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Kaworu/Shinji (Evangelion)

Title: Love Under Will: Ikari Shinji and Nagisa Kaworu
Author: flyby
Fandom: (Neon Genesis/Shin Seiki) Evangelion
Pairing: Ikari Shinji/Nagisa Kaworu
Spoilers: The nature of the pairing makes this essay one big spoiler for Episode 24. Do not read this if you haven't yet seen it, because it is extremely pivotal. Also a few spoilers for The End Of Evangelion and the ultimate outcome of the series.
Notes: I really tried to keep the amount of meta to a minimum, but this is Evangelion. This essay is the concise version; it's also my own interpretation of a series that has more meaning and symbolism than anything before or since.

Love Under Will: Ikari Shinji and Nagisa Kaworu

Are we both from a different world?
'Cause every breath that I take, I breathe it for you
I couldn't face my life without you
And I'm so afraid.
There's nothing to comfort us
What am I, if I can't be yours?
~Thanatos, Evangelion OST
Shin Seiki (or Neon Genesis) Evangelion has been called the definitive anime series of the 1990s. It's difficult to describe – 'shounen series breaks all the moulds and becomes a nihilistic vision of the apocalypse' is the condensed version. In the beginning, the series comes across as a fairly average bio-mecha show – young boy pilots giant robots against alien invaders, female characters occasionally flash some skin, and so forth. However, it quickly becomes apparent that something very different is happening here. Neo-religious imagery begins to take control of the plot, hidden motives are revealed everywhere, and perhaps most importantly, psychological elements take over the centre stage. The series broke entirely new ground, and generated a whole lot of controversy in the process.
     A good deal of that controversy surrounded the relationship between the lead character, Ikari Shinji, and another young male character, Nagisa Kaworu. Canon homosexual implications or relationships in a shounen series were and are unheard of, and a large number of viewers weren't happy with it.

Ikari Shinji

Ikari Shinji is fourteen years old, and like every other character in the series, he's pretty messed up. His mother died when he was a toddler, and his father (Ikari Gendo, the commander of NERV) abandoned him shortly afterwards to be raised by a teacher. While Shinji was never abused, he was also never shown any affection at all. He's introverted, shy, diffident, and very uncertain – afraid both of hurting and of being hurt by others.
     Shinji is the Third Child – the third Evangelion pilot to be chosen. He is essentially plucked out of his old life and thrown into the entry plug by Misato, presumably at the behest of his father, and though he tries to run away several times, he always returns, partly because piloting may help others, but mostly because it's only as an EVA pilot that he receives any respect or friendship. He hates his father for abandoning him, and considers himself to be a worthless coward; Gendo in return displays a seemingly uncaring willingness to use Shinji for his own ends.

Nagisa Kaworu

Nagisa Kaworu is the Fifth Child, but he is also the Seventeenth Angel, Tabris – the Angel of Free Will. Although he outwardly appears to be a calm and polite human boy, he was sent to NERV by SEELE in order to destroy either himself or the organisation. As an Angel, even in human form, he has an overriding compulsion to rejoin Adam, from whom he was born and whose soul he bears. He is one half of the products of Second Impact; the other is the embryonic body of Adam, which is held by NERV. If the two were to rejoin, the results would be cataclysmic and probably destroy humanity. Despite being the embodiment of choice, in this matter Kaworu has none.

Kaworu and Shinji

Kaworu doesn't appear until close to the end of the series, at a point when Shinji has realised that he is irrevocably separated from everyone else around him. They meet at the shore of the new sea created by the destruction of Tokyo-3, and Shinji is very affected by the simple fact that Kaworu is being nice to him for no apparent reason; it's very possibly the first time in his life that he's been treated this way. Shinji stammers and blushes as they introduce themselves, both asking the other to use personal rather than family names, and Kaworu smiles.
     Their second meeting is after Kaworu's activation tests in EVA Unit 02. Whether consciously or not, Shinji waits for Kaworu outside the gates, and they visit the public baths together. This in itself isn't particularly indicative of anything, being a Japanese societal norm, but Shinji's constant blushing at anything Kaworu says or does is rather sweet, and is certainly an indicator of attraction. Kaworu shows a great deal of insight into Shinji's psychology, even though they have barely met. He puts his hand over Shinji's, and Shinji's gasp sounds more surprised and wondering than shocked. He doesn't pull away, even when Kaworu teases him fairly explicitly:

