Why does Shinji choke Asuka?

The End of Evangelion is an anime movie that serves as the parallel ending to the Neon Genesis Evangelion television series, and sees Shinji choking Asuka.

The End of Evangelion is a Japanese anime movie that was written and co-directed by Hideaki Anno in 1997. The psychological science-fiction story was developed as a spin-off of the television series, Neon Genesis Evangelion, as a way to provide an alternative ending for fans. The film picks up from where the television show’s twenty-fourth episode ended, showcasing an alternative cause of the events depicted in the show’s twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth episodes.

The story follows the pilot of Evangelion Unit 01, Shinji Ikari, who has a deeply disturbing relationship with fellow pilot, Asuka Langley Soryu. The characters experience detailed storylines, which ultimately result in the audience understanding that Shinji is alone and Asuka is unwilling to let anyone into her life.

At the end of the movie, after a long battle with the enemies, Shinji and Asuka wake up on a shoreline, littered with the wreckage of mass production units and the body of another pilot, Rei. Shinji begins to strangle Asuka, but when she caresses his face, he stops and breaks down into tears. This is noted as a major plot twist, as viewers were left confused about the relationship between them.

The significance of the choking is ultimately left up to the audience to interpret the meaning of, as the film was left on an ambiguous cliffhanger. A fan of the movie left a comment on the fan website, Anime Stxckexchange, stating, “If we take the interpretation that Shinji choking Asuka was his way of confirming that rejection and denial still exist, Asuka stroking Shinji should probably mean that acceptance also still exists, even when all the hearts are separated. Shinji refused to get close to anyone because he feared rejection; Asuka constantly rejected everyone. Shinji had to learn to stop fearing rejection, and Asuka had to learn to stop rejecting everyone out of hand.”