Asuka Langley Soryu

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Asuka Langley Soryu
Neon Genesis Evangelion character
Asukka13.jpg
First appearance"Asuka Strikes!"
Created byGainax
Hideaki Anno
Yoshiyuki Sadamoto
Voiced byJapanese:
Yūko Miyamura
English:
Tiffany Grant (ADV Films dub, Rebuild)
Stephanie McKeon (Netflix dub)
In-universe information
AliasAsuka Shikinami Langley (Rebuild)[1]
TitleSecond Child
Captain (Rebuild)
RelativesKyoko Zeppelin Soryu (mother)
Ryoji Kaji (guardian)
Misato Katsuragi (guardian)
NationalityGerman-American

Asuka Langley Soryu (惣流・アスカ・ラングレー, Sōryū Asuka Rangurē, IPA: [soːɾʲɯː asɯ̥ka ɾaŋɡɯɾeː]) is a fictional character in the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise. Within the series, she is designated as the Second Child and the pilot of the Evangelion Unit 02. Her surname is romanized as Soryu in the English manga and Sohryu in the English version of the TV series, the English version of the film, and on Gainax's website. Asuka is voiced by Yūko Miyamura in Japanese in all animated appearances and merchandise. In English, Asuka is voiced by Tiffany Grant in the ADV Films dub and by Stephanie McKeon in the Netflix dub. In the Rebuild of Evangelion films, her Japanese surname is changed to Shikinami (式波). In a Newtype poll from March 2010, Asuka was voted as the third most popular female anime character from the 1990s.

Conception[edit]

Early designs for Asuka by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto.[2]

Asuka's surname comes from the Japanese World War II aircraft carrier Soryu, her middle name from the American World War II aircraft carrier Langley, and her Rebuild surname from the Japanese World War II destroyer Shikinami. Her first name comes from Asuka Saki (砂姫 明日香, Saki Asuka), the main character of the Japanese manga Super Girl Asuka (超少女明日香, Chō Shōjo Asuka), written by Shinji Wada.[3]

Character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto explained that he "first designed an Asuka-type girl as the lead character", but felt it might be too similar to previous anime that he and Anno had worked on, such as Gunbuster and Nadia. He suggested to Anno that they change the lead character to a boy, which would be more in keeping with the robot genre.[4]

As Sadamoto and Anno designed the series, Sadamoto came to believe that Asuka would occupy the position of an "'idol' in the Eva world". He also described his belief that the relationship between Asuka and Shinji would be similar to the relationship between Jean, Nadia's love interest and eventual husband in the earlier Nadia. Asuka's personality, just like those of the other main characters, was designed so as to be understood at a glance.[4]

Yūko Miyamura, Asuka's Japanese voice actress, said "Asuka wasn't the most open-hearted character I've ever met...every time I tried to draw myself in closer synchronization, Asuka would never allow herself to sync with 'me'... One day, I figured out that there was a wall in Asuka's heart".[5][6] Much later, she stated that work on the series was "very hard" and that at times she had "wanted to erase Evangelion."[7] Asuka's English voice actress, Tiffany Grant, felt that playing Asuka was "refreshing", as "she says the most horrible things to people, things that you'd like to say to people and can't get away with."[8]

Appearances[edit]

In Neon Genesis Evangelion TV series[edit]

Asuka Langley Sōryū was born on December 4, 2001.[9] She is the daughter of Dr. Sōryū Kyōko Zeppelin, an employee of a research center named Gehirn. She has German and Japanese blood and US citizenship.[10] In 2005, her mother participated in a contact experiment with Unit-02, but due to an accident, suffered a severe mental breakdown, becoming permanently hospitalized. The mental injuries incurred during the failed experiment also render her unable to recognize her own child. Asuka is deeply hurt by her mother's behavior, who speaks to a doll believing it to be her daughter. A while later, Asuka is chosen as the Second Child and Unit-02's official pilot.[11][12] Hoping that her selection could cause her mother to recognize her again, she excitedly runs to her room to announce the news, only to find her corpse hanging from the ceiling.[13] Shocked and traumatized by her mother's suicide, Asuka adopts her self-affirmation as the only reason to be, participating in countless training sessions in order to become a pilot and meet other people's expectations.[14]

