Shinji was fighting back tears. "I killed my friend, don't you understand? He's dead because of me, and so is Ayanami, and all of this --" he waved his arms to encompass the whole of the world "--is all because of me. I didn't do anything to help you or Misato, and even though I piloted everyone is dead because of me! It's all my fault!" He was really worked up now.
"You're really full of yourself, aren't you?" she said flatly.
Oh, goddamn it, Asuka....
This yoyo effect of human interaction...up one minute, down the next, furious, and then despairing. It's displayed well in this chapter. This is also a LOT more in tune with Asuka as she appeared in the visions in Instrumentality: spiteful, subdued, and pushing. She says precisely the right thing at the right moment to absolutely hurt Shinji.
And all at once, it was back. That rage she hadn't seen since Instrumentality began. She stuck out her chin in challenge. "Stupid Shinji. Going to finish the job this time?" she whispered, tone full of vicious mockery.
That did it. He instantly deflated, utterly defeated, and sank to the ground in misery.
She looked at him with a mixture of pity and disgust. "It isn't your fault," she said.
I love how, when she's trying to be helpful, she's just as mean as when she's intentionally trying to hurt him.
It would be interesting to see what she would do if Shinji did act on his anger: stand and take it? Fight back? It has me curious.
The next few paragraphs also have me curious: this is very perceptive of Asuka, despite her detachment. What happened to make her so observant? Memories from Instrumentality? Was she always like this, and because she has no barrier to put up, this is what we get? It's a fun little exchange, and a warped but very honest way of explaining that Shinji is not at fault for everything that happened.
"I don't know!" he cried. The anger drained out of him, and he shrugged. "She still did it because of me."
"Yeah, because she was stupid. Get over it already." Her eyes widened as she caught sight of something in his stash. "Ooh, tuna!" she said, grinning brightly. She opened the can and started eating. "Who is this Kaworu person, anyway?"
....God...damn it, Asuka....
This was just plain funny to me, the complete detachment Asuka has to the conversation and the momentary pleasure of finding tuna fish. Before addressing the fact she has no idea who is so important to Shinji that he's flagellating himself over killing this person.
"That's what he wanted?" she asked.
He nodded. "Yes."
"You're sure?" she asked. "That's what he said?"
"Yes!" he shouted.
"If that's so," she observed, a wry look on her face, "then why didn't he leave?"
He stared at her. ". . . what?"
Again, this cutting perceptiveness. Where does it come from? Asuka demonstrated a certain...lack of awareness throughout the series, mostly due to her own ego preventing her from being able to be...down to the earth. In light of my earlier questions, is this possibly what happens when she no longer has the need to impress? When her ego is completely subdued?
She rolled her eyes. "Shinji, you said it yourself. He was an angel! He showed up, made friends with you, and then held the fate of humanity over your head to make you kill him. How can you not see it? He wasn't your friend, he was there to destroy you."
There is a lot to debate in this statement, but one thing is for certain: this is VERY much something Asuka would say and genuinely believe. There's the enemy, drive towards the enemy...kill the enemy. It fits her character perfectly.
"You're wrong!" he shouted. He got to his feet. "They never gave you a choice," he went on. "They used you and they, they threw you away, like you said! But I had a choice! They all gave me a choice, and I chose wrong every time! No matter what you say, this is my fault!"
She looked at him silently for a few moments, leaning against the kitchen counter. "It was a false choice, Shinji," she said softly.
He gave her a sullen stare, then shuffled off to his room. Before he closed the door he said, "you don't understand anything."
At a certain point, simply because Asuka dominates this scene so much, it feels like she's beating up on Shinji. He's at such a low point that he's incapable of offering anything like a constructive counterargument to her, and her continued dissection of his suffering is the sort of thing that would have the exact OPPOSITE effect on someone who is hurting.
It would almost seem malicious if not for the above exchange: here, Shinji, rightly or wrongly, takes ownership of his mistakes. They are HIS mistakes, and he won't let anyone take them away from him. Whether he did, in fact, actually MAKE mistakes, or if he deserves blame for all of them or some of them, is irrelevant...this is very much him 'not running away.' He is owning his failure.
Asuka's simple reply is both on point and correct: many of his worst decisions were false choices. He had no good way out of them, and this is something he needs to know.
Which makes HIS reply all the better: she doesn't understand. It is a petulant reply, but it is a true one nonetheless. It's the only defense he has at that moment, but it's not incorrect. And this is where they both are at the moment....
Neither of them understands the other. This is the start of communication, the true beginning of their relationship (with the previous chapter being the foundation).