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Warning: this article is full of impacts, angels and spoilers. Read at your own risk or choose another article to read instead.
We are talking about the anime that changed the mecha genre forever: Neon Genesis Evangelion. In Evangelion, the characters have a well developed background story. Almost none of them is immune to the existentialist effect (and if there is any, perhaps the reason is their lack of screen-time). Nevertheless, we are going to explore a different dimension of Neon Genesis Evangelion characters in this article.
Evangelion revolves around war, so let’s iron out our military uniforms, adjust our badges, take out the intelligence reports, and have a serious meeting at Nerv’s Headquarters in the Geofront. We are going to discuss battle tactics here. And with tactics we mean both physical and psychological assaults. Evangelion gave us some of the most interesting battle savvy characters, human and angels alike. Without further ado, let’s relive some of the best battles with some of the top battle savvy Neon Genesis Evangelion characters!
10. Kozo Fuyutsuki
Kozo, an old and wise looking guy, is Nerv’s second in command, just after Gendou Ikari. Kozo’s background is on bioengineering, thus he is not the most knowledgeable on battle tactics. That is why he concentrates on aspects of the Eva and the Geofront structure (for example when there was a power cut in episode 11).
Kozo is more of an administrative personnel, attending council meetings and doing paperwork (because someone has to do it). So, we can see that the Vice commander’s general role is to offer advice and replace Commander Ikari if necessary. Probably the most notable thing he did was to make Asuka and Shinji responsible for Nerv’s defeat by Israfel. The teens needed a shake to take their duties seriously, so he was there to give them that shake.
9. Shinji Ikari
Here comes Evangelion’s protagonist, who complained the first time he was going to pilot Eva 01. Shinji is more of a receptive and oversensitive fellow, thus most of his tactics employ brute force and logically, are more suited to the first Angels. As these Angels had less intellectual power, the only thing that was effective to get rid of them was to either dismember them, or aim to their cores as Shinji did. Yes, we can not say he was a genius in the battlefield, but Shinji had his moments.
For example, he helped Asuka deduce the way to defeat Sandalphon in the depths of the volcano where he was hiding. Shinji also gave Zeruel a hard time before his Eva’s battery ran out. Perhaps Shinji’s most valuable asset in combat is his will to live, which triggers his Eva’s (brutal) defense mechanism when his own abilities are not enough to face the enemy.
8. Rei Ayanami
The pilot for Eva 00, largely expressionless and devoted to her duty to fight the angels has to be Rei. Being a clone, Rei is fully aware that she is replaceable, thus she can be way too careless of her well being.
That is why Rei tends to shield others, particularly Shinji, in battle. Yet, we have to recognize that Rei’s fearlessness is effective in defeating the angels. By not having emotions on the way, she is able to concentrate on the enemy, as opposed to Shinji or Asuka. At the same time, this helps Rei to bring balance to the team, as shown when they defeated Matarael and Sahaquiel together. And we also should mention Rei’s self sacrifice when Armisael possessed Eva 00. Never defeated, always remembered.
It is time to have an angel in our countdown! Most of the other angels opted for direct confrontations that provoked a lot of destruction, explosions, flying debris, rivers of blood and all those things that win Oscars to Hollywood movies on special effects. Arael kept it classy. Arael simply floated in the Earth’s atmosphere, patiently waiting until someone (in this case Asuka on Eva 02), tried to defy her.
Then, Arael casted a special projection of her AT-Field, provoking the worst nightmarish visions on Asuka. Because, what is worse than waking up the painful memories of your childhood, your feelings of inadequacy and all those times you acted in a selfish or negative way? More than a mind game, it was a mind rape. So, although the angel was defeated by Rei, Asuka was left incapable of fighting. Thus, some battle tactics can be much more devastating than blowing stuff up, or simply killing someone.
6. Kaworu Nagisa
One of the best points for Asuka’s substitute as pilot was that Kaworu did not state his motives clearly. It still remains mysterious if he was on Seele’s side, on Nerv’s side, on the angel’s side, or even on his own side.
This gave Kaworu an advantage in confounding the enemy (and us on the way too). Kaworu also looked deceiving, as he was always smiling and kind… until he made his way to the Geofront, where it was obvious the guy is powerful. Kaworu’s ability to synchronize with the Evas and even control them without piloting has to count for something, right? For example, in Evangelion 3.0 he effectively stopped the Third Impact, although at the cost of his own life.
5. Mari Illustrious Makinami
Mari is the new pilot who makes her debut in Rebuild of Evangelion also has a special spot in our hearts. We have to acknowledge Mari’s genuine enjoyment when she pilots and her cool and aggressive attitude.
