Asuka Langley Sohryu (惣流・アスカ・ラングレー, “Sōryū Asuka Rangurē”) is a 14 year old fictional character from the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise and one of the female main characters. Asuka is designated as the Second Child (“Second Children” in the original Japanese versions) of the Evangelion Project and pilots the Evangelion Unit-02. Her surname is romanized as Soryu in the English manga and Sohryu in the English version of the TV series, the English version of the anime movie and on Gainax’s website.
Asuka is only one quarter Japanese, which accounts for her Japanese name but European appearance. Asuka is a native of Germany, having been raised there, though her nationality is technically American. Asuka’s native language is German, and in both the series and the manga she tends to curse in German. Asuka was born to an American father (unknown) and a German/Japanese mother (deceased). She is a child prodigy and has earned a university degree in an unspecified field as a teenager; she also speaks fluent Japanese, but has trouble reading and writing kanji. Asuka had years of training starting from a young age to become a pilot for the Evangelion. She is characterized by her red hair and equally fiery temper. Asuka is very proud of being an Eva pilot, and near-constantly wears her A10 nerve clips in her hair, because she wants everyone around her to know that she is a pilot. Asuka’s iconic catch-phrase (always directed at Shinji) is “anta baka?!” (あんたバカァ?!), “anta” being a contraction of “anata” meaning “you” and “baka” literally meaning “fool” or “idiot”. The official English dub renders this as “What are you, stupid?!”
Asuka is a very proud individual, especially in her piloting, and comes across to others as proud and strong, with a very high opinion of both her appearance (particularly her recently “busty” body) and her skill as an Eva pilot. She is stubborn and finds it difficult to express her true feelings to others. She does not like being looked down upon or told what to do as she wants to be viewed as an adult. She is aggressive and can be very opinionated. However, this personality is a front that protects a very vulnerable and insecure girl, a side which the viewer sees in her dreams or thoughts. She is often violent and intrusive of other people’s space, especially Shinji’s. She also has a strong need to be self-sufficient, and has a great deal of difficulty dealing with her self-perceived failure when she does need help; as her seiyuu Yuko Miyamura wrote of her experiences playing Asuka:
“Just to let you know, Asuka wasn’t the most open-hearted character I’ve ever met…every time I tried to draw myself in closer synchronization, Asuka would never allow herself to sync with me. Even in the end, she would never step across the line and draw closer to me. The last scene in The End of Evangelion was done, and still she had never stepped across that line and come forward. One day, I figured out that there was a wall in Asuka’s heart.”
Thus her relationship with Shinji is one of the core aspects of the series, and affects both characters on multiple levels (see next section).
Her best (and seemingly her only close) friend is her class representative, Hikari Horaki. Although Asuka and classmate Toji Suzuhara constantly argue, she gives Hikari advice about pursuing Toji. Asuka is openly infatuated with Ryoji Kaji, her former guardian after her mother died, and makes a number of advances toward him which he politely refuses. For this reason she envies her and Shinji’s guardian, Misato Katsuragi, especially after Misato and Kaji rekindle their romantic relationship. The “Director’s Cut” of Episode 24 also shows Asuka violently confronting Shinji and saying he’s lying when he tells her that Kaji is dead.
In her early appearances, Asuka has a high synchronization ratio and displays exceptional skill as an Eva pilot. She is also very aggressive and confident in battle, which works both for and against her as the series progresses. After being defeated in battle by the Angel Zeruel, Asuka’s self-confidence (and, correspondingly, her sync ratio and effectiveness as a pilot) begins to dwindle. This comes to a head in Episode 22, when the AngelArael appears. Burdened by increasingly poor results in synchronization tests, Asuka is infuriated when she is ordered to serve as backup for Rei. She launches herself in Unit-02 and tries to attack the Angel alone but is overwhelmed by its attack, which forces her to relive the painful memories of her past and causes her to suffer a mental and emotional breakdown. She loses the will to live and is incapable of piloting Unit-02 again in the series.