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Neon Genesis Evangelion, often abbreviated NGE, is an extremely popular, influential, and successful Japanese anime franchise that was launched by animation studio Gainax in October 1995. Many unofficial and official sources name Neon Genesis Evangelion as the greatest anime of all time. Currently, the franchise consists of 26 episodes and five movies, with two additional movies on the way.
Neon Genesis Evangelion is in the genre of apocalyptic mecha, of which it is often considered the defining example. It also contains elements of drama and comedy. The story takes place in the near-futuristic Tokyo of 2015. The primary protagonists are a cast of teenagers working under the UN special agency NERV as pilots of giant mecha. Using these mecha, called Evas, the teenage pilots battle monstrous entities called Angels, apparently bent on creating havoc in Tokyo and other Japanese cities. The story includes both combat scenes between the Eva and Angels as well as intense personal and romantic interactions between characters.
The series is famous for its use of philosophy, religious imagery, and numerous linguistic references. The title is Greek, and roughly means "New Beginning Gospel", emphasizing the apocalyptic element of the series. Numerous symbolic references to Christianity, both subtle and overt, are inserted throughout the series, although the mythology presented in the story is anything but Christian. Some of the Christian references mentioned in Neon Genesis Evangelion include the Dead Sea Scrolls, Lance of Longinus, the three Magi, etc.
The international success of Neon Genesis Evangelion is widely credited for kickstarting the popularity of Japanese anime worldwide. While before the series, anime was more of a niche interest, anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion, along with others such as Sailor Moon and DragonBall Z, led to anime entering the mainstream in countries like the United States. Neon Genesis Evangelion is strongly distinguished from the latter two titles for its mature and complex themes.