Shinji Clenching His Fist Question

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Shinji Clenching His Fist Question

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Postby Crabe » Thu May 24, 2018 1:00 am

So I am a long-time lurker but first time poster who is working on a video about Eva. The topic of my video is going to be Shinji clenching and unclenching his fist and what I think it means. However I ran into a pretty basic and fundamental problem. While I remember Shinji looking at his hand as he clenches it into a fist and then unclenches it, for the life of me I can't find the first example of it that appears in the show. I know in episode 16 he balls his hand into a fist and opens it and some children laugh at him, but I feel almost positively that this motion has happened before this. I'm curious if anyone here would know the first time Shinji exhibits this nervous tic. If anyone is interested I can write here about what I think this hand motion symbolizes, but for now I just want to know what episodes this motion appears in. If anyone would know it would be someone on this forum. Thanks in advance for any help; I've watched the series 4 times or so now and I would prefer not to have to go through it all again just to find this small detail.

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Re: Shinji Clenching His Fist Question

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Postby pwhodges » Thu May 24, 2018 3:44 am

I don't know if you feel this counts, but in EoE he clenches his fists as he kicks down his sandcastle. If not yet a tic, it's still a movement that could develop into one.

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Re: Shinji Clenching His Fist Question

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Postby Reichu » Thu May 24, 2018 6:05 am

There's a version of the clenching-unclenching tic while Shinji is trying to talk to Gendo on the phone in episode 11. It would also feel incomplete not to mention Shinji's delayed response to getting a handful of cloned mom breast in episode 05. :devil:

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Postby Crabe » Thu May 24, 2018 9:56 am

Thanks for the help! I don't know if I would count the EoE scene phwodges, but it is certainly interesting and I'm impressed with your ability to notice and remember that. I would never forget Shinji's delayed reaction in episode 05 haha. In my mind's eye I can distinctly see a shot where Shinji is looking down at his hand and clenching it repeatedly but I'm starting to think I made it up! This is why it's important to research things before you start writing about them.

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Postby Ambiant23 » Thu May 24, 2018 12:08 pm

View Original Postpwhodges wrote:If not yet a tic, it's still a movement that could develop into one.

You know I always thought Shinji might have tourettes sysdrome.

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Re: Shinji Clenching His Fist Question

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Postby StrokeMeGoat » Thu May 24, 2018 1:42 pm

I feel like you're reading into this too much. In the bus scene where the kids laugh at him, the whole fist clenching/unclenching thing is more than likely just a physical gesture animated in as a method of visually representing that he feels more powerful or capable. I've seen this same fist clenching/unclenching motif in this specific context in more than one anime and even in live action shows not otherwise related to anime at all.

When it comes to it showing up when he's confronting his father, depending on which specific time you're referring to I can see it more as an unconscious, reflexive nervous habit not at all dissimilar from people who incessantly kick/bob their legs up and down, click their pens repeatedly, or as more often seen with women, twirling their fingers in their hair. When it comes to the time where he announces that he is Unit-01/Shogoki's pilot when Zeruel is attacking NERV, the clenching of the fist more specifically is meant to evoke the unconscious understanding that he's making a stand/made up his mind/is determined/has reached some kind of emotional resolution with stress he's dealing with at that moment of time.

Either way, even though the gesture is meant to visually symbolize somewhat different things in these situations, it's still just an easily observed and understood animation and narrative device for emoting what he as a character is experiencing internally. It's just like how emotive they animate characters' eyes in anime to convey what they happen to be feeling as people (quite effectively, too). We don't have the luxury of knowing what's going on in a characters head in an animated or otherwise visual medium like we do in novels, so as a creator and artist you have to find a way to communicate this information visually instead.

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Re: Shinji Clenching His Fist Question

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Postby Crabe » Thu May 24, 2018 1:55 pm

I very well could be reading into it too much, no doubt about that. It definitely is meant to convey those emotions like you said, but I still think there might be something more going on. The reason I think this is because hands are such a strong visual motif throughout Eva and they're often emphasized as the means characters use to interact with each other (Gendo burns his hands, Shinji crushes Kaworu and Touji, Shinji's hand on Rei's breast, etc. etc.). That and the fact Shinji does this tic multiple times makes it seem to me that there could be a deeper meaning in addition to conveying how Shinji feels. Specifically I think it might relate to the hedgehog's dilemma, with the open or closed fist representing being open or closed off to other people respectively, and Shinji oscillating between the two showing his response to the dilemma. Since I can't seem to find the specific scene I'm remembering where he clenches and unclenches repeatedly I very well could be wrong though.

