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Shinji Ikari

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Shinji Ikari
Neon Genesis Evangelion character
Shinji Ikari.jpg
Shinji Ikari with his Eva-01 (in the background) as a child (left), as a pilot (center) and as a student (right)
First appearanceNeon Genesis Evangelion chapter 1: Angel Attack
Created byHideaki Anno
Voiced by
In-universe information
Full nameShinji Ikari
SpeciesHuman
GenderMale
TitleThird Child
Notable relativesGendo Ikari (father)
Yui Ikari (mother)
Misato Katsuragi (guardian)

Shinji Ikari (Japanese: 碇 シンジ, Hepburn: Ikari Shinji) is a fictional character in the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise created by Gainax. He is the franchise's poster boy and protagonist. In the anime series of the same name, Shinji is a young man who was abandoned by his father (Gendo), who asks him to fly a mecha called Evangelion Unit 01 to protect the city of Tokyo-3 from Angels: creatures which threaten to destroy humanity. Shinji appears in the franchise's animated feature films and related media, video games, the original net animation Petit Eva: Evangelion@School, the Rebuild of Evangelion films, and the manga adaptation by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto.

Director Hideaki Anno conceived Shinji as a representation of himself, reflecting his four-year depression after the airing of his previous Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water. Shinji's insecurity and torment are explored through streams of consciousness and inner monologues, with episodes focusing on his introspection. Anno used psychoanalytical theories for his characterization, including the Freudian psychosexual development model. His design was created by Sadamoto. Shinji is voiced by Megumi Ogata in Japanese, and by Spike Spencer and Casey Mongillo in English.

The character has had a mixed response from anime and manga publications. Although his complexity was praised and generally considered realistic, he was criticized for his insecurity and weakness. Shinji's characterization in the spin-offs and the Rebuild of Evangelion films, however, received more positive comments for his more courageous and self-confident personality, especially in the second instalment of the saga, Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance. Shinji has placed highly in popularity polls and has been the subject of scholarly study. Merchandise based on the character, including action figures and perfumes, has been marketed.

Conception[edit]

Five sketches of Shinji in various poses
Original sketch of Shinji by Sadamoto, altered for the anime series

Neon Genesis Evangelion director Hideaki Anno was deeply depressed for four years before the series' production.[1] After the failure of the Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise sequel Aoki Uru, Gainax began planning a new series. Themes and ideas from Aoki Uru were borrowed for the new project, including the concept of "not running away". According to Gainax co-founder Yasuhiro Takeda, the passage was "something more than just transposing one show's theme onto another ... Anno inherited something from Aoki Uru — the determination not to run away from problems — and what we saw in Evangelion was maybe just a reflection of those feelings".[2] Anno reflected his depression in the series, conceiving a world "drenched in a vision of pessimism"; he began production "with the wish that once the production complete, the world and the heroes would change".[1] He originally proposed a character similar to Asuka Langley Soryu as the protagonist, following the Gainax tradition of a female protagonist in Gunbuster and Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water. Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, the character designer for Evangelion, objected to a new female protagonist, saying that "a robot should be piloted by a trained person, and if that person just happens to be a girl then that is fine"; however, he did not understand why a young girl "would pilot a robot". He eventually suggested a boy as the main character; his relationship with Asuka, who became another primary character, was modelled after Nadia's relationship with Jean, her love interest (and eventual husband) in the series.[3]

Anno, accepting Sadamoto's proposals, suggested two male friends as protagonists: Tōji Suzuhara and Kensuke Aida, borrowing ideas from the Ryū Murakami novel Ai to gensō no fascism. A single, male protagonist with two girls was later considered.[4] Anno named the new male character Shinji after two of his friends,[5] one of whom was Evangelion animator Shinji Higuchi.[6][7] For the last name, he chose the Japanese word Ikari ("anchor"), linking with the names of other characters in the series to nautical jargon or Japanese Imperial Navy warships.[8]

