Neon Genesis Evangelion main character psychoanalysis; Why Shinji Ikari is so weird?
Hello everyone, this is considered as my first blog writing and it is about my graduation research project in psychology field as my minor subject.
You may wonder that who is Shinji Ikari and why does it have to be character analysis.
Shinji Ikari is the main character in Neon Genesis Evangelion, a Japanese animated series broadcasted about two decades ago and has received vast recognition until these days. This series has subject matters such as giant-robot, post-apocalyptic world, religious references and psychological drama. The director, Hideaki Anno, himself had been suffering from depression for four years before the creation of this work and he used all that experience to make a complex psycho-animation, Neon Genesis Evangelion is considered as the first Japanese animation to play an important role in psychology. He created this franchise that many fans as well as critics regarded it as the new criteria of Japanese animation for giant robot fighting which more focuses on psychology of characters along with rare epic fight scenes. Production team also developed details in facial expression to convey the various characters’ feelings and mental breakdown moments throughout its psychologically shocking plot along with the usage of new unique style camera shot and angle and spectacular symphony orchestra soundtracks which is rare for 22 years old Japanese animations.
The easiest thing to identify Evangelion anime is purple with green color biological giant robot.
So, Evangelion focus on psychological subjects that why psychoanalysis is able to work for this animation.
Alright, now I think y’all know what is Evangelion but still who exactly is Shinji Ikari?
Shinji is a wimp protagonist of this of this animation, the story will mainly focus and narrate on him.
Still don’t know who he is? Let’s try a detailed characters’ biography
Shinji Ikari is the fourteen-years-old boy who is summoned by his father, in the new town called Neo Tokyo-3, three years after meeting each other at their beloved woman’s gravestone, Yui Ikari, Shinji mother. He does not have a good relationship with his father after his mother’s death in Evangelion Human Interface Contact Experiment. She herself had invited her son to see this operation with his very own eyes as the future that Yui could give him but the experiment went wrong and made her disappear inside the core of Evangelion Unit 01.
The father; Gendo Ikari, who obsessed on his dead wife revived project as an institution leader acting like the secret organization called NERV, abandoned Shinji since he was five-years-old with his teacher and only send money to him. Gendo calls him back nine years later just when he needs to use Shinji as an Eva pilot but not treating him as a son. Gendo and Shinji have one of the most complicated but central relationships throughout all of Evangelion. The relationship is clearly one of mutual distance, but underlying feelings remain. He confessed to his wife’s soul near the end of the show that he was afraid to be hurt all the time since he had lost his wife in Eva Unit 01 years ago, so he chose to ignore and reject his son. That is how psychological complexes of the main character, Shinji, started.
The disappearance of Gendo during Shinji psychosexual phallic stage which was the result of the lack of a father role model might have cost him a fixation in that stage and lead to Shinji’s failure to interact with other characters, especially two of his love interests. Shinji has severe depression but that is not the only problem he got in term of psychology.
Before we go to psycho things, we should know some characters who have effect on Shinji’s psychological problems.
The first Shinji’s love interest, Rei Ayanami, one of the emotionless stealthy clones of Shinji’s mother or Rei II, is also an Eva pilot who was adopted by his father. Shinji envies her as his father always talks kindly to her and smiles at her instead of him but the reason is that she values Gendo like a father and very strict to his order because she has nothing else in her life as she was created not born. Shinji and Rei are linked by mutual bonds to Gendo, Yui, and the Evangelions, which he is only dimly aware of. In time, Shinji slowly displaces Gendo in Rei’s affections.
Later in the series, Rei II disobeys her order and sacrifices her life to save Shinji as she has developed feelings for him proving that she is more than what Gendo, a parental figure for her, wants her to be only as a tool for him. It once again reinforced near the end when Rei III rejects Gendo’s wish to be with his dead wife in the afterlife world by initiating the Human Instrumentality Project, the world annihilation ceremony or Third Impact since it is her second powerful act in terms of self-actualization. She is in fear of losing all of her consciousness and individuality which she has developed after knowing Shinji seeing that she can be replaced by other clones of herself when she is useless or dead.
The second Shinji’s love interest is Sohryu Asuka Langley, a damsel in distress, who is also an Eva pilot. She has a childhood post-traumatic background like Shinji but darker. Her mother lost her self-consciousness in Unit 02 Evangelion Human Interface Contact Experiment unlike Shinji’s mother who suddenly disappeared inside the Eva Unit 01 and couldn’t remember Asuka. She kept talking to a rag doll that she thought was her daughter instead of Asuka and started to strangle the real Asuka who nearly suffocated to death by her mother hands. The day Asuka was chosen to be an Eva pilot is the same day she opened the hospital room door to find her mother successfully hanging herself. This is the reason why she hated all dolls and Rei who acts like an obedient doll to Commander Ikari, Shinji’s father. She usually demands attention from everyone (Attention Whore!?) especially Shinji and lives in the Major Katsuragi’s house, the field commander of Eva pilots, with Shinji by the order to develop good relationship between pilots. The confident, forthright and ambitious Asuka is Shinji’s polar-opposite in many ways, but the two Eva pilots share more similarities than that, at first, appear. Shinji comes to rely on Asuka for more than just her piloting skills. Near the ending of this animation, there is an encounter between Shinji and Asuka consciousnesses during the world annihilation ceremony or the Third Impact about their both fault actions and psychological breakdown which leads to the end where Shinji and Asuka were chosen to be Adam and Eve of the new world. From this evidence, we can see that Asuka is the second important influence on Shinji’s personality, the first being his father.
