The Asuka Langley Soryu in my mind

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The Asuka Langley Soryu in my mind

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Postby Mr. Tines » Tue Aug 23, 2011 10:06 am

I said a couple of weeks back in one of the threads that rambled off topic and was eventually locked that I would really have to post on this subject. After some delay, here it is




I never expected to think all that much of Asuka; but suddenly, several episodes after she was first introduced, she managed to touch raw nerves in areas that I'd thought had been long scarred over, because I could see a lot of myself in her, just in forms exaggerated for dramatic effect.

Start with young Asuka as we see her in flashback -- naive, yes, but precociously rational in her responses to her abandonment; her language use (at least as presented through subtitles) not at all infantile. From that sort of starting point, extrapolating through a hot-housed childhood, achieving an early degree in a subject that just requires pure reasoning (mathematics) or some highly structured application of mathematical principles (some subsets of physics or engineering, particularly electrical engineering) isn't an unreasonable leap.

Now, having high intelligence does not preclude making stupid mistakes -- it just means you get to make them sooner, faster, and with increasing degrees of sophistication as you go along; and maybe some of the time you can manage to catch yourself about to make the mistake before you commit too badly. More often, analysis in hindsight will show the error, and produce a check on self-confidence -- it is not unusual for someone who is capable in a field of endeavour to feel that, because they know they make mistakes, they are impostors to some degree or other.

Being possessed of intelligence, in the raw form of being able to join the dots quickly, to make the intuitive leap across a chasm while others have to pick their way cautiously from stepping-stone to stepping stone can lead to frustration when interacting with people. Couple this with hot-housing that would leave you disconnected from people your own age (who would anyway be tearingly dull) and from the cohort you're studying with (who have experience and physical maturity with which you cannot connect), and you have a recipe for someone who is starved of companionship even within a crowd.

In Asuka's case she doesn't even have family to provide her with some minimal degree of social attachement. Her father seems to have been absent throughout, and her mother went away in all functional meaning soon after Asuka really became a rational being, and she did not even have a similarly precocious sibling to strike sparks from.

What she did get from her family was the feeling that even the crowning achievement of her life -- qualifying as an elite pilot -- was not enough to please her mother; she would have to strive to be the very best, yet afraid that even that would not be enough. And that would be one of the mistakes she made for lack of all the necessary data.

Of her later childhood, we have no firm data; I assume that she was hot-housed academically, treated like a prize racehorse as a pilot and NERV insider, and left to be the poor little rich girl in the few hours that remained. We can guess from their reaction to each other that something happened between her and Misato that left Misato aware that there wasn't a lot that she could do with her.

As an early teen, we see Asuka at an age where physical maturity starts to intrude on the scene in bursts of hormonally driven irrationality. At that age, the differential levels of maturity between the sexes are greatest, and it is common for girls to regard boys of their own age as childish. Calm, worldly-wise and good looking, Kaji was an inevitable attachment point for her to infatuate upon. Shinji -- her own age, not especially intellectual, timid, without even the insider's basic knowledge of what it was all about; in sum, pretty much a reinforcement of why normals are sources of frustration -- was bound to disappoint her each time she tried to project her ideal of a male pilot (pretty much herself but with a dick) onto him.

And then, not so long after she has had the one opportunity she gets to display how her training has taken, deliberately and successfully running an anti-angel operation on her own initiative, he has the temerity to excel in the measure of what it is that she does, what she always has been and must always be the very best in (as if that were enough). With her confidence rattled, in an ability that demands self-assurance to carry out well, any existing worries about being an impostor would then snowball.
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Postby NemZ » Tue Aug 23, 2011 1:46 pm

I've assumed most of this or just picked it up from earlier snippets you've posted, but it's quite nice to see it all in one place and presented clearly.