Despite lacking the experience of other Eva pilots, Mari makes a badass debut in her fight against the Third Angel, where she destroys her Eva but ultimately survives. Perhaps her most lethal tactic is the Eva’s Beast mode, which resembles a controlled version of the Berserk mode. Both the pilot and the Eva look and behave in a more feral way, effectively destroying their opponents.
4. Asuka Langley Sohryu / Asuka Shikinami Langley
In case someone out there still does not know, the creator of Evangelion (Hideaki Anno) intended to make Asuka the protagonist of the anime in early drafts of the series. Thus, Asuka retained a good level of protagonism, a well fleshed background story and some marvelous battling abilities.
For example, Asuka single handedly took over Gaghiel as soon as she appeared, plus eliminating Sandalphon when the mission to capture it failed. Although at first Asuka was averse towards the other Eva pilots, they end up making an effective battle team. We also can see how her personality fits that of a commander when she quickly organizes Matarael’s demise. It is no surprise that she is Captain of the European Air Force on the Rebuild version, being capable of using Eva’s Beast mode as well.
3. Ritsuko Akagi
Dr. Akagi is the Head of Scientific Research on Nerv, so she is responsible for keeping the Evas up and running. Ritsuko also has to clean up after battles and conducts research on the angels to device better strategies to defeat them. Although we do not see much of Dr. Akagi in applied battle tactics, the little that is shown is superb.
Let’s just remember how Ireul broke into Nerv’s Headquarters, evolving to become an informatic virus compatible with the Magi-system. No other angel was that close to halt Nerv’s operations. Ritsuko made effective calculations to stop Ireul temporarily while the staff organized a better plan to deal with it. In the end, Dr. Akagi was the one who reprogramed what was left of the Magi-system to force the angel to evolve faster, destroying it. For using only human talent to defeat Ireul, she deserves a high spot in our list of top ten battle savvy Evangelion characters.
2. Gendou Ikari
We have to admit that Nerv’s Commander spends most of his time watching over the battles while holding his hands close to his mouth. Gendou also leaves most of his responsibilities to Fuyutsuki, Katsuragi or Akagi. When the situation becomes desperate and his subalterns run out of ideas, Gendou gives the right order. Gendou is dismissive of the Pilot’s survival, but he makes it clear that the priority is to destroy the angels.
Gendou also takes matters on his own hands, as seen when there was a power outage in the Geofront. Eva 01 got ready to battle thanks to pure human force, and he was among the ones who helped. There is also something that sets Gendou apart from most of the other characters that we have talked about up to this point: the guy has a personal agenda. He built Eva 01, created Rei with his wife’s DNA and implanted the remains of the first angel (Adam) on his hand to trigger the Third impact under his command. All of this using Seele, government resources and even his own son. Being capable of pulling the strings of not only people, but also organizations, qualifies Gendou as a master battle strategist. Nevertheless, it is his demise of human life and others wills that makes him unable to become the number one in our top ten. That spot goes to…
1. Misato Katsuragi
Let’s salute Major Katsuragi, the Director of (military) Operations in Nerv. With such a title one should expect her to be battle savvy, although she looks young and her personality outside work is very relaxed. Nevertheless, Misato developed original ways to defeat the angels. Let’s remember Ramiel, a blue flying battle fortress with a deadly beam. Misato’s Operation Yashima involved borrowing an experimental positronic energy generator to aim at the core of the angel in the precise moment where it was exposed. She also had the idea for the synchronized attack on Israfel, submitting Shinji and Asuka to an exhaustive training that ultimately was successful… and beautiful.
Finally, we should also mention how she forms Wille in Rebuild of Evangelion. Her objective of defeating the angels was kept intact. Although she has been hardened, Misato is incapable of killing subordinates (or in the case of Shinji, former subordinates). This is an important human aspect that makes of her the ultimate battle tactician, as the objective of a battle is to win victory by respecting the life of whoever is not involved with the process. Misato also cherishes her subordinates. Let us not forget how she forms an emotional connection with Asuka and Shinji.
Neon Genesis Evangelion has offered us some of the most brutal and merciless battles of the anime world, but it ultimately shows us that there are two sides on the same coin. The angels eventually start communicating with the pilots, showing curiosity and asking them questions about what it is like to be human. Some of the pilots turn out to be at least partly angel themselves, adding a layer of complexity to their lives stories. On their fight to survive, both angels and humans gave the best of themselves, but perhaps on the bottom they were seeking the same: to be recognized and have the right to live. We can only keep speculating while Anno gets ready the next and final movie of the Rebuild version to find out if we can get some answers to our existentialist questions about Evangelion… and see more awesome battle tactics from our admired characters.
Which Neon Genesis Evangelion characters you think should also be on this list? Which are your expectations on future battles in Rebuild of Evangelion? Don’t forget that we are open to all your comments and suggestions. See you soon!