(So I’m going to throw all of my credibility out the window here, so hold on.)
Argentosoma is better than Evangelion.
There I said it, let the flaming commence.
But really, if you haven’t seen Argentosoma, you should. But I’ll give you a bit of a run down before I get into the heart of this discussion. The basic story behind Argentosoma follows this kid named Takuto Kanashiro, who’s a brilliant scientist. Now Kanashiro is dating this woman named Maki, who’s just about as socially awkward and inept as Kanashiro is. Very early in the series Maki dies ressurecting this giant robot (and robot in the classic sense of an autonomous machine, think Iron Giant). During the accident, Kanashiro is injured and disfigured.
Now the robot makes friends with this girl, who actually looks a little like Maki, and she and robot are taken off by the military so that they can fight aliens. Meanwhile Kanashiro, now using the name Ryu Soma also joins the military in hopes of destroying the robot to avenge his girlfriend.
That all happens on the first disk, so trust me I haven’t spoiled much.
The reason why Argentosoma begs comparison with Evangelion is the use of the anti-hero. And this is where Argentosoma completely owns Eva.
On the nature of Shinji
Again, I’m likely to say something that is going to hurt my credibility. Shinji is a transparent character. Meaning that his motives are pretty clear, he wants to be loved and accepted by other people. In fact, I’d go as far to say that Shinji isn’t much more than a vehicle to transmit the central message of the series. He provides a touchstone for the series to go back to when everyone starts being like Shinji.
Also when he reacts to other characters, he reacts in a way that is in accordance with the stimuli. If someone is trying to tell him how great his father is, he gets angry or broody or both. I don’t really want to say Shinji is a flat character, because he does have some limited amount of growth and he does have more than one emotional state. But overall, I’d argue that he’s stunted.
How is that different from Ryu Soma
Now with Ryu Soma, we already start off with a duality. First he’s Kanashiro, and no matter how much he tries to throw that part of himself away it still sticks. He mourns for the loss of that part of his youth (at least at first). And on the other hand, he’s Ryu Soma, this avatar of revenge.
I’ve kind of hinted at the big difference in that first paragraph. Shinji doesn’t lie to himself. He might act like he doesn’t really need his father, when he does want his approval. But he doesn’t believe it. However, Ryu Soma right from the get-go believes that those halycon days with Maki were destroyed by the giant robot. Even though Soma is wrong, and his own social ineptitude caused more pain to his girlfriend then anything the robot did.
Also Shinji is a wuss. I don’t really blame him. In fact, I’d say it’s more because of the nature of his particular brand of anti-hero than anything else. But it’s an easy out as far as anti-heroes go. Because he never really tries to change anything, nothing really changes. Whereas with Soma, he’s an asshole. Sometimes he’s a crazy asshole, sometimes he’s just a jerk. But more than anything else, he pushes the story forward.
And in fact, that’s the biggest difference between the two anti-heroes. Shinji is passive. More than anything else, the story happens TO him rather than because of him. However, Soma is an active anti-hero. He causes the story to move forward, and while things might happen to him, it’s his reactions that are important rather than the impetus.
And that’s why Argentosoma is a better series. Because like Beserk, we have someone who might have twisted morals, but does have a goal in mind. Instead of spending the entire series waiting for the hero to actually act.