Excellent post!
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Postby child of Lilith » Tue Aug 23, 2011 2:47 pm

Great work, Mr. Tines.
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Re: The Asuka Langley Soryu in my mind

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Postby CJD » Tue Aug 23, 2011 4:10 pm

View Original PostMr. Tines wrote:Now, having high intelligence does not preclude making stupid mistakes -- it just means you get to make them sooner, faster, and with increasing degrees of sophistication as you go along; and maybe some of the time you can manage to catch yourself about to make the mistake before you commit too badly. More often, analysis in hindsight will show the error, and produce a check on self-confidence -- it is not unusual for someone who is capable in a field of endeavour to feel that, because they know they make mistakes, they are impostors to some degree or other.

Being possessed of intelligence, in the raw form of being able to join the dots quickly, to make the intuitive leap across a chasm while others have to pick their way cautiously from stepping-stone to stepping stone can lead to frustration when interacting with people. Couple this with hot-housing that would leave you disconnected from people your own age (who would anyway be tearingly dull) and from the cohort you're studying with (who have experience and physical maturity with which you cannot connect), and you have a recipe for someone who is starved of companionship even within a crowd.


Interesting read. I particularly like this part, as I feel that Asuka's intelligence, and it's effects on her development, are too often overlooked in assessments of her personality.

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Postby Alaska Slim » Tue Aug 23, 2011 5:12 pm

View Original PostMr. Tines wrote:because I could see a lot of myself in her, just in forms exaggerated for dramatic effect.

No offense meant old man, but whenever you bring that up, I' am forced to imagine you in a yellow sundress, or Asuka with a beard, a British accent and... well, pants. And possible interview with Chris Hansen.

Regardless, I'm always intrigued by your insights into her character, along with the out-of-left-field sources you bring to justify your viewpoints.

We of course cannot be certain of the extent the writers went to in constructing Asuka's psyche, but I welcome anything that serves to point out that her education and claimed intelligence, were not just for show. Intended or not, the indications of their validity are clearly there.
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Postby Mr. Tines » Wed Aug 24, 2011 3:20 am

So, anyone else out there with an Asuka in their mind?
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Postby NemZ » Wed Aug 24, 2011 3:51 am

When I was still in my Asuka loathing stage I suspected she was actually not anywhere near as bright as she claimed, instead having been coddled and spoon-fed constant ego strokes by her training staff both to feed her pathological attention seeking behavior as a means of keeping her on the job and fitting her with an invisible leash.

I still don't like her as a person, but over time I've more or less converted to your line of thinking.
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Postby Bagheera » Wed Aug 24, 2011 12:40 pm

I'm more or less in agreement with you here as far as it goes, but where's the rest of it? Surely you have thoughts on her breakdown as well as what might come after.
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Postby CJD » Wed Aug 24, 2011 1:59 pm

View Original PostMr. Tines wrote:So, anyone else out there with an Asuka in their mind?


I already pretty much posted mine in that thread, but maybe I'll form a more coherent, general description if this thread is to remain neutral.

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Postby Azathoth » Wed Aug 24, 2011 5:37 pm

View Original PostMr. Tines wrote:So, anyone else out there with an Asuka in their mind?


Depending on how much time I have over the next few days, I'll try to post something. I'm not sure I agree with your assessment of the influence her family had on her, but I don't find anything in your view that I actually think is wrong.
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Postby CJD » Fri Aug 26, 2011 2:49 am

View Original PostMr. Tines wrote:So, anyone else out there with an Asuka in their mind?


I said I'd respond if this thread is to remain neutral, so if that's the case going forward then here I go. This is just going to be some thoughts off the top of my head, so the organization might not be up to par:


I get the sense Asuka is the kind of person who wants to be needed. Now, this isn't new or unique, but I differ with some on how deep I think it goes. Asuka struggles with the deepest question of all time: What is my purpose for existence?

