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Character Discussion: Misato and Ritsuko

Rachael has been interested in many aspects of Japanese culture for a long time and hopes other people can learn her sense of appreciation.

Misato and Ritsuko are an interesting pair.

Misato and Ritsuko are an interesting pair.

Character Progression

Aside from Gendo, Ritsuko and Misato are the main adult characters in Neon Genesis Evangelion. They've known each other for a long time, but they don't get along that well. There's a lot of catty back and forth between them, especially when they're first introduced. For example, Ritsuko nags Misato about responsibility, her apartment being messy, and how she only eats cheap instant noodles.

Ritsuko is the sensible adult, and Misato is a foolish woman-child, right? Well, not entirely. As the series progresses, Misato becomes more responsible, stepping up to try to be a mother figure to Shinji more. At the same time, Ritsuko becomes increasingly unhinged, and she basically goes yandere (love-crazy) for Gendo. While she starts out seeming cool, competent, and in control of her emotions, she slowly melts down and loses this control.

Misato and Ritsuko have very different beliefs and feelings about sex. Misato is having it, but sometimes, she regrets it later. The real reason she does it is for psychological comfort because she misses her father who died during Second Impact, and because she's lonely for human touch. She likes to think she really loves Kaji, but she's not entirely sure.

Ritsuko's problem is repression. And mommy issues, which we'll get to later! She starts the off with catty remarks at Misato. Her criticism of Misato's lack of domesticity shows how Ritsuko measures up to traditional Japanese standards of womanhood. Or, she thinks she does, but she's a lonely workaholic and is more like Misato than she probably wants to admit. She seems like a cold, emotionally detached scientist, while Misato is the passionate, tough, military type. It's similar to the Red Oni - Blue Oni thing we also see with Rei and Asuka, with Misato being the fiery Red Oni and Ritsuko being the cool, logical Blue Oni. At least at first.

Like how Asuka starts out confident and suffers blow after blow to her self-esteem until she becomes severely depressed, Ritsuko starts out the better person, and her morality is what plummets. She starts out considering herself a good person because of little things like not cooking "disgusting" instant curry. But near the end of the show, she mass murders Rei clones in a psychotic rampage. She then tries to kill Gendo in End of Evangelion. Move over Yuno Gasai, there's a new (old?) crazy bitch in town.



Misato is arguably the most important adult character. She plays a much more active, hands-on role in the three children's lives than the other adults. As a commander, she plans strategies for the Eva Units' fights against the Angels. She often has to think on her feet; once the first Angel shows up, attacks come regularly, and no two Angels are alike. Humanity knows exactly diddly squat about them. But, Misato cares about the pilots, and wants to plan as best as she can so that they don't die or get seriously hurt. Unlike Gendo, who takes the attitude that the pilots are parts in a machine that can be replaced, Misato cares for each one of them personally. She sees them as human beings, not tools.

Misato deals with her childhood trauma from Second Impact. During that incident, her father died, and Misato was severely injured. Even when her physical injuries healed, psychological ones remained. She didn't speak for a while afterwards. But after a few years, she went to college, where she started dating Kaji and befriended Ritsuko. At that time, she started to talk again, and talked all the time, as if to make up for all the time she had spent silent.

Near the beginning of the series, Misato rekindles her passionate relationship with Kaji, after, presumably, they'd been broken up for a few years at least. Asuka and Ritsuko judge Misato for her relationship and having sex, and are pretty mean about it. But she's happy, and the relationship as romantic and as positive as relationships get in Evangelion.

Of course, later it comes out that he may or may not have just been using her for information about Nerv all along. So fans can speculate whether this is love or just an animalistic sex fling that's not emotionally good for Misato. After Kaji rescues Professor Fuyutsuki from SEELE, it's likely that he is killed by an agent of SEELE, although his killer is never shown on-screen. Kaji's death is very hard on Misato, to say the least. She had said Kaji reminded her of her father, so going through the death of Kaji was like reliving the death of her father.

Misato's self-esteem suffers because of the disconnect between who she wants to be and who she is. Most people end up feeling this way about themselves at some point or another. She wants to be a good woman, and a good mother figure and role model to Shinji. But she feels like no matter what she does, she fails to live up to her own standards, and those imposed on her by a conservative society. While Ritsuko is so confident, even when she later goes insane, Misato is crippled with self-doubt and self-criticism, even when she does the right thing.

When Misato dies after giving Shinji a final pep talk in the elevator in End of Evangelion, her last lines, "Kaji, did I do the right thing? If I had known it would end like this, I would have changed the drapes like Asuka suggested." shows that she is fundamentally torn apart inside by criticism from others.



Ritsuko Akagi is chief scientist at Nerv. Her mother, Naoko Akagi, was a founding member of Nerv when it used to be called Gehirn. Naoko had an affair with Gendo back then. After Yui's disappearance during an Evangelion test error, Naoko was happy, because she thought that meant she'd be able to have an open relationship with Gendo. She might have been the one who was responsible for her death, for that end, but this remains unclear. But, Gendo was still brooding over his loss of Yui, and he made a clone resembling her, Rei. He seemed to be less interested in Naoko than she was in him, and became loving and protective toward Rei.