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Re: Shinji Clenching His Fist Question

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Postby kuribo-04 » Thu May 24, 2018 3:48 pm

The clenching thing is definitely ocd.
He has to clench his hand a number of times before making a decision, for example.
Other than making him more real, fleshed out and relatable, user Eva Yojimbo (who hasn't posted here in a long time) made a great observation, suggesting that the open hand represents life (Shinji's hand covered in blood in episode 1 and covered in..something else in EoE) and the closed hand is death (all the strangulations that happen). The clenching is the struggle between living or death.
With the focus on hands I can definitely see that.
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Ryuko: "I'm gonna knock ya on your asses!"
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Postby Crabe » Thu May 24, 2018 5:08 pm

I like that observation about life vs death. It might not apply to every time Shinji does it but it seems to make sense.

Just to really go off the deep end I did some basic research into religious interpretations of the right hand as well. In the Kaballah, the right hand of God is associated with love and the left hand is associated with severity. In the Bible it seems like the right hand side was the preferred side for certain rituals and being at the right hand of God connoted more favor than being on the left hand. In several ancient cultures the left hand had a negative connotation and was used for impure or unclean actions while the right hand was associated with purity. Some sources also mentioned that the right hand was associated with a sword while the left hand was associated with a shield, though this doesn't seem to match the kaballistic information. I really don't know if any of this was incorporated into the series but I thought it was interesting. I haven't really noticed a consistent pattern with which hand is used in the series. For example, Shinji's left hand falls on Rei's breast, but he uses his right hand to masturbate to Asuka and you would think both of those would count as impure. I doubt any of this is that relevant but I figured I'd type it out since I went through the trouble of reading about it and maybe someone will get something out of it. Mostly what I learned is that Gnostics are kind of insane.

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Postby kuribo-04 » Thu May 24, 2018 5:13 pm

I like your conclusion. LOL
Shinji: "Sooner or later I'll be betrayed... And they'll leave me. Still... I want to meet them again, because I believe my feelings at that time were real."
Ryuko: "I'm gonna knock ya on your asses!"
-Asuka: THINK IN GERMAN!!! -Shinji: Öh... Baumkuchen...
Hayashida: "As game developers, our work is special. All of us here can put smiles on very many people's faces with our work."
"In any case, it (Kill la Kill) is the greatest work of fiction ever written and should be taught in schools." -Squigsquasher
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Re: Shinji Clenching His Fist Question

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Postby Reichu » Thu May 24, 2018 7:38 pm

View Original PostCrabe wrote:In my mind's eye I can distinctly see a shot where Shinji is looking down at his hand and clenching it repeatedly

That's episode 16. Cut 041 here.

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Postby Crabe » Thu May 24, 2018 8:27 pm

Thanks Reichu! I had thought there was a shot like that before episode 16 but having quickly ran through the episodes before then I think that is the one I was thinking of. I appreciate the help.

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Postby ACGT-Samael » Fri May 25, 2018 1:38 pm

Amusingly enough, whoever wrote Shinji's character profile for TV Tropes apparently drew a connection between the clenching and the psychosomatic pain of Unit-01's arm being broken by Sachiel, believing it to be him subconsciously reassuring himself it's still there. I don't think that's really the case at all given he usually clenches his RIGHT hand and Sachiel broke Unit-01's LEFT arm, but it's a neat idea at the very least.

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Postby AdamMalkovitch » Fri May 25, 2018 1:54 pm

View Original PostACGT-Samael wrote:Amusingly enough, whoever wrote Shinji's character profile for TV Tropes apparently drew a connection between the clenching and the psychosomatic pain of Unit-01's arm being broken by Sachiel, believing it to be him subconsciously reassuring himself it's still there. I don't think that's really the case at all given he usually clenches his RIGHT hand and Sachiel broke Unit-01's LEFT arm, but it's a neat idea at the very least.

Oh christ I do my best to forget that page exists. So many of my misconceptions about Evangelion came from that page, it's probably the worst place to go to learn anything about Evangelion other than the internet in general. The writer is clearly a surface level fan, insisting that EoE was Anno's revenge. I see that damn page in the same way I see Amanda Winn-Lee's version of End of Evangelion.
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Postby ACGT-Samael » Fri May 25, 2018 2:00 pm

View Original PostAdamMalkovitch wrote:Oh christ I do my best to forget that page exists. So many of my misconceptions about Evangelion came from that page, it's probably the worst place to go to learn anything about Evangelion other than the internet in general. The writer is clearly a surface level fan, insisting that EoE was Anno's revenge. I see that damn page in the same way I see Amanda Winn-Lee's version of End of Evangelion.


Yeah, I figured out how wrong it was when I read "Rei is on the autism spectrum". Still, I brought it has more for the general idea of a character tic spawning from a single traumatic event.