At the age of fourteen, she graduates from her German university. Asuka leaves Germany soon after, accompanied by her guardian Ryoji Kaji and Unit-02, on board a United Nations aircraft carrier escorted by numerous warships there to protect the Eva. During the trip, she meets Shinji Ikari, Third Child and pilot of Unit-01, and her new classmates Toji and Kensuke. The UN fleet is then attacked by Gaghiel, the sixth angel.[15] Recognizing this event as a good chance to demonstrate her skills, Asuka independently decides to activate her Eva, coercing Shinji into joining her in the entry plug.[16] Despite struggling to work together and the Eva not yet being equipped to operate underwater, the two Children manage to destroy the enemy. On September 21, 2015[17] she is placed in class 2-A of Tokyo-3 first municipal middle school.[18] From episode 9 onwards, Asuka lives with Shinji under Misato Katsuragi's care and the two get to know each other better.[19][20] Asuka starts calling him "baka-Shinji", "stupid Shinji". She also continuously teases him about his passivity and perceived lack of manliness, but gradually comes to respect and like him as they fight Angels together, though she is rarely able to express these feelings. However, following a series of Angel battles in which Shinji outperforms her, she increasingly grows unable to continue to suppress her traumatized psyche, drastically lowering her sync ratio with Unit-02 in the process.[21][22] This comes to a head in episode 22, when the Angel Arael attacks and Asuka, burdened by her continually worsening performance in synchronization tests, is infuriated by being ordered to serve as backup to Rei. She defies this order and tries to attack the Angel alone, but is overwhelmed by the Angel's attack, a beam that penetrates her mental barrier and forces her to relive her darkest memories. As a result of this, Asuka loses all will to live and spends episode 23 aimlessly roaming the streets of Tokyo-3. In episode 24, she is found by Nerv personnel, naked and starving herself in the bathtub of a ruined building. The main series ends with her lying in a hospital bed in a catatonic state.[23][24]

In The End of Evangelion film[edit]

In The End of Evangelion, as the Japanese Strategic Self-Defense Force invade Nerv headquarters, Asuka is placed inside Unit-02, which is then submerged in a lake within the Geofront, for her own protection. As she is bombarded by depth charges, Asuka wakes up, declares that she does not want to die, and, in a moment of clarity, realizes that her mother's soul is within the Eva and has been protecting her all along. Her self-identity regained, she emerges and defeats the JSSDF, before encountering the mass-produced Evas.[25] Though she successfully disables all nine opponents, Unit-02's power runs out and the near infinite power of the mass-produced Evas' S² Engines allow them to eviscerate and dismember Unit-02 using their Lance of Longinus replicas.[26] Seeing Asuka's destroyed Evangelion makes Shinji go into a frenzy, which eventually culminates in him starting Third Impact. Shinji and Asuka have an extended dream-like sequence inside Instrumentality. Asuka claims she can't stand the sight of him, but Shinji responds that it is because he is just like her. Shinji claims he wants to understand Asuka, but she refuses. Shinji is furious at this rejection, and lashes out by choking her.

After Shinji rejects Instrumentality, she is the second person to return some time after Shinji in the film's final scene, her injuries sustained in battle against the Mass-Produced Evas covered in bandages. Shinji begins to strangle the seemingly comatose Asuka, but stops when she caresses his face in a manner reminiscent of Yui's, Shinji's mother, earlier caress. She then says one of her most famous sentences: 'Kimochi warui' ("I feel sick" or "How disgusting") with a cold voice.