One day, the first Rei Ayanami (the one in the main timeline of the series is the second), started to repeat things she had heard Gendo saying about Naoko that were unflattering: that she was an "old hag" and no longer useful. Naoko flipped shit and killed that Rei. Backup clones of Rei were still needed by Nerv as test pilots for the development of the Evangelion units, however. Naoko was so horrified after killing Rei that she committed suicide, falling onto the computers (Magi system) she herself created. Her brain was preserved and integrated with the Magi system, but it was split into three parts. They represent Naoko as a woman, as a scientist, and as a mother.

Her soul might be the soul in Unit 00, since Unit 01 has Yui Ikari's soul, and Unit 02 has the soul of Asuka's mother, who was also a Gehirn scientist. Because nothing could be more effective for saving humanity than having a psychologically damaged women in the machines that are piloted and run by their own psychologically damaged children? I guess?

Naoko's soul residing in Unit 00 might explain the test accident where the prototype of Unit 00 went berserk and ejected the entry plug, injuring Rei. Somehow, Rei was able after that accident to soothe the hostile spirit of Naoko in her Eva unit, which is probably what she meant by "I'm bonded to it". But, that may also be because Unit 00 is also said to have the first Rei's soul inside it. Or it could be that Rei easily bonded to the soul of the Evangelion because of her DNA from Lilith, who is related to them.

Ritsuko, Naoko's daughter, becomes her mother's successor in more ways than one. She too, has a sexual relationship with Gendo. And like her mother, she becomes jealous of Rei Ayanami, who is one of the few people to whom Gendo shows real affection. This jealousy leads to her destroying all the backup Rei clones Nerv was hiding. In later episodes, we see how she becomes increasingly lonely and is often shown holed up alone, fixing the Magi system. When she identifies Shinji's "hedgehog's dilemma", it also seems like she's talking about herself, as she has problems with social relationships, like many scientists have in real life.

As time progresses, she seems to become more isolated and almost becomes religious toward her computer-mom, pleading to it for guidance as she becomes increasingly frustrated with everything, but especially with sexual frustration and her unhealthy obsession with Gendo. The worst feeling she has in the series is when she is sent to be interrogated by SEELE, and probably is sexually assaulted by them during this interrogation off-screen. But after that ordeal, she is horrified to learn that Gendo set it up to where she would be sent for this interrogation instead of Rei. This is probably what triggers her jealous rage against Rei, as well as her desire to get back at Gendo by attempting to destroy Nerv.

The end of the series itself focuses more on Shinji, Misato, and the other pilots, but Ritsuko's story culminates in the movie End of Evangelion. She attempts to sabotage the Magi system to get revenge on Gendo, but he outfoxes her, killing her before she can kill him. Since the Magi system contains the brain of Naoko, she sees it as a betrayal by her mother. He was with Rei Ayanami, who was naked, and he planned to use her to initiate Instrumentality. He silently mouthed something to Ritsuko as he shot her in the chest. It was most likely "I loved you". She says "Liar!" as she falls into Nerv's pool of LCL and dies.

Ritsuko's death scene shows her as confident and full of herself, in stark contrast to Misato's self-doubt during her death scene.

Ritsuko's death scene shows her as confident and full of herself, in stark contrast to Misato's self-doubt during her death scene.

This AMV Captures the Tragedy of Ritsuko's Life:

Misato and Ritsuko: Personality Differences:


Angry, Emotional

Keeps Her Emotions to Herself (At Least, At First)


Confident, Self-Assured

Upset About Father's Death

Carries on Her Mother's Jealousy and Obsession

Is Sexual, Wants to be Taken Seriously

Is Serious, Wants to be Sexually Desired

Seems Suited to Her "Male Role"

Wishes to be Seen as a Woman, Not Just a Scientist

Hands-On, Affectionate Towards The Pilots

Aloof, Sees Everything With Scientific Detachment


Final Thoughts

So, with Ritsuko and Misato, we get a nice characterization through contrast — like we do with Asuka and Rei, which I talked about in another article. Evangelion uses these foil characters to highlight characters' traits by showing them in contrast to another character. Another example is when Shinji's fear of conflict is contrasted against Toji's angry, confrontational attitude. Evangelion is full of moments where characters who are similar in many ways are shown to differ in other ways, and this difference causes conflict and drama.

This supports the central, overarching theme of the conflict between humans and the Angels. The Angels are basically unknowable, but they're said to have a similar origin. Coexistence, however, is made impossible because of our differences. In End of Evangelion, everyone reaches a state of heaven/Nirvana and perfect bliss because all their individual differences are gone. So, individuality causes differences between people, which cause suffering and conflict. In that case, the best thing we can hope for is a scary apocalypse that ends individuality and merges humanity into one. Humanity has to let go of ego and notions of self to reach a transcendent form.

I'm kind of attached to my sense of individuality and all, but this anime shows how various characters suffer because of who they are as individuals. Ritsuko's suffering is practically imprinted into her DNA: she repeats all the tragic mistakes of her mother. Misato suffers because she just doesn't fit the mold of womanhood society wants her to. They both suffer because of who and what they are, things they cannot change. And conflict between these two highlights their personality characteristics, but also shows how these personality characteristics lead to psychological damage. As well as the inability to get along with, and cooperate with, others, even for the hope of saving the world.

So, would you rather be an alcoholic, or obsessed with your mom's lover, who's also your boss? Which character do you prefer? Personally, I'm a Misato gal, but I think Ritsuko has moments that are very cool too.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2017 Rachael Lefler