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15 Times Neon Genesis Evangelion Was Too Disturbing For Its Own Good

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Neon Genesis Evangelion is a mecha anime far more concerned with the psychology of its characters than skyscraper-sized battles. The series deconstructs its casts’ traumas while subjecting them to ever-escalating torment and investigating the pain that comes with human connection.

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On top of this existential pain, Neon Genesis Evangelion is also quite brutal. The anime’s acts of aggression aren’t simple cartoon violence, but rather they’re bloody depictions that are visceral and frightening. All of this contributes to quite the chilling picture. Evangelion isn’t just a memorable anime experience, but one that will give its viewers nightmares they won’t soon forget.

Updated January 8, 2023 by Daniel Kurland: Neon Genesis Evangelion has achieved a legendary status where its reputation is known even by those who aren’t anime fans. Evangelion proves itself to be far more than a standard mecha, shonen, or action series and its depiction of nihilism and depression is still largely unparalleled in animation. Evangelion forces characters to face unconventional monsters and wrestle with their own existence. Neon Genesis Evangelion literally sends its characters to the end of the world and back, but there are certain sequences that truly go above and beyond when it comes to unsettling circumstances.

15/15 The Japanese Strategic Self Defense Force’s Raid On NERV

The JSSDF raid NERV and corner Shinji in Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion focuses so much on the carnage from Angels and Evangelion that it’s always jarring when humanity turns on itself and becomes its own worst enemy. End of Evangelion has a chilling sequence where the Japanese Strategic Self Defense Force, in conjunction with the UN, performs a raid on NERV and begins coldly executing employees.

Soldiers gunning down employees, many of whom were likely oblivious to NERV’s wicked ways, is harder to watch than any mecha battle. This sterile sweeping act establishes a grim tone for what’s to come.

14/15 Naoko Akagi Abuses Rei When She Insults Her Ego

Naoko strangles Rei through silhouette in Neon Genesis Evangelion

There are quite a few fragile egos in Evangelion’s cast and it’s fascinating to see how Rei Ayanami is n a triggering figure for several generations of NERV employees. Ritsuko exhibits jealousy towards both Gendo and Rei, but a flashback reveals that her mother Naoko went through the same thing.

There’s an exchange between the first Rei and Naoko where the young girl essentially voices Naoko’s inner doubts that Gendo is no longer interested in her. Rei calls Naoko an “old hag” and she responds by strangling the child, which is an exceptionally dark visual.

13/15 Asuka’s Visions Of Decomposition

A vision of Asuka's rotting corpse in Neon Genesis Evangelion

End of Evangelion is one of the darker conclusions in anime and the movie is full of hidden animated flourishes that are meant to subconsciously disturb and get under the audience’s skin. It makes the movie an even more atmospheric experience.

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Several scary sequences are punctuated with flashes of erratic visuals and one of the most effective examples of this is Asuka’s visions of her own rotting corpse during the final moments of her life. Asuka’s mantra of “I don’t want to die” becomes even more depressing when it’s juxtaposed with this tragic premonition.

12/15 Misato Explodes Before Her Goodbye To Shinji

Misato's body explores along with NERV headquarters in Neon Genesis Evangelion

The complicated relationship between Misato and Shinji evolves in some profound ways by the end of Neon Genesis Evangelion. In End of Evangelion, Misato seems to finally be able to view Shinji as an adult as she says goodbye to him and tries to give him the confidence to go on since she won’t be able to help him any longer.

Their goodbye is already bittersweet, but the departure is followed by NERV’s destruction and Misato’s death. While it’s not gratuitous, there are a few frames of animation where Misato’s body can be seen getting torn apart. This may be a realistic touch, but it’s still devastating.

11/15 Shinji’s Visions Of Rei During The Armisael Assault

Armisael infects Rei and creates vein abominations in Neon Genesis Evangelion

One of the main reasons that Neon Genesis Evangelion successfully elevates itself over other mecha series is that the antagonistic Angels have incredibly unconventional designs and even more unpredictable attack patterns. Armisael gets under Shinji’s skin figuratively and literally and this whole invasion is a disturbing sight.