In Rebuild of Evangelion film series[edit]

In the four-film re-imagining of the TV series Asuka makes her first appearance in the second film, Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance. Several changes have been made to her character, such as her family name being changed from Sōryū (惣流) to Shikinami (式波),[27] continuing the Japanese maritime vessel naming convention. Additionally, rather than her having a college degree, she holds the rank of captain in the European air force, as a fighter pilot.[28] She also does not share Sohryu's pediophobia, and no longer has the same infatuation with Kaji, choosing to ignore an invitation to go on a trip with him until Misato forces her to go. Shikinami is also more reserved than Sohryu, and does not form a friendship with Hikari. Shikinami arrives in Tokyo-3 defeating the 7th Angel by herself with ease. She introduces herself to Shinji, Toji and Kensuke but takes an immediate dislike to Rei. Asuka is seen playing with a hand puppet and telling herself she is special and has always been alone. Before fighting the 8th Angel, Asuka is unable to sleep due to anxiety, and she goes to Shinji's room and has a talk with him laying by his side, asking him why he pilots the Eva. Asuka attempts to learn how to cook in order to impress Shinji, but once she realizes Rei has been doing the same, Asuka asks her what Shinji means to her. Asuka has decided to be the test pilot of Evangelion Unit 03 in order to avoid Rei's party. Unit-03 is taken over by the 9th Angel, and Shinji refuses to engage it. Asuka survives Unit-03's destruction at the hands of the Dummy Plug system, but is last seen in urgent care.

In the third film, Asuka is initially part of the rescue operation for Unit-01, which is stranded in space, and is now working together with Mari supporting her piloting Unit-08. After fighting off an initial attack by Nerv, Asuka confronts Shinji in his holding cell and tells him 14 years have passed. Asuka is biologically 28 years old but hasn't physically aged thanks to what she calls "The Curse of Eva", and she's wearing an eyepatch which glows blue with the same symbols as Shinji's DSS Choker.[29] Asuka, again supported by Mari, confronts Shinji and Kaworu in Terminal Dogma and is surprised to see Shinji piloting Unit-13. When Shinji pulls the Spears of Longinus out of Lilith's body and inadvertedly starts Fourth Impact, Asuka has her battery recharged and quickly moves in to protect the Wunder from Mark.09. Asuka activates "Code 777" and her Eva metamorphoses into a feline form, while Asuka herself grows fangs. Without time or energy to properly defeat Mark.09, Asuka self-destructs her Eva in order to save the Wunder. Later, an exhausted Asuka opens the hatch on Shinji's entry plug. Asuka briefly complains that Shinji did not come to rescue her and is running away from his problems and, irritated at his lack of response, starts walking away, before turning back and extracting Shinji physically, as he refuses to move. Asuka grabs Shinji's wrist and they start moving along the ruins of Tokyo-3, followed by Rei.

In other media[edit]

Asuka on the cover of Volume 4 of the manga (Japanese printing).

Asuka appeared in many manga series based on the anime, including Neon Genesis Evangelion by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto. The events in this manga series mirror those of the anime with some divergences apparent. Asuka appears as a main character in the series and is depicted, for the most part, similar to her anime counterpart. Asuka appears in various other manga spin-offs including the Shinji Ikari Raising Project and Neon Genesis Evangelion: Campus Apocalypse with varying changes to her personality and characterization, including more romantic stories like Angelic Days. Asuka is usually more psychologically stable. Most of these portray Asuka as Shinji's childhood friend, similarly to the alternative universe from episode 26, and have her fight for Shinji's attentions with other characters, mainly Rei. She is older and more mature in Evangelion Anima, having developed a strong friendship with Shinji and even Rei.

Asuka made appearances in various video games alongside other Evangelion characters such as in Neon Genesis Evangelion for the Nintendo 64 as well as the popular cross-over video game franchise Super Robot Wars, where she often butts heads with the equally hot-headed and intelligent Kouji Kabuto, the pilot of Mazinger Z and Mazinkaiser. Asuka is a potential romantic option in all Evangelion videogames that include such an option, such as Girlfriend of Steel 2nd and Shinji Ikari Raising Project, often, but not always, alongside Rei and other characters. A number of official art and merchandising depicts her an Shinji in romantic situations, similar to other characters. She is also implied to have developed crushes on famous heroes such as Char Aznable (in the guise of Quattro Bageena) and Amuro Ray. However, in Super Robot Wars Alpha, Asuka jealously seizes a bouquet of roses from Shinji meant for Lynn Minmay. In Super Robot Wars Alpha 3 she snaps Shinji out of his depressed state during the battle with the Mass-Produced Evas by declaring that she could not be with someone who would simply lie down and die. Asuka also appears in the crossover Transformers x Evangelion. She piloted Ava-1 to intercept the Angel possessed Starscream calling himself Angel-scream, her Ava was scanned by the Autobot leader Optimus Prime and he gains her Ava's size and colors, she with the help of Optimus Prime and the other Autobots defeat Angel-scream[30]

