Comprehensive and in-depth analysis of Asuka and Shinji relationship in 3.0+1.0 and implications for the ending

Discussion of the new series of Evangelion movies ( "Evangelion Shin Gekijōban", meaning "Evangelion: New Theatrical Edition"). The final instalment made its debut in Japan on March 8, 2021.

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Re: Comprehensive and in-depth analysis of Asuka and Shinji relationship in 3.0+1.0 and implications for the ending

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Postby Axx°N N. » Sat Nov 27, 2021 4:25 pm

I agree 100%, and that's more or less what I was arguing.
View Original PostZusuchan wrote:Asuka was robbed of agency because...why?

But to play devil's advocate, I think this is actually an interesting question and not as rhetorical as you present it. The film descends into metatext, and it's clear Eva was and is extremely autological and personally symbolic. That's as true as the production being messy. I mean, the film is messy because the production was messy, and there's plenty of opportunities to relate the plot and its factions of characters to the real-life circumstance of running away from, rehabilitating toward, and then committing to the end. It's hard to separate theme from situation. I don't think it's that every scene is rich in detail and hidden meaning, that's probably least true for Shin than it's ever been, but I do think it's possible that there's meaning to how Anno approached the scene. Or in other words, the way he feels about Asuka's character informed how he handled it, even if how he handled it was just dropping the ball and coming up short. I don't want to rely on rumor, gossip or crazy fan wank, but there's that old rumor she was based on (or a tool to express) a jilted love from his personal life, and under that lens the way he sidelines her in NTE, post-Moyoco, even to the point of largely outsourcing her direction to Tsurumaki, could be tightly linked to his personal feelings. The latter statement could be true regardless of rumor veracity. And yeah, some of it may be inadvertent.

I can say for sure that Asuka was lessened as a character for me, but I don't feel confident saying the way she's handled doesn't hold meaning for Anno in a meta-sense. I mean, that's essentially my dissatisfaction with NTE and I've seen it expressed by multiple other people, including Mamoru Oshii; that it feels like writing that's more meaningful to its writer than to an audience, to the detriment of the latter. I think this thread started off trying to make sense of Asuka's character handling in strictly character-oriented terms, and the thread has descended into meta just as much (and at the same trajectory) as Shin itself. In my opinion, the question of why it is the narrative incorporated her the way it did can't reasonably side-step questions of how she fits (or doesn't) into Anno's current perception on his work and life.
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Re: Comprehensive and in-depth analysis of Asuka and Shinji relationship in 3.0+1.0 and implications for the ending

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Postby Derantor » Sat Nov 27, 2021 6:41 pm

View Original PostZusuchan wrote:I'm not really sure of the necessity of acting like Anno 100% knew what he was doing 100% of the time and thus everything in NTE is incredibly thought out and detailed to the point of every last interaction being a crucial part of the work without which the whole narrative falls apart [...]

I don't think this argument holds any water, to be honest. The film was years in the making, and the big sendoff, which includes Rei and Kaworu, and indeed, all of Evangelion, is not a throwaway scene. The importance of the scene to Anno is evident in the movie itself: she's the only person Shinji rescues who is commented upon by other people - Kaworu brings her up obliquely with Shinji, and Shinji in turn mentions her to Rei. Speaking from experience, stuff like that happens (a character invading scenes important to other characters even though not present themselves) when an author is preoccupied with something.

And the narrative falling apart because a scene contradicts your preferred, "clean" interpretation is just hyperbole. It's not the narrative which falls apart, but one interpretation of the narrative. Or part of it. Nobody is arguing that Rei or Kaworu didn't get the happy ending they were portrayed to be getting; nobody is arguing that Shinji didn't get his good ending either, or that Anno did in fact not get to say goodbye to Eva. We should also consider that maybe it wasn't the scene which was poorly done, but that maybe Shinji is bad at communicating, and handled Asuka poorly. Which would look exactly the same, and doesn't rely on the author (with the aid of a quite extensive team) simply making a mistake. For example, Wille proclaims that they're doing what they do without Divine Help; while sitting in a ship of the gods, ordering two other gods to go two battle in two clones of the gods. Yeah, right, no divine help. Is that Anno simply taking a big sip of the idiot koolaid, or is he making a comment on human hubris, in the context of his ongoing thematic exploration of technology and its effect on humanity?

I guess I should also clarify something with regards to "the work speaking back to the author". You are of course right: a work can not actually talk (it does exist, though), but it does reflect back the thoughts of the author. Again, speaking from experience, writing a story is just as much exploring yourself as it is exploring the characters. Cognitive dissonance arises when you want the story to go one direction, but the story itself, which is of course also part of you, wants to go somewhere else. It's the battle between what you want and what you know is most likely/true. So the struggle is of course not between author and work, but an internal struggle of the author. Which brings us back to the need to "shut up" Asuka and rob her of agency: you suppress one part of yourself which disagrees to get to the outcome you wish for. This happens quite a lot in writing: every scene which gets cut because it doesn't fit into the direction the author wants to go in, while still being entirely consistent with characterization, is an example of this.

