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The Most Powerful Angels From Neon Genesis Evangelion Ranked

One of the most acclaimed, influential, and confounding series in anime history, "Neon Genesis Evangelion" remains a sci-fi story like no other. Unearthly beings known as Angels — some roughly Kaiju sized, some much, much larger — routinely attack the Earth in the world of "Evangelion." To defend humanity, scientific minds at the secretive Nerv organization create the Evangelions (commonly referred to as Evas): Giant robots capable of destroying the ironically-named monsters. However, the Evangelions are not what they seem. 

Nerv selects angst-ridden teenagers Rei Ayanami, Shinji Ikari, and Asuka Langley Sohryu to pilot Evangelion Units 00, 01, and 02. As best they can, these traumatized kids kick, shoot, and stab the Angels throughout the original 26 episodes that aired in Japan from 1995 to 1996, as well as the feature-length conclusion, 1997's "The End of Evangelion." 

Which Angels pack the biggest punch? Well, power is an abstract concept, especially in the world of "Evangelion," but we can take a few educated guesses. These are the most fearsome, awe-inspiring, and plainly powerful Angels in "Neon Genesis Evangelion."

18. Sachiel

Sachiel, the Third Angel, attacks Tokyo-3 in Episode 1, "Angel Attack." Its assault necessitates the inaugural voyage of Eva Unit-01 pilot Shinji Ikari. Tossed into a humongous purple mayhem machine with no training and little preparation, Shinji fails to mount much of an offense, and Sachiel promptly trounces him with its retractable forearm spikes. After Shinji falls unconscious, however, Unit-01 goes into primal berserker mode, a state linked to its mysterious nature. The battle takes a complete 180, and a helpless, doomed, panicking Sachiel detonates itself. 

While it's a little dishonest and unfair to dismiss Sachiel as merely the Angel that gets clobbered by a novice pilot with no idea what he's doing, technically, that is how it goes down in the record books. The public simply isn't allowed to know Evangelions can go into berserker mode. Therefore, especially compared to the other Angels, Sachiel ends up looking like a pushover.

17. Gaghiel

Not unlike Sachiel, Gaghiel is the first Angel we see one of Nerv's three Evangelion pilots encounter. But while Shinji mostly screams and whimpers during his go 'round with the Third Angel, Asuka comes across like a highly capable, if arrogant, Evangelion pilot against Gaghiel in Episode 8, "Asuka Strikes!" Gaghiel hardly stands a chance, in fact, even while Asuka contends with Shinji's distracting presence in her cockpit. 

We can't credibly call the Sixth Angel a weakling — it's a gargantuan sea monster. But some of its contemporaries have ghoulish aesthetics or story arcs that elevate them to the level of tragic figures on a cosmic scale. In contrast, Gaghiel is just a giant mean fish. It provides a problem for Asuka to solve in her first appearance. It smashes a bunch of battleships and embarrasses the Japanese navy. But it lacks any sort of significance beyond all that. As Angels go, Gaghiel is one of the least interesting.      

16. Sandalphon

In Episode 10, "Magma Diver," Nerv discovers what is essentially an Angel egg in a volcano. Asuka is sent in Unit-02 to drag it up for research purposes. Sadly, Sandalphon, the Eighth Angel, exits its embryonic stage on the way to the surface, forcing Asuka to forgo her original mission and kill it to death ASAP.

Apart from its admittedly impressive ability to open its mouth while submerged in magma without instantly dying, Sandalphon has a lot in common with Gaghiel: They're both giant evil fish, they both come out on the losing end of scraps with Asuka piloting Unit-02, and they both serve their respective stories without making much of an impression. 

Asuka wrecks Sandalphon by utilizing thermal expansion, a concept she remembers from a recent physics class assignment. When a sci-fi hero can basically use her homework to murder you, that means you're not a sufficiently frightening planetary menace. 

15. Ireul

Back in the '90s, when the majority of people had yet to familiarize themselves with the internet, computer viruses scared the living daylights out of everyone. Thus, the Eleventh Angel takes the form of malicious software to attack Nerv in Episode 13, "Lilliputian Hitcher." This threat probably resonated with the series' original 1995 audience. However, computer viruses feel like less of a doomsday device than a frustration to modern viewers, and Ireul suffers for it.

