Neon Genesis Evangelion's signs suffer greatly.
I learned about the series from one of my colleagues back in my LucasArts days. I had seen some mecha anime, but nothing like Neon Genesis Evangelion . On the surface it seemed to hit a lot of tropical control with a frustrated young pilot, Shinji Ikari, who is essentially a select who saves the world. But right from the moment it started and I heard Ikari screaming from the pilot seat, I realized I was in a world of pain.
There is a titanic battle with these monstrous goliaths, referred to as angels seeking either a reunion with their father, Adam or a resetting of all Life with the other angel, Lilith (honestly, every time I read online to find out what happens, I become both more fascinated and more confused). The mystical, historical and scientific blend into one another to create a completely fascinating but coinciding myth that draws on all the religions of the world. It is mecha act with a spiritual message that incorporates metaphysics and ontological issues of existence while juggling the mental health of its characters.
The pilots are not heroes in the traditional sense, and these mechas are more like mechanized animals. Part of it is because EVA-01, which Shinji pilots, has a soul in the one who sometimes goes crazy and has a mind for himself. Both EVA and the pilot go through hell just to make them move and it is scary to see their interactions. No episode would be complete without Shinji screaming in fear. The adults feel a little bad, rub their teeth, and let the kids continue to keep their suffering since it is the survival of humanity at stake here. In pursuit of that goal, everyone is willing to do anything. It's a brutal truth, and we accept as viewers with every episode, even though we crawl at the punishment that the characters unfold.
In many ways, the sixth episode "Showdown in Tokyo-3" indicated what makes the series so fascinating.
The opening of the episode begins with a recap of where the last ended; The fifth angel, Ramiel, attacks Shinji's EVA and perforates EVA's armor with its deadly jet powered by an inner torus reactor. An octahedron in appearance, Ramiel is essentially two reflective pyramids stacked on top of each other at the base. It has one of the strongest Absolute Terror (A.T.) fields among the angels, making it impenetrable to most attacks. It also has a massive phallic exercise that it uses to drill down into the GeoFront in a kind of start that begins with Nerve HQ's destruction. All the defenses Nerve has built fail to deter Ramiel's infiltration.
I appreciate that the way man defeats the monster is not just, let's leave it to superhero kid Shinji to save the day. There is a tactical element to the battle that is imbued with realism and does what is essentially a great mecha / kaiju battle in something that resembles a real warfare.
Misato Katsuragi, who has the command of tactical operations, starts a series of tests to determine what works and does not work against the new angel. It includes the insertion of an inflatable dummy that mimics Shinji's EVA 01, as well as shooting Ramiel with a Type-12 mortar from a train. This allows her to gather basic intelligence about the strength and reach of Ramiel's beam, as well as to determine what type of defensive capabilities it has (an approach Daenerys of Game of Thrones desperately needs). .  From there, Katsuragi realizes that combat combat would result in failure since Ramiel's AT field is too strong for penetration. She devises a plan to snipe the angel from a distance with an experimental positron rifle. Katsuragi has to take everything into consideration during the planning, including the power source (all of Japan), geographical scouting for the best position to snipe off, and even computer simulations of the Magic determine its success rate (they give it an 8.9% which is better than any of the other plans they have. She also has to juggle politics as she convinces her superiors to let her try her plan, knowing that if she fails, it is the end of NERV and humanity.
When things get a bit too cerebral, the show gets back to the more personal level. Shinji is still coming to bed from her previous meeting with Ramiel. He is traumatized by the meeting and the last thing he wants to do is get back to EVA. Everything that is waiting in EVA is pain. In addition, Shinji's father, NERV's commander, is a total asshole leaving him when he was young.
That's when the second pilot, Rei Ayanami, appears at his hospital bed. She has a mysterious background and does not matter for human interaction for the most part. But she is dedicated to her duty and is in sharp contrast to Shinji. She will undoubtedly take part in the operation and tell Shinji more or less that if he does not want to participate in the mission, she takes room. They are both awkward, although Shinji is shy in his awkwardness, while Rei is strong in her.
They create an unlikely couple. Rei is tasked with protecting Shinji while taking the shot, as he has a higher synchronization rate with his EVA, and this mission needs almost perfect precision, as the rifle must be adjusted for deviations. When Shinji protests that he hasn't even practiced it, his manager does not tell him to worry. He's not convinced, but Ayanami tells Shinji that she wants to protect him. Her cool confidence is supposed to be heroic, but putting mankind's fate on their shoulders seems cruel, no matter how you spin it.
Operation Yashima, named after a historic battle, begins. The whole of Japan is being drained of power. Shinji has two chances to take out Ramiel with the huge rifle. No surprise, he misses the first because Ramiel burns a counter-shot. Was it all in vain? But when another explosion burns in Shinji and it seems that the mission will fail, Ayanami comes to rescue with her shield made of a space shuttle heat plate. The screen begins to melt from the heat, just like the EVA's arms. It is a terrible wait when the rifle has to calibrate its target. When it finally does, Shinji takes the second shot, which fortunately takes out of the geometric fortress of death.
The toll battle taking on pilots is viscerally painful. Everything about the show oozes suffering. Saving the world is not easy, nor was it meant to be. Existence is expensive and traumatic. There are the English forces who don't care if humanity survives or not, as they have their own agenda. But mankind reflects their indifference by sacrificing a group of children in the hope of averting the angels. The burden and pressure is on these children to make it impossible. Every time they draw a victory, it eats away on their own souls to the point where EVA and pilot are inverse reflections in a kind of Dorian Gray shine.
Shinji and Ayanami find a brief moment of comfort in each other's company at the end of the episode. That both completely misunderstand each other's motives in the process is not so important that they find a reason to continue to fight.
But at least we get a lyrical "Fly Me To The Moon" song in the final credit to reassure us.
Oh wait …