Shinji's character was conceived to reflect Anno's personality "both in conscious and unconscious part".[9][10] He was thus represented as "a melancholic oral-dependent type" caught "in [an] oral stage", like Anno considered himself.[11] Seeing Shinji as a reflection of Anno, assistant director Kazuya Tsurumaki avoided depicting him as a brave character, since "Anno isn't that much of a hero".[12] "Shinji was summoned by his father to ride a robot, Anno was summoned by Gainax to direct an animation", he said.[13] Like other male protagonists in Gainax series, Shinji was conceived with a weak and insecure personality. Gainax wanted to reflect the psychological state of animation fans and the Japanese society, in which fathers are always at work and emotionally absent.[14] Anno fixed the protagonist at "age fourteen", when "independence of mind starts manifesting".[15] Sadamoto drew Shinji in an ordinary summer school uniform with a white shirt, making him "an average character".[16] He modelled the character on Nadia Arwol from The Secret of Blue Water; his face (particularly his eyes) were heavily influenced by Nadia, with just a change in hairstyle. Since Shinji lacks the enthusiasm and courage of other robot-anime heroes, Sadamoto gave him a different heroic interpretation: "rather than a reflection of a hero, sort of a refraction of a hero". At first, he tried to create a character "that would tap into the consciousness of today's anime fans". Shinji was first drawn with slightly different features, which were changed by the main staff. In one of Sadamoto's original proposals, he had long hair which would have covered his face or fluttered in the wind. Sadamoto changed his mind, finding his original design "too wild".[17]

Voice[edit]

Spike Spencer, an older voice actor
Casey Mongillo, a young-looking voice actor
Spike Spencer (left) and Casey Mongillo (right) voiced Shinji in the original and Netflix English's dub, respectively.[18]

In the original Japanese, Shinji is voiced by Megumi Ogata in all his appearances in the original series, as well as the later films, spin-offs, video games[19][20] and the new Rebuild of Evangelion film series.

Ogata described Shinji as one of the "most memorable" roles of her career.[21] His characterization required considerable physical and psychological effort.[22] In the eighteenth episode, Shinji cries and gasps for a number of seconds during a fight; Ogata felt like her "whole body [was] aching".[23] "Every time a new script arrived, every time I turned a new page I was torn apart by a new pain", she said.[24] The Rebuild of Evangelion dub also presented obstacles. On the last recording day for the film Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance (2009), Ogata was constantly forced to scream; she collapsed on the studio floor, and Anno sat on the floor with her. He praised her work and shook her hand, thanking her for "keeping the character's feelings unchanged" and for adding her thirteen years of experience "to the current Shinji".[25]

Appearances[edit]

Neon Genesis Evangelion[edit]

Shinji is the only child of Gendo Rokubungi and Yui Ikari (a student at Kyoto University who became a researcher).[26] When he was three years old, Yui brought Shinji to the Gehirn research center in Hakone to see Evangelion 01's first activation test. In a strange accident, his mother disappears before his eyes;[27] after the accident, Gendo leaves Shinji with an acquaintance for about ten years.[28][29] Now commander of the Nerv agency, he invites Shinji to the city of Tokyo-3[30] to pilot Evangelion Unit-01, in order to protect the city from creatures known as Angels. Shinji reluctantly agrees, and fights against the Angel Sachiel. After the Angel attack, Shinji lives with Misato Katsuragi, a Nerv officer and now his guardian, and attends school in Tokyo-3;[31][32] he meets Toji Suzuhara and Kensuke Aida, his first true friends.[33][34] When the Angel Ramiel tries to destroy Nerv headquarters, Shinji and fellow pilot Rei Ayanami work together to destroy him.[35] After Ramiel's defeat, a nuclear-powered machine intended to fight the Angels called Jet Alone runs amok, and he and Misato stop it;[36] during this time, Shinji gradually starts to change his attitude, trying to be more open and spontaneous. He also meets Asuka Langley Soryu, an Eva pilot from Germany, and they defeat the Angel Gaghiel together in the eighth episode.[37]