Characterization and themes[edit]

Reproduction of Asuka's school uniform

Asuka is an energetic,[31] proud[32][33] and enterprising[34] girl with a resolute character.[35] She tends to look down on other people[36] and wants to constantly be at the center of attention.[37][38] Although she normally shows a stubborn and exuberant attitude, in some moments she exhibits a kinder, more sensitive and caring side.[39] Her abrupt and impulsive ways often arouse other people antipathy, since they do not fully understand her real intentions.[40][41] Unlike Shinji and Rei she is extremely proud of her pilot role and engages with great enthusiasm in missions,[42] but despite her apparently strong, aggressive and competitive character, Asuka suffers from the same sense of alienation as her companions.[43] Her ostentatious competitiveness actually originates from her tragic childhood experience, marked by the mental illness and consequent suicide of her mother Kyōko.[44][45] Asuka faced her loss by immersing herself in pride, becoming indisposed to any kind of help or advice and adopting strength and self-affirmation as her only raison d'être.[46][47]

Tormented "by the fear of not being necessary",[48] she eventually pilots Unit-02 only to satisfy her intimate desire for acceptance, longing to be considered "an élite pilot who will protect humanity".[49] Her excessive self-confidence leads her to clash with Shinji,[50][51] gradually losing self-confidence[52][53] and becoming psychologically and physically compromised.[54][55] The Fourth Child's selection, Tōji Suzuhara, also contributes to the destruction of her pride.[56][57] After she learns of Kaji's death[58] she questions the meaning of her life and her identity,[59] avoiding any kind of human contact and never meeting the gaze of other people.[60] Overwhelmed by the fear of being alone,[61][62] the young woman shows that she has a great and morbid need for EVA, even more than her colleague Shinji has. In a scene from the twenty-fifth episode she excoriates the machine as a "worthless piece of junk", but then immediately goes on to admit that "I'm the junk".[63]

Asuka's relationship with Rei Ayanami is equally tormented. She despises Rei by calling her "Miss Perfect" (優等生, yūtōsei) and "mechanical puppet girl".[64][65] In a scene from the 22nd episode Rei confesses to be ready to die for commander Gendō Ikari, provoking Asuka's anger, who slaps her and confesses to having hated her from the first moment they met.[66] Shortly thereafter, Rei helps her during the fight against Arael, an act that destroys her already wounded pride.[67] According to her English voice actresss Tiffany Grant, although Asuka may at first glance appear to be "pushy and loud", spectators can understand her true and profound reasons in the later episodes of the series: "So I think in the end her heart is in the right place but she has a hard time communicating that with her emotions and everything, how she really feels. I mean, she wants to have friends and she wants to be liked".[68]

Psychoanalysis[edit]

"Just to let you know, Asuka wasn't the most open-hearted character I've met. When I act Asuka's part, I try to synchronize myself with her 400%. But every time I tried to draw myself in closer synchronization, Asuka would never allow herself to synch with me. Even in the end, she would never step across the line and draw closer to me. One day, I figured out that there was a wall in Asuka's heart."
Yūko Miyamura in "A Place For Asuka in the Heart"[69]

Asuka suffers from masculine protest,[70] an expression from Alfred Adler's individual psychology to indicate exaggeratedly masculine tendencies in some tired and rebellious women who protests against traditional female gender role. She sees her male peers merely as rivals and spectators of her abilities,[71] and suffers from a marked emotional complex for male sex, merging a so-called "radical rivalry" and a latent inferiority complex. Her masculine protest is reflected in her strong misandric tendencies, since she's dominated by the need to beat male peers with an obsessive self-affirmation desire. This leads her to continuously attack Shinji's virility,[72][73] directing both interest and open hostility at him.[74][75] Due to their intimate fragility and insecurities Shinji and Asuka are unable to effectively communicate with one another on an emotional level, despite their mutual latent interest.[76][77] Asuka's excessive pride prevents her from admitting—even to herself—that she feels something for Shinji,[78][79] and as events and battles progress her feelings of love and hate intensify and dominate her.[80][81] She kisses Shinji in the fifteenth episode,[82] but when he beats her in synchronization tests she begins to develop a profound inferiority complex towards him.[83] Despite her deep distrust toward most men, she has a deep sense of admiration for her guardian and senpai Ryōji Kaji.[84] Asuka is emotionally dependent on Kaji, since she has a strong subconscious desire to find a reference figure to rely on.[85] Asuka's infatuation also leads her to feel great jealousy for him and she eventually tries to seduce him.[86][87]

