Shinji Ikari is the Third Child and the pilot of Unit 01. He is the son of Gendo and the “late” Yui Ikari. Abandoned by his father when he was a toddler, Shinji has grown up to be reclusive and withdrawn, choosing to often run away from difficult situations. He suffers from social anxiety at the beginning of the series, but is gradually freed from this as he socializes with his new classmates and fellow pilots. Shinji is emotionally hyper-sensitive and sometimes does as expected out of fear of rejection, but he has often rebelled and refused to pilot the Eva because of the extremely excruciating harm that has been done to him, or done to his friends. Over time and with encouragement from Misato, he learns to be less cowardly, more outspoken, and more confident, but his progress is nearly undone near the end of the series. At some point in the series he begins to confront his inner self, forming arguments and questions about life and reality. He becomes friends with Toji Suzuhara and Kensuke Aida, in addition to his complicated relationships with Rei, Asuka and Misato.
Rei Ayanami is the First Child, and the pilot of Unit 00. At the start of the series, she is shown to be socially withdrawn, seemingly emotionless, and remote, with her only apparent relationship being with Gendo Ikari. As the series progresses, she and Shinji grow closer. It is eventually revealed that Rei is a vessel for the soul of Lilith Lilith, and was created specifically by Gendo to be used as a tool for accomplishing instrumentality; she is a clone made from the salvaged genes of Yui and is plagued by a sense of negative self-worth stemming from the realization that she is an expendable asset. Soulless clones of her are kept hidden in the deepest levels of NERV headquarters to be used as the supposed “cores” of the Dummy Plugs and as replacement bodies for Rei if she should die.
Asuka Langley Soryu
Asuka Langley Soryu is the Second Child and the pilot of Unit 02. She is of mixed German and Japanese descent. Asuka is brash, egotistical and often verbally abusive (especially to Shinji), and has an exaggeratedly high opinion of her appearance and her skill as an Eva pilot. Her attitude, however, is a front masking deep-seated insecurities stemming from her traumatic childhood. Asuka is openly infatuated with Ryoji Kaji, but is also attracted to Shinji; however, she cannot properly express her affections. After going against orders to fight the angel Arael, she is forced to confront traumatizing memories, ending in a mental collapse. She is then rendered incapable for the remainder of the series. For her protection, NERV hides Asuka within Unit-02 in a lake in the The End of Evangelion. When she awakens, she battles the Mass Production Evangelions. Though she defeats them, her triumph is short-lived as they later regenerate and dismember Unit-02 along with Asuka with the help of their replicas of The Lance of Longinus. After Shinji rejects The Third Impact, she appears on a beach alongside him. In the Rebuild of Evangelion series, her name is changed to Asuka Shikinami Langley and ranked as captain of the Euro airforce.
Misato Katsuragi is the chief operations officer at NERV. In the series, she initially holds the rank of captain, with a later promotion to major; in the first Rebuild of Evangelion movie, she holds the rank of lieutenant colonel and then colonel in the second movie. She is the field commander for the Eva pilots, issuing orders and giving battle strategies as well as handling some bureaucratic matters. She is also Shinji and Asuka’s guardian, letting them live in her apartment rather than have them live alone. While she is professional and diligent in her duties, she is a slob and a drunkard while off-duty. She is the only survivor of the Katsuragi Expedition, the scientific study led by her father which triggered the Second Impact; the cross pendant she wears was given to her by her father just before his death. She and Ryoji Kaji were lovers during college, and slowly rekindle their romance over the course of the TV series. She mourns for Kaji after learning of his assassination.
Gendo Ikari is the commander of NERV who is responsible for the research done on the Evas, Rei Ayanami, and the Human Instrumentality Project. He is the father of the Third Child, Shinji Ikari, and the guardian of Rei. His original surname was Rokubungi, but he changed it to Ikari following his marriage to Yui. At the start of the series, he is the only person having an effective connection to Rei. As the series progresses, his unscrupulous past is revealed, as is the intensity with which he loved Yui. It is later revealed that he wished to use the Human Instrumentality Project as a means of reuniting with his wife inside Unit 01, where all human consciousness would be merged into one, with the initiator of the project becoming god-like.
