The Evangelion franchise has a lot to offer to people who enjoy dissections of complex characters. Throughout the series and reboot movies, viewers were enamored with the troubled Evangelion pilots and staff of the menacing organization NERV.
With so many characters that each have rich backstories involved in a tangled web of motivations and relationships, there’s a lot of basic but vital information to learn about the characters when experiencing Evangelion.
If you’re having trouble keeping up with them and what they’re all about, we’ve got you covered with this comprehensive guide on all of Evangelion’s most important characters.
Table Of Contents
Evangelion Character Statistics
|June 6th, 2001
|Third Child/EVA Pilot
|March 30th, 2001
|First Child/EVA Pilot
|Asuka Langley Soryu
|December 4th, 2001
|Second Child/EVA Pilot
|April 29th, 1967
|Head of NERV
|December 8, 1986
|NERV Field Commander
|November 21st, 1985
|NERV's Head of Science
|December 26th, 2001
|Fourth Child/EVA Pilot
|September 4th, 1956
|NERV Deputy Commander
|Mari Illustrious Makinami
|Unknown (At least 38)
|EVA Test Pilot
|September 13th, 2000
|Fifth Child/17th Angel
|June 17th, 1985
|September 12th, 2001
The main character of the Neon Genesis Evangelion series, Shinji Ikari is the very definition of ‘troubled’ – a 14-year-old boy whose life has been fundamentally altered by the abusive and absent parental decisions of his father, Gendo Ikari. Shinji Ikari has a very average look, with short black hair, usually wearing his school uniform.
Although Shinji initially appears as a regular shy and awkward kid, over the course of the series, we see him confront a variety of traumas as he’s coerced into his role as the ‘third child’ – the pilot of the Unit 01 Evangelion. To begin with, Shinji is reluctant to serve his father as a pilot for NERV, opting to do so only to keep fellow pilot Rei out of danger.
Shinji’s ability to ‘synchronize’ with the Evangelion is unparalleled, meaning he’s eventually able to pilot it more intuitively than other pilots Asuka and Rei. Shinji has a clear affection for Rei that motivates many of his actions in the series, but he’s also shown to have a friendly rivalry with Asuka, who competes against Shinji in an attempt to best his ‘sync ratio,’ the number which determines how well one can synchronize with an Evangelion.
Shinji behaves very passively and often indulges in repetitive behavior as a form of coping with his emotions. Over the course of the series, it’s revealed that Shinji has deep trauma associated with abandonment, which frequently manifests in dramatic rejection of his responsibilities and withdrawal from society.
Shinji’s role in the show ultimately grows in importance as the stakes increase, eventually becoming responsible for the rebirth of civilisation as an externalization of his own personal growth in the final episodes of the show and the follow up movie End of Evangelion.
Rei Ayanami, also known as the ‘first child’, is the first evangelion pilot introduced in the show and the designated pilot for Unit-00, the prototype evangelion unit. She’s a blue haired girl who is shown to be particularly reserved, often forgoing most forms of communication. Although she can speak, she usually chooses not to, and she appears at first to lack an understanding of many emotions. As a result, Rei frequently comes across as robotic, despite occasionally showing glimpses of happiness.
Despite this, Rei is a particularly competent Evangelion pilot, often willing to do what the other pilots aren’t, sometimes at the cost of her own wellbeing.
The reason for Rei’s perceived lack of humanity is eventually revealed towards the end of the show: Rei herself is one of many clones based on the genetic template of Shinji’s mother, Yui Ikari, designed to behave complicitly and act as a vessel in Gendo Ikari’s master plan, the human instrumentality project.
Throughout the series, the character we know as Rei is actually three different incarnations. For most of the series, we’re seeing the second iteration of Rei, outside of a flashback in episode 21 that shows us ‘Rei I’ and the second half the series, which depicts the death of ‘Rei II’ in episode 23 and the character being replaced by ‘Rei III’ shortly after.
Asuka Langley Soryu
Asuka Langley, also known as the second child, is an Evangelion pilot introduced in episode 6 of the show and the designated pilot for Unit-02. Hailing from Germany, Asuka arrives in Japan to pilot Unit-02 and work with Shinji to take down the threat of angels using the evangelion units. Asuka has a distinct appearance with long red hair, and a distinctly aggressive and hyper-competitive personality.
Asuka is made to live with Shinji under the guardianship of Misato Katsuragi. In addition to living with Shinji, Asuka is forced to improve her synchronicity with them in order to increase their combined effectiveness at combating angels with the Evangelion units. This only fuels Asuka’s competitive drive further, which ultimately causes them to do some very dangerous things for the sake of proving herself
Asuka’s hyper-competitive and overachieving nature is shown to be a response to her own parental traumas. Over the course of the series, we learn more about her mother Kyoko Zepplin Langley, as well as the disapproving nature of her stepmother after Kyoko’s suicide. These events are shown to have a deep impact on Asuka’s ongoing mental health.