The last character who plays an important role in Shinji’s personality is the twenty-eight-year-old Major Katsuragi Misato who is an operation director as a field commander and Shinji’s guardian. She orders to Shinji to live in her house when she knew that Gendo will not accept his son and she thought that it is not good for an Eva pilot like him to be alone and she is the one who arranged Asuka to live in her house too for the pilots’ sake. She is the only mother figure who Shinji can relate to because his real mother died since he was young, and he could not remember anything about his real mother, and this adoptive parent did well many times to cheer this boy up. However, her status as an adoptive parent is always in conflict with other aspects of their relationship. There was a one truly hard time when Shinji failed to save Rei II, who self-destruct herself to protect Shinji, this foster mom, Misato, came to comfort him and offer Shinji sex as she thought that sex might relieve Shinji’s pain, but Shinji refused. This action of Misato happens because she has multiple unresolved family and social issues. Part of this is due to trauma from being on the site of Second Impact, but in particular, her conflicting emotions towards her bad father and later her old partner starting to act like her dead father who ironically sacrificed his life to save her during the man-made world annihilation, the Second Impact; the incident that destroyed half of humanity fifteen years before the setting of the show. She was a mute and detach from the outside world being a child psychiatric patient from that trauma as she was the sole survival of the Second Impact. She later thought that sex is the only way to prove her existence and relieve all the pain in her life when she was studying in the university with her ex.
Ok, I think we got all of important characters, and what theory did I use to do character psychoanalysis?
They are defense mechanisms and psychosexual stages of development by Sigmund Freud and his daughter, Anna Freud combine with SPEAKING model by Dell Hymes that I adapted for data collection in series or films. Before knowing these two psychology theories, you should know id, ego and superego and unconscious mind first which I think it will be too long for this article if I write all of these theories. But don’t worry, you can learn them from the internet.
Defense mechanism is the ego-defense of our mind that we will do something to protect our mind from being guilt, anxious and depressed. This theory was conducted by Freud and later developed by his daughter. There are many defense mechanisms such as repression, regression, projection, displacement, reaction formation, denial, undoing and sublimation.
For psychosexual stage of development, Freud believed that all of personality complexes can be trace back when we were kids. There are five stages which are oral, anal, phallic, latency period and genital. If one can pass them properly, that is no problem, but if one cannot pass each stage. It will cause a fixation that affects our psyche when we grow up.
Shinji Ikari has employed defense mechanisms at the very beginning and by the near ending. During the middle of the series, Shinji has developed better personality from his good relationship with others before everything seems to be good until what makes him happy has been collapsed like good relationship with everyone especially with his father. Because of Shinji’s severe depression, he employs various of defense mechanisms to keep himself alive from guilt by superego where as it can lead him to suicidal action. He uses denial (1) to run away from reality. He also has apologizing habit even he did nothing wrong which is the employment of undoing (2). Moreover, he uses projection (3) that his father, who tried to help him, is a bad person instead of him who do nothing but letting himself killed by the angel. Shinji uses displacement (4) to satisfy himself with the use of another helpless person to wipe of his frustrated feelings such as masturbating over comatose Asuka body or humiliate her by strangling her for two times in the ending episode. The last defense mechanism that has been used the most is the use of sublimation (5) where he pushes his aggression from seeing his two love interests’ injuries to conquer with the angel and other similar situations which forces him to pilot Eva even he always hates to do it.
There are two fixations due to psychosexual stages of Shinji after thoroughly watch Evangelion which are Oedipus complex and genital stage fixation. The other two stages which are Oral and Anal stage he has passed them properly taken care by his mother, Yui Ikari, as the scenes where she is breastfeeding Shinji in oral stage and carry, hold and caress while he is anal stage. However, Shinji’s fixation starts at the phallic stage when his mother died and his father, Gendo Ikari, left him with Shinji’s teacher. Gendo only send the expense for Shinji raising cost to the teacher but never comes to visit Shinji. He has chance to meet his father only once for a year on the death day of his mother. He and his father will meet at the front of their beloved woman grave. However, Shinji does not have memory about his mother at all since she died when he was so young, and his father has never told him anything about Yui. Shinji lost his mother and abandoned by his father which makes him lacking father figure and family. Shinji never goes to his mother gravestone for three years for the hatred of his father as the Oedipus complex (1) progresses. The family meeting in the episode 1 is when his father has a use of Shinji and orders him to this town to pilot Eva. From this phallic stage fixation affect the following stage to in genital stage. He cannot properly handle or approach opposite sex people or his love interest which is Rei, Asuka, Misato and Kaworu which is unsatisfactory relationships (2).
Even though Shinji has fixation in phallic and genital stages but he once passed oral and anal stages properly before his mother death.
This research was conducted from my obsession with this Japanese animation for years and I want to study about former depressive patient’s work as I have severe depression myself. I always want to do character analysis which focus on more psychological term and literary one because I have studied in psychology as my minor subject. The first animation that I’d wanted to do is “Elfen Lied” but it lacks psychological elements.
So I move to Evangelion original TV series version (1995) which is psychological-drama itself, a giant robots anime which focus more on characters than robots’ fighting scenes. However, psychology is not the only outstanding element in Evangelion, there are also theme of mother, existentialism, religious references, symphony orchestra soundtrack, symbolism in sex and nudity scenes, camera techniques and animation technique in facial expression.
Shinji’s personality has been shaped these psychological problems and cause failure to interact with others. That’s why he is so weird, he did nothing wrong at first because his father’s parental role is so wicked.
If his mother had not died in the experiment, Shinji should have been had healthier mental state.
Sorry about these pictures, my photo editing program is dead.
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