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Why the EVA Unit Is a Terrible Mecha

Mamerto Adan is a feature writer back in college for a school paper. Science is one of his many interests, and his favorite topic.

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I fell in love with Neon Genesis Evangelion when I first saw it. The series is unique in every sense, from the pseudo-religious storyline to the mecha designs. They are beautifully animated with smooth actions and vivid characterizations. I could say that they influenced later mecha iconography, as we started to see sleeker giant robots in later anime shows.

Sadly, the show loses steam as it comes towards the end. Like a badly conditioned boxer that gasses out in the later rounds, the fast-paced action gives way to a gibberish ending that few could understand. The characters don't help either. We are hoping Shinji Ikari will mature into an Amuro Ray-like figure in the end. Instead, he becomes a bigger, world-destroying crybaby that will make you palm your face.

As for the mechas, I love the quick and nimble EVA units. They can’t really be compared to Gundams as they are very unique. They are cool, terrifying, and fierce.

They're also pretty low-tech.

By super robot, or even real robot standards, the EVA units are not exactly advanced. Yes, they are an effective fighting tool. Seeing how one can dismember an Angel despite having a sniveling pilot certainly makes the EVA units no joke. However, the technology they use will leave a modern engineer scratching their head. Being an engineer myself, the EVA unit don’t boggle the mind the same way as other robots have. Here are the reasons why.

1. Getting in Is Not Easy

This is the first problem I see with the EVA units. In the heat of the battle, the last thing you need is not being able to access the cockpit quickly.

The white tube thingy is the entry plug.

The white tube thingy is the entry plug.

To enter the mech, the pilot will first board the entry plug. This is the capsule that houses the cockpit. This will then be inserted into the spine of the unit (in the back of the head).

Inserting the Plug to the Unit 01

Inserting the Plug to the Unit 01

Okay, so they came up with a creative way to let the pilots in. At least I will give them credit for not copying the belly cockpit of the Gundams or the jet flight deck of the Variable Fighters (Macross). The entry plug is a homage to the core fighter of the original Gundam and the Jet Plider of Mazinger Z, but do note that it can’t fly. It is just an unpowered capsule with the pilot’s cabin inside. And you need a crane to insert the thing into the mecha. You heard that right, entry is not exactly as smooth as other giant robots. What if you are in the field and you have no heavy equipment, or man power to insert the plug?

2. They Are Powered by a Stupid Umbilical Cord

As an engineer, I found this rather laughable. Why connect a moving vehicle to a stationary power source? Yes, I understand that it takes massive amounts of energy to make a large unit move. After all, an EVA unit could reach a height of 129 feet or more. But why rely on a source that could hinder a unit's flexibility?

The thing on the back is a power umbilical cord, which will remind you of a cellphone charger.

The thing on the back is a power umbilical cord, which will remind you of a cellphone charger.

Any good soldier knows that mobility is the key to victory. In real life, an EVA unit will have trouble moving around with a large wire hanging on its back. What if the thing gets snagged in a corner, or an Angel severs the wire in a fight? It was a good thing that they came up with the S2 Engine. This guarantees an unlimited operating time and less awkward movements.

3. They Cannot Fly

In The End of Evangelion, the EVA-01 sprouted wings. But throughout the show, they stayed rooted on the ground and preferred slugging it out.

At least they can run!

At least they can run!

This is too bad since coming up with a means for flight could give the mechs an unparalleled advantages over the Angels. But the developers chose to limit its mobility on the ground. Non-flying mecha have many disadvantage, from limited agility to logistics. A cargo jet is required to transport the unit. That’s why in a real fight, I’ll put my money on the Variable Fighters or the Gundams over the EVAs as they can fly way above their reach.

4. They Can Only Be Piloted by Overly Emotional Teenagers

This is probably the sole reason why I won't buy an EVA unit. When the world is in danger, I'll look for other giant robots.

Would you trust the fate of mankind on someone like this?

Would you trust the fate of mankind on someone like this?

I always wondered why they chose a big baby like Shinji Ikari to shoulder the responsibility of protecting the world. They just put the fate of humanity in the hands of an emotionally troubled teenager. Asuka Langley is a better choice, until she ran away and hid naked in a bathtub. Sure, they have Rei Ayanami, but she couldn’t handle it alone. There are better people out there, why settle for immature teens? As it turns out, they don’t have much of a choice. For some reason, only children whose mother died in the Second Impact could pilot the EVA units. The people who ran NERV had no idea that they just sealed humanity’s fate. It was Shinji’s fault that all life on Earth was reduced to a primordial soup in The End of Evangelion.

5. Harder to Maintain

This monster of a machine requires monster effort to maintain. Saving the world suddenly became a monstrous undertaking.

Keeping the EVA unit in cryostasis is one way of maintaining it.

Keeping the EVA unit in cryostasis is one way of maintaining it.

