Just when I think I’m done, this series pulls me back in. I just can’t seem to leave it alone!
Evangelion has a large cast of diverse characters, all of whom play off of each other perfectly. But there are two characters with chemistry so perfect, yet so destructive, that they put the others to shame. I’ve already talked in-depth about one of them: Shinji Ikari. Now I want to talk about his polar opposite: Asuka Langley Soryu.
Asuka was built to reflect Shinji in every possible way. Whereas Shinji is quiet and submissive, Asuka is loud and rebellious. Shinji is reclusive, while Asuka is extremely socially adept and popular. However, unlike Shinji, Asuka’s personality is used to hide who she really is: an injured, lonely, and terrified little girl.
The Wound: She Was Smiling
Of all the dark and disturbing backstories in Evangelion, Asuka may have it the worst. At least psychologically.
In her youth, Asuka grew up constantly rejected by the people in her life. Her mother killed herself with a smile on her face, seemingly happy to be freed from her daughter. Neither her father or step-mother seemed to especially care about her. Much like Shinji, Asuka grew up alone.
Unlike Shinji, however, her reaction swung the other way. Asuka reacted to her loneliness by making it a part of her. She told herself that she didn’t need anybody and that she would live only for herself.
This is, of course, all crap. Asuka, much like Shinji, is desperately lonely after being abandoned by her parents. She throws herself at an adult man that she fell in love with. However, we see her get rejected by him over and over again. In these moments, Asuka’s facade cracks, and we see who she really is: an angry and lonely little girl.
This is why, in ‘The Death of Evangelion’, Asuka’s personality momentarily changes when she first boots up the Eva. It’s in that moment that she realizes that her mother has been watching over her. She no longer needs her lie to protect her.
Speaking of which!
The Lie: I’m the Queen of the World!
Asuka does a lot to hide her broken heart. She is loud, demanding, and socially adept. Her entire personality is a facade that hides the wound. She thinks that she is better than everyone else around her, and she deserves love and praise for it.
This is why she makes such a striking parallel to Shinji. Shinji pilots his Eva to earn praise by doing a good job. Asuka believes that she inherently deserves praise because she pilots the Eva. She thinks that she is perfect and inherently deserves what she wants.
She is a brat. Which is why, when Shinji and Rei step up and outdo her over and over again, her facade snaps. Her lie is challenged.
This is why, towards the end of the series, Asuka completely collapses. Her crush is dead, she can no longer pilot the Eva, and her friends have abandoned her. At that point, Asuka’s lie has completely collapsed and she went down along with it. For the first time, she’s confronted with the truth: she isn’t a goddess.
And the truth crushed her so badly that she nearly followed in her mother’s footsteps. Although she seems to prefer the ‘lie in the tub until you die’ method over the noose.
The Want: Please Look at Me!
Despite Asuka’s insistence that she doesn’t need anyone, she wants the same thing that Shinji does: to be accepted and loved. She wants love and affection, both from her fellow students, fellow Eva pilots, and of course her hopeless crush.
What Asuka doesn’t realize is that she’s desperately trying to fill a hole in her heart. A gap that her mother left in her soul after killing herself. Again, this is why Asuka was so overjoyed in ‘The Death of Evangelion’. She realizes that her mother has been watching over her. And in that moment, the hole in her soul is filled.
And then she gets completely brutalized and her Eva gets mutilated. But that’s besides the point.
The Need: Pride Cometh Before the Fall
When we first meet Asuka, her ego is the size of Mount Fuji. She thinks she’s the best and she makes it well known. And the more and more this lie is fed into, the larger that ego gets. And with it, the lonelier she becomes.
Asuka needs a simple reality check. She needs to accept that she is lonely. She needs to face what she is, accept it, then overcome it. Shinji does the same thing over the course of the series.
But once again, Asuka shows that she is Shinji’s opposite. Every time that she sees Shinji, who is making slow but steady progress towards achieving the same need that she needs, she is overcome by a blind rage. This drives her further and further into despair.
The question, of course, is: by the end of the series, has Asuka achieved that need? Has she overcome her wound, conquered the lie, and become a stronger person? Well… that’s likely the most ambiguous thing about the whole ending. We know that Shinji achieved all this. But what about Asuka?
And no, I’m not watching Evangelion 1.0 or any of that other shit to find out. I like that it’s ambiguous.
Asuka isn’t my favorite character in the series. But I can still see why so many people love her. She is an exceedingly deep and interesting character that plays off of our main character perfectly. Evangelion would not work without her.
No character had swung around so magnificently for me. When she was first introduced, I immediately disliked Asuka. But by the end, she was one of my personal favorites.
I don’t relate to her as personally as I do Shinji. But I can certainly sympathise. That is more than enough to make a strong character.