The Neon Genesis Evangelion The franchise is one of the best known and most influential mecha anime of the genre. He is recognizable for his unique designs for Eva and Angels units, as well as for his deep exploration of philosophical themes. Many also flock to its likable characters and the intrigues that surround them.
Between the original television series and the Reconstruction of Evangelion movies, there are many Eva pilots of different skill levels. Some excel at their jobs, others fall apart. On top of that, some of the show’s most iconic characters are completely different in the show and the movies.
Warning: this listing contains big spoilers for the original Neon Genesis Evangelion and The end of Evangelion, as good as Reconstruction of Evangelion movie theater.
6 Toji Suzuhara fails as a pilot
In the original series and Rebuild movies, Toji Suzuhara is portrayed more as a tyrant than someone the audience wants to root for, as he punches Shinji in the face quickly. However, after witnessing what Shinji goes through while piloting an Eva, he quickly changes his tone and the two, along with Kensuke, become good friends.
However, the films diverge from Toji’s original screenplay. In the series, Toji is selected as Eva’s fourth pilot and is assigned to Eva Unit-03. Unfortunately, things go very wrong, very quickly, as the unit is possessed by an Angel and goes on a rampage. Shinji is sent to Unit-01 to fight the Angel, not knowing who is inside the input socket.
Shinji refuses to attack the Eva, not wishing to harm another human. His father has other plans and immediately takes manual control of Unit-01 and destroys the creature. Toji is seriously injured in the battle, and his fate is ultimately unknown as he no longer appears physically in the series.
Although Toji does not pilot any Eva units in the Rebuild series of films and his inability to control Unit-03 is not his fault, he is by far the least skilled pilot. After all, he has no experience and never even gets the chance to try piloting.
5 Kaworu Nagisa is not who he says he is
Kaworu Nagisa’s character is similar in both the original anime and the Rebuild series in that it is later revealed that he is, in fact, an angel in human form. That and his relationship with Shinji are pretty much the only things the two versions of the character have in common. In the animated series, Kaworu is chosen as the fifth child and must pilot Unit-02 while Asuka recovers.
Although he technically never flies an Eva, he is still able to control Unit-02 and have her fight Shinji so Kaworu can achieve what he believes to be Adam. However, after finding out that this creature is Lilith, he asks Shinji to kill him. He is reluctant at first but follows up on Kaworu’s final request.
In the Rebuild films, Kaworu and Shinji together pilot the Eva Unit-13 in pairs. Gendo asks the two to remove a spear from Lilith. Kaworu hesitates, but Shinji insists on completing his mission. Asuka, Mari, and Kaworu all try to stop him, but Shinji inadvertently causes the fourth impact by withdrawing the spear. Kaworu forces their Eva to stab herself, then dies from an explosive neck strap around her throat.
While Kaworu’s driving prowess isn’t particularly impressive in either movie, his ability to keep control of any Eva makes him a fairly skilled pilot.
4 Shinji Ikari is an imperfect pilot
As the protagonist of the entire franchise, you would expect Shinji Ikari to be the best Eva pilot there is. However, this is far from the truth. With his pacifist nature and inability to overcome his fears, he is a deeply flawed pilot in both the original series and the Rebuild movie theater.
Shinji frequently disobeys orders and refuses to listen to those who care about him, often resulting in dire consequences, including the third and fourth impacts. Shinji has almost no restraint, and when things aren’t going his way, he often slips into a deep depression, during which he just sits there in self-pity.
However, Shinji quickly adapts to piloting the Eva Unit-01 and is even able to drive the machine crazy. Although he is not the most gifted pilot, he does demonstrate some skill.
3 Rei Ayanami was created for one purpose
Rei Ayanami is the first child and the first pilot of Eva Unit-00. While she is seriously injured when the audience is first introduced to her, she then shows great skill in piloting.
She uses a shield to protect Shinji from an angel attack, allowing her to successfully destroy him. She is also tasked with protecting Shinji and Kaworu in the third film and shows off her prowess in battling Mari and Asuka. While she is engaged in the fight against these two senior pilots, she is able to defend herself long enough for Gendo’s plan to succeed.
However, it is later revealed that she is so powerful because she is a clone of Shinji’s mother, which means that she was created specifically to be a good pilot. Despite this, Asuka and Mari display substantial natural skills when it comes to controlling their own Eva units.
2 Asuka Langley is naturally talented
Asuka is one of NERV’s most valuable assets, as she is one of their most skilled pilots. In the original series, Asuka Langley Soryu is extremely self-confident. During her first appearance, she meets Shinji, Misato, Kensuke and Toji aboard an aircraft carrier. The ship is attacked by an Angel, and Asuka does not hesitate to engage in Unit-02.
Although she is extremely brash and self-confident, she also carries a great deal of trauma and insecurity with her. This is shown by the way she practically stops when Shinji overtakes her later in the series. However, in the movie, The end of EvangelionAsuka regains confidence and flies Unit-02 once more, taking down nine mechs on her own. Unfortunately, this victory was short-lived as his Eva ran out of power soon after.
In the Rebuild films, Asuka is first shown in a battle with an angel. Rather than needing Shinji’s help, Asuka Langley Shikinami takes down the monster on her own. She later fulfills the role Toji played in the original series, as she is selected as the pilot of Experimental Unit-03 which is possessed by an angel.
As the resulting battle puts Asuka off duty a bit, she returns stronger than ever and fights just as fiercely. On top of all this, she forces Shinji to confront his own mistakes and return to Misato aboard the Wunder.
Her skills in these films far exceed her abilities in the original series, as she frequently faces angels alongside Mari, and is even one of the last pilots standing during the decisive battle of the fourth film.
1 Mari Makinami is the most qualified pilot
Although Mari Illustrious Makinami does not appear in the original animated series, she is by far the most skilled pilot in the franchise. She demonstrates an unrivaled understanding of Evangelion units, going so far as to maintain control when activating a unit’s “beast mode”.
In the Rebuild movies, Mari is able to take down an angel while piloting Asuka’s Unit-02 as easily as she can while piloting her own Unit-05. She also later piloted Unit-08 to aid Asuka in her mission to rescue Unit-01 and prevent Shinji from inadvertently initiating the Fourth Impact.
In the final film, 3.0 + 1.0 Three times once upon a time, Mari and Asuka are the two leading the attack on NERV to stop Gendo. After Shinji restores the world without Evangelions, Mari lands his unit in the ocean in front of Shinji and comes out just before it ceases to exist.
They are later shown as adults at a Tokyo station and are the only two who remember everything that happened. Husband takes Shinji’s hand and leads him out of the station so the two can experience the new world together.
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