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This is an archive of Evangelion-related short essays and other writings from Amanda Wells's now-defunct site Noise in My Brain, written between 2002 and 2004.

This is an archival piece, and the opinions expressed are the original author's views at the time the article was written, and not representative of the standpoint of the EvaGeeks Wiki.

The Charm of Tabris

Kaworu Nagisa, one of my favorite EVA characters, turned out to be surprisingly popular on the Internet, despite only appearing in one episode. Curious being that I am, I tried to find a reason. Unfortunately, most Kaworu websites had since died (a consequence of getting into EVA years after its North American release), and those left didn't offer much of a glimpse into a Kaworu fan's mind. When I posed the question on AnimeNation's EVA forum, I mostly got variations on "he's cute". So I decided to pick the brains of the Kaworu fan I knew best: me. This resulted.

Among a cast of tormented, disturbed, and two-faced individuals, Kaworu--sweet, kind, and unflappably calm--seems to be the only character that's blatantly "lovable" in a classic way. That alone is enough to make Kaworu memorable, to capture attention of those seeking a respite from the anguish and chaos of later Evangelion.

Shortly after meeting Shijnji, Kaworu pinpointed his fears and problems, yet passed no judgement, positive or negative, on Shinji's (ignoble) coping mechanisms. While Shinji deserved a wake-up call more than a perfect friend, there's no denying the appeal of someone like just about anyone. Many fear being judged by others, but also want to be understood by them. This doesn't just apply to broken individuals, but probably almost everyone who's not overly cynical and has some concern for their self-worth.

Kaworu's difference from the other characters and his "ideal" personality are the main reasons for his popularity, but there are others. Perhaps Kaworu has such a large number of female fans because many find that "nonthreatening pretty boy" archetype so attractive (of course, all female Kaworu fans can't be fangirls; I'm not). Kaworu is also mysterious, and some find mystery exciting. Perhaps some Kaworu fans like exploring his mostly-unexplained thoughts and motivations to create their own view of who he is. This contributes to Kaworu's popularity, because fans can "personalize" the character.

Mysterious, lovable, and an ideal, Kaworu is almost equivalent to the main characters in popularity.

Angel Analysis

One of the best kinds of EVA sites are character analysis pages. With this series, even characters you have ambivalent feelings about become fascinating. Yet one character I did like, Kaworu Nagisa, was almost never analyzed, merely adored. So I became inspired to post my own ideas about his character and motivations. Though his appearence was short, I ended up gleaning a fair amount and crushing it together into a totally subjective analysis.

Kaworu's Angel name is Tabris, making him the Angel of Free Will. This is quite apt, since Kaworu questions his fate ("Must one who is born from Adam return to Adam, even though it would destroy man?") and prevents Third Impact by asking Shinji to kill him. Some believe Kaworu altered his original goal because of his feelings for Shinji, and I disagree. Rather, Kaworu's feelings for Shinji strengthened a conviction that already existed. Kaworu had an interest in music and sought human contact; these inclinations don't fit the profile of someone who wants to "destory" humanity.

Also, Kaworu chose to inform Rei of their similarites (though he was vague), and she arrived to cancel his AT Field (which I see as a purely instinctive defense) with her own, thereby allowing Unit 01 to grab Kaworu. Nor did Kaworu conceal his ablility to so easily manipulate his Synch Ratio. These aren't the decisions of someone who wants no intereference.

However, Kaworu did make the attempt, perhaps not being in control of his own body. Because of this, it's possible for Kaworu to have internal conflict, despite his placid demeanor. While only present in one version, Kaworu's voice inflections could hint at the warring forces in him.

Without evidence, I think Kaworu was "born" shortly before the events of episode 24, posessing knowledge of human despair but no experience with it. This is why he can talk about pain yet be so loving. Or this could be Kaworu's individualism at work again, realizing that humankind is fundamentally apart but still forming a bond with Shinji because he wants to.

Kaworu's also a paradox; ancient and innocent (perhaps the reason a youthful character was given gray hair), having intimate knowledge of humanity's lonlieness, yet expressing feelings openly. This openess is linked with naivete, for people are taught to conform to protocols as they grow, a process that may include hiding their emotions for the good of appearences. It can also be said that prolonged experience in the world creates bitterness and retreat in some. This "innocence" could be a demonstration of Kaworu's short life.

