Evangelion: Every EVA Unit from the Original Series Explained

Warning: Spoilers for the original Neon Genesis Evangelion animeAs a mecha anime series, Neon Genesis Evangelion‘s EVAs are a core part of the series, and their unique nature means that they also have a major role to play in the plot. Each EVA seen is fairly unique, with its own problems and capabilities, to the point that they can essentially only be piloted by a single specific person. Here’s a rundown of the EVA units seen throughout the series, what they can do, and what’s known about how they were made.

Evangelions, or EVAs, are biomechanical cyborgs rather than robots–essentially giant humans wearing armor that can be controlled. This is shown several times when the armor is damaged, and human hands complete with fingernails are revealed underneath. Each EVA has within it a human soul as a result, and the EVAs were designed based off of Adam, the First Angel, meaning they are connected to the very Angels that they’re supposed to fight.

The armor that covers the EVA isn’t just for defense but is also a restraint placed on the EVAs to keep them under control and to keep the public from finding out they’re not just robots. Unlike most mecha, Evangelion’s EVAs can only operate independently off of a battery for a brief period and are usually shown fighting while connected to an external power source via an umbilical cable to the back.

Unit 00

Unit 00, also known as the Prototype unit, is an (at first) orange EVA piloted by Rei Ayanami. As the prototype, it was obviously the first action-ready Evangelion constructed, and as such has some very different capabilities from the others. It’s unable to use certain equipment, such as the Magma Diver suit seen in the episode of the same name, making it less useful overall than the other units. Unit 00’s typical weapon is the sniper rifle, which is simply an EVA-sized sniper rifle, allowing for extremely long-range attacks.

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When confronting the Fifth Angel, Ramiel, Unit 00 receives major damage and is taken in for upgrades and repairs. When Unit 00 returns, its armor is now blue and equipped with rockets, among other new features. The identity of the soul within Unit 00 isn’t ever stated outright, but many fans believe it to be an earlier clone of Rei Ayanami.

Unit 01

Evangelion Unit 01

Unit 01, sometimes called the Test-type Unit, is the purple and green EVA piloted by Evangelion’s protagonist, Shinji Ikari. Unit 01 is referred to as a “test” type because it was created differently than Unit 00, using the being known as Lilith, the Second Angel, as its base, rather than the first Angel, Adam. Unit 01 seems to be the most powerful of the EVA units, as well as the most difficult to control. EVA Unit 01 goes berserk on several occasions, breaking free of its restraints and attacking its enemy viciously with teeth and claws.

On one such occasion, Unit 01 even devours the Fourteenth Angel, Zeruel, which results in a significant power upgrade. Unit 01 also use the widest range of equipment in Evangelion, with some prominent examples being the Progressive Knife, which cuts with high-energy vibrations, and the Pallet Rifle, an assault weapon-style gun that’s scaled up for use by an EVA. The soul within Unit 01 is said to be that of Shinji’s mother, Yui Ikari; Rei is able to partially pilot Unit 01 because she is a clone based on Yui.

Unit 02

Evangelion Unit 02

Unit 02, the Production Model EVA, is the red and orange EVA piloted by Asuka Langley Soryu. Like Unit 00 (and all EVAs but Unit 01), Unit 02 is based on Adam. Unit 02 was specially designed to fix problems experienced with both of its predecessors, so it’s overall a more reliable EVA than either, although its pilot isn’t nearly as reliable. A wide variety of equipment can be used by Unit 02, including the Magma Diver suit, and many of its weapons are upgraded versions of those used by Units 00 and 01, such as its Progressive Knife.

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Unit 02 sees increasingly less use as the series goes on because Asuka’s ability to synchronize with it drops off, and as such it doesn’t factor in much in later confrontations. In The End of Evangelion, the film follow-up to the original series, Unit 02 goes out in a blaze of glory, seemingly defeating many of the “Mass Production EVAs” before they get back up. Ultimately, Unit 02 is ripped apart and destroyed. The soul inside of Unit 02 is that of Asuka’s mother, who committed suicide when Asuka was young. Asuka’s difficult relationship with her mother may be part of why she struggled to synchronize with it, although that’s never confirmed.

Units 03 & 04

Evangelion Unit 03

Unit 03 appears in only two episodes, and the black EVA is set to be piloted by Shinji’s friend, Toji Suzuhara. Unit 03 and 04 are twin units that were built in the US. Unit 04 is destroyed offscreen in a failed experiment, forcing Unit 03 to be shipped to Japan. During the shipping process, the Thirteenth Angel Bardiel infects the EVA and lies in wait.

When the Evangelion is activated with Toji inside, the Angel seizes control, and the EVA is lost. A berserk Unit 01 ends up ripping the Angel-Unit 03 hybrid to shreds, killing the enemy while severely injuring the pilot trapped inside. Toji survives with a lost leg, but only barely, and does not pilot another EVA for the rest of the series. Unit 03’s soul is never stated, and it’s unknown what connection it had to Toji, or if there was a connection at all.

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Mass Production EVAs

Evangelion Mass Production Eva

The Mass Production EVAs are very different from the other Units, both in appearance and capability. They do not look nearly as humanoid, with long snout-like, eyeless faces and no clear necks. Each Mass Production EVA has a set of wings enabling it to fly, and they aren’t restricted by the need for an umbilical cable or even a pilot. Mass Production EVAs are also equipped with a replica of the Lance of Longinus, giving them a devastating ability to break through AT Fields. These Evangelion units are unleashed by SEELE to destroy the NERV headquarters, and Asuka in Unit 02 fights them off, but ultimately loses. It’s unknown what souls, if any, these units housed.

The Evangelion units are all very unique, and certainly stand out in the crowded world of mecha anime as one of the most interesting interpretations to date. Their uses are in some ways more realistic, such as the need for external power, while in other ways are complete fantasy, such as the giant humanoid bodies used as their base. Their bizarre mix of traits is one of the key factors that makes Neon Genesis Evangelion as different and compelling as it is, as it ties its protagonists to their mecha in a very literal way that no other series had at the time.

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