What does it mean? What does it add to the film's themes or the series' themes as a whole?

It brings in some much needed ambivalence. Not every goodbye is happy - saying goodbye isn't always easy. Anno spent half his adult life doing Eva. Mixed feelings arising and expressing themselves in the work are really not unexpected. There are no perfect solutions, and a shade of darkness or bitterness to mellow out the rampant sweetness of the ending is, I think, much preferrable to an ending that uncritically gives Gendo a happy ending. A Gendo who is much more monstrous than his NGE incarnation ever was. If that doesn't make you at least a little wary that maybe not everything is as happy as it seems, I really can't think of a stronger tell. Maybe the seeming love-song to modern day Japanese society, which got a rather ambivalent treatment in for example Shin Godzilla.

Regarding "darker interpretations make no sense": Who determined that? We're not dealing with "what it's supposed to be" (again: who determined that?) but with "what it is". And who says the ending isn't happy, just because it (maybe?) wasn't a happy ending for Asuka? Wouldn't that at best make it bittersweet? And if it was supposed to be a happy ending, but it didn't turn out to be one, it's still not a happy ending, no matter what the author intended.

TL;DR-there's no point in consistently assuming that NTE is a fully organized work in which everything conveys exactly what it's meant to convey and which has no inner contradictions, especially when such assumptions lead to perspectives that are out of order in regards to the logical deductions.

If your logical deductions stand in opposition to the work, it's your logic which is faulty, not the work. The logical continuation of your argument is that we assume that the work is not consistent to begin with, and ignore everything which does not fit our preferred deduction. (Which in my case would mean that I completely ignore all the signs that Asuka still has positive feelings for Shinji, for example; but I can't, because the work portrays it otherwise, as painful as that is to accept.) It's just a non-starter for analysis, same as the tried and true "but it might also just not mean anything" type of argument. It's also self-defeating from your side of the argument, because if a scene doesn't convey what it's meant to convey, this also means that a scene which conveys happiness was originally meant to convey ambiguity, or dread, or whatever else you want to read into it, which brings us right back to the starting point.

@Axx°N N.: I really don't know what to say to the meta-stuff, because it's all incredibly nebulous to me, but I don't think it's even needed. You can look at the work as is and come to the same conclusions regarding the ending. The "I don't want to rely on rumor, but let me rely on rumor" bit made me chuckle a little, though. ;)

Anyway, this thread was supposed to explore Asuka's and Shinji's relationship in NTE, so I guess I could try to bring it back to topic by restating my stance: their relationship was never as close as it was in NGE, and Asuka's core conflict doesn't revolve around Shinji in the form of the hedgehogs dilemma. Neither is Asuka important to Shinji's journey: she's, for him, at best a mistake he has to fix to move on himself, and he's got no problem saying goodbye to her, either. Why would he like her? We never got the scene where he admires her determination and ferocity; he was solely fixed on Rei, until she got boring because she wasn't his any longer, and was then just waiting for Mari, because he likes being a good puppy to his Mommy. He doesn't even thank Asuka for feeding him and making him snap out of his stupor, giving Rei all the credit instead. (Asuka, funnily enough, doesn't object. I guess she has learned to not expect anything of the idiot at that point).

Asuka meanwhile was initially interested because Shinji called out her name in battle, then chose piloting over the Dinner Party, and thus the "love triangle contest" Rei had planned (she calls Misato in the dead of night, after she learns when the test will take place), and reinforces her decision by sending Rei to him. No "Oh, you're looking for the brat? Back off, he's mine, Original Batch!", no grumpyness after Rei is gone either, no bitter "Why do I keep losing to that doll?!" That she's still not over him completely is somewhat baffling, but for one, love and hate aren't opposites, and other than that, he's probably the only boy she ever interacted with, since she was doing her Battle Royale for her early life and was then in containment for her later life, with Kensuke being a very platonic relationship. Leaving maybe two years or so where she had a normal life, at (presumably) (physical) age 13-14, which would be the time where she starts being intersested in boys. But not as interested as she is in piloting.
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Re: Comprehensive and in-depth analysis of Asuka and Shinji relationship in 3.0+1.0 and implications for the ending

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Postby Zer0_Stars_DS » Sat Nov 27, 2021 6:59 pm

