potent weapons: S-series Evas without Children pilots. 

The S-series Evas tore Asuka and Eva-02 to shreds while Gendo Ikari, who had ingested Adam, led Rei to Lilith to initialize the Third Impact. Rei returned home to Lilith just as Shinji and his Eva-01 witnessed the horror that happened to Asuka. The Third Impact had begun. The offspring of Lilith are the 18th Angel. 


A lot has been said about the religious preferences in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Here are some of them. 

kaworu nagisa and rei ayanami splitting

Adam and Lilith 

People point to a real-life First Impact in the form of a giant meteorite colliding with the Earth about 60 million years ago (some peg the value as 400 million years ago), melting the polar icecaps and annihilating the dinosaurs. 

In Evangelion, the First Impact was supposedly the splitting of the giant Adam-Lilith being. As most of us know, Adam is the name referred to as the first man in Judeo-Christian religions. 

Though not an angel, he was the first human, created by God in his own image. He also fell from grace when partook of the fruit of the forbidden tree of knowledge. Most accounts point to Eve as Adam's wife. 

Besides "Eve", the term "Evangelion" may also find its etymology in "Evangel", another word for gospel. Numerous other accounts however point to Eve, not as the first wife of Adam. 

Supposedly, Adam's first wife was too hideous to look at and was cast away, Lilith was his second wife made from the same earth, but Adam became quite uncomfortable with Lilith as she was too headstrong, not loyal to him as a mate and she would not accept the subservience required of her by Adam. Eve was his third wife taken from his own rib. 

Some account point to Lilith as meeting Cain (the son of Adam and Eve who also slew his brother Abel) and they gave rise to humanity. Other accounts also point to Lilith as a Mesopotamian night demon, bent on destroying children or making them have nocturnal emissions. Other accounts have intimated that Lilith copulated with Lucifer and they gave rise to a horde of demons and monsters. 

Angels in Evangelion are actual names of religious angels 

Angels are often described as intermediaries between God and man. They are spiritual being made by God to be his attendants and messengers. In most religions, angels even have hierarchies. The portrayal of angels is either the kind and gentle guardian who watches over man or the "fear not" variety as portrayed in the Old Testament. 

The depiction of Angels in Evangelion may be disturbing to some, innovative to others. It might be crucial to note that the original Japanese anime called Shito which translates more accurately to "disciple" or "apostle". It was Director Hideaki Anno's idea for them to be called Angels in the English version for it to have the desired effect. 

One piece of trivia, look into any angel database and you'll be surprised to find that some of the names of Angels in Evangelion are actual names of religious angels, Tabris, Fifth Children Kaworu Nagisa's name as the 17th angel, is listed as an angel of the sixth hour who presides over free will, self-determination, choice, and alternatives. 

Ritsuko's computer named MAGI

Ritsuko's computer named MAGI 

The computer used by Ritsuko Akagi is named MAGI. The Magi is composed of three processors: MELCHIOR-1, BALTHASAR-2, and CASPER-3, they contain the transplanted thought pattern of Naoko Akagi (Ritsuko's mother) as a scientist, a mother, and a woman respectively. 

In Biblical and Persian beliefs, the Magi are three wise men, sometimes kings, who foresaw the birth of Christ. Their names are usually referred to as Melchor, Gaspar, and Balthasar. 

The Spear of Longinus piercing Asuka Langley Soryu

The Spear of Longinus 

The Spear of Longinus was used in Evangelion to impale Lilith on a gigantic cross. Copies of it were used by the S-series Eva. It was an invaluable link in Instrumentality. The real spear doesn't appear in the Bible but is known in lore as the one used by a Roman guard named Longinus to pierce the side of Christ. Also known as the Spear of Destiny, it was once rumored to have sought by Adolf Hitler to further his cause. 


Speaking of the time of Christ, Keel Lorenz is thought to be the "Wandering Jew" who was cursed with immortality. Maybe that was his motivation for initiating Instrumentality. Also, mention was made of the Guff, the container of souls. 

It is said that once the Guff is empty and a child is born without a soul or with a soul but one that is recycled, the end of the world is near. In the timeframe of the anime, the Guff was already empty, think along the lines of Rei and the dummy plugs. 

Stigmata and The Eyes of God 

The bloody wounds that appear on Shinji's hands simulate that of stigmata wounds on people that are said to be deliverers of sacred messages to humankind. They represent the wounds Jesus Christ received during his crucifixion. The Mask of SEELE which covered Lilith's face is said to represent the seven eyes of God. 

evangelion sephiroth


The drawing which appears on Gendo's office and also when Shinji was surrounded by the S-series Evas is the Sephiroth. It is a graph of symbols consisting of 10 circles and 22 paths tracing its roots from Cabalistic tradition. The Sephiroth supposedly shows the route for a human to attain the highest spiritual level and be nearer to God. It is also known as the Tree of Knowledge. 

The Savior 

One question that may come up is who was the savior in Neon Genesis Evangelion? Was it Shinji who held the fate of the world in his hands? Was it Rei who kept coming back from the dead? Or was it the selfless Misato who bore wounds similar to that of Christ? Your guess is as good as mine. 

We can, however, breathe a sigh of relief that we made it past September 13, 2000, the date of the Second Impact. We can also take solace in the passage that appears on NERV's logo, which came from Robert Browning's Song From Pippa Passes: "God's in his heaven. All's right with the world." 

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