In a recent article in the Forward titled, Decoding an Anti-Semitic Meme Donald Trump Supporters Took From Anime, Jay Michaelson uncovered a meme being circulated around the internet by White Nationalists of an anime character sporting a Trump hat. While there is a sad plethora of anime-inspired White Nationalist memes, it makes a lot of sense that Trump supporters would have a special affinity for this particular character.
Asuka is a character who values her independence and self-reliance, yet she constantly invades the space of those around her, is excessively prideful, and her most famous catch-phrase was “anta baka?!” which translates to, “What are you, stupid?” which she hurls at the main character, Shinji, regularly. She’s also emotionally manipulative, at times overtly narcissistic, and ultimately ineffective in pursuing her mission, which she repeatedly states is her only reason for living. However, she can’t even accept the sweet release of death, and decides to live and struggle on. The Japanese seiyuu (voice actor) who voiced Asuka said, regarding learning her character, that “One day, I figured out there was a wall in Asuka’s heart.”
You could say, looking at today’s electoral politics, that she is a manifestation of Trump’s platform and persona. Demographically, Asuka is also the most appropriate choice for White Nationalists. She is only one-quarter Japanese, which accounts for her Japanese name and Western European appearance. She is also half-American.
The importance of Asuka and the Evangelion saga to a particularly neurotic portion of Japanese society, known as “Otaku,” cannot be overstated. Otaku is a term that gained popularity in the 1980s in Japan to refer to individuals who are overly obsessive, particularly about anime and/or manga. No series in anime history has achieved the level of commercial success and popularity of Evangelion while also frustrating Otaku culture. While Evangelion’s creator Hideki Anno has historically been directly provocative towards his audience, Anno also has maintained that Evangelion is intentionally vague and even potentially misleading at times, allowing viewers to create their own meaning. This becomes increasingly evident and central to Anno’s message, amplified in each manifestation, from the original TV series Neon Genesis Evangelion to the first movie adaptation End of Evangelion, to the Rebuild of Evangelion trilogy. This, while masterfully done, creates the ability for various groups (in this case, White Nationalists) to inject their own meaning into various characters and their motivations. It’s worth noting that no character is changed more than Asuka between the TV series/first movie and the later Rebuild series. Asuka’s demeanor, as well as her last name, are changed (Soryu becomes Shikinami), and she morphs into an even more two dimensional, easily understood and antisocial archetype.
Asuka was explicitly created to be easily understood, and left vague enough for the audience to imprint their own meaning onto her, so it is very easy to see why angry White Nationalists online would have an affinity for her; they see themselves in her contradictions, emotional immaturity, and of course enjoy the fact that she is an attractive female who talks regularly about her pride in her bust, and was intentionally designed to be two dimensional.