Today, December 4, is the birthday of Evangelion's Second Children, Asuka.

I remember that I didn't really like Asuka at first, not as much as I liked Rei's silent and deep character, thinking she was a mystery that Asuka was not.
Years later I watched Evangelion again, with more maturity on my shoulders, and got more interested in Asuka than Rei this time: I started noticing things that I didn't even consider or understand when I was too little; like the strenght she had to have for even trying to go forward to her chosen path: a path which was to be built upon a mask of security and perfection, a mask that would avert the gaze from the insecurity of being an unwanted, rejected human being.
I started giving her even more attention than I gave to Rei and Shinji, and always thought that she was, in an ironic and bitter way, the perfect match to the other half of the insecurities apple, composed by her and Shinji.

Personally I think that the very moment in which Asuka shines more is the one in the movies that showed the true ending to the first series: she shines from the side of psychological introspection, in a very unusual way.
When she was thrown with the Eva down the dark abyss that was the lake of the Nerv base, she sensed herself rejected once again.
But something was changing in her heart: from the second half of NGE she started to become angrier, beginning to hate herself more than ever and only wishing to die, without having to bear the 'truth' of being disregarded from her mother, which abandoned her.
When she said that she didn't want to die, her complexity and catharsis striked me with full force.
The words in Italian were "Non voglio morire", and every time she would pronounce them I knew inside myself that she came to realize that, despite all the bad things happening in her life, she didn't actually want to throw it away, like her mother 'supposedly' did.
And every time, she would state it with more strenght and conviction, and I was struck in awe by it.

"Non voglio morire..."
"Non voglio morire..."
"Non voglio morire."
"Non voglio morire!"

The catharsis that happens later, where she has a brief dialogue with her disappeared mother, knowing that she was never abandoned (and showing an underaged Asuka having the sweetest and brightest smile I've ever seen on a human child) masterfully depicts her renewed will to live and the struggle to preserve that new hope.

"Despite wearing bandages that coincide with her final battle injuries in the final scene of The End of Evangelion, the fact Asuka was able to move her right arm and caress Shinji's cheek suggests she imagined herself in her own heart as healed. Asuka caressing Shinji's cheek to begin with also suggests that her personality could change for the better. "

I would watch and rewatch that scene a lot of times, and every time I would think once more how unexpected this event was and how it unfolded in a polar opposite way to the behavior of Rei Ayanami. Both of them are complex character that 'scream' their own emotions, one of the two not always literally, but both of them are such complex characters that deserve the same respect, maybe for different reasons. In their variety, they show the complexity of the human nature, and the scars that Asuka bore in Evangelion made a lot of people learn that, even against all odds and with the certainty of being about to lose your life, you can (not) get away from your past, you have to face it, come to an understanding with it, take hold of the present, and struggle for your life, unwanted or not, to prepare for a new future.

Happy birthday, dear Asuka.

Credits for the image go to the lovely and skilled @ameliesabo