Asuka ostentatious self-love represents an act of psychological compensation in order to be recognized in the eyes of other people. After her mother's mental illness she represses her sadness and eventually decides to not cry anymore and behave like an adult with a reaction formation.[88] Her memories related to her past and her mother are repressed and removed from her consciousness during this phase.[89] In the last episodes, Asuka completely loses her self-confidence. She develops a deep disgust toward herself and suffers from separation anxiety.[90][91]

Reception[edit]

Cosplayer portraying Asuka at Marseilles Japan Expo 2011

Asuka merged in various polls on best anime pilots[92][93] and female anime characters,[94] proving popular among both female and male audience.[95][96] In 1996 she ranked third among the "most popular female characters of the moment" in the Anime Grand Prix survey by Animage mangazine, behind Rei Ayanami and Hikaru Shido from Magic Knight Rayearth.[97] In 1997 and 1998 Anime Grand Prixes she also managed to remain among the top 10 female characters; in 1997 she ranked in fourth place, while in 1998 she ranked sixth.[98][99] In the monthly popularity Animage surveys Asuka also ranked third in August 1996 and seventh in July 1998.[100][101] Her popularity increased after the release of the second Rebuild of Evangelion movie; in August and September 2009, she emerged in first place and remained the most popular female Neon Genesis Evangelion character in Newtype magazine popularity charts,[102][103] while in October she ranked tenth.[104] In a Newtype poll from March 2010 she was voted as the third most popular female anime character from the 1990s, immediately after Rei Ayanami and Usagi Tsukino from Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon.[105] In 2017 she ranked 16th among the characters Anime Anime readers would "rather die than marry" with.[106]

Her line "Are you stupid?" became widely used among hardcore fans since her first appearance in episode 8.[107] While appreciating her for providing "a good dose of comic relief" to Evangelion, Anime Critic Pete Harcoff described her as "an annoying snot".[108] Raphael See from T.H.E.M. Anime Reviews, who found Neon Genesis Evangelion characterization "a little cliché, or just plain irritating at times", despised Asuka for her arrogant attitude.[109] Anime News Network editor Lynzee Loveridge ranked her seventh among the "worst sore losers" of anime history.[110] IGN critic Ramsey Isler ranked her as the 13th greatest anime character of all time for the realism of her characterization, saying: "She's a tragic character, and a complete train wreck, but that is what makes her so compelling because we just can't help but watch this beautiful disaster unfold".[111] CBR included her among the best anime female pilots,[112] describing her as "the best classic tsundere in shounen anime" and "one of the most fascinating characters in anime".[113][114]

According to critic Jay Telotte, Asuka "is the first credible multinational character in the history of Japanese SFTV".[115] Crunchyroll also praised her realism and originality,[116] and Charapedia wrote: "The description of her psychology is realistic and without forcing, unlike what many other anime characters. Her kind and childish side is the real reason for Asuka's charm".[117] Asuka's fight sequence against the Mass-Production Evangelions in The End of Evangelion was particularly well received by critics who felt that it was her definitive moment, as otherwise she remains static for most of the film.[118][119] Praise was also given to Tiffany Grant for her role as Asuka's English voice actress. Mike Crandol of Anime News Network stated that Grant was "her fiery old self as Asuka."[120] Theron Martin wrote that Asuka's portrayal in Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance is "distinct from the get-go," stating that she is even more anti-social than in the original anime series. Martin also wrote that despite seeming to be the "most socially adjusted Eva pilot in the TV series," the Asuka of Evangelion 2.0 "makes no pretenses about liking anyone" and that she "seems motivated as much by establishing herself in a future career path in Nerv as she is by her personal pride."[121] Eric Surrell also commented on Asuka's role in Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance, stating that "the arrival and sudden dismissal of Asuka was shocking and depressing, especially considering how integral she was to the original Evangelion."[122] Slant Magazine's Simon Abrams, reviewing Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance, negatively saw new Shinji and Asuka's relationship, "which is unfortunate because that bond should have the opportunity to grow in its own time".[123]

