If you are into anime, even a little bit, chances are you have heard of Neon Genesis Evangelion. this 90s anime, at first glance, it is about a bunch of highschool kids fighting monsters in cool giant robots. But you need not more than three episodes to understand that it is way deeper than that. It is way more dark, confusing, deeper and gray than that.
The characters all have a dark past, traumas and are far from being heroic. The story hide several hidden agendas from many characters and organizations. The main characters aren't the usual unchangeable characters that most western shows have. They change a lot during the run of the show. It become a great success and launched several trends that anime follow to this date. So, let's start with all the bad things Evangelion left.
The very first thing it made that I really don't like is all the gore. Sure, Akira had a hand in that, but Akira was not the commercial success that Evangelion is. Evangelion set the way for extremely violent shows, like Elfen Lied. And now it seems any show trying to be more 'mature' seems to rely on great quantities of blood, meat masses exploding and killing people in gruesome ways. It is not a sign of maturity, but the fact that the writers cannot seem to think of mature writing, and just add gore instead.
Another bad trending is the one of making insane plots. Many anime trying to be mature put really hard to follow and understand plots, like making the plot a mess is a sign of cleverness. It is not. Confusing the viewer doesn't help to sell a story, it make them hate it. It is the same as the gore, a cheap tactic to make the writing seem more mature, not just lazy.
The third trend it created is the obsessive fans. Evangelion started the trend of obsessive fans collecting all the stuff made about it, fans who cannot shut up about it. Sure, it is not fault of the show per se, but it is an annoying thing. What is fault of the show is the moe trend. Rei and Asuka pretty much started it all, making today's anime filled with cute girls to gather to the obsessive fans.
The last trend I hate, but this one is very particular to me, is the trend of making characters' life hell. I want to watch TV shows and movies to relax. life is already too hard to just sit and see people suffering during twenty minutes. Many shows have being doing it recently. Some do it for the 'realism' (yeah, realism about a show where giant mechas fight monsters) but honestly, I prefer something more lighthearted.
Of course, I would be unfair saying only the bad things. Evangelion have positive influences in the anime world.
It showed that an anime could gather to an older audience, and that old audience could be as profitable as the children. By that, it opened the door to many people to create works trying to aim at people whose classic stories were not enough. We would probably never had animes like Cowboy Bebop if Evangelion wasn't a success.
It also showed that animation could go deeper with its themes, not being locked like western animation in the old cartoon tropes.It could tell stories about human relationships, about philosophy and about human nature, even if superficially at first in Evangelion.
It created a new kind of star. Megumi Hayashibara (Rei's voice) was one of the first voice actresses to become a success outside of the voice acting, becoming a hit singer. This helped the animation to become more than itself.
It helped small studios gain attention and being able to put their shows on TV, as Gainax at the time was not a very big studio. Many were able to create series who weren't as long but that left a mark in the industry.
And finally, it helped expanding anime not only by broadening the audience back in Japan, but by being one of the first animes to gain world wide fame and success. It was to many the first contact to anime, and in many countries is one of the most known and loved shows ever made.
In the end, what happened is what happens with all successful media. The surprising success made several studios trying to find the one reason that made Evangelion a success, copy it and then multiplying one or several factors of it tenfold, hoping that the more 'in your face' attitude could create a similar success, or bigger.
If you are watching any anime made after Evangelion, the chances are you will find lots of influences of it in the show you are watching. Of course some influences are better than others. But for the good and for the bad, even if you didn't liked the show, Evangelion's influence is there. At the same time that it made the anime a bigger industry today, it also created some of its biggest problems.
I love Evangelion, mind you. But it is clear that many of the negative things I see in modern anime comes from it. But love it or hate it, to this date, Evangelion is one of the most influential shows not only in the anime industry, but in several other media. And if you love or hate anime to this day, you can be sure it have Evangelion's influence in it.