The 2nd Child: Poetry Cycle About Asuka Langley Soryu

This poetry cycle is a companion piece to an earlier collection I wrote about Blue (aka Green in the US), a character from the Pokémon Adventures manga. I chose to write about Blue not only because I find her archetype fascinating, but she seems to be relatively unknown compared to the wider Pokémon phenomenon. It just seemed to me like she needed an advocate to make up for the injustice of getting left out of the anime and videogames in the series. While this type of obscurity isn’t the case for Asuka Langley Soryu, she deserves the honor of her own poetry cycle for being the best character in my favorite anime. (That’s Neon Genesis Evangelion for the uninformed, a series well worth an in-depth analysis someday.) Also, by writing a series of “red poems” and “blue poems,” I wanted to pay homage to the red oni/blue oni trope commonly found in Japanese media. (Although Blue’s personality is admittedly more similar to a red oni like Asuka, the color schemes match at least. 🙂 )

For the uninitiated, I’m not going to summarize Evangelion beyond the basic premise. Really, if you haven’t seen it yet, you ought to do so before reading these poems anyway. Basically, nefarious angels attack the world and in order to stop them, an organization known as NERV uses giant fighting mechs. These mechanical robot suits are actually captured and repurposed angels themselves, and must be piloted by small children. (Justifications are given for this wackiness, but the real reason is because it’s Japan and without it we wouldn’t have a story.) Asuka Langley Soryu pilots Eva Unit 02, while her housemate Shinji (whom she has a complex love/hate relationship with) pilots Unit 01 and Rei (her rival for Shinji’s affection) pilots Unit 00. What starts as a fairly typical mech-anime quickly descends into a realistic portrayal of what would actually happen if you put such a massive burden on literal kids over an extended period of time. People can only take that kind of pressure for so long before they break, especially when they have their own internal demons to contend with.

What I really appreciate about Asuka’s story in particular is the harrowing depiction of trauma during one’s formative years, specifically the way it can lead to dysfunction later in life. If a person is made to feel unworthy of love when their identity is still forming, they either internalize the message or put up barriers so that they won’t get hurt again. Unfortunately these same coping mechanisms often leave us ill-equipped to deal with real life after we leave the toxic environment, and may have the effect of alienating potential new friends. That’s a condition which I can relate to very much, and Asuka’s arc is the most effective portrayal of it in any media I’ve seen in recent memory. Throughout the series, you just want all of the characters, her especially, to sit down and communicate with one another in a productive manner. The trouble is, because of their maladaptive responses to trauma, none of them have the ability to do so. It’s like a Greek tragedy, but instead of a great man it’s about a little girl, and her fatal flaw is abrasive defensiveness. (This is succinctly described in the show as the “hedgehog’s dilemma:” the desire for companionship mitigated by a thorny exterior.)

While the same problem applies Asuka’s uneasy friend/competition/love interest, Shinji, her arc is far more entertaining. Shinji internalizes the “unworthy of love” mindset I touched on earlier, which leads to a frustratingly passive character. (And if I’m being honest, he hits a little too close to home with me, to where I see my past self in his story and cringe with embarrassment.) Asuka strives to prove that those who spurned her were wrong. She wants to be so great that no one can ever ignore her again. When it’s not upsetting, this manifests itself in hilariously caustic barbs and sarcastic quips at the expense of others–mostly Shinji. She’s a little girl with the literal weight of the world on her shoulders, and against all odds she lives up to the mandate. That is, until burning out in spectacular fashion during one of the best episodes I’ve ever seen in an animated series. (See below.) While I always felt as though Shinji was a sad sack who failed the world, it seems to me that in Asuka’s case the world failed her.

Between each poem below, I’ll also share some fan artwork I found but placed on uniform “red themed” backgrounds. I did not draw any of these pictures myself and I will link to the original artwork in the photo captions.

Tiffany Grant will always be the American version of Asuka in my mind. I was NOT a fan of Netflix’ new dub. I just could not get into it at all, and it’s a shame the way the old cast was treated.

Iron Freeze [Haiku]

A ravenous flame,
twice as bright but half as long,
drowning in cinders.

Link to original artwork

Dawn of the Fury [Limerick]

Mother’s love misplaced by her doll,
enduring wound forever recalled.
She takes it in stride,
mostly walking with pride,
while tracking down angels to brawl.

Link to the original artwork

A Youthful Burden [3 Forms of Cinquain]

Chrome doll:
coerced captive in
an Evangelion.
Guardian angel, or gilded
steel cage?

Child
Proud, Cold
Yelling, crying, hurting–
herself as much as others.
Soldier.

Girl
reaching with chrome hands
seeking companions in vain,
afraid to show weakness.
Broken.

