Jeremy enjoys anime when not working as a chemist or building manager.
What are the Angels in Neon Genesis Evangelion?
Major spoilers ahead.
Throughout NGE, giant-sized monsters called Angels attack Tokyo while the NERV organization utilizes giant "Evangelion" robots to counter them. But secrets abound, and the name Evangelion hints that the Angels and robots actually share a common ancestor—the being called Adam.
To make a very long story short, humans come from an ancient being called Lilith, while Angels (and Evangelions) stem from Adam; Lilith and Adam were mistakenly sent to the same planet long ago by the mysterious First Ancestral Race.
Philosophical discussion aside, the Angels demonstrate various powers as they attack Tokyo—which reign supreme? These are the ten strongest Angels in Neon Genesis Evangelion!
Number: 16 (Adam is 1 and Lilith is 2)
Name Meaning: Mountain of Judgment of God
One of the last Angels fought, Armisael required the combined efforts of Eva Unit-00 (piloted by Rei) and Unit-01 (by Shinji) to defeat. Even then, it was only stopped after Rei sacrificed herself in a last-resort self-destruct.
This actually killed Rei (a clone becomes the new Rei), making Armisael one of few Angels to successfully take down an Eva pilot. He also displayed some interesting powers, like the ability to merge with Evas and communicate with Rei.
Meaning: Humiliated Son of God
Bardiel begins as an ooze-like substance that quickly infects the new Eva Unit-03, sending it to battle the prior models. As Unit-03, Baridel swiftly defeats Asuka in Unit-02, and Rei and Shinji hesitate to attack him because of the innocent pilot (Toji) trapped inside.
Whether this was an intentional ploy by Bardiel or a lucky accident remains unclear; either way, it lets him dispatch Shinji and Rei without resistance. Bardiel is only defeated when Gendo orders the new "Dummy Plug" system to take over Unit-01, seizing control from Shinji and causing his Eva to enter a ferocious berserk-like state.
Meaning: Terror of God
Ireul's an unorthodox Angel; instead of presenting himself as a hulking beast, he invades NERV headquarters as a microscopic virus-like parasite initially mistaken as corrosion. Despite his size, when lasers were employed against him, Ireul repelled them with a fierce A.T. field, and he hacked the crucial MAGI system, essentially granting him control over NERV.
Ireul came disturbingly close to implementing a self-destruct sequence, only thwarted by ingenious programming from Ritsuko Akagi. Were it not for her, Ireul would have destroyed NERV, safe from the Evas thanks to his minuscule size.
Meaning: Premonition of God
This freaky spider-like Angel drops dangerous acid using his central eye, and he manages to infiltrate Tokyo undetected thanks to a fortuitous power outage. Matarael falls after a clever three-pronged attack where the Eva pilots penetrate his central eye with prolonged rifle fire.
While Matarael died pretty quickly, he's definitely one of the creepiest Angels and one of few who battled all three Evas simultaneously.
Meaning: Ingenuity of God
Capable of flight, Sahaquiel appears in low orbit, making it difficult for the generally-grounded Evas to battle him. He also utilizes a jamming signal that prevents NERV from contacting its commanders, and he shrugs off the powerful N² bombs.
Sahaquiel attacks by dropping pieces of himself onto Earth, resulting in bomb-like blasts. When he launches his entire body at NERV headquarters, it takes the combined might of the three Evas to fend him off (Shinji holds him while Rei pierces his A.T. field and Asuka attacks with a blade).
Meaning: Jaws of God
Leliel initially appears as a floating sphere, but this is actually a deception—his true body is the shadow beneath the orb. When the three Evas engage him, the shadow engulfs Shinji, and the remaining Evas barely escape.
With Unit-01 trapped within Leliel's warped pocket-dimension, NERV brainstorms a risky plan to have the other Evas pierce Leliel's A.T. field while NERV bombards him with every remaining N² bomb. However, we'll never know if this plan would have worked—with its power drained, Unit-01 entered its berserker state and carved its way out of Leliel (a grotesque metaphor for childbirth).
Meaning: Arm of God
The strongest "direct-combat" Angel, Zeruel appears soon after Bardiel's attack, before the Evas have been fully repaired. Zeruel rapidly pierces through Tokyo, successfully penetrating the GeoFront. There, he dismembers Unit-02 and survives Unit-00's sacrificial bomb attack.
With only Unit-01 left, Shinji almost defeats the Angel before his Eva runs out of power. But as we've seen time and time again, Unit-01's berserker mode saves the day, destroying Zeruel and consuming his S² Engine (paving the pathway to Third Impact in the film End of Evangelion).
Meaning: The Light of God
Sometimes the best offense is a good defense; Arael floats above Earth's atmosphere. At that range, Asuka's rifle fire can't hit such a distant target, but Arael can send mind-invading blasts to Earth, leading to the infamous psychic attack that ravages Asuka's mind (forcing her to continuously relive her worst memories).
With no other means of victory in sight, NERV commander Gendo Ikari orders Rei to toss the ancient Lance of Longinus (a devastating A.T.-penetrating weapon) at Arael, defeating him but losing the Lance in orbit.
Meaning: Thunder of God
Despite appearing fairly early on, Ramiel immediately demonstrates remarkable power. Carrying an odd geometric shape, Ramiel fires lethal energy beams (the first of which immediately defeats Unit-01), and he wields a sturdy A.T. field, even by Angel standards.
After regrouping, NERV barely defeats Ramiel by funneling all of Tokyo's electricity into a rifle blast fired by Shinji while Rei defends him with a specially-constructed shield (which doesn't last long against Ramiel's blasts).
1. Tabris (Kaworu Nagisa)
Meaning: Hand of God
To make a long story short, Kaworu is the 17th Angel in human form who carries Adam's soul, contrasting Rei (who carries Lilith's). But before NERV realizes this, they plan to use Kaworu as the next Eva pilot, and his betrayal particularly unhinges Shinji.
Despite his human size, Kaworu demonstrates phenomenal powers; he can command Adam-based life, shown when he makes Unit-02 battle Unit-01. He also wields the strongest A.T. field yet (until Rei's eclipses it) and likely would have taken down NERV had he not taken pity on mankind and let Shinji kill him.
What do the Angels Want?
Today's list excludes Adam and Lilith, both because they aren't shown fighting and because they shouldn't be counted as true Angels—Adam spawned the Angels, and Lilith is an entirely separate entity who created humans.
But what were they Angels really after? According to info from video game Neon Genesis Evangelion 2, "some of them were trying to access Lilith and reset all life, some of them had nothing in mind, and some were trying to recover their progenitor Adam."
This helps understand the Angels' actions, but for now, as we await more from the NGE universe (currently remaking the series as several films), vote for your favorite Angel and I'll see you at our next anime countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill