- "It took me ten years to realize...that I wasn't the one at fault. No, it wasn't me who was wrong... it was the world. The world was the one at fault. The world was wrong. This reality, which had come to an end long before the Third Impact...it's Hell."
- ―Shinji Ikari
Otherwise known as the Third Child, he is the pilot of Evangelion Unit-01, and the son of the deceased Gehrin bioengineer Yui Ayanami and NERV Commander (former Gehrin Chief) Gendo Ikari. After his mother's death, he was abandoned by his father, and sent to live with his teacher for eleven years before being called to Tokyo-3 to combat the Angels.
Four years after the Third Impact, Shinji has become a member of the organization Apocrypha Variant, and remains the pilot of the recently upgraded Unit-01. After being tortured and nearly killed by NERV Eva Pilot Jason Mooris, he has come to believe that the world is distorted, and that people are simply looking for a scapegoat to take their anger out, as a result, he thinks the world is little more than a hell that was already in existence before the Third Impact.
Since joining Apocrypha Variant, he is known by the moniker, "Jack the Ripper (切り裂きジャック, Kirisakijakku)," due to the sheer level of brutality he displays towards his enemies.
In the original series, Shinji appeared to be a stereotypical shy, introverted child with doe-like eyes and short brown hair. He is commonly seen wearing a dress shirt with black slacks, as well as a brown belt and dress shoes.
In Apocalypse, after being tortured, Shinji's hair has turned white, and his eyes have been described to have developed a cold, terrifying gleam to them. He has also taken to wearing a black shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows, and white khaki slacks, along with black shoes.
Shinji initially shows a passive and laid-back personality, inheriting such traits from his relaxed life with his sensei. When he is told to pilot Unit-01, he does so without questioning it, choosing simply to go along with what everyone else says. Though Shinji denies it, he yearns for praise, and he eventually begins to pilot Unit-01 to gain the approval and praise of others, as well as the love of his father. He also continually tells himself "I mustn't run away!", further demonstrating his need to move forward and let go of the past.
Shinji shows a great fear of emotional pain and of being hated or left behind, likely due to his perception of being abandoned in his youth and, subsequently, blaming himself for not being good enough to make his father stick around. In general, Shinji is shown to be introverted and disconnected from physical reality due to having little to no meaningful contact with others. In social party situations, he is shown to be quite uncomfortable, and he often has difficulty controlling his emotions around others due to his hard time letting go of the past. He is shown to the extreme of this, forsaking many lives (even his own) to save one person.
Due to Shinji's high nostalgia and fragile emotional state, he chooses to shut out the world, as evidenced by the headphones he wears rather often, plugged into an SDAT music player. He usually plays tracks 25 ("You Are the Only One") and 26 ("Blue Legend"), though in episodes 02 and 23, the songs are varied to different background music and vocals.
Through all this, Shinji is also aware of his own faults, has a detailed memory of the past, and generally is outwardly gentle. He is the only one who tries to find a reason to fight the Angels, and sometimes his justification for fleeing from piloting is to avoid hurting others.
In Neon Apocalypse Evangelion, Shinji is left emotionally distraught when he learns that he had inadvertently destroyed the world when he initiated the Third Impact in his attempts to save Rei from Zeruel. Despite the assurances from Toji and Keisuke, he has all but become detached and unresponsive until he is kidnapped by Jason Mooris, an EVA Pilot from NERV. After being tortured for ten days, and being told all of Gendo's "dirty little secrets," Shinji has undergone a drastic change. He believes that the world is distorted and twisted, and has existed since before the Third Impact. He regards the world with disdain and loathing, referring to it as "Hell," and while his usual calm, gentle demeanor is still present, he has become cold, ruthless, and brutal, destroying any who would seek to take away what is precious to him. When Asuka was about to be killed by a MPE, Shinji ripped off it's lower jaw and arm, and proceeded to have his Eva devour it before telling the AI system, "You tried to kill Asuka, so you don't have the right to complain if you die."
It's been hinted by Toji that Shinji is suffering from a mental scarring as a result of his torture, and is possibly weighing him down. He has also developed Jason's habit of cracking his fingers.
- "Shut...the hell up."
- "All losses in the world are a result of a lack of ability. You people think it's my fault the world's like this...but in reality, it's already been like this. If you want to blame anyone, blame yourselves."
- Much of Shinji's design in the story, including his appearance, are based off of Ken Kaneki from the popular manga series, Tokyo Ghoul, after the events of the Aogiri Arc.