Theory and Analysis:Shinji and Asuka's Relationship

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Despite not joining the cast until Episode 08, Asuka quickly becomes a pivotal figure in the narrative, both in her own right and in her interactions with Shinji. The complex dynamics of their relationship quickly become very prominent in the show. Most aspects of the relationship, however, remain unspoken or frustrated. Thus it is up to the viewer to piece together their motivations from the unspoken or implied aspects of their actions.

It is often only by looking at the wider details of a scene, such as background conversations or framing that their true feelings are revealed. In many cases the clues to unraveling a scene can only be found in conjunction with other scenes, as well as the larger narrative and thematic context of the show. Finally, it is often the case that important information is transmitted visually rather than through dialog, so examination of screenshots is necessary.


Are They a Couple?

There is no clear answer, as their relationship is unlike those traditionally portrayed in this sort of story. As stated above, there is no closure such as them accepting their feelings and acknowledging them to each other and possibly to others as well. However, it is the evidence presented in the show that makes it clear that they are the show's primary relationship. As such, the narrative consistently uses Asuka and Shinji's interactions to expose its themes, as the clashing of two characters that are superficially the opposite but in fact foils to one another, two sides of the same coin that allow the show to explore questions of individuality, intimacy, relationships, self-defense mechanisms, insecurity and many of the themes encompassed in the central metaphor of the show, the Hedgehog's Dilemma.

Throughout the Action Arc and into the beginning of the Descent Arc their interactions follow many conventions of romantic comedy. They have an eventful first meeting, complete with instant dislike and sexual misunderstandings. Circumstances push them into continued proximity, with sexual tension and slowly building mutual acceptance, as Asuka and Shinji both begin to impact one another's development as a character and as a person. Friends see a relationship of which the character's themselves are blind, either teasing or offering advice, however their mutual insecurities keep them from attaining something deeper. For example, this from Episode 17:

The classmates always know first
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The pause in the second image before they deny their relationship typically shows that Toji's observation is correct. They are quarreling like a married couple.


Another example would be in Episode 09. Misato has momentarily substituted Rei for Asuka in the synchro-attack training and Rei aces it the first try. After Asuka runs from the room Hikari says to Shinji: "Go after her! You made a girl cry!". On the surface, it's hard to understand exactly how Shinji is responsible. If anyone made Asuka cry it was Misato. Then you realize that Hikari has already figured out that they are a couple, and feels that it is Shinji's responsibility to protect Asuka from this sort of humiliation.

This is also supported in a more subtextual manner via clever use of cuts during important moments to establish a parallel between the Shinji/Asuka relationship and that of Misato and Kaji. In episode 11 both pairs end up in compromising positions. Kaji and Misato can also be seen as relatively positive adult versions of them, that have gone through similar hardships and trauma but mostly overcome them, even though they still cary some scars. This is in contrast to Gendo and Ritsuko's relationship, who also follow similar patterns but are far more negative and escapist, with Gendo very clearly being associated as a Shinji that never got past his issues even into adulthood, particularly in Episode 21. While Shinji and Asuka come to a turning a point (the kiss in Episode 15) but fail to reach out to one another, at the very same time Misato and Kaji are able to rekindle their relationship and enjoy brief, but real intimacy and happiness. Interestingly, their roles are reversed as Asuka is the one that provokes and initiates the kiss, but it is Kaji that kisses a self-castigating Misato. The show does not drop their relationship however, and keeps analyzing what went wrong or right with both, and why.

Shinji/Asuka and Kaji/Misato
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09 KM kiss.JPG 11 KM pile.JPG 15 KM kiss.JPG

Comparison shots from episodes 9, 11, and 15


Havin lost their mothers at an early age and the subsequent neglect by their fathers, Asuka and Shinji experienced very similar trauma, but developed opposite defense mechanisms, as they are both too afraid of reaching out to others for fear of receiving the same abandonment they have in the past. Namely, while Shinji runs away from people and isolates himself in order to avoid intimacy and the risk of rejection and to always stay in his comfort zone, Asuka pushes them away from her with arrogance and abrasiveness, trying to cultivate a false image of herself that keeps her from facing reality.

Two sides of the same coin
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Having faced similar trauma in their childhood, Shinji and Asuka develop opposite defense mechanisms.


Additionally, they are the only two characters present in the final scene of End of Evangelion, as their interactions there are emblematic of the themes of the story coming full-circle, even if there is no outright conclusion, as where their relationship will go from there is still left open, be it deeper and real friendship, be it as failure, relapse and retrogression, or even anything more including real and loving romance. Nonetheless, the ending also indicates they have gone through a process of growth and change, and that accepting each other was and is part of a better future. Despite its ambiguity, the ending is still very optimistic for them.

This article will also take into consideration some correlation between Asuka's feelings for Shinji and her feelings for Kaji.

Episode 08: Introductions

Marking the appearance of Asuka Soryu Langley, in Neon Genesis Evangelion, episode 8 is mostly used to introduce us to the personality of the German pilot. Set on the battleship carrying her Eva, Asuka meets Shinji, Toji and Kensuke who were brought by Misato to visit. Initially mistaking Toji as the third pilot, Asuka then proceeds to express disappointment at the thought of someone as unremarkable as Shinji having being chosen as one; a very underwhelming first impression. The episode also introduces Kaji Ryoji, Asuka's ex guardian and a man she is shown to have feelings for. It is during an exchange between the two that Asuka learns about Shinji's surprisingly high synchronization, renewing her interest in him and prompting her to show off her superiority as a pilot: with words, at first and eventually in the battle against Gaghiel.