Ritsuko Akagi is NERV’s head scientist and, along with Gendo and Fuyutsuki, is the only person at NERV fully aware of the Evas’ true nature and the purpose of the Instrumentality Project. She is a workaholic and heavy smoker, and has been friends with both Misato and Kaji since college. She is also sexually involved with Gendo, but is eventually betrayed by Gendo when she realizes that he was using her in the same way that he used her mother. As revenge, she destroys the Dummy Plug system and is shot dead in The End of Evangelion, when she tries and fails to activate NERV’s self-destruct mechanism to stop Gendo from initiating Third Impact.
Kozo Fuyutsuki is NERV’s Deputy Commander and Gendo Ikari’s right-hand man. He does not especially like Gendo, but he is the closest thing to a confidant that Gendo has in the series.
Once a professor of metaphysical biology at Kyoto University, Fuyutsuki became interested in the research and theories undertaken by Yui Ikari, and became her sponsor and mentor. Shortly thereafter, he was directed by his superiors to initiate a similar arrangement with Gendo Rokobungi. Later, after the Second Impact, Fuyutsuki traveled with Gendo to the ruins of Antarctica, and began to suspect that Gendo and his associates in SEELE were more powerful and dangerous than he originally realized. In 2003, Fuyutsuki discovered for himself the true nature of the events leading up to Second Impact and SEELE’s involvement in initiating that catastrophe. Gendo led him into the GeoFront and Central Dogma, and asked Fuyutsuki to join him in “creating a new future for mankind.”
During a flashback scene in Evangelion: Death and Rebirth, Fuyutsuki mentions that SEELE had threatened to make him “disappear,” implying that his recruitment may have been extortionary. Although Fuyutsuki was never more than a mentor and friend to Yui, it is implied that he was in love with her to some degree, as he was shocked to learn that she was marrying Gendo. In The End of Evangelion Lilith/Rei takes the form of Yui to achieve Fuyutsuki’s Instrumentality.
Ryoji Kaji appears to be a triple agent, working as the chief inspection officer for NERV (Internal Affairs) while secretly investigating NERV for the Japanese government, and at times seemingly acting as a cat’s-paw both for and against Gendo Ikari and SEELE – in addition, he appears to have his own personal agenda independent of any organization, searching for the “truth” behind NERV, SEELE and the Human Instrumentality Project. During college, he and Misato were lovers, but broke up at Misato’s insistence. Years later, they are reunited on the UN fleet ferrying Unit 02 and Asuka to Japan. After he returns to NERV headquarters, Kaji and Misato rekindle their romance following a period of teasing and insults, when Misato confesses that she broke up with him because she realized that he reminded her of her father. He is eventually shot and killed by an unnamed assailant after defying his employers one time too many, but not before giving Misato information regarding the truth of the Instrumentality Project.
Makoto Hyuga is a first lieutenant at NERV and one of the three main computer technicians directly serving under Commanders Ikari and Fuyutsuki in the command post of Central Dogma, the others being Aoba and Ibuki. Hyuga at first gives the impression of being something of a nerd, reading manga while on his break time, but is a highly skilled technician. His quick thinking and bravery help save NERV headquarters from the attack by Matariel, and he acts as a spy for Misato, helping her obtain information regarding NERV’s machinations. The true extent of his feelings for Misato is shown in The End of Evangelion as Rei/Lilith takes the form of Misato during Instrumentality and passionately kisses him; he gets reverted to LCL.
Maya Ibuki is a first lieutenant at NERV and a computer technician who works primarily with Ritsuko Akagi. Her main role during the battles against the Angels is to constantly monitor the Eva pilots’ synchronization ratios and send various emergency commands to the Evas as ordered by Misato or Gendo. In spite of her profession, Maya despises violence of any sort, and is frequently shown becoming nauseated and averting her eyes during battles with the Angels. In The End of Evangelion, Maya is the only NERV officer who is shown refusing to fight back against the JSSDF invaders. Maya holds Ritsuko in very high regard, and always refers to her as “senpai” in the original anime; The End of Evangelion heavily implies that Maya is actually in love with Ritsuko. Rei/Lilith penetrates Maya’s AT field by assuming the form of Ritsuko. Maya exclaims “Ritsuko!/Senpai!”, eagerly returns “Ritsuko”‘s embrace, and immediately gets reverted to LCL.
