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Who Should Shinji Be Involved With, Really?

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

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Shinji Ikari in Neon Genesis Evangelion is psychologically complicated. Some might even call him a mess. He believes himself to be cowardly and dishonest. He is afraid of fighting, so he wants to run from his destiny. 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?

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Rei Ayanami

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

Shinji and Rei are 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 to prepare for 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 trouble matching his movements. This can either speak to the idea that Rei and Shinji are especially bonded, or that Rei is naturally 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 has a soft heart. He 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 at first. But when his father shows him Rei, still in bandages from a previous accident, and says she will have to do it if Shinji refuses, he becomes willing to pilot the Eva to help her. He spends a lot of the series concerned about the Rei's suffering. Shinji's resentment of his father, Gendo, deepens whenever he mistreats Rei.

The bad side of this ship? 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 deep respect, admiration, and possibly even affection for Gendo. In contrast, at least at first, she was cold 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

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Asuka is the direct opposite of Rei, and is 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 the 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 likes and admires Asuka, even though she is a bully. He sees in her a source of inspiration and strength, but he is also intimidated by her. It also appears that Asuka has feelings for Shinji, and even like she secretly wanted her first kiss to be with Shinji. But communication between them is awkward, and Asuka refuses to admit that she has these feelings.

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 driving force behind her motivations. Shinji and Asuka are definitely an "opposites attract" couple, and they get on each other's nerves. A lot of time in End of Evangelion is devoted to Shinji's relationship with Asuka; how they frustrate each other, but also how they might love each other. It's a ship in rocky seas, but it could be a ship.

Good Points:

  • Asuka is assertive and confident. She inspires Shinji to come out of his shell and take action.
  • Asuka and Shinji have numerous moments of sexual tension. It could be cute if that tension became an actual relationship.
  • Asuka's crush on Kaji is weird and creepy. It would be better if she could love someone her own age!
  • Asuka and Shinji make up for each others' personal shortcomings. For example, Shinji is more compassionate than Asuka, but Asuka is more decisive than Shinji. So there is hope that together, they could help each other become better people.

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 actually enhance 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 really 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

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While her flirtatious joking with Shinji can be written off as harmless fun, she is 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 objects to Nerv treating him, and the other Eva pilots, like tools.

Misato has a boyfriend, Kaji, her college boyfriend. Kaji sometimes annoys 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, it becomes clear that she loves Shinji, in probably a sexual way, and she 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

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Kaworu shows up very late in the show. He represents a potential hope for Shinji, but his too-sudden death also causes Shinji's 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, with 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 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, and human. He was called an idealistic version of Shinji in an interview by creator Hideaki Anno. Thus, he represents a version of Shinji that is free of Shinji's character defects, embodying 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 strengths that other people don't always notice.
  • 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, which used Eva Unit 01 to kill Kaworu when Shinji refused to, caused a major emotional crisis for Shinji. 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, when they find out he is an Angel.
  • Kaworu is shifty and mysterious. We don't 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 if he just used Shinji as part of his plan to infiltrate and spy on Nerv.

Conclusion

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!

© 2018 Rachael Lefler