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Asuka Langley Soryu (惣流・アスカ・ラングレー Sōryū Asuka Rangurē?, IPA: [soːɽjɯː asɯ̥ka ɽaŋɡɯɽeː]) is a 14-year old fictional character from the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise. She is designated as the Second Child ("Second Children" in the original Japanese versions) of the Evangelion Project and pilots 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 anime movie and on Gainax's website.

Character history

Born and raised in Germany, Asuka is shown as being of both German and Japanese descent, as from her Japanese name and European appearance.[1] Her mother, Kyoko Zeppelin Soryu, is a scientist of Gehirn's German branch of the Evangelion Project and, when Asuka is four years old, participates in a contact experiment with Unit 02 (similar to the experiment performed by Yui Ikari with Unit 01). Though she physically survives the test, Kyoko emerges mentally unstable, believing a doll she cares for to be an infant Asuka while only referring to her actual daughter as "that girl over there" and even going so far as to attempt to strangle Asuka so that she could "die with me!" (this is implied in the anime[citation needed], while explicitly shown in Sadamoto's manga). After being institutionalized, Kyoko commits suicide by hanging herself; Asuka finding her body when running to tell her that she has been selected to be an Eva pilot. Her Japanese-American father quickly remarries Kyoko's doctor, with whom he had been having an affair, though Asuka's defensiveness quickly repels her new stepmother and the two learn to tolerate one another while maintaining a cheerful facade of a normal family. Asuka proves to be a child prodigy, earning a university degree in an unspecified field while still a teenager and becoming fluent in Japanese (though she has difficulty reading and writing kanji[2]).

First introduced in episode 8, with the arrival of Eva Unit 02 and the battle with the Angel Gaghiel, Asuka is shown as maintaining a high synchronization ratio and exceptional skills as an Eva pilot, being very aggressive and confident in battle. After first being defeated in battle by Zeruel, Asuka's self-confidence (and, correspondingly, her synch ratio and effectiveness as a pilot) begins to dwindle. This comes to a head in episode 22, when Arael appears and Asuka, burdened by increasingly poor results in synchronization tests, is infuriated by being ordered to serve as backup to Rei. She defies orders and tries to attack the Angel alone, but is overwhelmed by a psychological attack by the Angel, forcing her to relive her painful memories and resulting in a mental breakdown. She loses the will to live and becomes incapable of piloting Unit 02, spending much of the final episodes of the television series in a hospital bed in a catatonic state.

In The End of Evangelion, as Japanese Strategic Self Defense Force invade NERV, Asuka is placed inside Unit-02, which is submerged in a lake within the Geofront, for her protection. As she is bombarded by depth charges, Asuka 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 being confronted by the Mass Produced Evas. Though she successfully disables all nine opponents, Unit 02's power running out and the infinite power of the Mass Produced Evas' S² Engines (which allow them to remain functional despite being severely damaged or mutilated) finally allow them to eviscerate and dismember Unit 02 using their Lance of Longinus replicas. After Shinji rejects Instrumentality, she appears beside Shinji in the film's final scene.

Personality

Asuka's fiery red hair and everyday wearing of her A10 nerve clips are complemented by her equally fiery temper, pride in being an Evangelion pilot, and her high opinion of her admittedly attractive appearance. She is shown to have a strong need to be self-sufficient and intrusive of other people's space, especially Shinji's. However, this personality is shown to often act as a front for Asuka's own vulnerabilities and insecurities, often shown in more psychologically-driven scenes as a younger version of Asuka. As her seiyuu Yuko Miyamura wrote of her experiences playing Asuka:

"Just to let you know, 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. Even in the end, she would never step across the line and draw closer to me. The last scene in The End of Evangelion was done, and still she had never stepped across that line and come forward. One day, I figured out that there was a wall in Asuka's heart."[3]

Her voice actress in the English dub of the series, Tiffany Grant, says this:

""She says the most horrible things to people, things that you'd like to say to people and can't get away with - it's refreshing." Grant, who admits there may be some similarity in her outspokeness and Langley's, has some sympathy for the character, who, in the anime, discovered her mother's suicide. "Do you think she's going to be a normal person.""[4]

Alternate continuities

Rebuild of Evangelion

Asuka makes her first appearance in the second film, Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance, of the Rebuild of Evangelion tetralogy. Several changes have been made to her character of which include her family name being changed from Sōryū (惣流?) to Shikinami (式波?),[5] continuing the Japanese maritime vessel naming convention, and that she is now referred to as holding the rank of captain.[6] She is also no longer infatuated with Kaji, choosing to ignore an invitation to go on a trip with him, until Misato forced her to go. In addition, she tested unit-3 instead of Toji, but she manages to survive the Bardiel incident, as she is seen with an eyepatch in the preview image sequence at the very end of the second Rebuild movie.

The June 2010 issue of Newtype ranked Shikinami Asuka Langley #8 in its monthly top 10 character survey.

Manga

NGEvol4Japanese

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

Asuka first appears in the fourth volume of the manga adaptation by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto. Rather than the anime series' episode-long defeat of Gaghiel with Shinji and Misato's help, the manga shows only a brief video clip of Asuka single-handedly defeating of the Angel. Thus, Shinji and Asuka first meet one another at an arcade, with Asuka furiously kicking one of the machines and then demanding a 100 yen "viewing fee" from Shinji, Toji, and Kensuke for seeing her panties (as opposed to slap across the face Toji receives in the anime as a "viewing fee"). Toji and Asuka's quarreling turns into a brawl with a thug and his gang, with Asuka defeating them all herself. Shinji does not learn Asuka is the Second Child until he reaches NERV headquarters. Before the fight against Israfel, Shinji and Asuka stay within a special room monitored via a hidden camera by Misato, rather than in her apartment as in the anime.