I'm not going to pretend that they did a perfect job of portraying their relationship, but we can't just ignore the evidence that we were given especially everything that he just explained to us. It's not implausible. Asuka was already important to Shinji ever since 2.0 and he was always in the back of Asuka's mind as evidenced by the EVA EX manga. Besides, the movies were very fast paced so we just have keep up with them in how they portray the characters' emotions.
View Original PostDerantor wrote:If Kensuke actually is a mouthpiece for Shinji, then the whole scene is far from wholesome. He's highjacking Asuka's imagined father figure to push her into a certain direction, while she is emotionally extremely vulnerable and not aware of what's going on. "Asuka is Asuka" is mirroring something he said to Rei: "Ayanami is Ayanami" - a statement making it clear that he does not see Rei6 as a person in her own right, but can only think of her in terms of his preferred version: Rei2. That's why he doesn't give her a name, either. The only Rei in his mind is his Rei. And lo and behold, Rei6, the Childlike Empress, is not given a new name, and thus has to die. It's a fundamental misunderstanding on Shinji's part, which shines a light on a misunderstanding in the meta-sense: Shikinami is not Soryu; thus, Shinji/Shikinami is not the same relationship as Shinji/Soryu. Shinji and Soryu were opposite sides of the same coin - two people who form a complete person. That's why their relationship is central to NGE/EoE. Shikinami is not NTE!Shinji's other side. She is far more like him than Soryu ever was, and where they start in roughly the same position, she ends up in a completely different place than Soryu and NTE!Shinji. She grows up and matures on her own, and Shinji does the same. They do not need each other to complement each other. That's why Shinji ends up with Mari in the end. [...]

Now you're just disregarding blatant evidence just because it's not something you like? Come on, have something of substance to say please

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Re: Comprehensive and in-depth analysis of Asuka and Shinji relationship in 3.0+1.0 and implications for the ending

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Postby The18°angel » Sat Nov 27, 2021 7:55 pm

well what happens is that the manga titled 120 minutes before Q was not released in the original release of eva 3.0 + 1.0 which was in March and the manga was only mentioned and released in the international premiere of 3.0 + 1.01. At that point, Khara already had a reaction from the fans to the original film and taking into account how the staff who worked on the film have changed their opinions between interviews until now and the fact that the twitter of the deleted scene where Asuka was Complaint of not being able to have sex in addition to being immortal and not being able to eat was deleted. it certainly gives the impression that they printed that manga as part of a damage control effort. Also if the manga is canon then Asuka's behavior is completely erratic and makes no sense in 3.0 (let's be honest the movie basically forces everything in the first half hour so that everything can happen) because one thing is that Asuka is angry with him and still have feelings but 3.0 did nothing to show them on screen and Asuka was willing to abandon Shinji in the desert before reconsidering and looking for him again. those actions not congruent with someone who continues to "love" Shinji.

and then there is Shinji. I can see why Asuka would fall in love with Shinji but I can't see how Shinji would fall in love with Asuka. In real time they do not interact much, maximum 2 months and the whole relationship between the two can be summed up to the scene where Asuka enters her room after the battle against the angel ... and that's it. Also in the movie Shinji is only actively concerned about Rei and doing things for her without being ordered to do so or because he has to cook for her because she lives with him.

In the anime it is obvious to see how Shinji and Asuka fell in love (if it can be called that) because they fought together, trained together, saved and protected each other at least until episode 15.

in NTE everything is reduced to an angel and a talk in a bed.

For the relationship of both to make sense in rebuild you have to project soryu into shikinami (although they are completely different characters that only share a part of their name) and her relationship with Shinji.

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Re: Comprehensive and in-depth analysis of Asuka and Shinji relationship in 3.0+1.0 and implications for the ending

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Postby Konja7 » Sat Nov 27, 2021 8:16 pm

View Original PostThe18°angel wrote:well what happens is that the manga titled 120 minutes before Q was not released in the original release of eva 3.0 + 1.0 which was in March and the manga was only mentioned and released in the international premiere of 3.0 + 1.01. At that point, Khara already had a reaction from the fans to the original film and taking into account how the staff who worked on the film have changed their opinions between interviews until now and the fact that the twitter of the deleted scene where Asuka was Complaint of not being able to have sex in addition to being immortal and not being able to eat was deleted. it certainly gives the impression that they printed that manga as part of a damage control effort. Also if the manga is canon then Asuka's behavior is completely erratic and makes no sense in 3.0 (let's be honest the movie basically forces everything in the first half hour so that everything can happen) because one thing is that Asuka is angry with him and still have feelings but 3.0 did nothing to show them on screen and Asuka was willing to abandon Shinji in the desert before reconsidering and looking for him again. those actions not congruent with someone who continues to "love" Shinji.


To be fair, people assumed Asuka still loved Shinji even before 3.0+1.0. Her behavior to Shinji in 3.0 is hostile, but that isn't so different from other characters like Misato (who still care for Shinji). At the end of 3.0, it's implied that Asuka still care about Shinji when she decided to not abandon Shinji in the desert.

Even if you ignore Q-120, there are hints that Asuka still has romantic feelings for Shinji in 3.0+1.0 (like her blush in the Instrumentality).

The point is that she won't accept these feelings. In 3.0+1.0, even when Asuka confessed that she had romantic feelings for Shinji, she has decided to move on from these.

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Re: Comprehensive and in-depth analysis of Asuka and Shinji relationship in 3.0+1.0 and implications for the ending

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Postby Zer0_Stars_DS » Sun Nov 28, 2021 1:09 am

You said Shinji's answer to Asuka may not have been wholly correct. How might he have been wrong?

