When I first got into Evangelion (which was YEARS ago), I had heard from fans that Shinji was a whiny, wimpy emo kid with serious daddy issues. I braced myself and watched the series, preparing to at best tolerate him, and what did I find? A realistic, relatable main character who’s actually very strong (if not in the conventional sense), and someone that I just want to give a hug.
So, here’s my defense of him…
Firstly, I can’t stand it when people accuse Shinji of being “emo”. He has legitimate reasons for being upset. To elaborate on a few of the things he had to put up with:
-His own Evangelion mauled a kid while on autopilot, and he didn’t know that kid was his friend Toji until it was too late.
-He found out that Rei was just an expendable clone, and saw her sacrifice herself for him.
-He was forced to kill the only person to ever say “I love you” to him.
-He lost Asuka to a coma, and later saw her get mauled by the MP Evas.
Are those not good enough reasons for a fourteen year old to be upset, haters? (and since this is Eva we’re talking about, “upset” is a bold understatement)
Secondly, the most common complaint about Shinji is that he’s a “wimp”. Yes, he does run away from his problems, but keep in mind how much stress he has to put up with, and after all, don’t we all run away at some point in our lives?
Yes, he did refuse to pilot Unit 01 at first, but in my opinion, he was just asserting himself (and he did have a point in saying that he had no idea how to pilot the thing). And, to be honest, he would’ve been a dick if seeing how badly injured Rei was wasn’t enough to sway him.
Then, in Episode 18, he refused to attack Unit 03 because there was a kid in there – an action I interpret as a strong moral stance against killing people. Cue the fandom calling him a wuss for not being a man and going out to fight. Then, after Gendo cut off Shinji’s control of Unit 01 and put the mecha on auto-pilot, resulting in Toji getting critically injured, it was little wonder Shinji never wanted to pilot an Eva again. Yet still, the fandom accuses him of being a wuss.
Oh, and he definitely isn’t a wuss with all the hell he managed to cope with. It’s actually pretty impressive that it took him until End of Evangelion to snap. If I was in his position, I’d probably be a nervous, gibbering wreck by Episode 6.
Another point I’d like to make is that a large portion of Shinji’s hatedom complains about him not being a typical mecha protagonist. It really annoys me to see them all “Man, if I could pilot an Evangelion, I’d kick all the Angel’s asses, and I’d be banging Rei, Asuka and Misato by the end of day one”. Don’t mean to burst your bubble, mecha fans, but Evangelion isn’t that kind of series. It’s the kind of series that shows the ugly side of mecha, so of course the main protagonist won’t be a super manly macho man. Want ultra badass manly men kicking ass in their kickass mechas? Gurren Lagann and GaoGaiGar are that-a-way.
*Goes back to reading Kawoshin*