In the second third of the series, Shinji, Rei and Asuka face Angels in quicker succession and Shinji begins bonding with his peers, especially Asuka, becoming more confident and assertive. When they are sent to fight the Angel Leliel, Shinji, receiving praise from Gendo and improving his synchronization scores, is now accepting his role as an Evangelion pilot. He decides to attack on his own, and is sucked into a parallel universe by Leliel named Dirac's Sea. In the Dirac's Sea, Shinji confronts the Angel and his inner self; he is freed from the Angel by Yui, whose soul is in the Eva.[38]

After Shinji is forced to fight Eva-03, controlled by the Angel Bardiel, with classmate Toji Suzahara trapped inside, he decides to quit Nerv. Angel Zeruel mutilates the other Evangelion units, defeating Rei and Asuka. Shinji, arguing with his mentor and Misato's lover, Ryoji Kaji, returns to Nerv to protect the city.[39] He merges with its unit and frees the Evangelion; however, he is trapped in its core for a month.[40] Although Rei sacrifices herself in the battle against the Angel Armisael to save Shinji, she is revived through one of her clones. Asuka runs away and falls into a coma; Toji and Kensuke flee Tokyo-3, and Shinji becomes depressed. In the twentyfourth episode, he meets Kaworu Nagisa, Asuka's substitute pilot, and they become friends.[41] Kaworu turns out to be the final Angel, however; Shinji is forced to kill him, traumatizing him further.[42][43] During a process named Instrumentality, in which the souls of the entire humanity unite in a single collective consciousness, he confronts his traumas and why he acts the way he does; he believes himself worthless and undeserving of love.[44] After talking with most of the Evangelion cast and seeing a version of himself in a world where he leads a normal life, Shinji realizes that he can be happy; his life is worth living, and he is congratulated by the rest of the cast.[45][46]

The End of Evangelion[edit]

The 1997 film The End of Evangelion continues Shinji's story, portraying his downward spiral into depression and loss of the will to live. Shinji visits a comatose Asuka in the hospital; when his pleas for attention go unanswered, he exposes Asuka's breasts and masturbates. He remains catatonic while all Nerv personnel, including Misato, are killed during an attack. Shinji then decides to pilot the Eva to save those who are still alive, as Asuka is now on the surface fighting the Mass Production Evas. He is, however, unable to reach her in time, and when Shinji learns about Asuka's defeat, the Evangelion moves on its own to let him reenter it. After seeing the mutilated corpse of Asuka's Unit-02, Shinji's intense emotion summons a spear named Lance of Longinus (which had been on the Moon) to Earth.[47][48] The lance's fusion with the Eva evokes a tree of life.[49] Shinji thus has long dreamlike exchanges with Misato, Rei and Asuka about the pain of reality and his tensions with them. When he begs for Asuka's attention and she refuses him, Shinji begins Instrumentality and humanity's souls are reunited into one existence. After reevaluating his position and talking with Rei, Kaworu and Yui, he decides that he wants to live in the real world and returns to Earth, also giving other humans the opportunity to return. Shinji, having placed grave markers in memory of most of the other characters, wakes up some time later with Asuka lying next to him.[50] He suddenly tries to strangle her, but stops and breaks down when Asuka regains consciousness and caresses his face.[51]

Rebuild of Evangelion[edit]

[Eva] is a story where the main character witnesses many horrors with his own eyes, but still tries to stand up again. It is a story of will; a story of moving forward, if only just a little. It is a story of fear, where someone who must face indefinite solitude fears reaching out to others, but still wants to try.