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Re: Comprehensive and in-depth analysis of Asuka and Shinji relationship in 3.0+1.0 and implications for the ending

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Postby Derantor » Sun Nov 28, 2021 3:36 am

View Original PostZer0_Stars_DS wrote:Now you're just disregarding blatant evidence just because it's not something you like? Come on, have something of substance to say please

:rolleyes: Right back at you. I said I ignore Q-120 because it tells us nothing we didn't already know. Which is the opposite of ignoring evidence, really. It's pointing out that the evidence was there long before the Manga was released (as Konja7 also pointed out). Try reading my (quite substantial) posts next time. I rate this effort of yours: zero stars.
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Re: Comprehensive and in-depth analysis of Asuka and Shinji relationship in 3.0+1.0 and implications for the ending

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Postby Zer0_Stars_DS » Sun Nov 28, 2021 3:21 pm

View Original PostDerantor wrote:I rate this effort of yours: zero stars.

<sigh> I prayed nobody would ever think of that one

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Re: Comprehensive and in-depth analysis of Asuka and Shinji relationship in 3.0+1.0 and implications for the ending

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Postby Zusuchan » Mon Nov 29, 2021 8:53 am

Axx°N N. wrote: I agree 100%, and that's more or less what I was arguing.

I see. It didn't come off to me that way which is why I started this conversation in the first place.
Derantor wrote:
And the narrative falling apart because a scene contradicts your preferred, "clean" interpretation is just hyperbole. It's not the narrative which falls apart, but one interpretation of the narrative.

Good that I never said that, then.
I'm not going to respond to the rest of your post because it's pointless-it's clear you've made up your mind that you're right and I'm wrong and I'm pretty sure we've had this discussion before to unsatisfactory results, so to argue further would be a waste of time, at least on my part. Putting my statement here was probably a mistake in the first place.

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Postby JoelcrNeto » Mon Nov 29, 2021 9:21 am

Calm down, everyone. I don’t like the tone of some posts I see in this thread. If this continues, the topic will be temporarily locked.
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Re: Comprehensive and in-depth analysis of Asuka and Shinji relationship in 3.0+1.0 and implications for the ending

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Postby Derantor » Mon Nov 29, 2021 6:34 pm

@Zer0_Stars_DS: Sorry for the snark - for maybe understandable reasons it rubs me the wrong way to be told that I'm not saying anything of substance.

@Zusuchan: I apologize for my aggressive tone, and for misrepresenting your position in that one instance. I will however not apologize for the rest of my post, because it's becoming incredibly tiresome that we can not talk about different interpretations of the movie without running into the same pointless discussion-stoppers every time. (That doesn't only apply to you; hence why my reply is public, too.) I'm not sure how you meant your statement that I concluded that I'm right and you're wrong. I disagree in the sense of me already having concluded which of our interpretations of the movie is correct; but I do agree in the sense that I've concluded that your approach to discussing the movies is unproductive, and that it was indeed a mistake to put your statement here, because your post boils down to "I have already determined what NTE is supposed to be, all attempts at finding some other interpretation are therefore pointless, and evidence pointing towards the opposite conclusion is to be dismissed as a mistake by the incompetent author & production team."

(Edit: I'm sorry if I phrased your position too strongly, but I really can not read it any differently. "Shin is supposed to be a happy ending, with no evidence pointing to the contrary (because I think that the evidence you presented isn't evidence, but simply the author being incompetent), therefore, darker interpretations make no sense." A-priori assumption meets arbitrary dismissal of a scene and ends up in a blanket refusal of certain types of interpretations. If I misread that, please point it out to me.)

From that starting point, it is indeed pointless to try and have a discussion.

Instead, we should focus on this:
"[W]hy? What does it mean? What does it add to the film's themes or the series' themes as a whole?"
Those are the questions we should be asking: showing curiosity, instead of stifling it at every turn.
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Re: Comprehensive and in-depth analysis of Asuka and Shinji relationship in 3.0+1.0 and implications for the ending

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Postby Konja7 » Mon Nov 29, 2021 9:52 pm

I don't think it's possible to ignore the author's intentions with our interpretations.

The Instrumentality tries to portray Shinji as someone who has overcome his selfishness. So, he tries to give others what they want.

Asuka's Instrumentality focus mainly on her past and loneliness (and how she find a family with Kensuke). I guess they find unnecessary to focus on the Eva "curse", since the movie has already focused on how much Asuka hates this.

That's why Asuka returns to Earth with a human adult body. And she is the only character we could confirm that returned to Eva Earth.

