Part 3: Problems
Freudian theory, however, fails in one respect: Shinji has no mother, and thus should experience an irresolution of the Oedipal complex. In this case, Lacanian theory serves better, as it focuses equally on the father-figure without so much requiring the intermediary mother. Lacan's father represents the governing center of the Symbolic order. And what is this "Symbolic order" of which Lacan speaks? The Symbolic order is the stage of development in which a child learns to represent existing, real objects with symbols, such as words and language. According to Lacan, the father, who is the center of the Symbolic order, controls the meanings of these symbols, and thus creates identities for those symbols. This Center, or father, thus creates the identities of those symbols by defining their purposes and giving them meaning. Shinji's father, then, is the literal form of the Lacanian father, and, just as the identities of symbols are created by the Center, Shinji's identity is created and controlled by his father. In fact, this dynamic of control is even reflected in the literal plot of Evangelion itself, in Shinji's working for the organization controlled by his father. Shinji becomes nothing more than a tool working for his father-in fact, Gendo explicitly says so in the first episode-and thus his purpose and his identity are defined by the owner of that tool. Just as Lacan's father determines the identity of symbols, Ikari Gendo determines the identity of his son.
Anno continues to explore the building blocks that make up the symbolic identity, and realizes that these blocks are often not made by other people, as was originally hypothesized above, but rather are made by oneself, based on what that individual thinks others would like. I think that you think that it's cool to be good at math, so I study hard to become a math expert. My identity is shaped by what I think you and others want. This forms the second step of Anno's analysis of the nature of our identity: his characters realize that their false identities are not forced on by others, but are rather self-imposed to please others. The most obvious implication of this is the potential for pretension. Such pretension becomes the focus of the female lead character in Kare Kano, Miyazawa Yukino, who has spent the first fourteen years of her life essentially putting on a show of being the perfect student. Why does she do so? This question is answered in the first episode of the series, which begins with the simple words, "What do others think of me?" and then goes on to show how Miyazawa, because of her desire to be praised by others, structures her life around what she thinks would impress others, so that they will think highly of her. In one humorous scene, we see her posing in front of a mirror, practicing various personality poses which she later uses in public. What others think of her becomes her driving force in life, and, in effect, it defines her identity. Miyazawa's appearance as the perfect student is a constructed identity, a persona built out of what she sees as the symbolic perfect student. And she chooses to accept this identity over the real because of the praise she receives from others-in effect, Anno is hypothesizing that we choose the constructed identity because we believe that others are more willing to accept it.
Soryu Asuka Langley, the third pilot to appear in Evangelion, exhibits a similar desire to be lauded by others, and similarly constructs an identity, the identity of being an Eva pilot, around that desire. And to a degree so does Shinji, but his case, as expected, is more complex. For Shinji, piloting the Eva is more an obligation than a source of pride; he performs his job mainly so that he won't see others being hurt. Yet Shinji's reasons go beyond merely a sense of obligation; he is, in fact, afraid that his existence has no meaning beyond piloting the Eva. This is not simply a pathetic lament. As J.S. points out, Shinji, in the beginning of the series, really has no identity of his own, possibly because of his unresolved Oedipal complex forcing him to remain stuck in the third stage of Freudian development, thus hindering his formation of identity. And without a real identity of his own, Shinji's only identity, as the Eva pilot, is one which is constructed by his desire to please others-his desire to please the people of Tokyo 3, his desire to please his surrogate mother-figure Misato, his desire to please his father.
This analysis of Shinji having no real identity works well until about the middle of the series, when Shinji gradually resolves his developmental problems and is actually able to develop an identity of his own. K.G. notes that Shinji's Eva contains the soul of his mother, and A.Y.L. interprets this, combined with the implied symbolism of Shinji's entry plug penetrating the Eva (i.e., his mother), to the interpretation that Shinji resolves his Oedipal complex and thus begins to develop his own identity. Yet Shinji refuses this real identity and instead chooses to hide behind a persona he creates, a persona of cowardliness. What is this real identity, and why does Shinji still choose a constructed identity-even a socially unacceptable one-over this newfound real one? The answer to this will lead us to Anno's final revelation about identity, and his possible solution to breaking free of the constructed identity and embracing the real.