The Symbolic Asuka

Author: Amanda Wells
Source: Noise In My Brain
Dated: September 2, 2002

One of the most wonderful things about Neon Genesis Evangelion is that characters you don't love still get your attention. The follwing essay is the product of this, dealing with connections between the mannerisms and desires of one Asuka Langely Souryu, and how they relate to her most powerful desire: to prove she's worth something.

Asuka and her EVA

At the tail end of the series, we learn that Shinji and Asuka's sense of self-worth is connected to their Evangelions ("Piloting EVA gives me an identity, a purpose"). For Asuka, perhaps it's because, when she was chosen as the Second Children, Asuka didn't know of any other pilots and was in a very important position. This made her feel very special (ref: "Everybody's so nice to me now, I don't feel lonely any more!" from episode 24). It's little wonder commited herself fully to EVA piloting, enjoys showing off with it, and is devastated when she can't pilot Unit 02 anymore.

Even when out of her Evangelion, Asuka still wears reminders of it; her pilot "hairclips" are worn almost constantly, signifying Asuka's immersion in life as a pilot. Also, the color of Asuka's hair and Plug Suit match her EVA's, a unique arrangement that visually strenghthens the connection between Asuka and Unit 02. (There's also the stereotype of red-headed people being hot-tempered).

Asuka and Kaji

Most teenage girls have a tendency to go after older men, so in the early days of my fandom I thought nothing of Asuka's schoolgirl crush on Kaji. Then I looked at a telling scene in the Director's Cut edition of episode 22. Asuka is with Kaji en route to Japan, and she persistently comes on to Kaji, who has no interest in her. Finally, Asuka tears open her shirt and shoves her breasts in his face, insisting, "I'm an adult!" This struck me as odd, because of how sexually self-conscious (almost paranoid) Asuka is in her introduction episode and on several other occasions.

In addition to the "I'm an adult!" scene, Asuka is a child prodigy, having attended college at 14, her stepmother comments in a flasback, "She acts too much like an adult,". When she is forced to experience repressed memories, Asuka replies to a memory of her younger self tearing up a stuffed monkey that was a gift from her stepmother with, "I grew up faster than everyone else. I didn't need a stupid stuffed toy!" Why this fixation on being an adult?

The way I see it, Asuka links adulthood with independence, and independence with being "worth something" (and escaping from her emotional problems). After all, nearly all "greats" acheived their success as adults. Therefore, Asuka chases after Kaji because she believes it makes her seem more "adult", and as a consequence usually ignores boys her own age. Though she has a complex love/hate reationship with Shinji, Asuka abandons the date Hikari set her up with without a second thought (episode 15), and often expresses her dislike of Touji and Kensuke.

Asuka and Competitiveness

Asuka is the only pilot that shows almost total enthusiasm for piloting and winning pre-breakdown. This happens because everything is riding on her performance. In her mind, Asuka must be the best EVA pilot or she loses everything, not just her pride. This is why she reacts so violently to being saved by Rei in episode 22, though said violence was likely amplified by Arael's "mind rape".

Asuka and Rei

A theory is that Asuka's hostility to Rei is connected to Kyoko, Asuka's mother. When insane, Kyoko ignored her real daughter, believing a doll was Asuka, and thus Asuka assosciates dolls with neglect and trauma. While that makes sense, I believe there's another reason for Asuka's hatred of Rei. Because of the independence=adulthood=significance, Asuka wants to hold her own and not be controlled by anyone, in order to achieve her significance by and for herself. In Asuka's eyes, Rei is the antithesis of these wishes, because Rei appears passive with no interests or desires of her own. Rei is what Asuka fears given form.

Asuka and German

Almost purely a dub creation, this exists, so it can be written down. Normally, those fluent in multiple languages don't pepper their conversations with use words another language. Asuka does this to show off, not letting anyone forget that she has the exceptional ability to speak two languages.