Written by Jonathan Wojcik

ALL IMAGES FROM Evangelion Wiki!

   You probably know by now that I'm not exactly a rabid "Japanimation" fan, as I hear tell the nation's youth prefer to call it. I like some, selectively, like with talking eyeballs or talking bread or Team Rockets in them, but I kinda find most of them to be largely forgettable. It may come as a surprise, then, that I not only don't regret having watched Neon Genesis Evangelion, hailed by some and reviled by others as the anime of animes, but I remember a fair chunk of the experience with active fondness.

  No, not because its religious symbolism and existential character exploration touched me someplace special. Not because I saw it soon enough in life to feel any nostalgia for it. Heck, it isn't even just because I like to see weird monsters weirding it up, even though that's certainly part of it.

(Please read Gunshow it is one of my favorite internets)

   No, while "Eva" attracts legions of appreciators for its allegedly multi-layered writing, protagonists I'm told are supposed to be relatable and promises of gleaming giant cyborg combat, I personally liked some of the original series and especially its divisive wrap-up movie for their superb execution of cosmic horror. While many agree - even lament - that the series takes a disturbing, surreal route towards the end, the skill with which Eva squeezes fresh, delicious nightmare juice from an inoccuous "giant mecha" premise is one of the two things I honestly admire it for. The other, of course, being weird monsters weirding it up.

  For the uninitiated, these "monsters" are referred to rather eerily as Angels, and are freely interpretable as the literal agents of God or at least some alien, omnipotent entity our squishy little species came to know as such. One by one, the abstract beings emerge from the depths of the sea, the far reaches of space, even deep beneath the Earth's crust to bring about the end of our world, and all that stands between them and our complete annihilation are the "Eva Units;" huge, anthropomorphic weapons engineered from human and angel genetic material. Oh, did you think this show had "robots?" Evas are made out of meat. They bleed. They scream. All that metal on the outside is just restrainment gear to keep them from acting like this on a regular basis. Definitely my kind of "mecha," but we're not here to talk about the Evas. Everybody talks about the Evas. We're here to give the Angels the attention they've always deserved as unique, inventive, even terrifying creature designs! So, without further ado, let's dive right in and explore these kooky space specters.



  We're going to review these guys in their accepted canon order of appearance, so let's start off with Adam. Long story short, this huge, glowing humanoid is the father of all true angels and the intended progenitor of life on the planet Earth, but things went a little awry until his wounded, buried body was uncovered by the human race billions of years later. Following a series of invasive experiments - during which his body is artificially augmented and his cells collected for cloning purposes - Adam finally awakens, attempts to take back the planet, and ends up exploding. Luckily, what's left him starts to grow back as an inhuman fetus with giant eyeballs, later grafted onto a human host. You know which way I prefer him.


   Female counterpart to Adam, Lilith accidentally screwed everything up when her moon-like vessel crashed into our young planet, her own blood polluting the primordial seas and giving rise to the Lilim, otherwise known as all life as we know it. She didn't mean to make such a mess, but having been crucified, imprisoned and dismembered by the humans who discovered her (childhood rebellion?) it's left up to Adam's children, the other angels, to bust her free and set things right. Between the seven-eyed mask and the failed attempts to grow her legs back, Lilith's mutilated but still-living body is by far one of the freakiest images in the series, though only due to what she's been put through by Nerv, the agency responsible for the Eva units.

   In the more recent remake, "Rebuild of Evangelion," Lilith's mask has for some reason been changed to a smooth, bony plate with a single pair of empty eye sockets. This is in line with the design style of several other angels, but it's not quite as haunting as the seven-eyed version.