Legacy and merchandising[edit]

A Mercedes-Benz inspired by Eva-02 and Asuka

Asuka's character has been used for several merchandising items, such as life-size figures,[124] different action figures,[125] guitars,[126] clothes[127][128] and underwear, some of which immediately sold out.[129][130] Her action figures were also very successful, contributing significantly to the revenue of the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise.[131] According to Japanese writer Kazuhisa Fujie, Asuka's figures have become so popular that they have run out of stock and have been put back on the market with a second edition.[132] In 2008 BROCCOLI released a videogame entitled Shin Seiki Evangelion: Ayanami Ikusei Keikaku with Asuka Hokan Keikaku (新世紀エヴァンゲリオン 綾波育成計画withアスカ補完計画, lit. "Neon Genesis Evangelion: Ayanami Raising Project with Asuka Supplementing Project"), in which the player takes on the task of looking after Asuka and Rei Ayanami.[133]

Asuka appeared in several videogames based on the original animated series and medias not related to the Evangelion franchise, including Monster Strike,[134] Super Robot Wars,[135] Tales of Zestiria,[136] Puzzle & Dragons,[137] Keri hime sweets, Summons Board,[138][139] Puyopuyo!! Quest[140] and in an official Shinkansen Henkei Robo Shinkalion cross-over episode.[141] Some Japanese celebrities cosplayed her during concerts or tours, including Saki Inagaki,[142][143] Haruka Shimazaki[144] and singer Hirona Murata.[145] In 2019 Lai Pin-yu, a Taiwanese Democratic Progressive Party and Legislative Yuan member held many election rallies cosplaying Asuka, gaining great popularity.[146] Asuka's character was mentioned and parodied by Excel from Excel Saga and some of her aesthetic and character traits inspired other female characters, including Mai Shibamura from Gunparade March,[147] Michiru Kinushima from Plastic Memories[148] and D.Va from Overwatch game series.[149] Japanese band L'Arc-en-Ciel also took inspiration from Asuka for the song Anata.[150] In 1997, Asuka was the most popular name for newborn girls in Japan.[151]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Sadamoto, Yoshiyuki (October 2006). Der Mond. Viz Media. pp. 22, 32, 33, 42–50, 55, 74. ISBN 978-1-4215-0767-5.
  3. ^ "Evangelion character names". Translation of essay by Hideaki Anno about character name origins; includes a link to the original essay in Japanese. Archived from the original on August 19, 2007. Retrieved August 19, 2007.
  4. ^ a b "EVA If it weren't for Sadamoto – Redux". Translation of interview with Yoshiyuki Sadamoto about designing the series. Archived from the original on July 19, 2011. Retrieved August 1, 2011. An easily recognizable silhouette is also important, but I designed the characters so that their personalities could be more or less understood at a glance. For example, even the color and length of the hair expresses personality. I thought that Asuka would occupy the position of an "idol" in the Eva world, and that [Asuka and] Shinji should be just like the relationship between Nadia and Jean.
  5. ^ pg 166 & 167 of "A Place For Asuka in the Heart", written by Yuko Miyamura in 1997
  6. ^ http://www.evamonkey.com/writings_miyamura01.php translated into English by William Flanagan. This short essay was included as a backpage supplement in the third manga volume released in the US: Neon Genesis Evangelion Volume 3, story and art by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto 1966, English adaptation by Fred Burke, published July 1999 in Canada by Viz Communications. ISBN 1-56931-399-7; it is also included in the June 2004 edition of Volume 4 published by Viz in the United States. ISBN 1-59116-402-8
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