While Ireul creates a significant problem for Nerv and its tech — especially "the Magi," three bio-mechanical supercomputers codenamed Casper, Balthasar, and Melchior — its ability to project an abstract sense of menace has aged quite poorly. As if Ireul needs to look less intimidating, it's not even defeated in an exciting, violent showdown with an Evangelion, but by Nerv staffers Ritsuko Akagi and Maya Ibuki using their abilities to type very quickly.   

14. Israfel

In Episode 9, "Both of You, Dance Like You Want to Win!" Asuka moves into an apartment with Nerv Operations Director Misato Katsuragi and Shinji. Asuka doesn't get along with the latter roommate at all, which would be less of a problem if the literal continuation of human life wasn't dependent on their ability to work together on the battlefield. 

Israfel, the Seventh Angel, demonstrates the remarkably-timed ability to split into two entities. In order to defeat Israfel, Shinji and Asuka must learn to synchronize their offensive approach. It's not Israfel's fault that it shows up in one of the series' sillier episodes, but its attempt to unmake all of human existence acts as a pretext for Shinji and Asuka's juvenile, semi-flirtatious squabbling. Israfel helps "Evangelion" lighten up, and that's swell, but this is a ranking of the most powerful Angels, not the most effective comedic foils. 

13. Zeruel

In theory, if not always in practice, each Angel is considered more powerful than the one that came before. Ergo, the Fourteenth Angel first appears as quite the handful in Episode 19, "Introjection."

Zeruel effortlessly beats Asuka by slicing Unit-02's arms off with its hyper-quick razor fins. Rei sacrifices herself to detonate an N2 mine in Zeruel's face — a heroic effort the creature casually shrugs off. After that, Zeruel comes close to killing Nerv's  senior-level staff with a laser eye blast. 

But ultimately, Unit-01 eats Zeruel. Let's face it, getting eaten is a total punk move. Zeruel also has the advantage of fighting Asuka and Rei while both pilots are coping with psychological issues and have been temporarily abandoned by Shinji. This makes us wonder how well Zeruel would've fared against a trio of Evangelion pilots with their heads fully in the game. 

12. Sahaquiel

Sahaquiel is an immense cartoon eyeball that causes tidal waves by dripping droplets of itself through Earth's atmosphere. The Tenth Angel is the literal sky falling. 

Scary, right? But in Episode 12, "She Said, 'Don't Make Others Suffer For Your Personal Hatred,'" all Sahaquiel does is passively plummet straight down onto Tokyo-3. It's the most visually distressing Angel on this list so far. It also might be the most potentially harmful, given the ease with which it could sink the entire nation of Japan into the Pacific Ocean. But it's not very proactive. 

Sahaquiel meets an unceremonious end when it's caught on its way down by all three Evangelions expanding their A.T. Fields in unison and stabbed in the eye with a progressive knife. This Angel seems like an intimidating threat, only to reveal itself as a paper tiger. 

11. Shamshel

In general, "Evangelion" focuses on fleshing out its human characters, and isn't overly concerned if a few Angels feel like interchangeable monsters of the week. Shamshel waves around laser whips that protrude where arms would normally be, and that's totally rad. Plus, it looks a little bit like a squid, and squids are much more frightening than fish, which gives Shamshel an advantage over Gaghiel and Sandalphon.

But Episode 3, "A Transfer," is primarily concerned with developing the friendships between Shinji and his classmates, well-meaning grunt Toji Suzuhara and military fanboy Kensuke Aida. Shamshel does its thing, but it can't help but be overshadowed by the introduction of these key characters. The Fourth Angel almost gives Shinji enough of a fight to crack through to the top 10. But when all's said and done, Shamshel is just an obstacle for our hero to confront and overcome so he can impress his new school chums.  

10. Ramiel

The antagonist of Episodes 5 and 6 — titled "Rei I" and "Rei II," respectively — embodies the simplicity, elegance, and existential horror of Evangelion's better Angels. Ramiel, the Fifth Angel, is a blue diamond with a laser that shoots out of its side and a drill that bores directly downward. Ramiel also projects a bright yet foreboding wail, as though it's accompanied by a terrifying chorus that only knows how to sing one note.