   The first angel actually seen in the series, Sachiel is also the first to come looking for Lilith, and the best known among fans. Though humanoid in stance, Sachiel exhibits some intriguingly alien biology; it grows a second face after sustaining damage, its body stretches and contorts like putty and it breathes through the gill slits on its thighs, exhaling through a giant "nostril" in its crotch region. Its respiratory system even doubles as an underwater propulsion mechanism, much like a cephalopod and many aquatic insects! Even without these fun biological quirks, its spindly limbs, hulking shoulders and beady-eyed, bird-like bony mask lend a lot of personality to his design, but if you're anything like me and you crave still stranger, never fear!


   A close contender for my favorite of the series, Shamshel is only the second Angel encountered, but already foregoes any semblance of anthropomorphic anatomy. Flying in a straightened, arrow-like formation, the almost phallic - but supposedly female - angel stands upright as it enters destruct-O-mode, unleashing a set of waving, tentacular energy whips capable of slicing clean through a skyscraper in a single swipe! In the "Rebuild" series, she's given a freaky "ribcage" of crustaceoid legs and a bubbling "lava lamp" effect in her lower body, but otherwise remains largely unchanged. In either version, my single favorite detail are those huge, painted-looking eyespots on her head. When a single design reminds me simultaneously of a squid, a flatworm, a fungus, a sex toy and a googly-eyed fishing lure, you know you've got something truly creative.


   The next Angel to attack Tokyo is unexpectedly inorganic in appearance, but this floating, crystalline fortress still bleeds the same red blood as every other Angel. Armed with an energy beam that melts through metal, it positions itself directly over Lilith's location and attempts to reach her through a long, straw-like drilling mechanism. In the "Rebuild" series, it can reconfigure into virtually any shape it desires to retaliate against attack, from bladed stars to a huge gun-like mechanism, and bizarrely emits shrill, feminine screams. A big, featureless geometric shape might not seem like the kind of monster Bogleech celebrates, but I enjoy the contrast between oddballs like Ramiel and the fleshier Angels, really showcasing the potential diversity of beings from beyond our world.


   Quite the opposite of its diamond-like predecessor, Gaghiel is among the most animal-like of all the original series Angels, an aquatic leviathan with a set of tremendous razor-toothed jaws! With its energy core where a throat ought to be, the chompers are likely more of a weapon than a feeding mechanism; its true head seems to be the tiny Sachiel-like mask on top! I also dig how the rest of its body looks subtly like one huge animal skull, with a tail like a larval tunicate.


   First appearing as a single being with a face like a yin-yang, this slightly Sachiel-like angel quickly splits apart into a duo, each capable of instantly healing the other unless they're destroyed at the exact same moment. It's hard not to see an adorable, shyguy-like face in their triple-pitted heads, and get a sense of sweet camaradiere from them; even if they may just be two bodies with one mind.


   Remember when I said Shamshel was only a contender for my favorite? First seen as a creepy, floating fetus in the heart of a volcano, Sandalphon is attacked in a pre-emptive strike before it can take on its final form, but quickly metamorphoses into the only form anything ever rightfully should take; a perfect hybrid of flatfish and the prehistoric Anomalocaris! What can I say about Sandalphon that I haven't said already about these beautiful, magnificent organisms? I only wonder if its form has been patterned after these Earthly creatures or vice-versa; they are, after all, apparently just more species of lilim.

Sadly, this lovable cuddlebug is the first of several angels created solely to pad out the original anime adaptation, subsequently left out of remakes and spin-offs. Don't let it get you down, Sandalphon; at least one person thinks you're the utmost highlight of the entire Eva universe, and even a highlight of animated monsters in general.


   With its small, dense, capsule-like body and four disproportionately long, spindly legs, Matariel calls to mind both a daddy long-legs and, to me, a hint of bacteriophage. Another one left out of most other adaptations, it at least boasts my single favorite attack mechanism of any Angel; the single huge, eerie eye on its underside - seemingly its only real eye - weeps a nasty, gooey yellow acid!


   A real oddball, even for these guys, Sahaquiel is little more than a huge, two-dimensional boomerang-like object, a huge eyespot at its center and comical, hand-like "wings" on either side. Its sole attack method is even stranger, orbiting the earth before plummeting like a living "meteor."

