|Neon Genesis Evangelion character|
Shinji Ikari as seen in the anime (Asuka is behind him)
|First appearance||"Angel Attack"|
Shinji Ikari (Japanese: 碇 シンジ Hepburn: Ikari Shinji) is a fictional character from the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise created by Gainax. He is the franchise's poster boy and protagonist. Shinji is a young man who was abandoned by his father, Gendo, who later requests him to pilot a mecha known as the Evangelion Unit 01 to protect the city of Tokyo-3 from creatures known as Angels that threaten to destroy mankind. Nick Verboon of Unreality Mag states "poster boy/protagonist Shinji is one of the most nuanced, popular, and relatable characters in anime history".
Director Hideaki Anno described Shinji Ikari as a boy who "shrinks from human contact", and has "convinced himself that he is a completely unnecessary person, so much so that he cannot even commit suicide." He describes Shinji and Misato Katsuragi as "extremely afraid of being hurt" and "unsuitable — lacking the positive attitude — for what people call heroes of an adventure." When compared to the stereotypical hero (particularly of the mecha genre), Shinji is characterized more by lack of energy and emotion than by heroism or bravery. He has often been interpreted as a version or reflection of Anno, who has also referred to the plotline as a metaphor of his life, as well as identifying consciously with Shinji, Asuka and Misato.
Shinji has a Mother complex, and is characterized by a libido-destrudo conflict. His relationship with Evangelion Unit 01 and status as a pilot is very ambivalent; the entire series can be seen as a bildungsroman revolving around Shinji. Megumi Hayashibara (the voice of Rei Ayanami) said of him, "Look at Shinji. Why does he continue to fight as an Eva pilot? The story keeps changing. He said it's because everyone tells him to. Because only he can do it. Because it has to be done to save humanity. Selfless and lofty sentiments for sure, and he believed those reasons to be genuine. Wrong; he wanted his father to approve of him. To say he was a good boy. How selfish of him, really, to be a human being."
"Ikari" means "anchor" in Japanese. Shinji was named for Gainax co-founder Shinji Higuchi; it can be translated to "belief" or "child of god." Evangelion character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto based his design of Shinji on his design of Nadia, the title character of Gainax's popular 1990-1991 TV series, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water. Sadamoto initially designed an "Asuka-type girl" as protagonist, but eventually suggested that Shinji should be as a boy, and his relationship with Asuka was to be similar to Nadia's own relationship with Jean, her love interest and eventual husband in the series.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Shinji makes his first appearance in the first episode where he is invited to Tokyo-3 by his father Gendo Ikari. Unbeknownst to Shinji however, his father told him to come so he could serve as the pilot of Evangelion Unit-01. Shinji reluctantly agrees and defeats the Angel Sachiel, initially experiencing difficulty, but brutally destroys the Angel after Unit-01 goes berserk. After the Angel attack, Shinji begins living under Misato's guardianship and attends school in Tokyo-3, meeting Toji Suzuhara and Kensuke Aida who would become his first true friends. When the Angel Ramiel appears and attempts to destroy Nerv headquarters, Shinji and fellow pilot Rei Ayanami work together to destroy the Angel. When a nuclear-powered machine intended to fight the Angels runs amok, he and Misato successfully stop it. Shinji later meets Asuka Langley Soryu, an Eva pilot from Germany, and the two successfully defeat Gaghiel. Asuka moves in with Shinji and Misato.
As he bonds with them, Shinji slowly becomes more confident and assertive. He kisses Asuka in episode 15, at her provocation. Shinji eventually manages to beat both Rei and Asuka in their synchronization test scores. This bothers Asuka, and he receives praise from the commanding officers of NERV, which makes Shinji very grateful, as he is now accepting of his role as an Evangelion pilot. Shinji, Rei and Asuka are sent to fight the Angel Leliel, however Shinji, more confident than usual, decides to attack on his own, and Leliel's reverse AT field sucks Shinji into a parallel universe. Shinji confronts the Angel, during which he also confronts his inner self, forming arguments and philosophies. He is brutally freed from the powerful Angel through the intervention of his mother Yui, whose soul is within the Eva.
