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Yes, Kaworu is an Idealized Version of Shinji

Updated on April 1, 2018
Mamerto profile image

Mamerto I. Relativo Jr. is an engineer by profession, but a writer by night. When he is not blogging, he does fiction writing.

The anime Neon Genesis Evangelion had a lot of weird stuffs going on. Well, oddities were its selling point much like other anime, though much to our disappointments most of the symbolism meant nothing. The crosses looming in the background and the religious imagery were just there for aesthetics. And who knows if the cryptic endings were all empty shock values. Again the murky context of the EVA series is a proof how deep the series is, based on how it wracked your brain.

But that doesn’t mean that it is all meaningless gibberish.

Depressions and philosophies were well represented in encoded sketches. And just recently (which was briefly covered in an earlier article), I uncovered a rather curious revelation by our troll-in-chief Hideaki Anno. In an interview, he claimed that this sexually ambiguous character was intended as Shinji’s idealized version of himself.

Okay, that got me awakened. I tried to do some research about the subject. Turns out it happened in the 1996 interview for the JUNE magazine. Now JUNE is Japan’s oldest yaoi magazine to anyone who didn’t know. Now I’m not into any guy to guy romance, and for me the "Kawoshin” is the silliest EVA theory I heard. Yet the fact that Shinji met the perfect version of himself got my mental gears going.

The interview with JUNE

Before anything else, let’s get straight to the interview. At several pages long and with the threat of plagiarism, I won’t post everything. But we will get to some supporting phrases anyway. Again it happened in August 1996. As the interview goes on about the character Kaworu Nagisa, Anno mentioned something like this:

Interviewer: But wouldn’t the name Nagisa Kaworu fit even a girl?

Anno: But that’s a young man! There’s no feminine sense whatsoever, right? Because it’s Shinji and another Shinji. Since it’s an ideal of Shinji’s* that’s appearing, it can’t be a girl.

Interviewer: Ah, I see.

As what Anno mention, Kaworu will be Shinji, as what he wanted to be; good looking, gentle and friendly. In fact if Shinji could remake himself, he will be Kaworu. This might explain why Kaworu never became a girl despite of his feminine name. We are talking about a Shinji recreation here and we will see someone like Nadia if we insist on a girl.

Kaworu’s Appearance in the Evangelion Series

Kaworu playing his piano.
Kaworu playing his piano.

Kaworu’s sudden appearance in the Evangelion series captured fans’ imagination. He was only there for an episode yet the dirty minds of shippers got the best of them. I mean what were they doing together in the shower? Anyway, In general he was intended as the 17th Angel Tabris. Unlike many others he was an Angel of free will, not an abstract figure out to wreck Tokyo 3. What’s more he was the vessel of Adam’s soul.

Now for some fans the sudden appearance of Kaworu in Shinji’s life has deeper meaning. He suddenly popped in the time when Shinji is a virtual waste. After Toji’s entry plug was crushed he hated his dad. All his friends left after the city went to pieces. Asuka had a mental breakdown, Rei is a new clone and Misato was turning pedophile. And to see a better version of him befriending him is a relief from these harsh realities, almost like a surreal dream.

How I See Kaworu

The infamous shower scene.
The infamous shower scene.

Now being a mind wracking anime, the Evangelion series could mean anything. When other sees this as a yaoi material, some fan took it a step deeper. Right now Shinji got his wish, but it is Anno we are talking here. It is bound to have a darker ending. You might have guessed that being an Angel, a friendship between him and the human Shinji is not meant to be. In the series when Angels and human collides, someone will go. A fan once pointed out that Kaworu is a representation of a perfect world that doesn’t exist. Simply he is too nice and perfect to exist, and this seems to convey to the audience that in the flawed world, perfection is an escape. And Kaworu’s death is an awakening to a darker, but real world (we will have more of that below).

In my case I found Shinji’s close relationship with Kaworu as a sign of self-hate and lack of confidence. Again Kaworu is Shinji’s idealized version. A version he loved more than his small and weak self. I find it similar to Ron Weasley’s encounter with the Mirror of the Erised. But now he sees a tangible version of a perfect self, and his friendship to him is an indication of how he is drawn to a better Shinji rather than this depressed soul.