The apex of all of this weirdness is when the bulging veins transform into miniature versions of Rei who engage in existentially dreadful conversations with Shinji. All of Armisael’s haunting depictions of Rei are nightmarish in their own ways.

10/15 Eva Unit-01 Devours The Angel, Zeruel

Eva Unit-01 eats Zeruel in Neon Genesis Evangelion

Episode 19 of Neon Genesis Evangelion chronicles Shinji’s attempted retirement. However, a pep talk from Kaji and witnessing the latest Angel, Zeruel, attack makes Shinji return to his pilot roots. Zeruel seems to have the upper hand until Unit-01 goes berserk. The EVA regrows an arm that Zeruel sliced off, but then proceeds to consume the Angel to prove its superiority.

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This confirms the EVA’s bio-mechanical nature and that their outer appearance is not armor, but rather a form of restraint. Now, the chains are unbound. In the next episode, the EVA is back under NERV’s control and its flesh is again concealed by bandages. However, its single, horrifying green eye stares directly into the screen to remind audiences of the truth.

9/15 Shinji Is Absorbed By The Angel Leliel

The Angel Leliel looms over the city in Neon Genesis Evangelion

It’s only in Evangelion’s second half that the show goes from “conventional, if character-centered, mecha anime” to “psychological/cosmic horror hybrid.” Episode 16 is one of the markers of this shift. Shinji gets absorbed by the 12th Angel, Leliel, and the Angel communicates with him in a chilling manner.

This surreal sequence, one of many to come in Evangelion, explores Shinji’s painful backstory, particularly his mother’s fate, and his psychology. Leliel notes that there are “many Shinjis,” which is a reference to the Shinji in his own mind as well as how he is perceived by others. It’s the latter that Shinji really fears. This insight into the human condition prematurely ends after EVA-01 tears Leliel open from the inside in an eruption of blood.

8/15 Shinji Is Forced To Execute Kaworu

Shini in Eva Unit-01 crushes Kaworu in Neon Genesis Evangelion

Alienated from all his friends, Shinji meets Kaworu, a new EVA pilot. Kaworu is kind towards Shinji and he finds himself charmed by his unusual new friend. This relationship even blossoms beyond friendship and Shinji gets a taste of normalcy for once in his fragile life.

This all turns out to be too good to be true and Kaworu is actually Tabris, the 17th Angel, who Shinji must kill in order to prevent the Third Impact. Kaworu doesn’t even die as an enemy. Due to Kaworu’s love for humanity, he decides to die so that Lilith’s children may survive. The visual where EVA-01 holds Kaworu lasts for a single excruciating minute, but it feels like it lasts for a lifetime.

7/15 The Battle Against Bardiel

Bardiel fights Eva Unit-01 in Rebuild of Evangelion

Episode 18 of Neon Genesis Evangelion is another turning point for the series. Toji, one of Shinji’s few friends, is selected as the pilot for the third EVA unit. Unfortunately, the unit is possessed by the 13th Angel, Bardiel. With Misato injured during Bardiel’s awakening, Gendo takes direct command of the mission.

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Gendo Ikari’s ruthlessness is on full display here once he orders Bardiel destroyed with no regard for Toji or his son’s accompanying refusal to harm an innocent pilot. Gendo has Shinji and Unit-01’s connection severed. Shinji can only watch as his EVA tears apart the other and crushes the entry plug. Shinji loses a little bit of himself when he later sees a crippled Toji after the battle is over.

6/15 Rei Meets Her End & Her True Nature Comes To Light

All of Rei's clones gathered together before destruction in Neon Genesis Evangelion

The 16th Angel, Armisael, infects EVA-00 and Rei within it. To defeat it, Rei sacrifices herself through the detonation of her EVA. Rei is presumed to be dead, only to later turn up alive. The reason for this miracle is revealed when Ritsuko takes Misato and Shinji to the lowest levels of NERV.

“Rei” is actually the soul of Lilith, which has been planted inside a clone of Yui Ikari. Many “Reis” are held inside a tank as soulless backup bodies in case the current Rei dies. Ritsuko, jealous of Gendo’s affection for Rei, destroys the remaining clones. The blissfully unaware laughter of these Rei clones as they’re blown to pieces is haunting.

