Mamerto Adan is an engineer by profession, but a writer by night. He loves toys and knives, and has a martial arts background.
Fans probably knew about this, but this is for the sake of the newbies who are new to the twisted universe of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Years of following the show, from its breath-taking opening to its crazy ending taught me one thing. There are stuffs on the show that are more than meets the eye. On the outside they might seems what they are. But sometimes they harbor deeper meaning, like some sort of riddle or allegory… at least that’s how the fans claim it.
Once I thought that Kaworu hanging around with Shinji is just some dirty joke that Anno cooked, sort of to troll the otakus he hated. I mean story wise Kaworu ended up becoming the monster of the episode that the EVA unit will later decapitate. But it turns out that Anno intended Kaworu to be Shinji’s perfect self; good looking, friendly, everything he dreamed to be. Sometimes, nothing in the NGE’s universe had a direct sense, and Anno might have placed Kaworu there just to show how Shinji will react upon seeing his idealized self (at least that’s how I see it, I could be wrong).
And then, I saw it.
Among the many literatures written for the NGE universe, one stated that his dad Gendo represents Shinji’s darker version. Gendo is basically Shinji, only more manipulative and malicious.
Antagonists Tend to be the Protagonists Mirror Image
Firstly, it won’t be a surprise if Anno did make Gendo the evil version of Shinji. It is a common practice for fiction authors to craft their villains with shades of their heroes. In the Harry Potter series, Lord Voldemort resemble Harry in many ways. Both are orphans, pure blooded, and a favorite. Functionally as a wizard, they are resourceful and able, with certain disregards for rules. They are the same, and different as well with Voldemort being the evil one.
But one might ask, why bother?
Firstly, it gives depth to the villainous character. By making him the mirror of the hero, it strengthens the rivalry between him and the protagonist. And as an author friend once shared to me, a villain represents the opposing force the hero must overcome. And when you made the villain the twisted version of the hero, he now represents the misguided morals that goes against the noble truth that is the hero. The antagonist even represents the darkness in every hero that one is in constant battle.
How Gendo Resemble Shinji
The relationship of Gendo Ikari to his son could be describe as “natural to be apart,” or estrangement. Basically, Gendo abandoned his kid after the so called “death” of Yui. In the process, he emotionally damaging his kid and turned him into a disturbed child. Nevertheless, Gendo resembles Shinji in many ways. Obviously, you would notice it in real life, as they are father and son. But inside and some ways, they are indeed mirror images. This was implied in some episodes of NGE. In episode 5, Shinji was seen wearing his dad’s old glasses. In a flashback in episode 21, a young Gendo was shown with strong resemblance to his son.
Firstly, both shows a strong self-hatred, as well as a fear that they are not deserving to be loved, though they bought sought affection. Both have poor social skills despite that it was implied that they are ladies’ men. And speaking of, Gendo had a fair share of lovers aside from his wife, to Ritsuko’s mom, and even Ritsuko herself. Shinji seems to follow his footsteps when he was made to live with the smoking hot Misato and Asuka (I won’t mention the clone of his mom, Rei).
And people should have noticed that both father and son are silent types. They are brooding introverts who speak little. On the positive side, they have immense will power and determination, though Shinji used it in a good way, while his dad did the opposite. Just to let you know, Gendo abandoned his son due to his fear that he won’t be a good father, which mirror’s Shinji’s actions of isolating himself, fearing he will become a burden.
Hence it is implied that Gendo is basically Shinji, if Shinji undergoes the same circumstances.
How Different are They
Though the same, Shinji and his dad also have differences. As much as I don’t like Shinji, I rather hang out with him than his dad, as Gendo is known to be cunning and manipulative. One will become a puppet if they make friends with people like that.
Shinji might be a crybaby, but he is kind and caring. He never intended to risk his neck inside the EVA unit if not to the injured Rei. Shinji might be kind, but his dad is merciless. Gendo had no problem playing with human life if he gets what he wants. Gendo is also confident, a stark contrast to the fearful Shinji (but I have a feeling that this is due to years of experience working in NERV. Day jobs could indeed toughen you up). And throughout the show, Gendo is portrayed as cunning and manipulative. He is good at using people around him to obtain his gains. His son, not much. In fact, Shinji is naïve.
Throughout the show, we observed how differently Shinji and his dad treated the people around them. For Shinji, his people are his friends. For his dad, they are his pawns.
For me, the appearance of Rei Ayanami in the show is meant to emphasize the brooding rivalry between father and son. In fact, they ended up competing for her attention with Gendo losing in such a gory fashion. Some fans likened Shinji to Oedipus, with him feeling infatuated with the clone of his mom while being aloof with his dad. But Shinji never intended to kill his dad, while his mom did it for him.
Rei also seems to highlight the differences and similarities between the two. Both sought her affection, both are given affection coming from Rei, and both son and dad did their best to protect her.
But in Gendo’s love for Rei (or Yui) is a selfish one, while Shinji’s affection is pure. So, in the end Rei Ayaname further emphasized how different, and same the father and son is.