Neon Genesis Evangelion is full of Judeo-Christian references which would be an exotic religion in Japan. To westerners, most of the references are obscure as well. In Evangelion, all of the events of Evangelion have been prophesied in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which is why the scientists of NERV know that a specific number of angels will be coming, and they have to get ready for the assaults.
Very few angels are actually named in the Bible - Lucifer, Gabriel, and Michael to be specific. Raphael appears in the Book of Tobit, part of the Apocrypha found in the Catholic Bible. Lilith appears in the Jewish Midrash, and the rest of the angels are named from angels in the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha (the hidden writings from the time of the fourth century B.C. (or B.C.E. if you are Jewish), and the New Testament times.
Adam of course is well known in the western world. The body of the first 'angel' serves as the source of the genetic material from which the huge, biomechanical beings known as Evas were created. This is of course a direct reference to Eve. Lilith, the second angel from the Second Impact, is named after Lilith who was the first wife of Adam. Lilith, like Adam, was created from the earth. Unfortunately apparently the diety used mud and slime to create her because she wanted to be the equal of Adam, and not subservient to him. She was eventually exiled from Eden for being too sexually domineering, and Eve, the mother of mankind was formed from Adam's rib instead. (If you want to read more about the original ancient story of Lilith, try the Lilith Page). In Jewish lore Lilith went on to become the mother of demons and some think that she married the Devil himself.
In the series, the angels, and the Evas, possess a kind of force field called an AT Field, which is resistant to anything humanity can throw at them, including nuclear weapons. The only things that can penetrate an AT field is another AT field, or a weapon of massive power.
While the angels are self powered, the Evas' massive power requirements out-strip any power source humanity is able to build into them. The Evas operate off of electrical power drawn from long electrical umbilical cables. If unplugged, and Eva can move and fight for five minutes on back-up power before it has to plug into another power source. Otherwise it becomes immobile, and goes into life-support mode which can last about another 16 hours before the person inside will die.
The following information was derived from an interview with Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, published in Animerica, vol. 6, #8, in 1998. Without further ado, here's a summary of the 17 giant alien beings known as angels found throughout Neon Genesis Evangelion:
Adam - first angel - Experiments on this giant being of light triggered the Second impact, 2000 A.D. This giant angel was involved in a great explosion on Antarctica that melted the Antarctic ice cap and caused massive flooding throughout the world. The world's ocean levels were catastrophically raised by 160 meters (400 feet), resulting in the death of half of humanity. From Adam's body, scientists obtained source material used in the creation of the Evangelion units (Evas) that figure so centrally in the series. After being used to create the Evas, Adam contracted from its giant form into an embryo, which Kaji eventually delivers to Gendo in episode 8. Apparently Gendo is able to hide Adam by turning the angel into his hand, a fact later revealed in the End of Evangelion (how this is managed, I have no idea). It is said in the series that if an angel touches Adam, Third Impact will be triggered.
Lilith - second angel - A seven-eyed, bone-white body crucified to a red cross at the heart of NERV. Into this angels side is the Lance of Longinus, a weapon that is able to pearce an angel's AT field. It keeps this angel from regenerating it's legs, which have been ripped off. Also, from Lilith's side, weeps a fluid that is the LCL (Link Connect Fluid) used by NERV in filling the pilot plugs for the Eva pilots. Near the end of the series, the 17th angel, Tabris penetrates into the heart of NERV itself, and finds Lilith there, instead of Adam.
Sachiel - third angel - originally Sachiel was a cherub that lived in the first Heaven and presided over the planet Jupiter. Some believe that Sachiel fell at the time of Satan's being cast out of Heaven, and now serves as one of the four sub-princes of Hell. In the T.V. series, the alien named after Sachiel appears in episode one, and is the first of the angels to reach Earth in 2015 A.D. NERV is hardly prepared. Rei, the 'first child', was injured in combat against Sachiel in the very beginning of the episode, when Shinji first sees Sachiel and Unit-01 fighting. Shinji, the 'third child' is thrust unwillingly into Unit-01, which he can hardly even make walk. He is forced to fight a monster that gives his Eva a severe thrashing, and impales his Eva with its pile driver attack. Sachiel's eye beam weapon is also extremely effective. When all looks like it is lost, Shinji passes into a different state of consciousness, and his Eva, Unit-01, goes berserk, attacking Sachiel with abandon and defeating it. Sachiel, facing evisceration by Unit-01, self destructs instead.