Shigeru Aoba is a first lieutenant at NERV and a computer technician. At times a stereotypical metalhead, he is a cynical nihilist and plays guitar (he can also sometimes be seen playing air guitar). Of the three technicians seen regularly in Central Dogma, his character is explored the least in the series. In The End of Evangelion, during Instrumentality, Rei/Lilith appears to him not as any loved one but rather as a bombardment of Reis which forces their way through his AT Field while he cowers and screams in horror under his desk.
Kaworu Nagisa is the Fifth Child, and the seventeenth Angel, Tabris. He is sent to NERV by SEELE as a replacement pilot for Unit 02 after Asuka’s synchronization ratio falls below viability; however, his true purpose is to hasten the Human Instrumentality Project’s implementation. He briefly interacts with Shinji, forming a close bond between the two. He breaks into Terminal Dogma with the intention to return to Adam and initiate the Third Impact. Upon discovering that the being there is actually Lilith and eventually deciding that humanity’s existence to more worthy of preservation, he implores Shinji to destroy him. After his death, Kaworu appears in the beginning and middle of Third Impact in The End of Evangelion.
Toji Suzuhara is the Fourth Child. Toji is a tough boy, the stereotypical “jock,” and is in constant conflict with Asuka. His younger sister was injured in the battle between the third Angel, Sachiel, and Unit 01, and he beats Shinji up soon after for being indirectly responsible. However, after witnessing firsthand the suffering Shinji experiences piloting Unit 01 in the battle against Shamshel, Toji comes to respect Shinji, apologizes to Shinji for beating him up (his sister was angry at him for beating him up and demanded he apologize), and the two eventually become friends. When the Tokyo branch of NERV gains custody of Unit-03, Toji is identified as the Fourth Child and approached to become an EVA pilot; he agrees in order for his sister to receive better medical treatment. During the activation test for Unit-03, the EVA is possessed by the Angel Bardiel and the unit is destroyed by Unit-01 under the control of the Dummy Plug system when Shinji refuses to fight against the possessed EVA out of concern for the pilot. Unit-01 savagely destroys the possessed Evangelion under extreme protest of Shinji, and crushes the pilot’s cockpit capsule, causing Toji to lose his leg. In the manga, the incident results in Toji’s death. In Rebuild of Evangelion, Toji does not become a pilot; instead, Asuka pilots Unit-03.
Kensuke Aida is an otaku, a military buff, Toji’s best friend, and one of the “Other Children,” Eva pilot candidates in the same class as Shinji, Toji, Rei, Asuka, and Hikari. His hobbies include camping in the mountains surrounding Tokyo-3 and playing at simulated war reenacting – by himself. Kensuke solidifies his friendship with Shinji after Shinji saves him and Toji during the fight against the fourth Angel, Shamshel. Kensuke dreams of becoming an Eva pilot and ceaselessly begs Shinji to pull strings in NERV so he can be selected as a pilot, despite Shinji telling him that he has no say in the matter. He also seems oblivious to the intense physical and psychological distress endured by Eva pilots. Nevertheless, Kensuke enjoys the privileges of being the friend of an Eva pilot. Like Toji, Kensuke has a crush on Misato Katsuragi. He is rarely seen without his camcorder at hand. In the PS2 Battle Orchestra game, Kensuke is the appointed pilot to the EVA Unit 04, wearing a green plugsuit.
Hikari Horaki is the class representative of the class that Shinji and the other Eva pilots attend. She has a by-the-book demeanor and takes her responsibilities as “class rep” seriously. Although she frequently bickers with Toji, she reveals to Asuka that she has an enormous crush on Toji but is unable to openly express her feelings to him. She also appears to be Asuka’s only friend. Hikari is an accomplished cook who appears to take care of her two sisters. Like presumably every one of Shinji’s classmates, Hikari’s mother is dead. However, no references were ever made as to whether her father is, either. Her given name, and that of her unseen younger sister, Nozomi, and elder sister, Kodama, is also in reference to the names of the trains of the Tōkaidō Shinkansen line. In a Gainax artwork picture she is shown in an orange plugsuit as the pilot for EVA Unit-05. She is also featured in a live action deleted scene in The End of Evangelion.
