The world is on the brink of destruction following the landing of the Angels, massive monsters that want nothing more than to kill and destroy. The only hope lies with the select few that can pilot government agency Nerv’s special Evangelion-type mechs. The pilot must be compatible in order to pilot the Evangelions, and for Nerv leader, Gendo Ikari, one of those compatible few is his son, Shinji. With the fate of mankind on his shoulders and fights that often mean death for the pilots, is 14-year-old Shinji up to the task?
Have you finally exhausted all the movies and remakes of Hideki Anno’s journey through gradual depression that is Neon Genesis Evangelion? Then these anime recommendations will be right up your alley.
For Fans of Psychological Food for Thought
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Madoka Kaname is just a normal middle school girl. However, one day she and her friend Sayaka Miki meet a mysterious creature called Kyuubey. This cute creature makes the girls an offer: become a magical girl and fight witches, and he will grant them each one wish. Sayaka accepts, but Madoka needs to time consider her wish; however, she is warned by new transfer student Homura Akemi to not accept Kyuubey’s offer.
In both anime series, young people fight beings they don’t understand, for reasons they don’t quite understand, and the suffering in the story progresses at a steady pace until things completely break and become a surreal mindfuck. Whereas Neon Genesis Evangelion maintains a certain steady darkness throughout, Madoka Magica gradually changes from its light-hearted moe to headache-inducing psychology.
Serial Experiments Lain
Introverted Lain Iwakura finds herself one of many girls to receive an e-mail from classmate Chisa Yomoda, even though Chisa Yomoda recently committed suicide. Averse to technology, Lain soon finds herself able to enter the Wired, a network system similar to the internet. From there, her life gets turned upside down as she finds herself the target of mysterious men and mixed up in a series of cryptic mysteries.
Unlike Neon Genesis Evangelion, which doesn’t seem particularly deep at first, Serial Experiments Lain starts off deep and psychological and only getting more intricate as the plot unfolds. While Lain can be a bit slow and dry, if you want thought-provoking, you won’t find a series that can really throw down thought bombs.
After the explosion of the methane hydrate layer, humanity was forced into a select few domed cities where society is strictly controlled. To assist humanity, autonomous robots called AutoReivs were spread throughout the cities. Enter Re-L Mayer, granddaughter of the regent, and charged with investigating a series of cases in which the AutoReivs have gone haywire. In her investigation she comes in contact with a mysterious monster called Proxy. After meeting a man called Vincent Law that was blamed for several of the incidents, the pair strike out across the wasteland to unravel the mysteries of the Cogito Virus.
Both series have an post-apocalyptic setting in which the main characters must fight something that threatens humanity. Both Shinji and Re-l explore existential conflicts in unique ways while maintaining a distinctly dark tone overall.
For Fans of Angst
Knights of Sidonia
After our solar system was ravaged by an invasive alien race called the Gauna, humanity retreated into the depths of space in space stations. Since then, it has been a thousand years of wandering, but the Gauna have found humanity once again. In their darkest hours, a man called Nagate Tanikaze comes from the depths of the ship to strike back at the aliens to fight for humanity’s survival.
Like Neon Genesis Evangelion, the focus of Knights of Sidonia is on character development rather than mech battles. That being said, when mechs do battle, they are both fighting an enemy that they don’t understand, but is gradually unraveled throughout the series.
After the nation was ravaged by the Apocalypse Virus, a strict organization called the GHQ took over. Now, a guerrilla group called Funeral Parlor fights to take their country back. Enter, Inori Yuzuriha, a member of Funeral parlor who obtains the mysterious Power of Kings that allows him to draw out and wield the manifestations of an individual’s personality, or “voids.”
While Guilty Crown does not feature mechs, the voids are essentially little more than tools. Like with pilots and their Evangelions, the voids will feel the pain of battle, which essentially lends to much of Guilty Crown’s innate angst.
For Fans of Mecha Action
Lelouch Lamperouge is a prince exiled from Britannia to the small Area 11, formerly Japan. However, one day when he finds himself in the crossfire between two armies, he is able to escape due to the appearance of a mysterious girl named C.C. She bestows upon him the power of Geass, one that forces absolute obedience in those who look into his eyes. From there, Lelouch will rock a nation.
At a glance, Code Geass and Neon Genesis Evangelion seem to have nothing in common other than mechs. Particularly when it comes to the main characters, Shinji being weak and irritating, Lelouch being strong and
slightly crazy highly intelligent. However, both anime are deep, but differ in philosophy. By exploring the psychology behind the users and philosophy of the world, both anime series also elevated the mecha genre.
Renton seeks a life of adventure, but his grandfather’s insistence that he becomes a mechanic keeps him firmly planted at home. His only escape is a pastime that rides Trapar wave particles in the air akin to surfing. One day, adventure literally crashes into his house in the form of a Light Finding Operation piloted by a mysterious girl named Eureka. As a member of the mercenary group Gekkostate, Renton suddenly finds himself intertwined in a whole new life.
Eureka Seven shows a lot of influence from Neon Genesis Evangelion, but the story line and characters make it feel different enough. Both story lines feature main characters that are forced to grow and develop, for good or bad, by the circumstances they are put in. While Eureka Seven has its moments, it is typically a little brighter.
In the distance future, huge, insect-like aliens have swarmed the galaxy. Not long after the first battles, the young Noriko Takaya enters training to become a space pilot after her father’s fleet was destroyed with no survivors. Although her skills as a pilot are questionable, Noriko persists, fighting to overcome trauma, the doubts of her peers, and her own lack of confidence.
Gunbuster was Hideki Anno’s masterpiece before he made Neon Genesis Evangelion, so naturally viewers can see a lot of similarities. While Shinji and Noriko couldn’t be more different in every aspect, they are both put into progressively dark circumstances throughout the series. Gunbuster is actually made more devastating by how happy it starts out.
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
After finding an object that turns out to be the ignition key for an artifact of war, reckless Kamina and timid Simon fend off an attack on their underground village. Getting their first glimpses of the world above, the duo set off on a journey fighting enemies and unraveling a galaxy-sized mystery.
Imagine Neon Genesis Evangelion if Shinji manned up and got in the fucking robot, beat every enemy in his path, and handled emotional situations like a well-adjusted person. That would be Gurren Lagann.
After aliens invaded the earth, the residents of Tokyo thought their city was the only one left. However, when forces from outside the city attack, the citizens, including Kamina Ayato, realize how wrong they were. With help from his mysterious friend Mishima Reika, Ayato awakens RahXephon, a giant mecha with awe-inspiring abilities and breaks through the dome that covers Tokyo. Outside, he discovers that the world is very much alive, and needs his help.
RahXephon tends to be another mecha anime that is labelled “NGE 2,” if not only because Neon Genesis Evangelion is the anime to which we hold all others to in the genre. While both deal with psychology and philosophy, NGE dives deep while RahXephon takes more time to develop its romance and harem themes.
Have your own recommendations for anime series like Neon Genesis Evangelion? Tell us about it in the comments section below.