Why Hideaki Anno Couldn't Resist Returning To Neon Genesis Evangelion

Every time Hideaki Anno returns to "Neon Genesis Evangelion," he does so with a new lease on life. "Evangelion" is one of the most popular animes of all time, but the polarizing ending of the series and its companion film "The End of Evangelion" left Anno unsatisfied. He decided to revisit the series a few years later with a tetralogy of films that gave a new life to the world he had created at his darkest moment.

Anno first wrote "Evangelion" during a depressive episode that culminated in Shinji's final existential crisis. The series creator was paralyzed by his mental illness and totally unable to find an ending to the series. Just like Shinji, Anno was "a wreck, unable to do anything" at the time, per The New York Times. He wasn't quite ready to say goodbye to his characters, and he wasn't sure how. "The story has not yet ended in my mind," he explained. "I don't know what will become of Shinji or (the other characters), or where they will go." 

Anno couldn't get in the robot — at first

The series creator was heavily criticized for the finale of "Neon Genesis." Fans complained that there wasn't enough action and that the narrative didn't have a satisfying conclusion. Anno responded by wrapping up his film "The End of Evangelion" with extreme violence, killing off beloved characters with brutal deaths. In bringing his narrative to new extremes, he told an even more listless and cynical story. "The End" was made shortly after the anime and was released just one year after the final episodes aired. Both the film and the series end with Shinji concluding that life was worth living — Anno's attempt to work through his depression.

When Anno finished working on "The End of Evangelion" in the '90s, he wasn't satisfied with where he had left things. He found it impossible to move on to new ideas. "When it was time for me to work on my next project, at the time, 'Evangelion' was the only option," he confessed to Collider. "And I actually tried to do various things. I tried to plan a new project, but the conclusion came out that I could do interesting stuff with 'Evangelion' again."

You can(not) rebuild

The series creator wanted to return to the world of "Evangelion" not only because he loved it but also because he knew he could bring something new to it. Anno has since revisited the franchise with a film tetralogy, dubbed the "Rebuild of Evangelion" film series, that spanned from 2007 to 2021. These films "rebuild" the original story, Anno explained to The New York Times.

"For the Rebuild series, I intended the first 'Evangelion' movie to be similar to the TV series, the second would gradually change the story, and third and fourth would be totally different. From the first, I didn't intend to do the same thing as the TV series."

As for why he chose to revisit his beloved series, Anno explained that "the world is now a different place from back then," (via Collider). "I changed from back then. So, I thought that I could do something different and interesting from before."

Not every fan is happy when their favorite series is revisited in a franchise reboot. Those fans can ignore the newest releases from Anno, while others have the pleasure of seeing their favorite characters brought back to life onscreen. The world of "Evangelion" is so rich and the characters so compelling, how could Anno possibly stay away?