Pen Pen, or Pen², is a “hot spring penguin” and Misato’s pet. He appears to be modeled after a crested penguin with some minor coloration change. He lives in a custom refrigerator in Misato’s apartment, enjoys taking warm baths, eating whatever food he can get, and going to hot springs. He also appears to have a relatively high degree of intelligence, as he is also shown watching TV and reading newspapers. In the manga, he is the result of a genetics experiment at Misato’s former workplace, and she adopted him after the experiment’s conclusion rather than let him be euthanised. His wingtips have retractable claws, which modern birds do not have.
Naoko Akagi was Ritsuko’s mother. She was the creator of the MAGI system and the former GEHIRN head technician. Naoko was involved in a romantic relationship with the recently widowed Gendo Ikari while working at GEHIRN. However, after Rei I called her an “old hag” and said that Gendo himself called Naoko that frequently, she realized that he had merely been using her affections to ensure her performance for him. In a fit of rage, Naoko strangled Rei I to death and then committed suicide. Soon afterward, GEHIRN was disbanded and the organization NERV was formed in its place. In vol. 10 of the manga, Naoko is shown to commit suicide after killing Rei I. Ritsuko witnesses both Rei’s murder and Naoko’s suicide.
Yui Ikari was a student of genetic engineering at Kyoto University, where she met her future husband Gendo and her mentor and trusted friend Kozo Fuyutsuki. Afterwards, she joined the UN Artificial Evolution Laboratory (the future GEHIRN) in Hakone, Japan, and played an integral role in the E Project. She served as the test subject for the Contact Experiment of Unit 01 in 2004, but “disappeared” during testing. Though proclaimed dead, a part of her (her “soul”) lives on within Unit 01.
The final volume of the Evangelion manga reveals that Yui had made a conscious choice to remain with EVA unit 01 during the test that caused her disappearance. She confided her choice only to Fuyutsuki days prior to the test happening and made him promise never to reveal it to Gendo.
Kyoko Zeppelin Soryu
Kyoko Zeppelin Soryu, Asuka’s mother, was a key scientist in the German division of GEHIRN (what would later become NERV’s Third Branch) and the development of Unit 02, the first Production Type (the second and third of which were later produced by the two American branches of NERV). She was the subject of the Contact Experiment with Unit 02, but during the experiment her soul bonded with the EVA, causing severe mental damage to Kyoko. She became mentally unstable, believing that one of Asuka’s dolls was her daughter. She was admitted to a mental institution shortly after the experiment. Her husband had an affair with Kyoko’s own doctor, which eventually prompted Kyoko’s suicide in 2005.
In the manga version, Kyoko and her husband were unable to conceive a child, and divorced after he had an affair. He remarried and had a daughter, while Kyoko visited a sperm bank and became pregnant. She tried to poison Asuka to spite her ex-husband and his other child, referring to Asuka coldly as “that girl.” At one point, Kyoko tried to strangle Asuka. After the failed contact experiment, her violence was instead transferred to Asuka’s doll, as she was clearly in a dissociative state from the trauma. In the Rebuild of Evangelion movies, however, her story is omitted.
Keel Lorenz is the leader of SEELE, represented as SEELE 01 in the monoliths and the main antagonist of the series. Among his most defining characteristics are his ancient appearance and the futuristic visor that he wears throughout the series. Little is revealed about him in the series, but he is believed to hold great political power in the UN. At some time between Second Impact and 2015, most of his body below the neck was replaced with cybernetic implants. Although he uses his visor to see, production drawings show that he still has eyes. The inspiration for his name (and, arguably, his character) originates from Konrad Lorenz, a zoologist known especially for his research on animal psychology. In the manga, his name is given as Lorenz Kiel.