Author: PJ Knoetgen
Dated: March 22, 2004
In 1995, Hideki Anno released an anime series in Japan which was entitled "Neon Genesis Evangelion." Evangelion takes place in the year 2015 in a post apocalyptic environment representative of the deep depression Anno experienced in the four years leading up to the creation of the series. As a post apocalyptic story, Evangelion does a wonderful job in raising many questions about existence, Truth, and religion. Anno attempted to answer questions such as "does God exist?", "whats humanitys relationship with God?", "why are we here?", "who am I?", and "whats the meaning of life?". To answer all these questions, Anno created characters which embodied all aspects of being human: selfishness, awareness, religion, cowardice, and shame. However, to best explain and examine Evangelion, one would best analyze the series through religion. Almost all religions apply to Evangelion, but of the more controversial arguments stems from Christianity. Is the main character Shinji Ikari the Christ figure of the series? I believe that Shinji is the definitive Christ figure of the series. He is the one who makes the sacrifice to pilot the Evangelion (even though throughout the series he experiences hatred not only for his job, but himself) and ultimately in the end, is forced to make a decision which could save or destroy humanity forever. Why is Shinji the Christ?
In the Bible, Jesus is sent to Earth by God as a baby. However, God does not come into direct contact with Jesus until he is about 12 years of age. It is then that God tells Jesus that it is Jesus responsibility to save the world and that he would be eventually put to death by the people he loved so much. To quote Kevin Smiths film "Dogma": "Imagine youre a 12-year-old boy, and one day that youre told your Gods only Son. And more than that youre God. How long do you think itd take you to come to grips with something that huge? Maybe say... 18 years?" the character Rufus says. He then goes on to talk about the 18 years which are missing from the Bible. Flash forward to 1945 in the town of Nag Hammadi in upper Egypt. There, archaeologists found 52 Coptic manuscripts that were buried in the ground for sixteen hundred years. These books were written by an early group of Christians called the Gnostics. These writings (conveniently left out of the Catholic version of the Bible and forgotten by history since they conflicted with the belief that Jesus is an all-powerful sinless individual) talk about those 18 years that were left out of the Bible. In those 18 years, all logic would naturally say that Jesus had to come to grips with him being the Savior (think of your own puberty. Did you not rebel against anything especially those telling you exactly what to do?). Is it also possible that Jesus even told his Father that he hated him? Is it possible that Jesus hated himself at one point? To take it one bit further, did Jesus reject his position as Savior and run away from it? I think so. Remember, Jesus WAS human. He went through the teenage years like any normal boy would. In a teenage boys life (particularly in the early stages of puberty) he experiences trouble accepting himself and even hatred of himself. So, it would be completely foolish to say that Jesus did not hate himself and at one point hate his Father for telling him that he had to save the world and die at the hand of the people he would try to help. Most importantly, it would be foolish to say that Jesus knew right off the bat how to help. Jesus had no clue how to help these people. As divine as he was, he was still human. However, Jesus does come to grips with reality and finally accepts that he is the Savior and does fulfill his duties.
Now to relate Shinji and Jesus. Four years after Shinji is born, his mother Yui is mysteriously killed during the testing phase of Evangelion Unit 01. Gendo Ikari (Shinjis father) then disappears and sends Shinji to live with a teacher. When Shinji turns 14 years old, Gendo calls for him. In a pivotal moment, Gendo tells Shinji that he must pilot Evangelion Unit 01 and that he is the savior of humanity (it should be noted: I cannot make an argument as to Gendo actually BEING God. But to choose my words carefully, Gendo is PLAYING God. Gendos character is diabolical and almost sinister, and in the end he is punished for killing God and creating his own diety). Shinji then turns around and tells his father that he cannot possibly pilot the Evangelion and that its too much to put on one person and that its not fair. Shinji was forced to pilot the Evangelion when he saw first hand the suffering of another person (Rei Ayanami) as her bruised and broken body was wheeled out to be placed in the Evangelion.
Yes, Shinji took his position as pilot as the Evangelion. Jesus also accepted his position as Savior. To relate, they both accepted their duties when they saw the suffering of other people. To continue the parallel, let us take the 12th year of Jesus life and call that Evangelion episode number one. There is one episode that features a recap of the series so far so well throw that one out in the counting. So, not counting that recap episode, each of the subsequential episodes can be counted as a year in Jesus life. That means, there is 18 episodes (remember, were not counting the recap episode) in which Shinji has to come to grips with being the Eva pilot. In the 19th episode, Shinji finally realizes that he is the pilot. After he is forced to almost kill one of his best friends (under the control of his father), he runs away from piloting the Evangelion and insists on never piloting it again. This is where Annos brilliance shines. While Shinji has left the Evangelion, an Angel attacks. He then sees, with his own eyes, the other two Evangelion pilots beaten badly, and volunteers to fight in the Evangelion.