Shinji: It's time to go to bed.
Kaworu: With me?
Shinji: Huh?! Oh, no! I think you have your own room. A separate one.
~Episode 24
Then we come to the most pivotal point of their interaction. Kaworu comments on the human condition in general, and then again on Shinji's predicament:

Kaworu: You're so delicate, like glass, especially your heart.
Shinji: I am?
Kaworu: Yes, that's why you've earned my compassion.
Shinji: Compassion?
Kaworu: I'm saying I love you.
~Episode 24
Instead of returning to Misato's apartment, Shinji spends the night in Kaworu's room, on a spare futon. Kaworu seems to know that he wants to talk to someone, and Shinji proceeds to relate what amounts to his life story, including many things he's never told anyone else. Kaworu smiles at him again, and says "Maybe I was born to meet you."
     As it turns out, he was. The next day, Kaworu takes EVA Unit 02 and descends into Terminal Dogma, the top-secret layer below NERV headquarters, to fulfil his existence by joining with Adam. Shinji refuses at first to believe that Kaworu is an Angel, and when he is forced to fight against Unit 02, he's more concerned with his own pain:

Shinji: You betrayed me! You betrayed my feelings!
~Episode 24
Kaworu simply tells him that he's been waiting for him. Shinji in Unit 01 fights the unmanned Unit 02, and screams Kaworu's name; Kaworu looks back for a long moment with a sad expression before continuing to the last gate – Heaven's Door.

Kaworu: Must one who was born from Adam return to Adam, even at the cost of destroying humanity?
~Episode 24
He realises, however, that he has been played by SEELE: the crucified figure in Terminal Dogma is not Adam but Lilith, the mother of humanity. For the soul of Adam to join with the body of Lilith would exalt the Angels but destroy humanity, and Kaworu is the only Angel left. Without the compulsion to join with Adam, he is left with free will and a simple choice – and he chooses to ask Shinji to kill him.
     Shinji refuses, but Kaworu explains that it's him or humanity, and that he would rather Shinji survive; in death he will be free. This is his final wish.

Kaworu: You are not a being who should die. Thank you. I'm glad I met you.
~Episode 24
It takes Shinji a long time, but he does eventually close the Evangelion's fist, crushing Kaworu. Later, back at the shore of the Tokyo-3 sea, he explains to Misato that Kaworu said he loved him – the only person to ever tell him that.

Shinji: I loved him. Kaworu-kun was the one who should have survived.
~Episode 24
And he cries.

Kaworu shows up again during the movie ending of the series. In Death and Rebirth, the series is recapped around a framing sequence of a string quartet playing Pachelbel's Canon. Shinji is first, on 'cello, with Asuka and Rei joining on second violin and viola respectively; Kaworu arrives late but takes first violin, and he and Shinji begin the piece together.
     In The End Of Evangelion, during Final Impact Kaworu emerges from the mega-Rei-Lilith to calm and comfort a terrified Shinji who becomes almost ecstatic. Later, he speaks with Rei and Kaworu in his mind as he decides the fate of mankind. He rejects Instrumentality in favour of returning everyone to a normal world.

Kaworu: Is it all right for the AT field to cause you and others pain again?
Shinji: I don't mind. But what are the two of you within my heart?
Rei: The hope that people will one day be able to understand one another.
Kaworu: The words 'I love you.'
~The End Of Evangelion
To Shinji, Rei represents hope – and Kaworu love.