To keep the EVA unit in working order, you need an army of specialists, staff workers, an underground complex, and specialized equipment. You also need to keep the monsters in cryostasis as these are a biological cyborg after all. They are more demanding than normal mecha, being made of flesh and blood. In the case of the Variable Fighters in Macross, maintenance is the same as normal jets. Some units of Gundams are even hardier. In the Wing series, the mobile suits are subjected to abuse with little to no care.

6. Costly to Maintain and Operate

As noted above, maintenance of these mechas require an insane amount of staff and equipment.

And all of that stuff costs a crap ton of money.

That is just the maintenance cost. We have yet to add the ammunition, weapons, pilot training, energy bill, and everything else needed to send the EVA into combat.

7. Made of Flesh and Blood

The bigger you are, the more fragile you become. A creature with flesh and blood will collapse on its own weight once it reaches a gigantic size.

Underneath its armor, the EVA is an organic bio-weapon.

Underneath its armor, the EVA is an organic bio-weapon.

But assuming that the EVA units are structurally different, with bones and muscles different from normal creatures, being organic still presents a different set of problems. The cyborg EVAs are less hardy than normal metallic mechas. The flesh and blood could become diseased when ignored, and I’m still wondering where NERV gets the spare parts for repair.

Comments

RebornAleph on September 02, 2020:

This is a funny, albeit quite silly article and it kind of underlines the author may have not paid that much attention to the show! :)

1) Getting into a gigantic combat shell should never be easy, because if it's easy getting in, then it's quite unsafe. The Entry Plug's design is sleek and brilliant, because it presumes two things intelligently: The pilot must be secure at all points; the enemies the shell will face will inevitably try to claw their way in. If the cockpit existed just a couple meters away from the surface and accessible by removing a couple plates, then the pilots would be destroyed in seconds as most Angels are quite intelligent.

2) I'm not sure how to counter this one because that's just the reality of it. Something with that much electrical appendage would need a monstrous amount of energy. The back would be the perfect place to put the Umbilical Cable as it's far and away from the EVA Unit's moving parts. It's also not made to last the whole fight, which is why the Units house a 5 minute backup battery if it's cut off.

3) Well duh!

4) The EVA aren't just cyborgs, they're literally alive. And in their core, there's a soul. To sync with the soul, the unit needs emotional compatibility and receptivity. The soul that's powering both Unit 1 and 2 are their pilots' respective mothers, and the mutual yearning to protect -- and be protected -- is what makes the two synchronise. It's not accidental that the power cable is called "Umbilical".

5/6) Yes; they're quite costly in general! That's the appeal, as well as the theme for the franchise. These are in research; they're far from the finalized product but humanity literally has no choice at the moment. This is themed quite well throughout. Nothing underlines this more than the very first fight, where the notion is quite clearly: It doesn't matter if the pilot can fight or not; so long as the EVA Unit can at least take one single step, that alone already increases humanity's chance of survival which, before that point, is literally 0%. Unlike other Mecha shows, the outlook is already bleak to begin with.

7) The biological bits of the Units aren't really bound by the same rules as our world -- they're pretty much just like Angels. The plating surrounding them doubles as armour but the point really is restraint. This is why emotional resonance is more important than piloting experience: The pilots aren't really "piloting" the EVA Units, so much as they're used as trading chips to incentivize the Units to protect themselves, in order to protect their children.

Mamerto Adan (author) from Cabuyao on May 01, 2020:

Hi there Arael, so how's life in the lock-down? Anything constructive you can offer?

Ayahbababa on January 09, 2020:

I would argue that that's the things that made Evangelion attractive. Part of the realness to it comes from the fact that the Evas are still work in progress thrown into actual combat. In Gundam usually we don't see the development, only the mature finished product. I like IBO because I can see how the Gundams are improved using scrap parts. In EVA, I feel that the giant robots are built into many of today's technological limitations, and they're working around that constantly while still managing to fight incoming angels. In the end, Seele actually finished producing the Mass Production EVA05 that doesnt need pilot or umbilical cords.

Reaper31 on October 27, 2019:

Hmm, how do you imagine giving energy to the Evangelion without using the “umbilical cord”? Use a giant Wi-Fi wireless charger?

John wick on October 21, 2019:

I mean if an eva can take a nuke to the face and contine walking then i don't think they are “less hardy then normal metallic mechas” show me a gundom that has survied a atomic bomb blowing up in it's face at point blank in one peace, an eva has, while it was already battle damaged

Mamerto Adan (author) from Cabuyao on August 27, 2019:

Wow, it's been a while since I checked the comment section. To the constructive comments made by the others, like R3N3GADEH1TMAN and 2nd email, thanks! For the people that got hurt by my article, especially Oof, thanks too! Your offended comments is what inspired me to write more articles he he.