Now, many people don't feel the need to deal with this question, and many will say it's unhealthy to need a reason for existence beyond the fact that you do exist. For better or worse, Asuka does. In the series, we see that her reason for existence is to pilot Eva. Her downfall comes at the point when she realizes that she isn't "needed", at least not as much as she thought. This realization causes her synch ratio to go down, and thus her usefulness is marginalized more and more until she truely is useless, as an Eva pilot.

I, personally, don't think the fact that she was useless as an Eva pilot is the point that matters, though. My perception has always been that her existence is more on her desire to be needed as opposed to her desire to be an Eva pilot. Because of this, I think Shinji, in the kitchen scene in EoE, was on the right track. He knew that she wanted to be needed, she wanted a reason to exist. But, as Tines described, Asuka is very smart. She sees through his lie, that he "Needs" her, and calls him out on it. (For the record, I'm not commenting on the state of the scene, rather on the dialogue)

This, to me, is the core of Asuka. She needs to be needed, she needs a reason to wake up in the morning, she needs a reason to live. When she loses that reason, when she loses her reason for existence, she stops trying to exist. I'm not convinced the bathtub scene was her trying to commit suicide, but I don't contest she was ready to die. I don't think she was trying to actively die, rather she was not trying to live. Now, perhaps starving yourself in that matter could still be called suicide, but I get the sense it wasn't "I'm going to kill myself", rather it was "I'm not going to try to live". Apathy is different from suicidal, apathy is neutral. She wasn't trying to die, rather she wasn't trying to live. (This is comparable to Shinji in EoE, who, again I'm not convinced tried to commit suicide)

Anyway, the desire to have a reason for existence isn't new. It's plagued mankind since our inception. It's not necessarily healthy, but I personally wouldn't say it's bad, rather it's natural.


I might write more, but this is really the core of my perception of Asuka. I'd rather not have this thread devolve into another back and forth, so I'm going to ask that we remain nice and neutral. This is, obviously, just my perception.
Last edited by CJD on Fri Aug 26, 2011 3:59 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby NemZ » Fri Aug 26, 2011 3:24 am

View Original PostCJD wrote:Asuka struggles with the deepest question of all time: What is our purpose for existence?


No, she doesn't do that at all; in fact she's the least likely of the pilots to take philosophical questions seriously... and I include Toji in that mix. To her it is absolutely a personal question of her justification to continue living brought about by the trauma of her parent's abandonment of her, most acutely her mother's attempt to take her into death at her side.

Now, many people don't feel the need to deal with this question, and many will say it's unhealthy to need a reason for existence beyond the fact that you do exist.


"The unexamined life is not worth living." - Socrates

He knew that she wanted to be needed, she wanted a reason to exist, even if it was "Shinji needs me, therefore I will exist".


Shinji is wrapped up in his own needs and hasn't got the first clue what Asuka wants or needs, hence why his 'offer' is such a weak, vague statement. He's just bullshitting, telling her what HE wants to hear and remaining completely oblivious to her as an individual. It's not HER that he needs, she just happens to be what he sees as the path of least resistance. That's what pisses her off, and rightly so; even after all that's happened she's still not being recognized as a person with any value in her own right. Even in death she's accomplished nothing but buying Shinji time and then being offered the consolation prize of being his emotional crutch.
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Postby CJD » Fri Aug 26, 2011 3:34 am

View Original PostNemZ wrote:No, she doesn't do that at all; in fact she's the least likely of the pilots to take philosophical questions seriously... and I include Toji in that mix. To her it is absolutely a personal question of her justification to continue living brought about by the trauma of her parent's abandonment of her, most acutely her mother's attempt to take her into death at her side.


Was it not obvious I was talking about her? I simply used the general form because I thought, given the thread, and the rest of my post, it was pretty obvious what I meant.


There, it's edited, is that better?



Shinji is wrapped up in his own needs and hasn't got the first clue what Asuka wants or needs, hence why his 'offer' is such a weak, vague statement. He's just bullshitting, telling her what HE wants to hear and remaining completely oblivious to her as an individual. It's not HER that he needs, she just happens to be what he sees as the path of least resistance.



