Neon Genesis Evangelion anime is considered by many to be one of the most relevant in its genre. Although it was launched in 1995, its plot, visual characteristics, and narrative have become a benchmark that has made it almost 27 years later, consolidated as an elemental part of popular culture.

This 26-chapter work created by Gainax through the creative mind of Hideaki Anno addresses as its main premise the confrontation of humanity with possible extinction, which takes place in 2015 in Japan.

An architectural review of Neon Genesis Evangelion - Sheet1
Evangelion´s Opening Fragment_©Gainax

The City of Tokyo: The Protagonist in the Background 

The story unfolds around an organization called NERV, which is in charge of protecting a new capital city of Japan since much of the territory has been destroyed by a cataclysm called “Second Impact” followed by the appearance of entities of origin unknown who now seek to continue the destruction, called in the series as Angels. Humanity, in response to its defense creates 3 piloted vehicles called EVAs.

An architectural review of Neon Genesis Evangelion - Sheet2
Evangelion´s Opening Fragment_©Gainax

A very important element in Evangelion is the role that the city and the urban environment have in the development of the story, as a constant element and almost as if it were one more character, which encompasses a large part of the virtues of the story and that defines, not only the context as such, but also provides a visual narrative that requires special attention, to clearly understand everything that happens in the foreground. 

An architectural review of Neon Genesis Evangelion - Sheet3
Evangelion´s Opening Fragment_©Gainax

In addition, the visual composition and graphic representation of each of the scenarios is a subject that could be developed independently given its technical quality and the ability to trigger emotions by connecting with the protagonists.

As part of the development of the story, the appearance of the EVAs is constant in each of the episodes, where it can be identified that for their operation they are equipped with power sources through cables to provide them with electrical energy since the autonomy of the vehicles is only 5 minutes in its minimum consumption mode.

An architectural review of Neon Genesis Evangelion - Sheet4
Evangelion´s Opening Fragment_©Gainax

Just as it happens today in our cities and based on the previous premise, energy efficiency in the city becomes transcendent for history, since, being a limited and highly precious resource, it creates a symbiotic relationship between the inhabitants; the city of Tokyo-3 and the EVAs. Almost as a parallel to our current energy crisis, an episode in which the inhabitants of Japan support a massive blackout to power a weapon, which would serve to destroy one of the Angels that threaten their existence, unfolds in the plot of Evangelion.

The Visual Characteristics of Architecture in Evangelion 

One of the attractions in terms of the architecture of this anime is the role that the city of Tokyo-2 and Tokyo-3 play in the series since the latter becomes a city that houses a decimated population and that also acquires the characteristics of shelter and defense for its inhabitants.

Many of the scenes in this program take place in typical urban/ architectural environments of a city, but with obvious distortions in their language, since various urban elements with a distinctive character appear, such as pyramidal structures and other underground ones, which function as hangars for the EVAs.

An architectural review of Neon Genesis Evangelion - Sheet5
Evangelion´s Opening Fragment_©Gainax

Focused on the urban aspects of Evangelion, the city of Tokyo-3 is configured through a reticular urban layout, which concentrates the large buildings in the central part and leaves the hangars for the deployment of the EVAs on the perimeter.

Since the plot of the story is based on fights and situations similar to those of war, an underground refuge system called Geo-Front becomes essential for the development of Evangelion. The buildings are located on the surface of the city at a time when there is no threat, but they are retracted underground for their preservation and within this cavity, it is possible to distinguish forests and artificial bodies of water.

An architectural review of Neon Genesis Evangelion - Sheet6
Evangelion´s Opening Fragment_©Gainax

In the rest of the buildings that are not part of this retraction system, the offensive military characteristics are notorious, functioning as active elements for the defense of the city, suggesting a kind of neo-medieval military architecture, incorporating launch pads, projectiles to the buildings and even armories for the EVAs.

In addition, a brutalist influence in its composition prevails in the appearance and character of the buildings.

For the protection of civilians, there is an alarm system and shelters, residents are immediately taken to emergency shelters located around the perimeter of the city. All the shelters are fortified with thick concrete walls and have all the necessary services, including food, water, heating, sanitation, etc.

Evangelion´s Opening Fragment_©Gainax

Throughout the development of the anime, scenarios can be seen where the relationship between the pilots, their vehicles, and the city will create an extremely exciting story that will culminate in an unexpected ending.

Thanks to many of the elements mentioned in this text, Neon Genesis Evangelion is an anime that stands out among the others for being an extremely complex story, which integrates elements of different natures to develop its plot and its visual quality has also become a reason for inspiration for various design and illustration professionals.

References:

  1. Neon Genesis Evangelion. (1995) [Anime] Directed by H. Anno. Japan: Gainax.
  2. Netflix (2018) Neon Genesis Evangelion | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix [YouTube video] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13nSISwxrY4 
Author

Mexican architect, LEED Green associate & CPABE. Design lover in all its expressions with a strong interest in sustainable development and accessibility. Enrique Tovar lives through dedication and passion. He firmly believes that creating a narrative through writing and photography is a vital tool to reach a deep understanding of design.

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