What are the EVAs in Neon Genesis Evangelion?

What are the Evas in Neon Genesis Evangelion
Credit: Gainax

What are the Evas in Neon Genesis Evangelion
Credit: Gainax

Much of the mystery in Neon Genesis Evangelion stems from the creative use of words, symbols and images associated with Judeo-Christian traditions. It can be challenging to grasp what the Angels are in Evangelion and even then there are questions about the characters' chosen mode of resistance - that is their mecha weapons. So, what are the EVAs in Neon Genesis Evangelion?

What Are the EVAs in Neon Genesis Evangelion?

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Credit: Gainax

EVAs - short for Evangelions - are enormous mecha weapons that have been specifically made by NERV to fight the Angels.

On a surface level, the EVAs are no different from other robotic weapons encountered in mecha anime.

However, the highly symbolic nature of Neon Genesis Evangelion means that there is something much more sinister behind the EVAs as the mecha battles are presented as the backdrop against which dysfunctional family and professional relationships, psychosocial issues and philosophical concerns unfold.

The EVAs are unlike other mechas which simply become a suit of armor and a vehicle for the characters to fight in. Piloting an EVA changes the young protagonists forever in unimaginable ways.

Why Do EVA Pilots Have to Be 14 Years Old?

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Credit: Gainax

EVAs are only piloted by 14-year-old children who have lost their mothers as these children have a greater affinity with the mechas and can harmoniously - and initially inexplicably - synchronize with them.

While it's not uncommon for mecha and adventure works to have teenage main characters fighting to save the world, it can still be perplexing that the children who pilot the EVAs - works created by adult scientists - have to be so young.

In her book Anime from Akira to Howl's Moving Castle, anime critic Suzan J. Napier focuses on the bleakness of Evangelion compared to both other anime and Western science fiction works.

Napier also points out the maternal symbolism linked with the EVAs. When Shinji pilots one, he's inside a protective capsule that can be imagined as a womb.

If the EVAs are perceived as motherly figures, this can have both positive and negative associations.

As an EVA pilot, Shinji might occasionally find a sense of belonging, but forcing teenagers to fight inside robotic weapons with such parental associations also means a potential disregard for autonomy.

It's not by chance that identity is such a strong theme in Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Related: Where to Watch Neon Genesis Evangelion

Do EVAs Contain the Souls of the Pilots' Mothers?

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One of the most shocking implications in Neon Genesis Evangelion is that the EVAs must contain a human soul to function - specifically that of the pilot's mother.

While EVA in this case is short for Evangelion, other biblical connotations such as the story of Adam and Eve, who are considered the progenitors of humanity, can't be escaped.

The fact the EVAs likely contain the souls of the pilots' mother is only implied, with few straightforward explanations but at this point the fandom as a whole considers this fact to be canon.

With the exception of Rei, who was artificially created, the other two main characters, Shinji and Asuka, both have mothers who passed away before the events of the series.

Related: Who Killed Kanji in Neon Genesis Evangelion?

Moreover, it's implied that Shinji's classmates who are pilot candidates are also orphans.

If Neon Genesis Evangelion had gone on as originally planned, more explicit information might have been provided. As it is, the detail that the EVAs likely contain the soul of the pilot's mother is a subtle detail that makes the horror of the series more intense rather than less so.

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