/sigh

And I addressed this in, literally, the very next 2 sentences after the part you quoted. Are you just reiterating?

Edit: I also edited that part a bit to tidy it up.

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Postby NemZ » Fri Aug 26, 2011 4:41 am

View Original PostCJD wrote:Was it not obvious I was talking about her? I simply used the general form because I thought, given the thread, and the rest of my post, it was pretty obvious what I meant.


That's actually quite a bit different than what I thought you were saying... something along the lines of the evangelion project being the purpose of mankind's existence and her feeling worthless because she's no longer a part of it. Which, incidentally, I think is still a really interesting idea that nonetheless has nothing to do with the thread. Ahem.

And I addressed this in, literally, the very next 2 sentences after the part you quoted. Are you just reiterating?


I don't think you did, actually. My point is you're giving Shinji way to much credit in his grasp on human psychology and suggesting Asuka is seeing through entirely the wrong lie. This is not just a case of a guy saying what he thinks the girl wants to hear and getting caught talking shit. Rather, this is Shinji talking at himself through her and Asuka getting pissed off because she understands that none of this is about her in the first place. She might as well be "unnamed girl who yells "Ikari-kun!" from off camera durring PE" for all it matters in his bullshit psychodrama.
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Postby CJD » Fri Aug 26, 2011 4:52 am

View Original PostNemZ wrote:That's actually quite a bit different than what I thought you were saying... something along the lines of the evangelion project being the purpose of mankind's existence and her feeling worthless because she's no longer a part of it. Which, incidentally, I think is still a really interesting idea that nonetheless has nothing to do with the thread. Ahem.



My bad then, glad to clear it up. Also, sorry for being so rude, I'm having an irritable night.



I don't think you did, actually. My point is you're giving Shinji way to much credit and suggesting Asuka is seeing through entirely the wrong lie. This is not just a case of a guy saying what he thinks the girl wants to hear and getting caught talking shit. This is Shinji talking at himself through her and Asuka getting pissed off because she understands that none of this is about her in the first place, doomed to be a secondary cast member in the story of her own life.


I'm not so sure, I think people give Shinji too little credit, personally, but that's not for here. Like I said, I really don't have the desire to get into an in depth discussion on the nature of my thoughts, not at the moment at the least, I just figured I'd contribute since Mr. Tines asked for some more input. Personally I'm eager to see more posts, to get an idea of the spectrum of views.

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Postby Mr. Tines » Fri Aug 26, 2011 5:18 am

View Original PostBagheera wrote:I'm more or less in agreement with you here as far as it goes, but where's the rest of it? Surely you have thoughts on her breakdown as well as what might come after.
The breakdown?

As her confidence is shaken, and self-doubts emerge, her decline as a pilot is self-reinforcing -- it hurts enough when you know you've hit your ceiling, but when the pain eats away at what it is you do, it will get worse. I'm not sure that Arael does all that much beyond being an unwanted spectator at Asuka's existing inner turmoil -- perhaps re-opening some old wounds from infancy that time had dulled; but mostly seeing what nobody must see.

When she can no longer maintain any façade of normal life, then she just wants to go away. Whether she still has the determination to slash her wrists or whether even that is beyond her in the apathy that has engulfed her doesn't really matter.

Beyond that -- in the good end, she can work through to the point of realising that pretty much none of what she was so worked up about really mattered, except in the passing moment. In the bad end -- well, she might just as well be back in the bathtub.
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Postby Bagheera » Fri Aug 26, 2011 10:08 am

View Original PostMr. Tines wrote:The breakdown?

