I first saw Neon Genesis Evangelion as a teenager in the nineties, and immediately and irrevocably fell in love with pivotal secondary character Kaworu Nagisa.
Since Evangelion is newly added to Netflix, a fresh audience is discovering this incredible classic series for the first time. Lucky for this new wave of fans, this means that there’s lots of other media related to and inspired by Evangelion out there already to check out when you’re done with the core series, and as a longtime Kaworu fan, I’ve made a list of some of the things like-minded souls can hunt down as a follow-up.
— Devilman Crybaby. Hideaki Anno was deeply inspired by the original Devilman comic books, and by mangaka Go Nagai’s broader body of work, in creating Neon Genesis Evangelion, and that influence is clearest in the story of Kaworu and Shinji. If you need another tale of a delicate-hearted teen boy whose life is ripped apart by a beautiful mercurial angel who adores him, this one’s for you. Devilman Crybaby is gory, devastating, and beautiful — perfect for any Evangelion fan.
— Cardcaptor Sakura may seem to be a strange choice to include, especially straight after Devilman Crybaby (although Sakura creators CLAMP are fans of the original Devilman) but the love story between Sakura’s older brother Touya and his best friend Yukito (voiced by Shinji seiyuu Megumi Ogata) is a softer, kinder version of many of the same motifs found in Shinji and Kaworu’s story — a powerful inhuman being, a human teenager, an unexpected love story, and the sacrifice of oneself for the most important person in your life.
— Sarazanmai. Anything by anime creator Kunihiko Ikuhara is worth your time, and I picked Sarazanmai for this list simply because it’s the most recent of his work and the first to centre on teenage boys and men in its exploration of queer themes. Ikuhara and Anno are dear friends, and by Ikuhara’s own admission the bath scene between Kaworu and Shinji is based on a real conversation between the two, with Ikuhara offering the same unconditional love and support to Anno that Kaworu offers Shinji.
Sarazanmai is the story of three middle-school-aged boys whose emotional hangups cause them to struggle in connecting to others, who are forced to reveal their deepest selves to each other in order to save their city.
— Puella Magi Madoka Magica. This one’s probably as famous as Evangelion at this point, with an enormous pachinko building near Akihabara station advertising both (as seen above). Many fans have noticed the similarities between Kaworu’s endless repeated attempts to make Shinji happy across different canon timelines and Homura’s quest to do the same for Madoka. Gen Urobuchi, Madoka’s writer, was also heavily inspired by Devilman in his character creation and storytelling beats, something that becomes especially apparent in the follow-up film The Rebellion Story. If Kaworu’s willingness to do anything — anything — for Shinji’s sake strikes a chord in your heart, Madoka’s graceful, shattering exploration of what it means to be a magical girl might be for you.
— Mirai Nikki, also known as Future Diary, is known to most people as ‘the yandere anime,’ with its duotagonist Yuno Gasai becoming infamous for her look of besotted, terrifying love for the object of her affection, Yuki. Yuki has a second love interest in the series, though, a young man named Aru Akise, who is a direct homage to Kaworu. Beyond his grey hair and red eyes, and voice acting provided by Kaworu seiyuu Akira Ishida, Akise’s nods to Kaworu include directly copied shots from Evangelion, such as the character clutched in the fist of a huge figure, and other story beats that would be spoilers if I included them here.
Mirai Nikki ultimately explores the question of whether being a divine being is worth anything at all, if it means living without the love of the mortal person who means more than the world to you — something Kaworu fans are likely to enjoy thinking about as they watch an anime.
— Yuri!!! on ICE is a bit of a tone shift for this list! The story of professional figure skaters, this anime has Evangelion key animator Tadashi Hiramatsu as its character designer and animation director. Grey-haired, mercurial Viktor shares with Kaworu a philosophy of immediately going for public bathing upon getting close to the object of their affection. Nothing like immediate nudity to get ‘em interested.
The other key moment of similarity between Viktor and Kaworu comes in Viktor’s description of anxious, self-doubting brunet Yuuri, the aforementioned object of affection — Viktor observes that Yuuri’s heart is one of glass, just as Kaworu once noted of Shiji’s. Yuri!!! on ICE features much lower stakes than the end-of-all-humanity drama that a lot of entries on this list include, but its gentle exploration of relationships and what motivates people makes it well worth a look.
— No.6 is a science fiction anime with a love story between two teenage boys at its core. Like Evangelion, it imagines a world where a threat larger and stranger than anything humans can explain threatens to destroy everything… but is everything even worth saving? What does authentic connection, true experience, mean? The two lead characters in this story, and the fragile bond that blooms between them, are as absolutely unforgettable as Evangelion’s Shinji and Kaworu.
— Kakumeiki Valvrave is yet another Devilman-influenced addition to this list, but like Evangelion plants the action in the cockpits of mechas which, like the Evangelions, demand a body-horror price from their pilots: they must renounce their humanity and become vampires.
— Seraph of the End, another Devilman-inspired vampire-themed anime and manga, may also be worth a look for Kaworu fans — Mika’s love for Yuu falls into the same the-rest-of-the-world-can-burn-for-all-I-care category as so many other adorations on this list, and I think we all know who to blame for that:
So there you go! This list is by no means comprehensive, but it gives you somewhere to start!