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Shinji Ikari (碇 シンジ Ikari Shinji?) is a fictional character from the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise created by Hideaki Anno. The main protagonist of the series (and almost all of its spinoff works), he is the Third Child ("Third Children" in the Japanese versions) and pilots the Evangelion Unit 01. He is the son of Gendo and Yui Ikari.

Character history

Script error After Yui's absorption into Unit-01, Gendo leaves the four year old Shinji in the care of a teacher so he can focus on "Project Evangelion." Shinji lives a very reclusive existence until at the age of fourteen, he receives a letter containing a Nerv ID card, a risqué postcard from Captain Misato Katsuragi, and a note from his father simply stating "Come!" After being caught in the middle of the first Angel battle, between UN forces and Sachiel, Shinji is delivered to the Geofront, where he is ordered by his father to pilot Unit-01 in lieu of a badly injured Rei Ayanami. Shortly after, Shinji is taken by Misato as his guardian and manages to build a social life in his new school, making friends with Toji Suzuhara and Kensuke Aida. As the series progresses, Shinji's relationships with his fellow pilots, especially with Rei Ayanami and Asuka Langley Soryu, also deepen.

The latter episodes focus on Shinji's psychological and emotional problems and his strained relationship with his father, all of which worsen with the increasingly personal attacks of the Angels, culminating in the events of The End of Evangelion.

Personality

Script error Shinji's loss of his mother and then his father lead to abandonment issues, showing little to no self-esteem, reclusiveness, and an avoidance of any difficult or painful situations (this is often depicted as Shinji listening to his SDAT player with headphones). He is also described as shy, timid, and afraid of physical contact.

While he is acknowledged later in the series to be a skilled Eva pilot, in the early episodes of the series, he is never really shown to have any other notable skills besides his talent for cooking. It is revealed in episode 15 that he is a cellist, something of which he had made no mention previously in the series. When asked when he began playing, he explains that his guardians had insisted on lessons when he turned five. As to why he still plays, he admits it is because he was never told to stop, even though he believed he should have "quit immediately." Thereon, the cello appears as a recurring motif in the series, possibly representing Shinji's "identity" - indeed, his musical talent seems to be the only way in which he feels that he can openly express himself. He claims to be untalented, but is shown both in episode 15 and in Death and Rebirth playing Bach's Cello Suite No. 1.

Analysis

Shinji's relationship with his Evangelion and status as a pilot is very ambivalent; the entire series can be seen as a bildungsroman centered around Shinji[1]. On the one hand, as an Eva pilot, Shinji is very reluctant to go to war, to cause deaths, and to enter battle or to actively do things; on the other hand, he is given strength by his mother (whose metaphysical "presence" exists inside Unit 01) and he defines his self by piloting the Eva. Sometimes Unit 01 reaches "berserker" mode - a state in which the Eva is activated without an apparent energy source and the EVA becomes aware and takes over control of itself. During the battle with the Angel Zeruel, his reserve power ran out, and he temporarily meets his mother Yui Ikari. Directly afterwards EVA Unit 01 enters "berserker" mode, and she (Eva Unit 01) eats the Angel, taking the S² into herself.

"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." --Megumi Hayashibara[2]

Shinji's estrangement from his father and his mother literally being inside Unit 01 is believed by some to represent the Freudian Oedipus complex. His apparent attraction to Rei, who is a partial clone of Shinji's mother and Lilith, could also be seen as proof of this psychological aspect of Shinji's character; however, his attempts to gain Gendo's acceptance and love and his attraction to Asuka could be seen by some to counteract this idea. He may also be seen as suffering from the culture-specific psychological disorder taijin kyofusho and, from a Western psychological perspective, generalized social phobia and developing avoidant personality disorder.[citation needed]

Shinji has often been seen as a version or reflection of the creator of Evangelion:

"Shinji does reflect my character, both the conscious and unconscious parts," Anno admits. As a pilot of Earth's most advanced weapon, Shinji is far from the archetypal hero. Abandoned by his father Gendo at a young age, he eschews human contact so that he cannot hurt others, or in turn be hurt by them. The comparison, however, isn't to be taken too literally.
"I wasn't thrown out by my father or anything" he laughs. Nevertheless, Anno has referred to the plot line as a metaphor of his life.[3]

Alternate continuities

Manga

The Shinji of Yoshiyuki Sadamoto's manga adaptation is considerably different from his animated counterpart. One of the first things he does after being forced to attack Toji is to try to punch his father. He is also more willing to burst out angrily in protest and voice his opinion, Shinji loudly protests when Misato announces her plans to take him home to live with her. He is also less submissive around Asuka and tends to respond to her insults with sarcastic comments or retorts rather than apologizing. He also openly criticizes Asuka for acting innocent and bubbly around Kaji and Misato, only to revert to her arrogant personality once they leave. Another change is that Gendo left Shinji with one of his uncles instead of a teacher.

The manga places a stronger emphasis on Shinji's relationship with Rei. Their initial interactions and Shinji's first impressions of Rei closely follow events in the anime, but as the story progresses, Shinji's kindness toward Rei and concern for her well-being make an enormous impression on her. Shinji, for his part, is determined to get as close to Rei as he can, but is unsure of where their relationship is going, or even exactly what he feels toward her. After being asked by Asuka if they are dating, he thinks to himself:

What I feel for Ayanami...it doesn't go with words...like "like" and "want to go out with." It's as if...she's a part of me that was torn away a long time ago...
After Rei sacrifices herself to kill the Angel Armisael, Shinji breaks down and cries in front of Kaworu, saying "Ayanami...I don't want to lose you..."

