But what did the lack of communication stem from?
Indeed, but to that you need to add the genuine immaturity of two pubescent teenagers with no knowledge of human interactions. They hate themselves, as we're shown very clearly, but they're also kids after all. Even if they were normal teens, they would have many difficulties to truly understand and help each other, but they're far from being normal whatsoever.
I disagree. Their different personalities weren't really a source of toxicity. Their relationship, at it's peak, had their different personalities better develop the other.
Their similar traumas allowed them to connect on a level you rarely connect on.
Well, that's debatable, although I see your point and agree that it's not because of
their personalities that it all crumbled down the way it did. However, you may agree with me that Asuka's abrassiveness and Shinji's avoidant personality didn't help either. If by "Their relationship, at it's peak" you mean the Action Arc, it's true that they have a funny relationship, with comical interactions, just like Ash and Misty. But those are not their true selves, so it's a bit of a strech to judge their relationship by what we see in the first half of the series. Neither Asuka is a tsundere as we know them, nor Shinji is so willing to open to others so easily. Their issues are just too deep, and even if their personalities weren't a major cause for the toxicity, they didn't help.
Here’s a very illustrative analysis of their behaviour and personalities, written by Bagheera, where he established, in his opinion, what were the essential factors to be taken into account when writing about their relationship (forum Thread
Guess I should weigh in here, given my rep for pontificating on the subject.
The biggest mistake people make when writing about these two is to treat them like normal teenagers. This doesn't work for two reasons: first, they're very young. Asuka's 13, Shinji 14, and that's a world of difference from the 16, 17, 18-year-olds we're used to as young adults in most Western stories. A couple of years is a really big deal at that age. Second, both teens are heavily damaged, even before Eva gets its hooks into them. That damage is rarely addressed in adequate fashion in fanfic.
So, a quick rundown of exactly why this is so with each:Asuka:
Here is your mantra when writing Asuka: she is not a bitch
. That is to say, she is not mean for the sake of being mean, she is not petty, she is not vengeful, she is not capricious. Instead she is a hystrionic
girl with deep-seated abandonment issues, and these two factors drive every aspect of her personality. Some examples:
- Asuka is very lonely. Between her abandonment by her mother and her isolated upbringing she’s never been able to connect with anyone, and that’s left her feeling isolated and alone. She hates that more than anything because she equates it with being abandoned and thrown away like trash.
- She is fixated on being an adult because her mother "abandoned" her as a child. She was raised with adults, in what Tines likes to call a “hothouse environment”, and that’s the only world that matters to her. In her experience children are ignored at best and thrown away at worst, so she is determined not to be a child. It is her only hope for survival.
- As a result of her abandonment Asuka has a crippling lack of self-worth. She hates herself because she wasn’t good enough to keep her mother around, and as a result she’s desperate to prove herself in Eva. If she’s the best at piloting Eva that means she’s important, and if she’s important she has to be accepted and kept around.
- Asuka exhibits many instances of black and white thinking, particularly when it comes to gender roles. Despite her precociousness she believes men should ride in and save the day on their white horses, and women should swoon at their feet. But not just any men – worthy men. Her father obviously doesn’t qualify, but Kaji does. Shinji might if he would act like he did when he saved her from the volcano, but he never does so . . . yeah.
So, how do these traits interact? The tension between these aspects of her personality is what makes Asuka an interesting character. Her most basic drives demand that she pursue success to whatever extent necessary, since that’s critical for her survival. But, at the same time, she wants to be “saved” by a worthy, manly man. She struggles as hard as she does because most of the men around her aren’t
worthy – she can’t depend on them, and she saw what happens to weak women when her father abandoned her mother. So, her most basic drives (her id, if we’re using Freud, silly as the notion may be) demand she survive at any cost, and this drives her to excel. If she can prove herself the adult world will have to accept her. But at the same time she doesn’t want
to work like that; her emotional side (her ego, to continue with the Freud analogy) wants to be saved by a manly man who will make a place for her in adult society by default. She hasn’t yet learned to balance the two, and thus acts in a very confusing manner.Shinji:
Here is your mantra with Shinji: He is not a spineless wimp
. Instead he is an avoidant
boy with a crippling lack of self-worth, coupled with a truly remarkable streak of obstinance. He has decided he is a worthless individual whose sense of self is so poorly developed that he can’t even be bothered to commit suicide. In his eyes he is worthless, and as such he firmly believes that he is unable to help others. He has very good reason to believe this is the case, and it has influenced him in various ways:
- His father abandoned him as a child, with no explanation given. The implication is obvious: he’s a bad child and his father doesn’t want him. Gendo does absolutely nothing to disabuse him of this notion when he arrives in Tokyo-3.