From my perspective, Kaworu was attracted (in whatever way) to Shinji in particular. I consider Kaworu very human in his emotions, and many of us are attracted to the similar. Similarities between Kaworu and Shinji are easy to see, if you look. Kaworu feels trapped because he must return to Adam; Shinji believes he is trapped by his various fears. Both seem introspective (someone doesn't make philosophical statements out of the blue, like Kaworu does, if they're not a thinker), but their thought patterns likely differ. The exact nature of his attraction, however, is hard to discern, but it's not important to me.

Like every analysis, Kaworu's is open to interpreation, and in his case, there's still holes to fill. Why an Angel would bother going against his instinct to a degree is a mystery. However, based on interpretations, a decent analysis of Kaworu can be pulled from his one appearence. He is an individualist and a paradox, perhaps closer to the rest of the cast than he appears to be.

Down in the Muck

I admit, it could be jealousy.

Shinji Ikari is one of my most favorite Evangelion characters, perhaps one of my most favorite anime characters of all time. Yet he is constantly dumped on my fans, who act as if he's a one-dimensional crybaby with no personality.

I realize this will never change in fandom, but what disturbs me is that many fans act as if Shinji is the only immoral cast member. It is rare that the flaws of Rei, Asuka, Misato, et al are mentioned, and it is even less common for them to be the target of rage and contempt. Some have even gone so far as to say they are morally superior to Shinji. It is only through coaxing of discussions, and fans devoted specifially to character analysis, that the faults of EVA's other characters come to light.

Also, when dislike of other EVA characters is expressed, it is done more in terms of "normal" character dislike, focusing on personality aspects that are personally distasteful. The characters are hardly ever boiled down to an unflattering and limiting description. In contrast, Shinji-bashing is as common as cockroaches, something that is stumbled on, rather than unearthed.

I believe that this does not happen because the other EVA characters are of superior moral character and emotional strength. Instead, it happens be because but because there is a gloss over their flaws that makes them more acceptable to most. The focus of this article will be Rei, Asuka, and Misato, because they are fanboy darlings and some of the most explored cast members.

The veneer that covers the faults of Rei, Asuka, and Misato has many parts. The first is quite simple: it is sex--both in the fact that they are female, and they are "sexy". In our society, what is common is what is treated as truth. While feminism has made great strides, I think there is still a cultural subconscious that percieves females as the "fairer sex" or the "weaker sex". Women are thus to be forgiven for emotional outbursts, shedding tears, and "cowardly" behavior. Men (or boys) are not granted this. Sometimes it almost seems any sign of femininity and emotion in a male is treated as a sin against nature.

That's what's behind the more favored treatment of EVA females. Because they have boobs, they are mostly considered free from any transgressions of strength and morality. They are good and beautiful; almost all is forgiven.

Presentation is another important factor. It may be said that Asuka, Rei, and Misato have more dynamic, "positive" traits to counter their negative ones. Rei has an aura of mystery; Asuka is a warrior devoted to her cause; Misato is a strong worker and provides comic relief. These things take the sting away from their psychological problems. Compared to this, Shinji is an air raid. However, the plot of EVA itself deconstructs these images of Rei, Asuka, and Misato.

Through Rei's various visions, we find she may have strange origins and be philosophical, but is no enchanting dream girl with a dark past. Instead, she is a hurting, lonely person who wants to die but never can. She is detached from emotion and desire, almost seeming will-less.

Asuka may like fighting, but she eventually sucumbs to her own pain. It is also interesting to note that Asuka's desire for combat was a defense mechansim, a way to prove to the world she was worth something, to contradict her mother's insane predictions. It did not have "positive", "healthy" roots. Asuka does not overcome; she represses. And it all comes back to haunt her. The girl screaming, "I hate everything!" is hardly a picture of someone in control of her life and her pain.

