|Neon Genesis Evangelion character|
|First appearance||"Angel Attack"|
Gendo Ikari (father)|
Yui Ikari (mother)
Rei Ayanami (clone of mother)
Misato Katsuragi (guardian)
Shinji Ikari (碇 シンジ Ikari Shinji) is a fictional character from the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise created by Gainax. He is the franchise's poster boy and protagonist who is generally regarded highly by critics. Shinji Ikari is a young boy who was abandoned by his father, Gendo Ikari, who later requests Shinji to pilot a mecha known as the Evangelion Unit 01 to protect the city of Tokyo-3 from creatures known as Angels that threaten to destroy mankind. Shinji pilots Unit 01, at first rigorously and later excellently, and during his time in Tokyo-3 he is gradually freed from his Hedgehog's Dilemma as he socializes with comrades and gains friends. His talent for piloting and synchronizing Unit 01 has earned him praise from the commanding officers of NERV, an organization which Gendo leads. His toilsome duty and the cruel events of his life bring him severe stress and suffering. At some point in the series he begins to confront his inner self, forming arguments and questions about life and reality.
Shinji's portrayal differs depending on the media in which he is shown such as in the official manga adaptation where he is written from the author Yoshiyuki Sadamoto's point of view as well as other spinoff series. Shinji became highly popular, having appeared and topped in multiple popularity polls. Nick Verboon of Unreality Mag states "poster boy/protagonist Shinji is one of the most nuanced, popular, and relatable characters in anime history.
Director Hideaki Anno described the hero, Shinji Ikari, as a boy who "shrinks from human contact", and has "convinced himself that he is a completely unnecessary person, so much so that he cannot even commit suicide." He describes Shinji and Misato Katsuragi as "extremely afraid of being hurt" and "unsuitable — lacking the positive attitude — for what people call heroes of an adventure." When compared to the stereotypical hero, Shinji is characterized more by lack of energy and emotion than by heroism or bravery.
Shinji's relationship with his Evangelion and status as a pilot is very ambivalent; the entire series can be seen as a bildungsroman revolving around Shinji.
"Look at Shinji. Why does he continue to fight as an Eva pilot? The story keeps changing. He said it's because everyone tells him to. Because only he can do it. Because it has to be done to save humanity. Selfless and lofty sentiments for sure, and he believed those reasons to be genuine. Wrong; he wanted his father to approve of him. To say he was a good boy. How selfish of him, really, to be a human being." --Megumi Hayashibara
"Ikari" means "anchor" in Japanese. Shinji was named for Gainax co-founder Shinji Higuchi; it can be translated to "child of god." Evangelion character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto based his design of Shinji on his design of Nadia, the title character of Gainax's popular 1990-1991 TV series, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water.
Megumi Ogata, who voiced Shinji, found the last scene of End of Evangelion difficult to perform. She became overwhelmed with emotion and strangled Yuko Miyamura, Asuka's voice actor, during that scene, making it "very hard" for Miyamura to say her lines immediately after that. Ogata regards Shinji Ikari as one of her "most memorable" roles.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Shinji makes his first appearance in the first episode where he is invited to Tokyo-3 by his father Gendo Ikari. Unbeknownst to Shinji however, his father told him to come so he could serve as the pilot of Evangelion Unit-01. Shinji reluctantly agrees and defeats the Angel Sachiel, initially experiencing difficulty, but brutally destroys the Angel after Unit-01 goes berserk. After the Angel attack, Shinji begins to attend school in Tokyo-3 and meets Toji Suzuhara and Kensuke Aida who would become his first true friends. When the Angel Ramiel appears and attempts to destroy Nerv headquarters, Shinji and fellow pilot Rei Ayanami work together to destroy the Angel. When a machine intended to fight the Angels runs amok, he and his guardian Misato successfully stop it. Shinji later meets Asuka Langley Soryu, a pilot from Germany, and the two successfully defeat Gaghiel.
