Is Misato Katsuragi a pedophile or a parent?

So in my research I found two common ways of looking at the relationship between Misato and Shinji. I’m not convinced one is more textual than the other, but they both involve Misato’s sexuality.

One side says Misato is trying to find a way past Shinji’s defensiveness, and her sexuality is just another way to do that. A lot of people would say it’s a motherly type of relationship, but I would say it’s more like a big sister type of relationship.

By this interpretation, her sexuality is not a weapon. It’s not even really a tool. It’s an extension of who she is. She feels comfortable in her skin. She’s aware of her sexuality, and she is aware that others are aware, but’s not something she is ashamed of.

So when she uses it, she is just being social. It’s not manipulative. She’s not being creepy. It’s just how she relates to the world.

Another point for this interpretation is that Misato is that when she is working, the sexuality is shut off. She is really all business when it’s business time.

(I’d really like to note that some of the fan service of Misato does feel weirdly voyeuristic. As Scott would say, it takes away her agency.)

The slow reveal episode 4

The second interpretation paints Misato as a pedophile. This was, by far, the more common interpretation, but it might have just been my search.

It’s kind a mirror image of the big sister interpretation, and hangs a lot off of a kiss in episode 23.

Instead of how she relates to the world, this interpretation says Misato is deeply empty inside. She doesn’t want to help Shinji, she wants him to help her. If you look at it this way, her sexuality is a weapon, and she is more than ready to use it.

She is manipulative and selfish. She doesn’t show her sexual side when they are in public because that would be inappropriate. But when they are in private she lets it all hang out.

In criminal justice circles, they call it grooming.

Now I’m not going to shrug this off as an impossibility. There are a lot of pedophiles that think exactly like that. (I’ve read enough court records.) But I might have a third way of looking at it.

Misato as Shinji

Whenever I think about Misato and Shinji, I go back to a quote from Hideaki Anno that I read in the first issue of the Evangelion manga:

“This is a world-view drenched in a vision of pessimism. A world-view where the story starts only after any traces of optimism have been removed.

And in that world, a 14-year-old boy shrinks from human contact. And he tries to live in a closed world where his behavior dooms him, and he has abandoned the attempt to understand himself. A cowardly young man who feels that his father has abandoned him, and so he has convinced himself that he is a completely unnecessary person, so much so that he cannot even commit suicide.

And there is a 29-year-old woman who lives life so lightly as to barely allow the possibility of a human touch. She protects herself by having surface level relationships, and running away.

Both are extremely afraid of being hurt. Both are unsuitable-lacking the positive attitude-for what people call heroes of an adventure. But in any case, they are the heroes of this story.”

(Note: I’ve cut the quote down. If you want to read it in it’s entirely, you can find it here.)

Anno’s quote here pretty much says Misato and Shinji are two halves of the same coin. Shinji has dealt with his abandonment by closing off the world. Much like Fred said, his depression has made him devalue himself, and, by extension, overvalue everyone else.

Except the only person he seems willing to open up to is Misato. I keep coming back to the fact that in this relationship, Shinji is really the adult and Misato is really the child. Her displays of sexuality are juvenile. Her home is a mess. All she has in her fridge is beer, and when they celebrate she buys instant noodles.

Misato and Shinji reconnected

The most obvious reason for this is that she saw the beginning of the end of the world, and that impending dread means she wanted to clutch anything that makes her feel happy. Her hedonism is covering over a deep sadness, and not some gross clutch of child rape-y desires.

Her sexuality is conscious, but it’s a defense. Her outgoing personality is a defense. She is the definition of, “Fake it until you make it.”

But I do think she really cares about Shinji. In the way you care about someone when you see something of yourself reflected in them. I don’t think it’s entirely altruistic, but I also don’t think it’s entirely selfish. And I don’t think it’s creepy.

Or as Fred might put it — Shinji is broken and so is Misato.

Thank you for reading.

11 thoughts on “Is Misato Katsuragi a pedophile or a parent?

  1. Interesting write up. I can see the argument of either although I never thought about it that much. If the genders were reversed, then people would certainly freak out about Misato’s behavior and rightfully so.

    1. That is a good point. I think one of the posts I linked made a similar point. We are much more accepting about predatory behavior when it comes from a woman.

      1. Yeah, and it’s a crazy double standard. I made that point when I reviewed The Garden of Words, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Somers Town, and to a different extent an episode of Seraphim Call which involved a female teacher crushing on a high school student which I lambasted so hard when I made the point that she would’ve been arrested for doing a fraction of those things if she was a man, but it was played for comedy which caused me to facepalm.

  2. Nothing of her behavior smacks of pedophilia. At no point is she sexually attracted to Shinji.

    Misato has a job. That job is to get Shinji into that EVA. That is her motivation for many things she does and says, including getting Shinji to move in with her. I believe she does use sexuality as a tool a few times to attempt to manipulate him for a non-sexual end. Even at the point of her own death, she does it. You do what you gotta do to save the world.

    What Misato didn’t do is change. She’s not doing anything with Shinji there she wouldn’t do by herself or with any of the other EVA pilots moved in with her. Lives a lot like a 29-year-old frat girl. She doesn’t turn the sex off – ever – except when she dons her uniform. It’s even there when she shows up for a parent-teacher conference. It is who she is and all she knows. Even in uniform, if Kaji steps into an elevator alone with her it turns on again.

    That’s just how she is written. I refuse to get stirred up about flickering images on a monitor.

    Misato doesn’t know how to approach him. It is her job to keep his morale up and she really doesn’t have a clue. She has no other tools in her kit besides sexuality, exaggerated cheerfulness, and military discipline. She is a woman who ran with the wolves from an early age and suddenly must deal with a runty and whiny pup. Despite this, she does start to develop an emotional bond with the boy which she deals with by being a big sis/buddy.

    With many boys, it would have worked. Teenage boys are boiling cauldrons of sexual hormones. It doesn’t work with Shinji because he hates his own sexuality as much as every other part of himself. He also desperately needs that missing mother and he’s taking her for a mother whether she acts like it or not. Most boys don’t lust after Mom nor want their peers lusting after Mom. Using sex on Shinji is the wrong tool but it is the only tool she has.

    If you did a gender swap between Misato and Shinji I think the anime would fall apart from lack of believability before the question of sexual manipulation ever arose. But what about the Gendo-Rei relationship? She is being driven by love for an older man.

    The double standard… we don’t mind if our boys are experienced but would keep our girls pure and virginal. I suspect that is as old as humanity. Probably a paleolithic reproductive strategy.

  3. This was a really insightful post. I couldn’t have worded Misato’s character even better but then again, I probably couldn’t come up with such an indepth analysis in the first place haha. The mental issues never stop when it comes to Evangelion…

    1. I appreciate the compliment. The analysis isn’t really hard to come up with. I just took what Fred wrote on one side, what other people wrote on the other side and what Anno wrote on the third side. It’s more just doing research than anything else 🙂

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