Misato's lament to Kaji in episode 15, when she admits she got drunk to gain her courage, is also troubling. It puts the earlier episodes, where she cheerfully guzzles beer, into a darker light. Those scenes were initially presented as comic, but even the past is not safe from the truth. When she was in college, Misato ran from Kaji when she discovered his similarities to her father, outright lying to him, and only confessing eight years later. Her skill as a military woman remains untouched by all this, but can those skills truly make her a hero? They have nothing to do with her problems, which remain to haunt her.

I'm saying that the combat actions and "auras" of the three females are but a dusting, a bright wrapping concealing the ugly gift inside. That gift is immorality, repression and hiding, running away from problems. The pretty coating cannot disguise that fact, for it is not at all connected to their moral fortitude. The turtle hides in a strong shell.

It may be said that I am expecting too much of the characters; that I am not allowing them to show human emotion and treating every sign of humanity as a sin. But Shinji is interpreted that way, and most do not complain. What I am striving to do is to say that the women of EVA are not morally superior to Shinji, and nor is he morally superior to them. Instead, they are all on the same ugly level, despite appearences.

Thus far only the TV series has been considered. End of Evangelion might seem to tip the scales in favor of the integirty of the Asuka/Rei/Misato triumvate. Rei choses to defy Gendou and merge with Lilith on her own; Asuka awakens from her coma and almost succeeds in destroying nine Evangelions; Misato acts like a military woman, saves a life, and dies with a motivational speech. On the other hand, Shinji must be dragged around by Misato, arrives too late to help Asuka, and his first decision after Rei gives him the choice to direct Third Impact is basically to give humanity the finger.

Rei's case is the most ambigious. While she does break free from Gendou, it is only to merge with another being, and act as guide to another. That is Rei's choice, but it's hard to view it as a heroic effort to overcome her problems and come to the aid of others. Instead, Rei III appears to function on instinct, waking up and going to Lilith with no apparent summons. Floating up to her, Rei says, "Ikari-kun is calling me". Despite her words to Gendou, can Rei III truly be seen in engaging in an act of self-definition, ovecoming all her problems thorugh a conscious act of will? I would disagree. Rei III makes her move because she has a greater sense of incompleteness than Rei II. She has lost the human ties that Rei II acquired, and thus returns to her source, Lilith. Rei escapes.

I mentioned in another essay that when Shinji has a zeal for combat, it is presented in a negative fashion. The same may be said of Asuka in her combat with SELEE's nine EVAs. We see the Deck Trio (Maya, Hyuga, and Aoba) as audience to the battle, and they view it in a negative light, especially the sensitive Maya, who pleads for Asuka to stop. Furthermore, Asuka's expression of murderous rage for most of the battle makes one wonder how positive her combat experience really is. Asuka eventually fails despite her best efforts, and even her last attempt to make her EVA rise, the last gasp of a defiant soul, saddens Maya and is visually grotesque. This adds a dark and pessimistic cast to the scene.

It is also noteworthy that Asuka regains her power through contact with her mother's soul. This has echoes of Shinji's many head trips, including episode 16, augmenting the idea that her and Shinji are more alike than most believe. Asuka does not return to the battlefield through an effort of conscious will; she needs prodding from an external source. That Asuka is more active following her awakening is not a sign of her greater strength; rather, she is simply reclaiming her old defense mechanisms, ones Shinji never used.

Misato is a far smaller player in the film in comparision to Rei and Asuka. That she has military skill is nothing new, and my stance on that issue remains. Misato's skill as a major does not excuse her moral failings and lack of emotional integrity. Thus for most of her on-screen appearence, she brings nothing new to the table.

Misato's rescue of Shinji is a heroic move. Also, instead of rejecting Shinji, she tries to get him moving. Yet even then, her heroism is tainted. The audience can never be sure if Misato actually believes what she says to Shinji, or if she is only parroting what she desires to believe. There is no evidence that Misato has overcome herself. Indeed, if the TV ending is read as related to EoE, Misato is still very disturbed.