Also different from the anime is Asuka's backstory, where she is depicted as a child by artificial insemination. Her mother, after her husband divorced her over their inability to have children, applied to a eugenics sperm bank. The result of Kyoko and the unnamed "renowned scientist" father is Asuka. Despite her statements that she "was born through the combination of an elite sperm and an elite egg…I was a chosen being, a special person," she is shown as seeing herself as having been nothing more than spare parts and artificial by nature. This inferiority complex leads Asuka to overachieve and overcompensate. Asuka is additionally shown to have repressed the memories of her mother's insanity and death, making Arael's attack on her psyche especially traumatic.

The manga also reimagines the infamous hospital opening scene from The End of Evangelion with Asuka and Shinji. While beginning with the initial confrontation of Shinji with the comatose Asuka, the scene diverges with Shinji shouting the Asuka he wants to protect isn't the girl lying before him and Asuka awakening to attempt to strangle him (reminiscent of an attempted strangling of Asuka by her mother shortly before her suicide). Nerv hospital staff separate the two and Shinji is led out while Asuka angrily screams that she hates everyone. Shinji breaks down crying outside soon after seeing his father and Rei pass by him almost unnoticed.

During the JSSDF's attack on NERV headquarters, Asuka - still in a state of catatonia - is placed in her EVA unit, which is then submerged underwater in order to keep her as safe as possible under the circumstances. When the JSSDF's forces find her unit, Asuka is jolted by the attacks and begins screaming in terror for her mother, the way she does in The End of Evangelion. This is when a vision of her mother appears to her inside the unit, and Asuka finally realizes that her mother's consciousness has been residing in the EVA all along. Subsequently she regains her senses and begins her counterattack against the JSSDF's ships, saying, "Sorry I'm late."

Shinji Ikari Raising Project

Similar to the alternate continuity shown in the anime's final episode, Asuka is shown to be a childhood friend of Shinji's, who teases him but harbors romantic feelings for him (as evidenced by her jealousy towards Rei's appearance in the series).

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Gakuen Datenroku

In line with her depiction in the anime and manga, Asuka is depicted in this series as not tolerating failure or rookies and routinely insulting Shinji. Rather than being a created child like Rei or Kaworu, Asuka is depicted as having been the result of an experiment on the natural reproduction of two Eva users possibly producing a superior user. Her parents' possession by Angels and Asuka's forcing to kill them becomes a huge burden on her. Unlike in other versions she gets along well with Rei.

Non-franchise video games

Asuka appears in the Super Robot Wars game series, where she often butts heads with the equally hot-headed and intelligent Kouji Kabuto, the pilot of Mazinger Z and Mazinkaiser. 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'd simply lie down and die.

Character notes

AsukaProposalDesgins

Early designs for Asuka also featured her with long, red hair and shorter, brown hair.

Asuka's Japanese surname comes from the Japanese World War II aircraft carrier Soryu, her German surname comes from the American World War II aircraft carrier Langley, and her Rebuild surname comes from the Japanese World War II destroyer Shikinami. Her first name comes from Asuka Saki (砂姫 明日香, Saki Asuka), who is the main character of the Japanese comic, SuperGirl Asuka (超少女明日香 Cho-Shojo Asuka?) written by Shinji Wada.[7]

Kyoko Zeppelin Soryu's maiden name refers the surname of Ferdinand von Zeppelin, a German manufacturer whose name is often associated with the rigid airship and was the namesake of the nearly completed Nazi aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin. Her first name, "Kyoko", also comes from that comic's character Kyoko Aoi (葵 今日子, Aoi Kyoko). "明日 Asu" means "tomorrow" and "今日 Kyo" means "today" in Japanese.

The scene in which Asuka's mother, following her mental breakdown, refuses to acknowledge Asuka and behaves as if a doll is her daughter seems to be taken almost verbatim from a scene in Hayao Miyazaki's manga of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.[8] Anno had previously worked on the film version and had expressed an interest in creating a side story centered around one of the supporting characters, Princess Kushana, but was denied permission by Miyazaki[9].

Although the anime gives Asuka red hair, Sadamoto's artwork of the character has portrayed her with varying shades of red hair, as well as blond and brown (in a concept sketch).[10]

References

  1. End of Evangelion theatrical program
  2. "Shinji: You're saying you weren't able to read the questions in Japanese? Asuka: That's right. I haven't mastered kanji. I never studied kanji at the university back home. Shinji: University? Asuka: Yeah, I graduated last year. What's written here?" Episode 10, Magma Diver
  3. pg 166 & 167 of "A Place For Asuka In The Heart", written by Yuko Miyamura in 1997 and 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
  4. "Otakon Highlights - Evangelion Voice Actors".[dead link] A Fan's View. August 7, 1998. Archive copy at the Wayback Machine. retrieved April 5, 2010.
  5. Script error
  6. Script error
  7. "Evangelion character names". Translation of essay by Hideaki Anno about character name origins; includes a link to the original essay in Japanese. Retrieved August 19, 2007. 
  8. Page 76, panels 4-8, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, vol. 4 by Hayao Miyazaki, ISBN 1-59116-352-8
  9. English Nausicaa text
  10. Sadamoto, Yoshiyuki (October 2006). Der Mond. Viz Media. pp. 22, 32, 33, 42–50, 55, 74. ISBN 1421507676. 
  • Fujie, Kazuhisa (2004). Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Unofficial Guide. Tokyo, Japan; printed in the USA: DH Publishing, Inc. ISBN 0-9745961-4-0. 
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