5/15 Asuka Takes On The Mass Production EVA Series

Asuka struggles to fight back against the Angel's infection in Neon Genesis Evangelion

Asuka’s graphic assault with the Mass Production EVA Series is without a doubt Evangelion‘s most disturbing battle. Asuka realizes that her mother’s soul is inside EVA-02 and that it’s been protecting her. A reinvigorated Asuka only has five minutes of power left, which she uses to go berserk on the nine Mass Production EVAs.

Asuka has the advantage until the fight’s final moments when her EVA’s AT-Field gets punctured by a Lance Of Longinus replica. With her EVA out of power and her opponents regenerated, the Mass Production EVA Units descend on Asuka and her Evangelion like a flock of vultures that are tearing apart a meal. Asuka defiantly reaches to the sky, repeating “I’ll Kill You,” until the Mass Production EVAs finish the job by impaling her with the remainder of their Lances.

4/15 Shinji’s Visit To Asuka In The Hospital

Shinji looks down on Asuka in the hospital in Neon Genesis Evangelion

Shinji visits Asuka in the hospital after he’s traumatized by his killing of Kaworu and doesn’t know who else he can turn towards. Asuka is equally fragile after she inflicts harm on herself and is in the hospital for observation. Shinji struggles with being alone and not having Asuka to chastise him, which triggers some inappropriate feelings.

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Shinji gets caught up with juvenile thoughts that leave him thoroughly disgusted with himself and how he’s acted in this depressing scenario. It’s one of the most difficult moments to watch in all of Neon Genesis Evangelion.

3/15 Third Impact Goes Into Motion

A giant Rei forms once Third Impact begins in Neon Genesis Evangelion

The End Of Evangelion has some of the most beautiful, yet startling, imagery ever committed to an anime film. Rei merges with Lilith and Adam alike to become a giant, goddess-like being that ushers in humanity’s destruction and rebirth. Shinji and Unit-01 are reformed into the Tree of Life and the stage is properly set for Third Impact. What follows rests on Shinji’s shoulders, who defiantly declares that everyone might as well perish since nobody cares whether he lives or dies.

What follows is pure destruction on an unprecedented scale. Rei/Lilith ascends to the size of a planet, recalls all humanity’s souls, and dissolves their bodies into endless LCL fluid. It’s impossible to list every bit of horror in this apocalyptic sequence, but what deserves special praise is the score. “Komm, Süsser Tod,” a masterpiece of musical dissonance, becomes the soundtrack for the end of all things.

2/15 Arael Violates Asuka’s Mind

Asuka gets lost in her mind from Arael in Neon Genesis Evangelion

Asuka accomplishes a lot of good in Neon Genesis Evangelion, but she can’t catch a break by the end of the anime. Episode 22 of Evangelion features the 15th Angel, Arael, who invades Asuka’s mind and forces her to relive all her most painful, repressed memories. This includes Asuka’s raw insecurity about her identity and the unprocessed tragedy that befell her mother.

Asuka’s internal thoughts grow even more toxic once Rei enters her subconscious. It’s Rei who defeats Arael and ends this torture, which just leaves Asuka feeling helpless and indebted to her rival. This marks the end of Asuka’s abrasive, cocky attitude that defines her during the start of the series.

1/15 Shinji & Asuka’s Heart-To-Heart On The Shore

Shinji and Asuka on the shore at the finish of End of Evangelion

The broadcast ending to Neon Genesis Evangelion is surreal and unconventional, but it at least manages to be optimistic about the future of humanity. Shinji recognizes his self-worth and all of his friends and family congratulate this confident decision. It’s a strange but ultimately happy conclusion. End of Evangelion instead immerses the audience in hopelessness.

End of Evangelion is bleak in every regard, but its final moments feature Shinji and Asuka, alone together, as they face Third Impact’s apocalyptic despair. Shinji responds with aggressive violence whereas Asuka finally gives him some much-needed affection. Asuka offers Shinji acceptance, only to retract it with her final assessment that he’s in fact “disgusting.” End of Evangelion leaves them both broken and bare.

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