Misato's speech to Shinji ends with their kiss. I've never seen this analyzed much, so I offer my own explanation. I believe Misato fosters desires for a nonthreatening love interest. She has been abandoned by the adult men in her life; her father left her and Kaji died. Misato kisses Shinji because she percieves him as the only male around she can dominate, and thus not fear, because he is young, feminine, and even worse of than herself. Even if the true reason for the kiss remains unsaid, the fact that she kissed someone half her age, in a gesture that is to all appearences sensual and left him promising to "Do the rest" when she returned. Even if Misato knew she was dying and they could never "do the rest", why would she say that? The entire incident is not a moral act.

Shinji in End of Evangelion is a difficult case. Part of the reason his decadence seems so high in comparsion with the women in EoE is that Shinji is given much more control of the situation. Rei gives him the choice to determine Third Impact, and thus lets him take his immorality to an enormous scale. All pretensions at quivering self-devaluation are taken away from Shinji: he declares that if no one loves him, all should die.

That might seem like a case for the greater moral strength of Rei, Misato, and Asuka, but they were not given the choice that Shinji did. One might regard Rei's choice of who to make a "god" to be insane. Shinji can't even make the right decisions for himself, and entrusting him to make a choice for billions of others seems ridiculous.

In Asuka's case, she was passive like Shinji early in the movie. Also like Shinji, she needs contact with the mother/EVA to goad her to action. Because of this, I feel both characters should be judged by the same standard.

Even if Asuka is the one to return with Shinji at the conclusion, we don't know why she did so. It could be Asuka had such a strong will that she would rather face the world rather than enter Insturmentality. Yet she was the same person that declared she hated everything. What better way to express that hate by demanding "death"? If Shinji was led to a morally correct choice, Asuka could have been, too. But somehow I doubt she would have made the "correct" choice right away, given her mental condition.

I believe immorality and character flaws are at the heart of Evangelion, and no number of cutesy fanservice can change that. Characters are left only with the potential to move on, with identities that change but do not improve. Asuka, Rei, and Misato are just as bad as the rest.

Sex, Gender, Expectations and Shinji Ikari

I often feel negative definitions of Shinji Ikari are too simplistic, at odds with the character I've come to enjoy. To many anime fans, including EVA fans, he's a "spineless wuss", a "wimp", a "whiner". The disparity between my opinions and others' was expected, but interesting. However, once I dwelt upon the matter, it was easy to see why some felt the way they did regarding Shinji.

Gender/sex doubtlessly plays a role. Shinji is male, but he is more feminine than masculine; emotional, unable to hide his feelings, often passive, meek, et cetera. People tend to react more negatively to feminine males than masculine females, perhaps because there's been no social movement to give males the freedom to move outside their gender. Certainly, less fans complain about Asuka being a "bitch" than about Shinji being a "wuss", though both characters display traits linked with the opposite sex and are utilizing defense mechanisms.

In addition to this, I think Shinji's role in Neon Genesis Evangelion is also significant. If only because there's a visual similarity, I associate EVA piloting with mecha piloting, a la Gundam, Escaflowne, etc. My experience with mecha is limited to Esca and several Gundam series, namely 0083, 0080, Wing, the first 0079 movie, and part of the 0079 manga, as well as Gundam: The Official Guide. I found such differences between Shinji and the protagonists of these series that I had to include it in my understanding of anti-Shinji backlash.

While characters like Van Fanel or Heero Yuy do have emotional difficulties, they encounter and cope with them in a fashion that never wholly negates their strength and stoicism. You know they hurt, but none seem in agony to Shinji's degree and in his fashion, or could ever be called "weak".

Furthermore, even disregarding the Freudian implications of giant swords and guns, I think the act of mecha piloting will always be seen as a masculine one, no matter who is at the controls. What are mecha in most cases, but larger, more sophisticated versions of tanks and construction equipment, both of which have traditionally been piloted by macho males? Of course, this doesn't always translate into pilots that are masculine in looks and/or temperament, but I think there is a connection between a masculine machine and the expectation of a masculine controller. Yes, there are arguably feminine mecha pilots like Quatre Raberba Winner from Gundam Wing, but he displays battle prowess and even rage. It's true there are many female pilots, but I'd argue the issue is not whether mecha pilots are male, but whether they are masculine.