– Hideaki Anno, announcing the Rebuild of Evangelion movies[52]

In Rebuild of Evangelion, Shinji returns as the central protagonist; in Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone (2007), first instalment of the saga, Shinji's role is similar to that of the anime series. He is assigned to be the pilot of Unit-01, and works with Rei to defeat the Angel Ramiel.[53] In the second installment, Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance (2009), Shinji reluctantly continues his duties as the pilot of Unit-01. After the battle with Angel Bardiel (when his father forced his Unit-01 to critically injure Asuka), Shinji retires from his duties and leaves Nerv. When Angel Zeruel consumes Rei, Shinji returns and defeats the Angel; his decisions, however, trigger a catastrophic event named Third Impact. Through this, Shinji apparently saves Rei by fusing with the Evangelion.[54]

In the third film, Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo (2012), set fourteen years later, Shinji awakens to a world completely changed by the Third Impact and is treated with hostility by Misato and others. They place a DSS Choker on him: an explosive device on his neck which will be activated if he comes close to starting another Impact. After learning from Misato that they are part of Wille (a new organization fighting Nerv), Shinji leaves when Rei appears. At the remnants of Nerv, he is approached by Kaworu Nagisa, an Eva-13 designed pilot who befriends him. He becomes despondent after Kaworu tells him that humanity holds him responsible for initiating the Third Impact. After Shinji realizes that he failed to save Rei and the new Rei is a clone, Nagisa convinces him to pilot Eva-13 with him. Shinji begins the Fourth impact; Eva-13 eats the Twelfth Angel, and ascends to divinity. Kaworu is killed by the DSS Choker he took from Shinji to stop the Fourth Impact. Devastated, Shinji loses the will to live. Asuka rescues him from his Entry Plug, berating him for acting "like a baby". The Rei clone appears and follows them, as they head along the ruins of Tokyo-3 to again be rescued by Wille.[55]

Manga[edit]

In Yoshiyuki Sadamoto's Neon Genesis Evangelion manga adaptation, Shinji's characterization differs: he has brown eyes, instead of the blue eyes of the anime series and Rebuild. Sadamoto tried to portray him as more of a misfit, a young teenager more stubborn, rebellious, juvenile and apathetic than Hideaki Anno's insecure character.[56] In the anime's fourth episode, Shinji runs away because he is overwhelmed by responsibility; in the manga, he runs away because he realizes that Misato is spying on him and documenting his every move.[57] After the battle against Bardiel (in which his friend Toji dies following an order from Commander Ikari), Shinji tries to punch his father.[58] Although he is more aloof and distant in the manga, he has a close relationship with Rei[59] and is initially apathetic about Asuka. Shinji's relationship with Kaworu (whom he avoids) is difficult; he accuses Kaworu of being cynical and strange,[60] and Kaji is more of a mentor to him.[57] His friendships with Toji and Kensuke are more restrained. Shinji's backstory is modified, with the introduction of an unnamed aunt, uncle and cousins and memories of his late childhood away from Gendo.[61] A different Instrumentality is presented, with Shinji recognizing the need for human interaction and saving Asuka during her fight against the Mass Production Evangelions.[62] At the end, he is seen leading a normal life in a reformed world; he sees Asuka while waiting for a train, although they only have a faint recollection of one another.[63]

Sadamoto decided to work on an Evangelion manga when he saw Shinji in the first episodes of the original series. He wondered "what the world looked like through Shinji's eyes", changing the main theme from "running or not running away" to "being honest with themselves as much as possible".[64] This led Sadamoto to change Shinji's characterization and psychology. He wanted to reflect contemporary teenagers in the character and was influenced by the Gulf War, wondering how a 14-year-old would have behaved on a helicopter.[65] Sadamoto also drew on his own experiences as an adolescent, saying that his characterization was "more like a flunk-out" than Anno's version.[17][66] He conceived Shinji with a "clean image that a woman tends to project" in his mind, portraying him as a "cold, unambitious" character, "the type who would commit suicide, but can't bring himself to do it". "It was my intention to create a wistful character who had given up on life", he said.[17]

In other media[edit]

