Hey all, time for another character post. This time I’ve chosen to focus on the red-haired Second Child of the Evangelion series. I do want to specifically point out that this is about SORYU and not SHIKINAMI. Both have differences between the two of them that make them two different characters to look at and interpret and while still fond of Shikinami I am much more fascinated by Soryu, so in the context of this article I will not be looking at the rebuilds and instead focused on the original TV series and The End of Evangelion.
Picking Asuka is a tricky thing. Evangelion is such a popular franchise, what’s left to say about Asuka Langley, one of the most popular character in anime’s history? Well, there’s always what I like about her as a character anyway, plus I can’t just ignore how well done of a character she is just because someone else might have said it before. So that’s why I decided to make this post about her because Asuka is so well loved for good reason. And no, it’s not just because she’s a red-haired “tsundere.”
In fact calling Asuka a “tsundere” has always felt odd to me. Throughout the series she obviously displays many qualities one would call “tsun” but not many one would call “dere”. The other reason I don’t like seeing her simply labeled as a tsundere is because it’s just that: simply a label for a character who feels closer to a real person than 99% of other tsunderes (or other characters in anime for that matter).
First of all we have reasons for Asuka’s behavior, which is such a simple thing for building well done characters that it’s a shame we don’t see more of it in anime. Obviously one of the big factors in Evangelion itself is the rather messed up personalities of the pilots but it’s nice to see it given focus OUTSIDE of the Eva as well. Asuka’s backstory is explained not only to give credence to her ability to pilot Unit 02 but ALSO to show why she acts like she does.
Having her mother commit suicide after neglecting her and having her father be unfaithful caused some major issues with Asuka. Her parents’ ignoring her led her to crave being needed and noticed; she believed using the Eva was the way for her to be needed and for people to pay attention to her. Her mother’s cold treatment of her lead to her be overly hostile to those around her.
She’s brash, arrogant, and hopelessly insecure about her usefulness. What Evangelion does so well is it chips away at Asuka (as well as the others) time and again to break her down and brings her issues to the forefront more and more. As she becomes more and more conflicted about her own feelings towards herself and how she feels about Shinji she becomes a less useful pilot. Shinji and Rei often have to come to her rescue which builds upon her despair.
And of course it all boils over into one of the absolute best scenes in an anime I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch. Asuka, upon learning her mother was “with her” the entire time in Unit 02, proceeds to dominate the mass production evas in a fit of anger and pride. Then her power runs out. Then she realizes that she never wanted to die despite her previous inclination of “hating everything”. Then she gets destroyed, brutally. She realizes too late that she wanted to live. Her desire to be useful is shown one last time as she desperately tries to make an Eva unit with no power move.
Thankfully(?) she, whether through Shinji or her own will to live, chooses to reject instrumentality and is reincarnated on the beach where she reacts to Shinji both choking her and perhaps a delayed reaction to the infamous hospital scene. She chooses to take the burden of the world instead of the bliss of instrumentality.
With Asuka we see a character who appears entirely confident in themselves only to realize that they’re still an insecure child who can’t come to terms with their shortcomings. Asuka entrenches herself so far in the idea that she’s a good pilot and that she’s the best that any evidence to the contrary causes her to break. Having her relive her past trauma makes her completely useless. She becomes exactly what she mocks Shinji fro being: useless.
Asuka to me is a character that just feels… so complete. She’s one of those I often don’t include in “ironic” discussions about waifus or best girls or the like. It’s insulting to both her character and to Anno’s intentions to place in her those arguments. I often find dojins unsettling of her too; she’s a 14 year old with severe mental trauma who struggles with basic human relationships. Sexualizing her in the way that dojins normally do just kind of feels wrong. If I had to sum up what I thought about it I’d probably say something along the lines of… “how disgusting”.
And while I DO have a figure of Shikinami (due to how absolutely incredible it looks), I enjoy my friend’s commentary on the idea that Asuka was replaced with a doll in her mother’s eyes and therefore absolutely hates being treated like a doll or an inanimate object. But of course, in the real world, there are literally hundreds of Asuka figures where she is happy, smiling, as what could reasonably be argued to be a “doll”. In a way Asuka does a GREAT job of reinforcing Anno’s hatred of the otaku community as a whole, given how she is treated by the fandom in some instances.
So. That’s it. That’s where my love of Asuka comes from and why I chose to focus on her for this article. Evangelion is my favorite franchise for good reason; the article here is just a small reason of why I like the franchise so much (note I said franchise and not show, important). Just the fact that you could probably choose any character in the show and write hundreds if not thousands of words about them shows just how much attention was paid to the characters in Evangelion.
Thanks for reading, as always.