Also, none of the mecha series I like have feminine protagonists. Indeed, recalling popular male leads in action stories doesn't yield many feminine examples. Instead we have Goku, Conan the Barbarian, Ash Ketchum, Luke Skywalker, King Arthur, Superman, Samurai Jack, Batman, He-Man, Optimus Prime, and the aforementioned Heero and Van. But despite these characters' extreme contrast to Shinji, he is still connected to them, because he's also a male protagonist in an action series. Among a group of beings that he only shares a role with, Ikari Shinji is at the very least, noticable. At worst, he is the proverbial sore thumb sticking out.

Those I mentioned also usually have the label of "guys boys want to be". One can take them free of their faults and their world's dangers, and imagine holding only their power. One could excise Heero's angst over resurfacing emotions or his feelings for Releena, and one would still have a strong, capable warrior who would be a desired avatar. However, take away Shinji's flaws, his angst, self-hate, self-absorption, sexual awkwardness, immaturity, insecurity, fear, et cetera, and you would still leave something, but certainly not a warrior. While hero-to-fan projection is usually linked with pre-teen boys, it's not hard to imagine older people doing it, or translating it into a protectiveness of the male hero image.

From that perspective, it becomes a crime to not only be a feminine male, but also to have not a shred of the traditional power of a (male, action series) protagonist. Instead his redeeming features relate to a dubious emotional "goodness", such as the display of compassion or an understanding of his faults, but none of those are crucial ingredients in a power fantasy.

Indeed, it often seems that Evangelion tries to undermine any notion of heroic power. While Shinji does fight with passion, it's always linked to coercion, obligation, and/or rage, which accentuates Shinji's "unheroic" nature.

In addition to a hero, some may expect/desire a character who does things better than they would, or takes the route viewers would like to believe they would, the "right" way. While Shinji does make some compassionate decisions (like piloting in Rei's place), mostly he doesn't take the "right" path.

To some, Shinji's difference from so many established/expected desires and images may overwhelm his characterization, so that only his flaws are noticed, and Shinji therefore becomes nothing more than his faults. Viewers feel justified in expecting a hero, and being angry when they don't get one. They want that power, that escapism, that macho-ness, as surely as I want a character I can relate to.

Gendou Ikari

People look at you funny if you admit hatred for a nonexistent entity, but my feelings towards Gendou Ikari of Neon Genesis Evangelion come pretty damn close. I realize he is a complex character that, in some cases, has reasons for being so thoroughly unlikable, but don't care. In some ways, he is still the most unlikable, disgusting S.O.B. ever to grace a story...personal opinion, of course.

I have the surface (and I'd imagine standard) reasons for disliking Gendou Ikari. He's almost relentessly harsh, and treats people as tools. This is especially appaling when he does it to Shinji, his own son and one of my favorite characters (I'll leave it to you to decide what justifies my dislike more). Furthermore, Gendou wanted to cause Third Impact to re-unite with his wife, Yui and eventually suceeded. In doing this, Gendou commited a phenominally selfish act: starting an apocalypse just to please himself. While these reasons are more than enough, there are deeper reasons for my dislike of Gendou.

I despise Gendou for his weakness as much as his selfishness. When he saw Yui in End of Evangelion, he expressed remorse for his treatment of Shinji, saying he didn't believe others loved him and it was "better to do nothing". Also when (I think!) characters experienced the Third Impact, they saw images of what was foremost in their minds. Gendou's vision was of EVA Unit 01 (technically Yui) biting him in half. I took this to mean Gendou wanted to be punished by Yui. In other words, he felt remorse, but never did anything about it. Gendou desired punishment over change, perhaps becuase he wasn't strong enough to change.

Also, Gendou apparently has no reason for being this way. With characters like Shinji, Asuka, and Misato, the audience knows of trauma and rejection that might "justify" their actions, or at least make them symapthetic. We do know Gendou mentally shut himself away in his grief over Yui in episode 21's big flashback. However, beforehand, there's something indefinably nasty about him, and Gendou seems to have resigned himself to this persona, telling Fuyutski, "I'm not used to being liked, Professor, but I'm quite used to being hated,". Perhaps this is a further indication of Gendou's icapacity to change. Fuyutski also notes it's assumed Gendou was having a relationship with Yui only because of her talent in bioengineering. Though it's obvious Gendou had deeper feelings, this assumption says things about Gendou's reputation before Yui "died". No reason is shown as to why Gendou is this way, and without understanding, the possibilty of sympathy becomes even more remote.

