(Major Spoilers Ahead!)
Subjectivity is both the strength and downfall of the human race. Its 5 billion strong singular spheres of reality collide in endless arguments, beatings and wars. Subjectivity lets us rationalize the most inane opinions into coherent rights and wrongs.
Shinji Ikari, the 14 year old male lead in Neon Genesis Evangelion, has retreated so far into his own sphere that he can offer no defense against the effect of the spheres around him.
It is impossible for him to present any outward opinion. His lethargic behavior allows Misato Katsuragi, Section Chief of the Battle Planning Division, to take him in as a foster child; his father, Gendoh Ikari, Commander of NERV and Director of the Human Enhancement Project, to force him into the womb of man’s last and greatest weapon; Rei Ayanami, fellow EVA pilot, clone and source code for dummy plugs, to bond with Shinji through false (staged, programmed?) images and acts of mother/sisterhood; Asuka Sohryo Langley, pilot of EVA-02, overdeveloped features and callous attitudes to reinforce his awkward sexuality; and Kaworu, the last angel, to trick him into a thin friendship and a chance at martyrdom. Shinji has no defense against these invasions except for a wish to be left alone.
Shinji and his damaging antisocial behavior is but one element of the otaku subtext that describes the cast of Neon Genesis Evangelion. We otaku can easily identify with the reluctant hero of young Ikari. This fantasy accounts for much of the popularity of modern geek culture (comics, RPGs, video games, and their derivative products). “I don’t have much to give, if anything, but when called upon in a time of great need I will perform my impossible duty.” That sounds like some geek martyr motto. Shinji is thrust into this fantastic situation in the first episode of the series: “The Beast,”
Shinji–Why me?/ Gendoh–Because no one else can/ S–No, I can’t…I’ve never seen anything like this [EVA-01] before! I can’t do this!/ G–You will be instructed./ S–But there’s no way! I can’t pilot it!/ G–If you’re going to pilot it do it now and quickly. If not, leave!
Only after a damsel in distress (Rei II) is flopped in front of him, bleeding, does Shinji decide not to run away and save the world. However, Shinji remains reluctant and will always shy away from conflict until his hand is forced then he breaks through his prison of a sphere and goes berserk.
Outside of these times of battle he enjoys his singular reality to the extent of favoring it over the interaction and possible contamination from others. His walkman serves as a sensory deprivation tank where he can hallucinate his own perfect world as illustrated in the original episodes 25 and 26. The first time he runs away from NERV these two digital tape tracks loop throughout his long train ride.