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Shinji x Mari in Neon Genesis Evangelion: an anime ship analysis

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Content Warning: Spoiler alert

The wildly popular Japanese anime franchise Neon Genesis Evangelion has been around for the past few decades. The series is centred on teens with mental and emotional challenges who are forced to fight in huge robot suits known as Evangelions against otherworldly beings known as angels—all while learning to confront and come to terms with their inner demons.

Since the ending of the original series proved controversial, the Rebuild of Evangelion film tetralogy project was initiated in 2007 to retell the story. Over this period, it’s attracted massive fandoms and sparked debate over who should be shipped with poster boy Shinji Ikari, with candidates including Mari Illustrious Makinami, Asuka Shikinami Langley, and Rei Ayanami.

The final instalment of the tetralogy (Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time) came out in 2021. At the end of this film, an older Shinji and Mari are seen hand in hand, bolting out of a train station toward town. I agree with this pairing—and here’s why: 

The magnetic design of Mari Makinami

Mari Makinami’s personality makes her the foil to Shinji. She’s an optimistic woman who exudes a cheerful, friendly, and at times foxy disposition to those she meets. When she first encounters Shinji, she doesn’t hesitate to sniff him like a dog. While this suggests she has no boundaries, this shows she isn’t afraid to be and express herself. With her level of proactiveness, she can spread her confidence to Shinji, who often shies away from others to avoid emotional hardship. Mari’s personality would prompt Shinji to stand up for himself, moving away from his timid and non-confrontational nature.

Another great thing about Mari is she knows when to and when not to take people (including herself) seriously. Her co-pilot Asuka (known for being serious) often chastises her for her levity. In response, Mari often teases Asuka, knowing not to replicate her aggressiveness. This means that Shinji would get along better with Mari than with Asuka: Mari has a lower tendency to take offence than Asuka does, with the latter being likely to fight with Shinji if conflicts were to arise, then emotionally bully him into submitting to her demands (more on this later).

Being highly mature, Mari can also help Shinji grow emotionally and mentally as a person, emboldening him to move on from past trauma and become genuinely happy: She acts like an older sister when looking out for those she protects. Further, she is determined (often fiercely so) to complete the goals and tasks given to her, even if it means losing her life. Below is some evidence:

In Evangelion: 3.0, You Can (Not) Redo (the third Rebuild of Evangelion film), to stop Shinji from prolonging the Fourth Impact he unintentionally caused, Mari forcibly removes him from his Evangelion, commanding the despondent and in-shock Shinji to emotionally pull together and make up for his failure to save Asuka.

Later, in the sequel (3.0+1.0), Mari fights alongside Asuka to prevent an apocalypse known as the Final Impact, aiming to protect Asuka and provide support equipment. Mari continues protecting Asuka up until the latter tries to sacrifice her humanity to destroy Shinji’s previous machine suit (essentially what’s been triggering the apocalypse). Mari warns her co-pilot against such a measure but fails to dissuade her despite her efforts—and she also fails to prevent the apocalypse. 

But she doesn’t give up: In a last-ditch attempt to prevent the Final Impact, she transports Shinji through an alternate universe to confront the enemy one on one, as he is the only one capable of confronting the enemy in that realm. She makes him promise to be careful and tells him that she would come for him no matter what. And after delivering him to his destination, she doesn’t hesitate to confront the opponents and obstacles of her own on her way to reunite with Shinji—and she prevails. 

What about Asuka and Rei?

Neither should be shipped with Shinji: These two are too heavily mired in their own psychological trauma, and their personalities could hinder Shinji’s growth as a person.

To begin, Asuka, though shipped with Shinji by the Evangelion fandom for years, has a toxic personality and a lack of mental and emotional stability that make her a poor candidate for romance. She is abrasive, arrogant, and overly confident, needing to be in the spotlight. 

In the original franchise (with her name slightly changed), Asuka’s personality stems from a desire to prove herself as being just as capable as any adult, not depending on anyone. This, in turn, comes from her failed attempts to get love from her mother, who has poor mental health. Because of this fixation on getting credit, receiving praise, and being in the spotlight, Asuka becomes narcissistic and violent: Refusing to give her what she wants would result in feeling her verbal or physical wrath. As for the Asuka in Rebuild of Evangelion, she retains that personality, only that it stems from a need to hide her loneliness due to her origin (she was created as a clone).

Collectively, this means any romantic relationship between her and Shinji would be incredibly dysfunctional. She would often resort to shunning and putting down Shinji, even physically abusing him for overtaking her skills or doing something (however minor) that irritates her. This would only amplify Shinji’s traits of subservience and needs to receive recognition: He would continuously do whatever he needs just to appease her, even if it harms his own mental and physical health, and she could scapegoat him for the problems she causes.

As for Rei Ayanami? Though the opposite of Asuka, this girl would also hold back Shinji’s growth. She is subservient and quiet, viewing herself as expendable. While she does develop in both the original and rebooted series, it’s a slow process. 

While Shinji treats Rei with more kindness than any of the other Evangelion pilots in the franchise, a relationship between them wouldn’t be healthy: With his mental and emotional challenges and obsession with how the world sees him, his self-victimization would only be reinforced. The two would just trauma bond instead of building a positive relationship anchored in confidence. This would prevent Shinji from adequately confronting, accepting, and making peace with his past while concurrently hindering Rei’s emotional and mental development. Both would be emotionally and mentally stunted in the long term. 


Mari is the person Shinji needs as a long-term romantic interest. She possesses all the things he lacks: motivation, confidence, and spontaneity. Being with her will help Shinji grow more emotionally mature and resilient but also happy and forward-looking. 


None of our employees have watched the full show, but we would love to hear your opinions about this ship. Please email if you would like to write a response.