2nd email on August 23, 2019:

While I agree with most of these, the Evas are not really a giant robot but you mentioned that already so it's fair. Also, these teenagers are being chosen because their mothers' spirits live inside the EVAs.

Don't mind the negative comment, and keep writing

R3N3GADEH1TMAN on July 28, 2019:

Not being mean, but i feel the Evangelions and their design are way more realsitic than any other "mechas". Evas are not even mechas tho soo...

Also, there is a lot more you missed that really showed you needed to pay more attention when watching Neon Genesis if you were going to write an article about it. Your article is very flawed if you were writing seriously. I'm not trying to be mean. But you obviously have seen these other comments, correcting you.

Sadface201 on July 05, 2019:

Imho your article ignores a lot of the limitations that are presented within the Evangelion universe. You can’t compare Mechas between shows when the situations and technical limitations between animes are entirely different.

The evangelions represent the most state-of-the-art technologies of their time and at the beginning of the series you only have 2 Units (Unit-00 the prototype and Unit-01) to defend the world from Angels. Of course they are going to be difficult to maintain; of course they are going to be expensive---these are not mass produced machines. They are under active research on improving the Evangelion series. Didn’t they mention somewhere in the anime that the production and maintenance of a single Evangelion is enough to bankrupt a small country? That is the situation of the Evangelion universe.

By the end of the show, they showcase the “Mass Produced Evangelion” series and how many units did they produce? 9 units. This cannot be compared to other animes like Code Geass or Gundams where mechs are produced hundreds upon hundreds at a time.

Then all your other points basically boil down to how the Eva universe didn’t have the technology to support what is seen in other animes. You want the Evas to fly as if NERV was purposefully handicapping itself during the fight with Arael (15th angel). You have issues with the umbilical cable as if it was never addressed in the series with the development of the S2 engine (remember that Unit-04 exploded with the experimental S2 engine?) that was finally perfected with the mass-produced Eva series. It’s almost like you want the Evas to be firing lasers and flying in space too.

And then you call yourself an engineer complaining about the umbilical cable, yet you couldn’t even appreciate the details like how the umbilical cable has thrusters that minimizes damage to the surrounding buildings when the cable is popped off.

Perhaps this wasn’t meant to be a serious post, but it really feels like you didn’t watch the series or didn’t think much about the Evangelion universe when you wrote this up.

Side note: I actually think biological mechs are better than mechanical mechs. Many of today's technologies are based off of biological sources, and you can see this inspiration in the idea of Mecha themselves (an extension of a human body). Of course Mecha anime are in the universe where technology is so advanced that they can replicate all human movements. But if you look at reality, I doubt many machines can do that to the same flexibility. I would say biological-mechs like the Evas would be much more realistic and achievable in real life.

Same thing for computers: The brain is effectively a biological supercomputer perfected over generations of evolution. In Evangelion, the Magi are developed with brains instead of computer chips.

Constantine Stratis on June 28, 2019:

All your points would be valid were it not for the EVA Series characterisation as NOT Mecha, since in my (and many others') opinion, a Mecha cannot be a living entity with flesh, blood, and all related things.

Andrew Cleary on June 19, 2019:

Counterpoint: They're literally magic.

The ONLY reason the Evangelions are used in combat is because they can project AT-fields. No human scientist on Earth has even the foggiest idea how to actually create an AT-field using human technology. The only way an AT-field could be created would be to clone an angel (Adam or Lilith), but because they're a complete black box in terms of operation, you have to clone EVERYTHING. You can't just stick the "AT-field projector" organ on a battleship, you need to build an artificial human and stick a soul in there to operate it. The entry plug is the height of how much they could actually modify the EVA design and have it still work, a more open and practical cockpit probably just wouldn't work. There were at least 50+ unsuccessful attempts to make EVAs before unit-00 actually worked, and even then it's clear to see the evangelion project was still very much a work in progress throughout the show. They go from the janky and unreliable unit-00 that needs to be piloted by an emotional teen, to the sleek, efficient mass production evangelions, which are autonomous.

So yeah, basically every argument here can be countered with "They're magic, and a rush job".

Gusbus on June 17, 2019:

Are you suggesting that they just use normal robots? They have to be biological because they must be children of Adam and Lilith to achieve the godly power to facilitate human instrumentality. This is also the only power that can defeat the angels, children of Adam. And only children can pilot because they have to connect with the soul in the Eva which only works with a mother and child. I respect your attempt to analyze but you didn't actually do research before the analysis. And the end of the show is by far the best part but you have to use your brain which most people refuse to do.