In what is one of the most recognizable moments of the episode, Asuka forces Shinji to join her in her mech (while also forcing him to wear her plugsuit), to fight the angel, in order to further prove to him her skill. Despite the initial issues in reaching an acceptable level of synchronization, it is only thanks to their combined effort that they eventually succeed in winning. Asuka's arrogant, bossy and competitive personality introduced under these circumstances, will prove to be one of the biggest hurdles in their relationship, while, at the same time, their combined victory hints at the potential for them to reach harmony and stability. The duality of their relationship is, as such, introduced from the very first time they meet.

Asuka is Not Impressed
"Pleased to meet you...NOT"
You’re telling me that I lost to this puppy?
Asuka Shows off Eva-02.


Episode 09: Once Again They Must Work Together

Seeing Asuka in a positive light

The second episode dedicated nearly in its entirety to the duo. Starting off with Asuka moving to Shinji's school (and eventually his house), the episode focuses on the previously introduced theme of synchronization. We are given some insight on Asuka's school life, thanks to a series of pictures taken by Kensuke. Her familiarity with Shinji is at once apparent as she greets him with a cheery "Guten Morgen!", while she stomps disdainfully on a locker full of love letters from her other male classmates.

The first fight of the episode, against the angel Israfel, turns out to be a quick loss. Asuka and Shinji are employed together, but she proceeds to charge the opponent on her own, forcing Shinji to cover her, with the sole purpose of proving to him and everyone else her superiority. Her rash decision leads them both to a defeat when the angel proves capable of duplicating itself. It is at this point, after the two of them receive an earful from Fuyutsuki, that Misato decides to make them train to reach better synchronization with each other. During a dance session, in front of Hikari, Toji, Kensuke and Rei, meant to make them move in synch, Asuka accuses Shinji of being too slow to keep up with her (though the observant viewer will notice that Shinji actually follows the instructions while Asuka makes some missteps), leading her to get angry at him. Misato comes in Shinji's defense asking Asuka to adapt to him, which she refuses to do, and then replacing her with Rei, in an attempt to poke Asuka's pride and make her compromise. The result is opposite, though, and Asuka leaves the house angered. Encouraged by his friends, Shinji follows Asuka outside and manages to get her to go back to training. In the scene in question, Asuka expresses to Shinji her determination to succeed as a pilot, while Shinji is shown to look up to her, expressing admiration for her confidence and strong personality. The rest of the training, which had them perform everything together, proceeds smoothly, with the two having seemingly succeded in finding coordination.

The evening before the fight, Asuka and Shinji are left alone at home by Misato. After hinting at them being alone for the night, Asuka, without giving Shinji the opportunity to respond, proceeds to take her futon away from the living room bringing it to Misato's room and shutting the door. She then compares said door to the "unbreakable Walls of Jericho", ordering Shinji not to enter. The scene in question is referenced by the mind-violation sequence in ep.22 (Asuka vs Arael), with the strong implication that Asuka was in need of Shinji's support and help due to feeling lonely and (potentially) anxious for the battle of the next day. Her inability to accept the idea of relying on others, which is at the foundation of Asuka's personality, was what pushed her to shut herself inside Misato's room instead of seeking Shinji's company. The reference to the "Walls of Jericho" (famously destroyed in the battle of Jericho), could be seen as a reference to Asuka needing someone to push though her barriers and truly understand her. During the night Asuka visits the bathroom while half-asleep and then subconsciously lies next to Shinji. Seeing her asleep, Shinji stares stunned at her for moment before trying to kiss her, only to then be interrupted by Asuka crying and calling for her mother. The obvious purpose of the scene is to express Shinji's attraction for her and to hint at Asuka's loneliness. The battle of the next day proves to be a victory, they succeed in reaching harmony (temporarily). It's worth noting that, during a discussion between the two pilots, Asuka gets Shinji to admit he tried to kiss her, giving her a confirmation of his interest.


Temptation
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Asuka pretends to be fine, leaving Shinji alone in the living room. In truth she had been feeling lonely and in need of company.


Episode 10: If at first you don't succeed...

Asuka presses her two advantages.

The first relevant scene of the episode is Asuka's reaction when Misato lets her know that she won't be able to attend the school trip, as pilots have to be ready for emergencies. Asuka expresses her disappointment and tries to get Shinji to support her point of view but fails to do so, as Shinji seemed to have already accepted that scenario. This is an additional hint of Asuka's need for other people's support. Instead of going to the school trip Asuka, Shinji and Rei spend their time at the swimming pool. Asuka tries to make up for the inconvenience by looking for Shinji's attention, making fun of him for having issues at school (she has already completed university studies) and provoking him with her swimsuit, as she explains to him the basic concept of thermal expansion.

Shinji's reaction isn't particularly amusing for Asuka, as he doesn't quite know what to say and blushes, prompting Asuka to call him a "boring little boy". Worth pointing out is that Asuka was met with indifference by Kaji, when she had tried to impress him, earlier in the episode, with her choice of swimsuit. She then proceeds to call for Shinji's attention again as she dives in the swimming pool. In a way she seems to be having fun. It should be pointed out that Shinji is scared of water and Asuka is likely showing off to him her diving knowledge, to further prove her superiority to him (playfully). In the last part of the episode Asuka volunteers to fight the angel (Sandalphon) in a volcano, winning the confrontation but losing the safety cables that kept her from falling deeper in the lava. It is at that point that Shinji, without hesitation, comes to her rescue in Eva-01, despite it not being fitted with protective equipment, and grabs Eva-02 before it can drift away. At first completely surprised at Shinji's rescue, Asuka quickly gathers herself enough to make a token attempt at keeping up appearances, quietly calling Shinji a "fool" and a "show-off", but her expression plainly shows her true feelings; in spite of herself, she cannot help but tenderly smile at his action, both impressed and grateful. The moment also proves to Asuka her importance to Shinji, making his future failures (to help her) even more frustrating.