While the words 'I love you' don't leave much open to interpretation, the character dynamics between Kaworu and Shinji are interesting. One of the major themes running throughout Evangelion is Shinji's growth, and even in the short duration of his relationship with Kaworu this is apparent. When they first meet, Shinji is shy and quiet, and hesitates to speak or ask questions, but later he begins to speak out for himself, volunteering information and asking hesitant questions. After Kaworu's 'betrayal' Shinji is forced to the point of demanding answers, shouting about his feelings at the top of his lungs.
     On the surface, Kaworu and Shinji seem like two very different personalities. Kaworu is calm and accepting, and knows himself well; Shinji is shy, introverted, and afraid of many things including himself. Their pasts, however, are very similar: Kaworu was (physically) created by SEELE in the same manner as Rei, i.e. as a clone. It's highly likely that he shares Shinji's memories of being unloved and alone, deprived of affection and contact while under the control of an absent guardian. It would certainly explain just why they connect so well.
     They also connect through their needs. Above all, Shinji needs someone to accept and understand him without judgement, and this is exactly what Kaworu does. What Kaworu needs from Shinji is more debatable, but probably also centres around acceptance, this time of his feelings. It's possible that love is something entirely new to him, after all.
     Although Kaworu is dead, his relationship with Shinji is not invalidated. People may die, but love can't; Shinji's feelings for Kaworu will remain, and whether or not he moves on, he'll always remember Kaworu as the first person to ever say those words to him.

Shinji looking vaguely lost

Shinji isn't really any more of a coward than anyone else; he just has absolutely no self-esteem or self-confidence. In his own mind he is worthless, incapable of succeeding. He sabotages his own chances of success by his lack of belief in himself. Throughout the series, everything he is given by others has a price. He receives affection from Misato only as long as he pilots the Evangelion, and he only makes friends at school after he saves the city. Rei is a blank slate and Asuka blows hot and cold, propping up her own weaknesses by putting him down and thus miring him further in perceived uselessness. He keeps returning to NERV because it's only as an EVA pilot that he receives any approval at all.
     Kaworu, in contrast, offers Shinji friendship immediately, with no strings attached. He makes no demands of Shinji at all, and even bolsters his self-esteem by telling him first that he's well-known and second that he's worthy of respect and compassion. It's the first and only time that anyone has given Shinji anything, and his surprised reaction shows it.
     Being who he is, there is absolutely nothing that Kaworu needs from Shinji. He's not trying to discover secrets or attack NERV; he's making a purely personal choice, first to make friends and then to spend time with Shinji.
     As the Angel of Free Will, choice is the fundamental basis of Kaworu's existence. He makes only a very few personal, life-altering decisions in his entire life, and all of them centre around Shinji. The pivotal decision, the choice which informs and guides all the others, is simply to love. Crowley defines Love as the major guiding force of the universe, subject to Will: ultimately, we choose to love, and Kaworu chooses to love Shinji. [1]
     Kaworu's love for Shinji forms the basis of his other major choice: his death. Having come to the end of all compulsion and obligation to SEELE and others, he is faced with only one way forward: to join with Lilith and oversee the complete destruction of humanity. He would have eternal life, but he would be eternally alone – and Shinji would die.
     Because he loves Shinji, Kaworu chooses not to move forward at all. In asking Shinji to kill him, he gives up not only his life but the power to decide the fate of humanity: Shinji will now be the one to make that choice. This could almost be called a consummation of his love rather than its death, because he has given Shinji everything that he is.

Kaworu smiling at Shinji

Although it's not a literal Biblical or Apocryphal interpretation, Evangelion nevertheless incorporates a large number of Judeo-Christian religious motifs. There are the main devices, such as the Angels, Adam, and Lilith, and there are other, less obvious themes. Human Instrumentality is one of these; it's based on a concept that factors into philosophical Catholic dogma, the Communion of Saints. Teilhard de Chardin posits (based on St. Paul) that the destiny of Man is to evolve to become completely one with each other and God; an ultimate transcendence. [2] Shin Seiki Evangelion is based on the idea that SEELE have decided to force this evolution to occur within their lifetimes, in order to attain the Glory of God.
     Kaworu's appearance in the Mega-Rei-Lilith in End of Evangelion also harks back to Biblical apocrypha: Adam and Lilith were originally created by God as one being, with male and female bodies joined back to back. It's strongly implied, however, that Kaworu's presence there is only in Shinji's mind:

Shinji: Kaworu-kun! Have you been here all along?
~The End Of Evangelion
Shinji's love for Kaworu implies a rejection of the women around him. Although Misato, Rei and Asuka offer varying degrees of friendship, affection, and love, both physically and symbolically, Shinji doesn't react to them in nearly the same manner as he does to Kaworu. Misato, Asuka and Rei all embody aspects of the women of Genesis: Lilith, Eve, and the unnamed virgin who was rejected by Adam because he saw her being created, 'full of secretions and blood.' In accepting Kaworu the way he does, Shinji makes the first move away from the Biblical fate presented for humanity. When you consider that at the start of the series he was little more than a doll, doing whatever he was told, his growth is very obvious.
     Even after his death, Kaworu's influence on Shinji is enormous. Having lost everything that ever mattered to him, right down to what little self-respect he had, NERV and SEELE think that he will embrace the peace and communion of Instrumentality as an end to his pain. But the transcendence that Lilith offers is false because it is imposed – it's a forced evolution schemed up by old men who fear death rather than a natural step for humanity. Shinji knows this:

Shinji: But this isn't right. This feels wrong.
~The End Of Evangelion
The Human Instrumentality Project isn't the only way for human beings to achieve happiness, or peace. What Kaworu gave to Shinji is the knowledge that although it may cause us pain, our separation also allows us to love. Love, above all, is what breaks down the barriers between people, and through it even the most flawed individual can achieve transcendence. Shinji's choice to reject Instrumentality is a direct result of his emotional interaction with Kaworu – he has known real, unconditional love, and is willing to accept the pain that goes with it. His decision gives the rest of humanity the freedom to experience love for themselves, and the hope that one day they will – 'divided for love's sake, for the chance of union.' [3]

This is not a pairing for the faint-hearted. It's undeniably canon that Kaworu and Shinji love each other, but the extent and nature of that love are the subject of much controversy and debate. A lot of people refuse to believe that there's anything romantic at all implied, and that the word 'suki' should be translated absolutely literally as 'like' rather than 'love'. Others dislike the implication that either character might be gay, and refuse to see their relationship as anything more than platonic.
     Even believing in the love between Kaworu and Shinji - a love that changed the fate of the world - it's difficult to see the pairing as anything other than pure tragedy. Although Shinji gives hope to the rest of humanity, he has lost his own. Kaworu is dead, after all. But there are hints in the movie ending that death may not be as final as it seems. Although Misato was killed before Final Impact began, her voice is heard after Shinji makes his decision: "All living creatures have the power to be brought back to life, and the will to go on living." Considering that Kaworu's body fell into the LCL after his death, it may very well be possible for him to come back. After all, the world that is rebuilt in the End of Evangelion is the world that Shinji wished for – a world where humans can hope for love.

Please come back into my arms
To meet again
Miracles do happen, however many times
~Theme from Death & Rebirth

Fic recs:
Ode To Joy by Leareth: one of the most well-known fics around; very well written, although I personally am not a great fan of some of the interpretations of canon here.
Darkness In The Cold by Monica Shin: inside Shinji's head, afterwards.
Changeling Child by Katharos: written for 30 Kisses, and I want more. It's a minor AU where Kaworu and Shinji meet earlier, and it's hands-down the best Evangelion fic I've read.

Art recs:
Work For Idle Hands - Mallory Dyer's artsite, home to the well-known Winged Kaworu.
Samurai Kaworu by Yurecia
Angel Kaworu by Hyatt Ayanami
Kaworu and Shinji by Hyatt Ayanami
Project EVA

Second Impact - lots of factual information about Kaworu and his appearances in the series.
The Final Seahore - Kaworu shrine with some good art and a large collection of fics, a good proportion of which are Kaworu/Shinji-centric.

[1] Crowley: 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law: Love under Will.' I should probably note that I am not a Thelemite; this is largely my own interpretation.
[2] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: The Phenomenon Of Man, and also The Divine Milieu.
[3] Crowley again, in Magick in Theory and Practice, 4.iii


Oh, my... I'm extremely impressed by this essay. Very well-written, and pretty much explains everything about my Evangelion OTP. :D

Thank you. :D
Wow. You made EoE make sense. >_> Kinda makes me want to watch the show again.