During this battle, he accepts his position as pilot and realizes that the lives and deaths of everybody depends on him being the winner. He then fights without help from anyone else and thus matures into a man ("That was a grown-up kiss. When you get back, Ill give you the rest. Misato is so hot! Shes a topic for my psychology paper... possibly to come soon). He realizes that he is piloting the Evangelion so that others may live, and it is not acceptable for him to lose even though he had nothing to do with the Angels attacking Earth in the first place. This is the purpose as to why he pilots the Evangelion. Shinji has finally realized this. Its taken him 18 episodes, but he has finally understood why he has to pilot the Evangelion: Because as his father said in the first episode, "because nobody else can."
Jesus had a similar realization when he had turned 30. It took Jesus 18 years to realize that he was the Savior of humanity and that nobody else but him could do it. Yes, Jesus was not piloting a 130' tall robot and fighting "aliens" (yes I know, I know, but remember I was writing this for a class where the teacher had not even the foggiest what Evangelion is.) that have come to attack Earth, but Jesus still had to come to grips with his position as Savior. Jesus, towards the end of his self doubt about being the Savior, surely must have confronted his father (through prayer) and told his Father that He would not run away anymore and that He was finally ready to accept the responsibilities of being the Savior.
Now that we have established that Shinji and Jesus are similar in the ways that they have come to grips with themselves being the Savior, what about the end? In the end of the series (defining the end of Evangelion as being the movie entitled "The End of Evangelion") Third Impact has been initiated by SEELE and the mass produced Evangelion series. At one point in the series, Shinji is marked with the Holy Stigmata of Christ (symbolic of the nails being driven through Jesus hands and feet, Shinjis Evangelion is pierced through the hands and feet. Inside the Evangelion, Shinji is bleeding from his hands and feet). While this is happening, his mind is being destroyed and we can say that he is "dead." While he is "dead" Shinji is sent to a place full of confusion and unrest (Hell) and is presented with a set of scenarios. One scenario is that there can be a world without hurt, pain, or suffering. However, the consequences of this world would be that everyone would have to die and only the selected few would ascend to Heaven to live in this world. The other scenario he is presented with is that the world can be returned to normal, and not destroyed and life can continue. But in this scenario, if people can believe that life is worth living and if they can live a righteous life, then they will be able to ascend to Heaven when their physical body dies.
In a nutshell, Shinji is given a choice between killing everyone and bringing Heaven to Earth, or making everyone continue living in a world full of pain and suffering, but accepting that the world is full of pain and suffering, and eventually ascend to the higher plain of existence (Heaven). Bringing Heaven to Earth would be all fine and good, but doing so would be killing God and while things may be good until the people on Earth die, they will be tortured throughout eternity. Shinji chooses the second path of life continuing on Earth, and ascending to Heaven through death by living a righteous life. When Shinji finally returns to Earth (resurrected), he has succeeded in being the Savior of the world (and remember: Gendo is NOT God. Gendos wishes were that he would be reunited with his wife through the initiation of Third Impact. This does not take place as Shinji prevented Third Impact).
The story of Jesus crucifixion is cut and dry. Jesus was crucified by the people he loved, and He died (I am not putting the word "died" in parenthesis because in this case, Jesus physically died. Shinji never physically died. Shinji died spiritually) and (as quoted in the Apostles Creed) "descended into Hell." Is it possible that Jesus was given the same choices as Shinji about the two worlds? That is a question that will never be answered. But the outcome was similar. Jesus was resurrected and through his sacrifice, people living on Earth living a righteous life and accepting that God sacrificed His only Son, that people will ascend to Heaven when they die.
While the parallels between Jesus and Shinji are endless, the evidence presented here are what I feel is the strongest to formulate my argument. Both Jesus and Shinji had doubts about this positions and duties in life. They both at one point hated themselves, and hated everyone especially their fathers who forced them into their position. In the end, they were both sacrificed to save humanity and allow people a chance for redemption. The Third Impact was intended to end the world and purge humanity of the Original Sin. Instead, Shinji gave people a chance to redeem themself and earn their way into Heaven. Jesus, through his death did the same. While humanity still has Original Sin on their souls, they can be redeemed by asking for forgiveness and living a righteous life. Shinji is the Christ figure in the series because he ultimately sacrificed himself to save all of humanity in the same way that Jesus did.