Episode 11: I'm in Charge!

Asuka takes charge.

Another episode that deals with the theme of cooperation. Asuka, Rei and Shinji find themselves having to deal with a blackout at the base, while having to reach their Eva in order to confront the angel attacking (Matarael). The situation is used to offer us additional insight on Asuka's bossy behavior and reckless attitude, which leads the three the wrong way, and on Asuka's dislike of Rei. Eventually, they reach the headquarters and manage, with a group effort, led (this time successfully) by Asuka, to defeat the angel. In the fight Asuka puts herself in danger, to protect Shinji, returning him the favor from the previous fight. The last scene in the episode sees the three lying on a hill, looking at the city with no lights on and expressing the way they feel. Shinji enjoys it, as it allows him to see the stars, but Asuka finds it unpleasant.




Episode 12: Rivals and friends

In this episode the rivalry between Asuka and Shinji once again finds its way into the story. Shinji is shown to have further made improvements in his sync score and, while still lacking behind than Asuka, he is given all the praise. Asuka sarcastically expresses her envy and resentment for the praise Shinji receives, only to then head home on her own. As Misato is accompanying Shinji home, he expresses to her how he didn't enjoy being praised due to Asuka's angry reaction, showing concern for her. When they are all back, they throw a party for Misato's promotion. Kaji shows up with Ritsuko, which leads Asuka, who had been anticipating his arrival, to have a jealous reaction. This, along with Shinji's improvement as a pilot, act as elements of foreshadowing for painful and negative experiences Asuka will go through in later stages of the story.

The fight of the episode offers the three pilots another opportunity, once again successful, to cooperate. Shortly before being employed Shinji asks Asuka the reason why she pilots. When she learns he had asked Rei the same question, she seems to show a hint of possessiveness, making a pointed comment about how close him and Rei seem to be. She then proceeds to inquire about his reasons to fight. But when Shinji just replies that he doesn't know, she expresses surprise and incredulity at his answer. The last scene of episode has Misato and the three pilot eating together, in a Ramen stand Asuka had picked for the occasion. It's worth noting that Asuka made that choice so that Rei, who doesn't eat meat, could join them and to let Misato save some money. When Shinji muses to the group about the praise he received from Gendo upon completion of the operation and how it might be his reason for being a pilot, Asuka, again a bit incredulous, makes fun of him for it, believing it to be a stupid reason. In hindsight though, Asuka's reaction can easily be interpreted as her being defensive.

Episode 14: Jealously

Asuka once again expresses envy when Shinji is given more attention than her, as he is testing Rei's Evangelion. In the last scene she is shown to say (in relation to Rei's identity): "Misato and Kaji-san won't tell me anything. Shinji knows nothing". Implication being she had developed a certain curiosity about the First.

Episode 15: Is it just a kiss?

A very important episode for Asuka, completely devoid of any angel fights. The very first scene concerning the girl sets the theme for the episode. She is calling Kaji on the phone but fails to get through to him, forcing her to leave a message. It is interesting to note that, in the message, where she pretends to be stalked by a pervert just to get Kaji to pick up, she shouts for his "help". It is the only time Asuka ever utters the word (excluding the mind-violations). After putting down the phone, she is shown to feel quite depressed and rejected. Hikari then asks her to go on a blind date, which she agrees to. The date proves to be a failure and Asuka dumps the guy because she deems him "boring".

When Asuka gets back home in the evening she walks in on Shinji playing the cello, and she applauds him after he plays the piece to finish, admitting that she is impressed with his performance and the fact he plays an instrument. In his usual self-deprecating manner, Shinji attempts to downplay her praise, telling her that he does not think he has any musical talents and only can do it so well because he has played since he was five years old. Asuka, still impressed, points out that perseverance is still a form of power. As the two are waiting for Misato's return, Asuka asks Shinji to kiss. She assumes a provocative/cold attitude, bringing boredom as the excuse for it. Thanks to the mind-violation sequence (ep.22), we know that boredom was just a small part of it. In truth she was seeking some love and help from Shinji. It should be remembered that Asuka, at this point in time, is feeling especially rejected and ignored by Kaji and sees in Shinji someone who cares about her; a potential replacement for her ex-guardian. As expected, Shinji agrees to kiss her but, despite Asuka prolonging the exchange for as long as Shinji could breath, he fails to understand its real meaning and to provide her with the support she needs.[1] As the kiss ends without the affection she was looking for, Asuka (frustrated with Shinji's passivity and cluelessness) runs to the bathroom to hide her pain. Noisily rinsing her mouth and letting him know how bad of an idea it was to kiss him.

This is certainly one of the scenes in which the duality of their relationship is most obvious. Asuka tries to deceive Shinji as to the reason why she kisses him and yet at the same time she hopes, deep down, that he is able to realize her deception and break through her barriers. His acceptance isn't enough; she needs more. Unluckily for Asuka, it is not over.