Shamshiel - fourth angel - named after the angel who was the "mighty sun of God". Shamshiel ruled the Fourth Heaven, served as a guardian of Eden, and was said to be one of the chief aides of the archangel, Uriel. However some believed that he became a fallen angel who taught mortals the astrological secrets of the sun. The Evangelion angel had a flat, worm-like body and approached Tokyo-3 from the water. It had two deadly cordlike tentacles with which it hacked and slashed its way through Tokyo-3. Only by disobeying a direct order and fighting on back up power, is Shinji able to defeat it.
Ramiel - fifth angel - this angel was named after an angel which was also associated with archangel, Uriel. Ramiel presided over true visions, had authority over souls that will be raised from the grave on Judgment Day, and is rumored to have destroyed the hosts of Sennacherib. The Evangelion, episode 6, Ramiel was a diamond like being equipped with a high-intensity laser beam which can shoot straight through any threat. It also has a drill that is able to drill through the ground, and procedes to attempt to penetrate into NERV by drilling, a process which would take it about 16 hours. To destroy it, Misato has to commandeer a proto-type positron rifle which is energised by most of the electrical poser of Japan. Shinji, who has greater fine motor control of his Eva, wields the rifle. Rei, who has finally gained control of Unit-00, is ordered to shield Shinji from Ramiel's laser. This she does without hesitation, even though she was within seconds of being killed by the beam when Shinji's positron rifle shot destroys Ramiel.
Gaghiel - sixth angel - this was an obscure angel that served as a guardian of the 6th Heaven. The Evangelion Gaghiel is a sea-borne moster that appears in episode 8 in which Asuka is first introduced. It attacks the convoy of ships that are carrying Asuka and the third Eva, Unit-02, to Tokyo-3. Both Asuka and Shinji ride inside Unit-02 while Asuka shows what she can do in the war against the angels. Eva-02 ends up trapped in the jaws of the angel, while it swims through the ocean, tethered to the angel's power line. Eventually they become the worm on a hook for Misato's plan. Misato reels the Eva and the angel back in, and the Eva pries the angel's mouth open in time for Misato to ram two large battleships down Gaghiel's maw. The battleships then open fire by remote control, blowing the angel away.
Israfel - seventh angel - also known as "the burning one", Israfel has the duty of blowing the trumpet on Judgment Day, and as such is an angel of resurrection and song. When the Evangelion Israfel initially presents itself in episode 9, Asuka thinks it will be a pushover, and attacks. Israfel splits into two identical angels, and defeats both Unit-02 and Unit-01. The U.N. attack the angel with N2 mines, blowing away much of the Japanese countryside, but only managing to temporarily disable the angel for 6 days. To successfully attack this pair, Shinji and Asuka have to be in perfect synchronization with each other, and to achieve this, they practice on a sort of musical dance board, much to Asuka's disgust. She never wants to admit that she needs anyone's help for anything. The final right scene becomes one of synchronized combat against the angel, choreographed to a Beethoven (?) musical score (quite pretty - really).
Sandalphon - eighth angel - named after an angel that was famous for being one of the tallest angels in the heavens, and is a master of heavenly song. Also known as the "angel of tears". Sandalphon was also said to be central to the process of sexual differentiation in a human embryo. In Evangelion, episode 10, Sandalphon is located in a volcano by NERV scientists, while it is still in embryo form. Asuka volunteers to go down into the molten lava in Unit-02 to capture the embryo. But it evolves quickly and a fight ensues in the heart of the volcano. Asuka defeats the angel, but her cooling systems are cut and she is unable to climb out of the volcano. She prepares herself for her death, but is rescued when Shinji, in Unit-01 dives into the volcano and pulls Unit-02 out.
Matariel - ninth angel - this entity bore the title of the angel of rain. It was also reputed to be one of the "rulers of this world". In Evangelion, episode 11, Materiel is a giant spider-like being which attempts to penetrate NERV by melting its way in. It secretes an unbelievably acidic form of orange goo from its main eye. It takes the combined efforts of Shinji, Rei, and Asuka to destroy this angel with Asuka taking defense, Shinji the offense, and Rei performing backup.
Sahaqiel - tenth angel - bears the name of the angelic ruler of the sky. This angel was a single eyed monster that orbited the Earth for the purposes of planetary bombardment. Once it gets its targeting right, Sahaqiel begins to fall toward Earth with the plan of detonating itself where it can do the most damage to NERV. However, by utilizing their AT fields, Shinji and the others are able to stop and defeat Sahaqiel's plan for mass destruction.