   In Rebuild, Sahaquiel undergoes some of the most drastic changes any Angel is subjected to; now arriving in an actual meteor-like form, it burns away in our atmosphere to reveal a brilliant peacock-like eye creature. I want to say it loses a lot of personality in the shift to computer animation, and I'm definitely partial to the cartoon-like, orange cut-out look, but there's some pretty cool stuff hidden around this one; cilia that look like dancing humanoids, spikes resembling angels with trumpets and a central "true" body concealed in its pupil with a pleasingly eerie animal-skull face. I'll always have a soft spot for that belly-flopping orange peel monster, but they crammed so much weirdness into the update, I must concede they made a good choice.


   Seen here taking control of a virtual body, this Angel actually manifests as a spreading "corrosion," possibly comprised of microscopic or subatomic particles, which somehow adapts itself to pure digital information as it attempts to destroy Nerv's vital computer mainframe. There's no "design" to review, here, but it's certainly a clever concept.


   Truly the most abstract of the bunch, Lelial superficially appears to be a giant, floating, zebra-striped sphere, but this three-dimensional object is somehow nothing more than the being's shadow, while the pitch-black "shadow" it appears to cast is the opening to a pocket dimension - the angel itself. Even Lovecraft's creatures never got quite this mind-bending. Seemingly a gentle fourth dimensional hole-being at heart, Leliel shows more interest in talking than fighting, trapping the Eva pilot Shinji in its "body" for a round of existential psycho-analysis in the guise of Shinji's younger self.

It still bleeds when it dies, though. From its shadow. Its actual one. The floating ball one. That's its shadow. It bleeds from it.


   Another "infection"-like Angel, Bardiel manifests as little more than, and I both know what this looks like. Eva Unit 03 seems to pick up this white, sticky slime as it passes through a mysterious fog, the angelic biomatter spreading like a fungus and quickly taking control of the entire unit. Under Bardiel's command, the infested cyborg is somehow capable of stretching its limbs to abnormal lengths, and in later adaptations, even growing additional arms! Wikis debate whether the angel itself constitutes only the slime, the slime and the fog, or some other form the fog may have concealed. We know these things can change and adapt as they damn well please, and it's entirely possible it would have kept transforming its host into some far more twisted monstrosity.


   Getting back to basics, Zeruel is an old-fashioned quasihumanoid monster Angel with an eerily grimacing, laser-blasting skull-plate and two-dimensional, ribbon-like arms able to slice their way through just about anything. A reasonably interesting variant on the humanoids we've seen so far, yes, but eventually revamped into a stranger design I wholeheartedly prefer:

   "Rebuild" Zeruel first shows up in a hovering, mummy-like configuration, but soon unfurls into this glorious octo-flower phantom with gnarly ribcage fangs surrounding its core! Upon engulfing one of the Evas and its female pilot, Zeruel sprouts an enormous, distorted duplicate of her body from its mouth region, effectively becoming the "head" of a nightmarish new being.


   Similar in some ways to Sahaquiel and in others to Leliel, we never get a good look at whatever features - if any - may be hiding under Arael's blinding glow, and the thing never even touches down in our atmosphere; it simply hangs out in low orbit, fires a beam of heavenly light down to Earth and connects mentally to any poor sap caught in it. Its only known victim in the series quickly loses her mind as it probes her every memory, eventually reduced to a comatose state by the trauma of overwhelming mental violation by a vastly greater consciousness - to some fans, the most horrifying notion in the series.


   The penultimate angel of the original series, Armisael takes the cryptic form of a DNA-like double helix in a huge, drifting halo. When confronted by the Evas, it breaks its own circle and attacks as a blindingly fast, serpentine thread. Drilling its way into its opponent, it erupts Eva unit 01 with a tumorous, towering mass of what appear to be the other, previous angels rapidly reconstituting. Sadly, the process is cut short and Armisael destroyed.