Tony on May 20, 2019:

Mmm Well. About the pilots, there was not much of a choice. Since EVA units needed to have body-mind-soul, the mothers of Shinji and Asuka where into the Evas as a soul and there was no better Pilot for the Evas than the sons of that souls (that generates strong conections, also lt allowed Eva 01 to wake up everytime Shinji was in danger). Also the pilots were bot allowed to have a soul in order to control the Eva, and only people born after second impact were soulless since doors of guf were closed.

matikas on September 24, 2018:

Its a body of an angel no gundams and variable fighter can beat evangelion.. they need a lot of electricity to move that dead angel within that armor.. even nukes can't harm evangelion only its armor that break

Ryan on December 25, 2017:

You missed a lot when you watched it. I get they are reasons why you think that it's a wussy mecha compared to gundam and macross. These were made in the not to distant future. If we had advanced the timeline to when find an took place it would hold up if not surpass most of them.

Your first few points are based on the premise it's a regular robot. Its not. The entry plug acts as 2 things 1st a interface for the pilot and his\ nervous system in the LCL fluid and 2nd a sure fire way no one else can pilot it. The beginning of almost every me ha anime starts with some kid that just happens to stumble into a giant mech. NERV solved that problem.

The battery and umbilical cord acts as a safe guard. With a predefined time it can be active ensures if and when it goes beserk it will shutdown.

Ok, they can't fly. Fair point.

Unfortunately they 're piloted by Moody teenagers. But what teenager isn't overly emotional.

Teenagers had to be used due to the time they were born, the second impact. This reason would be to worded to go into. Research it on Google. Shinji Could only be used because his mother's 'soul' or life force was implanted into unit 01. I forget the exact terminology that was used, but that's the gist of it.

Yes they are crazy expensive to maintain and build, but only because new tech usually is. By the time the movies come out They are made produced with far less cost it seems.

The last point is that it's flesh and bone can kind of work for it. They both have their pluses and minuses. But being able to regenerate and sequence DNA then replace a part seems easier than to build parts from scratch.

Mamerto Adan (author) from Cabuyao on November 29, 2017:

Thanks Abiyo. And speaking of town I love to build a tokyo 3 diorama with an eva unit one day lol.

abiyo on November 26, 2017:

Actually, the total cost of maintenace for a single eva is almost the same as the total cost of saving a small country from a financial ruin,

then again it's been quite some time since i watched the series, i might be wrong

bariumfox on November 13, 2017:

episode 1 actually makes it clear theyre not mechas

Xyc on October 29, 2017:

Evangelion is not Gundam. You can’t compare them

Christian on October 24, 2017:

Except EVA's are not mechas.

SPOILER

It's a monster in an electronic-controlled armour.

Mamerto I. Relativo Jr. on October 08, 2017:

Thanks Kosse Moore for stopping by!

Kosse moore on October 08, 2017:

Yeah, the eva's design philosophy was definitely driven by the symbolic ideaology of the show. Because yeah, a 5 minute battery is totally useless. Personally i thought these odd little limitations gave the writing team interesting concepts to write the characters out of. The designs certainly are not great for mecha combat overall when conpared to other shows. But the limitations certainly gave a different flavor to mech battles. Great read!

Mamerto Adan (author) from Cabuyao on September 03, 2017:

Well animes could be silly sometimes, but I love them. In fact their silliness are their charm hehe.

Tamara Moore on September 03, 2017:

I use a lot of Anime pics in my posts and i found this to be quite entertaining...lol.

Mamerto Adan (author) from Cabuyao on September 03, 2017:

Thanks for stopping by Jeremy! Right now I'm watching the rebuild series and I could say it still have the charm if the original series. Newer anime fans must see this! Together with the Gundams, Ghost in the shell and Miyasaki animes, this is a certified legend.

Jeremy Gill from Louisiana on September 03, 2017:

Enjoyed the read, and I hope Evangelion reaches newer generations of anime fans.

Another popular complaint about the series is the final two episodes, which contained almost no actual ending. At that point, the makers of the show essentially ran out of money, and literally couldn't afford to create new animations.

Considering that, I think they did okay with what they had (almost nothing), but objectively the final two are quite dismal; thankfully, the movie End of Evangelion alleviated the issue.

Mamerto Adan (author) from Cabuyao on September 02, 2017:

Why thank you Norman for some feedbacks :)

norman on September 02, 2017:

and the ignorance of the article is too terrible:

1. it was intended to be close near the Eva's brain, so it can be controlled properly

2. the umbilical cord in Evangelion is not intented to POWERUP the Eva. it was intended to CONTROL the Evangelion.

3. LOL. this guy obviously had no idea about EoE

4. because ITS A MUST. and oh I forgot, being "connected" is important too, thats why the main recipe in creating an Evangelion is to put the "soul" of the pilot's relative (mostly moms) to make it synchronized

5. the year of Evangelion rolls in year 2k. so yeah.

6. its not costly if the world depends on it LOL (remember Pacific Rim bruuuuh)

7. what grind my gears? Evangelions are BIOmechs. what do you expect?