Character Name Origins

When Anno created NGE, he borrowed from everywhere, which is more than evident with the way the characters were named. In the essay section of his personal website, he revealed most of the secrets for us fans with a ravenous thirst for such tidbits. Fortunately for those of us who can't read Japanese, “massangeana” did a rough translation and posted it on the newsgroup Japan.Anime.Evangelion in December of 2000. Presented here is a slightly tweaked version, supplemented by Japanese characters (injected as HTML numbered entities; you just need a suitable CJK font) and some additional information. Notes by massangeana are this color; notes added by me (mostly taken from info provided by MDWigs) are this color. Additions and edits to massangeana's translation are by me (although, be warned, some of the stuff I had to translate completely by myself may not be entirely correct, and some of my edits may be misguided).

Anno's official page:
Essay page:

2000/11/02 (Entry 1)

Sorry to trouble you with such an old story now, but I'm going to go a little into the creation of the Eva character's names. In the first volume of Sadamoto's manga, I touched a bit upon a few of the Eva character's names and how they take shape according to my so-called rule. A little more about how I created them below.

Shinji Ikari

Ikari [anchor] is a component of a ship. It's also borrowed from the name of a friend from my college years. Shinji is also borrowed from a long-time friend [Shinji Higuchi]. Incidentally, since both his wife and daughter's names have been used for anime protagonists, I wanted to do the same for the husband and make them an anime family -- but, that said, my reasoning wasn't too logical. Sorry, Shin-chan.

  • Higuchi's given name is written 真嗣. Perhaps if Anno had not opted to write the NGE characters' given names in katakana, Shinji's would have been written like this, as well.

Rei Ayanami

Ayanami is from a warship of the former Japanese navy. Rei is just a pun of rei[zero], but actually named after Rei Hino of Sailor Moon [by Naoko Takeuchi]. At the time, this was a bait to invite Iku-chan (Kunihiko Ikuhara) to the staff, but he ran away. Too bad.

  • Rei's name is a pun about the Japanese “Zero” fighters. You think it's any accident Rei pilots EVA-00 (零号機)? ;;>

Soryu Asuka Langley

Soryu is from a warship of the former Japan navy [different kanji]; Langley is from the US navy warship. Asuka is borrowed from Shinji Wada's manga heroine [Chou-Shoujo Asuka].

  • The name of Wada's heroine is written 明日香.
  • The name of the warship Soryu is written 蒼龍.
Misato Katsuragi

Katsuragi is from a warship of the former Japanese navy. Misato is borrowed from a heroine of Minako Narita's manga [Misato Izumi of Aitsu].

  • The given name of Narita's heroine is written みさと.
Ritsuko Akagi

Akagi is from a warship of the former Japanese navy. Ritsuko is borrowed from a friend of mine in middle school.

Ryoji Kaji

Kaji [rudder] is a component of a ship. Ryoji is also from a hero in Minako Narita's manga [Ryoji Sawada of Aitsu].

  • The given name of Narita's hero is written 涼司.
  • The ship part is written 舵.

2000/11/13 (Entry 4)

Gendo Ikari

Ikari is the same as with Shinji. Gendo is borrowed from another anime project before Eva that was aborted. I didn't notice Gendo and Shinji is the same combination as in Ken Ishikawa's manga until one of my friends pointed it out. [I think he means Shin'ichi Kuruma and Genzo Kuruma of Majuu Sensen.] His former name Rokubungi 六文儀 [sextant] is also a component of a ship. Just FYI, Rei Asuka of Raideen is also a coincidence. I didn't do this knowingly, as until Super Robot Taisen was made, I had completely forgotten that Raideen existed. Sad, I know.
Kozo Fuyutsuki
Fuyutsuki is from a warship of the former Japan navy. Kozo just has a nice ring to it.

Yui Ikari

Ikari is the same as before. Yui sounds similar to Rei, and it's also a simple pun on yui [only one].

  • Interestingly, at one point in the production, the prototype for the character Rei had dark hair, green eyes, and was named Yui Ichijo. “Ichijo” is believed to have come from Hikaru Ichijo of Macross, an anime which Anno had worked on. [Source]
Keel Lorenz

Keel is also a component of a ship. Lorenz is named after a zoologist or something, but I can't remember clearly. Am I just getting old? Oh, well.

  • Anno remembered correctly: Konrad Lorenz was a famous German zoologist (1908-1989), whom you can learn more about here. Interestingly, Anno used the name “Konrad Lorenz” unchanged in a prelimary NGE scenario.
Naoko Akagi
Akagi is the same as with Ritsuko. Naoko is from a friend of mine when I was in elementary school.
Soryu Kyoko Zeppelin
Soryu is from the same Japanese warship as Asuka. Kyoko is also from a character in Shinji Wada's manga. Zeppelin is from a warship of the German navy that was envisioned but never made.