Because he was portrayed as selfish, weak, harsh, and a people-user, Gendou Ikari is one of my least favorite characters of all time. Redeeming factors are overwhelmed by so much else, including the small, fleeting nature of said redeeming factors.

Lady Akagi's Lover

According to an interview whose translation is published in the second EVA graphic novel, creator Hideaki Anno's idea of a twisted person is one who hides their true feelings behind a cool facade. In part, that explains why many cast members aren't what they initially appear to be. Sometimes that's good (Kaji) but usually the revealing of the true self is cause for disaster. While not as memorable as the cases of Rei, Asuka, Misato, et al, the removal of Ritsuko Akagi's mask is nevertheless striking. The woman who appeared so cool and professional, in everything including matters of the heart, breaks down in episode 23 and beyond, into crying, suicidal hysterics.

When this happens, a sordid detail is revealed: that she was sleeping with Gendou, of all people. It made me shiver in disgust, especially because of Ritsuko's lines: "I'm not happy anymore. Not even when you make love to me. Do whatever you want with me! That's never stopped you before!" At some point, I decided to look beyond my disgust and find out why Ritsuko became the lover of this other character whom I dislked so.

Though I endorse the theory that Gendou was sleeping with the Akagi women to keep their technological genius near, I think Ritsuko was also "using" Gendou. She doesn't appear to have much interest in human interaction or "normal" romance. Look at the cool way Ritsuko responds to Kaji trying to put the moves on her in episode 9, and tells him in episode 15 "Oh, I don't like to talk about myself. There's really not much to say." In episode 2, Misato comments to herself, "I was just thinking of Shinji as a tool. I'm as shameless as Ritsuko". Also, as some fans have pointed out, while Ritsuko and Misato's interactions appear friendly, Ritsuko never compliments her, and actually berates and teases Misato often. It's subtle, but it's there. All Ritsuko wanted from Gendou was sex, methinks.

Looking for the answer to "Why Gendou?", it's easy. With Yui "dead", Gendou shut himself away from others. While this would usually make others return the favor, the person that Gendou was post-Yui was perfect for Ritsuko's needs. When you see them together in the TV series, there's no indication anything's going on. I infer it's because their relationship is purely physical, and that's the way they both want it. In Ritsuko's case, Gendou satisfies her sexual needs without the human interaction and psychological ties that she won't deeply invest herself in.

I'm not surprised such a relationship collapsed, though I can't say what generated that collapse. An extremely twisted view I cannot shake is the idea that Ritsuko began to percieve Rei as a sexual rival, despite the fact that she certainly wasn't. I wouldn't put it past Ritsuko, with her lack of familiarty in interactions, to be extremely possessive of her lover. Evidence, however, is scant. When Ritsuko is sent before SEELE, and it's mentioned SEELE wanted to question Rei, Ritsuko thinks, He sent me instead of her?, sounding shocked and a trifle angry. In the next episode, when Gendou inquires, "Why did you destroy the Dummy Plug System?", she angrily proclaims, "It wasn't the Dummy System I destroyed. It was Rei!" Ritsuko mentions Rei specifically, and, despite her speech about the clones having "No right to live", she never seemd to have any objections to the Dummy System until the closure of the series.

Of course, we're never shown just why Ritsuko is so unbalanced. I've toyed with the interpretation that she represents the follies of women devoting themselves to self-indulgence and their jobs and not having a family, a criticism Japan would probably be more open about. However, that seems too overanalytical. There's nothing inherently wrong with a disinterest in romance per se, because I've gotten along fine without it. Ritsuko just used a twisted road to reach her desires.

In Defense of Head Trips

Some fans believe the quality of Neon Genesis Evangelion severely degenerates once the surreal, self-exploratory visions are introduced. Depending on what the criteria is, this begins either in episode 14 (Rei's monologue) or episode 16 (Shinji's encounter with Leliel, the shadow/sphere Angel). There are many afterwards, including Shinji's experiences after being absorbed by Unit 01 in episode 20, Asuka's "mind rape" by Arael in episode 22 (extended for the Director's Cut video version released in Japan), Rei's infection by Armisael in episode 23, and of course, the last two episodes.