- His mother seemed fond of him, but then she went away. No one ever explained why, and his father sent him away soon after, so in his eyes it’s obviously his fault. The two events are correlated so to his child’s mind they’re linked in cause as well.
- Like Asuka Shinji is very lonely, and for many of the same reasons. He was abandoned by both of his parents, raised in isolation, and given little in the way of role models to show him the love and affection a child needs to grow up properly.
- Shinji’s obstinance is not just a personality quirk. Instead it is a defense mechanism, and a very useful one. It means that he can identify what little is positive about his circumstances and milk it for all it’s worth, which in turn will give him the wherewithal he needs to get through another day. So, when he receives praise for something (such as playing the cello) he continues to do it; it’s a good thing, so he should keep doing it since that will make him an acceptable person. It also keeps him from running away from pain, which allows him to receive praise and acceptance from adults. In like fashion this is also the root of his apologetic reflex.
So, how do these traits interact in Shinji? Well, continuing with the analogy for Asuka his root instinct (his “id”) is to run away, to isolate, to avoid. He is afraid of pain and so he has walled himself away from the world. However, this only invites criticism, which leads to more pain, so he had developed a stubborn streak (his “ego”) to manage his fear and drive him forward in hopes of finding praise from others. As in Asuka’s case he still hasn’t figured out how to balance these traits effectively.
Which brings us to writing about these characters. With the above in mind, here are some basic rules of thumb:
- There will be no romance. Seriously, these are emotionally stunted children. Even if they were healthy they would only be beginning to explore their sexuality at this age, and they are not healthy. Even though Asuka fantasizes about the idea it is, for her, a means to an end – she doesn’t want a relationship for its own sake, she wants it because, for her, it’s a ticket to securing her status as an adult and gaining acceptance thereby. But she doesn’t even really want to date other boys, and she certainly doesn’t want to kiss them (witness her near-disgust at the prospect with Shinji; she was willing to endure it because it might lead to her being held, but that’s as far as her interest went). Anything beyond that is a farce.
- They have serious intimacy issues. They have been denied affection all their lives, they have had little physical contact with others, and they don’t know how to handle it when it does happen. Shinji’s reaction to Asuka’s kiss is a good example: he just stands there, arms locked at his sides, unable to comprehend what to do. He doesn’t want to be touched.
- They have different ways of managing the same basic problem. Both kids have been abandoned by adults who have no place for them in their world, and they are very lonely as a result. Asuka is driven to survive but very much wants to be rescued, while Shinji wants to run away and hide but is determined to press forward in a desperate bid for acceptance. In the end they are two sides of the same coin, which is no surprise given that they’re both facets of Anno’s own personality.
- They don’t understand one another. Despite their similarities their different coping strategies leave the kids feeling very confused by one another. Their thinking processes and self-awareness aren’t developed enough to catch on to their similarities or the reasoning behind the other’s actions, and so the spines come out.
So that’s a bunch of lists, but what does it all mean
? Simply put, the kids interact in a number of different ways:As Co-workers:
Asuka is driven to succeed, and she doesn’t understand why Shinji isn’t. Moreover, his natural talent is a threat to her, since it suggests she’ll be thrown away as soon as she is no longer useful (which does in fact prove to be the case). Shinji, for his part, considers her something like a sempai despite their ages, since she obviously has more training and more familiarity with Eva than he does. But his talent is such a threat to her that they can’t productively nurture this aspect of their working relationship.As Friends:
Because of the threat Shinji represents to her, and the fact that he refuses to be the big hero she wants him to be (in which case the threat would be moot), it would be very difficult for Asuka to accept Shinji as any sort of friend. She hides behind the claim that he’s boring, but that’s not quite it – it’s more that he’s useless to her, and on top of that a threat. But Shinji doesn’t understand the whys and wherefores of any of this, so even though he wants to be her friend he doesn’t know how to do it. As Lovers:
I thought it could be interesting to quote it for our discussion.
