Neon Genesis Evangelion’s Complete Timeline Explained

Neon Genesis Evangelion’s Timeline Shinji Ikari
Credit: Gainax

Neon Genesis Evangelion’s Timeline Shinji Ikari
Credit: Gainax

Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the most mind-bending sci-fi anime. As such, its main and background events can be a bit confusing. So, here's Neon Genesis Evangelion's timeline explained for those looking to delve more deeply into its dystopian world.

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When Does Neon Genesis Evangelion Take Place?

Neon Genesis Evangelion’s Timeline 1
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Credit: Gainax

Neon Genesis Evangelion was slightly futuristic when it first came out in the 90s. The main story unfolds in the mid-2010s -- though this time has passed for us thankfully without any bible-inspired apocalyptic event.

Shinji Ikari's story, in particular, takes place in 2015 Japan, though its history is much altered.

Moreover, Neon Genesis Evangelion tells such a complex story that some major events happened behind the scenes at identified or unidentified points in the past.

The world of Evangelion is ruled by cataclysmic events known as Impacts. The First and Second Impact took place before the start of the series' main events. The show anticipates the Third Impact.

Neon Genesis Evangelion's Timeline

Neon Genesis Evangelion’s Timeline 2
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Credit: Gainax

The First Impact happened at an unknown time before the first appearance of life on earth.

This complicated pre-historic event involves the First Ancestral Race, and it essentially comes down to the introduction of the Seeds of Life in the galaxy, and ultimately, the beginning of life.

Most of the show's adult characters, including Shinji's parents, Ritsuko Akagi, Misato Katsuragi, and Ryoji Kaji were born prior to the Second Impact.

The Second Impact

Neon Genesis Evangelion’s Timeline 3
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Credit: Gainax

The Second Impact that occurred on September 13, 2000, was a result of a Contact Experiment on Adam.

It resulted in the deaths of many, but also in the birth of the angel, Kaworu Nagisa.

Before Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion’s Timeline 4
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Credit: Gainax

All major events in the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime happen between the Second and Third Impact.

Here are the major events that took place before the anime that you should know about:

  • Shinji and Asuka were both born in 2001.
  • The creation of the Evangelions began two years later, in 2003.
  • Shinji's mother, Yui, disappeared in 2004 and Rei Ayanami was created between that year and 2006. Her first public appearance, however, wasn't until 2010.
  • In 2005, Asuka was selected as the Second Child. Her mother died of suicide in the same year.
Before Neon Genesis Evangelion Asuka
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Credit: Gainax
  • Evangelion's side characters are just as interesting as the protagonists, as they're realistic representations of complex people in their late 20s and early 30s. To better understand their story, it's helpful to know that Ritsuko and Misato became friends in 2005. In the same year, Misato met Kaji and they moved in together. They then broke up in 2007.
  • Between 2008-2010, the above characters graduated, and in 2009, Misato and Kaji joined Gehirn separately. During this time, the MAGI Supercomputer system was completed.
  • Finally, for some context on Shinji's relationship with his father, note that in 2012, the two met after 8 years, at the anniversary of Yui Ikari's death. However, the reunion between father and son went badly, and Shinji fled the grave.

The Main Events of Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion’s Timeline 5
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Credit: Gainax

The plot of Neon Genesis Evangelion kicks off when Rei Ayanami is injured during an attempt to synchronize with Eva Unit-00.

Following her injury, Shinji reluctantly responds to the call of adventure and becomes an Eva pilot.

  • During his time as an Eva pilot, Shinji lives with Misato. Over the course of several months in 2015, Shinji, Asuka, and Rei defeat the 5th-12th angels. Originally, this takes the form you would expect from every shounen anime. However, the mecha genre is soon deconstructed with complicated symbolism and the main characters' mental states' rapid decline, showing the true impact such battles would have on such young people.
  • At some point, a traumatized Shinji chooses to leave NERV but eventually returns.
The Main Events of Neon Genesis Evangelion Shinji
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Credit: Gainax
  • At an unidentified time, still in 2015, Kaji is killed. The exact circumstances surrounding his death are a mystery.
  • During her battle with the 16th angel, Rei self-destructs her Eva, killing both the angel and herself in the process. Ritsuko proceeds to destroy all Rei clones, preventing a possible recreation.
  • Soon after, Asuka's mental health deteriorates to the point that she's no longer able to pilot her Eva. She's replaced by Kaworu, the first and last angel, who is then defeated by Shinji.
  • With the last angel gone, SEELE and NERV turn against each other and SEELE tries to put the Human Instrumentality plan into motion.

The Third Impact

Neon Genesis Evangelion’s Timeline 6
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Credit: Gainax

The Third Impact happens in 2016. Before it kicks off, Rei reunites with Lilith's body.

It culminates in the destruction of the dark moon and in Shinji's rejection of human instrumentality.

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