After Shinji is forced to fight the Bardiel-controlled Eva-03 while his classmate Toji Suzahara is trapped within, Shinji decides to quit NERV. Zeruel soon appears and decapitates the other Evangelion units. Shinji returns to NERV to protect the city. Shinji attains a 400% sync ratio with the unit, allowing him to continue his assault and frees the Evangelion in the process. As a result, he is trapped within its core for a month before being released. After Rei sacrifices herself to save Shinji, and then is subsequently revived through one of her clones while Asuka runs away and becomes comatose, Shinji begins to suffer with depression. He meets Kaworu Nagisa and the two become friends. However, it is later revealed that Kaworu is in fact the final Angel and Shinji is forced to kill him, further traumatising him. In the series' Instrumentality, he confronts his many traumas and why he acts the way he does, as Shinji believes himself to be worthless and unworthy of affection. After conversing with most of the Evangelion cast and seeing a version of himself in a happy world in which he leads a normal life with Asuka as his childhood friend, both of his parents living with him, and Misato as his school teacher. Shinji realizes he can be happy and his existence is worth living regardless. Shinji is greeted by the rest of the cast and congratulated.
The End of Evangelion
The End of Evangelion continues Shinji's story, portraying his downward spiral into depression and eventual loss of the will to live. Shinji visits a comatose Asuka in the hospital, but when his pleas for attention go unanswered, Shinji accidentally exposes Asuka's breasts and masturbates at the sight. Shinji remains catatonic while all the NERV officers, including Misato, are killed. Shinji then decides to pilot the Eva to save those who are still alive, but a bakelite release ordered by Misato accidentally blocks the entrance of Unit-01. When Shinji learns of Asuka's defeat, the Evangelion moves on its own to let Shinji enter it again. Shinji's Ego causes the Eva's AT field to manifest in the form of gigantic, dreadful, divine wings. Despite this, after witnessing the mangled, mutilated corpse of Unit-02 being carried by the Mass Production Evas, Shinji's trauma becomes even worse as the Human Instrumentality Project begins. Shinji's intense emotion summons the Lance of Longinus stuck on the Moon to Earth. Shinji's Ego continues to resist Lilith-Rei and SEELE's assaults on his soul; but when Lilith-Rei takes the form of Kaworu, Shinji's Ego weakens and Unit 01's AT-Field is penetrated. Lilith-Rei returns to her form as Rei, and as Yui's soul from inside the Eva tells Shinji that Rei, is "all of Shinji's hopes and dreams", Shinji is asked "what do you wish for?" and he has a vision of a woman's breasts being clutched. Lilith-Rei and SEELE ultimately defeat Shinji's Ego and he finally enters Instrumentality. Shinji then has extended dream-like sequences inside Instrumentality, has access to Misato's memories of having sex with Kaji and briefly sees himself having sex with Asuka. Shinji insists on gaining attention from Asuka, but she states he can't do anything. Shinji tells Asuka he wants to help her and stay with her forever, but Asuka retorts that Shinji is afraid of everyone and has never truly loved anyone as he doesn't even love himself. Angry at this rejection, Shinji lashes out and chokes her.
The fusion of the Lance of Longinus with the Eva recreates a Tree of Life. Shinji and the Eva, now possessing both the Fruit of Wisdom and the Fruit of Life, become "God". Shinji, now one with all other humans, converses with them, particularly Rei and Kaworu. Shinji and Eva's absorption of a Fruit of Life and a Fruit of Wisdom meant that Eva, and the pilot inside, will continue to exist forever, "even after the Sun, the Moon, and the planets are gone". He eventually converses with Yui, whom he wonders what will do, until he decides that he wants to live and returns to Earth. Shinji, having erected several grave markers in memory of most of the other characters, wakes up sometime later, and notices Asuka laying down by his side. Shinji attempts to strangle her again for an un-clarified reason, but stops himself and breaks down after Asuka regains consciousness and caresses his face.
Rebuild of Evangelion
In Rebuild of Evangelion Shinji returns as the central protagonist in Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone, where he is shown to be more outspoken than his TV counterpart. In this film, Shinji's role is very much the same as that of the anime series. He is assigned to be the pilot of Unit-01 and works alongside Rei to defeat the Angel Ramiel. In Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance, Shinji continues his duties as pilot of Unit-01, albeit reluctantly. After the battle with Bardiel, wherein his father forced him to critically injure Asuka, Shinji retires from his duties and leaves NERV. When Zeruel consumes Rei, Shinji returns and defeats the Angel by seemingly fusing with the Evangelion. In Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo, set fourteen years later, Shinji is awakened to a changed world caused by the Third Impact. Shinji is treated with hostility by Misato and others. They install a "DSS Choker" on him, an explosive device on his neck that is to be activated if he comes close to starting another Impact. Shinji asks about what happened to Rei and Misato tells him Rei does not exist anymore. Asuka meets him and, surprised at the fact that Asuka's physical appearance remains unchanged even after fourteen years, is told of the "Curse of Eva", as both Asuka and Mari still look like teenagers. The ship they are on comes under attack by NERV and Rei breaks in his holding cell. Shinji decides to leave with Rei and Misato, revealing that they are in fact part of a new organization called Wille that fights NERV, almost activates the DSS Choker manually to prevent Shinji from being used as a "Impact Trigger" by NERV. He is approached by Kaworu who befriends him. Kaworu tells Shinji that humanity holds him responsible for initiating Third Impact. Feeling despondent, Shinji is also approached by NERV's Fuyutsuki, who explains to him that his mother's soul is the control mechanism of Unit 01 and that it is, in fact, a clone of Rei that now pilots Mark 09, aka The Vessel of Adams. After Shinji realizes that he did not save Rei, Kaworu convinces him to pilot Eva-13 with him as Gendo told Shinji, one of the Four Adams and the most powerful known Evangelion which the two operate.