Yrouel - eleventh angel - Yrouel was the angel of fear, and his name was often inscribed onto amulets worn by women during pregnancy. In Evangelion, Yrouel takes the form of a computer virus which invades NERV by infecting the three Magi super computers.
Leliel - twelvth angel - named after the angelic ruler of the night. This angel takes the form of a giant, hovering, zebra-striped sphere, which floats over Tokyo-3. No attack seems to touch it though. When Asuka and Shinji investigate, the sphere turns out to be the 3 dimensional shadow of a black two dimensional angel under the earth's surface. When the angel comes to the surface, Shinji and Unit-01 are swallowed up inside, where they remain on life support alone. When power for life support, is about to expire, NERV scientists are preparing for a desparation mission to retrieve Shinji and Unit-01, when suddenly Unit-01 battles forth (using some here-to-for hidden source of power) from the shadow-sphere floating over the city, destroying the angel in the process.
Bardiel - thirteenth angel - bears the name of the angel of hail, also sometimes thought to be the angel of lightning. The Evangelion Bardiel infected and corrupted Eva Unit-04, which was being piloted for the first time by the 'fourth child'. It immediately begins attacking NERV, and disables the other Evas. Only Unit-01 was left active to subdue it, and due to Shinji's reluctance to hurt the occupant of Unit-04, Unit-01 is remotely piloted by Gendo's personnel using a dummy plug system that they have developed.
Zeruel - fourteenth angel - bears the name "arm of God". Zeruel was known as a warrior angel, concerned with pure strength, and also with fire. The Evangelion Zeruel has ribbon-like limbs which disable Asuka's Unit-02 in record time and penetrates the NERV geofront as far as the main control room. It also bears the eye beam of Sachiel. It does the greatest damage to NERV, of any angel. Shinji's Eva goes berserk in the fight against Zeruel, and after defeating the angel, begins eating it, taking the essence (and power source) of the angel into its own body.
Arael - fifteenth angel - called the "lion of God", and alternatively known as an angel and a demon, this entitity has dominion over the winds. He was also thought to be in charge of meting out punishment in the lower world. The Evangelion Arael is a crystalline angel which attacks NERV from space. It is out of reach of any other Earth weapon, and never descends where the Eva's can fight it. It is finally defeated when Gendo has the "Lance of Longimus" retrieved from the side of Lilith and uses Rei in Unit-00 to hurl the lance into space, striking the angel and destroying it. The lance is lost in the process, greatly irritating Seele, and upsetting Seele's future plans.
Armisael - sixteenth angel - was thought to have power over pregnant women and their children. In Evangelion, Armisael resembles an enormous loop of DNA. Nothing that Rei and Shinji are able to do seems able to defeat it. Finally, when it seems that Armisael is about to destroy Unit-01 and Shinji, Rei resorts to using her AT field to penetrate its AT field. She then melts down the core of her Eva, resulting in a giant explosion. Both Rei and Armisael are destroyed in the process.
Tabris - seventeenth angel - Tabris' namesake was the angel of free will. Tabris took the form of Kaoru Nagisa, the fifth child. He appears only in episode 24, where he befriends Shinji. By that point, Shinji has been left pretty much alone. Asuka is catatonic and Rei is dead. Misato is begrieved with the loss of Kaji, who was a rascal and a scoundrel that she couldn't help but still be in love with anyway. All of Shinji's classmates have been evacuated away, with most of Tokyo-3's population. Shinji has been left alone as the sole remaining Eva pilot in defense against the anticipated last remaining angel. Enter Kaoru, introduced by Seele itself. Kaoru befriends Shinji, offering up various platitudes and expressing bewilderment at some of life's foibles. Then it turns out that Kaoru himself is the 17th angel, able to synchronize with an Eva without even being inside of it, as long as the Eva has no pilot. He sets Unit-02 in a struggle with Shinji in Unit-01, which wrecks some of the facilities of NERV. While this chaos goes on, Kaoru penetrates more deeply into NERV in the angels' search for Adam, than any other angel. What he finds instead, is Lilith, crucified to a wall. Finally Shinji defeats Unit-02, and grabs Kaoru. Strangely, Kaoru goads Shinji into killing him.
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