Neon Genesis Evangelion is a mecha series that is more than just an action story. It is one of the deepest stories to exist that reveal the dirt in human nature. However, the series portrays these negatives in a way that hating a character feels equally wrong. What one would feel is sympathy towards them because the viewers know why the character is twisted or why their actions are what they are. Misato and Shinji’s relationship is often questioned throughout the series. The two characters have a very deep relationship that can neither be called explicit nor not that of a mother and son. It was one where they supported each other by their presence. If that was all, why did Misato kiss Shinji?
In the manga, Misato addresses the kiss as an ‘adult’s kiss’. This means that there is no mistake in deducing that the kiss between them was purely sexual where Misato saw Shinji as a man rather than a boy. This brought forth several questions among the viewers of the show. Misato was twice the age of Shinji. While their relationship is often hinted to be a bit different, it has never been explicitly pointed out until she kisses him.
So why did Misato kiss Shinji? Here is a quick analysis of the situation.
To understand why Misato kissed him, we need to understand what the complicated relationship between them was like.
At the beginning of the series, Shinji is brought to NERV by Misato. She convinces him to pilot the Evangelion Unit-01. Thereafter, she decides that Shinji should be living with her instead of all by himself, which proves that there must be some affinity Misato held towards Shinji even though she was twice his age. She finds Shinji to be a stabilizing influence in her life. When she talks to Shinji at the train station, Misato confesses that the reason why she let Shinji live with her wasn’t out of responsibility or duty but because of sheer loneliness. It because quite apparent that the problems Shinji faces in dealing with other people are quite relatable to Misato even though both have quite the opposite coping mechanisms that constantly puts them in a “Hedgehog’s dilemma,” as named by Ritsuko.
The sexual tension between Shinji and Misato is also very strong, but most of this aspect of the relationship has been so far vaguely hinted at. This is also because Misato faces difficulty in reaching people out without using her sexuality. Both Misato and Shinji have had traumas in their past, which they shared, and traumas added more distance between them. This is why Shinji is neither comforted by her nor can comfort Misato. Later, Misato also goes on to confess her regret that she was not able to be the mother figure to Shinji. After losing her, Shinji felt devastated and lost. He begins carrying her pendant with her henceforth.
From what she conveys, Misato apparently planned on giving the rest beyond a kiss (meaning sex) later. But why did Misato kiss Shinji in the first place? In her own way, this was her way to make him join Unit-01 and defend NERV. She did not think she could keep that promise since she was dying anyway. This way, she was okay with justifying that she could make false promises to motivate others. Moreover, Misato is bad at expressing her emotions which is why she constantly has a facade put on every time she conveys something. She is her true self only when she expresses herself in a sexual manner that gives a glimpse of who she is for real.
Neon Genesis Evangelion heaps on several complicated characters. Misato was not someone one could understand. She is built with several layers of trauma and emotional issues that make her a beautiful, messed-up individual. Is the kiss between Shinji and Misato weird? Sure, yes. There are many problems that Misato needs to address, much like all the other characters. One of them is that her openness comes forth only when she tries to be intimate with someone. Moreover, the kiss was inappropriate in every sense. But that was the best she could do to express herself. Evangelion does not stand as a pillar of morals. Instead, it points out that things are not always wrong or right. Sometimes, some things just are.