This is an excellent essay.
Beautiful essay! Kaworu/Shinji is one of my favorite pairings. One of the reasons I like it so much is because Kaworu made Shinji happy. I would've liked to have seen more interaction between them, but episode 24 was enough to satisfy me.
*claps* Good essay. Very well written.
Wonderful essay, and a nice defense of Shinji too boot. One more Evangelion fic you might enjoy: Footloose and Fancy-Free, set after the end of it all, and very sweet.
Maybe it's just today but when it seems that yaoiusa isn't working, the other site (Pseudepigrapha) I found hosting the fic has a 404, so I goggled the title again with different keywords, and used the cache feature:

You can take the color highlights out of the text if it bothers you that much by pasting it onto document, select, font normal.
That was so great and incredibly well written. Making sense of Evangelion is a hard thing to do, and you explain it quite well. ps. two of your image links are broken, on "realized" and "shinji"
Just passing by & saw this. Kaworu/Shinji has to be one of my favourite pairings. This was wonderful to read, and I now have a deeper insight on K/S as well as the Eva series itself. Thank you!

Also, a fic you might want to check out: Whisper ; takes place 10 years after the series. :)
You did a wondeful job. Evangelion in itself is quite hard to grasp, yet you explained the pairing perfectly. Kaworu/Shinji is one of my most-loved pairings, especially because of the canonness of it. Thank you for this!
Fantastic job - the explication of what happened in the series was concise, clear and helpful, plus the reasoning behind the pairing was well-thought out and insightful. So glad to see a Kaworu/Shinji essay here. Thanks for the links as well! ^^
Excelent essay. And I agree that the 30 kisses AU needs to be continued.
Great essay! You've managed to keep it concise, and yet explain enough of the tangles that NGE descends into to cover the relationship in a way that makes sense. I don't envy you that task XD.

Poor boys - they really did get a rough deal.
Not only is this a great essay, you explained EoE in a way that I understood. You win twice!
This was a wonderful essay. I can't offer any insight... I just wanted to say that this is an extraordinary piece of work! <3

Wonderful essay.
This is almost a year old but hey, I just found it. ♥ This is probably the best essay I've seen about Kaworu/Shinji. :3
I'm a newcomer to Evangelion which is why I'm only now responding to this beautifully eloquent essay. What an incredibly tragic pair.
This was really great! Actually one of the greatest essays on Evangelion. You were able to capture the meaning of the whole Kaworu x Shinji symbolism...
It's 2006, a year after you published it and I'm just getting to understand my Evangelion OTP. Be sure of your important role in helping me to understand it.
You're a genius ^^.
Thanks for the helping and the posting!
Awesome job ^-^ Mind if I put a link to this on the fanlisting?
Please feel free. I'm kind of blinking that people are still reading this after a year, though.
I could have sworn I had searched for it on the database but couldn't find it, so when I saw it linked my brain was like 'finally someone wrote one' :P I didn't even looked at the date ^^;
It's an awesome essay, very well analyzed and written and thought. I'm not a Shinji/Kaworu fan, and I'll never be, but I liked the insight given to the relationship. However I do differ in the pairing.
You forgot this passage in episode 25 :

Shinji: Evangelion Unit One.

Shinji: I have to pilot this, after all,
killing the one that I loved,
obaying the words from my father and others.
You say I must fight on this?
Mom! say something! answer me!

(source : http://www.animanga.com/scripts/textesgb/eva25.html)

And the only person he had killed is Kaworu so he clearly says that he loves him.
I was freaking out over not understanding Kaworu's side of things this morning, and read this essay. SEELE's connection to Kaworu (why would they send him to Lilith if his joining with Lilith would destroy humanity?) and the difference between his joining with Adam and his joining with Lilith still confuse the bejesus out of me, but this was very helpful to understand Kaworu's feelings.

Thank you, even though it's been up for so long. <3
Yet another person who has read and loved your essay is commenting more then a year later. This essay was wonderful. Well stated.


Good essay, just one thing though:

Although Misato was killed before Final Impact began, her voice is heard after Shinji makes his decision: "All living creatures have the power to be brought back to life, and the will to go on living."

It's actually Yui, not Misato who say this :)
Fabulous! Your manifesto left me absolutely speechless!!

92jvc4ot7495u4v9n930vc29305c7-0495v *keyboard smash*

Thank you!
This is an intelligent, well-thought out essay.

Amazing work

You are brilliant, and anyone who reads this will understand the beauty and tragedy of this...one of the most beautiful canon pairings in the genre.
blue by darkhavens

January 2018



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