Evangelion is on its way to Netflix in 2019. This has gotten a lot of people very excited (and a few inexplicably frustrated). The '90s Mecha anime giant has weathered the test of time; it's a favorite amongst countless fans around the world. It certainly holds its place at the top of the anime rankings thanks to a plot that is layered and so philosophically deep, that it demands rewatch after rewatch.
Beyond this, Eva’s legacy has spawned countless shows that simply wouldn’t exist if this giant of the anime world had not been the success it was. Let’s take a look at 10 of the best of them right now.
10. Planet With
The chronically overlooked darling anime of summer 2018 is a spiritual successor to Evangelion in more ways than one. The similarities are easy to see immediately: it has mechs, and it has a cast of young pubescent protagonists. But the similarities run far deeper than that if you care to dig a little.
Soya Kuroi is the lone survivor of a planet destroyed by creatures which are so far evolved that we humans could never understand their motives and intentions. Now living in a small coastal town in Japan, he is caught up in a fight with and against these same alien races. The questions that this anime poses about the purposes of war, the meaning of peace, and what exactly makes us further evolved than other creatures (if that is, in fact, anything at all) will have your mind reeling for days after the final credits roll.
Quite unbelievably, Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann has just this year celebrated its 10th anniversary. If you go back and watch this show today (which, of course, you should) the animation quality—which spills over with so much gorgeous sakuga—hasn’t aged a day. Also, subs purists are going to have to put their bias aside for this one. Our protagonist’s English voice is that of this year's Spider-Man: our boy Yuri Lowenthal.
This show is an explosive romp of ridiculous battles, a cast of delightful caricatures, and a plot with such a thumping pace it’ll make your head spin. Follow the adventure of Simon, a boy born in an underground village desperate to see the light of day. Watch in awe as he pilots mecha known as Gunmen to fight creatures known as Beastmen and, well, you’ll see where it all takes you.
8. SSSS. Gridman
This still-fresh show of fall 2018 has been a surprise hit. Much like Planet With, this is one which wears its Evangelion love on its sleeve. As Isla McTear points out brilliantly in her video on the topic, both Eva and Gridman are simply monster-of-the-week shows — until they aren’t. Gridman matches Eva point-by-point as it shifts from fun overblown Kaiju battles into something stranger and darker.
What sets SSSS. Gridman apart, however, is Studio Trigger’s modern production value: this show is gorgeously animated, with crisp colors and fantastically wild and fun Kaiju monster designs. Beyond Eva, this campy-turned-dark show is also an homage to old Japanese man-in-a-rubber-suit Kaiju films, like Godzilla and Mothra. Check it out.
7. One-Punch Man
Finally returning with its second season in 2019, it’s one of the smartest shows in anime: the story of a ‘hero for fun’. Saitama is a man who worked so hard to become a superhero, he is now so vastly overpowered (and, as a side-effect, bald) that he can dispose of any foe with a single punch.
How can a show with no challenge for its protagonist even be fun, let alone smart? OPM shows us the true meaning of perseverance, training, and personal betterment by switching the perspective to the other side. Like an old video game with all the cheat codes enables, boredom quickly sets in. OPM’s cleverness lies in its teaching of lessons and philosophies without sacrificing its heart, its fun, and its spectacle, just like Evangelion before it.
6. Attack On Titan
The Mecha anime disguised as something very different, AoT is one of the most successful anime of recent years, spawning live-action films and two video game adaptations. This one tells the story of a military scouting squad tasked by the leaders of their walled city with keeping their home safe from the menace that lurks beyond the walls: huge, monstrous, human-eating titans.
Beautifully animated epic-scale battles are the tip of the Eva iceberg. The show’s third season has pulled no punches with its expansion into political philosophy. AoT has moved beyond a fight between humans and strange monsters and is now asking us to consider societal class systems, political structures, and more. This steady deepening has been executed expertly and is just another reason to check this show out if you haven’t already.
5. Code Geass
While certainly far more inspired by Mobile Suit Gundam than Neon Genesis Evangelion, Code Geass is nonetheless an anime that should not be passed up for anyone who’s a fan of Eva.
Code Geass takes place in an alternate timeline where, not dissimilar to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the world is now made up of three empires: The Holy Britannia Empire, The European Union, and The Chinese Federation. Politics are the name of the game here, with people as the pawns and mechs as the knights. If you’re looking for a well-built, intricately designed world of political intrigue (and some very confusing names), look no further than Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion.
While admittedly far more of a Back to the Future/Rick and Morty flavor of anime, Steins;Gate is another show that isn’t afraid to be clever. Steins;Gate plays with themes of responsibility and purpose; it’s also a show that, despite being released in 2011, looks like it belongs in the ‘90s. Fans of the darker tones and intense plot of Eva will find so much to love here. So, what’s it about?
Our mad scientist protagonist, Rintaro Okabe, accidentally stumbles upon a method of sending messages through time. From here, the show reaches some very impressive heights that should absolutely not be missed.
3. Darling In The Franxx
This one is, admittedly, something of a sore subject due to it having a second half that goes so far off the rails as to ruin what was set up to be the perfect successor to Neon Genesis Evangelion. That being said, Franxx is still a fun romp with a quirky cast of characters, some very imaginative Mecha designs, and a story that (for all its flaws) is inarguably original and hugely ambitious.
A group of adolescents are tasked with taking down monstrous subterranean beasts known as Klaxosaurs; these beasts have driven humanity almost to extinction. What propels the show forward is the mystery of what these things are, what happened in the past, why teenagers have been given this dangerous task, and why they must always pilot in boy-girl pairs. Original and ambitious indeed.
2. Megalo Box
This, at first, might seem like an odd choice, but in a year when Eva is set to make a comeback thanks to Netflix, and Cowboy Bebop is soon to receive a live-action adaptation, it’s becoming more and more clear that we are living in a time of ‘90s anime resurgence. This, arguably, kicked off at the very start of 2018 with the explosive success of Megalo Box, an homage to pre-digital anime productions.
Megalo Box, which tells the story of Joe, has been designed from the ground up. Its art and animation style may be digital, but it looks like it was ripped straight out of the ‘90s. In other words, it’s gorgeous.
1. The Vision Of Escaflowne
The anime that existed parallel to Evangelion back in the ‘90s, Escaflowne is, in a manner of speaking, Eva’s fun-loving little sister. It's one of the early modern anime to popularise the isekai-style (Earth person in another world) of the show that’s so (over)popular today.
Escaflowne is named for the mystical mech piloted by Van Fanel, a knight attempting to stop the Zaibach Empire from taking over the planet Gaea. Gaea itself is a world created from the magic wishes of the people of Atlantis before their home sank into the ocean. This description alone should give an idea of how this show is similar enough to Eva that fans would like it. But it's dissimilar enough to offer something very new and exciting. Despite its age, it should not be missed.