In a scene from the last episode of the animated series, an alternate universe is presented with a different story from the previous episodes; in this parallel reality, Shinji lives with both his parents and is a normal middle-school student.[67][68] He is also a protagonist in Shinji Ikari Raising Project and Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days, where he is portrayed in a different light than his anime counterpart: happier and more stable. The same characterization is found in Neon Genesis Evangelion: Girlfriend of Steel 2nd.[69] Some spin-offs and video games pair Shinji romantically with Asuka Langley Soryu, Rei Ayanami, Kaworu[70][71] and other characters, including his classmate Hikari Horaki[72] and original characters such as Mana Kirishima, an extrovert transfer student firstly introduced in the Neon Genesis Evangelion: Girlfriend of Steel videogame,[73][74] and Mayumi Yamagishi, an introvert girl presented in the Neon Genesis Evangelion: 2nd Impression videogame.[75] In Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji Ikari Raising Project, he is presented as a childhood friend of Asuka and a distant cousin of Rei Ayanami.[76] In Petit Eva: Evangelion@School, Shinji is portrayed as a boy "frightened by the idea of growing up" but popular with the students of Tokyo-3's Municipal Nerv High School.[77] In Evangelion: Detective Shinji Ikari, Kaji and Kaworu are portrayed as private investigators whom Shinji asks for help and investigates a mysterious case.[78]

In Evangelion: Anima, set three years after The End of Evangelion with a different Instrumentality scenario, Shinji is 17 years old;[79] he lets his hair grow and is a good friend of Rei and Asuka. He first pilots the Evangelion Unit-01 Type-F and, after the attack of Eva0.0 (Quatre) and the unification of his soul with Eva-01, pilots the mecha Super Evangelion and its upgrades.[80] In addition to video games based on the original animated series, Shinji appears in media outside the Evangelion franchise, such as Monster Strike,[81] Tales of Zestiria,[82] Puzzle & Dragons,[83] and a crossover episode of Shinkansen Henkei Robo Shinkalion, in which he is voiced by Ogata and pilots a 500 Type Eva transformable train.[84] He is a playable character in the Super Robot Wars crossover video-game franchise,[85] where he and other Evangelion characters work with characters from other mecha series. Shinji has crushes on other characters, such as Lynn Minmay (sparking jealousy in Asuka, who tries to recapture his attention).[86] In other games, Eva Unit-01 goes berserk after fighting the fourth angel and he fights Kouji Kabuto and Mazinger Z. He later rejoins the battle against the Angels with Rei Ayanami.[87]

Characterization and themes[edit]

I tried to include everything of myself in Neon Genesis Evangelion – myself, a broken man who could do nothing for four years. A man who ran away for four years, one who was simply not dead. Then one thought. "You can't run away", came to me, and I restarted this production ... I don't know what the result will be. That is because within me, the story is not yet finished. I don't know what will happen to Shinji, Misato or Rei. I don't know where life will take them. Because I don't know where life is taking the staff of the production.
– Hideaki Anno about Evangelion before its original airing on July 17, 1995[1]

Shinji is an introvert[88] with few friends, unable to communicate with other people[89] and fearful of hurting others or being hurt.[90] He tends to be passive and apologetic in his relationships.[91][92][93][94] He also avoids choosing his clothes, wearing clothes provided by others.[95] Unlike a stereotypical hero, particularly of the mecha genre, he is more apathetic than courageous.[96][97] According to his voice actress, Megumi Ogata, "he didn't act like an anime character, but typically talked very quietly and sparingly, and it was like he was suddenly thrust into an anime world".[98] After his arrival on Tokyo-3, he repeats "I mustn't run away" in an attempt to face his responsibilities.[99][100] In the twentieth episode he remembers escaping from the experimental site where his mother died, generating an obsession with "not running away".[101] Anno described his attitude as compulsive, avoiding to suggest that running away is always wrong, with the idea that "There are things that you gain and things that you lose running away, after all". In the last episode, he inserted the line "If something is truly hurtful it's okay to run away", reflecting his belief that "if you don't pick something, that's the same as dying".[102] Character designer Sadamoto described Shinji as "the kind of character who would encase himself in a shell of his own making".[17] Assistant director Kazuya Tsurumaki disagreed: "Shinji is the exact opposite of what the conventional impression of him is ... he is not cowardly and indecisive; he is obstinate and doesn't pay any mind to other people".[103]