   The final original angel has a fairly diabolical strategy, manifesting as a human boy named Kaworu and establishing a deep friendship with our "hero" Shinji, a kid you must remember is notorious in and out of his own series for being desperately angsty and lonely. Reaching out to him in every way Shinji has needed someone to reach out to him, the pretty-boy angel is either one of the few "good" characters we ever meet or a truly frightening manipulator, depending on your point of view. Finally sick of being pushed around - by humans or by angels - Shinji hilariously pops this one's head off like a dandelion.

Fortunately, this isn't the last angel for us to review, and our others fall straight back into monster territory!



   Created for Rebuild and not yet revealed to have any official name, this mysterious angel was apparently found frozen by Nerv and experimented upon until only its skeleton and various cybernetic modifications remained. How much of the design is its natural bone structure, and just how much has been altered artificially is never clear, but it must have been a fairly interesting serpentine or centipede-like monster at some point. Naturally, its skeleton is still quite capable of moving and attacking, generating deadly eye beams and a slicing halo.


   Another yet-to-be-named Rebuild addition, this towering contraption's beaked, two-part skull endlessly ticks in circles like the hands of a clock, the rest of its pedulous body walking precariously on its needle-sharp, stilt-like limbs. Briefly changing shape as it attacks, it generates eerily cross-shaped explosions and can freeze its surroundings solidly enough to walk across the surface of water. Of all the bizarre forms angels have been shown to take, this one really feels like the most mad. It wouldn't feel too out of place as a boss in something like American Mcgee's Alice or the better days of the poor, battered Silent Hill series.

Still, I'm a little disappointed they didn't stick with the drinky bird design during production.


   We're now wandering off into the outermost frayed edges of continuity with two angels designed exclusively for an Evangelion board game. Little information was provided for these two, but their designs are rather charming - even if they stray a bit outside the usual Angel aesthetics. Baraqijal is simply adorable, as one-eyed spiny urchin creatures usually tend to be, and Iblis is another of those rare Angels to look explicitly like an animal, besides the eyeball on the end of its "tongue." Come to think of it, I like how having eyeballs at all sets these two apart from most of the original angels.


   This angel has technically never really appeared anywhere, except for this single, still image. Diemay, you see, was simply the winning entry in an Angel-designing contest, created and submitted by a young fan, Satou Daimei. His prize was to see his creation drawn by actual Gainax artists, and "Diemay" has been treated ever since as an honorary Angel, at least by fansites and wiki projects. Who am I to break tradition? Diemay is an awesome design, resembling some sort of shark-dove-cyclops-serpent from a distance, until you see the creepily tiny little angel-face on the end of its "nose" and its whole "face" is thrown delightfully out of whack. I love this guy! Animate him already, Jerks.


   What's even more obscure than a board game or an art contest? How about a "Choose your own Adventure" style animated Sega Saturn game? This insectile beauty is the only Angel featured in Neon Genesis Evangelion: Second Impression, which explores more of Shinji's personal social life as he attempts to awkwardly romance a cute, nerdy new student at school. Unsurprisingly, she's only an imitation human with implanted memories, housing the core of this unusually grotesque Angel, appearing first as thorny, multi-armed chrysalis until it hatches into some sort of abstract, demon sea-butterfly.

I have to say, this might honestly be my favorite "attack plan" of any canon or semi-canon Angel, and I wish this had been in the original series instead of that Kaworu dweeb. He was nothing but an Angel in a human disguise, fully aware of what he was doing. Here, the Angel is another monstrous, destructive titan, but shields its only weak point in a completely innocent human duplicate, toying with Shinji's heart on a much crueler level. Are we sure this particular "Angel" isn't more like a certain one who didn't play nice with the rest of heaven? The one that rhymes with "baitin'?"...Dude! That's even exactly how you can describe this thing's strategy! I FIGURED IT ALL OUT.