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Postby StrokeMeGoat » Sat Jun 02, 2018 3:25 pm

View Original Postkuribo-04 wrote:Tuser Eva Yojimbo (who hasn't posted here in a long time) made a great observation, suggesting that the open hand represents life (Shinji's hand covered in blood in episode 1 and covered in..something else in EoE) and the closed hand is death (all the strangulations that happen). The clenching is the struggle between living or death.
With the focus on hands I can definitely see that.


Interesting idea. I'm not really gonna comment either way on whether or not open=life and closed=death really, but I believe that the idea of it representing a struggle whose ultimate ends wind up being life and death (albeit in an extremely broad sense) is accurate. Hands and hand motifs in artistic works commonly represent a sense of power and agency as individuals to affect change in the world. We primarily use our hands for the manipulation of objects and our surroundings, after all.

If we look at things in a narrower context though, I actually personally see what the open and closed fist fist represent as the reverse of Eva Yojimbo's idea. I think Shinji's fist ending up open means that he's given up the desire to bother doing anything but remain passive and he's resigned himself to simply doing what he's told or whatever is easiest by taking the path of least resistance. In effect, he is convincing himself that he is powerless to change anything and is essentially running away or at least averting his eyes to the reality that his powerlessness in a situation like that is entirely a decision he's made and his belief has only become true because of that decision.

In contrast, when his fist is clenched, he's made a decision to act--for better or for worse. The point about strangulation I think is... iffy at best. For one thing, one's hands don't form into that of clenched fists when strangling somebody. I can see how you might want to say they're closed, but I think the point I'm making about the case for closed=life and open=death will be reconciled with this once I'm finished explaining my ideas.

Ultimately, when Shinji clenches his fist, it signifies that he's decided to act rather than simply let things happen and try his best to avoid any suffering along the way. This decision to act is what it means to exercise one's free will and become an active player in life's game. It means going out of your way to achieve something and put in real effort toward that end, and accepting the responsibility for your possible failure in doing that. It is tantamount to the very act of living itself, to struggle against forces and odds that are against you. This struggle can be messy, and during it, it's very likely that either you or somebody else is going to get hurt in the process, and you will be the person that is hurting them.

Conversely, open-fist Shinji decides to be passive, submissive, (at times, mindlessly) obedient to his superiors even when knowing what has been ordered is wrong, and he simply floats on by in life--like a leaf or some plastic bag in the wind. To do nothing more than simply avoid pain and confrontation and do what is easiest is to be lifeless... to be an automaton, a machine that merely exists and reacts. When Shinji is doing his nervous OCD clenching bit and chooses not to act, he has essentially killed his own spirit/will for the sake of being able to stay in his comfort zone--even if that means being absolutely miserable and terribly depressed. It's just easier to keep his head down and stick to what he knows and do what he's always done.

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Postby kuribo-04 » Sun Jun 03, 2018 4:07 am

I think your passive/active interpretation works as well.
A good example of this is when he is confronting Gendo in episode 19.
Shinji: "Sooner or later I'll be betrayed... And they'll leave me. Still... I want to meet them again, because I believe my feelings at that time were real."
Ryuko: "I'm gonna knock ya on your asses!"
-Asuka: THINK IN GERMAN!!! -Shinji: Öh... Baumkuchen...
Hayashida: "As game developers, our work is special. All of us here can put smiles on very many people's faces with our work."
"In any case, it (Kill la Kill) is the greatest work of fiction ever written and should be taught in schools." -Squigsquasher
~('.'~) (~'.')~ Dancin Kirby

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Postby StrokeMeGoat » Sun Jun 03, 2018 2:47 pm

View Original Postkuribo-04 wrote:I think your passive/active interpretation works as well.
A good example of this is when he is confronting Gendo in episode 19.

That's actually the primarily example that stuck out to me when forming my interpretation. It's also worth noting that this is supported by its repetition in Rebuild when it shows up in the change during 2.22 where Shinji throws a tantrum and means to attack NERV after the initiation of the dummy plug and everything that happened with Bardiel and Asuka, slamming his clenched fist on the controls. In this instance, he's resolved to act in some way in defiance of Gendo's actions. It's definitely a case more where he winds up stumbling rather than really achieving anything, but for once he's determined to do something after what he perceives as a gross assault on his autonomy and utter negligence and disregard for saving or even preserving the life of an Eva pilot, forcing Shinji to more or less experience powerlessly committing the violence against Unit-03 and chomping Asuka's plug in two as if it were him performing it all.

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Postby ShonHam » Fri Jul 27, 2018 8:43 am

I believe it's a tick brought on through his frustration and lack of confidence, he does it as a sort of defiant gesture that goes unnoticed due to the way he is. It's possible that it's something that he does as a result of moments of emotional distress, I've had particular moments when I'm incredibly stressed out or in a bad way where I unconsciously do certain things like scratch my arms or repeat myself over and over. Shinji mirrors this same idea where he clenches his fist in situations of pressure as well as moments where he feels hopeless or angry.
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