Kaworu claims Third Impact can be erased by using the spears of Longinus and Cassius allegedly lodged in Lilith. Shinji tells Asuka she doesn't know what she's talking about, while Kaworu doesn't react and is instead deep in thought. After resisting Asuka's attempts to stop him, Shinji pulls the Spears, ignoring Asuka's warnings who asks him if he wants to start another Impact, as well as Kaworu's own when he realizes the spears have been changed, disturbing the scenario he had in mind. Shinji starts Fourth impact after pulling the two spears of Longinus out from Lilith. Eva-13 then eats the Twelfth Angel and ascends to divinity. Kaworu is killed by the DSS Choker he had taken from Shinji in an attempt to stop Fourth Impact, however, that is only successful when Mari forcibly ejects Shinji from the Eva. A devastated Shinji loses his will to live. Asuka rescues him from his entry plug, accuses him of acting like a baby and only caring about himself. The Rei clone appears and follows Asuka and Shinji as they start heading along the ruins of Tokyo-3 to get rescued by Wille again. The fourth film is yet to be released.
In other media
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Shinji appears in most manga adaptations of Neon Genesis Evangelion, including Yoshiyuki Sadamoto's manga adaptation. The manga generally follows the plot of the anime with occasional alterations in events. In this manga, Shinji's role is very similar to his anime counterpart, although changes in characterization are apparent. This is due to the fact the manga is written from Sadamoto's point of view involving Shinji. Sadamoto was inspired to write the manga after learning of Shinji's role in the first episode of the television series. Shinji is also a primary protagonist in the Shinji Ikari Raising Project and Neon Genesis Evangelion: Campus Apocalypse where he is portrayed in a different light than his anime counterpart.
Shinji, alongside other Evangelion characters, makes frequent appearances in video games, such as Neon Genesis Evangelion for the Nintendo 64. Shinji is also a playable character in the popular cross-over video game franchise Super Robot Wars where he and other Evangelion characters work with characters from various other mecha series.
In episode 31 of Shinkansen Henkei Robo Shinkalion, Shinji is the pilot of the 500 TYPE EVA, a redo of the Shinkalion 500 Kodama stylized to resembled the real TYPE EVA livery of the 500 Series Shinkansen and the EVA Unit 01. He only appeared in the crossover episode.
Shinji ranked 25th on IGN's first top 25 anime characters list. Editor Chris Mackenzie commented that the IGN staff loved him "not for what he is, but for what he could be". In 2014, IGN ranked him as the greatest anime character of all time, observing that he is a "genuine work of art", saying that heroes "are often who we want to be", and noting he was different from it: "he was perhaps the most emotionally true-to-life character in anime history." In a Newtype poll from March 2010, Shinji was voted as the most popular male character from the 1990s. The 19th and the 20th Animage Grand Prix ranked him the best male character of the year. Megumi Ogata, who voiced Shinji, found the last scene of End of Evangelion difficult to perform. Ogata regards Shinji Ikari as one of her "most memorable" roles.
Pete Harcoff, a reviewer for Anime Critic, gave a positive review of Neon Genesis Evangelion yet maintained a negative view of Shinji's character, stating that Shinji was ineffective and disappointing to watch. THEM Anime Reviews' reviewers were harsher of the character's constant angst in the television series, finding it as a negative trait. Mike Crandol, also from ANN, praised Shinji as "the classic Tragic Hero. Imbued with character flaws that ultimately prove his undoing as he spirals into depression and insanity by the series' end, Shinji is a departure from the more idealistic heroes commonplace in mecha anime (or adventure fiction in general, for that matter)." and how by the end of End of Evangelion, "Shinji must continue to strive to attain happiness: no one is going to hand it to him on a silver plate." On his relationships with other characters, Crandol states that "Shinji harbors semi-romantic feelings for the three women closest to him, but his distrusting nature prevents him from developing any kind of meaningful relationship with them, and inside he angrily believes them of intentionally building barriers to prevent him from getting close. Again it is Asuka that it is most interesting to consider in this light. Sensing a kindred soul beneath her aggressive exterior (or perhaps admiring the determination he lacks), Shinji comes to love her, but does not know how to express it. Likewise, it is hinted that Asuka has similarly romantic feelings for Shinji, but her ego prevents her from admitting it even to herself. [...] By opening their hearts to one another Shinji and Asuka at last have a chance at happiness.". Japanese critic Manabu Tsuribe considers that End of Evangelion was concluded by Shinji finding "an other" in her.