When Kaji arrives home with Misato, she quickly puts up a smile and tries to get him to spend some time with her. As she gets close to him, she briefly clings his arm, but then she smells Misato's perfume on his jacket and realizes something happened between them. Immediately letting go of him, she freezes up and doesn't even say goodbye. Shinji, who was observing the scene, notices from Asuka's expression that something is wrong and inquires to her well being, only to have her irately blame their kiss as the cause of her pain, before she runs off to her room.

An interesting detail about the events of the episode is that they follow a circular structure. The episode begins with Asuka feeling rejected by Kaji, then bored by the date, not feeling understood by Shinji and ends with her, once again, feeling rejected by Kaji.

Misunderstood Intentions
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Shinji believes Asuka's lie that her kiss was just to relieve boredom, but once again in Ep. 22 we find it meant a lot more.


This is a turning point in the series, in multiple ways. Not only do Shinji and Asuka miss a chance to connect further, they also fail to establish support from one other that they would desperately need as the war with the Angels worsens in subsequent episodes. After this moment and in Episode 16, Evangelion as a whole has a tonal shift, and becomes far darker and more blatantly philosophical and psychological. Being unable to connect to Shinji will be a big contributor in Asuka's ensuing downward spiral as well as Shinji feeling isolated and alone, ultimately leading to him failing to stop Third Impact and entering Instrumentality. Had the kiss been successful, even without romance, it is is entirely possible the entire story would have taken a different turn. Nonetheless, Eva uses this to further examine just what kept both characters from attaining happiness.

Episode 16: Asuka Surpassed

I see you......

The opening scene of the episode introduces Asuka as being in a very volatile mood. Likely a consequence of her experiences in the previous episode. Starting off with Asuka attacking Shinji for being too quick to apologize, only to then express her jealousy and frustration at Misato when she tries to take Shinji in defense, accusing her of enabling Shinji's bad habits by being too soft on him and only being in a good mood due to being back together with Kaji. The key moment in the episode, concerning Asuka and Shinji's relationship, is her loss to the latter in the synchronization test. Strongly foreshadowed in previous episodes, the impact of said development on their relationship is truly destructive. Asuka starts to resent Shinji's success because, unlike Shinji, Asuka has not only deposited almost her entire self-worth into piloting, she has spent almost her entire life working for it, so Shinji surpassing her in so little time is unearned and unjust in her opinion, as if he did not deserve this succcess as he has not worked hard enough for it. In a sense, by failing to understand and support Asuka before Episode 16, Shinji also failed to create strong enough foundations to their relationship to prevent it from crumbling under the pressure of the defeated Asuka's resentment. It is important to remember that Asuka's only way to prove to herself her value is by being the best pilot. Taking that away from her forces her to confront herself with all her insecurities. Kaji and Shinji, for different reasons, couldn't offer her an alternative source of support; as such, she receives the full impact of the blow.

In two instances in the episode we see Asuka addressing Shinji sarcastically as Shinji-sama; first, in a burst of anger as she is in the locker room (with Rei) and then during the fight against Leliel. In that instance Asuka provokes Shinji to charge the angel on his own, causing him to get trapped and nearly costing him his life. It's interesting to note that Shinji attacks the angel with the express intention to prove himself to Asuka, and even says "combat is a man's job", a rather offensive statement when all of his teammates and immediate superiors are women, as if he feels emboldened by kissing Asuka. Misato and Ritsuko even notice that Shinji is suddenly acting more manly. Shinji charges headfirst against Leliel and the Angel easily traps and absorbs him, as Asuka and Rei watch helplessly.

After Shinji is absorbed, Asuka tries to mask her concern for Shinji by saying he acted recklessly and deserved it, which angers Rei. Interestingly, Rei picks up on the fact Asuka is envious of Shinji attaining a higher synch score. After Shinji's safe return, she is shown to further express envy for the attention given to him, when Misato hugs him in tears, by saying to her: "Didn't you say you would scold him?".

In spite of that, the episode ends on a somewhat positive note, when Asuka is seen awkwardly lurking in the hallway of the hospital in an attempt to check on Shinji's well being without being noticed. Of course she gets caught, prompting Shinji to laugh for the first time in the series. The clear implication of the scene is that Asuka felt guilty for her over-reaction and that she still cares about Shinji, even though Shinji remains clueless at Asuka's growing frustrations.

Episode 17: Repression

The only relevant scenes in the episode concern Asuka and Shinji being accused by Toji of fighting like a married couple, which they both deny and Asuka trying to spend some time with Kaji at the end of the episode. As Asuka is outside of Kaji's office she is shown to look depressed. It's only after she takes a deep breath and puts on her best smile that she enters the room. It is the first time we get a clear look at the way Asuka truly feels in relation to Kaji. While she might have put her mind to pursuing him, her heart is not truly in it, and as such the happiness she shows towards him is, and always has been, to an extent, forced. She tries to be at her best in order to appeal to him, but in truth she feels hurt and rejected. This further reminds us of how important Shinji's role as Kaji's replacement is and how in need of affection and company she is.

