Why the EVA Unit Is a Terrible Mecha
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.
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).
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.