While some Neon Genesis Evangelion fans might not care much for Shinji the character does possess several redeeming qualities that make him great.
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The characters from Neon Genesis Evangelion are one of the reasons the anime show remains so popular with the three Eva pilots receiving the most attention. Of these three nobodys favorite is Shinji the quiet and passive Third Boy who pilots Unit 001.
In a world where the worlds most powerful robots were designed built piloted and maintained by women Shinji is one of the few main male characters. Other than that NERV has competent geniuses and Shinji as a new pilot isnt exactly the most interesting character compared to the others. However there are a lot of things I like about Shinji who gets a lot of flak just for being a normal guy in the middle of an apocalyptic nightmare.
reject the way
Shinji and the Eva Unit in Neon Genesis Evangelion The Heros Journey describes more than one type of path for the protagonist and Shinji originally takes the path of rejection by scolding his father and refusing to pilot the Eva. People often point this out as making Shinji less interesting but Evangelion isnt about the fantasy of big giant robots its about the reality which is horrible. How many viewers criticizing Shinji for refusing would actually get into that?
Also when confronted by a critically injured Rei riding in his place he relents and bravely pilots Eva 01. What follows is a mix of psychological trauma body horror and visceral gore along with the revelation that this show isnt exactly a conventional mecha anime.
the common man
Evangelion Shinji Ikari Shinji is easily one of the most relatable characters in what is a complex and often terrifying show. He is brilliantly portrayed as a normal kid using a phone in a train station when his life is turned upside down and his reactions are almost too human to be on TV.
Shinji is what the viewer might call an Everyman a character deliberately designed to connect more deeply with the audience. The viewer learns about the nature of the Evas at the same rate as Shinji and is meant to reflect his surprise and confusion with these revelations at the same time.
modest and brave
Shinji Ikari as pilot Shinji doesnt put much stock in his abilities the same way Asuka does but on the other hand hes not completely docile when it comes to instructions like Rei. This is another way that he connects with the audience on a deeper level. Shinji asks more questions than the other pilots about the Eva project and seems more interested in its roots as a purpose compared to his teammates. Misato often confides his discoveries to Shinji because he knows that he is the calm and reasonable one who can handle the information.
Doesnt fit the stereotype of the harem
shinji ikari and asuka from the anime neon genesis evangelion The show does this sure but Shinji seems to be caught up in a lot of things here against his will including the harem gender. He is not as prominent here as he is in other shows and it is possible to argue that he is antiharem in the sense that the women around Shinji seem to hate him as much as they love him. The cast of Evangelion is overwhelmingly female with only two or three supporting male characters one of them being Shinji and the other being his father Gendo.
Between the two it seems to be Gendo who has the true harem of devoted followers while Shinji is often shunned reprimanded or categorized as a friend by the women in his life. Its easier to please Shinji who prefers to function alone than the shy Gendo who always needs a fan nearby.
One of the persistent complaints about Shinjis character is that he cries too often. First hes just a kid maybe we should give him a break. Second that actually means that he has a better level of emotional adjustment than Asuka and Rei. Granted thats not a high bar for comparisons but its something. Compare Shinjis emotional displays to Asukas outbursts of anger or Reis cool passivity.