Episode 18: Cluelessness

In this scene, Asuka's uneasiness and nervousness at Shinji being on her mind, and talking about him with Hikari, is made quite clear

Another episode that is relatively light on Asuka-Shinji. Asuka is shown to go out of her way to avoid Misato and Shinji, as she clearly has yet to accept having "lost" to them. It is hinted at that Shinji has yet to understand Asuka's jealousy for Kaji, as he is shown to ask Misato why Asuka is trying to avoid her. It is in fact his cluelessness that becomes the main theme of the episode. Though she usually goes home from school with Shinji, this time Asuka is avoiding him, something Hikari also notes as strange. When Hikari asks about him, the second pilot refers to Shinji by saying: "Actually, he's the most dense of them all. And he's an idiot to boot. He doesn't know how to relate to people." She also expresses her annoyance at Shinji having yet to learn the identity of the fourth pilot (Toji). It is interesting to see how, after the kiss, Asuka seems to be even more frustrated by Shinji's density. Further reminding us of the main issue in their relationship; he just doesn't get it and he is too passive to make up for it. When Kaji is in their apartment later, Asuka is surprised to realize that Shinji doesn't know who is the pilot of Unit 03, but stops herself from telling him when he asks. She essentially comes to the same conclusion that Misato made earlier; Shinji will likely be greatly upset from learning the news, and she doesn't feel up to the task of shouldering the ensuring emotional fallout. As a result, she tries to change subjects and to talk about Kaji. Shinji also has a conversation with Kaji, and he tells him about how different men and women are. Shinji is, however, frustrated that he cannot understand them, or other people in general.

Perhaps most pivotal, Asuka learns, while she and the other pilot lies in wait for Bardiel, that Shinji still does not know that Toji is the pilot of Eva-03. Asuka, for what it is worth, finally decides to bite the bullet and attempts to do the thing that everyone around Shinji, including herself, have been trying to avoid for the longest time, namely telling him the truth. But before Asuka can finally break the reveal out loud, Bardiel sneaks in on her while she is distracted, and incapacitate her and Eva-02. The underlying message is quite clear; Asuka and Shinji's inability to communicate openly and honestly with each other is now directly hampering their effectiveness as team members.

Episode 19 and 20

Worthy of note is the fact that Shinji proves once again his superiority too Asuka by defeating Zeruel, who proved too strong for the second pilot, even as Asuka recklessly and impulsively attacks the Angel, trying to prove to herself and others that she is still the best. At the end of the fight Shinji remains stuck inside his Eva. Asuka is shown to suffer deeply after her loss to the boy, being more concerned by her failure than by Shinji's well being.

Episode 22: A subconscious need

Asuka before confessing her feelings to Kaji.
Asuka sees Shinji speaking to Rei
Asuka realizes she is confiding in Shinji after her phonecall from her stepmother.

Arguably the most important episode of the series for Asuka's character as we are offered an even more intimate exploration of the struggles she is experiencing. The episode opens with a flashback, focused on Asuka and Kaji, before they get to Japan. In it, Asuka confesses her feelings to the man and receives a clear rejection; she is too young for him. She was willing to open up to him, only to be hurt in return. As it was hinted at, in ep.18, Asuka had been feeling rejected from the first moment we see her in the series. Connected to the flashback is the following scene, in which Asuka, at a station, is trying to call Kaji on the phone but fails to get through to him on the phone. As she looks up, she notices Rei and Shinji on another platform, talking (the first time since Shinji's incident), prompting an annoyed reaction: "He spent an entire month dissolved inside Eva and he's already back to his old ways. After all, I lost... and to the likes of you."

Asuka's resentment is clear; she still feels defeated by Shinji, as Misato will also point out later in the episode, and she hates the fact that he was able to go back to his normality so easily. Yet, she may also be feeling a bit jealous of the attention Shinji is giving to Rei, even though Asuka is the one that distanced herself from him, to begin with. Once again the duality of their relationship comes into play to complicate things.

As Misato, Shinji and Asuka are sharing their first dinner together since the incident, Asuka is shown to still feel jealous of Kaji. When they receive a phone call at home, Asuka sulks and refuses to pick it up, suspecting it could be her ex-guardian wanting to talk to Misato (when Misato quietly comments that it is not very likely, it visibly arouses Asuka's curiosity, indicating that she is either oblivious to or in denial (or possibly both) about Kaji's absence and the implications of said absence). It proves to be her stepmother instead. After she is done talking on the phone, Shinji tries to learn more about her family, commenting that it must be nice to have someone to talk to. Asuka, in a rare unguarded moment, earnestly explains to him that her feelings towards her stepmother are mostly ones of indifference, only to stop herself and immediately going back to shouting at him when she realizes what she is doing. The implication here is, once again, Asuka's need for someone to open up to and to confide in. Shinji could be that person, but Asuka can't seem to accept it.

The key moment of the episode is Asuka's mind-violation sequence (during the fight against Arael), as it allows us to take a peek into her subconscious. Asuka's loneliness and need for help and love, is the main focus of the scene. As she receives further confirmation that Kaji is lost to her, she notices Shinji beside her ex-guardian. Forced to come to terms with her feelings for him, she snarls: "Why are you there?! You won't do anything! You never help me! You won't even hold me!". As she states that, we are shown flashes of instances, throughout the series, in which Asuka had been in need of Shinji's support: the "walls of Jericho" and the kiss, being the most relevant. She had been needing Shinji throughout the series, yet, due to his passivity and cluelessness, she never felt understood and supported by him. As such, Asuka has not interpreted Shinji's inaction, particularly during the kiss, as passivity, insecurity or lack of experience, but as outright rejection on his part.

It is important to note that, in the second part of the mind-violation, Asuka denies feeling lonely and reaffirms her independent attitude. The mind-violation doesn't help Asuka better accept herself or Shinji, it simply serves the purpose of allowing the viewer to better understand her.

The last scene of the episode has Shinji try to comfort Asuka, only to be pushed away by her, as she is furious about having been saved by Rei. She is not yet willing to accept his help, not while blinded by her anger.

