The image comes out of Episode 12 “The value of a miracle is… / She said, “Don’t mke us suffer for your personal hatred.” We see Rei, Shinji and Asuka standing in the elevator divided by the bars in the gate.
Whenever I see three main characters in a show I almost immediately go to Sigmund Freud’s ideas behind personality. Just in case you’re not familiar, Freud’s theory is that three competing forces that drive a person. The two in a person’s subconscious are the id, which is largely emotional and self involved, the other is the superego, which wants to follow the rules and behave according to rational thought. The third force is of course the ego, which reacts to both of the sides, and makes a decision.
It’s important to note here, that the superego and id have the power of thought, while the ego has the power of action.
When you see three main characters in a TV show, it’s not uncommon that they’ll fall along those lines. The best example of this is Star Trek. Spock is the superego, McCoy is the id and Kirk is the ego.
(It’s interesting to note that when the movies tried to shake up this triumvirate, people reacted poorly. Spock can’t be a full character on his own, because it makes Kirk less valuable.)
So can you say the same about Evangelion. Can these three characters be divided along those same lines? And what does that say about the three characters?
So who is the ego anyway?
The answer here may seem easy, and really, it is. Let’s face it, I can point to the image I put at the top of this post and point out that Shinji is in the middle. We see the same configuration when they get into their Evas later on.
But there are even more subtle nods to this configuration. When we see Asuka in the foreground of shots with all three of the children, Rei is always behind Shinji.
Even when they are lost in the caverns above NERV and trying to find their way to the geofront in Episode 11, Asuka turns to Shinji asks him what he thinks. She is looking to get “the ego” to gang up on “the superego.”
I mean I can keep going here. Rei is the first child, Asuka is the second child and Shinji is the third child, which hints at them being behind him. When the two teens interact, Asuka is exceptionally hostile toward Rei.
This means Asuka must be the id. She is highly emotional, and driven by her need to be seen as the best. That’s not to say there aren’t deeper reasons for that desire, but she’s not acting for what’s best for the world, NERV or even her friends. She’s acting for herself, and to prove her own importance.
Much like’s McCoy’s jabs at Spock for being a green-blooded alien, Asuka takes similar jabs at Rei for being cold or uninterested in people.
We’ve already seen where Rei could slot pretty easily into the superego role. When she interacts with Shinji, it is to relay information, or to tell him to trust the system. When she tries to lead them on the right path in Episode 11, it’s not because she wants to be right, it’s because she is trying to get them to where they need to be.
I talked about how Rei appears to exist to serve when I was covering her and Shinji’s interactions in Episodes 5 and 6. That fits into this motif as well.
I’m certainly not the first person to try to make this comparison. As one person on Reddit put it, people like finding patterns and shoehorning the characters into them.
I will touch a little more on this criticism later, but I wanted to acknowledge that I’m not treading new ground. I think it is useful for at least one reason.
What does Shinji being the ego mean?
This is where even I will admit that I’m pretty shaky, but I do think it’s important that the main character is indecisive and prone to letting his id and superego drive his decisions.
Now this could just be a subversion of the normal heroic mecha pilot. Instead of being decisive, he is indecisive. Instead of being the driver of the action, he’s just a participant to it.
We can take a step further though, and say that Shinji’s interaction with the two girls tends to favor the more emotional Asuka. His relationship with Rei might be deferential, but it’s not passionate. This could hint at Shinji being less prone to wanting to fit in and more prone to wanting his own needs met.
Since I’m convinced that we are supposed to see ourselves in Shinji, it is interesting to note that both of his halves are women. I still haven’t gotten to his interaction with Kaoru, but I do think that it makes that more interesting to think about.
I do think it serves another important note as well. The thing is this trium only works when we’re talking about Episodes 11 and 12. This is when they most closely fit into these categories.
Remember that comment from Reddit. Well here it is in it’s entirety.
The pilots are who they are, regardless of what sort of external scheme you try to pigeonhole them into. Doing this has always been a popular pastime for fans, because humans love their patterns. How many Freudian Trios can you make? There’s more than one possibility! Ultimately this is going to be like trying to assign characters to individual Sephirah, or trying to plot them on a D&D alignment chart.
The poster here is not wrong. The characters do expand beyond these simple roles, but for this part of the show they do fit fairly conveniently into those roles. And it’s not an exercise that I find useless because when they break out of those molds, we can ask, “Why?”
And that is useful all on its own.
What do you think? Am I crazy here or do I have a something?
As always, thanks for reading.