Shinji Ikari is the only son of Gendo and Yui Ikari, born in 2001 in a world barely recovering from an apocalyptic event called Second Impact. When he was still very young, Shinji witnessed his mother’s disappearance in a contact experiment with Evangelion Unit 01. Shinji’s father abandoned him after this, leaving him in the care of an uncle but with enough money to look after Shinji. This had the result of turning Shinji into a quiet and reclusive child, having essentially no self-esteem and avoiding any form of confrontation with people.
Hideaki Anno created Shinji for the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion with Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, Sadamoto’s manga was based on and intended to publicise the TV series. Initially Anno had created a female main character for the series; Sadamoto has compared this character to Asuka Langley Soryu. Feeling that the a wish for change from earlier anime the pair had worked on, Sadamoto suggested making the main character a boy. This character would become Shinji.
The character’s design, as noted by Sadamoto, is almost identical to that of a character from one of Anno’s earlier works, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water. The only major difference is a more boy-ish haircut for Shinji. Sadamoto has also described the relationship between Asuka and Shinji as similar to that of Nadia and Jean, another character in Nadia.
Anno has said in interviews that Shinji was named after a friend of his; Shinji Higuchi, co-founder of the GAINAX studio that produced the anime series. Shinji’s last name, like most of the characters in the series, is named after a nautical term – in this case ‘Ikari’, which is Japanese for ‘anchor’. Anno also admits that the name ‘Ikari’ is borrowed from a friend of his.
Major Story Arcs
Shinji first appears trying to get into Tokyo-3, but the city is in a lock-down due to the attack of an Angel. He is rescued by Misato Katsuragi and taken to NERV headquarters, but manages to witness an attempted use of Unit 01 to defeat the angel. After getting lost in NERV with Misato, Ritsuko Akagi finds the pair and leads them to the cage where Unit 01 is being held after the unsuccessful attack. There he meets his father again, who tells him that he has to pilot the Eva. After telling his father that he can’t pilot it he is told to leave, but changes his mind when he sees the poor condition that Rei, the other pilot, is in.
He has some difficulty with the controls of the Evangelion to start with, but manages to get the hang of it quickly. After being attacked by the angel, however, Shinji loses control and soon after consciousness. For a moment he thinks that he’s died and even sees his mother, but she turns into a monster that horrifies him and reactivates the Eva as a berserker. The Eva, in this state, manages to defeat the angel.
Shinji is in hospital after the battle and is picked up by Misato, who explains to him his living arrangements. Misato makes a comment that causes Shinji to snap at her, and as a type of revenge he finds that the woman has arranged for him to live with her. While going to Misato’s house they stop to look at the Tokyo-3 skyline, reflecting that he did a good job.
Shonen and Knife
Shinji begins to settle into life in Tokyo-3, being enrolled in the same school as his co-pilot Rei. After it is revealed to the class that Shinji is an Eva pilot, Toji Suzuhara, whose sister was injured in the fight, decks Shinji to vent off his anger.
After coming home Shinji finds a journal labelled ‘Third Child Supervision Record’. This sours his relationship with Misato, which comes to the forefront in his battle against the recently appeared Fourth Angel. He disobeys her orders so as to rescue Toji and Kensuke Aida, who have found a way out of the shelters and tried to witness the fight. Despite the weakened connection between himself and the Eva, Shinji manages to kill the angel.
He runs away after a debriefing and stumbles upon Kensuke in the hills, who is camping and playing war games. Shinji and Kensuke bond for a while, until Shinji is found by NERV’s security and taken back. When he returns he is told by Misato that if he doesn’t want to pilot he can leave, and Ritsuko tells him that Gendo was pleased with his efforts. Before he leaves Shinji meets with Misato and admits he couldn’t go back to his uncle’s place, deciding to stay in Tokyo-3, piloting , and living with her and Pen Pen.
Shinji is given an errand by Misato to deliver a new security pass to Rei, but when he goes to deliver it he stumbles upon her after she had just had a shower. He falls on top of her and freaks out but still manages to deliver the security card.
