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Character Discussion: Misato and Ritsuko

Updated on January 24, 2017

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 don't get along that well. There's a lot of catty back and forth between them in the beginning. Ritsuko nags Misato about not being responsible enough, living in a very messy apartment, and not being able to cook anything other than cheap instant noodles.

So, 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 the series seeming cool, competent, and in control of her emotions, she slowly melts down and loses this control.

So you could say what separates Misato and Ritsuko is their psychology surrounding sex. Misato is having it, but it might not be the best idea. It's also later revealed that her sexual looseness is due to some massive daddy issues in her past. Ritsuko has an opposite problem: repression. And mommy issues (which we'll get to later)! She starts the show off with her catty remarks to show how she measures up to traditional Japanese standards of womanhood by not living like Misato and expressing her disapproval of Misato's lifestyle. She seems like the cold, emotionally detached scientist while Misato is the passionate, tough, military type. Kind of like the Red Oni - Blue Oni thing we also see with Rei and Asuka.

Except, just 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 by the end. She starts out fussing over considering herself a good person because of little things like not cooking "disgusting" instant curry, but she ends up mass murdering clones in a psychotic rampage, and trying to kill Gendo himself in End of Evangelion. Move over Yuno Gasai, there's a new (old?) crazy bitch in town.

Misato:

Misato is arguably the most important adult character, because she plays a much more active, hands-on role in the three children's lives than the other adults at Nerv. As a commander, she is usually in charge of planning the strategies for the Eva Units' fights against the angels. She often has to think on her feet, because once the first angel shows up, attacks are pretty much a steady stream, and no two angels are alike. Plus, humanity knows exactly diddly squat about them, more or less. But, Misato clearly cares a lot about the pilots, and wants to formulate the best plans 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.

Misato deals with the painful childhood trauma of Second Impact. During that incident, her father died, and Misato was severely injured. But even when her physical injuries healed, psychological ones remained, and Misato didn't speak for a while. However, the series then flashes forward to her in college, where she first starts going out with Kaji and first befriends Ritsuko, and she has at that point become very lively and extroverted.

Near the beginning of the series, Misato rekindles her passionate relationship with Kaji. Asuka and Ritsuko kind of judge Misato for this, but I like that she's happy, and see the relationship as romantic and as positive as relationships get in such a depressing show. 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 are free to debate whether this is love or just a kind of animalistic sex fling that's ultimately not 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. One issue she has is that she said Kaji reminded her of her father, so going through the death of Kaji was sort of like reliving the death of her father all over again.

Over time, Misato's self-esteem suffers because there is a disconnect she feels between who she wants to be and who she actually is. I think it's fair to say that most people end up feeling this way about themselves at some point or another. She wants to be a good woman, a good mother figure and role model to Shinji, and she feels like no matter what she does, she fails to live up to her standards and those imposed on her by a conservative society. While Ritsuko is usually confident and sure of herself, even when to everyone else she's batshit insane, Misato is crippled with self-doubt and self-criticism, even if what she does is 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 Misato is fundamentally torn apart inside by criticism from others.

Ritsuko:

Ritsuko Akagi is chief scientist at Nerv. Her mother, Naoko Akagi, was a founding member of Nerv back when it used to be called Gehirn, and she had an affair with Gendo (Naoko's story is focused on more in the manga than in the anime). After Yui's disappearance during an Evangelion test error, Naoko was happy because it made her free to more openly pursue a relationship with Gendo. This means she might have been the one who killed Yui/was responsible for her death, but this remains unclear. But, Gendo was still brooding over his loss of Yui, and he made a clone resembling her, Rei.

One day, the first Rei Ayanami (the current one in the main timeline of the series is the second clone, and doesn't remember this happening), started to repeat things she had probably 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 used by Nerv as test pilots for the development of the Evangelion units, however.) Naoko was so horrified after doing that that she committed suicide, falling onto the computers (Magi system) she herself had helped to create. Her brain was preserved and integrated with the Magi system, but it was split into three parts: representing Naoko as a woman, as a scientist, and as a mother.

Some speculate that 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 some psychologically damaged women put into machines that are piloted and run by their own psychologically damaged children. Naoko's soul residing in Unit 00 might also 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 said to have the first Rei's soul inside it.

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 affection and concern. This leads to her destroying all the backup Rei clones Nerv was hiding in a fit of jealous rage. 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 kind of 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), and is horrified to learn that Gendo set it up to where she would be sent for this interrogation instead of Rei. This is probably the event that triggers her jealous rage against Rei, as well as deep despair and a desire to get back at Gendo by attempting to destroy Nerv.

Although the end of the series itself focuses more on Shinji, Misato, and the other pilots, Ritsuko's story culminates in the movie End of Evangelion, where she attempts to sabotage the Magi system to get revenge on Gendo, but he outfoxes her and kills 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's with Rei Ayanami, who is naked, and he's attempting to use her to initiate Instrumentality. He says something to Ritsuko that is silenced in the film as he shoots her in the chest, but it's 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:

Misato:
Ritsuko:
Angry, Emotional
Keeps Her Emotions to Herself (At Least, At First)
Self-Doubts
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

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 a lot of foil characters, highlighting characters' traits by showing them at work in contrast to another character who operates very differently. For example, Shinji's cowardly fear of conflict is contrasted against Toji's angry, confrontational attitude in one episode. Evangelion is full of moments where characters who are similar in many ways are shown to differ in other ways, and this difference causes most of the conflict and drama.

This all ties into the central, overarching theme of the conflict between humanity and the angels. The angels are basically unknowable to us, 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, and the best thing we can hope for is a scary apocalypse that ends that once and for all. Humanity has to let go of ego and notions of self to reach a transcendent form.

Well, I'm kind of attached to my sense of individuality and all, but this show really 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 as well suffers because she just doesn't fit the mold of womanhood society wants her to. Both of them 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 their psychological damage.

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.

Which do you prefer?

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A funny spoof of Ritsuko's EoE death scene!

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