Shinji, Reii, and Asuka assault the explosive angel Sahaquiel, risking their lives to the extreme in order to do so. They defeat the Angel thanks mostly to Shinji's efforts. Shinji later gains supreme synchronization skill, causing Shinji to realize that he was born to pilot the Eva, and he receives praise from the commanding officers of NERV. Shinji, Rei, and Asuka are later sent to fight the dark Angel Leliel, whose reverse AT field sucks Shinji into a parallel universe. Shinji confronts the Angel, during which he also confronts his inner self, forming arguments and philosophies. He is brutally freed from the powerful Angel through the intervention of Yui, whose soul is within the Eva, which epically, gruesomely splits the Angel's massive body into two.
After Shinji is forced to fight the Bardiel-controlled Eva-03 while Toji is trapped within, Shinji decides to quit Nerv. Zeruel soon appears and decapitates the other Evangelion units. Shinji realizes that only he can defeat it, and returns to NERV. Midway during the battle, however, Unit-01's power supply runs out, eventually causing Shinji to attain a 400% sync ratio with his Evangelion, allowing him to continue his assault and freeing the Evangelion, and he is trapped within its core for a month before being released. After Rei sacrifices her life to save Shinji and then is subsequently revived through one of her clones while Asuka becomes comatose, Shinji enters into a depression. He then meets Kaworu Nagisa and the two become friends; however, it is later revealed that Kaworu is in fact the final Angel and Shinji is forced to kill him, giving Shinji extreme mental trauma.
The End of Evangelion
The End of Evangelion continues Shinji's story, portraying his downward spiral into depression and eventual loss of the will to live. He is in this state for the majority of the film, remaining catatonic while all the NERV officers, including Misato, are killed. Shinji then decides to pilot the Eva to save those who are still alive, but a bakelite release ordered by Misato accidentally blocks the entrance of Unit-01. When Shinji learns of Asuka's defeat, the Evangelion moves on its own to let Shinji become the transcendent, powerful hero once again. Shinji's Ego cause the Eva's AT field to manifest in the form of gigantic, dreadful, divine wings. Despite this, after witnessing the mangled, mutilated corpse of Unit-02 being carried by the Mass Production Evas, Shinji's trauma becomes even worse as the Human Instrumentality Project begins. Shinji's intense emotion summons the Lance of Longinus stuck on the Moon all the way down to Earth. Shinji's Ego continues to resist Lilith-Rei and SEELE's assaults on his soul; but when Lilith-Rei takes the form of Kaworu Nagisa, Shinji's Ego weakens, as Yui's soul from inside the Eva tells Shinji that Rei is "all of Shinji's hopes and dreams". Lilith-Rei and SEELE ultimately defeat Shinji's Ego. The fusion of the Lance of Longinus with the Eva recreates a Tree of Life. Shinji and the Eva, now possessing both the Fruit of Wisdom and the Fruit of Life, become "God". Shinji, now one with all other humans, converses with them, particularly Rei and Kaworu. It is revealed that Shinji and Eva's absorption of a Fruit of Life and a Fruit of Wisdom meant that Eva, and the pilot inside, will continue to exist forever, "even after the Sun, the Moon, and the planets are gone". He eventually converses with Yui, whom he wonders what will do, until he finally decides that he wants to live and returns to Earth. Asuka appears next to him and Shinji attempts to strangle her for an un-clarified reason, but stops himself and breaks down after Asuka regains consciousness and gently caresses his face.