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Re: Comprehensive and in-depth analysis of Asuka and Shinji relationship in 3.0+1.0 and implications for the ending

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Postby Zusuchan » Wed Dec 01, 2021 12:35 pm

Derantor:

I accept your apology. I guess I should try to explain myself-it's not that I have "already determined" what NTE is, but based on what I think of and can glean from it, I don't understand how your interpretation makes sense. In my view, NTE is a story, at its base, about a selfish escapist who has to learn how to cope and grapple with reality and ultimately becomes a better person and the series also mirrors Anno's own attempts to grapple with Eva's legacy and break himself (and the audience) free from its grasp, hence the abstract meta ending. And its message is positive because as I see, that's the intention-besides from the fuckery with Asuka, everything comes across as unambiguously positive and I don't see how ending this series in a darker fashion would enhance its themes, if it's really supposed to be a story about getting better that also follows a story about getting better (which NGE and even EoE, with its more pessimistic view on what people are capable of if they wish to reject reality and genuine connections, ultimately are). If I thought that NTE's message wasn't that, was more unclear, mayhaps ironic or subtly dark, then I wouldn't consider the scene with Asuka a mistake (and mistakes do happen, no piece of art is entirely devoid of them no matter how close to perfect they may be) and instead engage with it as if everything about it was completely intended and try to understand what it and its inclusion means. But I don't think that and so I won't engage with your interpretation as if it's truth or potentially valid, because I don't see it as either.

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Re: Comprehensive and in-depth analysis of Asuka and Shinji relationship in 3.0+1.0 and implications for the ending

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Postby Derantor » Wed Dec 01, 2021 12:59 pm

:shrug: I guess that's that, then. Very disappointing to see that I didn't misjudge your position afterall.
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Re: Comprehensive and in-depth analysis of Asuka and Shinji relationship in 3.0+1.0 and implications for the ending

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Postby Zer0_Stars_DS » Thu Dec 02, 2021 6:18 pm

Thanks for this really well made post Meldon really. You made me believe that there was still hope. That the bond that these two share was still valid. But even as someone who share your feelings and beliefs, I have to admit that you’re probably just seeing something that isn’t there. NTE just doesn’t have that message. I wish it did but it doesn’t. Thanks for fighting for us anyway. Even if it was all for naught. We still have NGE and EoE to hold on to. And we’re going to need to hold on tight
Last edited by Zer0_Stars_DS on Thu Dec 02, 2021 6:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Comprehensive and in-depth analysis of Asuka and Shinji relationship in 3.0+1.0 and implications for the ending

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Postby Axx°N N. » Thu Dec 02, 2021 6:39 pm

View Original PostZusuchan wrote:...Anno's own attempts to grapple with Eva's legacy and break himself (and the audience) free from its grasp.

See, that's the thing though, the supposed grasp of Eva can't possibly be the same for Anno as it is for the most homogenous of audiences. That's why I don't think a reading is any more accurate for NTE's treatment of Asuka than the metatextual one. NTE doesn't meet its audience at the middle and do the work of making Asuka mean the same thing for the audience as she does for Shinji. I think the only person in those moments of interaction who wants Asuka to be resolved in that way is Anno, for the sake of NTE's diverging themes and plot points to make sense. Which has far less of an effect as an Asuka who has enough agency to confront Shinji and in doing so, the audience.
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Re: Comprehensive and in-depth analysis of Asuka and Shinji relationship in 3.0+1.0 and implications for the ending

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Postby nerv bae » Sat Dec 04, 2021 10:47 pm

Regarding whether Asuka consents to her fate in instrumentality, and all the implications that has on the tone of the movie as has been discussed here for the last week and a half, I think it is helpful to review her dialogue which I've just transcribed from the Prime subtitles:

I don't know Daddy...
Mommy isn't around...
That's why...
You don't need anyone Asuka.
I'm gonna make it so.
Or it'd be too painful.
Living is painful.
So I pilot my Eva.
People might hate me or diss me.
It doesn't matter,
as long as I can pilot my Eva.
After all, that's all I'm worth.
I'll make my body and heart strong so I don't need anyone.
So...
praise me.
Recognize me.
Give me a place where I can be.
I'm actually lonely.
I just want...
someone to pat me on my head.

The Reichu translation is a bit different, but in my opinion not so different that it matters to this issue.

I interpret this dialogue as having two parts, the second of which I've put in bold. In the first part, Asuka is reminiscing about why she grew her tough exterior, but in the second part she is directly appealing to Shinji, God of instrumentality, to give her a normal life, even a parent. (It's during the second part that Asuka watches baby Shinji with his own parents.) In the spirit of @Zusuchan's point about messiness, it's not really clear that I should interpret Asuka's dialogue in this way, but it seems sensible to me.

@Derantor, @Axx°N N., do you agree with this interpretation? If so, does it dissolve your concerns about consent and autonomy?

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Re: Comprehensive and in-depth analysis of Asuka and Shinji relationship in 3.0+1.0 and implications for the ending

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Postby Derantor » Sun Dec 05, 2021 11:31 am

@Nerv Bae: No, it doesn't change my mind - I of course took what she says into account when coming up with my interpretation. I'll try to explain my reasoning.

For one, the issue of Shinji not getting consent is something that's not impacted by something Asuka says - it's Shinji who has to ask her for it. Even if it's nonverbal; they have to interact in some way (e.g: a handshake, like Rei and Shinji, or even just an unambiguous smile or something - eye-contact, whatever), to make it clear that they are on the same page and that simply doesn't happen in the movie.