How I see Kaworu's Death

The EVA unit 01 killing Kaworu
The EVA unit 01 killing Kaworu

Kaworu met a rather gory death in the hands of the EVA Unit 01, with Shinji inside. Yup, it was Shinji who killed him. Under his control, his EVA unit took off Kaworu’s head like a cork from a bottle. The remnants of his blood was seen in the EVA’s hand during the unit’s clean up (I’m not sure though if they are cleaning the unit).

Actually Kaworu’s death is an act of self-sacrifice. He let Shinji willingly kill him to let Lilin live and the Angels to remain dead. Again as what’s mentioned above, some fans interpret his death as an awakening to reality. He represents an idealized world, an escape or a fantasy that we must awaken from. Killing Kaworu is an act of rejecting this fantasy and embracing the real, but darker world.

As for me this is another sign of Shinji’s weakness. The killing of an idealized self by a weaker version is an animated personification of self-defeat. It is like telling the audience how Shinji’s weakness overpowers his strength, shown on how the weaker Shinji killed Kaworu.

And Then Comes the Shippers

I know people will disagree, but I’m prepared for the backlash. With those mentioned above, you might understand how I don’t approve of this “Kawoshin” thingy. Far from male romance, Shinji is simply drawn to his idealized self, nothing romantic really. Kaworu is also the friend he longed in these dark times where the people around him are in need of therapy. Deeper still Kaworu might be just a symbolism, one of those cryptic mind wracks that Anno made to give the otakus migraines. And who knows if Anno made him to annoy the shippers everywhere? We are not even sure why Kaworu befriended Shinji, and such ambiguity is what tickled the dirty minds of some naughty fans. In the end, the ever mysterious (and somehow disturbing) Kaworu further deepens the Evangelion mythos.


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    • Mamerto profile image

      Ed Kampilan 25 hours ago from Cabuyao

      Thanks for sharing your lovely views Rachael. Well there could be a bit of romance between the two boys, or something even deeper than what I could understand. But thanks for clearing up something!

    • RachaelLefler profile image

      Rachael Lefler 34 hours ago from Illinois

      Shinji is also a deconstruction of the harem anime protagonist archetype. He can't form a relationship with anyone, even if he wants to, because of how broken he is, how broken the "deres" he meets are, who would normally be willing sex objects for his fantasies, and how flawed the world is in general. He starts with Rei. He cannot have a real relationship with her. She's not a kuudere, in a cutesy harem anime sense, but a soulless clone with many battle scars. And she's blindly loyal to Gendo, which puts him off. Then there's Asuka. She acts like a harem anime tsundere. But she has no sweeter side. She just acts superior and haughty because of her psychological scars. Then there's Misato. Normally in anime, an older woman who drinks and acts sexy is hot, a teen boy's fantasy. And living with such a woman is a sexual fantasy. But Misato spirals into depression after losing Kaji and seeks to uncover the truth behind the SEELE conspiracy he was trying to unveil when he was murdered. No time to be the cute, fun 'bottle fairy' she was introduced as. This show is saying people exist for their own reasons, not for your (the viewer's) sexual fantasies. Then Kaworu's story is a breaking down of the yaoi idea that a boy who has no success with women will be uplifted by a Manic Pixie Dream Man. That realizing he was gay was the reason he had no luck. It's deconstructing many anime tropes but also showing how flawed it is to assume that someone with problems like Shinji has (depression, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, paranoia, etc.) can be "fixed" by finding the right partner.

    • RachaelLefler profile image

      Rachael Lefler 34 hours ago from Illinois

      " sexually ambiguous "

      Lol, he's clearly gay or at least very clearly sexually attracted to Shinji. If a girl had done half of the things with Shinji that Kaworu had done they would have called them the official couple!

      Also, didn't Gendo force Shinji to kill him? He did it technically, but he was not controlling the Eva at that time IIRC.

      Anyway, it seems weird to ignore the romantic aspect of something that's clearly and obviously a romantic relationship. Albeit, one-sided. Shinji doesn't seem to return Kaworu's feelings. He likes having someone pay attention to him, but I think the killing of Kaworu represents Shinji seeing himself as unworthy of being loved. So it IS about love.