Rank: Commander of NERV
Featured In: Neon Genesis Evangelion
Voiced By: Tristan MacAvery (Original ADV Series)
Out of the many villains that I know of, the ones that I abhor the most are those who are outright monsters to their children be they of their own flesh and blood or not. It is one of the reasons that I loathe the likes of characters like Lady Tremaine (Cinderella) and Mother Gothel (Tangled), because of cruel they are to their respected daughters but both are pale in comparison to the inhuman monster that is one Gendo Ikari.
Yet, before I can truly begin with Gendo Ikari’s crimes, I must first, however briefly, explain the mythos behind the series Neon Genesis Evangelion. Please note that this explanation is a very basic rundown of facts that can otherwise be read in further detail at EvaGeeks.org so please head there for further clarification.
To begin with, life, as we know it, did not occur naturally in the Milky Way Galaxy. A progenitor race, known simply as the First Ancestral Race (FAR), were beings of such great knowledge and power that they doomed themselves to extinction but rather than allow their race to be forgotten amongst the annals of time they created seven “Seeds of Life” to spread across the Milky Way Galaxy. These Seeds contained, in essence, a soul of a FAR within it alongside a “Fruit.” These Fruits are the Fruits of Knowledge, which led to the creation of mankind, and the Fruit of Power, the Angels. The FAR were the only species that had possessed both these Fruits and as it led to their own downfall, purposefully intended that no other race following them should have them as well.
These Seeds were spread through the galaxy within their respected “Moons,” which also contained within them a means of control/stopping a rogue Seed (The Spear of Longinus) and instructions behind their usage (the Dead Sea Scrolls). It was by pure chance that two Moons, one containing Power and the other Knowledge, landed on Earth and began the downward spiral that is Neon Genesis Evangelion.
An organization known simply as SEELE, having found and interpreted the Dead Sea Scrolls incorrectly assumed that the human race was doomed to an existence of evolutionary stagnation. That humankind would remain as we are and never progress beyond our current capabilities, and that we must create our own evolution by force if necessary.
Unfortunately, the core of SEELE, an organization the likes of which makes such secretive groups as the Illuminati look like a bunch of inexperienced rookies by comparison, control most if not the entirety of the major powers across the world, including the United Nations. Their plan, aptly entitled as the Human Instrumentality Project, basically involves all of mankind rejoining the Black Moon from whence we originated and becoming a new entity that is essentially a whole individual composed of the entirety of mankind.
Of course, in one of the video games released that is questionably canon, it goes a step further in that the core members only would become as one and inhabit the body of an Evangelion whilst the rest of mankind would simply cease to exist and thus ensure that one sole testament to the human race would forever remain throughout the annals of time.
That’s… not even a nutshell of what’s going on in Neon Genesis Evangelion but that’s the basics needed to comprehend just how utterly insane and depraved Gendo Ikari is. See, the titular Evangelions themselves are biomechanical weapons used firstly to combat the Angels, the children of Adam the “White Moon” that was originally intended to have Earth before the “Black Moon” containing Lilith crash landed, and as a means of starting Third Impact AKA Human Instrumentality. Unfortunately, there is one necessary thing for an Evangelion Unit to function…
A human soul.
For those who’ve watched the series, you are no doubt already aware of this but for those who have not, allow me a moment to explain. The first Evangelion to be truly created, though it was still technically not even ¼ finished at the time, was Unit 01, the one piloted by Gendo’s son Shinji. During its pilot/activation test, Unit 01 absorbed Gendo’s wife and Shinji’s mother, Yui Ikari, into itself and there begins the insanity that is Gendo’s motivations throughout the series.
Though it has been argued as to whether or not Gendo initially approached Yui for her connections to Seele (as supposedly she is a daughter of a prominent member of the group), it cannot be argued that Gendo loves her. Loves her so much that he was more than willing to sacrifice everything and everyone on Earth just to be reunited with her.
In chronological order of his more prominent crimes following the “death” of his wife, Yui… Gendo abandons his then slightly traumatized son, who had witnessed the accident alongside his father, to live with an assigned caretaker (a teacher or somewhat close relative depending on the source material). Gendo then creates an artificial hybrid clone: Rei Ayanami. He sees Rei strictly as a tool to craft his own Third Impact to reunite himself with Yui but because of this, her loyalty to him is paramount above all others. To make matters worse, and unbelievably awkward for Shinji, Rei is a hybrid of both Lilith and Gendo’s wife and essentially looks like an albino version of her with blue hair but that’s neither here nor there.
Gendo also begins a “relationship” with prominent scientist Naoko Akagi, a relationship that is entirely physical on his part. Naoko, knowing this and had secretly been lusting after him even when Yui was still alive (though why I still can’t figure out), willingly does but is driven insane by a young Rei informing her of the truth of Gendo’s feelings towards Naoko, calling her an “old hag” that no longer has a purpose to his agenda.
These words, and Rei’s likeness to Yui, was more than enough to drive Naoko insane and drive the woman to strangle Rei to death before committing suicide herself. Though never outright stated or confirmed, it is a fan consensus that the soul within Unit 00, Rei Ayanami’s Evangelion, is in fact Naoko Akagi and that the issues that initially arise with it were planned by Gendo as a means of strengthening Rei’s loyalty to him.
Following this, like almost the day after the funeral, Gendo begins another purely sexual relationship with Naoko’s daughter Ritsuko and she in turn becomes privy to his plans as chief scientist of Nerv, even being the driving force behind the creation of the Dummy Plug System, a means of artificially piloting the Evangelions specifically Unit 01.
Unfortunately, much like her mother, Ritsuko has similar feelings of jealousy and hatred towards Rei Ayanmi (both the II and III clones) and has even come close to killing Rei on more than one occasion. In the end, Ritsuko attempts to stop Gendo’s plans by blowing up NERV headquarters but is, sadly, stopped by the three-part computer system based on her mother’s personalities as a woman, a scientist, and a mother.
Ironically enough it was the “woman” aspect that sided with Gendo and allowed him to shoot Ritsuko dead where she stood.
There was also the fact that, in order to initiate Third Impact, Gendo had the embryonic form of Adam grafted into his freaking hand! The thing was not only alive, it is likely more intelligent and sentient than us! Do any of you have any idea how disgusting a thought that is never mind actually seeing it? It and its still functioning and moving eyeball?!
Yet… of all the many crimes that Gendo is guilty of, chief amongst them is his treatment of Shinji, specifically Gendo purposefully breaking Shinji’s confidence and using him as a means to an end. Throughout the main series, there are moments wherein Gendo purposefully strengthens Shinji’s sense of self worth only to tear the ground right out from under him, putting the boy in enough emotional and mental turmoil that I’m surprised it took as long as it did for Shinji to snap and yet still be a more dignified human being than his own father.
There was a time when he truly loved his son, and that his initial reasons for abandoning him was for fear of what he may do more harm than good caring for the boy himself, but those sentiments are all but ash and dust nearing Third Impact.
Though in the end, Gendo’s plans end up crashing down all around him as Third Impact began with the focus, the choice of where humanity would go from there, being placed in his son’s hands, we can at least assume that his dream was either realized or failed miserably. Honestly, the only thing that gives a me a greater headache than figuring out the mechanics and mythos behind Neon Genesis Evangelion is time travel and that is only a slight margin…