Asuka'sBigBrother wrote:Also, in defense of my boi Mr. Ikari, he did save Asuka multiple times. The world too while he was at it. All while being a mental wreck due to having jerks for parents. You can do worse.
Yes, he did, but from Asuka's point of view he didn't save her
when she truly
needed it: providing her with the emotional support and validation she craved so much. The problem I think Asuka had with Shinji was that the ephemeral bravery he showed in episodes such as Magma Diver (the so called "Invincible Shinji-sama") and his ace piloting skills didn't come with a manly attitude.
Asuka desperately wanted someone to help her from her inner ghosts, although she consistently pushed away everyone around her. But part of her disappointment with Shinji is well explained here: Nobita Nobi’s Bridal Veil
, a doujin Anno and Sadamoto praised for depicting a very believable Asuka, and that they used as a reference for the Director’s Cut episode 22. There, Asuka thinks: YOU WON'T EVEN HOLD ME!! […] (Kaji-san...what will I do? I've been defiled...) (I wanted you to hold me. With arms strong enough to break through this wall and embrace the heart I don't reveal to anyone)"
Even if it’s a doujin, just as Anno admitted, it portrays Asuka very realistically. She expected Kaji or Invincible Shinji-sama to break her Wall of Jericho and help her; but the first was taken by Misato, and the latter wasn’t as manly as Asuka wanted him to be. Thus, in her eyes, Shinji refused to save her
, although to be fair, he simply couldn’t and/or didn’t know how to save her (or anyone else either, not even himself. His self-loathing issues were just too deep).
@synthmachine: I think I didn't say anything opposed to that, so yes, we can agree on it
Since I’ve studied History, I’m very used to hearing differing opinions on the same matter, and sometimes I’ve had intense debates about very specific issues, such as religion and politics, or modern ideologies like communism and fascism. But, in History there are facts that are irrefutable, so that subjectivity has its limits (although some people always want to hide certain facts that are blatantly against their ideology), unlike Evangelion and its ending. In fact, some posts ago I did say something very similar to your exposition: "It all depends on our personality and philosophy. More optimistic people will stress the change the chidlren have been through, represented by Asuka's caress; while more moderate (or sceptical) people like us will emphazise that, despite the growth they've experienced, the damage might be too heavy to be repaired anytime soon; that's represented by Asuka's coldness as well as the memories of all the clashes they've had during the series/film."
The fact I believe that, after EoE, both Asuka and Shinji need more stable partners to recover from their issues, or that (from my biased opinion as a fan of Asuka and based on all what we see during the series/film) I think she deserves someone better than Shinji, doesn't make me ignore the quality of some AsuShin post-3I fanfics that are very well written and with interesting plots (despite the pairing and my obvious disagreement with the outcome). I'm not that much into fanfiction, though.
As you said, we’re left with such an ambiguous ending, and the interactions on the beach are so vague and cryptic, that nothing about their future is clear. It all depends on our opinion, and all scenerarios are possible, whether it is happy, tragic, or if they're together or find others to be with.
What usually pisses me off the most about shippers is when someone gives for granted certain "truths" within the show, such as Asuka and Shinji "loving each other", or the ending being a sort of "confession scene"; it's also the way they defend such ideas, giving them an aura of canonicity
and accusing everyone else of being "ignorants", which really irritates me, since those are extremely debatable aspects. But as zlink64 said in the first page of this thread, and you also pointed out, my "rant" against that kind of shippers might be a bit exaggerated, and of course it cannot be applied to all of them.
Asuka's loyal Knight.
"We all have to find our own answers." - Hideaki Anno