Gendo Ikari is the closest thing that the original Neon Genesis Evangelion series has to an ‘antagonist’. As the head of NERV and also the secret Illuminati-esque organization SEELE, Gendo is not only responsible for the creation of the Evangelions but also for triggering the ‘third impact’ – the apocalyptic event that concludes the series in the movie End of Evangelion.
As Shinji’s father, Gendo is continually disapproving and fundamentally unconcerned for Shinji’s wellbeing. Throughout the course of the series, we get glimpses of Gendo’s motivation for such behaviour, which ultimately reveal an ongoing obsession with Yui Ikari, Shinji’s deceased mother. Gendo’s fixation on ‘reuniting’ with Yui is what guides his actions throughout the course of the series, and ultimately serves as a catalyst for his neglect of Shinji.
As the head of NERV, Gendo is cold and calculating, willing to sacrifice anything to defeat the threat of the angels, but also to achieve his wider goal of ‘Human Instrumentality’ – the merging of all souls that will allow him to ‘reunite’ with Yui.
Misato Katsuragi is NERV’s field commander for evangelion pilots, managing their missions and also acting as a legal guardian for Shinji and eventually Asuka. Although she outwardly displays an extroverted, bubbly and somewhat lazy attitude towards caring for the children, she also recognizes the seriousness of Gendo’s operations, especially once she covertly investigates NERV alongside Ryoji Kaji and begin to uncover the secrets of the ‘Human Instrumentality Project’.
Ritsuko is NERV’s head scientist, responsible for the maintenance of the evangelion units in addition to gathering and interpreting data regarding the angels. As a uniquely brilliant mind, Ritsuko is able to perform these tasks with remarkable precision.
Ritsuko is carrying out this role as a sort of replacement for her mother, Naoko Akagi, who as seen in the flashbacks, was once responsible for the same tasks during the early days of NERV. Ritsuko also bears a strong visual similarity to her mother.
Toji is one of the more minor characters in the series as one of the few named characters in Shinji’s class at school. Although in the early part of the series Toji can be seen bullying Shinji, they eventually become friends once Toji realizes that Shinji is the pilot of Unit 01.
In one of the series’ most dramatic moments, Toji is selected to be the fourth child and is made to test-pilot the experimental Unit-03, which fuses with an angel and goes berserk. After Shinji refuses to destroy Unit-03, Unit-01’s ‘autopilot’ is engaged, which destroys unit-03 and severely injures Toji in the process. Although alive in the canon o, the ongoing fate of Toji is unknown beyond this.
Fuyutsuki is the deputy commander of NERV and Gendo’s assistant, aiding him in matters concerning the use of evangelions to dispatch the threat of the angels. Fuyutsuki is one of the oldest characters in the series, and although he’s often seen alongside Gendo, the flashback to the establishment of NERV makes it clear their relationship is one built on an uneasy alliance, and may disagree philosophically about Gendo’s overall plan.
Mari Illustrious Makinami
As the only character on this list that is exclusive to the Rebuild of Evangelion movies, Mari ‘Illustrious’ Makinami is a character that has a huge impact on the direction of these ‘reboot’ movies, which after a starting as a retelling of the original series’ events, begin to diverge from the established story after her appearance.
Mari’s character is very much steeped in mystery, but a few details are known about her life that have been dispersed throughout the rebuild movies. Namely, it’s clear that Mari is perhaps the first Evangelion pilot, potentially the most talented Evangelion pilot, and has been involved with NERV since its origins. Aside from this, she also becomes the romantic interest for Shinji at the end of the rebuild movies, representing Shinji’s ability to move forward.
Kaworu Nagisa is a particularly unique character in Evangelion, appearing in only one episode near the end of the series, but having a huge impact on the narrative and themes. As an angel/human hybrid, Kaworu is first introduced as a friend to Shinji at his lowest moments. Kaworu is calm, empathetic, and kind.
The romantic undertones of the Kaworu & Shinji relationship make the inevitable reveal of Kaworu’s true nature an even bigger tragedy, as Shinji is forced to exterminate the only source of support in his life.
Ryoji Kaji is an interesting character who appears towards the end of the original series. As Misato’s on-and-off again partner and a covert agent, Kaji is responsible for uncovering some of the secrets behind NERV before suffering an untimely execution. He’s a wise and witty individual, who in the rebuild movies is shown as a great mentor for Shinji.
Kensuke is a fairly irrelevant character in the original series, but often pops up as a friend to both Toji and eventually Shinji, too. Although not involved in NERV or the fight against the angels in any way, he’s endearingly fascinated with this conflict and enthusiastic about the prospect of becoming an eva pilot himself, even if it’ll never happen.