Episode 22 Flash-Sign Montages

See this page: Theory and Analysis:Film Montage Theory in Evangelion for a complete interpretation of this following piece.

Asuka, during the Episode 22 mindrape, is forced to come to terms with the nature of her relationship with others and society, trying to reject others but eventually having to come to terms with her inability to remain alone.

Episode 23

Shinji, clearly frustrated by his surrogate family rapidly falling apart at the seams, but also feeling powerless to do anything about it, is seen standing outside the door to Asuka's room, noticing that she once again is spending the night at Hikari's house, and quietly wishes that she would come back. It obvious that his wish for Asuka's return at this point is more about having some sense of normalcy restored to the household than anything else.

Episode 24

In a flashback to about one week before the real start of the episode, what can be assumed to be Asuka and Shinji's last conversation in Misato's apartment is shown. Already from the scene transition, which has Asuka audibly slapping Shinji and angrily accusing him of lying, it is clear that their relationship is at its lowest, and they are now completely unable to talk normally to each other. Shinji's equally angry and frustrated reply makes it clear what has happened; he has realized that Kaji is dead and will not be coming back, and has tried to explain this to Asuka who is by now in obvious denial about that fact. Asuka repeats her insistence that Shinji is just lying, but her despondent facial expression betrays that she on some level knows that he is saying is true. The distress from this revelation has a serious impact on Asuka's already severely weakened psyche and it is what finally pushes her completely over the edge; as the narrative finally cuts to the present, she has been on the run from home for seven days and seen lying in a bathtub in the ruins of a house, obviously physically weakened and completely sapped of the will to live as Section 2 finally finds her.

Later in the episode, as Shinji contemplates his loneliness and isolation from his friends, he lists Asuka amongst the persons he misses and wish he could talk to. Notably, Shinji, by his own admission, has no idea about Asuka's current whereabouts and condition, implying that Misato has by this point not yet divulged the information about Asuka's recovery. What is also notable is that he appears to be at least somewhat oblivious to how deeply he hurt her during their last confrontation. While fighting Kaworu, Shinji also apologizes to Asuka when he is about to hit Unit 02, as he is in a way being forced by Kaworu to fight her by proxy. Despite the growing distance between one another, Shinji does not wish to hurt her, even if Asuka might think otherwise.

End of Evangelion

Episode 25'

Later on, Asuka implies she knows this is not the first time.

The first part of the movie opens with Shinji seeking comfort and attention from a hospitalized Asuka, as she is asleep (likely drug-induced) and unable to respond.

Increasingly desperate, Shinji shakes the girl's body, attempting to wake her up, until he inadvertently rips her shirt open and exposes her breasts. It is at this point that all the pent-up frustration and attraction, that the boy felt for Asuka, push him to masturbate right next to her. A rash and violent decision which ends up being the cause of Shinji's temporary breakdown.

It should be noted that, at this point of the story, Shinji perceives Asuka to be the only person whose love could help him recover and feel better, as he admits to her that he is scared of Rei and Misato.

During the later stages of the episode, in her fight against the MPEs, Asuka, who found in her mother's soul the support she needed to recover, makes a comment about Shinji's absence: "Jeez! Don't they ever stop!? And I can't even count on that idiot Shinji!!". Despite the annoyed tone, the remark can be seen as her admission of needing the boy's support in the fight. Likely implying her acceptance and wish to make peace with him and to forget, at least temporarily, about their past issues. Unluckily, her loss is inevitable, as Shinji fails to arrive in time. Shinji repeatedly asks for Asuka to help him, which Misato criticizes him for, and he does not move even when Misato tells him he needs to pilot and to help her, but Shinji, after killing Kaworu, believes that every time he gets in an Eva he only hurts people and causes more pain. As such, he refuses to pilot until Misato dies, but, after spending so much time hiding himself and refusing to move, by the time he arrives in Unit 01's cage the Eva is already enclosed in bakelite.[2] Similarly to how he failed to support Asuka emotionally in the series, Shinji also fails to help her during the MPE fight, causing her to get physically hurt, and this has the ultimate effect of allowing Third Impact to happen. If Shinji was able to get to the Eva early, it is entirely possible he and Asuka could have defeated the MP Evas. When the Eva finally moves to let Shinji in, Shinji finally sees Asuka's multilated Unit 02. Shinji screams in horror.

Episode 26'

An episode rich in Asuka-Shinji content, it also proves to be one of the most difficult to interpret. Taking place, nearly in its entirety, during Instrumentality, it allows Asuka and Shinji to confront each other in a way they never could in the series. Often times it is impossible to determine with certainty if the characters are themselves or just a projection, a limited representation of who they really are. Regardless of this, the four main exchanges between Asuka and Shinji are worthy of individual analysis.

What is, however, worth noticing when it comes to the bigger picture, is that the second and fourth exchanges are essentially twisted retakes of events from the show; respectively, Asuka and Shinji's disastrous kiss from Episode 15, and Shinji confronting Asuka with Kaji's death in Episode 24. What is notable here is that these moments, while not outright unimportant to Shinji in and of themselves, are arguably of much greater and central importance to Asuka's character arc than they are to his. Both events can be summed up as moments where Shinji has inadvertently done profound and deep emotional damage to Asuka. Where the first event started Asuka on her course to towards the edge, the second was by all appearances what finally pushed her over it. What both cases also have in common, is that Shinji was by all means more or less oblivious to the full extend of the harm these moments did to Asuka. Here, however, Asuka is finally able to make it clear just how deeply he has failed her and lets him have it with both barrels.