Ramiel's plan to reach Lilith — the Second Angel, secretly stashed deep underneath the surface of Tokyo-3 in Nerv HQ — entails drilling a hole while using its laser to keep the Evangelions at bay. Putting Ramiel down requires Nerv to blast it with all the electricity in Japan, redirected into an energy cannon. Rei seems to almost die in the ensuing battle, but as fans soon learn, Rei's mortality is something of a relative concept. Though Ramiel ultimately fails, its appearance isn't easily forgotten.

9. Matarael

Matarael scurries around Toyko-3 on four insectoid legs and weeps corrosive fluid from an eye that protrudes off the black orb that is its body. As unknowable entities go, the Ninth Angel is profoundly brilliant and disgusting in equal measure.

Attacking during a city-wide power outage in Episode 11, "The Day Tokyo-3 Stood Still," Matarael creeps out the entire city before succumbing to Shinji's hail of bullets. While Matarael's nauseating design scores a ton of points, it suffers from glaring practical missteps. Most prominently, it lacks any discernible defense mechanisms.

By Episode 11, Shinji, Rei, and Asuka have become an effective combat squad. But if all any of them had to do was empty a clip of anti-Kaiju machine gun bullets into one of Matarael's unprotected eyes, then any of them could've handled the situation individually. Despite its flaws, however, Matarael is still a terrifying eyeball monster that cries acid, and no one can take that away from it.

8. Adam

The first human being. The First Angel. The source of the Evangelions. The origin point of the Second Impact. Sounds like a heavy hitter, doesn't it? Technically, Adam is all those things. But its only appearance outside of flashbacks occurs when smooth operator Ryōji Kaji delivers it to Nerv head honcho Gendo Ikari in a box in Episode 8, "Asuka Strikes!" The creature nailed to the wall in Nerv's basement is Lilith, the Second Angel — not Adam, as folks tend to assume. But nobody points out the mistake until Episode 24, "The Beginning and the End, or 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door.'"

Adam reenters the fray halfway through "The End Of Evangelion" by merging with Lilith and annihilating the boundaries between all human souls, thereby remaking mankind into a single, harmonious abstract material. But that doesn't last. Really, unless it plays second fiddle to another entity, Adam never accomplishes much. Even though it gets all the credit, the Second Impact wasn't even Adam's idea.

7. Leliel

Leliel is sort of like the judo master of the Angels. Instead of relying on brute force, the Twelfth Angel appears in Episode 16, "Splitting of the Breast," as a swirl-patterned floating orb that switches into an all-encompassing shadow the moment it is attacked. While in shadow form, Leliel functions like quicksand: It pulls its victim down and holds them in a shapeless infinite void until sensory deprivation sends them spiraling into a state of deeply uncomfortable self-analysis. 

We know we're not supposed to root for beings who exist only to destroy all humans, but Leliel is sort of awesome, right? It's not the only Angel to weaponize the pilots' traumatic memories against them, but Leliel wields the skill especially well. Plus, it has one of the coolest designs in the series. Who wouldn't want a smaller version of Leliel hanging in their living room? A version that looks like Leliel before Unit-01 goes berserk and rips it to bloody shreds, of course.   

6. Armisael

Armisael, the second-to-last Angel expected to descend upon mankind, is a snake-like beam of solid light that assaults Rei's psyche with her own loneliness in Episode 23, "Rei III." The Sixteenth Angel attempts to merge with Rei and Unit-00, but the blue-haired teen dynamo eradicates her adversary by self-detonating her Evangelion, thereby preventing it from harming Shinji in Unit-01.

The floaty tube of doom that is Armisael inflicts permanent damage on Nerv and the Evangelions — a feat most of the other Angels do not approach. Rei's noble self-sacrifice is only provisional, of course: As she states in the original English dub after waking up in the hospital, "I think I must be the third one." But it's a different story for Unit-00. The fight against Armisael is the prototype Evangelion's final outing. The Nerv repair team either lacks the incentive to put Rei's suit back together, or doesn't have time before they all turn into primordial soup in the ensuing apocalypse.

5. Arael

Serious philosophical and metaphysical considerations undergird "Evangelion" from the beginning. However, a strong dose of goofy anime energy counterweights the series' high-concept ruminations ... until Arael, the Fifteenth Angel, points its light beam at Unit-02 and pulls Asuka's mind inside out in Episode 22, "Don't Be." At that point, the show lets us know that happy fun cartoon time has come to a conclusion, and it shall not resume.