As her confidence is shaken, and self-doubts emerge, her decline as a pilot is self-reinforcing -- it hurts enough when you know you've hit your ceiling, but when the pain eats away at what it is you do, it will get worse. I'm not sure that Arael does all that much beyond being an unwanted spectator at Asuka's existing inner turmoil -- perhaps re-opening some old wounds from infancy that time had dulled; but mostly seeing what nobody must see.

When she can no longer maintain any façade of normal life, then she just wants to go away. Whether she still has the determination to slash her wrists or whether even that is beyond her in the apathy that has engulfed her doesn't really matter.


What about EoE? How do you suppose her interaction with Kyoko's remnants might affect what came before? Part of me thinks it's a free pass of sorts (i.e., the root of her feelings of worthlessness is torn out), but the other part thinks Kyoko's loss and her implicit abandonment by Shinji (who wanted help from someone, not her specifically, and turned to her because she was his only remaining option) would offset any potential gains.

Beyond that -- in the good end, she can work through to the point of realising that pretty much none of what she was so worked up about really mattered, except in the passing moment. In the bad end -- well, she might just as well be back in the bathtub.


Regarding the good end: do you suppose it's something she could work through on her own, or would she need positive interactions with people like Shinji and Misato to make it happen? I've always assumed getting background information on the ensoulment of Units 01 and 02 might help as well (it would certainly explain a few things).
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Postby Mr. Tines » Fri Aug 26, 2011 11:00 am

View Original PostBagheera wrote:What about EoE?
For a few minutes she is given what she was after -- her mother's approval; and also the gift of synchronization. And then it is all ripped away, finally and forever. She can flagellate herself with the fact that she could have had what she craved for all those years -- and didn't know it; and then it is over and she is obsolete. What crawls out of the sea is a damned soul, broken.

Regarding the good end: do you suppose it's something she could work through on her own, or would she need positive interactions with people like Shinji and Misato to make it happen?
She'd probably have her own "if I wasn't a pilot" AU sequence (probably not being the tsundere childhood friend), and the same sort of haranguing as we see Shinji get before he gets his act together (but probably with more Hikari and Ritsuko)
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Postby Bagheera » Fri Aug 26, 2011 11:20 am

View Original PostMr. Tines wrote:For a few minutes she is given what she was after -- her mother's approval; and also the gift of synchronization. And then it is all ripped away, finally and forever. She can flagellate herself with the fact that she could have had what she craved for all those years -- and didn't know it; and then it is over and she is obsolete. What crawls out of the sea is a damned soul, broken.


But even the damned must carry on, yes? What happens when she finds herself in that scenario? Do you imagine she'd just give up, or would she find some way to fight? Prior to EoE the answer is obvious, but after her battle in Air I'm not so sure.

She'd probably have her own "if I wasn't a pilot" AU sequence (probably not being the tsundere childhood friend), and the same sort of haranguing as we see Shinji get before he gets his act together (but probably with more Hikari and Ritsuko)


I can sort of see Hikari, but she's not good at asking the hard questions. I'm somewhat dubious with Ritsuko since Ritsuka never had any rapport with her. I always wonder if her mother might have shown up; I'm not even sure it's possible, but it would be an interesting wrinkle.

I suspect she might see more of Kaji, personally. We know he was around for Shinji's sequence, so it makes sense that he'd be the one to guide her and set her straight.
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I hate myself. But maybe I can learn to love myself. Maybe it's okay for me to be here! That's right! I'm me, nothing more, nothing less! I'm me. I want to be me! I want to be here! And it's okay for me to be here! -- Shinji Ikari, Neon Genesis Evangelion
Yes, I know. You thought it would be something about Asuka. You're such idiots.

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Re: The Asuka Langley Soryu in my mind

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Postby BornIn1142 » Fri Aug 26, 2011 12:12 pm

View Original PostCJD wrote:Interesting read. I particularly like this part, as I feel that Asuka's intelligence, and it's effects on her development, are too often overlooked in assessments of her personality.


Not surprising; it was somewhat neglected as a factor in the series itself.
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