First exchange

Asuka on top of a seemingly naked Shinji, reflecting their sexual tension
"The sight of you makes me so irritated!"

The first is as brief as it is important to understand Asuka's instinctive and superficial dislike of Shinji throughout the series.

Asuka:"The sight of you makes me so irritated!"

Shinji:"It's because we are similar."

The exchange in question relates to the psychological concept of shadow (one of the terms to appear during Asuka's mind-violation in ep.22). To express it in "technical" terms, the shadow is an "unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself. Because one tends to reject or remain ignorant of the least desirable aspects of one's personality". Essentially, in Asuka's case, she rejects the part of herself she deems unacceptable in an attempt to maintain a positive image of herself as an independent and mature person. Shinji embodies Asuka's shadow. He represents all that Asuka fears to accept about herself: an insecure person always in need of other people's acceptance and love. As such, clashing with him on a regular basis causes Asuka to shift onto Shinji part of the hatred she feels for herself. To put it in simpler terms: she hates Shinji because she hates herself. The moment she will succeed to accept herself for how she is, she will also finally manage to truly love and accept Shinji. It should be pointed out that, here, Shinji seems to fully understand Asuka, but the awareness he shows is gone in the following interactions.

Visually the exchange also says a lot; Asuka's face is livid with anger and disgust with Shinji, yet they are in a very intimate situation, being naked in a bed together. And what is especially notable is the fact that Asuka is explicitly portrayed as being the dominant part in the situation: she is on top of Shinji and has him effectively pinned down. He is not able get away from her because she refuses to let him go, even in spite of the negative emotions he awakens in her. Also notable is the fact that though the two of them are shown to be together, neither of their faces are shown in the same shot. In cinematography, such a shot reverse shot technique is often used to imply a disconnect between two characters.

Second Exchange

Shinji, unable to understand others, masks his frustration and despair with a "layer" of anger, not unlike Asuka herself does.

Their second exchange tackles Shinji's inability to help and understand Asuka. It re-enacts the lead up to their kiss (from ep.15), with the kiss itself being replaced by Asuka's accusations.

Asuka: "It's not like you understand me at all. Don't come near me."

Asuka: "You think you understand me? You think you can help me? Now that's really arrogant!You couldn't possibly understand me."

It essentially translates Asuka's frustration after the kiss into words, expressing the way she feels about Shinji's density. It's interesting to note that Asuka, while angry at Shinji, is not hiding her need to be understood and helped, as opposed to what she did in the real life version of the scene. A hopeless Shinji then proceeds to express his exasperation at the girl.

Shinji: "There's no way I could understand you. Because you don't say anything, Asuka. You never say anything, and you expect me to understand you, when you don't even talk at all? That's impossible!".

This is certainly the most fitting back and forth to express the main issue in their relationship: communication. Shinji believes that, if Asuka does not actively explain him everything she feels, he cannot understand her. He does not understand that people have their own insecurities and emotional needs. Rei also questions him on this:

Rei: Ikari, did you really try to understand?

Third exchange

"Go ahead and do it, I'll be here and watch"

The third exchange relates purely to the physical/sexual attraction that exists between the two, not to be mistaken with romantic love. Because Shinji has already been able to access Misato's memories, there is no reason to believe this is not the real Asuka since they are already inside Instrumentality. However, here she no longer has the inhibitions that would prevent her from openly expressing herself in a real-life scenario.

Asuka :"Idiot! I know that I'm your jerk-off fantasy. Go ahead and do it as usual, I'll be here and watch. If you cannot be mine and mine only, I don't even want you."

In the original Japanese, Asuka uses the idiomatic expression "I know you've been using me as a side dish". In Japanese, "using something as a side dish" is an expression for using something or someone for one's erotic fantasies, but with the underlying implication that the person using the "side dish" is too scared to actually act on their feelings. As such, Asuka might even be implying that Shinji could have had the "real thing" before, but hesitated.

Asuka is shown to express awareness of Shinji's attraction for her, something she had known since the end of ep.9, but likely received further confirmation of, during Instrumentality. An interest which seems, to an extent, reciprocated. That is where the lack of inhibitions comes into play; all the issues Asuka has with Shinji's personality don't seem to affect her interest in him here, as they did throughout the series. The only condition she sets is for him to be hers only, representing Asuka's possessive and jealous nature.

Additionally, Asuka shows that she is not only aware that Shinji has masturbated to her in the hospital, but clearly implies it is in fact a habit of his. That she is still willing to accept this in a sense might indicate how much she also wants his affections, as long as they are committed. In fact, in an earlier EoE script, Shinji would not masturbate in the hospital, but instead go back home after seeing her exposed breasts, and then masturbate in his room, with superimposed images of breasts (similar to what Shinji sees when he is asked by Lilith-Rei what he wishes for just before entering Instrumentality) and even his face as he ejaculated.

Asuka is demanding here that Shinji return her attempts at affection, she demands reciprocity, even if she also unwilling to give it back herself. However, Shinji responds...

Shinji: Then, be nice to me...

Asuka/Misato/Rei: We are nice to you.

Shinji: LIARS!! You're all just hiding behind a smile! You just want to keep things ambiguous!