As for what Asuka's saying here: notice how she's regressing to an almost childlike state (quite literally, she's portrayed as a child). Her requests are similarly childish, betraying a lot of vulnerability: "Praise me! Recognize me! I'm lonely! Somebody pat me on my head!" (I left the "place where I can be/belong" part out for a reason, I'll get to it in a bit.) Notice how her most important request (which is why it stands last) is the pat on the head: a gesture both of recognition and comfort: "Job well done, Asuka: I see you and what you did, and you did well!" Bookends nicely with what she says at the start: "Praise me/Recognize me!" It's a desperate plea for recognition while she's crying. She's very broken at that moment. She resisted all the hardships up to this point, but now she can't any longer.

In other words, she's not expressing a well thought-through, rational perspective here - she's expressing her in-the-moment feelings, of loneliness and not belonging, and wants somebody else to coddle her. Like you would: I'm sure we all had moments of vulnerability where all we wanted was a hug. Maybe it was during childhood: school was stressful, and we really didn't know how to pass an upcoming test, and we didn't want to do it, and we started crying and ran to mommy and wanted her to shield us from reality. And then mommy would hug us and tell us that it's all-right and make us get our grip. But importantly, she then would send us to school anyway, and we still had to do the dreaded test. (If you can think of an example from your adult life, please do so - this is but an example.) The point is, everybody has moments of vulnerability, where we think thoughts which we shouldn't and usually won't act upon - wishes that shouldn't be granted. Wishing for a hug is innocent enough - wishing for nothing but a hug for the rest of our life just arrests our development completely, but we do have these kind of wishes when we are in a bad place.

Another example from Eva is Shinji in EoE: we see how he deteriorates and regresses, culminating in his wish to just end it all and let everybody die. Everybody who was an angry teenager (so, all of us) probably thought "I wish everybody should die" at one point in their life. But I think all of us, upon reflection, don't actually believe that everybody should die, and if somebody asked us: "I can make your wish come true - do you want to kill everybody?" we probably would have said no, even in our dark moments. The tragedy of EoE is that Rei acts upon Shinji's impulsive thoughts without reflection, and without making him reflect by asking him if that's truly what he wants, and explaining to him that it actually will happen, so that he can make an informed choice, kowing the consequences of his decision. Random thoughts we have, like "I just want a hug", or "I wish that idiot would be hit by a truck" are just that: impulsive thoughts. They don't actually express our true opinion. We might read something stupid on the internet and think "God, just kill me right now" - that doesn't mean we consent to dying, and if a god did exist who would grant that wish without any further questions asked, it would be a cruel god indeed.

That were a lot of words repeating the same thing over and over again; sorry for being so wordy, but I hope I managed to get the point across:
Shinji is not behaving in any way maturely or compassionately if he's granting Asuka's impulsive wishes or acting on her unreflected impulses. Impulses which he only got to see because he's reading her mind - possibly without her knowledge and/or consent.


Now, for the part I left out, the "place where I can be." (Notice that "A place where I can be" is even more ambiguous than "A place where I can belong": it could be "A place where I can exist" or "A place where I can be myself", etc.) The wish seems straightforward enough, but it really depends on our initial assumptions what it means in practice. For example, let's think of Person A: Person A is, in all respects, completely normal. They're heterosexual, of middling intellect, and their opions and morals fall right in the middle of the mainstream of the society they live in. They are unexceptional in every way, and don't aspire to be anything else. They are not especially introverted or extroverted either. For them, "a place where I can be" would be a place where they can express these qualities without any issue, and a place where they feel left out/isolated is a place where they are in fact not the norm.

Now, let's think of person B: Person B is bisexual and on the spectrum. They have trouble communicating and expressing their feelings. They also live in a conformist society which thinks that sexual orientations other than heterosexual are unnatural, and which flat out denies the value of people who are neurodivergent: those people are just cursed by the devil and should be shunned/exterminated/"corrected". For Person B, "a place where I can be" is a place where they are accepted and treated as a valuable person despite not conforming to what is considered "normal" by the majority.

Both people want a place where they can belong. But: Person A wants a place which caters to the majority, while Person B wants a place which is accepting of minorities. Or in other words: Person A wants to fit in, while Person B wants to be themselves. The point is: just because Asuka says "I want a place to belong", we don't know whether she wishes to be like everybody else or wishes to be able to be herself. "She is directly appealing to Shinji, God of instrumentality, to give her a normal life" does not logically follow from "I want a place to belong".