Rei eventually knocks off Arael by impaling it on the Spear of Longinus, but the damage is done: Asuka's sense of identity and self-worth have been warped beyond recognition. The brash Evangelion pilot is left a wailing, clinically-depressed husk who doesn't bounce back until "The End of Evangelion."

Like some of the "weaker" Angels, Arael primarily serves as a device for another character's development. However, since the character development it enables happens to be some of the strongest on the show, it earns a high strength ranking.

4. Tabris (Kaworu Nagisa)

"Tabris" is the fancy-pants name for the character better known as Kaworu Nagisa, the pilot who replaces Asuka, possibly awakens Shinji's bi-curiosity, and creeps out Rei. He eventually reveals himself as the Seventeenth Angel, and comes close to destroying humanity, though he decides against it at the last moment.

Kaworu appears in Episode 24, "The Beginning and the End, or 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door.'" By the end of this installment, his head is no longer attached to his body. Kaworu's death prods Shinji further down the spiral of despair that renders him catatonic in "The End of Evangelion." Also, Kaworu can control Unit-02 with his mind, which is totally boss. Essentially, Kaworu shows up, betrays Nerv, and voluntarily dies in quick succession. He's powerful in both an emotional and combative sense, and makes one heck of an impression in a short period of time.

3. Bardiel

Of all the Angels with which Nerv crosses paths, only one neutralizes an Evangelion pilot permanently. Bardiel's triumph in Episode 18, "Ambivalence," might be indirect, but it makes little difference. By corrupting and gaining control over Unit-03, thereby forcing the other Evangelions to half-heartedly fight their own, the Thirteenth Angel inflicts much more damage on the global effort against the Angels than almost all of its contemporaries. 

Better yet (or should we say worse?), Bardiel lays the foundation for the first of three events that drive Shinji's mental health to the brink. As Shinji refuses to fight another Evangelion, knowing there's another pilot just like him stuck somewhere in the suit, Nerv Commander Gendo Ikari switches off Shinji's control of Unit-01. The autopilot system rips Unit-03 apart. Shinji can do nothing but watch while his suit destroys another that he soon discovers contains his pal Toji. Bardiel doesn't end the world, but it lands a brutally effective precision strike against its defenders. 

2. Lilith

Lilith, the Second Angel, gets a lot done in "Evangelion." It's the source of Rei's soul, and without Rei piloting Unit-00, just about every battle in the series would have turned out differently. Furthermore, what appears to be Lilith's corpse hanging in the top-secret subterranean area known as Terminal Dogma leaks LCL fluid. While the true nature of LCL fluid is enormously complicated, it principally acts as a sort of motor oil for Evangelions, being utterly essential to their functioning. Finally, with due respect to Adam, Lilith plays a bigger role in launching the cataclysmic events depicted in "The End of Evangelion" than the much-ballyhooed First Angel. 

There's also something to be said for the astoundingly grotesque image of Lilith nailed by its hands to a red cross, with human legs hanging off the bottom of its incomplete torso. Simply put, Lilith is pure nightmare fuel.   

1. Lilin

Unfathomable beings of near-omnipotence and malignancy that fall from the stars might think they're hot stuff, but they ain't nothin' compared to the biggest butt-kicker of all: Lilin, the Eighteenth Angel! And guess what — that's us! 

In "The End of Evangelion," Misato learns that mankind originates from Lilith, hence humanity's alternative designation of "Lilin." The Angels Nerv spends the whole series fighting are not biblical entities sent by a vengeful God, but other possibilities of what mankind could have been. Following the deaths of all other Angels at the conclusion of "The End of Evangelion," the only creatures left breathing, somehow, are Shinji and Asuka. Mankind continues! Individualism prevails! That's a happy ending ... right?

In many senses, humanity isn't the most powerful Angel — you don't have laser whip arms, do you? But if civilization as we know it ever blows up, it probably won't be due to a giant monster attack, because giant monsters don't exist. But we exist! And if you're reading this, so do you! You're the most powerful Angel in "Evangelion" because only you, and all the other people on the planet, have the power to screw it all up. Congratulations!