Link to original artwork

Crimson-Plated Prisoner [Free Verse]

Eva Unit Two:
her blessing and her burden,
a personified prison keeps the
child’s voice drowned in mother’s blood,
wounds which will not heal.
Loves unrequited repeat:
family friend romantic alike,
reminders of worthlessness,
were her cross to bear.
She, Asuka Langley Soryu,
saving strangers in her solitude,
tends to scars in silence, with
no support structure.
Disposable defender:
cultivates persona of crimson
for prying eyes. Denying
what’s vulnerable
to protect herself from harm.
Recognition sought from the wrong men,
too cowardly or careless
to fix Asuka’s void.

Link to original artwork

Contradictions in Chrome [Tanaga]

A defiant form of metal,
fueled by rage which never settled,
but despite external nettles
she’s delicate as rose petals.

^I altered the form a bit to include one extra syllable per line. It just worked better that way.

Link to original artwork

Discreet Vulnerability [Flarf]

I don’t know if I’m living or if I’m supposed to be.
You can stare into the darkness and discover what I mean.
Your words of love left me lonely:
empty hours, empty days, full of empty promises you made.
Wondering and dreaming, the words have different meaning,
when the truth is found to be lies.

When you’re alone in your room, all the world is locked out.
I’ve been here once, I’ve been here twice,
lost in the ocean of your dreams and what is real.
Why’d you have to leave me there?
One sided love is lost before it’s found,
and all the joy within you dies.

Sometimes my life is so eerie:
the doll’s house, darkness, old perfume,
and no one can hear you cry.
Insincere and ever-fading,
you better find somebody to love you.
But don’t you ever wonder could you travel in the dark alone?

^Flarf is made by combining various lines from found phrases in other poems, newspapers, magazines…or in this case, song lyrics. So this poem is cribbed from various lyrics found in: “Somebody to Love” by Jefferson Airplane, “The Red Telephone” by Love, “Can You Travel in the Dark Alone” by Gandalf, “By the Sea” by Wendy and Bonnie Flower, “No One Can Hear You Cry” by Susan Christie, and “Matilda Mother” by Pink Floyd.

Link to original artwork

Loneliness By Any Other Name… [Pantoum]

Before the end, all will know the name Asuka Langley Soryu:
Second Child of the Eva pilots, personified ember.
Dearest Shinji, despite many attempts to ignore you,
I long for your family to welcome me as a member.

In other words, hold my hand

Second Child of the Eva pilots, personified ember.
Living in a world where I must always be on guard,
I long for your family to accept me as a member.
Though no one accepts weakness from a woman who’s been scarred.

In other words, darling kiss me

Living in a world where I must always be on guard,
raised as “that girl over there” who just wanted her momma.
Though no one accepts weakness from a woman who’s been scarred.
All my cruelty was born from that formative trauma.

In other words, please be true

Raised as “that girl over there” who just wanted her momma.
Before the end, all will know the name Asuka Langley Soryu:
all my cruelty was born from that formative trauma
Dearest Shinji, I know now that I could ever ignore you!

In other words, I love you

^I slightly altered the form of the pantoum to include lyrics from “Fly Me to the Moon” between the stanzas. For anyone not familiar with the original version of the show (thanks Netflix!) this song played over the end credits.

Link to original artwork

Standing Alone [Fib]

Free
but
lonely.
Unwanted.
Hedgehog’s dilemma:
self-sufficiency is a lie.

Link to original artwork

Notice Me [Tricube]

second child
to NERV and
mother too.

So alike
with Shinji,
so different

Where were you
when I cried,
needing love?

Link to original artwork

Enmeshed in Sorrow [Nonet & Reverse Nonet]

Fragile soul enshrined in steel foil cage:
tasked with guardian angel’s role,
cursed with wicked oni’s wrath.
Witnessing trauma scaled
far beyond her age.
Captive demon,
fair fury,
broken
heart.

Trapped
in her
iron shield.
Filled with regret,
mom’s curse; angel’s blood.
A pox upon her heart:
trepidation against love.
Self-betrayal and sabotage:
the legacy of Langley Soryu.

Link to original artwork

4 Comments

  1. I prefer to associate you more with Asuka than with Shinji. You’re doing fine, Cassandra. These are beautiful poems. I love your critiques and perspectives on life but you should do more creative writing than you do. You have a natural aptitude for it. 🙂

    Like

    1. Thanks John. Well, I’m fast running out of stuff to critique and I have an idea for a story I want to tell. (I just don’t want to discuss it on my blog until I have something to show.) So you may get your wish soon 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  2. While I exposure to Evangelion has only been the few episodes we watched together. I can still appreciate your poems. They show your deep feelings and empathy for the characters. Since I have my self never been able to write poetry I admire your achievement and ability to write it in different styles. Your literary skills are most impressive. You should continue your work in both prose and poetry. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey ron, if you ever get the chance, please try your handat poetry sometime. I think you’d be better at it thsn you give yourself credit for. I would love to hear what you have to say 🙂

      Like

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