Last night I was talking about Evangelion and loneliness, but didn’t really explain the connection between the two.
I was thinking about Shinji’s loneliness as a factor of his physical loneliness, the fact that he simply doesn’t have anyone except his father in his life, and his father himself is barely there. But there’s also a psychological aspect to the loneliness that comes from being a hero, and a reluctant hero at that. It becomes a bit more obvious when Shinji gets bullied at school, of course. And he’s lonely because no one can make his decisions for him. Torn between his terror of the EVAs and his (what I think is) latent desire to impress his father and gain some attention from him, Shinji has to work out which is more important to him.
Ayanami Rei is another enigmatic character — well, they’re all interesting in that they don’t fit any stereotypes, but Rei frankly terrifies me. Her physical aspect is “anime”-ish in that she has a waist smaller than my neck, giant eyes, the whole package. But then there’s a scene with Shinji, who visits her to hand her a new ID and then somehow ends up tripping over something and landing on top of her — and Rei, of course, is naked, because she’s just stepped out of the shower. But there’s absolutely no physicality to the situation, to Rei. She simply asks Shinji to move, picks herself up, and starts dressing.
Rei apparently has no history (we’re disabused of this notion soon enough when we see her interaction with Dr. Ikari), which might explain her personality. She’s a blank slate for NERV to write on. She is an idea, a concept, a pilot; and clearly to her, nothing else matters — not school, where she’s barely mentally present; not her apartment, which can be charitably described as a hovel, and which is filled with her bloodstained clothing.
It’s an interesting question to be asked here: why is NERV recruiting teenaged children to meld with giant robots-that-aren’t-really-robots?
My favorite character so far might actually be Misato Katsuragi. She starts off as another anime stereotype, over-the-top and wearing skirts that were originally handkerchiefs. And then she rescues Shinji, takes him to NERV, and tells him she’s the Lieutenant Colonel and is in charge of EVA operations.
Misato knows what’s at stake. She comes up with an insane plan involving positronic rays when nothing else works against the Angels. She’s blunt, almost cruel, with Shinji when she needs to be, a stark contrast to when she first puts him up at her place. She might be friends with Shinji because she feels sorry for him, but she’s his handler first.
When I was reading up about Evangelion, someone mentioned that the show uses Judeo-Christian mythology, but utilizes the symbols more than the meaning — that the “symbols are used, but not necessarily coherently”. The mention of Lilith is really interesting, especially when taken with how the first few episodes end, but it’s a pity if the symbols don’t really point to what I’m thinking they do (… or is it? Maybe part of Evangelion‘s charm is that the writer is borrowing only what he’s interested in — sort of a weird Western cultural appropriation).