The Fifth Angel appears soon after the pair reach NERV’s headquarters and Shinji is deployed to defeat it. This amounts to nothing, as the Eva is hit by the angel’s particle beam weapon immediately after it is launched. Shinji is taken to ER to recover, and upon awakening is briefed on Operation Yashima by Rei.
During the operation Shinji is the gunner and tries to use the positron rifle to punch a hole through the angel’s AT Field. The angel manages to thwart the first shot by again using its particle beam weapon, but Shinji kills the angel with his second shot. With the angel dead Shinji rushes to rescue Rei, saving her in much the same way his father had earlier.
Asuka Comes to Japan
After watching recorded footage of Unit 02’s successful battle with an angel Shinji encounters the pilot, Asuka, while walking through the city with Toji and Kensuke. He is later introduced to her at NERV headquarters and is surprised when he meets Ryoji Kaji, the man who brought Asuka to , who knows his name and his battles so far.
After an unsuccessful encounter with the Seventh Angel he is forced to train alongside Asuka for the next week so that they can defeat the angel. The pair have to learn a dance choreography that will synchronise their movements and give them an extra advantage against the twin angels. The training goes poorly, but after a last-minute training session the night before the pair manage to pull off the attack perfectly.
Shinji learns that Asuka has moved in with Misato and himself after the battle, and that Misato has been promoted to a major. His friend Kensuke decides to hold a party in honour of these two events and Shinji finds himself enjoying the party. The following day Hikari Horaki asks him to deliver Rei’s homework to her, and talks to Rei over tea about his relationship with his father. He later visits his mother’s grave and learns that the grave is just for show from his father, who is also paying his respects.
His encounter with his father distracts him during the next angel attack, almost jeopardising the operation. After the successful attack NERV suffers a blackout and the three pilots (Rei, Shinji and Asuka) try to find their way to Central Dogma. He and Asuka search for Misato and Kaji upon learning they are missing, leading to an awkward encounter between the two pairs that causes Asuka great embarrassment.
Asuka insists that he see Kaji and explain things to him. Instead of discussing the situation with Kaji he walks in on Misato learning from Kaji of the white giant, Lilith, held in Terminal Dogma. Kaji takes Shinji to an aquarium the following day and explains the nature of SEELE, the organisation behind Gendo Ikari, to him, feeling Shinji has a right to know.
The Fourth Child
Shinji has a talk to Hikari at his school, learning that Hikari has feelings for his friend Toji. He explains this to Asuka, who pulls him and Hikari aside at school to formulate a plan on getting Hikari and Toji together.
Kensuke mentions to Shinji that Unit 03 is being transported to and, upon meeting with Toji later, realises that Toji has been chosen as the pilot. During the battle against an angel-possessed Unit 03 Shinji refuses to fight, fearing that he could kill his friend. His father, who is directing the operation, orders for the Dummy Plug to be used to kill the angel.
A Man's Battle
Shinji feels responsible for Toji’s death and is haunted by a dream of Hikari asking after Toji. When he awakes he is taken by Kaji to see Gendo, where he breaks down and quits NERV. By the time that the Ninth Angel attacks Shinji still hasn’t found a shelter, so Kaji grabs him and takes him into a place where they can talk in safety. After Kaji explains his circumstances to Shinji, he is convinced to pilot Unit 01 again.
He manages to push the angel, who had managed to enter NERV headquarters itself, back to the GeoFront. Shinji runs out of power for the Eva, however in his desperation Unit 01 reactivates with a 400% synch ratio. In this state he manages to kill the angel and digest the S2 organ.
Having achieved a 400% synch ratio, Shinji’s body is dissolved in the LCL but his soul still resides within the Eva. He lives through a surreal dream, confronting his mother who tries to convince him to stay with her in the Eva. His friends appear before him trying to convince him otherwise, but he feels he’s done enough and chooses to stay. After surreal and frightening experience, he sees another projection of his mother and Shinji decides to return to the real world.