Of course Asuka wants to have parental figures: somebody who she can trust and rely upon; of course she wants to be accepted, and of course she wants to be recognized and cared for. That's universal, and applies the same for both for Person A and B. Those are not distinguishing criteria. That's why we have to be mindful of the fact that we always insert our own biases into the character: the default assumption is that they're just like us and have the same wishes we do. Since Asuka doesn't tell us what she wants beyond the basics directly, we have to look elsewhere to figure out whether she leans more towards the Person A or Person B type. That's why I brought up that she's consistently shown at peace and happy when inside her Eva, despite the horrible things she went through which supposedly make her hate piloting and spawn a wish to be normal. If that's the case, she doesn't act like it: she self-seggregates and otherizes the Lilin; she even gets angry when Mari points out to her that her hair is "proof that she's human" - she flashes her Angel eye in anger, just like she did when she watched Shinji run away in Q.

We can of course argue whether or not that's all an act, but then we have to ask: if she is indeed normal and wants to be normal, why pretend that that's not the case? Nobody is watching her when she's inside Unit 02 during Q's Wunder launch sequence; why pretend to be overjoyed that she gets to pilot again if she doesn't actually feel that way? Who's she trying to fool? Misato? She's never shown hiding her negative emotions: she's got no trouble accusing Misato of not caring about people: "A single life isn't worth much, right?" Or is she trying to fool herself? But if that's the case, why is she not holding back on voicing her unhappiness everywhere else? She's not pretending to like her body, or her circumstances, or the Curse of the Eva. She explains to Rei how the pilots are the same as the Evas, and were limited at their point of creation; she's fully aware of that. She even goes to Shinji and tells him her honest feelings. In other words, she's not lying to herself either. And even if she is: why put on an act when nobody is watching, for example during the Wunder launch? Why is she shown smiling when Kensuke and her talk about the Wunder picking her up, instead of being unhappy about being forced to do something she hates once more? Why is she shown staring longingly into the sky, waiting for Wunder, when piloting and Eva and not being able to lead a normal life is the source of her unhappiness, and a normal life is right around the corner in the village? The village is shown to completely accept Rei; Mari is viewing her as a human, too. So if she's lonely, and if she's just a human, why reject those offers? It really does not make sense: Asuka is normal, wants to be normal, and is given the opportunity to be normal, but rejects that opportunity because ... ? Because she wants to ... punish herself? Hates herself? Likes to make things extra hard for herself? That requires a lot of mental gymnastics ...

People like to bring up Occam's Razor in these occasions: when faced with competing explanations, the one requiring the least assumptions is probably true. It's often misconstrued as "the simpler explanation is the correct one", implying that the simpler an explanation, the more true it is, when the most likely explanation is in fact the one which is the least complex while still being complex enough to take everything into account. In this instance, a lot of the contradictions simply vanish if we question our initial assumption that Asuka is, indeed, normal. Then we don't have to make additional assumptions like "Asuka is lying to herself", or "Asuka wants to punish herself", etc. So my conclusion is that Asuka is not normal and doesn't especially want to be normal, either: she wants to be able to be herself. Her struggle is not that she's normal but can't lead a normal life; her struggle is that she's not normal but can't live true to herself. She hates her body because she knows it was limited to human form at the point of creation. She hates the Curse of the Eva because it limits her human form even further. She gets angry at Mari when she says that there's unequivocal proof that she's human, because she knows that's simply not true: Asuka knows she's not a Lilin, she doesn't want to be one either, and she hates it that people will only accept her if she pretends to be something she isn't. Mari fundamentally misunderstands this, which is why she's so shocked when Asuka "throws away her humanity" so willingly: contrary to what Mari believed, it was never something Asuka valued highly in the first place.

(Edit: And yes, even non-humans want parents and friends and love and a sense of belonging; her wanting so see her Mama and Papa and getting hugs and head-pats can't be used as proof that she wants to be a Lilin. Evas are people, too. Think of Rei and Kaworu, who are definitely Angels.)


Since I'm writing up a Ted-Talk anyway, I hope that it becomes clear at this point why Shinji's choice to remove Eva from existence can be seen two ways. Apologies for making a somewhat tasteless comparison, but look at it this way: if Asuka does indeed lean towards being a Type B Person, and is in fact comparable to an Eva herself, then "Removing all the Evas" isn't any different from "Removing all the Gays": It's the old struggle between diversity and conformity. "You'd be much happier if you were just normal, like the rest of us. Then you'd fit in much better! So let's just pray your gay away!" Or in other words: "As long as you are the same as us, you can be yourself!" The thematic relevance to Eva is pretty obvious, too, I think, given how Anno always struggled with being an Otaku, and agonized over the struggle between mainstream and subculture. Remember all those interviews where he said he was ashamed to be in the Anime industry? It's the same thing: he was faced with the choice of either conforming to society and fitting in that way, or staying true to himself and suffering for it, because he didn't fit in. Of course, these interviews were long ago, and his point of view seems to have shifted somewhat in Shin. He's made peace with his Otaku side and Eva, has given up on trying to change hardcore Otaku, and has become "more normal" (he's got married, he's matured, etc), which is why we get Shinji, his self insert, in a salaryman outfit, the epitome of what's considered normal and desirable in current Japanese society, which leans heavily towards conformity in favour of individuality. Given his other recent output, I doubt he's unambiguously endorsing normalcy, which is why I don't view his stance as clear-cut. There's an inherent ambivalence to Shin's ending, and understanding Asuka's role as an outsider, as somebody who refuses to conform, is instrumental to understanding that. Society isn't a matter of absolute right or wrong, it's a matter of negotiation, and one measure of a modern society is how it treats minorities vs the majority; ingroup vs. outgroup, all that jazz. Conformity vs Individualism, exclusivity vs inclusivity, live and let live vs imposing values and morals on everybody ... Anyway, I think it would be strange for Anno to not comment on that, in favour of giving us a completely unambiguously happy ending to his Magnum Opus without any further thought.
Last edited by Derantor on Sun Dec 05, 2021 1:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Comprehensive and in-depth analysis of Asuka and Shinji relationship in 3.0+1.0 and implications for the ending

