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About midway through Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance, Kaji notes that the dummy plug system being introduced is considered more humane than the use of children, after Misato tells him that she distrusts it. But this raises the question: why are children even used as EVA pilots in the first place?

Obviously, from a storytelling perspective, the use of children probably better allows for some of the ideas in the series, such as Asuka and Shinji's parental issues, to be developed. But I do not remember seeing any official, in-universe explanation for this.

  • The answer would be a spoiler. The new quadrilogy isn't complete yet and the final movie might diverge from the plot of the original series. You can find your answer on Evageeks wiki, but I'd recommend watching the original series instead for a natural reveal. – Hakase Oct 13 '17 at 9:44
  • related anime.stackexchange.com/questions/5286/… – Gagantous Oct 13 '17 at 14:17
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The Mother-Child Bond

Within the universe Shinji and Asuka both have "souls" or some meaningful part of their mother inside the Evangelion, presumably in the Core. This is pretty obvious in Shinji's case:

  • Episode 1, Unit-01 moving by itself to protect Shinji, something Ritsuko immediately notes should have been impossible
  • Episode 16, While trapped in the Sea of Dirac, Shinji manages to (whether he realizes completely or not) make contact with his mother right before the Eva goes bonkers and breaks out of the Angel
  • Episode 21, Flashback: Yui, while at Gehirn, takes part in a contact experiment with a then partly constructed portion of an Eva and disappears inside it.
  • At the end of End of Evangelion, Unit-01 is floating out into space as Yui talks about the loneliness of existing forever.

Among other little hints here and there. In Kyoko's case, Asuka's mother is less explicit but we see the same sort of things:

  • Episode 22, Flashback: Kyoko undergoes a similar Contact Experiment as Yui, she doesn't get absorbed but's clearly crazy and commits suicide
  • Near the beginning of End of Evangelion, Asuka is in Eva Unit-02 at the bottom of the lake, has a similar little discovery as Shinji from Episode 16, except this time Asuka is well aware that her mother was in the Eva

Toji and Rei: they're not so explicit. Rei is a special case because she's in some sense an Angel. With Toji, there's some possible indications that his mother, who has been dead since at least the beginning of the TV series, had some connection. The entire class had family that worked for Nerv.

Other than any sort of in-universe explanation, the idea of the mother-child bond actually came from Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, the author of the original Evangelion Manga. From the Deluxe version of "Der Mond" a Sadamoto artbook that contains a lot of Evangelion related work, there's an interview:

When the very first meeting was held before the title had even been decided, Anno had already provided the theme of "a battle between gods and humans". Both Anno and I -- our generation -- was influenced by Go Nagai, so making something on a grand scale meant it ended up like "Devilman". The character design request from Anno was that "the lead character is a girl, and has an older-sister type figure like Coach next to her," so it was structurally similar to "Gunbuster". So I first designed an Asuka-type girl as the lead character, but after "Gunbuster" and "Nadia" I felt some resistance to making the lead character a girl again. I mean a robot should be piloted by a trained person, and if that person just happens to be a girl then that is fine, but I couldn't see why a young girl would pilot a robot... So I remember saying to Anno, "It's a robot story, so let's make the lead character a boy." And just about that time, I was watching the NHK [public TV channel] program "Brain and Heart" and learned about the existence of the A10 nerve, and I told Anno about the idea that popped into my head at that time. That was the idea where "the dead mother is inside the robot, which is operated by mental/psychical bonding with the child. Moreover, parent-child relations are parched/strained due to the death of the mother at a young age." As soon as I had this idea I was filled with confidence that "This will work!" and I just whipped out a setting drawing. That setting drawing became the character chart for the Planning Papers.

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Heavy spoilers for the original series:

But if after a decade you haven't still watched the original series, blame on you.

TL;DR:

Because their moms' souls are what makes the EVA alive. And the EVA activates when the child (pilot) is placed inside the womb (entry plug).

Since the background story is the same for the rebuild movies, we can assume this is unchanged for rebuild.

  • Was ever any explicit statement of this? While looking back, this makes sense (based on Shinji's EVA, which was clearly connected to Yui, and how Shinji's classmates seem to lack parents), I've watched the original series twice and read the manga, and don't remember seeing this put out clearly. – Maroon Oct 13 '17 at 13:50
  • @maroon wiki.evageeks.org/Evangelion_Unit-03 - There is a scene when ritsuko is readying unit 03 and she mentions something about the core, hinting at the connection between core and pilot. – Mindwin Oct 13 '17 at 14:33
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    I think there was also a scene in End of Evangelion that explicitly tells us this is true for Asuka. – Torisuda Oct 13 '17 at 16:21

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