Hideaki Anno described him as a "cowardly young man" who has convinced himself that "he is a completely unnecessary person".[1][104] His childhood trauma leads him to doubt the value of his existence, to be disheartened, and to seek a raison d'être allowing him to live among others;[105] he also wonders about why he pilots Eva-01 in the latter part of the series.[106] The last two episodes focus on Shinji's path and psyche;[107] in a stream of consciousness, he admits being afraid "of himself" and of his father.[108][109] Despite the tension between him and his father, however, Shinji yearns to trust him.[110][111] He also craves acceptance, and is very concerned about how others perceive him;[112] in fact, he pilots Eva-01 for the approval of others[113][114] rather than out of heroism or idealism.[115]

According to Italian researcher Fabio Bartoli, Shinji is a "perfect representative" of the otaku generation: "a young man with relationship difficulties, accustomed to spending a lot of time at home". Bartoli wrote that the last scene of the anime, in which the boy's glass prison shatters (ending his psychoanalytic session), may allude to the shinjinrui (新人類, lit. "new human race"): the Japanese generation born in the 1970s, which is also knows as crystal-zoku (クリスタル族, lit. "crystal tribe").[116] Writer Andrea Fontana agreed, seeing him as a representation of otaku and their inability to relate to others. Fontana also saw in Shinji's evolution "an exhortation" by Anno to otaku, Japanese society, and young people "to break the crystal cage in which they locked themselves up, looking confidently at their neighbor".[117] Critics analyzed the conflictual relationship between him and his father, comparing him with the protagonists of the works by director Yoshiyuki Tomino, especially to Amuro Ray, the main character in Mobile Suit Gundam.[118][119] According to Toshio Okada (former president of studio Gainax and friend with Anno), however, Evangelion and Gundam offer different answers; one of Gundam's main themes was "the desire of the protagonist to be recognized by other people", and Evangelion examines the concepts of heroism, salvation and redemption.[120] On the other hand, academic Christophe Thouny interpreted Shinji as a messianic figure.[121] Japanese writer Kazuhisa Fujie also noted that his name may be a play on words with shinjin (神人), "God-man", a Japanese epithet for Jesus.[122]

Psychoanalysis[edit]

"[Shinji] shrinks from human contact. And he tries to live in a closed world where his behavior dooms him, and he has abandoned the attempt to understand himself. ... Both [Shinji and Misato] are extremely afraid of being hurt. Both are unsuitable-lacking the positive attitude-for what people call heroes of an adventure".

Gualtiero Cannarsi, editor of the Italian adaptation of the series, noted that Shinji struggles to make friends and has a cold, laconic, reserved attitude. Like the hedgehogs of Arthur Schopenhauer's Parerga and Paralipomena, Shinji is afraid to be hurt and withdraws from human contact; he suffers, in fact, for the hedgehog's dilemma.[123][124] Although his relationship with Misato Katsuragi follows Schopenhauer's concept, Cannarsi noted that in the fourth episode ("Hedgehog's Dilemma") the characters get closer without hurting each other.[99][125] Schopenhauer originally named his concept the "porcupine dilemma"; director Anno chose an alternative translation instead, since he wanted to portray Shinji as a hedgehog (an animal with smaller, blunter spines than a porcupine, suggesting more delicacy for the character).[126][127] In the film The End of Evangelion, Shinji chooses to live with other people, rejecting the Instrumentality and accepting the dilemma.[128][129]

Critics noted that, since he lost his mother traumatically, Shinji seeks a substitute in the women around him[130][131] and in Eva-01 (since it contains her soul).[132][133] Academic Susan J. Napier also interpreted the Angels as "father figures, whom Shinji must annihilate".[134] Anime News Network reviewer Mike Crandol noted that Shinji depends on Unit 01 in the first part of the series, becoming negatively affected by the symbiotic relationship. Crandol described his entry into Eva-01 as a Freudian "return to the womb" and his struggle to be free of the Eva as his "rite of passage" into manhood.[135] Anno also described Shinji as a boy with a strong Oedipus complex for his father, Gendo.[136] The Oedipal triangle is completed by their common interest in Rei Ayanami, a genetic clone of Yui Ikari.[137][138]