Shinji's role in the Rebuild of Evangelion films got a better response as he was noted to be friendlier with other characters in contrast to his role in the TV series. Theron Martin from Anime News Network listed the scene from Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance in which Shinji saves Rei as the "Best Scene" in the site's feature "The Best (and Most Notable) of 2011." Martin praised Shinji's determination in such scene as "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." Despite criticism to the third film, multiple reviewers praised Shinji's interactions with Kaworu, as "his influence is meant to show us that Shinji is still a long, long way from self-acceptance", and some considered it melodramatic. THEM Anime Reviews found Kaworu's personality and relationship with Shinji effective if it came as rushed, and how "Shinji is at his weakest and most fearful" in it.
Spike Spencer, Shinji's English voice actor, has received praise for his role, particularly for his performance in The End of Evangelion. Mike Crandol of Anime News Network praised the subtle nuances that Spencer brought to the role, as he felt that Spencer had improved over his previous performances where he tended to parody Shinji's inner turmoil. Pete Harcoff, while critical of Shinji's character, also complimented Spencer, stating that he delivered a solid performance as Shinji. Nick Verboon of Unreality Mag states "poster boy/protagonist Shinji is one of the most nuanced, popular, and relatable characters in anime history.
Dark Horse Comics regarded the Shinji from Campus Apocalypse as a more easy-going character than the original one due to the way he handles school and friendships. Nevertheless, the fights he given make him act more like original persona. He acts in a similar fashion in other spin-offs such as Angelic Days and Shinji Ikari Raising Project, however this also applies to most other characters like Asuka and Rei, who tend to be modified into less self-conflicted and psychologically damaged versions of themselves. In regards to his characterization in the manga, however, in which Shinji reacts more aggressively in many situations, Carl Horn, responsible for manga's localization, considered him to still be negative, but in a more active and less passive manner. Shinji has also been compared with other characters in fiction. When asked about similarities between Shu Ouma from Guilty Crown and Shinji, the staff answered they are both passive characters although they found Shinji more passive in contrast. Asa Butterfield said the character Andrew Wiggin from Ender's Game (2013) had multiple things in common with Shinji based on how both interact with the world and enemies.
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There was this replacement by a robot, so the original mother is the robot, but then there is a mother of the same age, Rei Ayanami, by [Shinji’s] side. [She is] also by the side of the real father. There is also another father there, Adam, who governs the overall course of events. An Oedipus Complex within these multiple structures; that’s what I wanted to do.
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[The final] episode ends with the captions “To my father, thank you.” “To my mother, farewell.” “And to all the Children.” “Congratulations!” Eva is something of an Oedipus complex story, where a boy feels love and hatred for his father and mother, so the first two captions can be thought to means that Shinji has come to an understanding with his father and grown out of his dependence on his mother.
- "The animation, 'Evangelion,' is a kind of bildungsroman about the soul-searching of a 14-year-old boy who has to fight mysterious enemies in a new Tokyo in the year 2015 by piloting a human-shaped robot named 'Eva.'" from Japan Economic Newswire, MAY 8, 1997, THURSDAY. "Cartoon 'Eva' captures sense of void among Japanese youth". by Yoichi Kosukegawa. TOKYO, May 8 Kyodo
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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.
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In my view, The End of Evangelion ended on the phase when Shinji, the hero, found Asuka as "the other." For Shinji, Asuka is an ambiguous existence. On the one hand she lectures and inspires him because she minds him, but on the other she is also an existence beyond his control-the other that can never be interiorized. Asuka's ambiguity is also the ambiguity of the work Evangelion as it is.
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...but the fact the manga Shinji is less emotionally bleak and empty, and hence less vulnerable. Shinji's just as negative in the manga, of course, but it's an active variety, rather than the passive negative creep (in the best Nirvana song sense) we know from the anime. We don't have to imagine him slugging Gendo; from the look of surprise on Dad's face in Book Seven he would have smacked the beard off his face if Kaji hadn't stopped him.
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