The Fifth Child
Shinji has taken the past months off from school, knowing that he can’t face Kensuke and Hikari after killing Toji. He meets Kaworu, claiming to be the Fifth Child, who asks for directions to the school. When he realises Shinji doesn’t want to go there, he asks instead to be taken to NERV headquarters.
Once they reach headquarters it isn’t long before an angel attacks. Shinji’s surprised to find that he’s on standby and unable to help Asuka. As Asuka’s condition worsens he offers to go out in Unit 01, but is told that it would be too dangerous.
As Rei’s status worsens in the battle against the Eleventh Angel, Shinji is allowed to go out in Unit 01 to help Unit 00. He s shocked when the other Eva self-destructs, seemingly killing Rei. After the battle he stays with Kaworu at his place, afraid to face the reality of Rei’s death. Misato calls to tell him that Rei is alive and he returns to Misato’s apartment. Later he receives a call from Ritsuko, who he meets at NERV and reveals to him that Rei is the source of the Dummy Plug. He watches in horror as Ritsuko destroys the Rei clones present in the Dummy Plug plant.
A Fistful of Memories
Shinji is deployed against the final angel by his father. He initially thinks that Unit 02 is the target, but Misato informs him that it is really Kaworu Nagisa. Despite the fact that he hates Kaworu, Shinji can’t bring himself to fight him. After engaging in a fight with Unit 02, animated by Kaworu, the angel offers himself and asks Shinji to kill him. Shinji squeezes him to death with the Eva’s hands.
After the battle he and Misato leave their apartment and go to headquarters. Once there he leaves to see Asuka, still in her coma. While speaking to her she seems to awake, attempting to strangle him. He breaks down against the wall and cries outside after being led out by the medical staff.
Father and Son
During the invasion of NERV, Shinji finds himself caught by the invading forces and about to be killed when Gendo finds him and saves him. Gendo asks his son to join him, but Shinji is stunned and leaves with Misato when she arrives. With Misato he makes his way to Unit 01’s cage, but just as they manage to get to a lift Misato is shot. With her dying breath she orders him to save Asuka and choose his own path, pushing him into the lift. Upon his arrival in Unit 01’s cage he discovers that the Eva is frozen in bakalite. Understanding that his mother’s spirit resides in Unit 01, and taking charge, he orders Unit 01 to move.
Just as Unit 02 and Asuka appear to be defeated, Shinji joins the battle and manages to defeat the Mass Production Eva series. They are not dead, however, and rise again to continue the battle.
Shinji also appears in the anime series that the manga was based on. Shinji’s role in the anime is for the most part identical, however his relationship with Kaworu is shorter than it is in the manga. His role in the films is also a little different; although his depressive state is mostly similar, in the manga Shinji appears more active after Misato’s death than in the film ending.
The Rebuild of Evangelion series, a reimagining of the TV series, also has Shinji in a similar role. It does, however, attempt to explore his relationship with Rei Ayanami in greater detail, as well as his relationship with his father, in the second film prior to the Rebuild series version of the Unit 03 incident
Personality: Like every other character in the series Shinji has many cantradictions. He has a deep hatred of his father but desires his approval. He has great affection for both Misato and Asuka but is also afraid of receiving affection from them in return. He also has a great deal of repressed rage hidden underneath his placid and withdrawn nature. Shinji very compassionate but also very akward socially. Also just like many other characters in the series Shinji has a very fragile mental state. In the manga he covers his insecurities with anger and smart remarks, with his anger and hatred toward his father increasing as the series goes on.
Abilities: Breaking the mold of most mangas where the male lead is seen as stronger and more capable than most of the females around him Shinji is shown as being less capable and with fewer overall abilities than his female comrads. He is less scholastically achomplised than Asuka, less socially able than Misato and less stoci and levelheaded than Rei. The only substantial ability aside from piloting that he has displayed is being an accomplised Chello player and to a lesser extant cooking.