Yuichiro Oguro, editor of supplemental materials included in the Japanese edition of the series, interpreted Neon Genesis Evangelion's plot as a reinterpretation of the Oedipus legend, in which Shinji feels loved and hated by both parental figures at the same time. According to Anno, Shinji symbolically "kills" his father "and steals his mother from him".[139] Eva-01 can be seen as a motherly breast, and a source of profound ambivalence for the character. To manage this ambivalence, Shinji "split the breast" into good and bad.[140][141] Oguro described berserk Unit 01 as a "bad breast"; on the other part, he interpreted Yui as a "good breast" that eventually saves Shinji during the battles with the Angels.[142] In the twentieth episode, "Weaving a story 2: Oral Stage", Shinji is trapped in Eva-01 (which dissolves into its Entry Plug); in a stream of consciousness, he has Freudian visions which include breastfeeding by Yui.[143][144] With his mother's help, Shinji is symbolically reborn, finding the will to live and regaining his body.[145] He also features linked with oralism, a personality of dependent, weak individuals who see other people as tools to satisfy them.[146][101] According to Freudian theory, oral personalities were not adequately fed during weaning. For Oguro, with the vision of his mother's breast Shinji resolves his oral fixation, becoming a more self-conscious individual.[147] In the last two episodes, he sees the good and bad sides of other people; Anno compared him to a child and his ambivalent relationship with the mother during the oral stage.[102] Shinji's Oedipus complex eventually resolves in the final episode, which ends with the captions "To my father, thank you" and "To my mother, goodbye" (indicating his entry into adulthood).[148][149]

Cultural impact[edit]

Popularity[edit]

Shinji's character has been popular in Japan. After the series' first run, Shinji ranked second among "most popular male characters of the moment" in an Animage magazine Grand Prix poll.[150] In the following two years' rankings, he rose to first place. In the 1997 Anime Grand Prix, Shinji received about 1,200 votes, more than double those of the second character. Megumi Ogata finished second in the voice-actor rankings for three years.[151][152] Shinji was also the sixth-most-popular male character in August 1996, and the eleventh-most-popular in July 1998.[153][154]

He placed 77th in a 2002 TV Asahi poll ranking the most popular anime characters of all time, and 25th in a 2007 list of most popular male heroes.[155][156] Shinji also topped Newtype magazine popularity charts, finishing third and first in August and September 2009.[157][158] He finished third in October and was the most popular Evangelion male character.[159] In March 2010, Newtype cited him the "most popular male character of the nineties".[160] In 2014, foreigners living in Japan were asked: "Which character do you aspire to look like?". Amid a wide variety of answers, Shinji finished seventh.[161] In 2012, Fuji TV asked about 14,000 fans to name the "best anime hero"; Shinji finished twentieth.[162] In 2016, he finished thirteenth in an Anime News Network poll of the "strongest pilots" in Japanese animation.[163]

Critical reaction[edit]

[Shinji] is one of the most nuanced, popular, and relatable characters in anime history. Interestingly, he's also a punchable, sniveling little whiner. But you know what? We’ve all been there. We don't like Shinji because of what he represents in ourselves: that part of us that is prone to giving up and abandoning personal responsibilities because life is unfair and we think we should just be able to rely on other people to make everything better for us while ignoring the fact that those other people have their own problems. But at the same time as we dislike Shinji and what he reminds us of, we understand him entirely.

