Who Should Shinji Be Involved With, Really?

Updated on December 21, 2018
RachaelLefler profile image

Rachael is a passionate long-time anime fan, who enjoys writing about the storytelling aspect of anime, manga, and light novels.

The Art of Shipping Shinji Ikari With Someone

Shinji Ikari in Neon Genesis Evangelion is a psychologically complicated character. Some might even call him a mess. He's self-admittedly cowardly and dishonest. He wants to run from his destiny, afraid of fighting. The war he's thrust into between mankind and the Angels weighs more and more on his psyche as the show goes on. The show culminates in his mental breakdown and the literal end of the world in the movie, End of Evangelion. Since he's such a broken character, it's fun to speculate that, had Shinji had the right relationship, things would have turned out better for him emotionally.

So which lucky lady (or fella) should have ended up with Shinji?

Rei Ayanami

Shinji admires Rei's strength. In her, Shinji sees what he lacks in himself; courage. Rei, who is a clone of Shinji's mother mixed with DNA from Lilith, obviously reminds Shinji of his mother, and her maternal protectiveness is a quality Shinji also admires in her.

Shinji and Rei seem to be in sync with each other from day one, and have an unspoken bond. This is evidenced by the episode, 'Both of You, Dance Like You Want to Win!'. In this episode, Asuka and Shinji have to do synchronized activities in preparation to do a highly synchronized double-attack on an Angel. They struggle because they are so different. But, when Shinji tries playing the same dance game with Rei as his partner, she has no problem matching his movements exactly. This can either speak to the idea that Rei and Shinji are especially bonded, or that Rei is naturally submissive and responsive to others, in a way that Asuka is not. At any rate, this episode serves to demonstrate the contrast between Rei and Asuka, which is a major way the show sheds light on both of their personalities.

Shinji is a soft-hearted person who has compassion for everyone, but is especially emotionally affected by Rei whenever she is hurt or in trouble. This is seen even in the first episode, when Shinji refuses to fight in the Eva Unit until his father shows him Rei, still in bandages from a previous accident, and says she will have to do it if Shinji refuses. He spends a lot of the series concerned about the suffering of Rei, and his resentment of his father deepens because of how he perceives Gendo as mistreating and using Rei.

The bad side of this ship though? Rei's lack of emotion is sad. Rei may have some weird affection for Gendo. To top it all off, there's the cloning issue. By the end of the series, we're on a new Rei clone, who may not have the same feelings and probably doesn't have the same memories as the previous Rei. Thus, everything they build up in terms of their friendship over the course of the series ends when Rei II dies. There's also the general ickiness of Rei as a match for Shinji because she is genetically similar to his mother.

Does Rei III have feelings for Shinji? In End of Evangelion, she defies Gendo and chooses Shinji to pair with to cause Third Impact. This is in contrast with Rei II, who initially had a deep respect, admiration, and possibly even affection for Gendo, contrasted with her coldness toward Shinji. Over time, Rei II warms up to Shinji and begins to appreciate him more. Does Rei III retain this appreciation? It's hard to tell what her emotions are, because Rei is such a mysterious and stoic character.

Good Points:

  • Rei and Shinji are very similar and often seem to be "on the same wavelength", unlike Shinji and Asuka.
  • Rei and Shinji have similar personalities.
  • Rei seems to go from loving Gendo and being cold toward Shinji, to loving Shinji and turning against Gendo.

Bad Points:

  • She's a clone.
  • She's Shinji's mom.
  • She's emotionally stunted, perhaps due to trauma.
  • She may be in love with Gendo.

Asuka Langley Sohryu

Asuka is the direct opposite of Rei, and also very different from Shinji. She takes great pride in being a genius and a good Eva pilot. She does not understand Rei, and this lack of understanding causes her to hate Rei. She is German and doesn't like many aspects of Japanese living, such as the small size of Misato's apartment and lack of privacy. She eats meat, unlike Rei who is a vegetarian. It's easy to see that she was introduced specifically to be a foil to Rei.

Shinji seems to admire Asuka, and even though she is a bully to him and to almost everyone else, Shinji seems to like her. He sees her as a source of inspiration and strength at times, but is also intimidated by her. It also appears that Asuka has feelings for Shinji, and even seems like she secretly wanted her first kiss to be with Shinji. But communication between them is awkward.

Asuka also seems to have a crush on Misato's boyfriend Kaji. Wanting Kaji and other adults to see her as grown up is a big driving force behind her motivations as a character. Shinji and Asuka are definitely an "opposites attract" kind of couple, and they get on each other's nerves a lot. A lot of time in End of Evangelion is devoted to Shinji's relationship with Asuka, how they frustrate each other, but how they potentially love each other too. It's a ship in rocky seas, but it could be a ship.

Good Points:

  • Asuka is assertive and confident, the kind of person needed to inspire Shinji to come out of his shell and take action.
  • Asuka and Shinji have numerous moments of sexual tension, so it would be cute if that all culminated in an actual relationship.
  • Asuka having a crush on Kaji is just awkward and creepy. It would be better if she could love someone her own age!
  • Asuka and Shinji make up for each others' weaknesses in each others' personalities. For example, Shinji is more compassionate, and Asuka is more decisive.