To some extent, I can understand theif frustration. The ideas put forth in these hallucinations are communicated at a rapid pace, and it takes many viewings to uncover just what you think they mean (because, as we all know, there's no official answers to much of EVA's character-related interpretations).

However, most of the arguments state the visions have absolutely nothing to offer in intellectual terms. Instead, they are supposedly babble with weird visuals, either conceived to confuse viewers into ignoring EVA's glaring shortcomings, or to make some foolish pretense at depth, depending on whom you talked to.

I was, to say the least, annoyed. I felt the surreal visions usually had much to offer when analyzed. Granted, there was a bit of cheesy babble here and there (I think most of Rei's poem qualifies), but for the most part, what was said during the hallucinations explored or exposed the characters' anxieties and the source of them.

However, the representation is very raw. There aren't many straightforward explanations like "Shinji relies on the praise of others because he has no faith in himself," or "Mistato became sick of being good because being good never changed anything when she was a child". Instead, the sequences are nothing but reactions and arguments, and the audience must draw their own conclusions.

Perhaps that's why the sequences are interpreted as clumsy babble made to deceive fans into believing they're watching a good anime. However, I like it that way. Such a format encourages, nay, forces the audience to think analytically, to explore their own feelings about the characters, which is the only way to understand them.

Also, the visions wouldn't be nearly as endearing if they weren't backed up by a solid foundation, courtesy of the anime's outer reality. We know from the first episode that Shinji has a bad relationship with is father, and how often does that figure into his mind-warps? While other characters' angst isn't immediately visible, the audience gets acquainted with it through the show's "reality", before it's investigated in surreal hallucinations. For instance Misato's problems are exposed in her conversation with Kaji in episode 15, and her flashbacks in episode 21, before they are explored in the TV ending.

Also, the visions are sometimes the only source of information about the character's problems. Rei is a fine example. Her fears of lonlieness and her fear/desire to "return to nothing" are known only through her mind sequences. With Asuka, the sources of her problems are hinted at early in episode 22, but only come to the surface with Arael's attack.

Yes, there's ultimately no reason for the introspection to be presented in that particular way. It could just as easily have been done in the traditional storytelling format, with nothing, in terms of characterization, lost. Yet by themselves, EVA's weird visions have purpose and meaning; you need only to look deeper.

The Symbolic Asuka

One of the most wonderful things about Neon Genesis Evangelion is that characters you don't love still get your attention. The follwing essay is the product of this, dealing with connections between the mannerisms and desires of one Asuka Langely Souryu, and how they relate to her most powerful desire: to prove she's worth something.

Asuka and her EVA

At the tail end of the series, we learn that Shinji and Asuka's sense of self-worth is connected to their Evangelions ("Piloting EVA gives me an identity, a purpose"). For Asuka, perhaps it's because, when she was chosen as the Second Children, Asuka didn't know of any other pilots and was in a very important position. This made her feel very special (ref: "Everybody's so nice to me now, I don't feel lonely any more!" from episode 24). It's little wonder commited herself fully to EVA piloting, enjoys showing off with it, and is devastated when she can't pilot Unit 02 anymore.

Even when out of her Evangelion, Asuka still wears reminders of it; her pilot "hairclips" are worn almost constantly, signifying Asuka's immersion in life as a pilot. Also, the color of Asuka's hair and Plug Suit match her EVA's, a unique arrangement that visually strenghthens the connection between Asuka and Unit 02. (There's also the stereotype of red-headed people being hot-tempered).

Asuka and Kaji

Most teenage girls have a tendency to go after older men, so in the early days of my fandom I thought nothing of Asuka's schoolgirl crush on Kaji. Then I looked at a telling scene in the Director's Cut edition of episode 22. Asuka is with Kaji en route to Japan, and she persistently comes on to Kaji, who has no interest in her. Finally, Asuka tears open her shirt and shoves her breasts in his face, insisting, "I'm an adult!" This struck me as odd, because of how sexually self-conscious (almost paranoid) Asuka is in her introduction episode and on several other occasions.