The manga also makes changes to Shinji's relationship with Kaworu. At one point Shinji says that he doesn't think he could ever like Kaworu. He later leaves Kaworu's apartment with very little in the way of a good-bye, which upsets Kaworu, although after Kaworu's death, he admits to himself that despite the way he acted, he was attracted to him.

Sadamoto initially follows the plot of The End of Evangelion's version of Episode 25', beginning with the infamous hospital scene between Asuka and Shinji. However, it diverges considerably from the script, ending with Shinji shouting that the Asuka he wants to protect isn't the girl lying before him and Asuka apparently temporarily awakening from her coma to strangle him; 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.

Rebuild of Evangelion

Based on the first entry Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone Shinji is more outspoken and stand-offish than his TV counterpart, but not to the degree of the version in manga - he is more of an amalgamation of the two. In this continuity, Shinji has dreams/visions of the empty train much earlier than he did in the TV series. In 2.0, it becomes more increasingly apparent that the dramatic focus for Shinji in this version is his relationship towards his father. Aspects like his utter fear of others is lacking with the core focus being on his aggression about his father abandoning him. Shinji develops a friendship with Asuka but as of now there doesn't appear to be any romantic longing. Although, judging by his reaction to her apparent 'death' and his words to Gendo that "he needs to lose someone important to him too! Then he'll understand how I feel!", it would seem Shinji's feelings for Asuka run deeper than has been yet revealed. Though it is possible that his father using him to 'kill' Asuka one of his closest friends simply angered him. During the attack of the 10th Angel, he is found by Mari Illustrious Makinami in Unit 02, who tells him to flee, but he decides to fight inside Eva again after he sees Rei and Unit 00 get assimilated by the Angel. When Unit 01 loses power, instead of activating Berserker, Shinji wills the Evangelion to power back up and enter into a state where it gains powers that are more Angel-like, or according to Ritsuko God-like, in nature, all in the attempt to rescue Rei. At the end of 2.0 Shinji has apparently locked himself inside Unit 01 with Rei.

Shinji Ikari Raising Project

In this manga version, Shinji is also shown to be more confident than he was in the anime, butting heads with Asuka (a childhood friend as opposed to the anime). Also, he gets into somewhat comical situations with girls, much like the lead male character in harem anime. The story shows him in a probable love triangle with Rei (the newcomer in his life) and Asuka (the childhood friend). Here, Rei is a distant relative, from Yui's side of the family.

To complicate matters, Kaworu (a Seele agent here) was seen to be very friendly towards him, which Asuka finds irritating. Although Asuka sees Rei as a rival, they both decide to work together against Kaworu, for Shinji's sake.

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Gakuen Datenroku

This version of Shinji, while still shy, has far more resolve than other versions and is not as troubled. He discovers Rei and Kaworu fighting an Angel one night and ends up awakening powers of his own. He is attracted to Rei and appears to have a strong desire to protect her. His power manifests itself as a gun and he has a strong friendship with Kaworu.

Non-franchise video games

In Super Robot Wars Alpha 3 Shinji is shown to have grown under the influence of his teammates, telling off Kira Yamato of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED.

Character notes

"Ikari" means "anchor" in Japanese. Shinji was named for Gainax co-founder Shinji Higuchi; it can be translated to "child of god."[4][5] Evangelion character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto based his design of Shinji on his design of Nadia[1], the title character of Gainax's popular 1990-1991 TV series, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water (also directed by Hideaki Anno):

Speaking in concrete terms, his eyes are girl's eyes. I drew them exactly as I drew those of Nadia. He's a male Nadia, just as if I had given Nadia a masculine makeover. Lengthen Shinji's eyelashes and change the hair style, and you have her.[6]

Anno described the hero, 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."[7] When compared to the stereotypical hero, Shinji is characterized more by lack of energy and emotion than by any sort of heroism or bravery.[8]

Megumi Ogata, who voiced Shinji, found the last scene of End of Evangelion difficult to perform. She became overwhelmed with emotion and strangled Yuko Miyamura, Asuka's voice actor, during that scene, making it "very hard" for Miyamura to say her lines immediately after that. Ogata regards Shinji Ikari as one of her "most memorable" roles.[9]

Reception

Shinji ranked 25th on IGN's 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".[10]

In pop culture

  • The band Fightstar released a track titled "Shinji Ikari" as a B-side on their single "Deathcar". A second B-side that was featured on the single was titled "Nerv/Seele".

References

  1. "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
  2. Quoted from "What I learned from meeting a girl who didn't know", a 1996 essay translated in Viz's English edition of Neon Genesis Evangelion, volume 3
  3. Script error
  4. pg 121 of Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Unofficial Guide, by Kazuhisa Fujie and Martin Foster, 2004, ISBN 0-9745961-4-0
  5. Script error
  6. Neon Genesis Evangelion, vol. 2, bonus materials
  7. Script error
  8. "This, the opening episode is constructed around all the conventions of the classic "saving the world" narrative, only to undermine them by showing IKARI [sic] Shinji, its fourteen-year-old ostensible hero, in a far from heroic light … In a more conventional anime sf narrative, Shinji would climb into the EVA with gusto and proceed to save the world. In fact he does pilot the EVA and succeeds in destroying the Angel – who turns out to be the third of seventeen – but only with the greatest reluctance and after a display of temper, fear, and vulnerability that seems less than conventionally heroic." pg 424–425 of Napier 2002
  9. http://web.archive.org/web/20080623173408/http://www.akadot.com/story.php?id=31
  10. Script error
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