Super straightforward naming, but I thought the repetition sounded cute. His name has officially become the 2nd power of Pen [Pen²]. I was reluctant at first, but we thought we needed a mascot character, so we had an animal appear in the show. As it happened, the show is set in Hakone, which one associates with hot springs, which in turn are associated with monkeys. But that is no fun, so we decided to make it a penguin, the animal most unsuited to a hot spring. I'm positive that "hot spring penguin" was Sadamoto's idea.

  • “Pen” comes from “penguin”. (As if you couldn't figure that out. ;;>)

2000/11/17 (Entry 6)

Makoto Hyuga
Hyuga is from a warship of the former Japanese navy. But what was Makoto? I don't remember. Maybe because I liked Ryou[taro] Shiba's Shinsen-gumi? Sorry, I'm not sure about this one either.
Shigeru Aoba

Aoba is from a warship of the former Japanese navy. Shigeru is a spoof of the movie title Aoba Shigereru directed by Kihachi Okamoto.

  • Okamoto's movie is written 茂れる, so if Shigeru's name were written in kanji, it would probably be 茂.
Maya Ibuki
Both Ibuki and Maya are borrowed from warships of the former Japanese navy because they sounded good. Ibuki is also a commanding officer in Kaette kita Ultraman whom I like, but that's a very minor reason. I chose Maya (摩哉) because I love Takao-class heavy cruisers best after Yamato-class battleships.
Toji Suzuhara

Borrowed unchanged from a Ryu Murakami novel I read on my friend's recommendation.

  • The novel by Murakami is Ai to Gensou no Fascism, within which Toji Suzuhara is a main character.
  • The given name of Murakami's character is written 冬二.
Kensuke Aida

Also from Murakami's novel. BTW, I was just interested in a character “Zero” in this novel, rather than the story about revolution and dictatorship itself.

  • The given name of Murakami's character is written 剣介.
Hikari Horaki

Horaki also comes from Murakami's novel. Hikari, her older sister Nozomi, and her younger sister Kodama are borrowed from Tokaido Shinkansen express train names.

  • The name of the train is written ひかり.
Kaworu Nagisa

This character was named by the screenplay writer Akio Satsukawa. Nagisa [shore] is a word related to the sea. Also the kanji nagisa 渚 consists of katakana SHI シ and kanji SHA 者, therefore he's SHISHA シ者 [messenger 使者]. He said it also comes from the movie director Nagisa Oshima. But what is Kaworu? Sorry, I will ask him next time.

  • Here is some interesting stuff written by Patrick Yip on the name “Kaworu”:

    I was flipping through the old Japanese classics Genji Monogatari (Tale of Genji) the other day. It's been quite some time since I looked at the final part of this monumental work, and I found that the name of the hero in this part of the story is “Kaworu”!! I did some more research on this name. These are the facts about “Kaworu” that I [found] out:

    - The reason why “Kaworu” is written with a “wo” character ヲ is probably influenced by classics work like Genji Monogatari. In the Heian ages and medieval period, “wo” and “o” were quite separate [sounds]. At that time “Kaworu” was indeed written with “wo” character. The two characters merged in their pronounciation in the Edo period and thus created the confusion as to why “Kaworu” should have a “wo” character. It is possible that some Japanese may not even know this, and it has become common practice to write “Kaoru”. This creates more confusion.

    - “Kaworu” is a serious but also romantic hero in the last third of the Tale of Genji. And literally the kanji for “Kaworu” means fragrance (of incense wood). Indeed in Tale of Genji, Kaworu was born with a very special bodily feature: His body bore a sweet fragrance smell. So the name “Kaworu” is commonly related to the idea of intelligent, handsome and romantic hero.

    - And one more striking thing. “Kaworu” can be a girl's name as well!! This adds to the ambiguity of sex implicated by this name. Put it into the context that Kaworu is an epitome of shoujo-anime bishounen (handsome boy) with ambiguous sexuality. Now it seems to me that Gainax actually put some thought in choosing his name.

    Interestingly, “Rei” is a unisex name, as well.

[Shiro] Tokita (時田), Manda (万田), and Yasugi (八杉) of episode #07 also come from Murakami's novel. Nozoku Takahashi (高橋覗) of episode #11 comes from the name of a production manager and my friend. It's a staff in-joke. [Takahashi Nozomu of Studio Ghibli. Actually, Ghibli did animation work for this episode.] The names of characters in episode #15, etc., also follow a hidden convention. Guessing the rule might be fun if you have the time.