Shinji, at this moment, is too unstable and insecure and reverts to thinking that Asuka, as well as Misato and Rei, should somehow just revolve around him, as he is unwilling to navigate the ambiguity, insecurity and emotional needs of others, a crucial part of human relationships. Rather, Shinji wants things to be clear-cut and easy, and for people to simply exist to serve his needs, without him having to do anything for them himself or to actually earn their affection. This is symbolized most of all with Asuka, who actively refuses to just be his "doll".

Rei: Because the truth hurts us all... Because it's very, very distressing.

Shinji: But ambiguity only makes me insecure.

Rei: That's just an excuse...

It is only by the end of the movie that Shinji starts to realize and accept this.

Fourth exchange

Asuka's final rejection.

The last and longest exchange is, in a sense, opposite to the first one. Here it is Asuka to fully comprehend Shinji's nature. In the series she had shown to understand him, but never to such an extent. Taking place in a fake version of their living room (similar to ep.24), Shinji approaches Asuka in an attempt to help her only to be met by her rejection. This scene also directly parallels their kisss in Episode 15. Because Asuka interpreted Shinji's inaction not as simply passivity, insecurity or lack of experience, but instead as outright rejection, she feels clearly hurt about this, which can be heard very clearly in her tone of voice in the original Japanese, which her voice almost breaking. Rejecting Shinji's pleas here, in her mind, also count as payback.

Asuka:"...Stay away from me, because all you do is hurt me."

Once again, she doesn't deny her need for help, but, unlike in their second exchange, she proceeds to turn Shinji's words against him, exposing his real intentions. In truth, Shinji's attempts to help Asuka are simply a selfish way to gain her love and acceptance.

Asuka:"You're scared of both Misato and First, and your mother and father..."

She then proceeds to accuse him of not loving anyone, not even himself. The accusation in question should not be interpreted as inability to feel but as inability to translate the feelings to meaningful acts of love. Asuka is unwilling to serve as just Shinji's escape and emotional crutch, and thinks Shinji is unable to return any affections and treat her as a human being. The scene ends with Shinji begging for someone to love him and not leave him alone, only to be met with Asuka's final rejection. Shinji snaps at this, prompting him to strangle her.

One More Final

Shinji surprised to be accepted by Asuka
Asuka looking at Shinji as she caresses him

See also: Theory and Analysis:Final Scene in End of Evangelion

In Episode 22, above, Shinji is physically distant from Asuka, they are divided by a physical object, and Shinji is visibly tense as he is unaible to comfort a visibly crying and furious Asuka. The poster for End of Evangelion directly parallels this scene, except that this time Asuka and Shinji are close to one another, and seem much more relaxed and at ease with each other. Perhaps a sign of better things to come.

The final sequence of the movie. Taking place at the end of Instrumentality, it shows Asuka and Shinji lying on a beach, in front of Rei's remains. There is evidence that that Asuka made the conscious decision to live as an individual and returned from Instrumentality, similarly to Shinji, and has even chosen to lay down at his side. As Shinji notices the girl, he moves towards her and begins to strangle her, without a clear reason. The generally accepted interpretation is that he was trying to determine whether she was real or if they were still experiencing Instrumentality. Asuka's reaction comes as a surprise; she caresses him, an act of acceptance meant to symbolize Asuka's growth. Instead of reacting to him with aggression or hostility as she has done many times before, she reacts with compassion, gentleness and affection. She has finally made a genuine, open effort to reach out to him. Even though it would be possible to just try to punch him or push him off her, to reject him again, she has instead chosen to accept him. In the same way her hatred for Shinji could be seen as misdirected hatred for herself, so is her kindness towards him indicative of self-acceptance. She can finally accept him for who he is, because she can accept herself. Taken aback by her caress, Shinji begins to cry.

The ambivalence and duality in this scene represents the fact that they are not yet completely healthy and changed, but are beginning to open themselves to this change. The movie leaves open where they will go from there, but even after all the grievous death and destruction throughout the movie, and even though they are still only starting to grow, it still gives them this hope, as long as they pursue it. They are now able to accept one another, and if they are able to grow and change, they can be happy.

Notes

For more information, less accepted alternatives and objections, see Shinji and Asuka forum thread.

Some fans believe that the Asuka in Episode 26' is not real, and is instead a fake or a creation of Shinji's mind. However, there is plenty of evidence pointing out that it is indeed her soul inside Instrumentality, much like Misato and Shinji herself. See: Theory and Analysis:List of Common Misconceptions#The Asuka in the Hell Kitchen scene wasn't real

As an interesting aside, Sadamoto also suggested during conceptualization of Eva 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.[3]

Hideaki Anno has also written a song that seems to be about their relationship. It was fully produced, but ultimately unused in End of Evangelion, in favor of Komm, süsser Tod. See: Everything You've Ever Dreamed

References

  1. Shinji doesn't make any move to initiate the kiss (notice that Asuka pauses, expecting Shinji to lean in while he simply closes his eyes and waits). He doesn't hold or touch Asuka in any way during the kiss (which Asuka explicitly says she wanted him to do later on in the series), and Shinji makes no attempt to change this even though Asuka is deliberately prolonging the kiss.
  2. It is interesting that Yui waited until Asuka's apparent death to move Eva 01. Some suggest she deliberately chose to let Asuka die in order to get Shinji to enter Instrumentality, though it is debatable if she did this because she wanted Third Impact to happen or merely because she thought there was no way of saving Asuka and at least she would have a chance if her soul was collected by Lilith and brought into Instrumentality. See: Theory and Analysis:Yui's Agenda
  3. "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." -EVA If it weren't for Sadamoto – Redux Translation of interview with Yoshiyuki Sadamoto about designing the series.