– Nick Verboon, Unreality Magazine[164]

The character evoked mixed opinions, dividing anime critics.[165][166] Some criticized Shinji's insecurities, his vulnerability,[167] and his lack of temper and resoluteness.[168][169] Pete Harcoff, a reviewer for the Anime Critic website, praised Neon Genesis Evangelion but criticized Shinji as ineffective and disappointing to watch.[170] THEM Anime Reviewers noted the character's constant angst in the television series as a negative trait.[171] Raphael See found Evangelion "a little cliche, or just plain irritating at times" and criticized Shinji's pessimism.[172] Japanator listed him among "characters with no chance in reality", saying that "he really sucks as an Eva pilot and he has the spine of a jellyfish".[173] Comic Book Resources also criticized Shinji as a stereotypical talented male protagonist with a harem.[174]

Other critics praised the character's realism.[175][176] According to Susan J. Napier, Shinji "still wins the championship for most psychologically complex (or just plain neurotic) male character ever created".[177] IGN editor Chris Mackenzie ranked him the 25th-best anime character of all time.[178] In Anime Invasion magazine, Jen Contino praised Shinji's characterization and rated him the ninth-best anime character of all time.[179] In 2013, Anime News Network editor Lynzee Lam ranked him in first place of seven "crybaby heroes" in Japanese animation for his motivation and psychological realism.[180] Examining the differences between Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance film and the original animated series, Jitendar Canth posted on myReviewer.com: "To the relief of many, Shinji isn't as much of a whiner anymore, and he shows that he has a backbone on more than one occasion in this film".[181] IGN's Ramsey Isler called him the "greatest anime character" of all time, praising his originality and realistic characterization. Isler concluded, "He's a character that challenges the audience by not giving them a superficial, vicarious power fantasy like you'd get from so many other anime. He is pathetic, but that is what makes him great. That is what makes him a genuine work of art".[182]

Shinji's role in the Rebuild of Evangelion films was better received, since he was friendlier to the other characters than he was in the TV series.[183][184] Martin Theron of Anime News Network, reviewing Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone, praised Shinji's realism.[185] Theron called the scene in Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance where Shinji saves Rei the "Best Scene" in the website's "Best (and Most Notable) of 2011": "This is the first time in the entire franchise that he whole-heartedly goes after something because he wants it, rather than because he's expected to or has no choice."[186] Despite criticizing the third film, a number of reviewers praised Shinji's interactions with Kaworu.[187][188] Other critics considered them melodramatic;[189] among them, Nicoletta Christina Browne of THEM Anime Reviews, who criticized their relationship, finding it "rushed", artificial and unclear.[190]

Legacy[edit]

See caption
Shinji-decorated taxi in Sapporo

Shinji-themed merchandise includes clothing,[191] action figures, collectible models,[192][193] perfumes,[194] and drinks.[195] The character has been used for Japan Racing Association advertising campaigns[196] and for a culinary company specializing in miso soups; "Shijimi from Lake Shinji" also attracted tourists to the lake and its soup.[197][198]

With Shinji Ikari, according to Comic Book Resources, Neon Genesis Evangelion had a significant influence on Japanese animation, showing a more realistic, insecure and fragile protagonist than other past mecha series.[199] Guilty Crown staff member Ryo Ōyama compared Shū Ōma (the series' main character) to Shinji, since: "They're both in their own world, and they don't come out from that world". According to Ōyama, Shū is "a 2011 version of Shinji" but Shinji has a "more passive", pessimistic attitude.[200] Asa Butterfield similarly compared Shinji to Ender Wiggin in Ender's Game, whom he played. According to Butterfield, both characters "withdraw from the world", face new experiences and fight against unknown enemies.[201] Lain Iwakura (the female protagonist of Serial Experiments Lain),[202] Simon from Gurren Lagann,[203] Daisuke Dojima from Revisions,[204] and the main character of Cyborg She[205] were compared with Shinji by anime critics. In the fourth episode of the dorama Nigeru wa Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu, a character named Shinji (fortmer boyfriend of Mikuri, the female protagonist) appears.[206] Shinji is also referenced by Steven Universe in the show of the same name, parodying the series' final scene.[207] The British group Fightstar included "Shinji Ikari" on the deluxe-edition bonus disc of their album, One Day Son, This Will All Be Yours.[208] Open Mike Eagle named a song from his album Anime, Trauma and Divorce "Headass (Idiot Shinji)".[209] Kong: Skull Island director Jordan Vogt-Roberts also named a character Gunpei Ikari after him.[210]

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