In addition to the "I'm an adult!" scene, Asuka is a child prodigy, having attended college at 14, her stepmother comments in a flasback, "She acts too much like an adult,". When she is forced to experience repressed memories, Asuka replies to a memory of her younger self tearing up a stuffed monkey that was a gift from her stepmother with, "I grew up faster than everyone else. I didn't need a stupid stuffed toy!" Why this fixation on being an adult?

The way I see it, Asuka links adulthood with independence, and independence with being "worth something" (and escaping from her emotional problems). After all, nearly all "greats" acheived their success as adults. Therefore, Asuka chases after Kaji because she believes it makes her seem more "adult", and as a consequence usually ignores boys her own age. Though she has a complex love/hate reationship with Shinji, Asuka abandons the date Hikari set her up with without a second thought (episode 15), and often expresses her dislike of Touji and Kensuke.

Asuka and Competitiveness

Asuka is the only pilot that shows almost total enthusiasm for piloting and winning pre-breakdown. This happens because everything is riding on her performance. In her mind, Asuka must be the best EVA pilot or she loses everything, not just her pride. This is why she reacts so violently to being saved by Rei in episode 22, though said violence was likely amplified by Arael's "mind rape".

Asuka and Rei

A theory is that Asuka's hostility to Rei is connected to Kyoko, Asuka's mother. When insane, Kyoko ignored her real daughter, believing a doll was Asuka, and thus Asuka assosciates dolls with neglect and trauma. While that makes sense, I believe there's another reason for Asuka's hatred of Rei. Because of the independence=adulthood=significance, Asuka wants to hold her own and not be controlled by anyone, in order to achieve her significance by and for herself. In Asuka's eyes, Rei is the antithesis of these wishes, because Rei appears passive with no interests or desires of her own. Rei is what Asuka fears given form.

Asuka and German

Almost purely a dub creation, this exists, so it can be written down. Normally, those fluent in multiple languages don't pepper their conversations with use words another language. Asuka does this to show off, not letting anyone forget that she has the exceptional ability to speak two languages.

Too Cute

Kaworu Nagisa and Shinji Ikari are my favorites in Neon Genesis Evangelion, yet I do not like the idea of them as a couple. This might seem shocking to most. After all, what could be more perfect than my two favorite characters, in my most favorite anime, sharing love? Well, lots of things, really. (I am not heterosexist)

This essay won't resolve or even explore complex issues such as what sort of love Kaworu meant towards Shinji, how human/sexual Kaworu is, what either character's sexual orientation is, or where fanservice art fits into the equation. Such things aren't important to me. Instead, its purpose is to offer my own perspective upon a romantic relationship between Kaworu and Shinji, based on the premise it could happen.

For, though Kaworu and Shinji had a bond that can't be rigidly defined as platonic or sexual in nature, I think physical love could have ocurred if Kaworu had been around longer. Homosexuality doesn't come naturally to Shinji, but Kaworu is a very special circumstance. The 17th Angel is a living ideal, especially in Shinji's starved eyes. Kaworu offered love and understanding without any judgement, or any demand for reciprocation. He is easy and completely nonthreatening. Such are things Shinji wants most, so I would imagine he'd want to be as close as possible to someone who fullfilled his desires.

However, being with Kaworu would not solve the issues Shinji has with other people, only temporarily blind him to them. It's easy to imagine that someone like Shinji, who has done things like refer to himself as a "totally worthless being", would grow uncomfortable with such a state of bliss, feeling that he doesn't deserve such things. And Shinji's problems would fester unsolved, since Kaworu seems incapable of doing anything more than giving love that is formless, soft, and safe.

Furthermore, Shinji appears not to have much interest in Kaworu as a person. He gives embarassed responses to general questions and only shares details of his own life, hardly ever asking Kaworu about Kaworu. Though Kaworu appears not to care, this demonstrates Shinji's immaturity and deficency in human interaction. A relationship built without these pillars of communication seems like an unsteady one, bound to crumble.

The title of this essay was shamelessly stolen from a Daria episode in a flash of twisted inspiration