Bad Points:

  • Asuka and Shinji are both majorly f#*ked up. It may be unrealistic to think that they can actually change each other.
  • They might become codependent and enforce each other's negative personality traits.
  • They clearly annoy each other. Is that an "aw, she's bullying him because she likes him" thing, or do they simply just hate each other?
  • Asuka is mean and pushy. She may not be mature enough to have a relationship with anyone, let alone someone as fragile and sensitive as Shinji.
  • The whole strangling her and jerking off to her comatose body in End of Evangelion. Yeah...

Misato Katsuragi

While her flirtatious joking with Shinji can be written off as harmless fun, she seems like one of the characters who cares about Shinji the most. Misato is always there for him, she is the only one who seems to care when he goes missing, and she definitely objects to Nerv treating him and the other Eva pilots like tools.

Misato has a boyfriend, Kaji, her college boyfriend. Kaji seems to annoy her with his carefree attitude and the way he flirts with other women. In comparison, she might like the fact that Shinji is so pure and innocent. In End of Evangelion, after Kaji has died, it becomes clear that she loves Shinji in a very probably sexual way, and kisses him in a "grownup" way before dying. While she did love Kaji, she also wonders if she was merely using him as a substitute for the dead father she was missing.

Good Points:

  • She's seductive and flirtatious.
  • She always encourages Shinji and always believes in him, even when others don't.
  • She shows real compassion for Shinji and recognizes his humanity, especially by taking him in when his own father wouldn't.

Bad Points:

  • Misato is an alcoholic.
  • Misato is a bit screwed up emotionally, especially from being traumatized by Second Impact.
  • Misato is immature for her age, while Shinji is mature for his.
  • Misato has a loud, outgoing personality, that visibly annoys Shinji and makes him uncomfortable at times.
  • Misato is older and has a boyfriend (until he dies).

Kaworu Nagisa

Kaworu shows up very late in the show. He represents a potential hope for Shinji, but his too-sudden death also acts as a catalyst for Shinji's complete mental breakdown. Yaoi shippers love Kaworu x Shinji, of course. After Misato, Kaworu appears to have the most compassion for Shinji, and sees him as a person.

Kaworu is the only person who outright says he loves Shinji. Kaworu is bold and strong, representing a kind of strength that isn't eerily stoic like Rei's nor brash and boastful like Asuka's. Kaworu is not afraid of his own feelings, not afraid to declare his love for Shinji. They also share a lot of intimate moments, and Kaworu encourages Shinji to be open in this intimacy.

However, Kaworu is a very opaque and mysterious character. It's unclear if he actually loves Shinji, or is simply seducing him for some nefarious purpose. Kaworu is an Angel. Unlike the previous Angels, who appeared inhuman and monstrous, Kaworu appears beautiful. He was called an idealistic version of Shinji in an interview by creator Hideaki Anno. Thus, he represents a Shinji free of Shinji's character defects, and the ideal of a humanity free of sin and corruption. His death then, marks the contrast between ideals and reality.

Good Points:

  • Actually cares about Shinji, perhaps more than any other character.
  • Spends a lot of intimate time with Shinji and seems to enjoy getting to know him.
  • Appreciates Shinji's compassion and other character strengths, that other people don't always notice in him.
  • Not afraid to declare his affection for Shinji.
  • Teaches Shinji to love himself and forgive himself, which Shinji desperately needs.
  • Shinji seems to love Kaworu the most. Kaworu's death at the hands of the Dummy Plug system using Eva Unit 01 to kill Kaworu when Shinji refuses to, causes Shinji's emotional crisis at the end of the show. In End of Evangelion, Shinji is afraid of Giant Naked Rei during Instrumentality, refusing to merge with Lilith until she takes the form of a Giant Naked Kaworu instead. This love he has for Kaworu is able to break down his ego barrier.
  • Shinji is not afraid of Kaworu the way he appears to be afraid of women and girls. He's more comfortable and relaxed around him, perhaps indicating that Shinji is homosexual. Or he could just be afraid of women, despite an attraction to them.

Bad Points:

  • Kaworu is an Angel, and his allegiance was not necessarily on the side of humanity.
  • Not only does Kaworu die, but Shinji is forced to kill him by Nerv when they find out he is an Angel.
  • Kaworu is shifty and mysterious, so we don't really know if we can trust him or not. We never know if his affection for Shinji is genuine love, superficial lust, curiosity about humanity, or a desire to use Shinji as part of his overarching plan of infiltrating Nerv.


So there you have it, the strengths and weaknesses of the most likely 'ship' candidates for Shinji. Would any relationship have helped Shinji? How could Shinji maybe have helped someone else in the show deal with his or her emotional issues? Is Shinji better off not having a relationship, at least not until he matures emotionally? Who do you think should be paired with Shinji? I lean towards pairing Shinji with Kaworu, but that's on the condition that Kaworu actually really loves Shinji, which is kind of dubious. Please let me know what you think!

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Rachael Lefler


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