Rebuild of Evangelion
In Rebuild of Evangelion Shinji returns as the central protagonist in Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone, where he is shown to be more outspoken than his TV counterpart. In this film, Shinji's role is very much the same as that of the anime series. He is assigned to be the pilot of Unit-01 and works alongside Rei to defeat the Angel Ramiel. In Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance, Shinji continues his duties as pilot of Unit-01, albeit reluctantly. After the battle with Bardiel, wherein his father forced him to critically injure Asuka, Shinji retires from his duties and leaves NERV. When Zeruel consumes Rei, Shinji returns and defeats the Angel by seemingly fusing with the Evangelion. In 3.0, set 15 years later, Shinji is awakened to a changed world caused by the Third impact which he started. Everyone but Kaworu treats him poorly, even Asuka punching a window in front of him. A clone of Rei now pilots Mark 09, aka The Vessel of Adams. Shinji learns though he attempted to save Rei, but he finds out he didn't save her. He and Kaworu then come into possession of Eva-13, one of the Four Adams and the most powerful known Evangelion which the two must operate together. He and Kaworu attempt to erase Third Impact by using the spears of Longinus and Cassius allegedly lodged in Lilith, but instead start Fourth impact after Shinji pulls out two Spears of Longinus while hubristically ignoring Kaworu's pleas for him to not do it. Eva-13 then eats the Twelfth Angel and ascends to divinity. Kaworu then sacrifices himself to stop the Fourth Impact, leaving Shinji losing his will to live. The fourth film is yet to be released.
In other media
Shinji appears in most manga adaptations of Neon Genesis Evangelion, including Yoshiyuki Sadamoto's manga adaptation. The manga generally follows the plot of the anime with occasional alterations in events. In this manga, Shinji's role is very similar to his anime counterpart, although changes in characterization are apparent. This is due to the fact the manga is written from Sadamoto's point of view involving Shinji. Sadamoto was inspired to write the manga after learning of Shinji's role in the first episode of the television series. Shinji is also a primary protagonist in the Shinji Ikari Raising Project and Neon Genesis Evangelion: Campus Apocalypse where he is portrayed in a different light than his anime counterpart.
Shinji, alongside other Evangelion characters, makes frequent appearances in video games, such as Neon Genesis Evangelion for the Nintendo 64. Shinji is also a playable character in the popular cross-over video game franchise Super Robot Wars where he and other Evangelion characters work with characters from various other mecha series.
Shinji has received critical acclaim as a character. His uniquely anti-heroic traits make him far from being stereotypical. Shinji ranked 25th on IGN's first top 25 anime characters list. Editor Chris Mackenzie commented that the IGN staff loved him "not for what he is, but for what he could be". In 2014, IGN ranked him as the greatest anime character of all time, observing that he is a "genuine work of art", saying that heroes "are often who we want to be", and noting he was different from it: "he was perhaps the most emotionally true-to-life character in anime history." In a Newtype poll from March 2010, Shinji was voted as the most popular male character from the 1990s. The 19th and the 20th Animage Grand Prix ranked him the best male character of the year.
Pete Harcoff, a reviewer for Anime Critic, gave a positive review of Neon Genesis Evangelion yet maintained a negative view of Shinji's character, stating that Shinji was ineffective and disappointing to watch. Shinji's role in the Rebuild of Evangelion films got a better response as he was noted to be friendlier with other characters in contrast to his role in the TV series. Theron Martin from Anime News Network listed the scene from Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance in which Shinji saves Rei as the "Best Scene" in the site's feature "The Best (and Most Notable) of 2011." Martin praised Shinji's determination in such scene as "this is the first time in the entire franchise that he whole-heartedly goes after something because he wants it, rather than because he's expected to or has no choice."
Spike Spencer, Shinji's English voice actor, has received praise for his role, particularly for his performance in The End of Evangelion. Mike Crandol of Anime News Network praised the subtle nuances that Spencer brought to the role, as he felt that Spencer had improved over his previous performances where he tended to parody Shinji's inner turmoil. Pete Harcoff, while critical of Shinji's character, also complimented Spencer, stating that he delivered a solid performance as Shinji.
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There was this replacement by a robot, so the original mother is the robot, but then there is a mother of the same age, Rei Ayanami, by [Shinji’s] side. [She is] also by the side of the real father. There is also another father there, Adam, who governs the overall course of events. An Oedipus Complex within these multiple structures; that’s what I wanted to do.
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[The final] episode ends with the captions “To my father, thank you.” “To my mother, farewell.” “And to all the Children.” “Congratulations!” Eva is something of an Oedipus complex story, where a boy feels love and hatred for his father and mother, so the first two captions can be thought to means that Shinji has come to an understanding with his father and grown out of his dependence on his mother.
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