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Postby nerv bae » Sun Dec 05, 2021 1:11 pm

@Derantor, thank you for the thoughtful reply. My initial response is just about consent, and mind-reading:

View Original PostDerantor wrote:For one, the issue of Shinji not getting consent is something that's not impacted by something Asuka says - it's Shinji who has to ask her for it. Even if it's nonverbal; they have to interact in some way (e.g: a handshake, like Rei and Shinji, or even just an unambiguous smile or something - eye-contact, whatever), to make it clear that they are on the same page and that simply doesn't happen in the movie.

If you are saying that two people cannot establish consent about something by talking to each other, then I can't agree with you. In that case I think yours would be a strange definition of consent. But maybe that is not what you mean:

View Original PostDerantor wrote:Impulses which he only got to see because he's reading her mind - possibly without her knowledge and/or consent.

Sorry if I was not clear in my previous post transcribing Asuka's instrumentality dialogue above, but I am making the assumption that Asuka is knowingly talking directly to Shinji. In other words, I am construing Asuka's words as not involving any mind-reading by Shinji. Instead, Asuka is aware that she's in instrumentality and knows that she is talking to Shinji. Rei, Kaworu, and Mari knowingly have conversations with Shinji in instrumentality, so Asuka should be able to also. And as I write this post, I cannot remember whether there is any unknowing or unconsented mind-reading in instrumentality, besides that which you identify in Asuka's dialogue. (If there is, please remind me!)

Setting aside for a moment whether Asuka is speaking in a childlike state, or impulsively: do Asuka and Shiji at least achieve consent if they are having a real conversation in her instrumentality dialogue?

There is plenty more to respond to in your post, which I will try to do after I have more time to digest!

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Re: Comprehensive and in-depth analysis of Asuka and Shinji relationship in 3.0+1.0 and implications for the ending

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Postby Derantor » Sun Dec 05, 2021 1:35 pm

View Original Postnerv bae wrote:If you are saying that two people cannot establish consent about something by talking to each other [...]

No, sorry if that was unclear: I'm saying that they are not talking to each other, and are not establishing common ground or consent, either verbally or non-verbally.

Regarding the mind-reading: there are two stages to Asuka's Instrumentality scenes. In the first part, we are seeing Asuka's backstory, and what I assume to be her internal monologue. She is talking to herself about herself. The second stage is the Beach Scene, which opens with Asuka asking two questions: "Was I asleep?" and "Baka Shinji?" Those lead me to believe that she not aware of either being inside Instrumentality or Shinji's presence before that point - otherwise she wouldn't be surprised by his presence, or feel the need to confirm that it's actually him. From that point onwards, and for the rest of the Beach Scene, she is of course directly talking to Shinji. It's in this part where they could of course establish consent for what's to happen next. But they don't, because they don't actually talk. All we get from Asuka is a blush and her turning away, hiding her partial nudity from Shinji, and a somewhat pained smile which isn't a clear sign either way, and imo insufficient to establish consent. So while they're able to have a conversation in theory, they don't have one in actuality. At that point, the mind-reading already happened, so Asuka could only retroactively voice her opinion on that, which she doesn't, either.

Edit: It's also not clear if Asuka was aware of what that place she woke up in was at any point: there's no absolute proof that she has any knowledge about anything which happens after her "death". She possibly doesn't know that they entered Negative Space, that Shinji is using the Spears to rewrite reality, etc.. There is a chance that she was actually doing the fighting on Gendo's behalf during the duel between Units 13 and 01, however, even then, we don't have any proof either way of how she sees the situation: whether she believes it to be reality or a dream, or at which point she's viewing it each way. If we assume that she was indeed controlling Unit 13, she might have been aware of Gendo's intentions, and might have seen the Spear Misato creates enter Negative Space, but since she thought she was asleep in the Beach Scene, there has to be a point where she was no longer aware of what was happening, or couldn't tell dream and reality apart.

And you are right, of course: Rei and Kaworu do indeed talk to Shinji and reach an agreement: Kaworu says to Kaji that plowing the fields with Misato would be nice indeed, and Rei shakes Shinji's hand before vanishing from the scene. It is clear that there's no disagreement about proceedings there.

Looking forward to the rest of your comments!
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