The anime/merchandising franchise Evangelion is one of the few animated series, like One Piece or Gundam, to have achieved true cultural mainstream status in Japan. Even people who have never watched an episode of the TV series (or seen an installment of the movie, or read a chapter of the comic, or played one of the pachinko machine adaptations, or shaved with one of the Eva razors, or eaten one of the Eva burgers… like we said, franchise) can recognize its iconic characters and giant robots.

It wasn’t always like that, though. When Evangelion (or simply Eva, as its fans call it) began airing in 1995, its robot designs took some getting used to. Whereas most anime robots were inspired by a body builder’s physique, Eva’s machines had an almost gangly appearance, with lanky limbs, stooped posture, and what appeared to be tennis shoes. Their fragile look would turn out to be a perfect match for the psyches of their teenaged pilots, but things didn’t start out that way, as shown in Eva’s early planning portfolio.

▼ The final Evangelion design

EOD 20
The initial design kept much more in line with tradition, with broad shoulders and a helmeted look evocative of an NFL running back in full pads. The coloring is also much simpler and brighter, with an overall more kid-friendly feel that prompted one Japanese Internet user to comment, “Looks more like a Power Ranger.”
Concept sketches for protagonist Shinji’s robot are even more heroic, with six-pack abs and swooping shoulder extensions making it look like an angelic knight in shining armor.
It’s also shown wielding a gigantic samurai sword, as opposed to the much more sensibly sized combat knife it carries in the franchise now.

EOD 18
Speaking of Eva’s main character, Shinji’s physical design didn’t change much, although seeing him smiling mischievously is a bit of a shock, given how he spends most of the series dealing with crippling levels of depression and emotional isolation. The accompanying notes describe him as a “quiet” honor student who “develops as a person by experiencing various events,” which, while still accurate in the series’ final form, is a pretty impressive case of understatement.

There’s no mistaking fellow pilots Asuka and Rei, despite Asuka’s hair being shorter and Rei’s a far less dazzling shade of blue than in their TV incarnations.
EOD 10

EOD 11

▼ Final Asuka and Rei designs

EOD 21

Tactician Misato and scientist Ritsuko’s ‘80s inspired clothing didn’t quite make the final cut, nor did Ritsuko’s love of bonsai and punk rock, as stated in the production notes.
EOD 12

EOD 13
The document also makes reference to 27 Angels–the extraterrestrial creatures Eva’s heroes fight against–as opposed to the 17 which appear in the anime.
But by far the most shocking divergence from what Evangelion eventually became lies tucked away in the initial story synopsis, with a tinny little blurb for its 26th and final TV episode that promises, “All mysteries and drama are resolved.”
EOD 16
Sixteen years and five theatrical versions later, Eva still hasn’t come to a decisive conclusion. Not that its masses of fans are complaining. It’s true that each new installment of the franchise leaves viewers scratching their heads, but that’s OK when it also but leaves them on the edge of their seats.

Source: Livedoor
Top image: Livedoor
Insert images: Cosplay Island, Livedoor, Anime Dump